A Brief History of Upshur County by Baird, G. H.
PRINTED BY THE GILMER MIRROR AUGUST, 1946
A BRIEF HISTORY OF UPSHUR COUNTY
[Illustration: Decorative glyph]
BY G. H. BAIRD
God formed a little verdant spot And filled it with His bounty; Men come to dwell within its bounds, And named it “Upshur County.”
About one hundred years ago, the history of Upshur County began.
As one drives over our modern highways, through our towns and villages, and passes the beautiful country homes by the wayside, he can hardly realize the condition of the country one hundred years ago. No towns, no homes, no roads, with this vast expanse of territory occupied by wild animals and a few Indians. The hoot of the owl and the yell of the savage were the only sounds that broke the lonely solitude.
During the period of the Texas republic, a number of emigrants from the older states were induced to settle in Texas, but most of them settled in the southern part of the state near San Antonio or Goliad, while a few settled in East Texas near Nacogdoches.
The Civil War checked the emigration for a while, but after the war closed, Texas was making liberal offers to settlers, and all roads leading to Texas were crowded with emigrants to the Lone Star State. Upshur County, in the eastern part of the state, lay in their path, and was settled at an early date and by a high class of citizens. This part of the state was well watered and timbered, and was well stocked with wild game, so the early settler had little trouble in building his home and procuring food for his family.
Log houses were first built near some bubbling spring where an abundance of pure water could be had. As there were many fine timbers here, the early log cabins soon gave way to larger and better homes. Crude sawmills were soon built which converted this timber into lumber for building purposes.
A few of these old pioneer log houses have been preserved until the present time, monuments of the pioneer days.
The living conditions in Upshur County were very simple in the early days. They had few luxuries and knew nothing of modern conveniences. But they made the best of what they had and were contented and happy. Every home was a miniature manufacturing plant. They made their own clothes and shoes, and, in fact, almost everything else used by the family. The spinning wheel and loom were kept busy in every home. In those days, large families of children were common, and these youngsters were taught to work. Many little girls, five or six years old, prided themselves on their skill in sewing and knitting. The men and boys wore home spun jeans. Little money was possessed by the settlers and little was needed. Home made wagons, with wheels cut from large black gum trees, with wooden spindles, were common in those early days. The wagons were usually drawn by a yoke of oxen and the creaking noise made by the wagon informed the neighbors when someone was going along the road.
Location of Upshur County
Upshur County is situated in the upper East Texas area. It is in almost a perfect square and contains six hundred square miles of territory. Most of Upshur County was formerly occupied by the Caddo Indians but about the year 1800, one tribe of Cherokee Indians migrated to this section and drove all other Indians out. The Cherokees continued to occupy this country until 1839, when General Thomas J. Rusk drove them out of Texas. Upshur County was originally a part of Nacogdoches County, but later, when Harrison County was organized, it was included in that county. By an act of the State Legislature, Upshur County was organized into a separate county on July 13, 1846.
How Upshur County Got Its Nome
Upshur County was named for Abel P. Upshur, of Virginia, who was Secretary of War and later Secretary of State, under President John Tyler. Upshur worked faithfully for the annexation of Texas to the United States.
Gilmer, the county seat of Upshur County, was named for Thomas W. Gilmer, who was Secretary of the Navy during the same time. Both of these men were killed by an accidental explosion of a large wrought iron gun on board the steamer Princeton, on the Potomac River, in 1844, shortly before the first bill was introduced in the Legislature to create this county.
Upshur County has an altitude of about 370 feet above sea level. This is an ideal elevation above malaria and other contaminations.
Upshur County is bounded on the north by Camp County, on the northeast by Morris County, on the east by Harrison County, on the southeast by Gregg County, on the south by Smith County, and on the west by Wood County. The Sabine River forms the boundary line on the south between Upshur and Smith Counties.
The surface of Upshur County is considerably rolling with many creeks and spring branches that afford an abundance of stock water the year round. In addition to the many smaller streams, the county has two larger waterways, the Cypress creek in the northern part of the county, and Big Sandy creek in the southwestern part. Many wooded hills, some of which culminate in picturesque little mountains add to the beauty of the county. East Mountain, West Mountain, Pridgeon Mountain, and others are examples.
