HISTORY OF THE HALL
In 1885, a hotel owner in Anson, Texas hosted a Grand Ball for the residents of the small town and the area ranchers and cowboys. In true frontier fashion everyone was invited. That Ball inspired a New York author in attendance to document the event with a poem. The poem was published and republished. In 1934, two local school teachers, historians and folklorists recognized the event’s and the poem’s importance in history. They organized a reenactment of the Ball in the school gymnasium. The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball was an unequaled success in the little town and the stage was set. The local residents rallied to the project. By 1937, a group within the community had formed an organization, chartered it with State of Texas and obtained a copyright. The Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball of Anson, Texas was born.
The new Association had one problem; the school gymnasium was no longer suitable for their project. Not to be deterred, they borrowed $6,000 which was no small feat in era of the Great Depression. With funding secured, they contracted a local builder, Mr. M. L. “Andy” Spraberry to construct a new and permanent home for the Ball. It was named Pioneer Hall in honor of those who inspired the event.
Located in the City Park, Construction on Pioneer Hall began in 1938 and was completed in 1940. The Hall is 71’ wide and 121’ long with a “barrel” roof concealed by stone façade on its front side. The exterior is constructed of native stone that was provided by Works Project Administration (WPA) workers. WPA workers were constructing several projects in the park at the time. The projects included a swimming pool, golf course, baseball field and a picnic area. Each of the buildings, the bleachers at the baseball field, and the picnic tables were all constructed of the same type of native stone. While the WPA workers never participated in the construction of the Hall, the stone they provided for Pioneer Hall allowed it to match the other projects and conform to the overall appearance of the park.
The exterior gives the Hall its character, but the interior provides its soul. The interior walls are constructed of horizontally grooved boards that are stained a medium brown color. The planks in the hardwood floor are laid diagonally to the building and have a luster provided by many years of wax and sliding feet. Typical of dance halls from the era, there are no tables and chairs to impede dancing. There are however benches along the sides of the dance floor and rear wall where exhausted dancers can take a breather. Bleachers were constructed along the north wall to provide a seat for spectators. A wooden railing separates the spectator galley from the dance floor. When one looks up they will see the original, galvanized “sheet iron” roof that is supported by natural, wooden rafters and steel trusses. The front entry is flanked by a coat and hat check room on the right and restrooms on the left. One must see its simple elegance to truly appreciate its beauty.
Pioneer Hall was constructed for one purpose, to provide a permanent home for the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball, and a better dance hall has never been built. But, the building has been used for much more. It has served as a local community center, and it has been utilized for numerous Anson Chamber of Commerce banquets. It has been the site of countless pageants, dances, proms, concerts and family events. It has also been an integral part of the Jones County Fair, providing a venue for dances, displays and exhibits. The Hall has hosted numerous, school related activities including homecoming dances and dances held for local youths after football games or on Saturday nights. Some of these social events conformed to the no dancin’ in Anson ordinances while others simply “flew under the radar”. It earned mention in a book on area ranch rodeos as a result of two cowboys briefly attending a county fair dance on their horses. Luckily, no one was injured in the incursion and the building and dance floor suffered no damage prior to the equine and their passengers being gently ushered outside. Pioneer Hall has been featured on the Anson Christmas Tour of Homes and the first wedding in it occurred on Valentine’s Day, 2016.
For the past 76 years, historic Pioneer Hall has been a part of Anson. The architecturally unique structure reflects multiple facets of Anson’s and the surrounding area’s history, heritage and culture. It is a Texas treasure that truly deserves to be preserved so that it may be enjoyed by many future generations while subtly reminding them from where they came.