I was lucky enough to accidentally find the History of Purmela, Texas by Viola Basham Culp Cathey in our own Gatesville Library. This little book is a treasure with interesting genealogy and delightful stories of the in the families for generations. Viola Cathey grew up in Purmela with her parents James Fudge Basham and Nancy Roberts Basham who had 7 children born to them. Some of the information in this article is from this delightful little book.
Old Purmela was founded in 1879 and is located between the Cowhouse and Plum Creek. It is about 15 miles west of Gatesville on Highway 84. Old Purmela is north off of Highway 84 about a mile, and once had several stores, a post office, drug store, a tailor shop, a millinery shop, blacksmith, garage, mill, barber shop, gin, and a doctor. New Purmela was created when most businesses moved to Highway 84 after it was completed in 1945. Coryell Museum has the Purmela Post Office window with dozens of letter boxes located near the Blacksmith Exhibit.
In History of Purmela, Texas land prices are discussed. In May of 1894 Mrs. M.E. Williams bought 100 acres of land for $10. When she died in 1904 her property was sold for $3,665.51. (We don’t know if that included a house, cattle, or other land in her estate.)
The weather was unpredictable in 1879, just as it is today. Mr. A. C. Bertrand tells the story of a blizzard that his father, J. R. Bertrand, and the teacher, Ed Bryan were caught in: “My father and Mr. Ed Bryan were coming home from Gatesville one day when a blizzard blew up. They nearly froze but managed to put up the surrey curtains. They got on the back seat and made it to the timbered area approaching home, keeping as near the breaks of the stream as possible for added protection. When they reached home, the older boys took out the team by cutting the traces. They wrapped the team and stabled them; but in spite of the covers, the team shivered for hours. Father made it to bed, and Mother rubbed his body and placed hot objects near by to warm him. Mr. Bryan stayed on his feet and walked the floor until he was warm.” I suspect no one called the blizzard a climate change.
Corilea Dye agreed to tell me about growing up in Purmela in the 1930’s. Corilea Freeman Donaldson Dye’s grandfather, Alex Freeman, built a nice house in Purmela sometime before 1907. The Freeman house is located on FM 932 about 4 miles north from Old Purmela and the house is still standing. Corilea grew up in this house. It had a large front porch, and lots of windows. She recalls when electrification came thru and beautiful electric chandeliers were put in some rooms.
Corilea’s mother Opal Roach Freeman also went to school at Purmela in the 1920’s and she rode her horse to school. She did not live far from her future husband, Waye Freeman. In High School her father played on the 1924 Hornet football team with Dr. K. R. Jones, Elgin Davidson, and John Gilmer.
Alex Freeman, Corilea’s grandfather, had the house built and her father and mother, Waye and Opal Freeman, raised Corilea and her sisters there. Her grandfather and father were farmers and ranchers and had quite a bit of land. Prominent Purmela farmers she especially remembers were the families of T.J. Smith, George Wilkinson, and Fred Grubbs.
Corilea attended Purmela School until the 8th grade. On regular days at the school there were 3 grades in the same room with one teacher. The teacher would teach one class, then go to the next class and start all over again. The students enjoyed Christmas especially. The trustees of the school would cut a very large cedar tree and the children would decorate it. With the wood stove burning nearby the auditorium smelled heavenly.
The historical marker for Purmela that was supposed to be placed at the school building was accidentally placed at the Baptist Church. This turned out to be good in the later years as the school is no longer standing.
The Freeman’s had a water tank and bath house in their yard that Corilea was told was in use for many years before she was born and when she was growing up. The windmill pumped water up to the rock tank which was about 16 feet off the ground. Underneath was a rock room with no windows and this was their private bathhouse with running water from the windmill! There was a showerhead inside the bathhouse! They had a Maytag wringer washing machine in this room also. This was a nice bathing facility for the time as many people did not have indoor plumbing well into the 1950’s. Come to Coryell Museum and see our cowboy bathing in a clawfoot tub, with his hat on!