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Novice
by Maurine Burroughs

from “The History of Coleman County and Its People,” 1985


The townsite of Novice originated with the combination of Rough Creek and Atoka.  In 1910 when the Santa Fe railroad came through the county, the decision was made to move Atoka three miles east and put it on the railroad.  The main objective was the convenience of getting the cattle to market without the long cattle drives.  Mr. J. M. Barnett, Dave and Will Parker, Tom Daniel and Jake Rathmell formed the Novice Townsite Company, buying 80 acres of land for $40.00 from Tom Johnson.

The community of Atoka began when D. A. Parker and his children formed a company business.  They put up a cotton gin right on the bank of the Jim Ned.  Across the road they put in a general store and post office.  They owned the first gin, the first reaper and the first thresher in Coleman County.

Rough Creek Community was originally a store and post office on Rough Creek.  The community went by the name of Tyro and was located on land once owned by Marcel Anderson.  The post office became inactive and on September 29, 1884, a new post office was established on the Ward land.  When Don Ward applied to the Postmaster General to grant and establish a Rough Creek post office, he asked the government to supply the name.  Later, Mrs. Ward searched the dictionary for a suitable name and came up with the word Novice meaning “a new beginning.”  The name was accepted by the government.  That post office was in the Ward home, a log house, located on land later owned by P. L. Hayes.

Mrs. W. F. Leonard (Alice Ward) followed her brother as postmaster.  While she sorted letters posted with two cent stamps, her husband edited the community’s first newspaper, The Dot.  It carried such news items as the following:  Young Alec Townsen and his uncle, Perry Townsen, rode to New Orleans on horseback to deliver a herd of cattle.  The cattle were paid for in gold, and young Alec, being slight of stature and light in weight, carried the gold in his saddle bag.  The Dot also carried such social items as the following:  We saw Mr. So and So’s horse tied at Miss So and So’s hitching post Sunday evening.  A later newspaper was the Novice Nuggett.  The post office made several moves before finding a more stable home in Novice.  Among these early postmasters were Mr. Camp, Henry Hedgecoxe and J. R. Pringle.  The first postmaster in Novice was J. R. Reed, who served efficiently for many years.

Some of the early Novice area pioneers and their year of arrival follow:  J. M. Barnett, his sister, Ella, and uncle Ephraim Barnett, 1879; Jake Rathmell, 1884; John Ward family, 1882; W. L. (Bill), T. J. (Tom), and A. P. (Alec) Townsen, 1877; W. B. (Bill) Hughes, 1877; F. M. Taylor, 1870’s; Dave Parkers, 1875; Jack Coker, 1880; Eli Birdwell, 1886; F. E. Deakins, 1890; W. A. Hill, 1881; Mitch Sneed, 1883; R. R. Bush, 1888; J. D. Williams, 1900; T. B. Daniels, 1889; Charlie Parker, 1879; Johnson B. Grimes, 1887; Ed Porch, 1885; John Tyson, 1892; C. F. Sprinkles, 1900; J. M. Beard family, Billie Kelley (Beard’s father-in-law), Joe Tatum, Jim Stone, 1889, and Will Matthews, 1882.

Novice was one of those towns that sprang up in the wake of the construction gangs on the Texaco cut-off of the Santa Fe.  It was a community enterprise prompted by interested citizens.  After its beginning by the Novice Townsite Company, the Daniel addition was added and brought into being a railway station.

