Special: Celebrating Corsicana’s Milestone Anniversaries – Part 1

Anniversaries celebrate legacy, community of Corsicana

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette, Special Thanks to Dana Stubbs

Corsicana has enjoyed a long history with a continual legacy of business, organizational, and technological institutions having defined this city. 2021 has been a remarkable year as many of these anniversaries span well past a century, some have just hit that 100 year mark, and others have been around long enough to simply be recognized for their longevity.

Part 1 of this piece celebrates the businesses and organizations having surpassed over a century and are still an integral part of our community today. Part 2 will celebrate the milestones who have found their century mark in 2021, as well as some of the local spots and cultural influences that define the personality of the city.

The Navarro County Gazette invites you to enjoy these milestones, and if any local mainstay is celebrating their own major anniversary this year, we invite you to share your story by e-mailing us at news@navarrocountygazette.com.

170 Years – First United Methodist Church of Corsicana – 1851

With a history dating back to 1851, this house of worship was the first Methodist church in Corsicana. The present-day 15th Street location was built in 1896, with the church finally being completed in 1898.

One thousand people were in attendance at the church’s dedication, with Mrs. W.M. Tatum and Mrs. C. W. Jester having arranged evergreens, palms, and flowers to adorn the sacred altar. Abe Mulkey was the officer of the day, and the supreme pontiff of the occasion. Mulkey was described as never happier, never more useful, and he never behaved himself better than on this important occasion.

Horace Bishop read the story of Jacob’s ladder and vow; E. W. Solomon read the Epistle; Brother M. S. Hotchkiss led in prayer and preached the sermon from “On this Rock I Will build My Church.” At the close of the sermon, Mulkey stepped forward and raised $4,000 ($121,306.99 in 2019) in cash within a few short minutes. That was the last of the balance due on the $40,000 ($1,213,069.88 in 2019) place of worship. 

Today, the landmark church “exists to remember the past, celebrate the present, and build the future . . . for Christ.”

150 Years – The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church – October 8, 1871

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was organized in 1870 by Mr. and Mrs. John Noonan, the first Catholics to settle in Corsicana. In 1871, the church was built with Father Peter Chandy in charge. He was sent to Corsicana from the Galveston diocese.

The first rectory was built in 1876 and the school, the Academy of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was built in 1874 and closed in 1905 because of lack of support.

In 1954 they purchased land on Highway 22 to build a larger church, new parish and a new parochial school. The groundbreaking for the new Church of the Immaculate Conception, James L. Collins Catholic School, the convent, and the rectory was held Sunday, January 30, 1955.  

The church and school still operate to serve the community to this day.

Martha Phillips, Communications & Marketing Coordinator of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church shares her celebratory message: “It’s amazing to think about the history of our parish and realize that not only are we the oldest continuously active parish in the Dallas Diocese, but we are actually older than the Dallas Diocese. It has been an honor and a truly enjoyable experience to not only be a parish employee but also a volunteer helping to put together all of the celebrations for our 150th anniversary.”

150 Years – St. John’s Episcopal Church – 1871

The traditional Anglican parish was established following Episcopal missionary efforts in the area dating back to the 1850s. The church started as mission, formally organized under the leadership of Reverend Virginius Gee. The location was previously the area of the Cedar Hall school before the church acquired it.

In 1874, the first church was constructed at its present day location at 101 N. Fourteenth Street on property donated by E.J. and W.S. Simkins. The parish was formally organized in 1876 as an Episcopal school. The first in the Dallas diocese operated at the local church during the 1940s.

Today, the church is rooted in rich fellowship, strong Biblical teachings, and liturgical worship, and is notable for its ornate stained glass. The parish also sponsors St. Alban’s mission in Hubbard.

135 Years – Oil City Iron Works – 1886

The origins of Oil City Iron Works can be traced back to 1866 and its founder John Winship (1826–1886). A small machine shop and foundry, Winship used the iron works to make parts for his cotton gin. The earliest products from Oil City Iron Works consisted of parts for brick presses, castings, and cotton gins for the building industry. In 1866, Winship sold the operation to businessmen Joseph Huey (1827–1904), James Garitty (1842–1925), and J. E. Whiteselle (1851–1915), where they renamed the foundry as the Corsicana Manufacturing Company.

In 1898, the cotton gin manufacturing division was sold to Continental Gin Company, and the factory was leased to South Carolina native William Clarkson (1858–1941), who came to Texas after the Civil War. After the division sale, the company functioned as a repair specialist for East Central Texas cotton gins and oil mills. Due to the oil boom in Corsicana, Clarkson renamed the company “Oil City Iron Works,” buying the company in 1908, and became president after the foundry’s incorporation in 1921.

Today, the company remains committed to providing high-caliber iron casting solutions.

135 Years – YMCA of Corsicana – July 12, 1886

The YMCA was established in Corsicana as one of two in the state of Texas in 1884, receiving its Charter of Incorporation in the State of Texas on July 12, 1886. The youth organization’s first building in Corsicana was at the southwest corner of Twelfth Street and Fifth Avenue, before moving to their modern day Community Park location at Oaklawn and 13th Street in 1968.

