by: Lisa Ferguson
Celina’s Heritage subdivision, located near County Road 94 and North Preston Road, is a treasure trove for fans of local history as most of its streets are named in honor of several of the city’s founding families.
Reminiscences of Celina, a book published by the Celina Area Heritage Association and available for purchase at the Celina Museum, features brief biographies and photos of many of the city’s earliest residents, including those whose names grace the street signs in Heritage. Below are the stories of four of those families, as culled from the book.
Mr. and Mrs. G.M. Caruth arrived in Texas 1856 from Lebanon, Tennessee, and spent a year living on the northwest edge of what is now McKinney. After moving to Grayson County for two years, they eventually settled about a mile west of Celina. Theirs is said to have been one of the first families to reside in the community. For a time, the couple would travel back and forth to McKinney to retrieve their mail. As was customary in those days, they also retrieved the mail of their fellow Celina neighbors.
The Caruth children reportedly would sit on the front porch of the family’s home “and listen for the creak of the old wagon, long before it reached home from a trip to McKinney, and then wait until it rolled slowly in, to see what their parents had brought them from town.” Mr. Caruth was said to have “come in from McKinney on horseback nearly frozen more than once through the winter” prior to his death in 1889, “before getting to enjoy the comforts of modern day life, but feeling, no doubt, that he had seen great change in this country.” Mrs. Caruth passed in 1932.
Also considered a pioneer settler of Celina, Dr. R.L. Clayton was born in Georgia in 1863, the son of a Confederate Army soldier. He became interested in medicine early in life and began practicing in the field at age 17 after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta. Records reportedly listed him as the youngest certified physician in U.S. medical history. After earning a medical degree at Tulane University, he relocated to Texas and began a medical practice in Aubrey before relocating to Celina’s “old community” (before the entire city was relocated in the early 1900s to be closer to the railroad). He and his wife, Harriet Greer, initially resided about 1½ miles south of town before moving their house in 1901 to Celina’s current site.
Dr. Clayton practiced medicine here for decades, treating patients regardless of their race or ability to pay, and made his services available to them around the clock. He was also active in the community, and at one time owned both the waterworks and the electrical plant. He also served as the bank president and co-owned the Clayton-Jackson Hardware store. He was written about in the Celina Record newspaper for having made “a remarkable trip to Pilot Point and back to Celina in one day in one of his first cars – a distance of some 25 miles.” In 1911, the Claytons built a two-story, five-bedroom home at 308 Main St. A member of both the Baptist church and the Masonic lodge, Dr. Clayton remained a practicing physician here until his 1933 death.
Born on April 29, 1879 and raised east of Celina, Samuel E. Bateman was the son of J. E. Bateman, a “prominent citizen of Celina.” The younger Bateman attended the Old Crossroads School, located east of the city, as well as other nearby schools. Following graduation, he studied at Dallas Commercial College and nearly accepted a job at a department store before deciding to head back to Celina, where he took a position with the Blackland Townsite Company selling lots to local residents. He later married Mary Ethel Cunningham, the daughter of local merchant S.T. Cunningham.
A father of four sons, Bateman reportedly held several jobs in the community. Between 1905-1910, he worked at the bank and for a time was a clerk at Yates Dry Goods store. He worked in the real estate and insurance industries before eventually taking over management of his family’s farm.
Between 1925-1931, Bateman represented Collin County during three sessions of the Texas State Legislature. He chaired both the state’s agricultural and insurance committees in 1929. Friends urged him to run for Secretary of Agriculture, but he opted not to seek the office. It was written that “he represented his constituents ably and faithfully during his stay in the legislature.” Following his wife’s death in 1963, Bateman passed away on May 9, 1965. The couple is buried at Old Celina Cemetery.
John Brewer became Celina’s mail carrier on January 1, 1904, a position he held for more than three decades. An Oklahoma native, he arrived in Celina in 1892 and worked for J. C. Ousley and Tom Finley as well as other area residents. On that fateful New Year’s Day, he carried out the city’s first batch of mail, which reportedly consisted of a letter, a paper and one circular. An account of the event reads, “Those who were here that day remember the muddy lane, prairie, etc., that made up the road along the mail route. It was all (Brewer) could do to get around on horseback.”
Brewer’s daily route covered 24 miles. It featured 240 mailboxes and served the 1,300 people who called Celina home. It is estimated that he carried up to 15,000 pieces of mail each month. After retiring briefly in 1908 due to failing eyesight, he returned to work four years later and served under eight postmasters before concluding his career in 1937. Brewer died on April 6, 1950 at age 76. He and his wife, May Thompson Brewer, who passed in 1943, were laid to rest at Old Celina Cemetery.
OurCelina will be publishing a historical piece each month. We invite you to follow along on this journey that formed the city we all call home today. If you have any stories or photographs that you’d like to share, please email Renee@4CMEDIAGROUP.com.
Celina Area Heritage Association’s nine current board members, who are all volunteers, acquire, research and help preserve the numerous documents and artifacts that are stored and exhibited at the Celina Museum, at 211 W. Pecan St., which is open to the public from 1-3 p.m. Thursdays.