updated 2:19 PM UTC, Oct 15, 2020

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King addresses Whitetail Ridge

Mike King 091020CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Sheriff candidate Michael King speaks at the White Tail Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.

By Caleb Fortenberry
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WOODVILLE – Michael King, who is running for Tyler County Sheriff as an independent, spoke at the White Tail Ridge Volunteer Fire Department meeting last Tuesday. King discussed his career qualifications and what he hopes to change for the county.

King also made a point to hear what the crowd had to say. The volunteer fire department, which is practically a cornerstone of the White Tail Ridge community, currently consists of nine volunteers. After scheduling conflicts courtesy of Hurricane Laura, the turn out of the event was near 10 individuals from the area. As concerned citizens and community volunteers, they wanted to voice their opinions for a change in how the Sheriff’s Department is operating in Tyler County.

“We want to see what he can do for us. We want somebody who can represent us,” said local Lois Dobson.

The two major concerns for most of the county, according to King, is the drug issues and accessibility of law enforcement.

When asked by recent Louisiana transplant, Scott Preston, “What are you going to do for us, if you were elected?” King replied with a list of actions he would take.

“What I plan to do, is without any increase in revenue, any increase in man power, is re-balance and demonstrate the leadership capabilities that I have, and actually take the resources that are already there, and balance them out so that every precinct will have assigned deputies working it,” said King.

He also stated within six to nine months he would have two duel K-9 units, for bite and drug enforcement. The purpose being, not only back up for the deputy, but also for probable cause for drugs or paraphernalia.

Fire Chief Robert Hoffman inquired, “How available would you be to the public?” To which King responded, “To sit here and tell you I’m going to have an open-door policy, every politician is going to tell you that. But I’ll tell you as well, I’ll be out working the streets. Because I’m not going to put deputies out there asking them to do something, I’m not willing to do myself.”

King explained, “I’ll have a cell phone. That cell phone will be put out. I’m going to revamp the Facebook page so no longer will it say ‘this is who was arrested’. It’s going to allow comments, it’s going to allow people to go on there and see what’s going on in the county.”

In the name of fairness, the Booster reached out to Sheriff Bryan Weatherford to address some of the concerns raised at the meeting. “This is not an excuse, these are facts… with our county being 923 square miles, we are limited sometimes to the time restraints to respond to incidents, but incidents depending on the nature of the call,” said Weatherford.

“If any individual is calling and needing to report say a theft of some sort, something that is not a crime against a person, an immediate danger if you will, some of those calls we have to prioritize, these calls that come in,” he said.

According to Weatherford, the sheriff’s department receives over 5,000 calls that require a deputy to physically respond per year.

Weatherford wanted to reassure the public that, “In an emergency situation, we’re there as fast and hard as we can get there… 911 calls take that priority and they’re going to deal with any immediate danger, threat, or the immediate of assistance of someone’s well-being.”

Responding to the notion of non-availability, Weatherford explained, “My cell phone is public, I’m so easy to reach. I urge citizens not to let their frustrations their concerns add up, that they reach out directly to me… I know I can’t make everyone happy, but we do our best no matter whether you like us or don’t like us to provide you with the best service as possible.”

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Woodville FBC welcomes new pastor

Jay AbernathyJay Abernathy

By Michael G. Maness

Woodville First Baptist Church’s new Pastor Jay Abernathy came to town with the hurricane, with his first official Sunday message right after Laura flew through southeast Texas and Louisiana.

In a way fitting, Abernathy is a born native Texan, and he relishes the challenges of life. He grew up in Richardson and has enjoyed the whirlwind of sports all his life.

He knows crisis, too, having survived being struck by a car when he was eight years old. Risks and adventure appeal to him, and that is how he looks at ministry. In a Baptist Standard article, he was asked about his dream job, and he said, “Anything that was risky—climbing, flying, etc.—I broke 14 bones growing up. I have found that Christian ministry is as exciting as it gets! Inviting people to serve the God of all Creation forever…. Now, that’s a great leap. Isn’t it?”

The FBC search committee aptly summed their final rationale for their choice. With experience pastoring and leading in churches and earned degrees from Baylor and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, his experience in the church and love for people impressed them.

FBC Worship Pastor Mark Tolar said, “He’s relational. We’ve had the best time.” He’s made a point to meet people as he can, even while moving from Lubbock to Woodville in the midst of the storm preparations, over 560 miles, which in most other parts of the country is several states away. He comes from Lubbock’s First Baptist Church.

A family man—he and his wife, Kelle, have two daughters and a son, all successful, and so far, four grandchildren.
Among his favorite places to visit is the Holy Land of Israel and the Sea of Galilee. He has developed several friends there and facilitates an ongoing ministry with them. “So much peace and power in one place,” he reflected upon Israel.

