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Genealogical documents being digitized at Whitmeyer Library

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Carol Shields, the librarian for the Whitmeyer Genealogical Library at Heritage Village in Woodville, gave a recent presentation to the Tyler County Heritage Society Board of Directors on Monday morning concerning a digital archival service, Family Search, that is in the process of digitizing the library’s family records holdings.  (PHOTO BY CHRIS EDWARDS)Carol Shields, the librarian for the Whitmeyer Genealogical Library at Heritage Village in Woodville, gave a recent presentation to the Tyler County Heritage Society Board of Directors on Monday morning concerning a digital archival service, Family Search, that is in the process of digitizing the library’s family records holdings. (PHOTO BY CHRIS EDWARDS)

WOODVILLE – Currently FamilySearch, a non-profit family history organization dedicated to gathering, preserving, and sharing the world’s records, is in Woodville digitizing the Whitmeyer Library’s genealogical documents. This is a free service to the Whitmeyer Library as well as other organizations.

FamilySearch has sent volunteers and equipment to our library at Heritage Village to do the work. Our Librarian Carol Shields is assisting with identifying family related information in our library. When the project is completed, the digitized data will be made available on FamilySearch’s website, FamilySearch.org/archives. In addition, our Library will receive their free copy of the digitized data to use on our website and to make available for researchers in our Whitmeyer Genealogy Library.

The Whitmeyer Genealogy Library, which is located in the Gift Shop at Heritage Village, is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays, appointment only, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., unless Heritage Village is closed. Call for an appointment, at 409-283-2272, so the librarian is ready to assist you with your search.


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Polio survivor shares insight of past epidemic

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Judy Connelly enjoys a day working in her garden. (PHOTO BY EMILY EDDINS)Judy Connelly enjoys a day working in her garden. (PHOTO BY EMILY EDDINS)By Emily Eddins

As we, as a species, continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, we have had time to reflect on our struggles throughout the past year. 

These perilous times have highlighted just how fragile life can be. While it was one of the greatest struggles in recent history, the coronavirus pandemic was undoubtedly not the first time our country has endured something like this. Just a short time ago, another epidemic was raging throughout the country, paralyzing thousands of children - the polio outbreak of the 1900s. Polio is a viral disease that affects the nervous system. 

This disease spreads directly from contaminated water, food, or even people. Once infected, victims face a host of symptoms, including fatigue, fever, loss of muscle, headache, nausea, and eventually face paralysis. 

The peak of polio occurred in the United States from 1916 until a vaccine was finally approved in 1955, resulting in a steep decline in the number of cases. Thanks to the hard-working scientists in creating a successful vaccine, the United States no longer views polio as the dangerous disease it once did. In the 1950s, there was a total of 15,000 cases of polio reported, and that number dropped to less than 100 in the 1960s. Today, The United States of America has been declared polio-free since 1979. Although our country may not be affected by this ailment in today's time, the epidemic had a lasting effect on those who lived through the dangerous times.

Judy Connelly, a long-time resident of Tyler County, is one of the few lucky survivors of the ravenous disease. Judy was diagnosed with polio at the age of seven. When asked about her experience, Judy said "polio was a plague. One minute you had a headache, and an hour later, you were paralyzed. How far the virus crept up your spine determined whether you could walk afterward or even breathe. The city was completely closed down, no swimming, movies, or even church similar to today's time. I was one of the lucky ones." 

Connelly remembers the odd treatments she endured like hot steamed wool blankets that were supposed to be good for the muscles, being strapped in high-powered jets in an aluminum tank, iron lungs, and other experimental procedures. As a small child, she was traumatized by seeing her friends and family taken as victims to the disease. 

"I remember I was unable to walk when I had to go into the hospital, and my father carried me everywhere I needed to go. I also remember being able to hear the iron lungs pump life into my friends and fellow patients at the hospital. It was a scary time," she said. 

