Thanks for sharing this photo of Union Hill School. My father, Sidney
Albert Pitts, was born in 1901 in Cooper, Delta County Texas. He lived in Jack County
Texas from 1901 to 1905, then lived in Butcher Knife (Old Atlee, Jefferson Co.)
Indian Territory Oklahoma from 1905 to 1914, and then moved to Park Springs Texas and then to Oklahoma City. He attended Union Hill School from about 1906 to about 1911 and then attended school in Park Springs Texas.
I thought you might be interested in some of the recollections of my
father during his time in and near Wise County. This is an excerpt
from his story which was recorded in July 1997 and transcribed after
his death in Nov 1997.
The following is the life story of Sidney Albert Pitts as verbally told
to his son David Eugene Pitts in July 1997.
I was named by Grandpa Wright who told my mother (Lizzie Pitts) that if
he could name me, he would buy me a suit of clothes when I was 10 years
old). So I was named for General Albert Sidney Johnston in the
confederate army. But Grandpa Wright died on January 22, 1910 before I
was 10, so I never received my new suit of clothes. Albert Sidney
Johnston was a great confederate general, but was killed on the first
day of the battle of Shiloh when he was shot in the leg and bled to
death. The wound could easily have been treated with a tourniquet, but
he had sent his surgeon off to treat Union soldiers.
My earliest memory was when my brother Roy was crawling around with
some food on his hands (this was in Jack County Texas) and a pig came
up and started eating his hands off. Roy was two years younger than me.
On the fourth of July 1905 in Chico Texas a picnic was held involving
the Pitts, Robertsons and Wrights and my grandfather Robert Henry Pitts
and Thomas Samuel (Tom) Pitts (son of John Pittman Pitts) got into an
argument. My father (Than) stepped between them and cut Tom Pitts
belly open with his pocket knife (but Tom recovered and they were good
friends later). My father ended up in jail over this incident and was
wearing a white shirt with red stripes when he got out of jail. Uncle
John Wright was the sheriff of Jefferson county and Atlee (Oklahoma),
and Uncle John, Uncle Bill (William Hartwell Pitts), and Uncle Sam
Robinson went to Chico and bailed my father out of jail and took him to
Oklahoma territory. This was in 1905 and Oklahoma wasn't a state yet
so the Texas authorities couldn't get him in Oklahoma (Oklahoma became
a state in 1907). Tom Pitts had a boy named Kimsey who was mean as
hell and a little older than me. Alma and I visited Kimsey and his
wife in about 1970.
I played baseball, basketball, and hide and seek as a boy. I was
pretty good at basketball at Union Hill School (a little north and west
of Park Springs Texas). I played guard on the Park Springs high school
boys basketball team while still in grade school (fourth or fifth
grade). The Roach boy was the center since he was almost 7 feet tall.
The team never lost a game.
Uncle Monk (Sidney's brother) had typhoid fever when we lived at Park
Springs Texas and everybody thought he was going to die. Because he
was sick, Monk got fresh oranges. Sam said he really wanted one of
those oranges. I had whooping cough in the spring of one year, when we
were living at Park Springs. Everybody in the family had the whooping
cough, but it almost killed me. Monk had typhoid fever. We also had
mumps and chicken pox. I don't remember going to a doctor until after
I moved to Oklahoma City. A lot of people died from the flu in this
Uncle Bill Pitts (Uncle Bill and Aunt Fannie) moved to Indiahoma in
1916 from Texas. They lived between Alvoid and Chico on a farm in
Texas near old man Lewis (Doug) Anderson, Dooley Anderson's (John
Louis Anderson's) father. Dooley's brothers were Doug and Jack.
Union Hill was the school I attended until I was about 10 or 11 years
old, then I went to Park Springs to school. They had a well at Union
Hill, but no electricity. School would start about 8 in the morning
and last until about 3 pm. Everybody brought their lunch, and
sometimes we would trade lunches. I remember some of the names of the
people I went to school with at Union Hill: McKinney, Raney, Huckabee,
Ashford, and Wine. Ralph Wine was a buddy of mine. There were about a
dozen kids in my class. The wife of a son of Aunt Sook Pitts Robinson
was our teacher at Union Hill (Lillian Killough Robinson, the wife of
Dick (Richard) Robinson was the last teacher at this school near the
Red Bud Church according to page 61 of "A History of Wise County - A
Link with the Past"). I went to singing school at Union Hill with my
brother Roy. I sang tenor and Roy sang alto. There were 4 or 5 total
singers and a pianist. I finished the fourth or fifth grade of school.