The Mississippi Divide passes through Upshur County in a northwestern and southeastern direction. All drainage east of this divide flows into the Mississippi River, while that on the west flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Upshur County is located at 32 degrees north latitude, and 94 degrees and 22 minutes west longitude. The average rainfall is 45.1 inches, and the annual temperature is 65 degrees. Upshur County has an average of 44 people to the square mile, while the state’s average is 24.
Upshur has always been an agricultural area. The undulating soils and rich, alluvial bottom lands have been favorable for this industry.
Upshur County has two main railroads crossing the county. The Cotton Belt, running north and south, passing through Gilmer, the county seat, and the Texas & Pacific, running east and west, crossing the Cotton Belt at Big Sandy. The county also has three paved state highways, Highway No. 271, running north and south, passing through Gilmer, and Highway No. 80, running east and west, through the southern part of the county. Highway No. 154 extends to Marshall, starting at an intersection with U. S. No. 271 in Gilmer. Also, the county has other paved roads, and a number of graveled and graded lateral roads over the county. Other state highways are in prospect and will be built as soon as conditions become more settled. The state highways have regular bus service, which give direct connection with all points in the state and other states. Upshur County has a system of rural electrification with a modern plant located at Gilmer.
Upshur County lies partly in the East Texas oil field. The southeastern part of the county has a number of wells, which have caused a wonderful development of the county, and a corresponding increase in its wealth. Lignite, brick clay, and iron ore, are other resources. These are waiting to be developed.
Natural Resources of Upshur County
The soil of Upshur County is of a rich sandy loam. There are many rich creek bottoms on which are grown sugar cane and other crops. The soil is also suited for the growing of many kinds of fruits and vegetables. Many farmers are beginning to go into the livestock business and the county is being changed to a land of dairies and truck farms, and other wide farm diversifications.
The lumber industry is still important in Upshur County. Many small mills are located over the county. During the first few years of the twentieth century, there were nearly one hundred sawmills in Upshur County at one time.
In the early part of 1931, oil was discovered in southeastern Upshur County, and there are over one thousand producing wells in the county now. This industry brought great wealth into the county as well as increased the population by several thousand. The communities of East Mountain and Union Grove have changed from peaceful farming communities to busy oil field villages. Where their schools had from fifty to seventy-five students, and two or three teachers, they now have four or five hundred students and eighteen to twenty teachers.
Iron ore has been found near the surface in different parts of the county. One deposit, near Ore City, contains between 80 and 120 millions of tons of ore. In addition to this one big deposit, there are several smaller ones. When this ore is developed, in the opinion of many, the county’s profit will be greater than the profit from the thousand oil wells now producing, because of the many more men employed and the time necessary to complete the excavation and mining of the ore.
Conditions In Early Upshur County
The early settlers who came to Upshur County, paid very little for the land they acquired. When a person wanted to build, he found a place near a good spring of water. The houses were built of logs, of which there were plenty. There were millions of feet of pine as well as an abundance of hardwood in the county. The logs were squared up with the broad ax and foot adz and notched together. The cracks were covered with boards or chinked with mud and straw.
There were no cook stoves, so everything was cooked over the open fireplace, or outdoors in pots or skillets. Wild game, such as deer, turkey, squirrels, and wild razor-back hogs were plentiful.
Cornbread was universally used, unless the farmer grew his own wheat. This was done quite often, and there was a flour mill known as the Hoover Mill located on Big Sandy creek on the Gilmer-Big Sandy road at the Seago crossing, and operated by water power.
There were few mules and horses in the country and the settlers used oxen almost exclusively. There was no hurry in those days, such as is seen up and down the highways today. Everyone took his time, not expecting to get rich. The roads were only blazed trails or narrow roads used for horseback or ox carts in making trips to town. There was no such thing as a road building machine. The roads were so narrow that when two wagons met, one had to drive out into the weeds while the other passed. There were no bridges across the streams. They were forded or crossed by ferries.
