Hockett Webb Melton was born on March 1, 1889, in Van Zandt County, to Thomas Jesse Melton and his wife Fannie Anders Melton. Fannie was the daughter of William M. and Rebecca Sharp Anders. Thomas Jesse's parents were William Denson Melton and his wife, Martha Ann Elizabeth Harmon Melton. William Denson was a native of Georgia, but moved to Smith County Texas in the 1850's, and was living in Van Zandt County by 1870.
Webb was the second child and oldest son of Thomas Jesse and Fannie. His older sister, Nannie Melton, died as an infant, and was buried in Creagleville Cemetery in a grave with her infant Uncle Robert, son of William D. and Martha Harmon Melton.
Webb had three younger brothers, Perry W., Albert Ester and Robert Jethro. They settled in rural Van Zandt County, between Mt Lebanon Community and Creagleville, off of what is now Highway 17, but was then called Hwy 19, according to Webb's son Dalton. Perry's grandson, Lynn, lives in his grandfather's old home place, which was near the area where the Melton's settled. Thomas Jesse's brother, John Houston, also lived in this area.
In 1908, when Webb was 17, nearly 18, Thomas Jesse died a tragic death. The cause of death was officially an accident. According to the family history, he heard a noise in the barn and went out to investigate. When he didn't return, Fannie went looking for him, and found him mortally wounded, lying in the barn. Although it is not absolutely certain, all evidence points to the fact that Jesse accidentally shot himself. The possibility that he surprised a burglar or other scenario is also a possibility, but officially, his death was an accident.
Later, Dalton, his son, stated that in a conversation he had with his dad, Webb said it was a time when he really had to grow up overnight. He was now the oldest son, and was responsible for helping Fannie with the farm, as well as with being the leader for the younger brothers.
Sometime after Jesse's death, my grandfather was called into the ministry. He went for a brief time to Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, to receive some preparation for the ministry, and became a well known minister in Van Zandt County, pastoring churches in communities such as Antioch, Mt. Lebanon, Lawrence Springs, Good Hope (also known as Crooked Creek) Sand Flat, and possibly others. In addition, he performed the weddings of many of his family and friends in Van Zandt County. I frequently encounter people who knew my grandfather, Webb Melton, and they will relate the fact that he married their parents, or that he was their pastor when they were young.
In February, 1923, he married Nannie Lockie Jennings, at the home of her parents, William Judson and Sarah Delora Vaughn Jennings, who lived in the Mt. Lebanon community. To this marriage were born five children, two sons, Herbert Dalton, born February 24, 1924, J .W., born on September 18, 1925, followed by three daughters, Iva Nell, born November 27, 1927, Erma Dell, born January 7, 1930, and Bobbie Ruth, born November 5, 1933.
He was also a talented man, and was adept at farming, as well as carpentry, and was a great provider, providing food for his family, during a tough time in our nation's history, the Great Depression. They were not wealthy by any means, but from family stories, they always had plenty of meat and vegetables, fruit, etc. He would raise the animals, plant and reap the crops, and my grandmother and the rest of the family, would help preserving and storing the food for future use.
Eventually, Webb and Nannie settled in the East Center Community in Van Zandt County, where he built a new home for them. While building the house, the family lived in the new barn. During that time, Webb contracted pneumonia, and nearly died. But with the help of local doctors (I was told it was Dr. Hazel), he survived. They lived there for some time, and then moved to other communities near Grand Saline.
By the time I was born, Webb and Nannie were living in Dallas, where he worked at Sewell Paint Company for some time. Periodically, he would move back to Van Zandt County, in East Center Community, near Grand Saline. I can remember as a young boy living on the farm near East Center, and my grandparents lived right down the road. I always loved spending time with them in the summer.
Later in my childhood, they moved back to Grand Saline, and lived on Collier Street, right next door to Nannie's sister, Iva Jennings Beaver, and across the street from Iva's daughter Tots Sloan and her husband Raymond. I used to love to spend the night at their home. Being the second grandson, and living close to them, I got to spend a lot of time with them. The evenings were usually quiet, grandmother would work puzzles, and granddaddy would read his Bible, but it was a place of peace. Plus we always had great home cooking and you always had peaches and "cream" which was really ice cream. During these years, Webb worked for the parents of Galloway Darby, caring for Galloway's father. He attended church at Good Hope when he could, but later attended First Baptist Church of Grand Saline.
In the late 1960's, my grandfather had a stroke, and shortly after that time, they were at the point in their lives where they had to leave their home. Eventually he moved to Henderson, along with Nannie, to live with his daughter Nell.
Webb died in January, 1971, in Henderson, and is buried at Haven of Memories in Canton, next to his wife, Nannie , who died in December of the same year. But the life he lived he passed on to the generations after him, as well as to those he came in contact with, his family, Nannie's family, many who still live in the Grand Saline area, and countless others he touched. He was not a loud speaker or an oratorical speaker, but his message was sincere. I still meet people who talk about Webb and how he made a difference in their lives.
A few years ago, I got the chance to visit with a relative of Nannie's, Cotton Fite. He shared many stories of the Melton and Jennings families,, but one of my favorites was this story. When my grandfather, Webb, started to preach, Cotton's mother came home one day and was telling her husband, Bert Fite, about Webb surrendering to the ministry. Bert said to his wife, "Webb will not be able to preach, he's too quiet." Cotton's mother, in her wisdom, said these words, "Who God calls, he also equips."
When I remember my grandfather, Webb Melton, I remember a tall white haired, gentle man, who loved his family, his friends, and most of all, his God. I can still remember when we got together for family gatherings at Christmas time and other times during the year, he would gather us all together, and ask each of us if we knew his Jesus. Even with the emotion that went with those times, I cherish those memories to this day. That was my grandfather, Webb Melton, a man God called, equipped and used to make a difference in his world.
Dennis Melton Webb and Nannie Lockie Jennings Melton Webb and Nannie on Pritchard Lane Home This page was last updated on 27 May 2007. Back Website "OPHGR" created and maintained by Patsy Vinson, webmaster.
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