Cayuga Became Wildcat In 1900's

CAYUGA -- The Wildcats of Cayuga High School were perennial state basketball champions in the early to middle 1950s.

Cayuga as a town owes its emergence from a farming community to a wildcat -- the No. 1 J.N. Edens discovery well of the Cayuga Oil Field, brought in Feb. 14, 1934, by Tide Water -- Seaboard partnership of two oil companies.

Hardy Hopkins, 86, has lived in and near Cayuga since 1892. For 60 years he farmed four miles northeast, and in 1908 made a crop with oxen on the 300-acre farm, breaking six acres of newground with the ox team and a steel plow. "That was the best team I ever worked," says tall, straight-asan-arrow Hopkins, who was born near Barry, Navarro County, Feb. 18, 1890. "All you had to say to them was 'Yea' and 'Whoa.' "

Hopkins drove a school bus 21 years. He moved into Cayuga in the fail of 1956. His wife, Ethel Turrentine Hopkins, died in 1967.

All Hopkins got from oil development was $3.50 per acre for a lease. Oil was produced on the adjoining farm to the west; no well ever was drilled on his land.

The Cayuga field helped J. Paul Getty become a billionaire; he owned a large block of Tide Water stock. His firm, Getty Oil Company, now operates 30 producing wells in the field. Production has increased since subterranean electric pumps were installed in the old holes. Gas from the wells has to be pressurized now and is fed into the Lone Star Gas Company lines.

Hopkins has two sons -- George, who operates a Texaco station and grocery in Cayuga, and Ervin, who lives at Angleton and works for the Texas Department of Corrections.

George Hopkins has been in business at the same location 39 years. He says the first Cayuga school was a one-room frame.

"The first school I attended was northeast of here in 1923 at what we call Knowledge Knob," George Hopkins, 61, who was born at Cayuga, recalls. "Tommie Adams was principal and Mrs. Adams the other teacher."

In 1924, he says, a new two-story school building was erected, with Mr. and Mrs. Adams still teaching. It burned in 1935.

The historic Judson Baptist Church originally was located adjacent to the Judson Cemetery, 1 miles east. The 100-year-old church now is on the highway one mile from Cayuga; it has twice been moved, Hopkins said.

The elder Hopkins says he has seen many changes in 84 years at Cayuga. Roads were gravel-topped "and cars shook to pieces between Palestine and Cayuga" before U.S. 287 was paved through Anderson County. The bridge on the Trinity west of Cayuga was started in 1933, shortly before oil was discovered.

A beautiful new brick Post Office was erected at Cayuga last year. Mrs. Ruby Lewis, daughter of Henry Jones, the first postmaster, has been Cayuga PM since May 8, 1967. The Post Office was established in 1934 and Jones served some 15 years, as did his immediate successor, Fred Johnson.

Will Thomas had the first Cayuga area store on a now nonexistent road nearby. The next store was owned by John Seat, father of Edgar Seat, who now operates a barbecue care and service station on the west side of town.

Cayuga schools records were consumed in the 1935 fire. Records in the office of County Supt. W.T. LaRue go back to the 1916-17 term, a 6-month term, with T.J. Adams principal at $75 a month salary and Mrs. Ada McGary, teacher, paid $45 a month.

Trustees of the Cayuga Common School District that year were A.W. Johnson, S.L. Sutton and H.A. Jones.

In 1934, Cayuga and Bethel districts were consolidated. In 1965, the Cayuga Independent School District was consolidated with part of the Tennessee Colony district. The latter district earlier had consolidated with W.B.S. (Ward-Blackfoot-Springfield) district. The Bethel district had included Yard and the Colony district had included Massey Lake.

The Cayuga School built after the 1935 fire has been torn down.

The present Cayuga Independent School District has all grades, K through 12, under one roof, at Bethel, four miles south of Cayuga.

The new plant, containing 49,256 square feet of enclosed area, was completed and placed in service in September, 1972. It was financed with a $500,000 bond issue, which also paid for the site and some equipment. Bellomy and Moffitt were the architects.

Records of the district show that on Jan. 20, 1936, the school board had authorized an estimate of cost of rebuilding after the school at Cayuga burned late in 1935. The resultant building was used until the new school at Bethel was completed and since has been razed.

E.G. Scarborough, Jr., who formerly lived in the LaPoynor District, has been on the Cayuga school faculty 16 years, the last four years as superintendent of the district. He is returning to his former position as elementary principal.

Clifford Jeffcoat succeeded Scarborough as superintendent, effective July 1. The district now has 51 employees and an enrollment of 330 students.

From minutes of the Cayuga School Board, superintendents who have served the district since 1935 were listed by Mr. Scarborough as follows:

J.O. Nash, 1936-46; J.D. Youngblood, 1946-57; S.V. Dickerson, 1957; Lionel Duncan, 1958-72; and E.G. Scarborough, Jr., 1972-76.

While Cayuga has several business houses, Bethel has one store and service station on U.S. 287.

Texaco, Inc., has had oil production for many years on the Bethel Salt Dome.

The dome now has a unique natural gas storage facility operated by the Bi-Stone Fuel Company, affiliate of Texas Power & Light Company. A 1,000-foot cavity was opened in the salt core of the dome, into which gas under pressure was injected for storage and emergency use as fuel by TP&L to generate electricity.

A rupture at the injection head last year created an emergency that brought from Houston Red Adair, Jr., oil and gas well troubleshooter, to cap the escaping gas. It did not ignite.

South of Bethel is the 11,000-acre Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area, a facility of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, with a staff of biologists headed by George Veteto who conduct wildlife propagation and habits research.

The Engeling preserve was purchased from the late Miles J. Derden, a pioneer stockman whose 75-year-old mansion, built for his bride, was a showplace before it was razed in the wildlife management area's transformation.

Shelters for campers and vacationers are located in the wooded preserve along Catfish Creek. The area is frequented by nature lovers and, during stated public hunts annually, by sportsmen.

A long-time, respected Cayuga resident is Richard Barton, who at one time served as manager of the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. The Barton home is located on U.S. 287 a short distance from the Cayuga business area.

Barton, when the Seven-Eleven Ranch was being improved by its owner, founder of the Dallas-based food store chain, was a consultant for the owner. The ranch, located near the Trinity River northwest of Cayuga, has some of the deepest and richest topsoil in this area.

One of the Getty Oil Company employees, during a lunch break at Cayuga, claimed, "J. Paul Getty left us a bundle." He explained the joke, "We get it in installments every two weeks: our pay."

Said pioneer Cayugan Hardy Hopkins, "Young folks don't work like we did -- long, hard hours. I reckon they don't have to anymore."


George Hopkins, 61, Cayuga native, in front of the Texaco station and store he has operated, at the same site 39 years, with his father, Hardy Hopkins, 86, who has lived in and near Cayuga 84 years and who drove a school bus 21 years. (Staff Photo by Ernest Jones).