The city was alive with enterprise.  There was a splendid volunteer fire department, a large cotton shipping yard, excellent streets and sidewalks, and a railroad connection to all parts of the county.  A fine artificial lake graced the area, there was a Masonic Hall, and a church building.  Novice was proud of its school, second to none in the state.  The city had two hotels, a cotton gin, fully equipped cattle pens, and a State Bank.  Many retail stores were drawn to the area, some of which were:  Hardware and Furniture, W. A. Robertson; General Merchandise, Gibson and Coker (also Lumber), Gates-Starr-Allen, J. L. Harlow, J. R. Pringle (1906-1910), Mr. Sprinkles, Oscar De Prang, and Novice Mercantile (U. R. Reed had a post office in the back); Groceries, G. L. Parker, H. L. Summers, and J. H. Day; Blacksmiths, S. H. Wood. F. M. Greer, and Mr. Thompson (before 1910); Druggist, Jas. R. Russell; Barbers, Arlis O’Neal, John B. Daniel (also Public Weigher), Bill Grimes, and Henry Woodard; Barber and Tailor, Cam. H. Murry; Millinery, Mrs. H. Freeman; Restaurant, J. H. Griffin, John McManemin, John B. Daniel (1920), Cam Shields, and Jerald Wilson; Bank, W. R. Stockard (first President); Hotel, W. V. Helm and Mr. Townsen; Gin, Cam Shields; Schools, B. C. McCasland (principal); General Feed Store, Carl Halthorn; Service Station, Sullivan Hill; Grocery and dry goods, Buster Owens; Dry goods, Mr. Coffey; Lumber yard, Mr. Robeson, Mr. Willy (1920’s-1940’s), and Mr. Wafer (1940); Doctors, Dr. Myrick (early 1910), Dr. Biggers, Dr. Shelton (1914), Dr. Jones (1920), a widower with two boys, they boarded with Mable and Cecil Parker, and Dr. W. E. Kidd (1930’s-1940’s); Depot Agents, Mr. Courtney (1919), Mr. Warren, and Randolph Burroughs; Ticket agent, Frank Leathers; other businessmen of the area were E. M. Kit Birdwell (1930’s to 1950’s), T. L. Fate Farmer, Quinton Burroughs, Brice Farmer, and Dub Mow. R. C. Hollingsworth, of Coleman, brought the telephone to Novice from Coleman and Mrs. Margaret Snell was the first operator.

The building of the Santa Fe railroad brought tragedy before its completion. On April 10, 1910, workmen were blasting and laying track through a hill north of Novice.  It was Sunday and dynamite was set for mid-afternoon action, but the charge went off during the noon hour, killing nine men.  That strip of railroad is known up and down the Santa Fe as Dead Man’s cut.  On January 13, 1944, another railroad tragedy claimed twelve lives in Novice when a troop train ran into a passenger train during a blinding snowstorm.  In both instances local citizenry rallied to help and to serve.

Soon after the first World War, some oil interest was manifest in the Novice area, but no one got a gusher.  It was in the early 1930’s that leasing and production began to pay off.  Landowners redeemed mortgages of long standing.  They began realizing dreams that compensated for long droughts and lean years.  For a long time West Texas farmers and ranchers have had to have something “within” to keep faith with the things that happen without.  The production of oil continues today, in various locations within the community.  A good field has developed in 1983 four miles west of Novice.

As time has passed, the city has prospered in many ways, even though the population has decreased.  In 1949, with Mike Parker as mayor, the town was incorporated in order to get Lone Star Natural Gas in the city.  Coleman County Electric Cooperative had already brought electricity to all residents of Novice and the surrounding area.  Then, backed by the mayor and a group of civic-minded individuals, a long term lease was procured on Parker land west of Novice for a lake.  With the sale of bonds, mostly to
public spirited individuals as well as to many helpful friends in Coleman, together with government help, a water system was provided the citizens of Novice.  This system operated for many years until the pipes began to cause problems and lack of rainfall depleted the lake.  Fortunately, city water from Coleman was procured and today the town has excellent water.  Many people live in Novice and commute to jobs in Abilene, Winters, and Coleman.

As proof that the free enterprise system is alive and at work in Novice, one can look at the example of the Owen Casey family.  For several years they have operated the Weed Barn, dealing in mistletoe, dried flowers, broom-weeds and other plants.
 


 
 
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This page updated July 5, 2004
 
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