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A COMMUNITY TREASURE: Raymondville man recollects a bountiful life

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The Beasleys

Living in the Raymondville area for the better part of a century, Verlin Beasley has been an integral part of the eastern Texas County community.

“I’ve seen a lot and done a lot,” Beasley said, “and I’ve gotten to know a lot of people.”

Beasley, who turned 90 on Oct. 4, is native of Plainview, Texas. His family moved to Raymondville in 1938 when he was nine years old, and he went on to graduate from Houston High School.

Shortly after that, Beasley began a 24-year career as a union carpenter, working mostly at Fort Leonard Wood.

“I drove Highway 17 when it was a gravel road,” he said.

At the same time, Beasley worked as a cattle farmer. In 1944, he purchased a registered Hereford cow, a heifer and a bull for an FFA project. He still owns about 50 cattle, all of which are descendants of that original trio.

“It cost me $300 for all three of them,” Beasley said. “I haven’t bought a cow since. There was an ag day going on a few years back, and I said to the instructor, ‘I’ll bet you can’t find many other people who still have the project they started with after that long.’ He said, ‘no, that’s got to be some kind of record.’”

At the tender age of 21, Beasley joined the Raymondville School Board when the district consisted of several small schools (including the two-room Friendship School, and one-room Splitlimb, Vollmar, Yukon and Brown Hill). He stayed on the board for about 20 years before stepping down.

The Beasleys in their house

Verlin Beasley, 90, and his wife, Faye.

Then board member Andy Johnson became Texas County sheriff and vacated his spot on the board. Beasley was urged to fill the position, believing the stint would last about two years until the next election took place. But when election time came around, nobody filed to run against him and he ended up staying on for close to six more years.

During that time, Beasley was instrumental in overseeing the construction of the new, much larger Raymondville School, which opened in 1960 and is still in operation. A plaque recognizing board members from that time is still displayed at the school.

“I’m the only one on that plaque who’s still alive,” Beasley said.

Other organizations Beasley served with for long periods include the Raymondville Booster Club and the board at the Raymondville United Methodist Church. Verlin’s wife, Faye, served as the church’s secretary and treasurer for about 30 years.

The Beasleys have also been members of the Texas County chapter of The Gideons for 28 years, with Verlin being an officer the whole time.

AWARD-WINNING TREE FARMER

Verlin Beasley began his lengthy stint in tree farming in 1947, and his efforts have since been well recognized and documented. He grew trees – mainly native shortleaf pines – on huge tracts, including his own 750-acre property, a 900-acre parcel owned by a nephew, and 800 acres owned by a brother.

Sawing a log

Verlin Beasley saws a log being steadied by his friend, Danny Stagner.

Using bulldozers and other gear, Beasley and his workers cleared off many an acre of scrub and converted it to healthy forestland.

“I took care of all of it,” he said. “I’ve sowed a lot of pine and cedar.”

In the process, Beasley even invented a successful tree-planting implement.

“We kind of copied it off of what the state had, but made it better,” he said. “I even ended up planting trees for the Conservation Commission.”

Over the years, Beasley spent countless hours performing “timber stand improvement” (TSI) and helped local landowners transform many thousands of acres. His prowess earned him several woodlands management awards, including one at the county level in 1981 and another for the state’s central region in 1982. In 1983, Beasley was named state tree farmer of the year.

Tree farmer of the year

Verlin and Faye Beasley stand together after Verlin was named Missouri Tree Farmer of the Year in 1983.

The regional award made Beasley eligible for the state award. Texas County resource forester Gary Smith told him he had a good chance to win that top award.

“I said, ‘Gary, I can’t compete with all those big Christmas tree farmers and all that,” Beasley said. “He said, ‘yeah you can.’ Then the next year Gary said, ‘you ready to go to Columbia?’ I said, ‘I guess so, but what for?’

“He said, ‘you got the state award.’”

As a forester, Beasley was following in the footsteps of his father, Earnest Beasley, who worked for the Missouri Conservation Commission for many years. Earnest became renowned for erecting a fire lookout station on top of a big white oak tree outside Raymondville, which was used from 1943 to 1956. A sign honoring the station was placed at the base of the tree in the 1980s.

Earnest's sign

Verlin Beasley and family members stand in the early 1980s next to a sign honoring his father, Earnest Beasley, for building a fire lookout station in 1943 near Highway B east of Raymondville. From left, Verlin's sisters Vergie Langston and Vera Kirkman, Verlin Beasley, and his brothers Don and Roy Beasley.

In the early days of his life in Missouri, Verlin’s family operated a shingle making business that utilized a steam-powered mill. He was featured in an article in Missouri Conservationist magazine in October 1991, and his reputation as a certified tree farmer has led to him hosting several large field days and workshops at his property, including a huge gathering of students and forestry specialists from all over Missouri one day in the 1980s.

“There were probably 20 or 30 school buses, over 100 foresters and a lot of other people,” Beasley said. “It was really something.”

SHE’S A BRANSON

Faye Beasley spent about 33 years working for the United States Postal Service, many of those as postmaster in Raymondville. Her maiden name is Branson, and the famous entertainment-oriented city in southwest Missouri is named after her family.

“She’s had a picture taken with just about every celebrity who’s ever been down there because she’s a Branson,” Verlin said.

Faye’s parents for many years owned and operated the Branson Store on Highway B east of Raymondville. She and Verlin recall when the store was a popular public gathering place because the property included horseshoe pits and a croquet court, and a ball field was available across the highway.

She's a Branson

Verlin and Faye Beasley pose with performers at the Pierce Arrow Theater in Branson in 2016. Faye is a member of the Branson family, after which the town was named.

“It was ma and dad’s,” Faye said, “but there were no charges. Those things were just there for people to use.”

“They would come here in droves,” Verlin said. “They would wait in line to play horseshoes or croquet, and some of the old timers were really good players. And on the weekend, there would be 40 or 50 people at the ball field.”

One of the horseshoes stakes still protrudes from the ground where it has for more than 100 years, and the store’s underground gasoline tank remains in place, too.

“It’s plumb full of water,” Verlin said, “but it’s there.”

Verlin and Faye ran the store for many years (eventually changing its name to Beasley’s Store), and the house they now live in sits where the croquet court was located. Faye grew up in a house only a short distance from the old store.

“I haven’t gone very far,” she said.

Century Farm

A newspaper clipping from October 1995 depicts the property owned by Verlin and Faye Beasley being designated as a Missouri Century Farm.

The Beasley’s property has been in the family so long that it was added to the Missouri Century Farm list in October 1995. A Texas State flag flies over the tract that once flew over the Alamo.

HONEYMOONERS

Verlin and Faye have been married for more than 68 years and were together as high school sweethearts for four years prior to that. They like to say they’re still “newlyweds,” and enjoy traveling and site seeing. During their travels, they have climbed the 900-step stairway inside the Washington Monument and taken a submarine trip in Hawaii.

Hawaii vacation

Long-time Raymondville residents Verlin and Faye Beasley stand together during a vacation in Hawaii in 1991.

“We just like to enjoy doing things together,” Verlin said. “It’s always been that for us and always will be.”

Branson Store ball fields

Years ago, a ball field occupied this space across the highway from the home of Verlin and Faye Beasley. It used by anyone who liked as part of a gathering place for the public set up adjacent to the old Branson Store.

Verlin's award

The Texas County Soil and Water Conservation District presented this award to Verlin Beasley in 1981.

Staff writer

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FACT CHECK See inaccurate information in this story? Tell us here.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email him at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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