She was not expected to survive, but in spite of the odds, Connelly made a full recovery and faced no symptoms of the disease that had her in its clutches for so long. Today she enjoys working in her garden, spending time with her family, and never taking for granted the life she never thought she would get to experience.

 “Although I still deal with the symptoms of post-polio syndrome, I have never let it stop me from dancing and I encourage others to do the same when life throws them a curveball,” she said. 

While many today are still facing the effects of the polio pandemic, a lot of pain and turmoil was prevented by scientists and their pursuit of a solution to one of the nation's biggest problems. 

Although times may be tough currently, scientists are eagerly working to find a solution to our current issues and unite us through our struggles to be a more powerful and better nation. 

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Woodville veteran/musician’s service dog missing

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Daryl “Harry Cheaks” Morris with his son Aiden and wife Connie Williams and Bear.Daryl “Harry Cheaks” Morris with his son Aiden and wife Connie Williams and Bear.

By Chris Edwards

HILLISTER – To local residents and those in the area who enjoy good times and good tunes, Daryl Morris, a.k.a “Harry Cheaks” is a familiar sight – and so is his ever-present canine companion Bear.

Morris, a local musician, DJ and music producer is also a combat veteran who received the service dog two years ago through a program called the Wins for Warriors Foundation. However, for about a month, Bear has been missing, and Morris fears someone stole him. “I’ve been looking for him, hoping he’d come back around and he hasn’t come back,” he said. 

Morris’s service dog is more than just a best friend to him, Bear has also helped him overcome PTSD-associated issues and get out of his house to engage in his calling: entertaining folks as a musician and DJ. Morris said Bear was last seen on county road 4455 in Hillister, possibly at FM 1013, which crosses the road. 

Morris added that Bear, being a service dog, is extremely intelligent and friendly, and answers to verbal commands. He is a Labrador mix, mostly black with white paws. 

Morris said he has not filed a police report yet, but is encouraging anyone who might have seen Bear, or knows something of his whereabouts, to call him at 323-592-5242, or they can call the Tyler County Booster at 409-283-2516 or Woodville Police Department at 409-283-5262.

When Morris, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, looked into getting a service dog, he was placed with Bear not long after contacting the organization, which was founded by the Astros’ Justin Verlander. 

In a profile published in the March 28, 2019 edition of the Booster, soon after he returned from training with Bear, Morris said having the dog at his side has been a welcome comfort and he wanted to let fellow veterans who might be struggling know that programs such as Wins for Warriors are out to help them. 

According to information on the Department of Veterans Affairs website, PTSD is a common factor in veterans who have been exposed to life-threatening experiences. 

The website states that about 11-20 out of every 100 veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom are diagnosed with the condition in a given year. The Mayo Clinic defines a state of immobilization or being “stuck” as PTSD; when one’s nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance following danger or traumatic situations.

According to Wins for Warriors, the organization depends on community support, funding and help from businesses and individuals to support its goals of an impactful and sustainable veterans’ organization.

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‘U-Haul Bandit’ chase ends in Tyler County

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The U-Haul in which Davidson led authorities on a chase.  (Photos courtesy of Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace)The U-Haul in which Davidson led authorities on a chase. (Photos courtesy of Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace)

By Chris Edwards

TYLER COUNTY – A four-county chase in a U-Haul truck ended in Tyler County, and a Desoto man is in jail following the incident.

According to a social media posting from Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace, the chase lasted two hours and began early in the morning on Saturday, July 17, in Angelina County.

Ronny Dwight DavidsonRonny Dwight DavidsonWallace said that the chase began before 3 a.m., and the driver, later identified as 43-year-old Ronny Dwight Davidson, drove the moving vehicle through Trinity County, where he struck a deputy’s patrol unit, spinning it around and doing extensive damage. “While you were sleeping, a U-Haul bandit led officers on a two-hour long chase,” Wallace said.

The chase continued, at a speed of around 80 mph through Polk County and ended in Tyler County at around 5 a.m., where deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office were able to deploy spike strips that flattened the vehicle’s tires, which Wallace said crippled the truck as Davidson attempted to flee further.

