K. Green was born and buried in Cumby. His grave is in a 100-square-foot knoll in the cemetery at Cumby. He thus made good his oft-repeated saying, “I never let myself be crowded in life, and by God, ain’t nobody gonna close in on me when I’m dead!”
Cumby, on the Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas track a half mile north of Interstate Highway 30 in western Hopkins County, was settled in 1842 by D. W. (Wash) Cole. It was named Black Jack Grove because of its location near a grove of blackjack oak trees. The oak grove, just west of the present-day business district, was used as a camp by Texas Rangers during the days of the Republic of Texas. Freight wagoners traveling on the Jefferson road to the interior also used the grove as a campground. The Black Jack Grove post office opened in 1848 in the home of the first postmaster, John D. Matthews. Three years later D. W. Cole bought the grove from Elizabeth M. Wren as part of a tract of 307 acres. Cole ran a store, sold town lots, and donated land for a Masonic lodge that was chartered in 1852. In February 1857 the Black Jack post office was renamed Theodocias, and James M. Brown was postmaster. In May 1858 the post office again became Black Jack Grove.
By 1860 Black Jack Grove was a thriving settlement with physicians, tradesmen, and blacksmiths. The town had also earned a reputation as a tough frontier town, where the worst people in the county congregated and violent fights were common. On Christmas Day 1866 a gun battle over a horse race resulted in the death of five men. During the Civil War men from Black Jack Grove formed Company K of Col. William B. Sims’s Ninth Texas Cavalry. Jim P. Williams was elected captain and Mose Brown first lieutenant. At the battle of Elkhorn, Company K was the first to plant its flag in the Union battery.
The East Line and Red River Railroad reached Black Jack Grove in 1880, and the town gradually began to lose its roughness. In 1886 the railroad and post office, in an attempt to change the town’s reputation, suggested that the community be renamed. Congressman David B. Culberson suggested naming the town after his friend Robert H. Cumby, a Confederate veteran. The Independent Normal College opened in Cumby in 1895 and operated until 1905. In 1911 the town had two banks, two lumberyards, three gins, a cottonseed oil mill, and a tin shop. By 1948 Cumby had twelve stores, six churches, a broom factory, and several other small businesses. The town reached a peak population of 925 in 1929. The number of residents gradually declined to a low of 405 in 1970 before increasing to 647 by 1980. In 1985 Cumby had six small businesses and an estimated population of 690. In 1990 the population was 571, and in 2000 it was 616.
Ben K. Green was born and buried in Cumby. His grave is in a 100-square-foot knoll in the cemetery at Cumby. He thus made good his oft-repeated saying, “I never let myself be crowded in life, and by God, ain’t nobody gonna close in on me when I’m dead!”
Content courtesy of the Handbook of Texas