Jesse’s Car Business


The hint this week for Sepia Saturday showed some vintage cars parked outside a courthouse. I’ll show you the photo that it brought to mind first and at the end, the inspiration picture.

As you can see in my photo, the auto is parked outside an early service center called the Liberty Garage.


Early auto in Morgan, Texas at the Liberty Garage

What we know about this photo:

  • The Liberty Garage was in Morgan, Texas.  Nowadays, you’d cruise down I-35W from Fort Worth, then across to Morgan in Bosque County. It’s 40 miles west of Waco.
  • Only 490 people live there now, and it was only slightly larger back in the 1920s. It peaked around 1900 at a population of 850 and started its downward slide after that.
  • From our family letters, we can place the photo as being around 1919 to 1922.
  • The garage seems to have taken over an existing storefront and the canopy partly obscures the previous name. I’m wondering if that old name might have been “Orient?” The word under that is too long to be cafe or store, but none of my searches turned up a list of stores in long-ago Morgan.

How it relates to our family:

  • Our great-aunt Bertha McGhee wrote, “There were six children still at home when Papa was killed.   Elmer had died the year before and Clarence was married and Jesse was in Tex. with Aunt Alice’s family–working as a mechanic.   Clarence and family lived on the oil lease where papa was killed and Roy was working with Papa at the time.”   “Papa” (Samuel Newton McGhee) was killed October 28, 1922.
  • Another tidbit from Bertha, “Jesse went to Texas soon after he took the automotive course in K.C.   In 1919, I think.   I know he was there the summer of ’19 when Papa was gone those months having suffered amnesia after being beaten and robbed.   I was 16 and Roy was the oldest one at home.   Clarence had got home from Overseas and was working for Phillips in Okla. south of Caney–his first job with Phillips–if my memory is correct.”
  • Our second cousin 1x removed, Helen Ruth Johnson wrote that her mother, Helen Newton Morris, and our Jesse McGhee had a couple of businesses together when he lived in Morgan, Texas; the first business was the Liberty Garage.   Helen sent a Liberty Garage paper signed by Jesse, as well as a photo of the garage to my sister.

Here’s the Sepia Saturday inspiration photo:

Seized Vehicles (1942) Vancouver Public Library : Sepia Saturday 477

Further Photos of Jesse McGhee During This Time


Jesse McGhee with cousin Helen Newton and a friend


Jesse McGhee and a friend


Helen Newton Morris with Jesse McGhee (early 1920s)

Jesse McGhee

Jesse McGhee – not sure of the date on this or the lady. If this is later, it could be back in Kansas and this might be his first wife.

I turned to the 1920 census to see what kinds of businesses and workers there were in the town of Morgan. I previously had not found Jesse in 1920, but there he was in the household of S.L. and Minnie Leigon. He was noted as being a cousin and they misspelled his last name as McGheehee.

His age was 21 and his work was mechanic at Country Engine. So, it must have been after the January 1920 census that he and his cousin opened the Liberty Garage. He was not the only one working on cars. Three other men were listed as working at various garages.

List of Businesses and Workers in Morgan, Texas in 1920

  • Grain buyer
  • Real estate
  • Keeper – boarding house
  • Proprietor – hotel
  • Lineman – telephone
  • Farmers (lots of farmers)
  • Superintendent – public school
  • Dentist
  • Cashier – bank
  • Accountant – bank
  • 2 Physicians
  • Plumber
  • Shoemaker
  • Telegraph operator – railroad
  • Druggist
  • 4 Baptist ministers
  • 3 Merchants – grocery store
  • Merchant – dry goods
  • Meat market
  • Lumber
  • Editor – town paper
  • Postmaster
  • Mail deliverer
  • Cook – restaurant
  • Well driller
  • Electrician – light company
  • Tailor shop
  • Carpenter – house
  • Proprietor – garage
  • Dressmaker – at home
  • Salesman – grocery
  • Traveling salesman – grocery
  • Washerwoman (there were a number of these. One was the wife of a Baptist minister)
  • Clerk – oil company
  • Cook – private family
  • Salesman – dry goods
  • Proprietor – jewelry store
  • Oil company bookkeeper
  • Laborer – public roads
  • Retail merchant – drugs
  • Proprietor – furniture
  • Cook – hotel
  • Laborer – waterworks
  • 3 Blacksmiths
  • Laborers – cotton gin
  • Barber

There were a few teachers for the public school (Adell Majors, Minnie and Bertha Starr) and three high school teachers (Gertrude Crow, Mattie Hall, Ana Harrell).  Quite a few people worked for two railroads (the MK&T and the GC&SF). They included clerks, section hands,



Mystery Ancestor


There was some discussion in the family to determine if this might be a picture of Nancy Angeline Long Tower. It seems of an older era than her daughter Viola Matilda Tower McGhee.

Back in 2009, I ran this picture by Pat Ruble (the Tower genealogy person) and she says it sure isn’t Nancy Angeline Tower, so anyone want to guess who it is?

In 2013, Helen Ruth Morris Johnson contributed this information, “This is not a Tower. I found some time ago that this was a Newton. Just don’t know which one. I tried to find the correspondence that told me who it was and couldn’t find it. When we moved up here, the movers spilled 2 drawers – one from each of my small file cabinets. It’s hard to find anything and I have not spent the hours it will take to fix it.

I sent some pictures to Bertha some years ago that were of people I knew nothing about. She had some extras made and sent them to several family members and kept a copy just in case. I had forgotten all about that until the last time one of these pictures came up.”

Mystery ancestor - from the Newton line.

Mystery ancestor – from the Newton line.

Check out some more mystery photos from our family album. Karen Kolavalli has a page about them.