For entertainment, the settlers had house-raisings, log-rollings, square dances, speech-making, patriotic meetings celebrating some holiday, or gathering in some home and listening to some versatile fiddler. No picture shows, no automobile rides, no ball games. But they knew what the word “hospitality” meant. Every home was open to strangers, as they brought news from the outside world. There were no charges for spending the night. Once a year, the head of the house loaded his ox cart with produce and headed for Jefferson to market his goods. Jefferson was at that time one of the largest towns in the state.
First Roads and Trails
The old Cherokee Trace trail made by the Indians from Arkansas to Nacogdoches County was one of the first roads made through Upshur County. It came into the county near Simpsonville and crossed the southern border near East Mountain and forded the Sabine near where Longview’s city water plant stands now. Other early roads were the Red Rock Road which crossed the Sabine at a ferry near Big Sandy, and went east through what is now Gladewater, Longview, and on into Jefferson. Another old road went from Newsom, Camp County, through Coffeeville and on to Jefferson. It was over these roads that the people from North and West Texas went to Jefferson to trade.
When the United States bought Louisiana from France in 1803, a dispute arose between the United States and Spain over the boundary line of new territory north and east of the Sabine River. They made it a “Neutral Ground,” not to be occupied by either country until satisfactory settlement could be made. This “Neutral Ground,” having no laws, was soon overrun by free-booters, desperados, and outlaws. Upshur County was probably occupied by these characters at that time.
In 1824, the Republic of Mexico made a land grant to Hayden Edwards, and Upshur County was included in this grant. Edwards never settled very many people here and the grant was eventually taken from him, but there is a Hayden Edwards Survey in the county now. About the year 1835, the first land grants were made to settlers in this county. After the removal of the Cherokee Indians, in 1839, the country was settled almost over night, and in a few years all the free land was patented.
According to Thrall’s history of Texas, John Cotton was the first white man to settle within the boundary of what is now Upshur, Camp, and Gregg Counties. These three counties were originally united and known as Upshur County. Isaac Moody was the second settler, and about 1838, O. T. Boulware opened a store and trading post on John Cotton’s farm. This was the first business enterprise in the county.
Captain William Hart
Captain William H. Hart moved to this county in 1843. As a land surveyor, the Indians made a deal with him to locate a public highway from Gilmer to Marshall. With his brother-in-law, David Lee, he set out in a one-horse carry-all, blazing the way through the almost trackless woods. They had a tent in which they lived until they could clear ground and build a log house. This was located on the Cherokee Trace about a mile north of the present city limits of Gilmer, on what is now known at the Walter Barnwell farm.
Captain Hart had left the mountains of his native eastern Tennessee to follow his sweetheart, Miss Evaline Kelsey, to Marshall, Texas, where her father, Dr. W. H. Kelsey, was a physician, merchant, and Methodist preacher. So much like his native hills did he find the country, it was easy for him to quickly feel at home and to love his new surroundings.
It was from the Kelsey family that the creek and community west of Gilmer received its name. As more people moved in, the Hart home became headquarters and the meeting place for the new settlers, and it is claimed that for a time, it was used as the county’s courthouse. Here Judge O. M. Roberts, who later became governor of Texas, and District Attorney Dave Arden held court. Among the legal attendants were General Sam Houston and John Reagan. Occasionally, court would be suspended so all could go on a hunt. Leading the chase would be a Mr. Lee, a noted bear hunter.
In 1856, Hart represented his district in the State Legislature. He traveled to Austin on horseback. The legislator’s pay was so small that Mrs. Hart always had to send him money from the farm to pay his expenses at the capital. Hart also served as magistrate, or justice of the peace. Walter Boyd, patriarch of the entire Boyd clan in Gilmer, bought his marriage license from Hart, when he married here. In later years, one of Boyd’s grandsons, J. Walter Marshall, married one of Hart’s granddaughters, Mae Hart.
In November, 1865, the late Rev. W. H. McClelland, and his family, arrived in Upshur County to make his home in the pioneer community. They made the trip from St. Louis to New Orleans by steamboat, and thence to Marshall by train. The family secured a wagon and drove to Upshur County, where the Rev. McClelland settled on a farm seven miles southeast of Gilmer.
The early settlers of Upshur County brought their slaves with them, without whom it would have been almost impossible to do the work of clearing the land, splitting rails for fencing the farms, felling the trees, and building the log houses. All this required a lot of hard, physical labor. The negro slave did his part of this work for which he deserves credit.