All the Pitts brothers and sisters were good in school. I won a
spelling bee at Union Hill School. One girl cried when I beat her in
the spelling bee. I was embarrassed in school once when the teacher
made me stand on one foot as punishment for laughing in class.
Ralph Wines and I left home in Park Springs and went to Waxahatchie TX
for our first job (off the farm) in 1916 or 1917 where a crew was
dredging the Trinity river and building dams. We stayed in the Trinity
river campsite and the foreman each morning would wake the crew by
yelling Waxahatchie Texas just like we were arriving on the train.
My mother and father (Than and Lizzie Pitts) went to bed early and got
up early each day. When I first started running around at night
(dating in Park Springs), and I would come home about 11 pm, my mother
(Lizzie) would have an old blue half gallon pitcher full of buttermilk
sitting on the kitchen table for me to drink. When I dated, we usually
went for a walk, but occasionally we would go in Ralph Wine's car.
My dad loved to go squirrel hunting, but didn't care much for fishing.
When I was growing up I didn't have the opportunity to hunt and fish
When my family lived on the Lightner Place outside of old Park Springs
Texas and we were farming, we cut wood and sold it by the cord. One
time Newman Porter (brother of Doc Porter) and Clyde and Joe Scantlin
came by and they had a shotgun. I was sawing wood with Roy and
Granddad Pitts was splitting the wood and Clyde Scantlin came up an
grabbed the saw and started sawing and Newman Porter snuck up behind
Clyde and hit him in the back of the head with the double bed ax and
knocked him out just as cold as kraut. This was about 1915 when I was
about 14 years old.
When I was about 17 years old Hayden Huckabee and Less Ashforge wanted
to go to Oklahoma on their bicycles and get work in a broomcorn field.
They asked me to buy a bicycle and ride from Park Spring Texas to
Lindsey Oklahoma. We finally ended up at Uncle Lloyd Wright's house at
old Butcher Knife and then we went to Waurika, but never worked a day.
We slept in a big old watermelon patch just north of the Red River
bridge close to Ryan and Ringland, and Waurika and we had watermelon
for breakfast. I blew out my tire and didn't have enough money to fix
it, so Less and Hayden pooled their money and put me on the train to go
home. I had worn out the soles of my shoes peddling the bicycle, so
when I got off the train I took off my shoes and walked the rest of the
way home barefooted.
In those days when the children lost their baby teeth they just spit
My father was pretty strict, he would just tell us children one time
then he would use the razor strop on us. I helped mom wash the
clothes, and make biscuits, and cook since I was the oldest and Gladys
(my sister) was too little to help.
The family cut our own hair most of the time, but occasionally we went
to a barber shop. I first visited a barbershop for a haircut in Park
Springs. We walked 4 miles into town to go to the barbershop or to go
to school. My first haircut and shave cost 15 cents total.
When I was growing up, a 48 pound sack of flour would only last my
family one week. My mother made hot biscuits and gravy every day.
Uncle Lloyd Wright and Aunt Addie Pitts Wright came from old Butcher
Knife to Park Springs and visited us, and we lived in a 3 room house,
but no one thought anything was unusual (no fusses). Even though there
were a lot of people in the house, there weren't any problems. Rufe
Pitts (F. B. Pitts brother) gave Uncle Monk his name because he was
always monkeying around with something. Rufe Pitts and dad (N. T.
Pitts) used to squirrel hunt on Mud Creek. At this point Uncle F. B.
Pitts wasn't married as yet and was wilder than a march hare. He would
visit us in Park Springs from time to time. One time we went to old
Cumbie swimming hole (southeast of Park Springs near Cumbie cemetery
and Cumbie church) on Pringle Stream. Uncle Monk was always tagging
along with the older boys. They picked him up and threw him out in the
water and he swam out. That is how Monk learned how to swim. Uncle
Roy always played with the girls. I always got along best with Monk
even though Roy and I were closest in age 2 years. Sam and Bill were
smaller. Roy and I worked on the crops in the family's farm and when I
was 16 and Roy was 14 we each got our first share of the crop (1917).
