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Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.
Gary Tap, the Black community of Gary, Texas, is located about ten miles south of Carthage, Texas. It is surrounded by three creeks: Brushy on the west. Neil on the south and Murvaul on the north. Once called “Nigger Ridge” it is approximately five miles from the town of Gary. In order to find out more about this community, Black Gold interviewed Mrs. Martha McGee and the Rev. T.J. Ingram, both natives of the Gray Tap Community.
The community is over 100 years old, which would date it as a post-civil war town. There are different sayings of how Gary Tap got its name. Some say the boys wore taps on their shoes, and on Saturday night could be heard tapping to music at the creek store. This may be a folklore story. Others agree that the “tap” of the variation of the legends handed down from time to time, the real origin of the term “tap” still is not agreed upon by all the community citizens.
One or our main sources of work was farming or sharecropping. Oxen was used for plowing instead of horses. The Sharecropping was done because some of the people in this community didn’t own any land. We had one man by the name of Albert Calloway. He once owned a cotton gin and along with this gin was a grist meal. These was all on his 200 or 300 acres of land southwest of the present church location. Also, there was a syrup mill operated by Peter Johnson, where brown cane was made into syrup.
Panola County is in northeastern Texas, bordered on the east by Louisiana, on the south by Shelby County, on the west by Rusk County, and on the north by Harrison County. The center of the county lies at 32°10′ north latitude and 94°20′ west longitude. Carthage, the county seat, is twenty-six miles south of Marshall, sixty-five miles southeast of Tyler, and fifty miles north of Nacogdoches. The name Panola is derived from ponolo, the Cherokee word for “cotton.” Panola County covers 842 square miles of gentle rolling plains and small hills drained by the Sabine River, which cuts across the county diagonally from northwest to southeast.
Trees in the county include short-leaf and loblolly pine, oak, maple, hickory, elm, and gum, as well as wild fruit trees such as the plum or sloe and flowering trees such as dogwood, red-bud, magnolia, cedar, and holly. Scenic trails pass through 4,000 acres of timberland owned by the International Paper Company.
The woodland, once densely populated with small game, now supports deer, squirrel, and quail hunting in season. New stocks of wild turkey have been placed in local forests, but they are still protected from hunters.
Carthage was founded in 1847, two years after Texas became a state. During the Civil War, men from Carthage and Panola County served as Confederate soldiers, while one resident, Milton M. Holland, earned a Medal of Honor as a Union sergeant. After the war, population growth was slow, but large amounts of cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, oats, and sugar cane were produced in the county. The city began to grow in 1888 when a railroad reached Carthage, along with telegraph and telephone lines.
During the Great Depression, a gas field was discovered near Carthage. After World War II, this gas field was developed and proved to be the largest in the United States. The city flourished, with the population increasing from about 1,300 to 5,000. During this period, a courthouse was built, along with a high school, and Panola County Junior College was founded and built in Carthage. KGAS-(AM) Radio began broadcasting from the city in 1955. The growing population also brought the establishment of the Panola General Hospital.
August 22, 1998 was Carthage’s grand opening for the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
The film Bernie is a fictionalized account starring Jack Black, based on the infamous Carthage murder of an 81-year-old resident, Marjorie Nugent. In November 1996, Bernie Tiede shot Nugent in the back four times with a .22 rifle. Having previous experience as a mortician, he cleaned the body and placed it in a freezer in her house. Tiede continued his community involvement until he was brought in for questioning. In fact, he admitted to attending a Panola College theater rehearsal the same night he shot Nugent. Tiede fabricated continual lies to cover questions about Marjorie. When suspicions began to grow with the city’s residents, her family who lived out-of-town .filed a missing-person report. Nine months after her death, Tiede was finally brought in for questioning and confessed to the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was released from his life sentence on a $10,000 bond in 2014. But in 2017, Bernie Tiede was re-sentenced to 99 years to life.
Although Tiede claims to have been verbally abused by Ms. Nugent, many think otherwise. For example, the Panola County District Attorney, Danny Buck Davidson, said few questions came from the community because “That’s what you do when you’re a con guy and you move in. He had her cut all ties, so ultimately the only person she had to rely on was him. Mrs. Nugent was a human being. She didn’t deserve her fate at the hands of Bernie.” An estimated 3 million of Nugent’s $10 million were spent by Tiede after her death, although according to Davidson, “He sent people to college. He donated to musicals, plays and bought instruments at the college. That was all done with Mrs. Nugget’s money. After she was in the freezer, he really jumped out there as a benefactor.”
The Old Calloway homestead
Essie Mae Byrd
Albert Calloway, Jr.
Rebecca Harris Bryant
Leroy McDaniel, Roy Lee McDaniel, Luther McDaniel,Jimmy Kether Johnson, Fines McDaniel
Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Flakes Solomon
Louisa Hawkins Harris
Mary Bell Harris-Champion
Andy Mosley and Buna Scott-Mosley
Mary Ann Bolden-Scott
(from left to right)
Andrew Calloway, Never, Sr., Ezra Byrd, Sr., Jesse Ingram, Sr., Charles Ingram, Sr.
Eli Flakes, Sr., Thomas Lilly, Sr., Lonzo Beasley, Sr., Austin Ingram, Sr., Mrs. SJ
Thomas Harris, John Hawkins, Sr., Jake Byrd, Sr. Charlie Solomon, Sr.
Nathan Harris, Albert Calloway