Myna Gayle Hicks Potts (born March 30, 1927) is a historical preservationist from Chillicothe in Hardeman County, West Texas.
She Potts is the owner and the curator of the Medicine Mound Museum in the nearby ghost town of Medicine Mound. Only two buildings remain in the town. Medicine Mound has received non-profit status and has been placed in the domain of the newly established Downtown Medicine Mound Preservation Group, a 501(c)(3) public charity.
Medicine Mound is near four dolomite hills known as Medicine Mounds, which are considered sacred by the Comanche and Kiowa Indians who believe that the landmarks contain mystical spirits to improve the quality of their lives. The mounds are on private property and not available for public tours beyond an outer five-mile limit. One can see for approximately fifty miles from the top of the mounds.
John A. Bates of Ferndale in Oakland County, Michigan, near Detroit, the former executive director of the Downtown Medicine Mound Preservation Group and a cousin of Myna Potts, recalls having visited the ghost town when he was a boy: "The Comanche would come to the Medicine Mounds for their healing powers, often trading flint and other goods and racing their ponies around the mound below us. . . . We carefully descended about seventy-five feet or so to an almost imperceptible track that circled the entire mound, which was used by Quanah Parker's braves to test their horsemanship. [In 1966], this 'track' was still quite visible, especially for a young man with a fertile imagination. Sadly, it is slowly disappearing as the young cedar trees begin to reclaim the ground."
The four mounds, which range in elevation from two hundred to five hundred feet, were Comanche campsites and ceremonial grounds. The mounds had abundant spring water which encouraged hunting, the gathering of medicinal plants, and for worship. The Comanche Nation still considers two of these mounds to be sacred: the tallest, Medicine Mound, and the second tallest, Cedar Mound. The Indians return to these sites to gather plants and herbs and to seek spiritual guidance.
Early years and family
Potts was the only daughter of five children of Ira Lee Hicks (1886–1966) and the former Lillie Bell Holmes (1892–1989), who are buried in Chillicothe. She was born in Bonita, an unincorporated community in Montague County northwest of Denton. The Pottses moved west of Wichita Falls to Medicine Mound in Hardeman County when Myna was still an infant. Ira Hicks and his brother-in-law, Lon Cobb (died 1942), operated the Hicks-Cobb General Store, since the museum which Potts oversees as the major focus of her historical preservation efforts.
Potts attended elementary school in Medicine Mound and graduated from Quanah High School in Quanah, the seat of Hardeman County, named for the Comanche chief Quanah Parker. She attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock for one year. Potts was married to John Luther Potts, Jr. (1922-2011), who retired from the Lykes Shipping Company of New Orleans. As a skipper in the merchant marine, he was away from home in Chillicothe six months at a time, a situation which led Mrs. Potts to master the ham radio to maintain communication with her husband. The couple had one son, David Lee Potts (born January 12, 1947).
Potts grew up in the store, which she still describes as her "playhouse". In addition to the Hicks-Cobb General Store, Medicine Mound in its heyday had the W.W. Cole Building, a combination bank, drugstore, gasoline station (with rusty pumps remaining), and post office, a laundry (specifically, New York Steam Laundry), a school, and a church. U.S. Highway 287 bypassed Medicine Mound in the late 1920s, and the community slowly declined in population. The ghost town is located at the junction of Texas Farm or Ranch Roads 91 and 1167, which can be reached from U.S. 287 southward at Chillicothe or several miles further west of Chillicothe. It is southeast of the county seat of Quanah.
Cotton was grown about Medicine Mound, and times were generally prosperous until the Great Depression. A fire swept through Medicine Mound in 1933, but the community rebuilt. Though the original town buildings were wooden, solid granite round rocks were placed on the revised structures—the stone is really prehistoric gravel and was brought from the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma,
The population steadily declined from some five hundred to nothing, meaning a ghost town, though the 2000 census placed the count at fifty, most living away from the town itself. When Hicks-Cobb closed in 1966, the town died. There are four Texas Historical Commission markers outside the old store dedicated to (1) the community of Medicine Mound, (2) the Hicks-Cobb store, turned into a museum by Potts, (3) a Works Progress Administration sanitation project from the 1930s, and (4) a pioneer cemetery south of Medicine Mound, which is believed to have a total of nine graves.
On April 5, 2008, Potts addressed the West Texas Historical Association annual meeting in Canyon south of Amarillo on her historical preservation work and her attempt to highlight the contributions of rural Americans.
Texas Country Reporter
In 2007, Potts told Bob Phillips in his Texas Country Reporter syndicated television series that Medicine Mound "was rural America, and it was complete. We had everything we needed right here. . . . I want the people remembered who settled the area. . . . [This place] has meaning; they had a place in history."
Phillips narrated his observations as follows: [Potts] is one woman determined to keep this town's history together. . . . We found Medicine Mound on Highway 1167 far from anything but the hills that the native Comanche held sacred, the mounds that give this place its name. Once we were here, we felt close to those who built the community, and the past didn't seem so far away."
The museum is particularly known for its extensive collection of hundreds of photographs of early pioneers as well as old bottles, store fixtures, and a variety of items once sold in the mercantile, such as hats. Potts began assembling the pictures when she worked with western author Bill Neal, who wrote on a book on the region, Our Stories, Legends of the Mounds.
Museum hours are usually 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday but also by appointment. In many ways, Medicine Mound Museum is Potts' "personal museum", the story of her own life. There is a highway rest stop on U.S. 287 to assist travelers desiring to detour to Medicine Mound to see the four mounds, the historical museum, and the ghost town.
Photographer Joe Miller recommends a visit to Medicine Mound for those who like solitude: "Potts is a gracious hostess and the place is certainly worth a visit. I love places like Medicine Mound because I hate crowds -- especially when I'm trying to do photography. I set up my heavy tripod in the middle of the street knowing that there probably wouldn't be any traffic and, if someone did come along they would most likely pull around me and wave like they do when you meet them on the highway. There's not a lot of road rage in Medicine Mound."