By John Limmer
Where to begin? More to the point, where to begin exploring family trees without offending those readers who feel their forefathers rightly deserve top billing in the Cross Cut orchard. Answer? It's just like going for a quick dip in the bayou on the way home from school; I simply pinch my nose, shut my eyes tight, and jump right in - feet first.
The patriarch of the American Pentecost family was named William. His family's European lineage was that of the Pendergeasts, but the name was changed to Pentecost upon emigration to the new world in the mid 1700 ' s. William was born in 1762 and his family originally settled in Virginia. His initiation as an American citizen was painful indeed. At the tender age of 14, he fought in the Revolutionary War and lost an arm in the process. To his credit, he apparently did not let his disability interfere greatly with the goals and ambitions in his life. He married Mrs. Delilah Wood (who had two children from a previous marriage) in 1787, some 11 years after the unfortunate incident with the arm, and moved from Virginia to Jackson County, Georgia the following year. From all indications, William was a devoutly religious man - as evidenced by his personally establishing five Methodist churches in Georgia before his death in 1839. One of those churches was still active as of the time of an interview in August, 1995 with Ms. Doris Meyer, granddaughter of Dick Pentecost, and much appreciated supplier of the Pentecost family history .
In this, as in all succeeding family histories in this narrative, an attempt has been made to trace the lineage of prominent Cross Cut families back to their American origins. I remind you however, this is the story of a single Texas town, and to include a comp/ete family tree for each surname would not only be unnecessarily cumbersome, but, frankly, somewhat boring. With that in mind, on/y those family members lying along a direct /ine to Cross Cut will be included.
William and Delilah's first born was Richard Wood Pentecost in 1788; the year following their marriage. Richard married Ms. Sarah Perkins who had two children by a previous marriage, and together, they produced ten more offspring; one of which was Caroline, in 1820, and another was Mark, in 1832.
Mark would have two wives during his lifetime. The first (possibly in 1855) was Ms. Elizabeth Causley, whose fate is unknown. The second (thought to be in 1857), and the one who accompanied him to Cross Cut, was Ms. Sarah Angeline Martin. His marriage to Sarah produced nine children. If the date of Mark and Sarah's marriage is correct, the first born to the union was Richard Wood (Dick) Pentecost in the same year of their marriage. This seems likely as he was named for his grandfather .
In 1874, five years before Cross Out mistakenly became Cross Cut, Mark and Sarah packed up the kids and their belongings and, along with Mark's sister, Caroline, and her husband Joseph Elsberry, (assuming they met and married in Georgia), left Jackson County, Georgia and headed for the promised land; in their case, the Byrd's Store area of Brown County, Texas.
Of Mark and Sarah's nine children, only three developed direct ties to Cross Cut. William (Bill) fanned for a time in the area, Sarah Eliza (Liza) married Mr. C. C. Westerman, and then there was their first-born, Dick.
Most folks around the turn of the century were content making their way farming or ranching in relative peace and anonymity. Such was not the case with young Mr . Richard Wood Pentecost. According to his granddaughter, few of Dick's peers had much reason to accuse him of devoting an excessive amount of his time to manual labor. Quoting her Grandmother Hattie, she says, "'they (Dick's family) would have starved to death if they had to depend on Dick". Dick's fifth born child, Anna, Doris' mother, related how she, her mother and her siblings would work the fields without him. Hattie would set her newest born baby on the end of her cotton sack and drag it along with her while picking. When she wasn't tending the fields or nurturing her brood, Hattie was busy canning vegetables to feed her flock during the winter months. But Dick always seemed to have other fish to fry .
1886 was an active year for the community. It was in that year that the first school was built and the Methodist Church was established. The Baptist Church of Christ had already beaten the Methodist's to the punch however. In August of the previous year, 80 of Cross Cut's faithful adopted "rules of decorum", and Sunday Baptist services were already well underway. Cross Cut was rapidly blossoming and it would seem Dick wanted to be a major part of things. So long as that part did not include unduely strenuous activity. His and Hattie's home place was situated on a 215 acre tract of land, possibly part of her inheritance from her deceased father, in the middle third of the W. B. Travis Survey. In the northeastern comer of that tract was a small hilltop, a bit on the rocky side and not much use as faemland, but perfect, in Dick's eyes at least, for a town site. On December 12, 1889, Cross Cut's first urban developer/Realtor made his very first sale: a "town lot" to J. L. (Uncle Johnny) McPeeters for the respectable sum of $25.
That Uncle Johnny purchased a 50' by 100' piece of poor property - in a town which existed only in Dick Pentecost's head - for the price of 8 to 10 acres of prime farm land almost anyplace else in the area may seem foolish. Maybe, it being mid -December, he was caught up in the Christmas spirit. Maybe Dick was a born promoter. More Likely, it had something to do with the coincidental fact that he was Hattie's "adopted father" and had reared her from early childhood.
