Along this lane, the families settled, Ackers, Hoeber, McNeeley, Hooker, and Hurns they were.
Crossing the ragged road was Long Creek, marked by a wandering line of trees meandering across the prairie.
A mile up Long Creek lived the Millers, on whose land a big gas well would run wild in 1905. In the place I know as the farm, the Ackers family lived. That original home burned, but the well survived, dug deep by hand and lined with stone.
But most of these settlers moved on.
Cattlemen and cowboys came. In 1889, the Parker County School Land, a large tract of 17,000 acres, arranged for surveying by Mr. R. W. Watkins. Mr. Watkins hired a boy of 9 as driver for his hack, to carry stakes and equipment. That boy grew to be my grandfather, Frank Hurn.
The boy’s father, William Hurn, bought 200 acres in December, the first buyer from the tract, and the remainder was opened for settlement in 1890, at a price of $6.25 per acre. Settlers from all parts began to arrive. Wanting a community center, William persuaded the Gent & Fuller firm to donate two acres for a church and school.
The Post Office was a knottier problem. Several names (for the community) were sent to Washington. All were rejected, because for every name there was already a community in Texas with the same name! One day, after a second round of this disheartening news, Col. Bill Squires of the Henrietta Post Office, said to William Hurn, “The heck with it! You go home and forget it. I’ll send in a name that they’ll take.”
He sent in ‘Hurnville’, so Hurnville it was.
Mr. Luther Kelley of the Kelly Brothers firm in Henrietta built a store in Hurnville, but only three families ever lived in Hurnville itself, though the surrounding rich farmland was thickly settled by 1896. At that time, Hurnville sported the general store, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, a short-order and cold-drink stand, two churches, a cotton gin, the Literary Society’s weekly newspaper, a one-room school, and Dr. Finley’s office.
William Hurn’s son Joe taught the Hurnville school, a three month school, for the lump sum of $75. This was the high point, and soon after, settlers began pulling up stakes to move further west. Rural Free Delivery replaced the Post Office. The growing nearby town of Petrolia drew away the Baptist Church. Hard times took the Methodist Church, and the tiny school was consolidated into Henrietta, the county seat.
When I was a child, my grandfather told me that he once carried the mail in a wagon up into Oklahoma Territory, where it went on to be delivered as the Pony Express. However, the dates don’t match up worth beans, so either he was a-woofin me, he was speaking of his father, or I disremember exactly.
The Pony Express, a remarkable feat in the American West, was in service only from April 1860 to November 1861, delivering mail and news between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco. My grandfather would have been born too late to be carrying mail for the Pony Express.
The 1890 Oklahoma Territory census still exists. Nearly all other old census records were destroyed by fire in 1921. This census was ordered in June of 1890 by Governor George Steele, the first territorial governor of Oklahoma. Oklahoma attained statehood on November 16, 1907, as the forty-sixth state. So I reckon my grandfather carried the mail up to Oklahoma, but not for the Pony Express.
In November of 1959, my grandfather wrote of these events. At that time Hurnville had a resurrected Baptist Church and Dan Oster’s filling station and grocery store. And as my grandfather wrote, “a community where all are friends and would welcome anyone who might come to join us.”
Of the original settlers of the Fort Sill tract, the descendants of only three still held title to land in 1959, those three being Bud Frey, Frank Hurn, and the descendants of F. D. Stine.
In 1972, I visited Dan Oster’s store with my friend, writer Barbara Austin. The church was gone, and Dan Oster was old. With the death of my grandparents, my mother had purchased the farm. Later, when she died, the farm was purchased by my cousin Nancy and her husband, rodeo champ Perry Lee, and they raised a family there. In some recent year, they sold the farm, and moved into town. I don’t know who owns it now. I wonder who lives in that place I knew so well.
In my uncle Eugene’s book “A Pictoral History of Clay County”, photographs can be found of the Hurnville that was, of William Hurn and of my young grandfather. You will find a copy in the Henrietta Library, or through the Henrietta/Clay County Historical Society.
In 1999, an acquaintance named Bob Hampton and his wife moved from Wichita Falls to a red brick house about 3 miles north of my grandparents farm, not far from where Dan Oster’s store once stood.
A cemetary remains. A concrete marker identified the location of the old school, but the marker vanished in the dust of a road-widening project.
There now remains the road, and memory.