My great-great grandfather, William Wilson Mercer, journeyed to Johnson County in 1870 and settled near Bethesda. With his first wife, Terra Easter, Mercer had three boys. Terra died in 1870, and the following year, 1871, Mercer married Mary Jane Collins, with whom he had four more boys, including my great-grandfather, George Silas Mercer. To George Silas and his wife, Plumer Brunson, were born four girls and three boys, Lorena (1901), Ora Lee (1902), Roy Silas (1904), my granddad Wilmer Odell (1906), Virgil (1910), Laverne (1913), and Willie Mozelle (1914). My grandparents, Wilmer and Audrey Mercer, ran Mercer Grocery in Burleson from about 1946 until December 1968. My brother and his family, my mother, and myself all live in Burleson, a town we love and have high hopes for.
As a fifth-generation resident of Johnson County, the history of this area has played an important part in my life. I believe education is a gateway to morality and one of the best teachers a child can have is history. If children are taught their family history and the heritage of the place they live in, then with any luck they will think twice before breaking out windows, spraying grafiti, and stealing from their neighbors. For adults, history can be a great motivator; recording one's stories and sharing them encourages others to learn from their mistakes and, hopefully, to be proactive in the community.
One of my passions is visiting Texas museums to study how they operate and the role they play in their community. In May 2008, I spent a week working at the Childress County Heritage Museum under the direction of Jo Ann De La Cruz. The museum, located in the former United States Post Office, features exhibits on local, state, World War II, and agricultural history. During my stay, the Childress Index agreed to loan their Model 14 Linotype to the museum. Six volunteers moved the Linotype on a Thursday afternoon, and on the following morning, kids from Childress Elementary filed past the new exhibit featuring the Linotype.
Historic preservation and education have been important to me. Generations of my family have lived, worked, and died in Johnson County. I believe teaching history can inspire a sense of ownership in our community and make it possible to manage growth with an eye turned to the past. There is something to be said for community spirit out of the football stadium and off the court. Having seen it done in countless towns across Texas, I know Burleson can one day benefit economically and socially from preservation and education.
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