The great writers he admires include the earthy prolific Catholic Brennan Manning, apologist C. S. Lewis, philosopher and witty literary critic G. K. Chesterton and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He admires the great evangelists D. L. Moody and Billy Graham, the missionaries J. Hudson Taylor and Lottie Moon, and early Christian writers like St. Augustine.

He loves working with his hands, be that carpentry, construction, or hiking the hills of our great country. He and his wife just took a hiking trip, a short break in the transition from Lubbock to Woodville. He enjoys golf, too—and several in FBC will be golfing with him. Outside of researching for messages and writing, he enjoys leisurely reading biographies.

His heart in ministry goes back as far as he can remember. “I remember praying with my parents as young as five years old,” he said. He came to seriously contemplate his mortality after the accident at eight, and after he recovered, he accepted Christ. In a very real way, he has been involved with his church all his life.

In a campus revival meeting, he reflected, “I confessed to God, ‘I am not good enough.’ And the Holy Spirit replied to my heart, ‘You are right. You’re not, but I AM!’”

These days in ministry, he confessed, “The truth is that it isn’t about me, but is about the power of the Good News of Jesus that has sustained me ever since that day.”

“Everyone has a vital task in the body of Christ,” he reported. “Just as Ephesians 4:11–13 states, my favorite part of this work is ‘equipping saints for ministry.’ It is incredibly energizing to help people engage in their personal Christian mission.”

In addition to connections in the Holy Land, he has been a leader with Refuge of Light, a ministry for victims of sex-trafficking in Texas.
As the FBC search committee reflected to the church prior to his coming, they felt his call to the ministry was strong. He believes in partnering with people and aiding them on their journey in following Christ and growing as faithful disciples. The church autonomy and the individual soul’s competency are Baptist doctrine, and ministry is about equipping members to co-labor in fellowship and on mission for the gospel.

Caleb is one of his favorite Bible characters and the name of his son. Abernathy reflected on how Caleb “doggedly” pursued what God promised over the long haul of his life. To the Baptist Standard reporter, he said, “I believe we fear the future too often and sell out the purpose and passion of the church. The ‘high country’ is worth gaining, no matter the long obedience required.”


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Three Guys Eating: Laura Stole Our Lunch

3 guys eating


By Jeff Fatheree

Hello, all you folks out there in Tyler County. I know you were looking forward to our next installment of Three Guys Eating. We had plans to go to Gigi’s in Village Mills, home of the Gigi luxe Burger. We will be attempting to make the trip this week and hope you will join us on the video, as well as the Booster. We love bringing these informative updates on the quality burgers of Tyler County.

An ornery lady named Laura was boiling up in the Gulf of Mexico. She looked like she was headed straight toward beautiful Tyler County. Well, we believe in preparing for the worst and praying for the best. While some of our county had damage, overall, we were fortunate to miss the brunt of this lady and ask you to continue to pray for the folks in Louisiana. Gigi’s is up and ready and we will be there Thursday.

Now, let us talk about the storm. Folks, we know that storms can seem to amount to an extraordinarily little amount of damage when the alarm is sounded, but please be sure that you continue to pay attention. Forecasters do their very best to give an accurate prediction. If they are right, even one out of ten storms, that one would be devastating. We love all of you and do not wish to see anyone get hurt. Remember, we can replace the wood, bricks, shingles, and metal. We cannot replace the humans that may be harmed.

We started to do a silly video whining and crying because Laura stole our lunch; instead we decided to enjoy the fact that we might lose a little weight this week. We hope you are enjoying what we are doing and do not forget to go try some of the restaurants yourselves. As we finish this series on burgers, we will be looking to get your input. The readers of the Booster will be the final judges and decide who serves the best burger in Tyler County. We know you probably have a favorite now, but we want to encourage you to explore. Do your homework. The places you have always gotten your burgers may turn out not to be your favorite. We also would like to encourage you as an individual, couple, or family to also include with your order at least one of the specialty burgers. We will have two separate winners: best homestyle and best specialty. They also get bragging rights as the best burger joint in Tyler County for that category. We are looking forward to our next lip-smacking trip to Gigi’s in Village Mills and would like to thank all those that have hosted us so far. We will be getting to the rest of you soon.

Look in your newspapers for the menus from some of your favorite restaurants. They are there to let you either order to-go or to see where you want to eat. See you all next week, same burger time, same burger channel (my apologies to the creators of the campy Batman series of my childhood.)

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The Beef Trail part VII: Tyler County’s Forgotten Road

1 Cowboy 090320(Photo ca. 1910 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)The famous cattle drives of the Texas plains were a continuation of the culture developed in the Pine Barrens of east Texas and the southern United States. European, African, Indian, and Mexican influences produced the quintessential American cowboy.

By Col. Eddie Boxx

We finish our series on the “Old Beef Trail” through Tyler County with a few final observations: the all-important historical “so what?” Over the last three years, the Tyler County Heritage and the Tyler County Historical Commission searched for a trail that has only been vaguely mentioned in local lore, and virtually ignored in state archival records.

