April Showers Bring May Flowers. And More Showers.

Today finally there is a little sunshine in Forney after storms last night. And the night before that. And the weeks before that. It’s been very wet and very cloudy this spring which means you should take advantage of the nice weather and maybe take a walk or eat your lunch outside today. One of my favorite places to take a quick breather in downtown Forney is the Xeric Garden. If you voted at the sub-courthouse in the elections earlier this month, perhaps you saw it right next door. The garden is maintained by the Forney Garden Club.

The Forney Garden Club held its first meeting on May 23, 1984 with 9 founding attendees: Pauline Hays, Azaline Montgomery, Brenda Bradden, Tim Bradden, Bryan Ayers, Diane Matthews, Jerry Flook, Patt Jordan, and Linda Jordan.  Those early members went through the process of establishing a formal organization and received guidance from both the White Rock Garden Forum and the Dallas Council of Garden Clubs, becoming a member of both groups.

In short order the Forney Garden Club received recognition for various projects and won awards such as an “Adopt a Highway” award, a “Community Achievement Award” from Governor White, a “Keep Texas Beautiful” award, and various ribbons at FFA shows and craft fairs.  They donated books on wildflowers to the Forney High School Library and started a scholarship fund for deserving high school graduates planning to attend college. The biggest project undertaken, however, was the Xeric Garden.

County Commission Ken Leonard first approached the Club about creating a garden by the sub-courthouse in October, 2001. They decided to tackle the project and took about a year to prepare. In 2003, the Club developed a plan with an architect, raised the lot with over 50 truckloads of soil and compost, supervised the construction of a 16 x 16 foot gazebo pavilion, designed the arbor with crushed granite pathways, and constructed an Information Center with display cases. They received help from lots of volunteers including students from the National Honor Society and Student Council, Master Composters, friends, spouses, and many others.

Sign at garden during construction

Sign at garden during construction

Walkways are laid out

Walkways are laid out

The last remaining project before completion was the erection of the wrought iron fence. Panels were sold to individuals, businesses, and community organizations with their names included on the finished fence. This fundraising project plus a silent auction and other money-making endeavors helped raise over $32,000. The Club also received grant money from the National Garden Clubs, Inc. In 2008 the garden received a Blue Star Memorial Marker at its eastern edge. The marker honors all the men and women in uniform – past or present – from District X of the Texas Garden Clubs. Counties in District X are Kaufman, Rockwall, Hunt, Grayson, Collin, Ellis, Dallas, and Navarro.

After completion with plants, landscaping, and fence

After completion with plants, landscaping, and fence

With scarecrow decorations in fall.  Plants-in-bloom and decorations change with the seasons.

With scarecrow decorations in fall. Plants-in-bloom and decorations change with the seasons.

The Xeric Garden was built as an educational tool as well as a public park. Information is available on topics such as recycling, composting, rainwater harvesting, and various others. The purpose of xeric gardening (as opposed to regular gardening) is to use native and adapted plants that need less water and require less maintenance to thrive. This type of landscaping conserves resources and is better able to survive in harsh or dry climates. It’s important to remember that just because we have rain now doesn’t mean we will for long. We were in a full-fledged drought last summer.

The Forney Garden Club hosts demonstrations and classes on landscaping, horticulture, bee keeping, and many more topics throughout the year and at their meetings. They also take field trips and hold an annual luncheon. The Club meets at the First Baptist Church on the 3rd Thursday of the month, September through May.  That unfortunately means it will be a few months before they hold their next meeting. In the meantime you can visit the Xeric Garden, pick up a pamphlet,  and enjoy the view. Hope to see you there.

Kendall

 

Many thanks to Nancy Harris for providing me with information on the Forney Garden Club and the Xeric Garden in particular. Visit the Garden Club facebook page to stay up to date on events or to contact them for more information. Memberships are available for $25.

And leave us a message on our facebook page, too!

City Government in Old Forney

Early voting has started in Kaufman County as Forney is set to select 2 council candidates, 2 school board candidates, and a new mayor. Early voting runs through Tuesday, May 5th with election-day voting on Saturday, May 9th. If you attended either of the candidate forums held last week, you got a chance to hear from most of the candidates and form an opinion as to how you’ll vote.

Forney first elected a mayor and city council in June 1884, approximately ten years after its founding but having just been incorporated. At that time, the city government was a mayor and several Aldermen. It didn’t last long. The officials elected in 1890 were never seated due to a technicality. In Forney Country, Jerry Flook describes city government from 1890 to 1895 as being “in a state of flux”. Then in September 1895 the city charter was abolished by popular vote, and there was no city government at all.

