Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Features / Living

December 5, 2010

John Watson: Griffith Switch: another Texas town of memories

Griffith, Texas, was a small town on what is now Farm-to-Market Road 2258 at Boggy Branch, in western Ellis County. It was named for J.W. Griffith, an early settler. The town became known as Griffith Switch when a spur track for the International-Great Northern Railroad came through the community in 1903, after which it served primarily as a cattle shipping point. Griffith Switch had an estimated population of 25 and one business in 1930. The population remained about that number until 1970, when no estimate was available. By that time the town had a store, a cotton gin and a service station.

I first heard of Griffith Switch several years ago when I took Farm-to-Market Road 157 from Maypearl to Venus. A few miles south of Venus I saw a sign for Griffith Switch, with an arrow pointing to the left, which was FM 2258. I took this road and drove all the way back to I35 north of Grandview, without seeing anything that looked like an old town site.

This past September I decided to see if I could find Griffith Switch again. After turning onto FM 2258, I went slow, looking everything over closely. About two miles down the road I spotted a small building with a sign on front that read, “Griffith Switch Balcksmithing.” Near the building was a large graveled area with some old horse-drawn farm equipment.

After finding a place to turn around we went back to the entrance to the property. The gate was open and there were some workers out near one of the sheds. After getting an OK from the workers to take some pictures we got out and started a walking tour of the place.

Some of the early horse-drawn equipment included a riding cultivator, a stalk cutter, sickle mower and a hay rake, otherwise known as a buck rake. There were two old iron wheeled tractors, an early tractor-pulled combine and a stationary thrasher. Nearby was a windmill on a wooden tower with a wooden water tank on a platform next to it.

Just south of the farm equipment and near the front fence was the blacksmith shop. This had been built with old barn lumber and made to look old. There were some old plows and blacksmith tools hanging on the wall and some old cultivator wheels leaning against the porch posts.

At the back of the farm equipment was “The Switch Livery Stable.” We did not go into the Livery Stable; however, there was a long open shed beside it with several items in it. One item that really caught my attention was a covered wagon equipped as a chuck wagon. There were six wooden crates on the back labeled: Beans, Cofey, Floar, Meel, Taters and Sugger (their spelling, not mine).

Other items in the shed included a buckboard, what I would call a closed-in Amish carriage and an ox-cart.

Across the drive from the farm equipment was a two-story house. The first story was made of logs, which you can tell are quite old. The second story was of wood frame construction added on later.

A marker near the gate tells that this is the “Silken Ranch.” The dogtrot log house was built in Auburn, Ky., about 1825 and all the logs were hand-hewn. The log cabin was disassembled in March 2000, moved here and reassembled. The second floor was added and completed in March 2001. The owners were listed as Bob and Norma Emerson.

I wanted to find out more about Griffith Switch, so I went to Maypearl and started asking questions. The man at the local feed store and the manager of the chamber of commerce had never heard of the place. The lady at the bank knew of the location but had not been by since the buildings had been put up and the equipment moved in. She sent me to the local insurance lady, who keeps up with all the property in the area.

The insurance lady knew where the place was but did not know the people who owned it; however, she knew someone who might know. She made a phone call and then told me that all the information that she could get was that the owners lived in Midlothian.

Since the owners lived in Midlothian, I decided I might be able to find out more at Venus. The manager of the Venus Chamber of Commerce had never heard of Griffith Switch. He told me that the local insurance lady might know something about the place as she had been there a long time, he had only been there two years.

The lady wasn’t sure of what place I was asking about until I mentioned Silken Ranch and Bob and Norma Emerson. Then she said, “Oh, now I know what place you are talking about.” She then got a telephone directory and got a telephone number for the ranch.

I finally got in contact with Sid Kuykendall, the Emerson’s son-in-law. When I asked him about the place with the blacksmith shop, he let me know right off that the shop wasn’t original, that Mr. Emerson had built it, which I could tell by looking at it. He said that the Emersons bought the place in 1998 and after moving the log house there and finishing it in 2001, Mr. Emerson started buying the old farm equipment from various places around the state and started putting up the buildings. Mr. Emerson passed away in 2008.

Kuykendall said that he grew up in the area and he remembered an old station/store combination being down the road a piece from where the Emerson place is now located and a gin was across the road from the store. All signs of the store and gin are gone now.

This is all on private property; however, you might drive by and take a look at the place and if the gate is open you may find someone there who will let you look around like I did.

Griffith Switch is like a lot of other early day Texas towns, not much left but memories.

John Watson is a Cleburne resident who can be reached at texastraveler@sbcglobal.net.

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