Woods Christian Swinburn, area resident and member of the Texas Folklore Society, helped research the origin of Possum Walk with friend and colleague Dr. Melvin Mason, retired English professor.

Curiosity didn’t kill this  furry little mammal, it helped name a community.

Dr. Melvin Mason and Wood Christian Swinburn, longtime friends and members of the Texas Folklore Society, researched the origin of the name of the community still known locally as Possum Walk and presented the information at the annual meeting of the folklore society last month.

Possum Walk, known officially by such entities as the U.S. Postal Services as Bath, is eight miles west of Interstate 45 off FM 1374, known as Possum Walk Road, Swinburn said.

Not long after the Civil War, “quite a few families lived out in that area,” he said.  

In 1872, landowner W.L. Holloway deeded a 3-acre tract and existing structure on the land to residents for the construction of a church. Eventually remodeled for use as a school and a church, the building was named Union Hill Church.

“That name still appears over the double doors (of the church) to this day,” Swinburn said.

The church is still used occasionally for funerals.

An historical marker in front of the church tells the rest of the story about the origin of the community’s informal but unshakeable nickname.

“Seems like the Rev. Robert E. Day, one of the many pastors who had served the Union Hill church was conducting a service when a possum came walking in through the open front doors, walked down the middle aisle and out the back door of the church without a break in stride,” Swinburn said.  

Another story holds that a country doctor traveling on horseback through the community encountered a possum stopped in front of him in  the road. “Walk, possum,” he reportedly said.

Mason, well known regionally as a patron of folk arts, has been curious about the origin of the nickname while working on his book, Martha Mitchell, Texas Quiltmaker of Possum Walk Road.

“I didn’t know until (Swinburn)” — Mason’s former student — “told me and showed me,” he said.

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