A trip from Corinth, Arkansas to Huckabay, Texas would take about eight hours today, traveling by air-conditioned automobile on clearly marked paved roads. The families that settled Huckabay, Texas traveled by wagon, rode a horse, or walked those 500 miles. Sometimes water was scarce and food supplies ran low. They feared that Indians were waiting just over the hill to kill or rob them but they kept going. In the morning the women gathered up live coals from the camp fire and brought them along so that they could build a fire wherever they stopped. They kept the faith that somewhere in Texas; they would live to see better times.
In the spring of 1875 nine families loaded their wagons, said goodbye to friends and neighbors in Corinth and began a trek west that lasted for weeks. Many of the men were veterans of the War Between the States. While they were off fighting, their homes had been set on fire, their livestock and food supplies stolen, their families ravaged by death and the destruction of property. Those that survived the war had suffered defeat but their spirit was not dead and they found the courage, in spite of hardship, to look for a way to provide for their families. Many men tacked GTT (Gone to Texas) on their doors or fence posts and started the long walk toward the future. To these pioneers, Texas was the future.
As the little band of families entered the Cross Timbers Region, the rains came. They had intended to travel further west but after several days with wagon wheels mired in the mud, they decided to settle where they were, on the headwaters of the Bosque River. Each family claimed 160 acres, built their cabins and dug wells. John Copeland, Confederate veteran and an educated man, saw the immediate need for schooling the children and he taught the first school beneath the shelter of a spreading live oak. That same live oak that was a big tree in 1875 welcomes travelers to its shade today where it stands on state highway 219 across from the Huckabay Cemetery.
In 1878 G.W. Glenn opened a general merchandise store and by 1901 he was joined by three other merchants, Adrian, Keahey and Winn & Shelton. There were two blacksmith shops, two drug stores, a grocery store, two barber shops, an undertaking parlor, a bank, and in 1895 the Rigsby cotton gin was opened.
Cotton was the main crop around the county at that time and the gin was a busy place with many farmers growing a bale to the acre. Flatwood was the town’s name at first and John Huckabay drove his hack to Stephenville once a week to get everybody’s mail. When the post office was granted in 1883, the name “Huckabay” was chosen in honor of John.
Copeland gave land for a cemetery in 1883 and among the first buried there were infants. “Mitchell’s infant died with brain fever and was interred at Huckabay Cemetery on the 8th—-Mrs. T.J. Breedlove gave birth to twins Sunday night. One of them died and was buried in Huckabay—-Johnson boy, 8 months, dysentery….Barnhill girl 3 years, dysentery..” These and other deaths were reported in the Empire.
Among early day marriages reported in the Erath Appeal: “Last Thursday, Aug 23, at 5 p.m. at the Huckabay Holiness camp meeting grounds, W.E. King of Huckabay and Miss Claudie Shelby of Exray were united in marriage.”
The present day churches in Huckabay include the Church of Christ, established in 1876 and the Baptist built in 1881. The Methodist Church at Huckabay united with Oak Dale Methodist in the ‘70’s and their building in Huckabay now serves as the community center.
In 1923, C.H. Hale, a teacher who observed that the young people needed more than the eighth grade education offered by the public schools, established the Huckabay Academy, a high school that later taught some college courses. The Academy lasted 12 years and during that time never lost a debate, oratory decision or an athletic event, according to records.
Public school, which began under a spreading live oak, progressed to a log cabin, then to a two story frame in 1903 which burned in 1926. This building was replaced with a two-story building constructed of Thurber brick. Sims Valley and Exray schools consolidated with Huckabay and Thurber school closed in 1934, giving the district’s library books to Huckabay. This brick building also burned and a rock building was built a short distance up the dirt road.
The main rock building on the present school campus was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project completed in 1943. It was finished after the brick school burned. There have been many additions to the school which was in some danger of closing during the 1950’s due to attendance, but today enjoys a steady growth with modern equipment and excellent staff.
Most activities center on the school and the churches. The last store in Huckabay closed sometime in the late ‘70’s. It was a small store, a forerunner of today’s convenience stop. Owned and operated by Ruth and Don Lawson, the business was run from the front room of their house on the corner of Highway 108 and the paved road leading up to the schoolhouse.
Homecoming in Huckabay is celebrated annually on the second weekend in June. The two day event features entertainment on Saturday night under the century old tabernacle. Sunday morning features a speaker with a community-wide barbecue under the magnificent live oaks that were already old when the first families parked their wagons.
Huckabay has a volunteer fire department to put out local structure and grass fires that is much appreciated by the community.
Those first families of John Copeland, W.C. Copeland, Abe Metzgar, Ben Fincher, George Gresham, “Dad” Wylie, Lige Barnhill, John Gentry and John Huckabay left their homes in Arkansas to travel across the miles and settle in an unfamiliar place. They built schools, churches, businesses, farmed the land and raised their families. Their hard work left blueprints for their children and their children and for all to follow.