So what happened in Forney with no local government? A group of men called the Forney Commercial Club took it upon themselves to run the business of the city. They acted essentially as boosters: recruiting businesses to town, encouraging improvements and beautification projects, and establishing basic utilities such as water, electric, and sewer systems.  They were able to do so in part by raising money from family, friends, neighbors, and businesses. During their tenure they re-shaped downtown Forney – literally.

Forney’s first commercial buildings relied on the railroad for transportation of supplies and the export of agricultural goods.  Businesses and gins were built close to and facing the tracks since most of the activity occurred on the railroad side of the building. But beginning in 1899 a dramatic shift occurred as new businesses were built between the streets of E. Main & E. Trinity and S. Bois d’Arc & N. Elm (still our central business district) with entrances to Main.  Existing businesses relocated their primary entrances to face the street as well, including Tom Layden who had built the first brick structure facing the tracks. There is no official reason why this happened, but it seems to have been a trend of the times since other area municipalities noted the same shift. Although some of the buildings have burned or otherwise come down, most of downtown Forney as it stands today was built between 1899 and 1910.

 

Downtown businesses in 1889 facing the railroad tracks.  This is Front St. (or tha back side of Main St. depending on how you look at it).

Downtown businesses in 1889 facing the railroad tracks. This is Front St. (or the back side of Main St. depending on how you look at it).

Close up of Layden building, 1899.  You can see this at far right in the picture above. Although this shot was taken from the tracks, byt this time Layden had added on the the building in the rear to make a new entrance on Main St.

Layden building, 1899. You can see this at far right in the picture above. Although this shot was taken from the tracks, this is around the time that Layden added on to the building in the rear to make a new entrance on Main St.

 

 

Forney well, 1909 or 1910

Forney well, 1909 or 1910

Forney tank built over the well, 1910.

Forney tank built over the well, 1910

In 1909 the Commercial Club was instrumental in developing Forney’s water supply and raised funds to drill a new artesian well. The need for a steady water supply had recently become tragically apparent due to a drought which dried up the ponds needed to operate the cotton gins and a deadly fire which broke out in the City Hotel near the corner of S. Bois d’Arc and W. Front streets. In fact, the drilling had struck water a few months before the fire, but the distribution system had not yet been completed. Needless to say, that become a top priority and was in place by  summer of that year.

Also in 1910, members of the Commercial Club petitioned to Kaufman County commissioner’s court to set an election to reincorporate the city of Forney with a new mayor, council, and marshal. Naturally the slate of candidates consisted of Commercial Club members, all of whom were elected. Forney selected as mayor Avery Duke, as marshal Robert Crawford, and as councilmen Richard Pinson, John M. Lewis, James Cooley, Yancy McKellar, and James C. Reagin.  Since these men had essentially been running the town for the past 15 years (with others), it was a pretty smooth transition.

 

 

Building on the success of the water system, one of their first acts as a council was the organization of a volunteer fire department. The first fire chief was J.E. Yates, and the VFD was ready as soon as the water distribution system was complete. Their first call was on July 11, 1910 when two houses in two different parts of town caught fire. One was saved while the other was lost, but the community was pleased with their efforts.

 

Volunteer Fire Department, 1912. This is on Trinity St. before the brick fire station was built in 1913.

Volunteer Fire Department, 1912. This is on Trinity St. before the brick fire station was built at Trinity and Bois d’Arc in 1913.

A water supply also made possible electrical service in Forney since the electrical generators were steam powered. The Forney Light and Ice Company was privately owned and was built in 1910 for $25,000. Its construction was rapid, as was the wiring of businesses and homes. Electric lights hummed in Forney for the first time on August 12, 1910.

As you can see, 1910 was a busy year here. In about 6 months Forney was reincorporated with new officeholders, completed a downtown overhaul, received water and electric service, and organized a new volunteer fire department.  It could be considered the beginning of “modern” Forney, and the town boomed for the next 20 years or so until crop prices tanked in the 1930s.

It seems as though Forney is in the middle of another big boom today. The population is rising, the number of schools has grown three-fold in the past few years, and construction is trying to keep pace with both retail spaces along 80 and housing developments a little farther south.  Voting in local elections is a way to voice your opinion about how Forney manages its growth and continues to prosper. So take the time in the next two weeks to go do it.

Thanks,

Kendall

 

Information about the election and polling places can be found here.

As always, we’d love to hear from you on our facebook page.

Collecting Focus: Cars

The Turkey Trax Auto Show is this weekend in downtown Forney. That makes this a good time to talk to Don Harris, owner of an extensive collection of classic cars (among other things). Mr. Harris came to Forney when he bought the Farmers National Bank in 1987. He stayed in town after he sold it and now devotes his time to his assorted collections. I asked him a few questions this week.

