Company Town With Stone Foundation

POSTMARK: TEXAS

February 14, 1993|By KATHERINE DREW DEBOALT

Perhaps you've taken a wrong turn off York Road just south of Cockeysville.

Perhaps you were forced into the left-turn-only lane, or maybe you were just lost in the maze of Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bells that pack this piece of roadway.

In any case, you have ended up in Texas.

Now marked by no more than a dozen houses, Texas is as unlikely as its name.

Guarding the gates of the Genstar Stone Products limestone quarry, and just blocks from the commercial sprawl that has become the trademark of suburbia, Texas' small cluster of stone and wood-frame houses stands along Church Lane. With their two-family-style double front doors, and their front porches barely separated from the road by a crumbling sidewalk, these houses represent the last vestiges of this old company town.

When Sonny Peacock moved to Texas 57 years ago, there were houses lining both sides of the railroad tracks which parallel Railroad Avenue, Texas' only other remaining road. Most of the houses were owned by the quarry companies, he said, and as residents moved out over the years, the houses came down, one by one.

The once tight-knit community started to disband. Then most recently, McDermott's Tavern and another house on Railroad Avenue were dismantled to make way for the light rail and an extension of Beaver Dam Road. The one remaining home along this unpaved bit of Railroad Avenue is marked for demolition.

"You keep taking eggs out of a basket and not putting any back in and eventually it's going to get empty," said Mr. Peacock, 63, who stands in his undershirt in the winter sun and surveys Railroad Avenue.

Like many Texans, Mr. Peacock worked most of his life in the quarry. A retired truck driver, he is living out his retirement in a neat house lined with rosebushes just outside the quarry entrance, where huge trucks lumber by almost continually.

"Everybody helped everybody else," he remembers. "But if some stranger came in here looking for trouble, he could find it."

He remembers a central neighborhood filled mostly with Irish and Italian families, with an African-American enclave down by the railroad tracks. At times, Texas had its own post office, its own school and even a small grocery store. Without McDermott's, the only community landmark left is St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which sits on the edge of what remains of Texas.

On Railroad Avenue, Carrie Poe lives in the last remaining house, which is owned by the quarry. After 73 years in Texas, Ms. Poe, 86, will be leaving soon. She'll move to a new home Baltimore County has agreed to rent to her for three years, she said.

She is ready to go, she said, although packing up her house has stirred a lot of memories. She recently uncovered her grown son's white suit that he wore as a child to attend St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

Ms. Poe, who routinely feeds more than a dozen stray quarry cats which she has nicknamed "genstars," will take with her one of her fondest memories of Texas. When she turned 86, officials at the quarry lighted an electric star that sits atop a building just across the tracks from her house. "The guys said it was for my birthday. Oh, it was beautiful," she said. "It lit the whole place up."

Neighbor Les Perry remembers swimming and fishing for eels in the quarry holes after moving there as a 10-year-old in 1920. Wild pear and apple trees used to surround the village, but dust from the quarry eventually killed the fruit trees, Mr. Perry said.

lTC Today, he lives in a house that once held 10 members of his family. He daily throws peanuts into an old sink on the back of his house and watches as squirrels squabble for the nuts in the basin.

Pointing at an industrial building beyond his back yard, he said, "That used to be all fields up there as far as you could see."

TEXAS TALES

WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Residents say it had something to do with early residents who went off to fight in the Mexican War of 1847-'48. When they returned, the arid conditions or the flat roofs on many of the houses reminded them of Texas, so the story goes.

LONG AGO: Texas was founded 150 years ago by Irish stonecutters. It has had several names, including Clarksville and Ellengowan.

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Texas was mentioned as a possible location for the county seat when Baltimore County separated from the city, but the vote swung for Towson in 1853.

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