OPINION COLUMNS

All the Wiser: History of a pioneer’s home

By Joy Burgess-Carrico | Published Saturday, February 2, 2019
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126 Greenwood Road

126 GREENWOOD RD. – Brandon Jones grew up in this house and asked about its history. Photo courtesy of Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones wrote:

“I have always been curious about the history of my childhood home in Decatur, 126 Greenwood Road. I was told it was the old ‘Fulingham home.’ Not sure though. I was also told it was built in the late 1800s. Any idea?”

I have some idea. The land this house sits on was part of 160 acres purchased by Jesse Perkins Fullingim Nov. 19, 1867. Fullingim lived on and worked the land until his death in 1932. He did sell off some of his farm around the turn of the century, but retained 40 acres and “moved to town.”

Uncle Jess Fullingim

He left the land to six people. From there, I lost track of ownership until 1945, when the Messenger reports that C.C. Taylor had sold the place, also called the Newt Crabtree property – so presumably Newt Crabtree owned it at some point before Taylor. In 1970, Thomas Bowdry bought the property. He sold in 1976 to Marilyn and David Dodson, who sold it in 1985 to Johnny Swafford, who sold it to David and Suzette Jones in 1997, who sold it recently.

So that’s the (partial) ownership history of the land and its improvements.

Jesse Fullingim was a pioneer settler of Wise County. He was born in 1842 in Alabama, the youngest of 17 children. His family had moved to Texas by 1850. His father died when we was 13. He came to Wise County with his mother and an unknown number of his siblings in 1859.

Fullingim joined the Confederate Army Jan. 1, 1862, and served in Company B of the 15th Texas Calvary, Sweet’s Regiment, and was discharged in April 1865. According to his obituary, he was captured at Arkansas Post, held in prison and eventually transferred. He lost an eye in a battle in Tennessee and wore a patch the rest of his life.

After the war, Fullingim purchased the land and married Ann Donald and settled down to be a farmer, father, Methodist, Democrat and community member.

He served as a county commissioner for a time. He had three children who lived to adulthood and adopted at least two others. There was a mention in commissioners meeting minutes that he took in a pauper, and his obituary also reflects that he “fathered many an orphan.”

Joy Burgess-Carrico

His obituary also says “he was involved in the Indian depredations in the early history of the county.” There is a published story of an encounter with Indians trying to steal his horses, but nothing too exciting happened in this tale. He scared them away, reported their direction to a posse and lent his best horse and old gun for the pursuit. The group overtook the raiders, who fled, leaving behind their loot. The Wise County men didn’t give chase, but just recovered their livestock.

Fullingim is also mentioned among the members of a posse chasing a band of raiding Choctaw, who had killed a Rhome man named Dawson.

“Jess Fullingim got a big chief hedged away from his band, and was having a merry time with him when the Indian suddenly realized his isolated position and made a desperate dash for freedom, in which he was successful.” Thus was Jesse Fullingim involved in the Indian depredations.

Fullingim and his many siblings lived and raised families in Wise for a long time. There were many Fullingims filling up the Wise County Messenger.

He was known widely as “Uncle Jess,” probably because so much of Wise County was his literal niece or nephew, and was often referred to as such in the paper. He was very active in the Oak Grove Methodist Church. He and his wife are listed as pioneer members. He was also active in the Wise County Singing Convention, serving as its president for some time. He must have really enjoyed singing.

Uncle Jess was also often mentioned in reference to the Old Settlers Reunion. He seems to have attended at least the first 30 reunions.

His wife died in 1928, and he died Oct. 24, 1932, two months shy of his 90th birthday. In July of that year, he was working on his farm and fell off his hay truck, breaking his hip. He lingered for several months, then suffered a stroke in October and died a few days later in his house.

I couldn’t find any definitive proof whether or not the current house was built by Fullingim.

Fullingim took out a loan for $600 in 1883, so I assume some sort of home was built or improved at that time, but I don’t think it is the house that stands there now.

The Messenger reported on April 3, 1903 that: “Uncle Jess Fullingim’s house northeast of town in nearing completion. He moved into it Wednesday. When completed it will be a very comfortable residence.” The Messenger also let us know that Uncle Jess made some splendid improvements to his home in 1916 and again in 1923.

I cannot promise that the current house is the one that was built in 1903, but it seems quite likely. I found reference to the “Fullingim property” as late as 1945, when Taylor sold the place.

Whether or not your childhood home is truly the old Fullingim home, you certainly grew up on Uncle Jess’s land.

Hope that helps.

Joy Burgess-Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist. Email her your questions about Wise County at jcarrico@wcmesenger.com.

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