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Sexton City Trade Days

by J. M. Jones

Press writer

  SEXTON CITY – Motorists approaching the four-way where Highways 42 and 135 and County Road 918 meet have likely spied the little businesses there on the fourth weekends of each month. That little beehive of independent activity is the Sexton City Flea Market and Trade Days.

  And that beehive is growing. Leatherwork; farm and mechanical tools; vegetable plants, flowers and shrubs; clothing; hot food, livestock; and aromatic candles; knick-knacks and assorted wares are there to attract the diehard garage sale shoppers and the curious. 

FOOTWEAR TO BOOT! Boots of all sizes and designs from Candelario Hernandez are offered customers at the Sexton City Trade Days. Hernandez, of Mount Pleasant, also has jackets, kitchenware, caps, belt buckles, jackknives and spices to sell. J. M. Jones/Press photo

   What was once a fading event has sprung back to life due to the vigorous efforts of Sam and Gail Covey as they welcome all to the new Sexton City Trade Days this Saturday and Sunday.

   The Coveys are retired truck drivers. She was behind the wheel for 22 years, he for 42.

   “I drove for others the first couple of years to get experience,” Sam Covey recalled, “then I went into business for myself.”

   Sexton City was along his route occasionally, and between jobs he would stop during Trade Days.

  He never expected flea market owner Bill Beard to ask him to revitalize Trade Days, in the doldrums at the time.

  “Beard hired me to build this place up,” Covey stated. “And to do that, you’ve got to put yourself on the same level as these vendors and never offend them.”

  The Coveys cleared some old buildings and overgrown brush to allow more room for vendors and customer parking space. They increased the number of vendors, and often attended other flea markets to hand out flyers and attract vendors to Sexton City.

  “We spent a lot of money on these trips, but you have to spend money to make money. We built 15-foot lots here. If you don’t sell the lot, you lose money.”

  Like any promoter, Covey has to be businessman and politician in his dealings with vendors.

  “Get to know them. Go one-on-one with them. Get to be their best friend. Speak to them, give them a smile and pat them on the back. That will help you get more vendors.”

  Sexton City’s requirements for vendors are few and straightforward.

  “Have the right tax number for the products you sell, come with a good attitude, pass the word around that you had a good time and make some money.”

  Alcohol consumption is not illegal, but discouraged at Sexton City. The Coveys strictly forbid open containers.

  “I don’t go for profanity because others could be offended. There could be a Sunday School teacher nearby and I don’t want them to hear it.”

WHAT A WABBIT WASCAL! Brooklyn Whatley (left) of Overton met one of Neva Daugherty’s bunnies at Sexton City Trade Days. Daugherty, also of Overton, and New London’s J. B. Wood (right) have ducks, geese, guineas “and donkeys, if anybody wants them.” J. M. Jones/Press photo

   The flea market and the community are named for Bill Beard’s grandmother, Mary Silvey, whose maiden name was Sexton. Eighty years ago, Sexton City had many businesses during the oil boom days.

   “There was a muffler shop, a feed store, a grocery store and a garage here. Around 1935 was when the trade days began. Vendors put out their produce, spare tires and all kinds of stuff outside to sell. Business eventually escalated. People shopped here and parked their Model A’s and even wagons on the side of the road. It was a pretty nice place at one time,” Covey detailed.

   The oilfields drew long-term laborers and temporary wildcatters – some from as far as Canada – to Sexton City. The population changed so much it was hard to keep count, Covey said.

   “They had a public swimming pool, too. The only problem was there was no place for the oilmen to bathe, so they’d slip into the swimming pool at night. You can imagine how soapy and oily that water was by morning.”

   Covey discovered parts of the original pool as he was clearing the area. 

   Crime was low in those days. Yet a Sexton business, the H. L. Hunt Oil Station, had unwelcome company.

   “Bonnie and Clyde robbed the station here one night. Fortunately, they did not kill anybody.” 

       This weekend, Sexton City will be a stopover for the Trail of Tears trail     ride, replete with horses and chuck wagons and overnight campers.

  “Maybe we’ll sit at the camp fire and play folk songs,” Sam Covey laughed.

  Plans are in the works for a bike rally at the flea market, too.

  “I would like to have live music played here on Saturdays and gospel music on Sundays,” Sam Covey hoped.  An ordained minister originally from Fresno, Calif., Covey wants “To get a little church going for vendors who are busy getting set up set up Sunday mornings. A lot of people have to work, and some don’t have or know where to go to church. And I’ll preach to all denominations.”

  Sometimes folks ask Covey if he is the owner. He will smile back and answer, “I’m whatever you want me to be. I’m everybody’s flunkey here.”

  “This is bigger than it used to be,” praised Tyler’s Donna and Dan Higgenbotham, owners of the Double D treat van and flea market vendors for 20 years. “Sexton City is a nice, clean and great place to eat and shop. I think it will get better as time goes on.”

MUSIC FROM A MASTER. Richard Renken displayed his virtuosity with the violin at his booth in Sexton City. The Poyner, Texas resident had his own band in Kansas City before coming to Texas five years ago. He also sells guitars and amplifiers. J. M. Jones/Press photo

  Richard Renken, a vendor from Poyner, was also impressed.

  “Sam has done a great job here,” the former musician from Kansas City lauded. “Sam came by the booth when I was in Canton, talked with me and I thought I’d try it. I like it. It is not a big market but it draws a good crowd of people here. And I like smaller markets.”     

  “We make sure the vendor’s spots and the rest rooms are clean. And we keep the grass cut,’ said Gail, whose home town is Gilmer. “It was quite a job, getting all this together. We just try to be ourselves.”

  Beard and the Coveys have a “Good working relationship,” said Sam Covey. “And I make him laugh a lot.”

  Gail commented, “Beard told me the last time he was out here that [Beard] should have hired Sam a long time ago.”

  Her husband noted, “This market had really gone down, but any kind of business that’s destined to survive, has to have some rules and regulations. And it’s going to be that way. If it don’t make it, it will be my fault.”

  Mrs. Covey piped, “All the vendors love us. We love the vendors. We have a good time, laugh and joke. We love the flea market!”

2 Responses to “Sexton City Trade Days”

  1. I lived with my grandparents right out of sexton city on a oil lease house that my grandparents lived in. They were the snyders, jess and lula mae Snyder. I remember going to the gas station where mr earl had his little grocery store at the 4 way intersection there in Sexton city. A point in my life of very fond memories!!

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The Overton Press is published weekly by East Texas Community Newspapers.