Coryell Museum and Historical Center is located in what was once Bigham Hardware and Furniture Company. In our gift shop is a magazine of reprinted advertisements from The Gatesville Messenger in 1909. Bigham Hardware and Furniture has a full page advertisement and many of the businesses in town have large advertisements in this magazine as well.
The article states that the Bigham Hardware and Furniture Company was organized by a group of investors including M. C. Bigham who also served as manager. The article says that “this institution would be a credit to a city of 40,000 people”. The Coryell County census recorded a population of about 21,000 people in 1900 according to A History of Coryell County, by Zelma Scott.
The building is 50 x 100 feet and has a very large and roomy balcony. The museum uses this balcony for the GTT display—Gone to Texas, as well as a large kitchen exhibit, pioneer home and numerous other exhibits.
The article also reports that “Coryell County is fortunate to have an institution of such proportions—model in every detail. Some few of their specialties are Bridge and Beach stoves, Majestic ranges, Keen Cutter cutlery, bicycles, guns, Standard sewing machines, the celebrated Kokomo wires for hog and stock fences, and the famous Samson windmills, of which this firm has sold two and one-half (rail) cars in one year. The hills and valleys of Coryell County are dotted with them.”
“In the rear of the building are manufactured flues and well casings. It is a model and most credible workshop, prepared to do all kinds of plumbing work and fitting up of bath rooms. “
The statement about bathrooms makes me wonder what conveniences were available in Gatesville for indoor bathrooms and at what cost, as most rural homes had outhouses as late as 1945.
According to the The Gatesville Messenger 1909 Bigham Hardware had one more very interesting service that it provided for Coryell County. It is described below:
“This firm also maintains one of the best undertaking departments in Central Texas, which is equipped with modern lowering device, church truck and coffins and caskets in all sizes and from the cheapest wood up to the very finest metallic casket. They are prepared to do embalming and it is proper to say that their undertaking department is used not only here in Gatesville but in many sections of this county.”
Some of the staff of Bigham Hardware in 1909 were as follows:
“The trade is waited on by M.C. Bigham, B.F. McClinton, Sam Dickie and Cal Byrom, while the shop is looked over by John Washburn, Reed Powell and Bub Smith. Fourteen years ago this writer (of the 1909 article) recalls selling him his first advertising--$1 per month was all he could afford, but as he grew, his advertising grew and today he is one of he best and most successful advertisers in Coryell County. He is a liberal, broadminded, public spirited citizen and takes great pride in Coryell County.” You could assume from this advertisement, that Bigham Hardware had been in business since 1890.
The article continues that “Bigham’s carried a wide variety of furniture from the finest to the cheapest.” The original freight elevator can still be seen at Coryell Museum. In 1909 it carried furniture and other heavy items to the second floor. The oak flooring and working mechanism of ropes and pulleys can clearly be seen thru the glass windows.”
Mary Bigham Roberts was kind enough to give me an interview to tell me about her family. M. C. Bigham’s father Samuel Watson Bigham came with his 5 brothers from Tennessee in 1852 with the Scotts and Bates family and several other families by wagon train. She recalls that her father Madison Ciscero Bigham (1873-1966) was a surveyor, a mason and a member of the First Baptist Church. Her father made the copper box for the time capsule in the cornerstone of our Coryell County Courthouse. It was an exact fit in the cavity in the rock and was a very neat piece of work, according to The History of Coryell County by Zelma Scott.
Mary Bigham Roberts has donated a beautifully stylish dresser to Coryell Museum. It was bought at her father’s hardware store many years ago. It has a 2 foot tall oval mirror and the whole dresser is curved to allow a chair to be pulled in the semicircle. The 4 drawers are small and curved and each has a lovely cut glass drawer pull. Mrs. Roberts has worked for many years as a volunteer at Coryell Museum and is currently a member.
Come to the museum and enjoy seeing our 100 year plus building that was once Bigham Hardware and Furniture.
By Jann Dworsky and Property of The Gatesville Messenger 2014