The Town Formerly Known as Plasterville: Bringing Back Mayberry

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As the crow flies east of Bryan/College Station and at the point where radio reception turns static, the idyllic town of Bedias patiently waits. Squirrels run along the quiet Main Street making a game of provoking the birds. The entire setting is worthy of a Norman Rockwell postcard. Time seems to run more slowly. While the second hand lags, whispers from the town’s past roll through the single blinking stoplight and into the Bedias Library and Museum.

By Sarah Kinzbach Williams 

Bedias Calaboose Photo by William E. MooreAs the crow flies east of Bryan/College Station and at the point where radio reception turns static, the idyllic town of Bedias patiently waits. Squirrels run along the quiet Main Street making a game of provoking the birds. The entire setting is worthy of a Norman Rockwell postcard. Time seems to run more slowly. While the second hand lags, whispers from the town’s past roll through the single blinking stoplight and into the Bedias Library and Museum.

The library resides in the 100-year-old Methodist church, a vestige of Bedias’ glory days. The altar now houses the children’s section, complete with dress-up costumes, Nintendo Wii games, art supplies, and books. The sanctuary features the only four remaining pews interspersed with antique perfume bottles, 19th-century photographs, donated library books, and old Alfred Hitchcock videotapes. Wilde, Aesop, Milton, and Bacon line the walls of the former Sunday school rooms, which are now used for community computer classes. It’s peaceful and perfectly harmonizes old with new. The free Wi-Fi even stretches to the parking lot.

The only thing more charming than the friendly creak of the original hardwood floors is the fact that everything, including the building itself, was purchased with grants or donated funds. The library is a genuine unity of fiscal practicality and community purpose, a theme that permeates the entire community.

Bedias began as a settlement in the early 1830s, prior to Texas becoming a Republic. Thomas Pliney Plaster was one of the early settlers and an 1836 map of Texas refers to the settlement as Plasterville, near the Plaster Plantation. On later maps, the community became known as Bedias after the local Bidi Indian tribe.

Current Bedias mayor, Mackie Plaster Bobo-White, is a seventh-generation resident and descendent of Plaster. A Texas history aficionado, Bobo-White says Plaster manned one of the twin sister cannons in the Battle of San Jacinto. Plaster’s post is commemorated with a monument in Austin.

After the establishment of a post office and multiple church congregations, the town of Bedias had blossomed to 300 residents, four gristmill gins and four private schools in 1885, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The rise of the International-Great Northern Railroad through Bedias initiated further growth in the community and by 1907 the town had expanded to a bustling commerce. The heyday of Bedias continued until the early-1950s, when the railroad relocated and residents moved closer to major cities following World War II. In 1960, the school district consolidated with Madisonville, further cementing the town’s decline.

Now, nearly 50 years later, the town is experiencing a resurrection. After incorporating in 2004, which passed by an 83 percent favorable vote according to Bobo-White, the township has used state and federal grants to complete a sewer system, improve roads, and provide services to residents.

“A lot [of people] didn’t want it to change,” says Bobo-White. “In 10 years, all but two streets are now paved. We’ve added streetlights and welcome signs at both ends of town. The sewer system was completed in 2012. And, as of October 2014, Bedias is debt-free.”

According to the city limits sign, 488 people now live in Bedias – “if everyone is home,” adds Bobo-White, who says there are roughly 3,000 residents within a 10-mile radius. With the town’s incorporation, access to resources, and ability to support the growth of businesses, Bedias is likely to continue growing. Looking forward, Bobo-White says the township will continue to provide health, safety, and welfare to its residents.

Seeking a wholesome life of homesteading and small town living, weekend getaway homes are turning into full-time residences. One such resident, Cindy Blake, says her family would travel between Houston and Bedias every weekend. After their kids graduated, Blake and her husband decided to stay an extra day before returning to Houston. “Greg caught lunch in the lake, and I picked a salad from the garden,” she describes. They decided to stay and work from home. The couple now teaches computer classes at the Bedias Library & Museum, maintains a small farm on the outskirts of town, and remains active in the community.

Bedias has a lot to offer. The Masonic Lodge is more than 100 years old; the Woman’s Club is active with field trips, fashion shows, and civic fundraisers among other events. Pancake suppers, crawfish boils, Cow Patty Golf, and the long-running Homecoming & Alligator Festival fill out the Bedias community calendar. As if the town wasn’t charming enough, a resident mascot alligator lives in one of the community’s aerobic system ponds.

The conservative and civic-minded community of Bedias seems to innately understand the meaning of Mayberry – with Wi-Fi optional. 

Bedias Homecoming & Alligator Festival

The Bedias Homecoming & Alligator Festival will be held June 13. This celebration only comes every five years and features something for everyone. Dancing, live music, a parade, and local wine tastings will take place alongside a car show, craft sale, and raffle.

The Bedias Library and Museum will host an open house and special exhibits will showcase the history of Bedias.

Have fun with friends and neighbors, old and new, while celebrating 183 years of Bedias. For more information visit facebook.com/BediasAlligators 

Bedias Calaboose

The term calaboose comes from the Spanish word calaboza that means jail or dungeon. Calabooses were very common in small Texas towns and were typically small like the one owned by the Bedias Civics Club located on Main Street. 

It was originally on the south side of the street between the old ice house and State Highway 90. Mayor Mackie Bobo-White says it was built in the 1920s and used until the 1950s, after which time it was moved. A barn was built around the calaboose and remained forgotten until Bobo-White purchased the property and demolished the barn. The calaboose was rediscovered and donated to the Bedias Civics Club.

Bobo-White’s father, McAdoo Plaster, said the calaboose was used mainly as a place to lock up drunks on Saturday night, a task carried out by the local constable or sheriff.  The wooden building is 83.6 square feet in size and has been recorded at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory in Austin as historic site 41GM459.

For more information visit tinytexasjails.com

-William E. Moore