Hattie was born Harriet Laine Clark in 1865. Her father was a local rancher who was killed when his horse stepped in a hole and threw him. Young Hattie was taken in by the McPeeters family (they never had children of their own but adopted Hattie, as well as six other children) and raised as their own until her maniage to Dick. She did not come to the McPeeters home an empty handed orphan. Quite the contrary , she inherited her father's estate after his untimely death and showed up at Uncle Johnny's door a young lady of considerable means and property .Like most men of his time, Uncle Johnny was prudent. He gave his love fteely, but saw no reason why his new border should not pay her own way from her inheritance. But he was also an exceptionally honest man. Detailed records were kept on every penny spent for Hattie's care and a running account was always available for her examination. At the tender age of 15, Hattie took the remainder of her inheritance into a marriage with then 23 year old Dick Pentecost.
Apparently Dick met with more sales resistance from other potential 'town lot" buyers. Not everyone could be convinced to part with their hard earned money by words alone. What he needed, he probably decided, was a visual sales aid. So, in 1893, Dick commissioned Mr. Mark E. Ragsdale to survey the hilltop and layout what he envisioned as the future town of Cross Cut, Texas. By September 1st of that year, the survey was complete and an official looking map was drawn to show to all future prospective buyers.
We will assume Dick set out forthwith to entice local folks to purchase lots in his new town, for what is a town without citizens? From all records however, not many agreed with his ambitious assessment of the rocky little hilltop. In short, there was no apparent great rush to get on board Dick's train to the future. Most probably, its greatest shortcomings were the absence of precious surface water, and the length of travel required to obtain it. Had those who finally did move within its limits known that subsurface water was also absent beneath its twenty acres, that wells drilled would produce only brackish, non-potable water, it may never have seen an inhabitant. That lack of drinkable water, in fact) plagued Cross Cut citizens for its entire existence. While Dick was busy trying to promote the town, another landmark event in the history of Cross Cut occurred. On a warm July day in 1897, Mrs. Caroline Pentecost Elsberry, wife of Joseph Elsberry and older sister of M. N. (Mark) Pentecost, died. Dick’s aunt was buried in the southeast corner of an eighty acre tract owned by his father and mother.
Mark and Sarah apparently decided to utilize the remainder of the tract to give their son, Dick, a respectable trade and a steady source of income. On 12 September, 1898, only fourteen months after the interment, a warranty deed was filed transferring ownership of 80 acres of land from "M. N .Pentecost and wife Sarah A. Pentecost" to "Kellett-Chathan Machinery Company of Waco, Texas" in exchange for "($800.00) Eight hundred Dollars in Gin Machinery paid and delivered to R. W. Pentecost our son.
A plot of the boundaries specified in the deed shows a block of land 603 veras ~ wide by 774 veras deep (approximately 80 acres), with a two acre notch removed - one apparently part of the original survey but not included in the current sale - from its southeast comer. The important deed verbiage is as follows: "Beginning at the D. H. Norwood N. E. Comer thence south 674 vrs. to a stone set for the N. E. cor. Of cemetery, Thence west 113 vrs. To a stone for N. W. cor. of cemetery. Thence south l00 vrs. To S.W. cor. of cemetery ". With no documentation supporting the contrary, it seems safeto say Mrs. Caroline Pentecost Elsberry was buried on property owned by Mark and Sarah Pentecost, and that at some point in time during the following fourteen months, a cemetery was officially established and donated by Mark and Sarah Pentecost to the residents of Northwest Brown County. With one stroke of the pen, the elder Pentecosts supplied Cross Cut with two necessities: a cemetery and a cotton gin.
As an aside, that same 80 acre tract was purchased from the gin company on August 24, 1899, less than a year after its original sale, by Mrs. H. P. McPeeters for $500 in cash. Dick somehow reacquired his father's land between the time of the purchase by Mrs. McPeeters, and May 7, 1915, for on that date he sold it to E. DeBusk for $2,000, a tidy profit by anyone's standards. The Notary Public verifying that sale was a gentleman named W.H.G. Chambers. We will get to him in a later chapter.
For now, back to the new cotton gin. We can assume, considering his heritage and probable upbringing in the home of a man who established five churches, that Mark was a firm believer in the Protestant work ethic. It would appear he also had his finger firmly on the pulse of Brown County economics. Agrarian families during his day raised two types of crops: one for food and feed, the other for cash income. The "cash crop" in Cross Cut was cotton. It was from the proceeds of the family cotton crop that Junior got his new shoes, and Mamma got curtains. The railroad came to Brownwood, a day's wagon ride south of Cross Cut, in 1885. By 1898, the year of Mark's purchase of gin equipment for his son, Brownwood was rapidly becoming the largest cotton buying center west of Fort Worth, handling tens of thousands of bales per season. The operative word here is "bales". Cross Cut was sorely in need of a gin to make those bales.
