Wilson “King” Dunn: Memories from the past
Editor’s Note: Prior to Mr. Dunn’s passing he wrote several articles documenting the history and heritage of the Dunn family and early life in Orange County. His son, Justice of the Peace Judge Derry Dunn gave The Record a copy of these articles so that we could share ‘King’ Dunn’s story.
My Dad – William Thomas Dunn
I got to thinking about my father and the cause of his death, which I imagine a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren never heard but it is a part of their heritage. I’ll try to explain.
It was June 11, 1946. I was twenty-seven years old, just out of the Army and had a little welding shop and grocery store in front of the old house, located on old Highway 62. Dad was driving to Mauriceville along, what is now FM 1130 and alongside the railroad when he noticed a cow had been killed on the railroad track. He used to own the property but had just sold it to Grover Williams but still had cattle on it. He stopped at the next crossing and was walking back down the tracks to check if the cow was one of his own. There were two sets of railroad tracks, a mainline and a switch track next to it.
Dad was walking down the main track and a train was coming behind. The engineer told us that he blew the whistle, Dad looked back but evidently thought the train was on the other track and would pass him by. Sadly, it did not. Dad was struck by the train and was killed instantly. He was sixty-six years old and living an active life.
I was driving to Mauriceville and stopped to wait on the stalled train that was blocking the cross. After a while, Smiley Bottley, a black man that worked for the railroad, was headed to my house to tell me about the accident; he saw me in the car – a 1939 Chevrolet. He said they wanted me at the front of the train. As we walked that way, he told me about Dad. When we got to the crossing, George Shannon and Tojan Frederick told me that I did not want to go up there. I didn’t go any further; I could see a whole gang of people up there.
He was buried days later in Wilkinson Cemetery in Orange County. All my brothers and sisters were there.
Some of you have asked for the particulars of my parent’s early life and unfortunately I do not know very much. When I was young I wasn’t interested and as I got older I was not very inquisitive.
I do know that Dad was born in 1879 in Foard County in northwest Texas and came to this area when he was about 20 years old. His first job was a school teacher in a small school somewhere in the area of what is now Kinard Estates. Due to transportation, small schools had to be within walking distance for children and enrollment was small. I do know one of his first pupils was Ellen Stark, who later became my aunt. One of her nephews, Wayne Stark, would later marry Eloide’s Sister, Violet Linscomb.
Mother was Mary Brown, born in 1882 in Orange, Texas, daughter of Bud Brown and one of a family of seventeen children. She went to school at Lemonville and married Dad in 1902.
Later Dad became a railroad section foreman, stationed at Bessmay, Texas. Bessmay was about two miles east of what is now Buna and was built around a large lumber mill. The railroad track that runs alongside Highway 62 was built to take lumber and supplies from Orange Bessmay and back.
Bessmay was where Mother and Dad lived when Gordon was born. They later purchased what we call the old place and 156 acres of land from Gene Saxon in the early 1900’s and raised their family. This land was located in Lemonville–the home place was where Sam lived, at the end of Dunn Road. They had nine children, the first of whom, William Latham (1902-1903), died as a baby. After Latham came Gordon Lois (1908-1972), Asa Eph (1911-2011), Wayne Thomas (1913-1980), Wendell Price (1916-1998) Wilson Oscar (1918-2012) and Robert Weldon “Sam” (1924-2010).
In Dad’s lifetime he was a dirt contractor, building highways and railroads with mules and slips before the time of bulldozers; a logger; a rancher; a range rider for the government; a dairyman; and part owner of a general merchandise store, Wilkinson Tillery and Dunn, located in Mauriceville.
Mother was a very good mother, a very good cook, sewed a lot of our clothes such as shirt and underwear made out of feed sacks, and kept [the clothes] clean and ironed by heating the old flat irons on the wood stove.
After Dad died, she lived in the old house until about 1956. She then moved into a small house we made by redoing a dairy barn. This was over near Dewey and Harriet’s place, at the end of Bean Road off of FM 1130.
She was always there for us when we were in trouble or during sickness. She passed in 1963.