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November 19, 2013

Recognizing one ‘Texas Treasure’

GREENVILLE — One of Greenville’s most recognizable, and tasty, businesses has been recognized as a Texas Treasure.

Mary of Puddin Hill received the distinction Monday. State Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), State Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van), and Carol Taylor, who represented both the Hunt County Historical Commission and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) presented  Mary of Puddin Hill owner Ken Bain with a Texas Treasure Business award, which pays tribute to businesses that have provided employment opportunities and support to the state’s economy for 50 years or more.

Mary of Puddin Hill, 201 East Interstate 30 in Greenville, which is famous for its fruitcakes and confections, has a local history dating back more than 170 years.

“It all began, you might say, about 100 yards from here along the creek,” Taylor said, as she

The story of the company began in 1839, when James and Mary Horton came to the Blackland Prairie of Northeast Texas, arriving on a rainy day. Mary Horton was said to have had difficulty walking up a hill through the mud, which she said was as thick as pudding.

Thus, as the legend goes, Mary Horton became the first Mary of Puddin Hill. It was her recipe for pecan fruit cake which was passed down through the family and for which the company was famous.

During the Christmas season of 1949, while students at the University of Texas, Sam and Mary Horton Lauderdale began making and selling fruit cakes in their apartment, based on her grandmother’s recipe.

“There she made 500 pounds of fruitcake and sold it all at a profit,” Taylor said.

The couple later decided to return to Greenville and make it a full-time business, purchasing a few acres of the original Puddin Hill farm on which they built the current facility.

“This was one of the original surveys in Hunt County,” Taylor said upon which the bakery was built.

The retail store was added in 1975 and a candy kitchen in 1980.

“It became a magical place,” Taylor said. “The front of the place became such an icon for people traveling along Interstate 30 all those years,” Taylor said.

Deuell said he had many Mary of Puddin Hill memories.

He noted how he presented former President Ronald Reagan with a gift basket, filled with items from the business, in October 1996. Deuell said people also automatically connect the company with Greenville.

“People will always say, ‘Oh, you’re near the Puddin Hill store,’” Deuell said.

Flynn said he always wanted to pass out business cards made of chocolate and obtained some from Mary of Puddin Hill.

“I finally had to start limiting them, because as soon as I would get them, they’d be gone,” Flynn said.

Taylor recalled how Mary of Puddin Hill made a replica of the Hunt County Courthouse out of white chocolate for the county’s 150th birthday in 1996.

Bain said he would continue to try and keep Mary of Puddin Hill’s iconic status alive.

“We feel that it is a legacy we need to uphold,” Bain said. “It has had such a strong reputation, a positive reputation.”

Created in 2005 and coordinated through the THC, the Texas Treasure Business Award Program recognizes well-established Texas businesses and their exceptional historical contributions to the state’s economic growth and prosperity.

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