Burleson’s dairy cattle sales barn
Buster: I heard a Burleson old timer speak about the famous Burleson cattle barn. What about it? Where was it? Do you know?
John: I saw the cattle barn and Burleson for the first time in 1962 when my family came to visit friends. I can still remember seeing those stock pens and smelling fresh cow manure. I told my wife, “this is where I want to live.” I was born in Gober, Texas, where my grandparents lived on farms and I felt as if I had returned to my roots. We bought a home in Burleson and we are still here. Sadly, the cattle barn is gone.
In the late 1940s Jack Miller built the Burleson cattle sales barn on one acre near the southwest corner of highways 81 to Waco and 174 to Cleburne.
Several months ago I noticed a copy of the April 23, 1981 Buleson Old Town Star at the museum with a great article about the demise of the cattle barn written by James Moody. James was a reporter, editor, publisher and co-owner during his career with the Star. He has a great gift for restructuring the past. For those of you that do not have a copy of his article readily available, I will condense some of his information and add a few comments of my own.
At the time the article was written in 1981, the cattle barn had been closed for a few years because of the declining health of Vernon Purcelley, the current owner and operator. Purselley purchased the cattle barn in 1958 and then added 9 acres.
As U.S. Highway 81, a two lane ribbon of asphalt through Burleson was being replaced by a four lane interstate highway, the cattle barn was torn down. Some citizens thought this was progress. I felt that Burleson was losing part of its heart and soul. A friend of mine once stated “sometimes, it seems progress is a step backward instead of forward.”
At a prouder time in its history the Burleson cattle barn was the largest, best and in fact, the only dairy sales barn in Texas. It may have been the earliest one in the state. As many as 1,000 head of cattle changed hands in a single day during the dairy cattle auction on Wednesdays, the main auction day. It was difficult to drive in front of the barn because of all of the pickups and trailers parked around the building and on the side streets. The cattle barn was known all over the country by those in the dairy cattle business. The cattle were received in Burleson from every state in the union and shipped to every state in the union.
Mrs. Purselley and her mother, Ollie Dugan, ran a restaurant in the brick portion of the building on sales days. Mrs. Dugan did the cooking and Mrs. Purselley helped in the restaurant and managed the office. My good friend and mentor, Bettie Bailey, was a waitress at the restaurant when she was 19-years-old. She knew how to charm those old men into giving big tips. Her training as a cattle barn waitress and other life experiences prepared her to be a Burleson business, civic leader and renowned artist.
Burleson owes the Miller and Purselley families a big “Thank You” for helping make the town famous and a good place to live.
John Duke Smith is a Burleson history buff. If you have questions or comments regarding Burleson history, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.