The first deed recorded in Book 1 of Upshur County records is: Britton Smith to Bond J. Bowman, October 2, 1846. Smith sold Bowman 320 acres of land lying on Little Cypress. William Hart was county clerk. The second recorded instrument is Mary Ivey, administratrix, to a bill of sale to Susan Decker:
“Republic of Texas, County of Harrison, know all men by these presents: that I, Mary Ivey, administratrix of the estate of Isah Ivey, deceased, doth by these presents, convey all the rights, title claims and interest that I have to a certain Negro girl, named Nancy, slave for life, unto Susan Decker during her natural life, and then to her bodily heirs forever, and I do bind myself to warrant and defend the right, title and claim of the said Negro unto the said Susan Decker and her heirs from all persons whomsoever.”
In 1846, three-fourths of the records pertained to slaves. Negroes were worth from $300 to $1,000 each. On December 28, 1846, B. M. Hampton mortgaged to A. B. Denton one Negro boy named Grant for $348. The deed made by Mary Ivey was made while Texas was still a republic, and Upshur County was a part of Harrison County, but was not recorded until Upshur became a separate county.
Upshur County had officers from 1846 to 1848, but no record has been found of them. From the register of county officers, pages 223-24, in the archives of the state library, is found the following information:
The first regular election held in Upshur County was on August 7, 1848, and the following men were elected: Thomas D. Brooks, county judge; P. R. Wilson, district clerk; Robert G. Warren, county clerk (Warren held this office until in the sixties); C. G. Patille, sheriff; J. W. Richardson, assessor, and many lesser officers. John McNairy, of Upshur County, was elected state representative.
Judge Mills, candidate for governor, spoke at Gilmer, Saturday, August 4, 1849. Election returns from Gilmer precinct in the governor’s race, 1849, gave Weed 98 votes, Mills 27, and Bell 2. Bell was elected. Upshur County had 306 poll tax receipts in 1849 compared to 4,200 in 1946. Cotton was worth 9-cents to 9½-cents per pound. Mail to Gilmer via Marshall arrived every Sunday at 6 p.m., and departed every Friday at 6 a.m.
Upshur County’s Courthouse
As people come and go to and from the courthouse daily, how often officers hear compliments on the beautiful, well constructed building, the Upshur County courthouse, and how much we should appreciate the spacious offices with their modern equipment! How much more those facts become realistic to us when we talk to some pioneer or read some historical record of the first courthouse; and others that were built later!
According to information gathered from the oldest citizens, and from earlier records, Upshur County did not have a courthouse when the county was first organized in 1845. Court was held under an oak tree a mile north of Gilmer on the Cherokee Trace. The first case tried in the “open air” court was that of John Craig for “assault and battery.” This was during the spring term of 1846. When court met again the following fall, 1846, an order was granted by O. M. Roberts, first assistant judge, appointing the residence of William H. Hart, first county clerk, as the place where court was to be held in Upshur County until the seat of the county could be “carefully located.”
There was no district clerk at that time, so the governor of Texas appointed Elias L. Bishop as temporary district clerk. A few years later a small, one-room log cabin was built out on the Cherokee Trace which served as a meeting place for the officials. Just how long this cabin was used for this purpose there is no record. When the court met April 4, 1871, it granted an order allowing J. P. Ford $500 to pay for a courthouse. By October 30, 1872, a wooden building was erected on a selected spot where the present courthouse now stands. This building boasted a waterproof roof and a cupola supported by four large columns. The several offices were heated by fire places. Many of the prominent lawyers and citizens sat around these fire places spinning fabulous yarns and discussing plans for a better future.
Five years later, in 1877, improvements were made about the grounds around the courthouse. A wooden fence was built by W. A. Roberts to enclose the courtyard. A well was dug, which supplied water, not only for the public in general but for water troughs placed near the hitching posts. No cattle or hogs were allowed in the courtyard. This building stood for eleven years, and on the night of October 25, 1888, it was destroyed by fire, together with all records and papers, with the exception of a few that were placed in the fire-proof vault by the county clerk, S. P. McNair. This vault had been installed a few months before the fire. T. C. Mitchell was tax assessor-collector then.
