|Most of the historic
buildings East Texans have restored are ornate homes, public structures
The other day in Crockett, the good people of Houston County came
together and dedicated one of the region's overlooked symbols -- the
family corn crib.
The Runnels corn crib, built in the l930s by
black pioneer farmer Simon Reynolds and his sons, was donated by descendant
R.C. Runnels' family, moved log by log to Camp Street in Crockett,
and carefully restored.
To celebrate, the crowd ate a meal of black-eyed peas, cornbread,
ham, shoe-peg corn salad and buttermilk pie -- and listened to little-heard
songs by Pip and Guy Gillette, Houston Countyıs hometown cowboy balladeers.
In early East Texas, corn cribs were as essential to farmers as their
plows and mules. Used to store corn on the floor and peanuts in the
rafters, the cribs enabled families to store food for themselves and
their livestock for the winter months.
In those days, farmers were largely self-sufficient. Their crops produced
virtually everything they needed. A trip to town once a month was
only for the things they couldn't produce themselves.
The Runnels corn crib was moved from its original location near Gail
Creek, 18 miles southeast of Crockett, to the Gillette Brothers' famous
Camp Street Cafe, just across the street from a statue of another
singer Lightnin' Hopkins.
The crib is a relatively rare semilunate notched
log structure, apparently an American invention found almost exclusively
in the Deep South. To build the crib, a farmer cut down suitably-sized
pine trees, split them with dogwood wedges and a wood maul, and then
notched the ends of the logs with an ax or hatchet so they would fit
snugly against each other.
The Runnels crib brought back a lot of memories for the Runnels and
Gillette families, who owned adjoining lands near the little community
"It's where we came from and where our family began, and that's
very important to all of us," said Crezette Runnels, who dedicated
a plaque on the old crib.
Charles Runnels remembered picking peanuts as a boy, putting them
in the crib, and then sneaking inside to eat the peanuts when they
dried out."Peanuts have never tasted the same to me," he
Pip Gillette had a different memory: "In the old days, there
was a well-known moonshiner named Rambo, who lived for a little while
in the crib and stayed just ahead of the local law," he said,
adding: "He was known for making some of the best adult beverages
in Houston County."
John Tatum, an authority on pioneer log building, had one of the most
"You're looking at one of the last survivors
of a rare symbol of American ingenuity."
3-9, 2002 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of nearly 30 books on East Texas
history and folklore and a former president of the East Texas Historical