Our community history can certainly come alive through the memories of those who actually lived through the events at the time. And this was especially evident when reporter Laura Collins described the memories of Mrs. T.H. (Florence) Barron in the February 25, 1954 issue of the Athens Weekly Review.
“One of Athens’ best-loved citizens, Mrs. T.H. Barron, is also the oldest native-born Athenian,” Ms. Collins related. And the former Miss Florence Scott had lived through many important occurrences in early Athens history since her birth in her parents’ home on North Pinkerton Street on December 14, 1865. And in fact in 1954 Mrs. Barron was living just two blocks from her birthplace.
First home-schooled, Florence later attended classes at the local Masonic Lodge Building. As was common in those days, classes were held on the first floor and the Masons held their meetings on the second.
Some of Mrs. Barron’s childhood memories in early Athens regarded the arrival of the Cotton Belt Railroad in town. One time on Christmas Eve in 1880 Mrs. Barron remembered: “A brisk East-Texas norther was doing its worst but it failed to keep all the citizens of Athens from appearing bright and early to see this work train as it lumbered into town." When the railroad from Tyler to Athens was being built “the young people would pack their lunches and drive out on Sunday afternoon in a wagon (properly chaperoned of course!) to watch the men work on the road.” According to Mrs. Barron, “…nothing could have been more fun!”
Another exciting event came about 1875 when Henderson County Sheriff J.C. Goodgame was shot and killed as he was playing a game of cards. A man named Jessie Pack Wood came up and pulled the trigger and Mrs. Barron then related what happened next as well as the possible motive. "He [Wood] left the country and was never found and brought to justice but everyone always thought the trouble developed over Miss Flora Bell who was a niece of Sheriff Goodgame's and who had been 'keeping company' with Mr. Wood without the approval of her aunt."
Then an important personal event occurred when “.. a few relatives and close friends gathered in a room at her father's home on the crisp afternoon of December 30, 1880]when] a man by the name of Judge J. R. Bishop, who was at that time County Judge, said to a pretty young girl and a stalwart young man, "Do you Florence take Tom ..." They had two sons, Horace Barron, who died in 1943 and her daughter Helen, who lived with her mother in 1954.
A member of the Methodist Church for 75 years, Mrs. Barron remembered when the Methodists and other congregations worshiped in a building on South Prairieville Street and they had what was then called a 'Union Church.'" This meant that the local Baptist, Presbyterian and Christian church congregations took "turnabout" using the sanctuary once a week.
Mrs. Barron also made the news in the July 24, 1941 issue of the Athens Weekly Review when during the time of World War II she made a contribution to the local drive for aluminum for wartime use. This was an “all out” drive for aluminum and Mrs. Barron was up to the task as she donated two aluminum boilers. “My chickens will have to take their water out of tin containers in the future” she told the reporter.
Her contribution to the war effort came when she “..quickly collected a 15 year old aluminum boiler and a smaller vessel of ten year vintage.” She told the reporter “I am mighty glad to make these small contributions to this great cause and I feel that the people of Athens and Henderson County will respond generously in this emergency.”
Such conservation efforts were familiar to Mrs. Barron since some years earlier during World War I she experienced “wheatless” days as well as campaigns for Athenians to purchase War Savings Stamps.
According to the 1954 article, “Mrs. Barron keeps her mind and hands too busy with her numerous hobbies to find time for worry." She enjoyed the “culture of flowers and vegetables" and created hooked rugs.
"Life has been good to me," Mrs. Barron said, "and I have had more than my share of blessings,'