While plans were being made for the erection of a new building, the county rented the opera building from Walter Boyd. This place was located near the site of the J. M. Still residence. The Tilman House, then one of the modern hotels, was also rented for extra space. On January 25, 1899, plans and specifications were accepted, and according to contract with Wilson Brothers, a new building was constructed of choice brick. The officials had the best material to go into the construction of the new building. They stuck to the old system of heating by means of fire places. The floors were covered with sawdust to protect them from rough boots, spurs, and tobacco juice, as well as to cut down on cleaning expenses. It had a tin roof, with lightning rods on all sides. A decorative iron fence was placed around the courtyard.
Schools of Upshur County
In the early days of Upshur County, there were no public free schools. Schools were private, and were supported by private tuition or by private donations. Back in the days of the Texas Republic, when Lamar was president, in 1839, a law was passed setting aside three leagues of land for each county for the establishment of primary schools and academies. The next year, 1840, another league was added. If there was not enough good vacant land in the county for this purpose, the survey was to be made from public lands elsewhere. Upshur County’s school land lies in Baylor and Throckmorton counties. It has never been sold and now yields a considerable income to the schools from rents and leases.
Upshur County has had from its earliest days some good schools located in different parts of the county. There was the Murry Institute, located somewhere about where Ore City now stands. It was a school of considerable note and was doing excellent work when the Civil War broke out. The Rev. J. J. Clark was founder and manager of the school.
Murry League got its name from William Murry who was the original grantee in a very early day. The Rev. Joshua Clark and his family and William L. Coppedge and his family moved to Texas from Haywood County, Tennessee, in wagons, in the fall of 1853, and settled at Murry League and together with others, began the erection of a large frame school building which received the name of Murry Institute. This school soon became the largest and most prominent school in the county, sending out many young men and women of various callings to make their mark in the world. The Rev. Clark was the head of the school, and some of the first teachers were Virgil M. DuBose, William L. Coppedge, W. B. Baley, and a number of other teachers of wide reputation. Later, some of the teachers were H. M. Mathis, R. G. Hersley, D. LeLand, Mrs. Eva Mash, J. A. Coppedge, James S. Palmer and others.
The Civil War broke into the progress of this school. Many of the young men quit school to join the army and the school never gained back all that was lost by the war.
School was held in the old building until it grew too large for the building, then the Methodist Church was used. Clark, the founder and first principal, was perhaps one of the greatest teachers that ever lived in Texas. He was said to be a man of strong character, and had the ability to raise money, even in the backwoods, to carry on a great school.
There were other noted schools organized in Upshur County that were maintained for a while, but went down on account of the Civil War and other causes. It was almost impossible to finance a school back in those days. There were founded, in Gilmer, the Gilmer Masonic Female Institute, Gilmer Female Academy, which was supported by the Methodist Church, and Gilmer Male Academy, also supported by the church. Then there was the Looney School at Gilmer.
Located near Simpsonville was the Leroy Institute, founded and taught by Professor Leroy. This was a noted school for a few years, and did some valuable work.
Some Facts About Murry League
A letter from the late Virgil DuBose, who lived at Palestine, to D. T. Loyd, details more on the Murry League story:
“As a whole, the men of Murry League (near Ore City) were active and quite above the ordinary, and their wives were energetic, thrifty, good-looking, and all had a superior education. About all these families had was a house full of children whom they reared to work and at the same time gave them a good education.
“Among the citizens that lived at the League about the year 1857, and years later, as I remember, were: Rev. Joshua Clark; his brother, Uncle Billy Clark; my father, Prof. Virgil M. DuBose; Capt. Coppedge, Rev. J. T. P. Irvine, who fought in the battle of San Jacinto; Harvey Armstrong, the Grans, Mr. Willeford, father of W. L., Billy and C. W. Willeford, of Mings Chapel; and the Nashes, the Crossleys, the Weatherds, the Emmetts, the Coveys, the Hambrights, the Bullocks, and others I fail to remember.