Ralph Wines went to Ft. Worth and bought a new Ford Model T for about
$500.00 and I learned to drive it when I was in school at Union Hill.
I had to walk 2 miles to school. I first started dating girls when I
was going to Union Hill School. Ralph Wines, myself, and two girls got
in that Model T and drove to Sunset. When we got to Sunset, Ralph said
to me "you can drive home". I had never driven before. Ralph put his
coat on the side of the car and a limb caught the coat and we had to
stop and go back and get it. Our mail box was out of Sunset, so a lot
of people thought my family lived at Sunset Texas. The mail was
delivered to a box in front of the house by a postman driving a buggy.
There was a well in the middle of Park Springs. You could either drink
water there or water your horse. Our house was about 4 miles outside
Park Springs. The Rock Island Railroad came through Park Springs and
there was a depot there. There were two stores in Park Springs and
they had a cemetery there which still exists. Park Springs Texas is
about 15 miles from Bridgeport Texas.
I made a slingshot and went squirrel hunting with Dad. One time I hit
Dad with the slingshot. He wasn't happy. These slingshots were ones
that you twirled around your head. Only later did we make slingshots
with rubber from inner tubes and a forked stick. Monk and I killed
rabbits with this type.
My first date was with May Huckabee when I was at the Union Hill School
at Park Springs. I was about 15 or 16 years old.
I remembered that President Wilson tried to keep us out of World War
One. I remember when the first world war was over (Nov. 11, 1918) and
people were hollering and singing. This was in Park Springs Texas.
West of Bridgeport, 1918 - 1919
Uncle Roy and I went work when we moved to Bridgeport Texas in 1918.
Glady's, Sam and Monk went to school at Bridgeport at a schoolhouse
near Mr. Ross' place (Alma's father). The Ross family lived about 6
miles west of Bridgeport Texas right next to a spur of the Rock Island
Railroad which went to Jacksboro Texas. They had old crank telephones
at the time we moved to Bridgeport TX. I hauled cattle an old truck to
the Ft. Worth Stock Yards.
There was a croquet court in Bridgeport Texas. My grandfather Robert
Henry Pitts lived near the court and used to play croquet all the time.
He would always cheat by moving the location where the ball went out
of bounds to a location more to his advantage. He was quite old at
this time, so everybody let him do this. He always hit the ball
between his legs. Everybody used to tie their horses in front of
Mack's Mercantile store right on main street in Bridgeport TX. There
was a motion picture show (15 cents) and a skating rink in Bridgeport
at that time. I remember seeing Charlie Chaplin in the silent movies
there. They had a piano or organ which they would play when the movie
was being shown. They sold popcorn at the theater. Later they paved
I was 18 years old when my family lived to the Old Brown place which
was one of the nicest places we ever lived. It was west of Bridgeport
along the Rock Island spur that went to Jacksboro, near the Ross farm
and a little schoolhouse. When we lived on the Brown place, Granddad
(Robert Henry) Pitts went down to the Trinity River to fish and he came
back he had 6 to 8 pound channelcat. "He was so nervous he couldn't
hardly do anything. Poor old fellow."
Gladys Pitts (my sister) and Lloyd Ross (Alma's brother) dated some,
but the Pitts family moved to Snyder OK and Aunt Gladys met Dooley
Anderson and she was only 14 when they got married (Feb. 12, 1922).
Aunt Addie Pitts Wright married when she was very young too, so this
was not that uncommon in those days.
I remember one of my dogs, Ole Shep in Bridgeport before we moved to
Tipton. I accidentally put Ole Shep's eye out with a shotgun when I
was rabbit hunting. He felt really bad about that, but Shep recovered.
I had my appendix removed in 1919 in Bridgeport Texas by Dr. Buckner.
I remember while I was in Bridgeport at a makeshift hospital (upstairs
next to the BB Jewelry store, east of Poor Drug store) that they kept a
light burning all the time. After the first night I got up out of bed
and turned the light off so I could sleep. Bill (Skinny) Pitts'
appendix ruptured and he almost died (about 1917). After it was removed
he had a knot on his stomach the rest of his life.
My first horse's name was Doc and he was a pacer. This was when I was
at Bridgeport. Then I got Dime. They were both plow horses. I would
go out in the field where they were grazing and get on Doc and Dime
would follow. Uncle Bill (Will Hartwell Pitts) knew the owner of Doc
and Dime and that is how I came to buy them. We went to Pleasant
Valley to singing school and to plays. I bought a horse (old Dan,
another pacer) and buggy in 1919. I would sometime fall asleep and old
Dan would take the buggy and me home.
