On Saturday, April 26, at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Corsicana, there was a reunion that had been a long time in coming and was therefore even more greatly appreciated. It was a gathering of the Cotton Mill “kids,” the offspring of folks who once worked at the Corsicana Cotton Mills.

A.C. and Mary Lea Abbie Murray held a get-together at their home on Northwest County Road 0016 on the night before the Saturday celebration, The Murrays graciously provided the refreshments for the event. Those attending the Saturday gathering brought covered dishes. Many also brought pictures and memorabilia about life as the children of Cotton Mill workers and especially about the close friendships of those who lived on the Cotton Mill Block, shot-gun houses furnished for some of the mill workers.

The “kids” brought their remembrances to read and/or include in a scrapbook of the reunion. The closeness of the families connected with the Cotton Mill was emphasized. Many families had multiple members who worked at the mill.

John Barron brought his enhanced copies of the prized group pictures of the Cotton Mill bosses and hands. Barron has been collecting a list of the names that go with these pictures. I was excited to learn about his project when I became acquainted with him at a meeting of the Navarro County Genealogical Society held at the Civic Room of the Corsicana Public Library. Barron is now the editor of the publication of the society titled Navarro Leaves and Branches.

I grew up with the sounds of the Cotton Mill whistle and the names of Cotton Mill workers ringing in my ears. These were hardworking people who cared about one another and continued to hold annual Cotton Mill picnics for years. It was like a great extended family. What a joy it was to reconnect now that we are the older generation.

In 1926 my grandmother Roxie Williams Duncan had buried two husbands and had come to Corsicana with her new husband George W. Young. Mr. Young was listed in the Corsicana directory as a carder at the Corsicana Cotton Mills, and he and Granny lived at 710 S. Seventh. Several people at the reunion told me that South Seventh Street became the Highway 75.

My cousin Lowell Ray Halbert said he remembered visiting them, but I think that happened later after they had moved to another address. Young is later listed as a watchman at the Cotton Mill. “Kids” have told me that there was a waiting list for the Cotton Mill block houses, and I remember my mother talking about how there was a lot of competition for these houses.

George Young had a brother named John H. Young. He is listed also as an “eng” at the mill, which I take to mean “engineer,” although I don’t know exactly what that meant. He lived with his wife Octavia whom we knew as Aunt Tavie. They first lived at 800 S. 10th, another area of mill workers houses.

My daddy Tom Riggs Duncan married my mother Vera Lee Chapman on Sept. 9, 1925, near the community of Cryer Creek. George Young, my step-grandfather went with them to get their marriage license. He signed their license application. Several years later, Daddy became a yarn dumper at the Cotton Mill. He is listed as “Thos, R.,” but his name was “Tommie.” Mother is listed as “Vera.” She worked at several different jobs, but she is listed as “textile worker.” They started working there in 1931. They are in the revered group pictures made during the 1930s.

By 1931 they were living at 1421 S. 18th St. How this happened was quite involved. First, Uncle John Young bought a lot on South 18th. He then encouraged Daddy and Mother to buy one, too. This area became dotted with Cotton Mill folks. My parents lived in a little one-room house between other mill workers Dolly and Floyd “Shorty” Bamburg and Uncle John and Aunt Tavie, who lived on the north corner. Then my parents bought a lot on the corner of the block just north of the Youngs. They built the white frame house in 1929. That is the house where I grew up along with my older brother Tommie L. and my younger sister Geneva Duncan. It was across from the Magnolia Tank Farm. Our front porch provided a glorious view of the sunset all year long and a wonderful field of bluebonnets every spring.

My heartfelt thanks go to those who made the Cotton Mill “Kids” reunion possible. I had a wonderful time!

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Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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