A house built on a lot originally part of the Sam Bell Maxey estate celebrates its 100th anniversary with an invitational reception on Saturday hosted by current owners and Lamar County natives Gerry and Vicki Blackshear.
The red brick, five-bay Georgian Colonial Revival house at 854 S. Church St. was built by James Dennis Crook in 1919, a prominent Paris businessman. Crook also built the Crook-Record Building on the square in downtown Paris that became The Perkins Brothers Co. and then later Belk’s Department Store before Belk’s took residence in Paris Towne Center.
“It’s all about the people, the people who built and lived in this house and surrounding houses,” Gerry Blackshear said about the upcoming celebration. “It’s not about the fact that the house sits on the tennis courts of Sam Bell Maxey Long” (Maxey’s nephew).
Crook’s granddaughter, Alice M. Fairfax Stone, a member of the Maxey family, donated the Maxey property to the Lamar County Historical Society in 1966, according to Texas State Historical Association records.
“If Alice Fairfax Stone and her daughters, Shelby Stone Miller and Ginna Stone Farris, had not made the contribution of the Maxey House, along with its contents, this would just be another 100-year-old red brick house,” Blackshear said.
“The people in these families are the ones to be honored and celebrated; something very unique happened here,” he continued, pointing to stacks of historical documents, old newspaper clippings, historical photographs from the Texas State Archives and county deed records.
Several members of the Crook family were civic leaders including a nephew, J. Morgan Crook, who served several terms as mayor and for whom Lake Crook was named.
Blackshear has researched the owners of the house through the years and discovered the women who have lived there made significant contributions to Paris, specifically Emma Wortham Crook, Clara Rice Thompson, known as “Sugee, Mytrice Broussard and Judy Gibbons.
Emma Wortham Crook, J.D. Crook’s second wife, lived in the house until her death in 1956. She was involved in church, Bible study and in society functions and was an active member of the Lotus Club. The Mary Emma Bible Club at First United Methodist Church was founded in her honor in 1946, according to Blackshear’s research.
Clara Rice Thompson or “Sugee,” who spent several years in the house in the 1940s, served as a music instructor at Paris High School and Paris Junior College and was organist at several local churches. She decorated the house for Christmas and won several decorating contests, Blackshear said.
After the death of Emma Crook in 1956, her daughters sold the house to Paul and Mary Franklin, an interior designer, and in 1964 it was sold to O.A. and Mytrice Broussard.
She served as director of the Paris Outreach Clinic for several years, and he was a pilot and car dealer and operated a flying service at Cox Field.
Joel and Judy Gibbons purchased the home in January 1973, and Judy Gibbons lived in the house for 35 years. Among other things, she was an officer of The Friends of the Maxey House, was involved with the food committee at the Holy Cross Episcopal Church and was an officer in the Garden Study Club.
The Gibbons sold the house to Clyde and Pauline Scott in January 2008, after which the Scotts restored the house, maintaining its historic features.
“Clyde commented that he grew up in Paris and used to talk or ride a bicycle down Church Street, and ‘always wanted one of ‘those’ houses,’” Blackshear said.
The Blackshears acquired the house from the Scotts in July 2018.
“I am now 3,000 feet away from where I was born in the old St. Joseph’s hospital (now a parking lot),” Blackshear said.
The Blackshears grew up in the Paris area and both attended West Lamar schools. Gerry Blackshear worked as grocery manager at Kroger’s while attending Paris Junior College and then worked at Merico loading trucks at night while attending East Texas State University, now Texas A&M-Commerce. He received a geology degree in 1981 and continues to work in the petroleum industry.
Most of their families live in the Paris area, although they have a son who lives in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and a daughter who lives in Dallas with their four granddaughters.