William Fenton Tyree, Sr.

Born on October 8, 1872 in Wapella, Illinois
Died on December 18, 1939 in Dallas, Texas


Genealogical notes by Elinor F. Tyree

William Fenton Tyree attended Barboursville College for two years (now named Morris Harvey College for his old Ansted neighbor, who did not lose out in the mining failure and became the school's benefactor). When his father died, William Fenton, as the oldest son, left school and assumed his place as head of the family by going to work while the other children continued their schooling.

The small Tyree heritage went to purchase a partnership with a Mr. Page in a retail grocery trade in Huntington where William Fenton stuggled to learn the grocery trade. In 1894 the interest in the store was traded for an interest in a planning mill and contruction company. A depression panic had started in the year 1893; and bread lines became common with many men out of work. One day in 1895 the mill burned (or was burnt) to the ground; and, with its smoke, vanished the heritage left by Woodson Andrew Tyree for the care of his family.

During the uprooting readjustment of the family, William decided to enter the ministry of the Methodist Church South (1897); and was admitted on trial at the Conference in the Fall of 1898 and appointed to the Lubeck Circuit. In Huntington, West Virginia, he had occasion to visit the new Johnson Memorial Methodist Church. The pastor there was Reverand B. F. Gosling. On April 19, 1899, William Fenton Tyree married Gosling's step-daughter, Clara Lilian Fithian Gosling (the first marriage in the Johnson Church).

William Fenton Tyree applied to be taken off the circuit and be stationed. To that end the newlyweds set up housekeeping in the parsonage of the Southern Methodist Church of Clarksburg where William Fenton was assigned. Here the newspapers noted him as "one of the new school of ministers with liberal ideas." He kept his church open and lighted all night so that those in need of worship could enter (that is, he kept it open until he was asked to close it by the police on the complaint by old line members and church neighbors). He found time to do a good deal of missionary work about the countryside; and, it may have been here that, according to his wife Lilian, he shocked the congregation by preaching the gospel to miners in the new coal fields and by inviting these "coarse men" into the Church.

In the regular course of Church ministerial placements, he was transferred to Pikeville, Kentucky in 1902. Again in Pikeville, there were newspaper articles describing the new minister: "A young man ... strong theologian ... deep understanding ... very eloquent ... congregation feels a treasure indeed." Jim McCoy, one of the Church members, "took a liking to" the young minister and asked William Fenton to preach the funeral of Jim's long buried but "unpreached" mother. The mother turned out to be Sarah McCoy of the Hatfield-McCoy feud; whose delayed service drew Kentuckians from miles around and created a temporary tent city across the river from Pikeville (details are available in another of William Fenton's writings).

But it was also in Pikeville that William Fenton developed typhoid; and, since he was not working, his congregation ceased to pay him. Fortunately, he had made friends among the nearby miners for whom he often held services. These made up a truckload of groceries to send to his family; they also kept him supplied with ice during his illness -- a difficult commodity to get in that place and time. Mrs. Tyree was most severely criticized by the congregation for sending for a trained nurse to care for her husband.

Maybe this experience caused William Fenton to begin to read law (after his recovery) at the law offices of one Judge Harvey (W. F. Tyree's daughter Joanna Harvey Tyree, born 1904, was named for this judge). But William Fenton had other reasons; he was finding it increasingly difficult to care for and plan for his growing family on a minister's salary. At the close of his four-year assignment at Pikeville, William Fenton passed the bar examinations and began to look toward his new profession. He heard there was a need for lawyers in Brownsville, Texas; so, leaving his by-now three baby daughters with Lilian, he set out for Brownsville, taking his two older boys with him. On a brief stop-over in Durant, Oklahoma, he chanced to meet certain citizens who convinced him to make his stand in Durant. One factor in his decision was the Southeastern State Teachers' College located in Durant which offered an opportunity for quality education at the least possible cost. The year was 1908.

William Fenton spent the next 18 years in Durant. During that time he ran for the office of Judge ... and lost; but ever after he was called "Judge" Tyree. There might have been times when he toyed with the idea of moving on; he and an attorney named Forest Johnson made a trip to Hawaii in 1922.

In 1926 he became interested in Texas oil and moved his family to Dallas where he involved himself with a man named Tucker in the Texas American Syndicate (an oil company). This venture came to a financial collapse in 1934; it was so traumatic that the Tyree children still at home had to go work (dropping their own plans) to help out.

By 1936 William Fenton Tyree was back in the oil business, opening a new field in West Texas near the little town of Goldsboro. He had nine wells operating when he died following an operation for gallstones in Dallas, Texas, December 18, 1939. He is buried in Restland Cemetary, Dallas, Texas.



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