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ATHENS THRU THE YEARS

Issue #4

Dull Avriett - Athens Pioneer

By Anne Adams

In appearance it’s an antique chest of drawers, the four wide drawers opened with carved pulls, and there were two smaller drawers on top with a marble inlay between them.  But unlike similar chests, this one does not occupy a corner of the bedroom of an antiques buff, but instead, it is placed on the second floor of the Henderson County Historical Museum. And there’s a story attached.

This antique was a gift to the Athens woman who traditionally was the one who named the community. Her name was Dulcinea (Dull) Ann Holland Thompson Avriett.

The story goes that in the 1860s Dull befriended a family passing through on their way west after they became ill and could not continue their journey. She took the family into her home and cared for them until they could resume their travels. Then when they departed they left on her porch the dresser, a gift to their hostess in appreciation for her compassionate hospitality. “It was quite a gesture,” once said the late Frank LaRue, a local historian who was once active in the Henderson County Historical Society, “In those days a woman’s most prized possession was her dresser.”

So how did Dull name the town of Athens?

When she was a teenager, she and her family arrived in the Athens area about 1850 as the community was about to be named Alfred for the local postmaster Mr. A.F. Mallard. However, that soon changed as Dull thought (according to one account) “Alfred is a silly name for a city.”  Somehow “Athens” was a more suitable name, and she suggested it to her stepfather who was active in local government. So the community received the name it bears today, but why “Athens”?  Since Dull was from Alabama, perhaps she named it after the city of that name back home perhaps her hometown.  But why use that name?  Another source related that the name “brought back memories of a girls’ school in her home state and Dull hoped the Texas Athens would also become a center of culture and learning.”  Maybe so, but we’ll probably never know the real answers.

Soon after her arrival in Athens Dull married E.J. Thompson and she and her husband resided at 98 Canton Street - now North Prairieville. The house was located on the northeast corner of the Courthouse Square. As the Civil War began Mr. Thompson enlisted, but died several weeks later before seeing any action.

Dull then married James Avriett in 1867 and they were to have two, perhaps three children. Mr. Avriett died in 1876, "leaving his wife and children well cared for."

She herself died in May 1920 and Dull Avriett’s name and memory have been retained in the street that bears her name.

An article published in the Athens Review on August 2, 1901 article came when she was just 67 and featured some of her memories of the early Athens community.

So how did she come to settle in Athens? The 1901 reporter told the story: “She says the way she got to this county, that while traveling through some prairie country a norther blew them south into this, Henderson County.”

Still, the dresser remains – a tangible memory of a distinctive woman.