A $1.3 million renovation and expansion was completed in 1981. A second renovation and expansion was completed in 2000 at a cost of $1.4 million. As of 2021, the YMCA is still expanding its facilities and resources, having recently acquired the property that formerly housed Trinity Baptist Church.

The following statement was listed on the charter as the purpose of the YMCA of Corsicana: “This Association is formed for the purpose of promoting mental, moral, and physical welfare of young men, the growth in grace and Christian fellowship of its members and aggressive Christian work, especially and for young men. The YMCA of Corsicana is autonomous in nature, being governed by a board of directors and officers elected by the membership.”

Thomas Burns, CEO of the YMCA of Corsicana, offers this celebratory message: “The Y is so much more than a gym.  It’s a cause driven organization, dedicated to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.  Our mission is ‘To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.’  At the Y, we have something for the entire family.”

125 Years – Collin Street Bakery – 1896

August “Gus” Weidmann came to America from Weisbaden, Germany in 1896 with his fruitcake recipe. He and his partner, a noted salesman by the name of Tom McElwee, opened their bakery at Collin and Bois D’ Arc (now Main Street). Weidmann’s fruitcake recipe was a popular Christmas favorite, with a list of bakery customers steadily growing.

By 1906, the bakery continued to grow so much, the bakery’s second floor became an elite private hotel. Performers of the nearby Corsicana Opera House regular found themselves departing with one of the bakery’s signature fruitcakes (McElwee was a regular patron of the Opera House).

The bakery continued to expand, introducing a mail-order business to increase their customer reach. The bakery connects with its customers around the world via mail, phone, fax, and online.

In 1946, Lee McNutt, Bob Rutherford, and Harry Cook bought the bakery from Weidmann, where the company’s world famous DeLuxe fruitcakes have remained a customer favorite all around the world. Fruitcake counts for 98 percent of the bakery’s sales, selling three million pounds of fruitcake a year.

Stefanie Sellers, Customer Service Office Manager, provided the Navarro County Gazette this celebratory quote from Collin Street Bakery: “Collin Street Bakery was founded right here in Corsicana, during the oil boom in 1896, and has flourished ever since.

For one hundred and twenty five years now, we have been bringing together families and friends across generations with our world famous fruitcake. And for the next 125 years, we plan to do the same, while providing jobs to the community and tax revenues to the city and county.

Please do drop in!

125 Years – Salvation Army of Corsicana – 1896

The organization known as the Salvation Army began in England in 1852 when William and Catherine Booth made it their personal and spiritual mission to help fight for the souls of lost men and women.

The enduring message of the Christian church and charitable organization puts focus on “Doing the Most Good.” Since the its introduction to Corsicana in 1896, the Salvation Army’s programs and services have provided support to Corsicana residents, fed and sheltered the homeless, provided natural disaster assistance, and responded to community needs. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization assisted 11,987 people in the community.

To commemorate the 125th anniversary, Corsicana observed “National Salvation Army Week,” May 10 through 16, as proclaimed by Mayor Don Denbow.

Captain Jennifer R L Schmidt, Corps Officer of the Salvation Army, offers this celebratory message: “The Salvation Army is excited and blessed to be celebrating 125 years of serving Corsicana and Navarro County (est.1896). We have, and will have something special each month during 2021 to help celebrate 125 years, finishing with our Red Kettle Fundraiser Drive, which helps support the work and mission of the Salvation Army Corsicana all year long.

We will also have wonderful events happening in July. Every Saturday we will have Christmas in July, where we will be bell ringing at certain locations, inviting the community to help support the Salvation Army, and our community, especially through the summer months.

While some of the needs and programs we offer have changed in 125 years, some haven’t. People in our community today still deal with questions like where are they going to stay, or what are they going to eat. During summer months we see in increase in needs for food, utilities,  and rental assistance, and it is through community support that we are able to help those who need.”

125 Years – Stubbs Paint and Paper Hanging – 1896

In 1893. part of the extended Stubbs family made a trip from Alabama to Texas to attend an old soldiers reunion in Dallas, Texas. They stopped by a relative’s home in the Rankin Bottoms and fell in love with Navarro County. When they returned to Alabama they talked several other members of the family into moving to Texas. This included Joe Stubbs and his sons, Tom and Henry.

The family farmed, but in 1895 they also hired out as house painters. This was the year Tom Stubbs married and the next year he started the Stubbs Paint company with his father and brother. When ground was broken for the new First United Methodist Church of Corsicana in 1896, the Stubbs family did the paint work on the new construction.

However, Tom was not only a house painter, he also was an artist who painted signs. His work was dotted all over the county.

As Tom’s family of seven sons grew to maturity, they followed in their father and grandfather’s footsteps as painters. Three sons, John, Richard and Gilbert became sign painters and Clyde, Lloyd, LeRoy, and Gene became house painters.

During the century mark of the beloved Corsicana landmark, the First United Methodist Church, it was the Stubbs Brother’s Paint company, Billy Gene and Norman, who stood in the same footprints of their ancestors to beautify the edifice for its birthday.

Most of the grandchildren of Tom and Margaret Stubbs also became involved in the paint business in one way or another. However, today there are only two, Billy Gene and Norman, left to carry on the good name of Stubbs Brother’s Paint and Paper Hanging in Navarro County. They continue to follow their father’s advice and strive to do each job better than the last.

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