The Parker County Heritage Society (PCHS) chose this frame home to honor its first resident, Mahala Dedmon. It is one of two homes remaining in the 1100 block of North Main Street in the Carter’s Addition, one of the earliest expansions of the original Township of Weatherford. The block still contains its North/South alleyway, typical of most city blocks at the time. The early County plat map shows 8 platted sites facing North Main with narrow fronts and very deep lots extending back to the alleyway. Many people raised their own food and wanted these deep lots for vegetable gardens and tree orchards.
It is from the bits and pieces collected about Mahala Dedmon, that make this home fascinating. Ms. Dedmon, whose chosen maiden name was Anderson, was born a slave in Mississippi about 1847. Nothing is known as to how she arrived in Parker County, but on 19 November 1863, lawyer and Judge A. J. Hood, along with wife Lizzie sold Mahala, "about 16 years old," and her child Rose Ann, "about 10 months old," to C. B. Rider for the considerable sum of $3,500.
Then Juneteenth happened.
Ms. Dedmon, first married to Webb Cass, left for Fort Griffin near Albany, in Shakelford County with Rose Ann Cass (b. 25 Dec 1861, d. 14 Jul 1933), Eliza Cass (b. about 1865), and her newborn child, Jennie Cass (b. 3 Aug 1869, d. 29 Jan 1952). The Fort at its height had about 1,000 permanent residents, and about twice that many transients. The Fort was located along the Clear Fork of the Brazos and on the Butterfield Overland Mail route, a major supply route for buffalo hunters, and the center for cattle herds that came through on the Western Trail after 1875 in route to the Kansas railheads. Ms. Dedmon consistently listed her occupation throughout her life as "laundress", no doubt a service much in demand by soldiers and frontiersmen alike at the Fort.
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History books of Shakelford County, among other sources, show that her daughter, Rose Ann Cass, married Lawson Daniel Gratts at Fort Griffin in 1877. He had been a 1st Sergeant, Company 114th of the US Infantry during the Civil War. In 1867, he re-enlisted in the 10th US Calvary, where he became one of the "Buffalo Soldiers" and later served as a teamster at Fort Griffin. Rose Ann would have been about 14 years old at the time of her marriage. To this union were born 14 children. Both she and her husband are buried in Willow Springs Cemetery located at the corner of I-20 and Mikus Road here in Parker County. Sgt. Gratts’ gravesite was recently honored with a Texas Historical Marker.
But back to Ms. Dedmon.
In 1877, Ms. Dedmon worked for a Mr. Palur in "The Flats" at Fort Griffin as did her new son-in-law, Lawson Gratts. She was still in Shakleford County in 1880 as she appears on the US census there, but returned to Weatherford sometime in the early 1880’s after the Fort closed in 1881.
On 5 August 1884, William Dedmon bought this property in the newly established Carter’s Addition from Henry P. du Bellet for the grand sum of $35. Mr. du Bellet was a Frenchman acting as agent of the Société Foncière et Agricole des États Unis, a financing arm for Franco Texan Land Company purchases.
Tax records in 1887 show an increase in valuation to $180 indicating the home was completed the year before. On 2 January 1887, Mahala, calling herself "Anderson", married Mr. Dedmon in Parker County. She would have been about 40 years of age. There were no children born from this union.
In 1893 and 1894, Mr. Dedmon paid the taxes as a non-resident of Parker County. Afterward, Ms. Dedmon paid the taxes in her own name so it can be reasonably assumed Mr. Dedmon died in late 1894 or 1895.
The home was consistently valued at $200 from 1888 onward, and Ms. Dedmon paid between $166 and $172 tax each year she paid the taxes. Doing the math, that is a tax rate of 83% to 86% of the home value! Similar town properties were taxed in like manner during the years before the federal income tax and State sales tax.
The 1900 US census shows Ms. Dedmon lived at this home with her granddaughter, Rosetta Griffin, age 14, and grandson Alford Griffin, age 13. She was still doing laundry at age 53 probably utilizing the deep lot behind this home for clotheslines.
Around the corner from Ms. Dedmon at 5th and Hanover, Donald Bortz was born on 22 August 1905. His daughter, Judy Bortz Martin, currently of Williamsburg, MO, recalls her dad’s stories about "Aunt Mahaley" who dipped snuff from small cans. He related that she would bury the empty snuff cans upside down to line her flower beds in the front lawn. Aunt Mahaley apparently served as the neighborhood doctor as once she made a poultice to remove a corn on Mr. Bortz’ sister’s toe. It worked. He recalled her showing him her last bill of sale. He also recalled hearing that Aunt Mahaley would occasionally close up her house to take care of the family "up on the hill". This was probably J. R. Couts who suffered off and on from Bright’s Disease for several years before his death in 1904. He had bought the mansion built by Mr. du Bellet (the same man who sold William Dedmon the property) that once stood at the top of the hill in the 1600 block of North Main.
On the 1920 US census when the question was asked, the census taker noted Ms. Dedmon responded that she had been widowed twice. On the 1930 US census, she said she was still a laundress now 82 years of age. She apparently had lived alone for most of the previous 25 years, and had been in the home for almost 45 years.
Ms. Dedmon lived here until her death on 20 June 1933 at about age 86, thus ending her incredible life’s journey. Probate records indicate Fred Rider Cotten, grandson of C. B. Rider, served as attorney for her estate at the request of "the only living daughter," Rose Ann "Rosa" Gratts, who died less than a month later. The home sold for $200 to pay for funeral, legal, and court costs.
Mr. Cotten, an historian who would have recognized the uniqueness of the document and his grandfather’s relationship to it, obtained the 1863 bill of sale for Ms. Dedmon and her daughter. A picture of it is printed without attribution in The Double Log Cabin by G. A. Holland, published in 1937.
Malaha Dedmon is buried in City Greenwood Cemetery along a row with her Cass kinfolk. There was no obituary.