“Rev. Palmer and Rev. Irvine were traveling preachers of the M. E. Church South, called in their parlance, (circuit riders). Rev. J. Clark ran the league school for many years prior to 1857, and that year he offered my father, Prof. Virgil M. DuBose, a job as co-principal and it was accepted. My father was a graduate of Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, having attended that school four years—1832-1836.
“When we moved to the League in 1857, I was a very small boy learning my abs, ebs, ibs, obs, but I soon got to the back of Webster’s old Blue Back Speller and could rattle off the four pages of synonyms in the back of the book without any trouble. I have since those days observed many schools and institutions of learning but I have never seen such emulation and desire for learning evinced among pupils as I saw in those days at the old Murry League School. They were all bright talented young men and women, and the school grew and kept growing.
“All the advanced students not only became proficient Greek and Latin scholars, but went on up into higher mathematics as applied to mechanics, astronomy, and civil engineering. These are my memories of those days;—though I was but a kid, I saw how it was. They were great days for a boy.
“But for months prior to 1861, the muttering storm in the distance was heard! I saw it all. The people of the New England states went mad. The people of the South went mad! The war between the states was on, and by May, 1861, all the young men attending the school went to the war. This broke up the school and Murry Institute became a memory—a thing that was, but is not! My father carried on the local school during the four years of the war. Along 1862-3, many planters came in from Arkansas as refugees, fleeing from the Yankee soldiers when they invaded that state, bringing their slaves with them. This made quite an addition to the League, for they were educated, refined people, and their children attended my father’s school.
“Capt. Coppedge, a most noble and brave man, went at once into the war with Lee and Jackson’s armies. He came back on a furlough in 1863, went back, but never returned. Died or was killed in battle!”
The Masonic Female Institute
The first session of the Gilmer Masonic Female Institute, under the supervision of Mrs. L. W. Montgomery, closed on Friday, May 4, 1852, after a thorough and rigid examination of the pupils on the various branches, to-wit: orthography, reading, arithmetic, geography, ancient and modern history, botany, philosophy, astronomy, and rhetoric, in all of which they acquitted themselves with a great deal of honor, to the satisfaction of parents and the spectators present.
The articulation and pronunciation could not be better. The deportment of the young ladies was sufficient evidence of the excellent discipline in the school room. There were forty pupils at the close. The second session of the Institute was to open on the first Monday in July, 1852, as announced by the trustees, P. C. Halenquist, J. M. Glasco, B. N. Hampton, Thomas D. Brooks, and William Ward, but we have no further record of the school after this.
The Gilmer Female College was given a charter by the Texas Legislature, and the first session opened in September, 1854, and closed on the last Thursday in January, 1855. Tuition for spelling, reading, and writing was ten dollars for the term; and for geography, grammar, history, arithmetic, and botany was $12.50 per term. Tuition for arithmetic, botany, history, composition, natural philosophy, physiology, English analysis, chemistry, mythology, astronomy, and Butler’s analogy, was $15.00 per term. Music on the piano was $20.00. The faculty was Rev. W. S. Stovall, Mrs. Martha W. Weatherd, and Miss Margaret Weatherd. A boarding house was built near the school for the convenience of the pupils and teachers. E. C. Williams was secretary of the Board of Trustees. The Rev. Mr. Stovall soon left Gilmer and Mrs. Weatherd taught several years, assisted by her daughter and Miss M. E. Beavers. Miss Harriett M. Patilla taught music. This school closed after its fourth session. Mrs. Weatherd was very popular in Gilmer, but her husband was very unpopular, so she resigned and went to her home in Daingerfield. In 1857, Mr. Burkes began teaching in the Gilmer Female College and continued for several sessions. He was an Irishman, said to have graduated from Dublin University in Ireland. He came from Louisiana to Gilmer. His assistants from 1857 to 1861, were his son-in-law, Mr. Wiley, and his wife. J. B. Norman taught music. He organized in the school one of the best bands in Texas at that time. He led a band through the Civil War.
The Looney School
The old building formerly used by the above mentioned school was rented in 1861 by Morgan H. Looney, and the school from that time till 1871 was know as Looney’s School.
