Patty Hullett | Waxahachie Daily Light
Easter is almost here, and the most important question to be asked about this special season of the year is, “What does the cross really mean to a Christian?”
One simple answer is, “Everything.” The cross is more than the near-universal symbol of Christianity. This simple design carries the message of love, finality, fulfilled promises and a blessed hope to people around the globe. The cross adorns millions of churches and chapels and is perhaps the most widely recognized symbol in the world.
The small Ellis County town of Ferris boasts the important landmark on Kooken Hill, the lighted cross, located off Interstate Highway 45. Following is the informal summary compiled by Ferris historian Judge Grace Campbell McKnight many years ago, but the story was recently posted again on Facebook:
“According to Mrs. Mattie Mae Rice, about 1930 on the World Day of Prayer, the women in the local churches were meeting and they thought it would be a nice gesture to have a cross erected for in their Easter Sunrise Services. A committee was appointed and eventually a wooden cross was made from two old telephone poles and the finished product was placed on Kooken Hill, in the northern part of the city of Ferris. Later, Mr. Troy Wilson had a cross made from old boiler pipes, taken from the Mesquite plant of the Ferris Brick Company.
For the Sunrise Easter Service in 1954, Rev. Hubert Crain, the then-pastor of the First Methodist Church, taped the cross with Scotchlite and arranged a light to shine thereon, using a battery since the nearest electricity was about a quarter of a mile away.
Brother Crain discussed the lighting of the cross with Ed McKnight and they got the Chamber of Commerce with R.H. Edwards as President, to give the project their backing. Ed McKnight was the catalyst that brought all the pieces together. The Texas Telephone and Telegraph Company contributed six of the poles necessary to string the electrical wires and Mr. Troy Wilson and the Ferris Brick Company furnished the other pole and supplied the labor for installing all of the poles.
The Texas Power and Light Company and the Chamber of Commerce secured the necessary wire and other material at cost and the labor for stringing the wire was graciously furnished by the Texas Power and Light Company – thanks to Roy Willis and Joe Patton, who did the work.
Mr. and Mrs. Ed McKnight volunteered to supply the Zeon, transformer and automatic time clock at their own expense. Back then, Mrs. McKnight was employed at the Federal Sign Company of Texas located in Dallas, and the employees of the sign company upon learning of this community project, volunteered their labor for the work in connection with manufacturing the tubing and installation. W. A. Mahaffey made the asbestos pattern; Pete Parrish bent the glass tubes; “Doc” Coursey pumped the tubes with gas; Guy Meade painted the double-back portions and Hoyt Butner, Metal Shop Foreman, made the metal box to encase the tube terminals and the transformer and connecting wiring. After working hours on Thursday, September 2, 1954, Hoyt Butner, Fred Leyer – Service Foreman, and Richard Button, installed the transformer box at the foot of the cross, erected the Zeon to outline the cross and tied in the automatic time switch – and so the cross was lighted.”
Since 1954, this beloved beacon of hope has stood on Kooken Hill and become sort of an icon for travelers going north and south on I-45. The townsfolk seem to love their landmark and they treasure its history and importance to their community.
However, the lighted cross went dark in 1998 when the Christian symbol was taken down because of the supposed city progress at the hands of some new land developments. The so-called progress came about when the Old Brickyard Golf Course was built and designed around three former quarries that once powered the city’s economic backbone. Parts of the golf course were literally carved out of the original old site of the Ferris Brick Company. According to Owner Chance Blythe of the Old Brickyard Golf Course, “We were happy to make sure the cross was placed back on the hill when the course finally opened for business in 2000. In January of 2015, it was renovated and moved approximately 75 yards north of its old location to the highest point on the course and outfitted with high output led lights and a dawn-to-dusk sensor installed so it would be lit all night to be visible from I-45.”
Blythe said, “Yes. The main reasons for moving the cross’ location 75 yards away, was to get it out of the line of fire of golf balls after putting new lights on it. Also, the new spot meant greater visibility to the traffic along I-45. I have been very pleased with the hundreds of phone calls we have received about the movement of the cross over the last seven years, and the majority of the folks love to tell me how much the cross has meant to them.”
The owner continues, “It’s funny, but we know quickly when the sensor or lights have a problem and don’t come on at dusk – because people start calling our Pro Shop and say, ‘Hey, I drove by last night and the cross was not lit-up, so what’s the problem?’”
These days Ferris seems to be gaining some momentum with regards to a growing population (now almost 3,000), and it is experiencing some expansion of small businesses, as well as welcoming several new housing subdivisions that are currently under construction. But even with all the progress, the one thing that seems to remain and never gets out-dated is the “Cross on Kooken Hill.”