THE GROVE — As a child growing up in Port Arthur, Fran Moyer treasured her summer visits to her grandparents’ farm in The Grove.
Her parents were born in The Grove and married there before moving to the Texas coast, Moyer said. The place felt like home.
Her grandfather, W.J. Dube, built the big brick building that anchors downtown in 1917 and opened a general merchandise store flanked by a bank and post office. Fran was 3 when Dube sold the store to John Graham in 1946, but the old store was still a big part of her childhood memories.
The Grove was a living antique in 1972 when Moody Anderson bought the place and turned it into a museum town filled with his collection of Texas and Western memorabilia.
Failing health forced Anderson to put the place up for sale in 2008. There were no buyers in a failing economy, and the old buildings and all their contents went on the auction block in 2010.
Moyer bought The Grove — five empty buildings including her grandpa’s big general store. Most of the trinkets and treasures inside had been cleaned out, sold to other bidders.
“I bought my most precious childhood memories,” Moyer said she told the auctioneer.
Now she is “running like crazy” trying to recreate The Grove she remembers.
On Saturday, the old store was the venue of the premiere screening of a documentary film “The Grove, Texas,” a tribute to Moody Anderson directed by Lori Najvar of PolkaWorks.
Anderson often rented the store’s memorabilia to movie makers as props in such films as “Lonesome Dove” and “True Grit.” Moyer has stayed “in constant touch” with Anderson since buying The Grove.
Even stripped of most of the original furnishings, the old place is steeped in legend.
“Bonnie and Clyde supposedly stopped by the store for soda pop on their way to rob a bank in McGregor,” Moyer said.
The Grove was a thriving farm community in 1936 when the Texas Highway Department wanted to run a highway through downtown. Construction would require capping the old water well that had been hand-dug by pioneer Jim Whitmore in the center of town. Townspeople couldn’t stand losing the well, so Texas Highway 36 bypassed The Grove less than a quarter mile to the north.
In the 1940s, the U.S. Army acquired tens of thousands of acres of nearby farmland for what would later become Fort Hood. Farmers left The Grove for other work. The school closed in 1948. The post office shut its doors in 1996.
Never a true ghost town — 25 or 30 people still live in The Grove — the place will remain “a museum town” if Moyer has her way. She envisions a live-music venue, a rustic backdrop for weddings, graduation parties and reunions, a place for precious memories.