Bob Bowman’s East Texas
On the fourth Saturday night each month, the Nacogdoches County community of Sacul hosts one of the best country music venues in East Texas --a collection of bands playing mostly bluegrass standards. It had been five years or more since Doris and I sat on the folding chairs in a one-time general store sitting beside Farm Road 204 between Nacogdoches and Jacksonville. There are other such music venues scattered throughout East Texas, but Sacul is unique because there is no admission fee. You simply walk in, enjoy the music, and leave when you’re ready.
There is, however, a “free will offering” to help pay for expenses.
The bands don’t show up in fancy outfits as they do in Branson, Nashville or Granbury, but the music is rich and the voices are enthusiastic. You’ll see an array of overalls, baseball caps, blue jeans and plaid shirts.
If you’re a fan of the old country music, you’ll hear such favorites as “Remember Me,” “Big Fun on the Bayou,” “The Old Country Church,” and “Don’t Leave Me Here to Cry.”
While a band plays on the stage, other bands warm up with jam sessions outside.
I have a special affinity for Sacul. As a one-timer reporter for the Houston Chronicle, I did a series of stories about ghost towns in East Texas and included Sacul.
The town’s people bombarded me with letters and telephone calls, complaining that Sacul was not a ghost town. But the Chronicle story spurred the town to do something about its condition.
Buildings were re- paired, streets were improved, new businesses were opened, and the Sacul Bluegrass Festival was born.
Today, Sacul isn’t much larger when it was ten years ago, but it has a greater pride in its history.
The town was founded just after 1900 when the Texas and New Orleans Railroad was built through the area. Townspeople wanted to name the community after the original owners of the land, the Lucas family, but postal officials denied the application because a Lucas post office was already in existence.
The town resubmitted its application with the name spelled backwards.
By 1914, Sacul had a population of 400, two churches, six general stores, two cotton gins, a bank, a sawmill and a blacksmith shop.
Sacul continued to prosper in the 1920s, but declined during the 1930s. Today, its population is about 170.
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of almost 50 books about East Texas.)