Thanks to Mark Pentecost, the needed gin was delivered and in place. Whether or not his son ever personally operated it is not known, but seems doubtful, for the next recorded reference to it was a 3-1/2 acre exclusion from a land deed of sale in 1903 -and the name on that small plot was not that of Dick Pentecost, but Mr. J. M. Coffman. That particular transaction was the sale of 215 acres more or less, situated in the middle third of the W. B. Travis survey, and it included "all the town of Cross Cut except the blocks and lots which have heretofore been sold or contracted to be sold by R. W. Pentecost.". The new owner of Cross Cut, Texas was a gentleman named A. T. Davis of Callahan County. The sales price was $4,000, making Dick Pentecost the 8th richest man in Cross Cut in declared assets. But it also left a land promoter without an acre of land to promote.
Dick may not have spent much time sowing or harvesting crops, but he did not ignore his homework altogether. In between his promotional activities, he managed to father twelve children: Francis A. in 1881, Johnny in 1883, Dora Lee in 1886, Eula Bell in 1888, Richard L. (Little Dick) in 1890, Anna Viva in 1892, Clyde W. in 1895, Ruie Ola in 1897, Walter Asbury in 1899, Mary Loyd in 1901, Orval Clark in 1904, and finally, Wanda Lavelle in 1906.
Nothing more devastates a parent than the loss of a child, and Dick's and Hattie's first three sons died in their teens: Johnny died of congestive heart failure at the age of 16. Richard's horse stepped in a gopher hole and threw him to the ground when he was just 14 -a cruel reminder of the way in which Hattie's own father died. and Clyde had just reached the ripe old age of 17 when he died from what was first believed to be an abscessed tooth, but was later diagnosed as cancer. Their tombstones stand side-by-side-by-side today in the Pentecost family plot in the Cross Cut cemetery next to those of Dick and Hattie, constant reminders of how hard life must have been for youngsters in those early days. And more than that, they give silent, everlasting testament to the strength, fortitude, and sometimes, almost unbelievable forbearance exhibited by the sturdy women of that era. Women such as Hattie Clark Pentecost.
Immediately following the sale of Cross Cut and the property adjoining it to the east and south, Dick was, figuratively speaking, in high financial cotton. But without a steady source of income, even large bank accounts soon begin to dwindle - especially when one is given to co-signing notes which would never be paid by the borrower. Dick rapidly gained a reputation of being a "good old boy" by the towns people, and a soft touch by those who took advantage of his generosity. Unfortunately, his popularity was gained at the expense of his own family.
Along with his position as the local Notary Public, the only steady job he ever held, Dick even tried his hand for a time in the grocery business, but, apparently, that commercial venture didn't last much longer than his real estate project. One would suspect the threat of going to work for a living began to loom large as his savings account shrank. About the only thing he hadn't tried was prospecting for gold, so he loaded the family in the wagon somewhere around 1913 and headed for the small mining town of Miami, Arizona.
How long he chased that particular dream, or when he returned to Cross Cut is not known. Suffice it to say the only thing he brought back from Arizona that he didn't taken with him was a new son-in-law. His daughter Anna was the only one of the Pentecosts to strike it rich in Miami. She met and married Raymond Meyer. On their return, Dick moved his family into the house which years later was owned and occupied by Elsie Byrd, mother of O. B. Byrd, and shortly thereafter the family began to drift apart.
Dora (Dode) married a gentleman by the name of Crosby; Mary wed Homer A. Dozier; Orville married Patsy Westerman and moved to California; and Wanda married Eldon Clark. Unfortunately, neither Francis, Ruie, nor Walter ever found their soul mates.
In 1924, a few short years after their return to Cross Cut Hattie Clark Pentecost contracted pneumonia, slipped into a diabetic coma, and died. She was 59 years old.
Those who remember Dick in his later years tell of a lonely old man sitting on the porch of Jackson's Drug Store, smoking a pipe and waiting for the occasional citizen in need of a Notary Public, and watching the world go by in front of him. Ironically and sadly, that image was to be his final legacy to the town he so ambitiously conceived and created. Bransford Eubank, in one of his lighter moments once quipped, "The only reason Cross Cut didn't grow was because Dick Pentecost sat on it". In 1949, Richard Wood (Dick) Pentecost, erstwhile promoter, Realtor, miner, entrepreneur, and founder of Cross Cut, Texas, finally found the inner peace he sought for over 92 years.