When law enforcement finally made contact with the man, they found he was armed with a handgun, but were able to subdue him after disabling him with chemical agents.

Officers from multiple agencies reported that Davidson had attempted to “play chicken” with multiple on-coming vehicles during the multiple-county chase. 

Davidson was taken into custody and transported to the Angelina County Jail where he has been handed multiple felony charges, including unlawful possession of firearm by felon and evading arrest/detention with vehicle (both third-degree felonies.) He is also charged with the first-degree felony offense of aggravated assault against a public servant. As of Monday, none of his bond amounts have been assessed, save for a Class C possession of drug paraphernalia charge.

Public records indicate that Davidson had previously served a prison sentence for convictions of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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Chester plans community watch program

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Pastor Kevin Hicks speaks to the Chester City Council on Monday night. (PHOTO BY MICHAEL G. MANESS)Pastor Kevin Hicks speaks to the Chester City Council on Monday night. (PHOTO BY MICHAEL G. MANESS)

By Michael G. Maness

CHESTER – Chester welcomed members of the Dam B Community Watch (DBCW) at their council meeting Monday evening, July 12. 

Representatives from the group included CW President Johnny Page and his wife Nancy; Secretary Jan Johnson and husband Lawrence and Glen Kenney, who serves as the group’s public relations. Chester Mayor Floyd Petri and Mayor pro-tem Robert Poynter have taken point on planning a community watch group for Chester, and Poynter will be the council’s lead.

 Pct 2 Constable Casey Whitworth will be the lead law enforcement officer, saying he was honored to help in any way. Johnny Page pointed out that the sheriff’s office said the CW lowered the calls by 75 percent. 

   The Dam B Community Watch Group has been operating with great success for five years. They do patrols but stressed that they do not do any law enforcement, such as stopping vehicles. That was re-enforced by Poynter. 

The whole goal was to serve the community. The Dam B group has been able to obtain a stop light at the dangerous Hwy 190/FM 92 intersection and established a substation for sheriff deputies to take a break and write reports. They meet weekly with strict membership rules. Tyler County encompasses more than 900 square miles, and Sheriff Bryan Weatherford has greatly appreciated this substation for his deputies in the farthest reaches of the county. 

Poynter and Whitworth will be working the community to rally the first members and refine plans from the generous written plans that Dam B provided, and they will present their status at the next council meeting. Whitworth said he knew several already that were excited for this development. Poynter pointed out recent thefts and other mayhem that has been a constant concern. For several the crime is fearful. Kenney and Page noted how their patrols with the large signs on their cars, and cell phone cameras, provided a natural deterrent. 

City park to be used for VBS group

Church in the Country Next Generation Pastor Kevin Hicks presented a request to Chester to use the Chester City Park for a stopping point for his travelling Vacation Bible School (VBS) that seeks to minister to all the kids in the county. He has bus specially outfitted, and their first stop will be Chester on July 27. Then he plans to do another in Ivanhoe, Colmesneil and Woodville. The travelling VBS will be free and provide activities and worship for pre-k through sixth grade. 

Also, Hicks is planning a monthly children’s day at the Chester City Park that will include a whole day of fun with a huge water slide, all free, with some Christian programing. The council was excited to support Hicks, and Petri especially so, as he said his grandson loves water slides. 

Council votes salary increase

The council went into executive session, and on their return they made a motion to raise the salaries of the administrative officers by 3%. They approved an activity log that Councilman Doug Hughes would provide next week. The council approved a motion for the mayor to be able to supervise and, if necessary, fire employees, and Petri committed to finishing the employee handbook soon.

Petri had some very good news regarding another grant opportunity with the Texas Department of Emergency Management for infrastructure needs. A representative will be meeting with Petri, council members, and employees on Tuesday, July 12, and they will go over a wish list. 

Poynter reported that the city park had some substantial improvements, including the road and other items, and more was on the way.

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