Jackson Drug Store in Cross Cut in 1945

S. R. (Doc) Chambers in picture

(Father of Norris)


By Norris Chambers

I graduated from Cross Cut High School in the Spring of 1935 with a class of 10 ambitious seniors.

After the end of the civil war southern people found it hard to make a living in the middle south and eastern United States. Farmers and merchants from those states formed a steady stream of covered wagon traffic toward the west areas. The best land was taken as the horde moved west and those seeking good farming land had to go farther. The first of those seekers, James Bloodworth, found what he wanted in the vicinity of Pecan Bayou and its tributaries. R. W. (Dick) Pentecost soon followed and settled in the same area.

Mr. Bloodworth had brought a wagon full of store goods and opened a general store on Holloway creek. Mr. Holloway, Mr. Pentecost and others decided they needed a post office and came up with the name Cross Out – cross country and out of the way. The application was sent to Austin and a post office was granted, but somehow the name got changed to Cross Cut. James Bloodworth  was named postmaster and the name was established. A one room school was erected by the store and post office.

Dick Pentecost had land east of Turkey Creek and decided that was the proper place for a town. He and James Bloodworth were the founders of the town in the new location. In 1879 the town of Cross Cut was officially surveyed and platted and names given to its streets. The area of the town site was about 20 acres.  Although there were platted streets, no signs were ever erected nor streets built. Two rut trails followed roughly the street locations, where needed. A county road ran through the main street of the town.

Early settlers included the families of Allege, Arledge, Armstrong, Bacon, Byrd, Chambers, Clark, Davis, Eddington, Elsberry, Eubank, Foster, Gafford, Gaines, Gotcher, Greenwood, Henson, Holcomb, Howard, Hunter, Jones, Mann, McPeters, Miller, Newsome, Newton, Pentecost, Picket, Prater, Pyle, Russell, Strange, Teague, Watson and Whatley.

Cross Cut was a thriving community for many years. The town boasted a blacksmith shop, two general stores, two doctors, a drug store, a big two room school with a convertible auditorium and lodges of  Odd Fellows and Woodmen of the World. The farming community supported the town and the town supplied the farmers with necessities.

This laid back living continued until about 1924 when oil was discovered in the area. In a few short months the whole area around Cross Cut was spiked with drilling rigs and the construction of pipelines and refineries. People came by the hundreds to take the well paying jobs that the oil companies offered. The tiny town was swamped with people. Investors built dozens of two room shacks and many families lived in tents or just camped under a tree. Cross Cut had no water supply other than a few dirt tanks out of town. A water man, Mr. Bright, hauled muddy water and sold it for 50 cents a barrel. The typical house in Cross Cut had a toilet in the back and a water barrel in the front. Shacks were also built by the oil companies on their leases in the surrounding country. These were for their key employees. The town now had several other stores, a barbershop, a meat market, a two-story hotel, several auto repair shops and service stations and a telephone office. The phone lines ran three or four miles into the surrounding country. There was even a local constable.

With the crowd came some rough characters. A man was shot down on the main street. A shoot out between Charlie Teague and Sam Davis on the main street had the school closed for a few hours until the shooting was over. Both men were wounded. Another fatal shooting occurred between two farmers. Fist fights between the over crowded population was a daily occurrence. One man was seriously injured when another one slugged him with a cedar fence post. A feud between two families in the late 1800’s left one woman dead and a man wounded.

The citizens of the community banded together in 1927 and consolidated some smaller country school and erected a nice two-story brick schoolhouse. The school was soon filled and, although crowded for a while, did a good job of teaching. In the thirties the work began to slow and only those who were left behind to pump and maintain the leases were left. One of the refineries closed after a few months of operation. Those who stayed behind were stable citizens and the community again thrived.  But the decline continued as the leases produced less and the price of oil fell and the oil companies abandoned them. In the early forties there were not enough children left to maintain a school and the district was consolidated with Cross Plains, a larger town about six miles north of Cross Cut.

In the forties only two businesses survived, a small drug store and post office, operated by Charles Jackson, and a garage owned and operated by Lawrence Byrd. In the fifties the drug store and post office disappeared and the garage closed. Both churches had been abandoned. A few of the old families and their descendants lived in the old houses in the town – probably not over a dozen.

Another blow came in the mid forties. The road from Brownwood to Cross Plains was opened and paved and it bypassed Cross Cut.  A small sign indicated that a left turn up the hill would take you to the old town.

Today only a crumbled brick schoolhouse, a few old houses and a road or two remind you that there was once a town there. A few descendants of the pioneers still live in the country, but not much farming is done anymore. Only the best land is farmed and a few farmers do this. The day of a farmer on every 160 or 320 acres is gone.

Probably Cross Cut’s only claim to fame for two of its citizens was realized in the success of Curtis McPeters and Glenn Strange. They were country musicians who left Cross Cut in the late twenties and headed west. They became movie actors in Hollywood, appearing mostly in westerns as cowboys or bandits. Glen Strange played Frankenstein and later became the bar tender named Sam on Gunsmoke. Curtis was known as “Cactus Mack”.

The little town that thrived, then boomed and died lives on. The community has renovated the cemetery and maintains it well. Those who came later revere the memory of the pioneers and are proud of their heritage.

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