In 1863, the old building burned and Mr. Looney took up temporary quarters in a building located near where the ward school building now stands. This building continued to be used until 1866 when a new building was erected where the old building stood. The new building was an imposing structure, for its day, it being a two-story frame building with two stairways on the outside, six large rooms down stairs, a large auditorium up stairs and four large fireplaces. Blackboards were painted on the walls. There were two doors on the west side, and a partition wall extending from a point between the doors to the platform, which was rather elevated and was located against the outside wall. The girls filed in at one door and occupied the room on one side of the partition, while the boys came in at the other door and occupied the other side of the room. Mr. Looney sat on the platform at a point which enabled him to see what was going on on both sides of the platform. This arrangement was in keeping with the idea of that day, that the success of a school is measured in terms of sex segregation. Measured by this rule, the Looney School was a most successful institution. In the four corners of the large room were smaller rooms for recitation. The building was 60-feet by 90-feet.
One factor which entered largely into the success of the school was the ability of the president to secure and hold competent teachers. Among these were J. L. Covin, who resigned soon after coming to Gilmer and left for the Army as first lieutenant of Company B, Seventy Texas; Miss Achsa Culberson, a cousin to Charles Culberson; W. A. Hart, afterwards county attorney of Wood County, and for years a resident of Gilmer; M. L. Looney, a brother of the principal, who married Miss Culberson, and died some years later in Atlanta, Texas; O. M. Roberts, afterwards governor of Texas, who taught law and bookkeeping for a long time in the institute; J. C. Reagan, who taught French and Spanish for several sessions, and who was a gentleman of high scholarship and attractive personality; and J. B. Norman, teacher of music, the one previously referred to as leading a band through the war.
After the war, he came back to Gilmer and spent many more years directing the musical talent of the school and community.
The second reason for the successful operation of the school was Mr. Looney’s ability as a disciplinarian. Flappers of those days went elsewhere than to Looney’s school to flap. He had a rule governing almost every conceivable human activity, and both students and teachers were required to memorize these rules and review them at frequent intervals. Scanning the rules we find:
That school began at 8 o’clock and closed at 6 o’clock, and that all students were to start to school at a certain time, and on entering the building, should pass immediately to their places in the large auditorium. All pupils were required to attend Sunday School and Church every Sunday, no one being excused except for sickness. Swearing, gambling, dancing, drinking, and horse-racing were forbidden.
When the rules were suspended and the young men were allowed to call on the young ladies, the ringing of a bell warned him when it was time to bid her good evening and return to his room. In fact, supervision of student life extended to the homes and boarding houses of students and included every detail. Students boarded in the homes of the town, and such a thing as shielding pupils when they broke the rules was never known. There was absolute co-operation on this point. Mr. Looney was a splendid orator, and his lectures on obedience and similar topics had a wonderful effect on the student body.
The Pritchett School
Forty-four years ago, Albert, R. W., and J. P. Maberry, with the help of W. W. Sanders and Ben F. Williams as backers, erected the first school house in the little community of Pritchett. Prior to this time the children of the community attended a school at old Pleasant Hill, which had been an important school center for perhaps half a century. This community had long been above an average in school activities and educational endeavor.
In the early fall of 1901, Mr. Sanders opened what was known as the Pritchett Preparatory Institute, a school which, in addition to the regular public school courses of that day, had also a thorough teachers’ training course that prepared students for regular county and state examinations for teacher’s certificates. These classes grew rapidly in interest and in number. Within the course of a few years, new homes were built around the campus and industrious families moved into this prosperous little town to educate their children.
Student boarding houses were built and a number of families made their living and educated their children by keeping boarders. The people took great interest in school affairs and cooperated with the school authorities in a wonderful way. Board and rooms were furnished at the same price to all students. A very reasonable rate was charged which was agreed upon by the school authorities and the operators of the boarding houses. The teachers made the rules for all boarding houses, and their rules were uniform and reasonable, and strictly followed. While there were few boarders for the first year or two the number soon grew to more than a hundred each year. Students were from Upshur and all the surrounding counties, some coming from as far away as the Panhandle of Texas. Mr. Sanders remained with the school as principal and owner for about four years. He sold his interest to F. M. Mathis, who continued the school on the same basis until 1906, when W. A. McIntosh became a partner with Mathis. The school continued under the ownership and joint supervision of Maberry and Mathis and McIntosh until 1915, when the property was sold to the Pritchett school district and became a regular public school. Mr. Sanders bought an interest in 1902.