Initially an Indian path, the Coushatta Trace later became a road to move cattle to Louisiana and eastern markets. Starting with a historical marker at the Mount Hope Methodist Church, the joint team of volunteers collected local stories, analyzed hundreds of maps, land grants and surveys, pored over commissioner court minutes, and walked miles of timber ridges in search of the telltale swales – the evidence of an old trail. The result: We have specifically traced an important (yet neglected) road in Texas and American history. The research would not have been possible without the extensive Texas General Land Office historical data, author Gary Pinkerton, The History Center in Diboll and the Heritage Village’s Whitmeyer Library – a treasure trove of local history. What have we discovered? We believe William Jordan strategically placed his ferry in northeastern Tyler County to purposely avoid the original Neches crossing at Fort Teran. The road that bears his name may have started as early as 1831 in response to the presence of the Mexican garrison. The Tyler County “cut off” avoided the soldiers and it significantly shortened the distance between the Texas cattle-rich marshes and Louisiana.

The road was essential for trade between Mexico-controlled Texas and goods (albeit illegal) from the United States. In order to support the national Mexican economy, Texas residents were forbidden to purchase nearby, cheaper American goods – hence the sometimes-used moniker - “Contraband Trail.” Therefore, the original Coushatta Trace, along with the Jordan Ferry modification, became a major corridor through southeast Texas. Secondly, the Beef Trail was not just important for Tyler County history, but also to Texas settlement and later American expansion. The road was used by westward bound pioneers who settled not just in Tyler County (as in the case of its most famous son John Henry Kirby), but throughout Texas to included Austin’s famous colony on the Brazos. Being included in Austin’s original “Old Three Hundred” is akin to a descendent to one of the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower. Later, the road along the pine ridge (much like author Gary Pinkerton’s description) offered a seasonal, drier route to move cattle to stockyards in Alexandria and New Orleans and thus an additional objective has been to illustrate the East Texas cattle trade.

The more well-known cowboy culture and mythology of the western plains (post-Civil War) was simply a continuation of the pine barrens cattle drover (pre-Civil War). Herding techniques from Europe, the Colonial South and Africa later merged with Indian and Mexican practices resulting in a truly “Texian’’ culture. The Beef Trail, with Tyler County squarely in the middle, was so well known by the time of the Civil War, both Confederate and Union military planners eyed it as a possible avenue into rebel-held Texas. In fact, during reconstruction, the occupying Federal army led by General George Custer unsurprisingly used it to travel from Alexandria to his new headquarters in Austin. Our fourth observation includes a remarkable preservation of the road. Unlike other Texas roads, much of the Beef Trail has survived urban sprawl and modern development. Northern Tyler County remains physically unchanged over the last two centuries with the notable exception of course of the removal of the old growth timber. It is as if General Custer viewed the Pine Barrens from one of the 400-foot vistas along the road and said, “This is beautiful country, keep it the way it is and I will be back” and of course he never returned from the bloody grasslands of Little Big Horn, but the topography mostly has stayed the same. Today, the old trail swales are within feet of their documented location on centuries-old maps and surveys.


2 Early Texas Map 090320A highly valuable map by German immigrant Charles Pressler, known for his Texas maps starting in the late 1840s. Note the “old” Zavala on the Angelina River and while most mapmakers simply drew a line between Mount Hope (west) and Jordan’s Ferry (east), the joint team of historians added granularity and detail to the Tyler County route.


While modern roads not surprisingly follow old pathways, portions of the original road in Tyler County remain unpaved and at times clearly visible. In several cases, after finding a road “hit” from an old document, and using google earth to plot the coordinate, the team could walk to the grid using a handheld GPS and see the road. Admittedly, due to some sections being on private land, we have not been able to map the entire road through Tyler County. However, in the future, we hope landowners along the route will embrace the historical significance of the trail and preserve it. Much like a “best management practice” used by foresters to protect vital watersheds and historical structures, we encourage timber companies and landowners to set aside and protect these Beef Trail swales as much as possible.

Finally, Tyler County has a shared Beef Trail history with the counties to the east and west (and we have been able to collaborate with Polk, Jasper and Newton counties), but more could be accomplished from a regional and state perspective to highlight this important route. As a reminder, the Heritage Village Society seeks to preserve our unique multi-cultural history through the Whitmeyer Library and the Heritage Village Museum. To sustain our educational and storytelling efforts like the Beef Trail research, please support the museum through either monetary donations or serving as a docent or as a volunteer. Please contact the heritage Village for more information at (409) 283-2272.

Col Eddie Boxx teaches at Baylor University and writes for the Heritage Village Museum – an organization dedicated to the education and preservation of Tyler County history. If you have any information about Tyler County’s Beef Trail, the Heritage Village Museum would like to hear from you.


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Humidity: 100%

Wind: 14 mph

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