 

Q. How did you start collecting cars?

The first - a 1963 Ford Thunderbird

The first – a 1963 Ford Thunderbird

A. I just like them. I like history, and I feel like these cars are history and represent a certain time in history.

Q. Do you have a favorite in your collection?

A. My favorite is whichever I’m driving at the time. The first car I bought to keep was a 1963 Thunderbird. After that I just kept going.

Q. Is there a certain type of car, year or model, that you concentrate on?

A. No. I never know what I want until I see it. But I tend to like rare or unusual cars. I don’t want people to be able to say they saw something like that at such-and-such a place. I want it to be unique, something they wouldn’t see anywhere else.

Q. You have a lot of classic cars. Do you buy them already restored or do the restoration work yourself?

A. I prefer to buy them already restored. Restoration work is more of a labor of love than anything else. You have to put more money and time into it than you would ever get back out. I like driving a car more than I like working on it.

Q. How many cars do you have?

A. I think I’m down to 21. I used to have 30 but have sold some.

Q. How do you keep them in such pristine condition?

A. They don’t get driven very often. Usually just around town. My housekeeper cleans the cars 2-3 times per week to keep them in shape. I like everything neat and tidy.

Q. You collect other items, too, like model cars, Coca-Cola memorabilia, and country music memorabilia. You have guitars and clothing from the likes of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. How did you get into collecting those, too?

A. I just collect what I like. Everything I collect is for my own personal enjoyment. Most of the country music items were given to me by friends. I didn’t buy them at an auction or anything. My grandson is a country singer and has his own collection of guitars now.

Q. Are you currently collecting anything else?

A. No. I have some newer-model cars, but that’s it.  If I collect much more I’ll have to get a bigger place.

2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray

A few more classic Fords

A few more classic Fords

 

Mr. Harris will have some cars in this Sunday’s show. The Forney Historic Preservation League will be there, too, to award a trophy to our favorite car. For more information about Turkey Trax, visit Forney’s Economic Development Corporation website or see below.

 

TTrax ad 2014 bigger

As always, we love to hear from you on our facebook page!

Thanks,

Kendall

Collecting Focus: Coins

In the last post I mentioned we received some coins, including Indian Head pennies, as part of a larger donation. To learn more about these coins and coin collecting in general I spoke with Rodney, the go-to coin expert at South Park Coins here in Forney.

Indian Head Pennies

Q. When were these pennies used, and when did they get replaced?

A. Indian head cents started in 1859. They were thicker than they are now and were called “copper-nickels” because of their composition. They changed to bronze and copper in 1864 which resulted in two varieties of 1864 cents, one in copper-nickel and one in bronze. Indian cents were replaced in 1909 with the Lincoln cent which we still see to this day. The U.S. mint made 1909 Indian cents and 1909 Lincoln cents at the same time.

Q. Are they popular with collectors?

A. Yes! Collectors love Indian cents! There is a mystique about coins that you never see in everyday life, and most people are enamored by the design of coins from our past. An Indian cent that is bright red and looks as though it was made yesterday is a wonder to behold! What a beautiful coin! (Even one that is worn out is a treasure to keep!)

Coin Collecting

Q. Are you a collector yourself? How did you start?

A. Yes, I am a collector at heart. Coin collecting is a passion that never goes away! I got started when my Grandpa gave me a silver dollar from the 1800s. I was fascinated with it and started reading as many books about coins as I could find. I still have that particular coin!

2014 American Silver Eagle

2014 Silver Eagle

Q. What’s “hot” right now in the coin collecting world?

A. Silver dollars and the new American Silver Eagles are as hot as firecrackers!

Q. Do you have any advice for people thinking about starting a collection?

A. Always buy the book before the coin. Knowledge is the key to successful coin collecting! Buy the best quality that your budget can afford.

South Park Coins

Q. How long has South Park Coins been in business?

A. We have been in business for almost 30 years.

Q. How did you get involved in coin collecting/brokerage?

A. I have been interested in collector coins most of my life, but when the opportunity to get involved full time arose I jumped in with both feet. I never realized this could be a career until the owner of South Park Coins talked me into coming to work for him.

Q. Who are your main clients? (long-time clients, online buyers, etc.)

A. Of course, South Park started before the online craze started so we have customers that don’t even have a computer and don’t like anything automated, and we also have lots of Ebay and online customers that are repeat customers. We have the best of both worlds!

Q. Describe your business generally. Do you keep an inventory, or do you buy for specific clients?  Do you sell entire series in bulk or “special” and rare individual coins (or both)?

A. Yes, Yes, and Yes! We cover every collector from a single coin purchase to whatever their needs may be. We also buy any collection the same way, from a single coin to a massive collection, it doesn’t matter – we will pay the highest possible price in order to make any deal work for both the seller and South Park Coins.

South Park Coins

 

Many thanks to Rodney and South Park Coins! Check out their website and their ebay store.

 

 

 

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