By Stephen R. Farris
Special to the Navco Chronicle
Back during my tenure with the now defunct Navarro County Times newspaper, I wrote many articles about local history. Some of those articles were about places, while others were about people of Corsicana and Navarro County.
I recently received a tag to a post on Facebook from CANA Girl Speaks Podcast creator, host, and producer, Barbara Kelley, who mentioned one of the people I had written about as she received a copy of the article from Faith Holt.
The article happened to be one of my all-time favorites as well. When I first heard about the late Annie Buchanan (West) – known as the Seer of Corsicana – an African-American woman born near Mexia, I was fascinated and intrigued by all the stories about her, as was Mrs. Kelley and many others.
Annie was a teller of fortunes. It was said that when oil was struck near Mexia, Texas, that a gentleman by the name of Col. Humphries visited Annie. According to legend, she told him where he needed to drill, and low and behold, if Col. Humphries didn’t strike a gusher load of Texas crude. Her prediction is sometimes credited to starting the oil boom of the 1920s in Mexia. While Annie charged her clients two dollars for a “consultation”, she received a quite handsome reward – so to speak – from Col. Humphries. He ended up building her a house in the South Hill community in Corsicana. While the house no longer stands, there is a photograph of Annie in the South Hill Community meeting room, across the street from where her home once stood.
Rumor has it that several other oil tycoons consulted with Ms. Annie and also met with success. Her reputation grew even more from that time on.
Annie was born near Mexia sometime around 1892. She was raised by a white family, whom her mother worked for, in Groesbeck up until the age of 10. According to legend, she was examined by a local doctor from Groesbeck when she was born, finding a full set of teeth and deemed that she was clairvoyant. At the age of five, she predicted there would be an ice storm in September of 1900 (of course the years don’t quite match as she would have been eight, but legends are legends), which came to fruition. At age eight, she was kicked out of school for reading another student’s palm.
Although she never returned to school, Annie did quite well telling fortunes.
While making a pretty good profit from her abilities, she was also known for sharing her wealth. Annie funded and established seven churches in the tri-county area of Freestone, Limestone, and Navarro. She was also a member in good standing of the Magnolia Chapter No. 42 Order of the Eastern Star in Corsicana.
With all the good she was doing, Annie met with some hard times. While helping to make those oil tycoons a little richer, she was – according to information found in an article about Annie in a Dec. 2018 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun – fined by the City of Mexia for telling fortunes, which appears to have been illegal back in the 1920s. In 1954, according to the CDS article, she was charged by the City of Corsicana for fortune-telling vagrancy. However, Annie was found not guilty. It was noted that the sheriff during that time period would often call upon Annie to help with certain criminal cases.
There are so many stories about Annie’s legacy and accomplishments for the good and betterment of many area communities that have been told, and many more that have not been told. She was indeed a very fascinating individual to say the least.
Annie passed away in 1962 during a church service at Smith Chapel Primitive Baptist Church, just after finishing her prayer. She is buried in Grove Island Cemetery west of Teague, Texas, next to one of her eight husbands, Clark West, whom she had said was her favorite.
Her memory and legacy will live on through the few left that remember her, and by the stories that are published. I will certainly do my part in keeping her memory and legacy alive from time-to-time.