a Pecan Shell
The area was already
settled by 1885 when the Bagley School was in operation. By 1905 the
one-teacher school had an enrollment of 46. The community appeared
on highway maps as Bagley in the 30s.
In 1936 Dion McDonald built a store naming his business the "Jot 'Em
Down Gin Corporation" after a fictional business on the Lum and Abner
The state highway department (in a rare display of humor) added the
name to their official maps. During the school consolidations of the
40s and 50s, Bagley school merged with the Pecan
Gap schools. The community was still shown on TXDoT's detailed
county map in 2001.
Jot 'Em Down
Anyone who listened to the radio in the 1930s and 1940s remembers
Lum and Abner, the mythical storekeepers invented by Chet Lauck
and Norris Goff.
From their Jot 'Em Down Store in Pine Ridge, Arkansas, Lum and Abner
evolved into one of the nation's most popular radio series.
But if you ask old timers in Delta
County, Texas, they'll tell you with pride that they remember
when the Jot 'Em Down Store was in East
Also known as Mohegan, Muddig Prairie and Bagley,
Jot 'Em Down was on the James H. Larabee Survey, which was occupied
by 1885 when the Bagley school opened.
In 1937, when Lela McDonnold, the wife of pioneer farmer Pleasant
T. McDonnold, had a heart attack, the doctor said it was the result
of doing the laundry by hand for her eight children down through the
One of her sons, blind Dion McDonnold, decided that he would build
a washateria and a country store on his property to make it easier
for women in the community to do the laundry and, hopefully, extend
Dion and a brother, Doug, who lived in nearby Pecan
Gap, called a meeting of the people in the community to see if
they would support a washateria. The prospect of no longer having
to fill a wash pot in the yard, boil out clothes, rinse them in several
tubs of fresh water, and then wring them out by hand was understandably
When Doug and Dion asked for suggestions for the store's name, someone
suggested "the Jot 'Em Down store," which was the name of Lum and
Abner's radio establishment. "And there," said a kibitzer, pointing
to Doug and Dion, "are our Lum and Abner."
The McDonnolds had a large pond built to hold water for the washateria,
terraced the land so it would funnel rain water to the pond, and started
construction of a combination store and laundry. Unfortunately, Lela
died before its completion.
The Jot 'Em Down Store was an immediate success. Customers came from
early in the morning until late at night. Dion had to set up a lunch
counter to accommodate customers.
When the Texas Highway Department started looking for the town's name
to put on maps, officials used Jot 'Em Down, and the name stuck.
When Jot 'Em Down's farmers starting talking about a cotton gin since
the pond built by the McDonnolds could furnish sufficient water for
the gin's needs, the Jot 'Em Down Cooperative Gin Association was
During World War
II, Jot 'Em Down began to change with other East
Texas communities. Most of the community's men marched off to
war and its women moved to towns like Dallas
and Fort Worth to
find jobs in defense industries.
And when rural electrification came along and home washing machines
and dryers became readily available, there was no longer a need for
the Jot 'Em Down Washateria. The store also found it could not compete
with larger grocery stores in neighboring towns like Cooper
and farmers carried their cotton
to larger towns to be ginned.
Today, there is little left of old Jot 'Em Down on the wide-open blackland
praiaries in far western Delta
County. The town's highway signs are stolen as quickly as they
are placed on the roadside.
The old radio series, The Lum and Abner Show, disappeared from the
radio airwaves decades ago. Chet Lauck and Norris Goff are also gone,
but there is still a Jot 'Em Store and Lum and Abner Museum at Pine
Ridge, a dozen or so miles east of Mena, Arkansas.
1, 2006 Column
Jot 'Em Down,
I was reading your
story about Jot 'Em Down, Texas. I thought you would like to know
that the radio program was called "Lum and Abner" instead of the other
way around. The characters were Lum Ed'ards as he called himself and
Abner Peabody. I used a voice on radio inspired by Abner. Many other
Disk Jockeys did too. Our whole family listened to the show every
day. The program was second only to "Amos 'N Andy". People told me
that if your radio happened to go dead all you had to do was sit on
your front porch and you could hear the program all up and down the
block. We couldn't do that in Spunky
Flat. Our nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away and nobody
else had a radio anyway. - George Lester, May 02, 2005
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