There was a party at the school near the Ross place and I saw Alma and
thought she was pretty and I told someone "I want to meet that young
lady" and it wasn't long before I did. Alma was living in Oklahoma
City with Ita Ross (her sister) in a house (used to be the old MacNab
house) owned by Ita and her father in 1920. Alma was going to Central
High School at this time. I was 19 and she was 18.
After the broomcorn job didn't pan out, I went back to farming, until I
went to Ft. Worth to join the Navy in 1919 or 1920. I was sent to
Dallas to take a medical test and they found that I had the "crabs" and
I used brightwork polish to kill them. I returned to Dallas to board
the train to Great Lakes Naval Training Station (in Illinois near the
Wisconsin border). I was wearing a large black velour cowboy hat and
everybody called me Tex. This was in the summer and I enjoyed the
pleasant weather in Illinois and spent 3 months there. I then got
leave and came home and Alma and I got married (Aug. 3, 1921), and I
then went back to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. We got
married at the preacher's house in Bridgeport while sitting in a buggy
when I was 20 years old and Alma was 19 years old. Alma and I first
lived with my parents at the Brown place. I then went back into the
service and Alma stayed with her parents until I got out of the Navy.
When my training was complete at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station
I caught a troop train to the west coast (Oakland California). We
played poker with match sticks the entire trip because no one had any
money. I was a fireman and was afraid I would get one of the two coal
burning Battleships that were left in the fleet: U. S. S. Texas and U.
S. S. New York. But I was assigned the U. S. S. Idaho (a flagship)
which was an oil burner (15 burners on each boiler). It was much
easier work as a fireman on an oil burner. We maneuvered in the
Pacific and one time I saw a big whale spraying water and doing tail
slaps. We took shore leave in San Diego and Long Beach California and
another time we got close enough to the Panama Canal that I could see
it, but we didn't sail through it. I wasn't in the Navy very long
because World War One was over, so I put in for a discharge and it was
granted on Dec. 6, 1921. I went into the Navy at 19 years old and got
out of the navy at 20 and 1/2 years old. I was on the Idaho about 1
year when I was discharged in San Diego California I caught the train
to Bridgeport Texas where I picked up Alma and caught another train to
our new home north of Tipton Oklahoma.
The wheat farmers around Chattanooga were the only ones with money. My
family would sell them watermelons and beef that we slaughtered in the
field. Uncle Bill and Aunt Fanny (William Hartwell Pitts and Sarah
Francis Robinson Pitts) lived nearby in Park Springs and Gus was their
son. Gus would come over and go swimming with us to Pringle Stream
every Sunday morning. Dad told us we had to stop that and go to Church
on Sunday morning. My mother cooked big meals every day, and we had
our own orchard, chickens, pigs, and milk cows. Uncle Robert Pitts
(Dad's brother) came to our house one time and we had some big ole
wagon sheets on the roof. A wind storm came up and blew one of the
rocks off the roof and it hit Uncle Robert in the head. Uncle Robert's
wife died in 1913 and he became a wanderer. Fred Arnold went with him.
My family raised cotton and peanuts on the farm as cash crops. Corn,
wheat, and other crops were grown for use on the farm. In the spring
one year, I caught the whooping cough and almost died.
After Alma and I were married, Mr. Ross would trade sacks of wheat at
Decatur for flour. I had to milk the cows and feed the horses every
morning. One year we raised a big bunch of cow peas and filled a
complete building with the peas. Everybody ate cow peas, the animals
and the family members.
Back when I was a boy I wore Bib overalls and regular shoes. When I
would ride a horse I wore chaps to protect my legs. I never wore boots
until I moved to Oklahoma City. Alma had a riding habit which we would
call slacks now. The women then would ride a horse just like a man.
When the women would dress up some would wear high topped shoes. I
didn't have a swim suit, so I would swim in my overalls or my birthday
When Alma and I lived in Bridgeport TX we had a telephone which was a
party line and they answered to three long rings. Other people on the
party line were the Ramsey's, Ross', Hadley's, Johnson's (not Aunt
Sadie's husband: Jim Johnson) and several more families.
Sidney A. Pitts, 1997