A number of prominent school men and women, other than the owners were associated with the school during the fifteen years of its activity—first as the Pritchett Preparatory Institute and later as the Pritchett Normal Institute—among whom were
Ben F. Williams, J. V. Dean, A. J. Sanders, J. L. Boyd, B. B. Elder, J. R. Melvin, Mrs. W. P. Ducan, Mrs. Ola Mathis, Mrs. Maude Palmers, and others.
A new and larger building was erected in 1908, when the old building was remodeled for a students’ dormitory in charge of Mr. Mathis and his wife. After the erection of the new building, the name of the school was changed to the Pritchett Normal Institute, to better indicate the nature of the work pursued. Large classes were organized each year in state-required subjects leading up to second grade and first grade teachers’ certificates. The courses were thorough and few Pritchett students failed to receive certificates on state and county examinations.
Social activities formed an important phase of the student life. On certain occasions boys and girls were permitted to keep company with each other, and these occasions were looked forward to by most of the students with great pleasure. Many close friendships, formed in this school, have extended through the years. Now, over a quarter of a century since the Pritchett Normal Institute closed its doors and left to the public schools the education of the youth of this and surrounding communities, the influence of this school is still evident in the lives of those men and women who were inspired there to strive for greater accomplishments. In all walks of life there are men and women who began their careers in this now defunct institution.
In later years there was a number of excellent schools founded in Upshur County that did valuable work and had a great influence upon the character of the young men and young women of their day.
Sometime in the 1880’s, T. J. Allison established an important school at Pleasant Hill. He erected a two-story building and had boarding pupils from various parts of the county. This school was kept up for several years when T. J. Allison sold out to the local community and entered the medical profession. J. M. Perdue conducted a school at West Mountain of considerable note. He was a great teacher and exerted a wonderful influence over his pupils. In the fall of 1889, the citizens of Shady Grove erected a school building, organized a Board of Directors, and established a high school to run eight months in the year. This school also had a number of boarding pupils from this and other counties. This school had a great influence upon the community and was instrumental in bringing in a number of fine citizens.
The Rev. W. H. McClelland Sr. built and maintained a good school at Glenwood in the early 70’s. He kept a few boarding pupils. This school was destroyed by fire on the night of December 14, 1876. It was never rebuilt.
Progress In The Country Schools
Many of the older citizens can remember when Gilmer was not the beautiful little city that it now is. They can remember when the streets and public square were sand beds when it was dry, and mud puddles when it rained.
They can also remember when the public schools were not what they are today. No phase of the county institutions has felt the effect of the magic wand more than the county schools. The school children of today know nothing of the inconveniences of forty or fifty years ago. They now have comfortable school buildings, supplied with desks, maps, libraries, and free text books. They are carried to school in comfortable busses, and many are served with hot lunches at noon. How different was the conditions back in the 1880’s and 1890’s.
At that time, the country school houses, as a rule, were very unattractive and uncomfortable. The pupils were required to sit on long, hard benches and do their sums on a slate. They had no libraries and each child had to furnish his own books. There was no uniformity of the text books, which worked a considerable inconvenience to the teachers. Webster’s Blue Back Speller was almost universally used, however, and a pupil’s grade was estimated by the page he had reached in this book. The schools had no playground equipment, and the boys and girls were required to have separate playgrounds. It was not uncommon to find a bundle of switches lying on the teacher’s desk, and the teacher that did the most whipping was considered the best teacher.
One patron once remarked: “We shore got a good teacher this year. He whips them, comin’ and goin’!” The little one-room school buildings were heated by an old box heater, located in the center of the room, around which the shivering children crowded. The boys had to bring the wood for the heater from the near-by forest. We can understand why the boys were not crazy about school. Back then we had no County School Superintendent nor County Board of Education. The county school affairs were managed by the county judge, who was ex-officio school superintendent. The county was not divided into districts, but you could have a school anywhere you could get a bunch of children together and a shack to teach them in. Schools were not graded or classified and a teacher was allowed to teach anything in the curriculum, regardless of the grade certificate he had.
The school term was from three to six months in the year, and was usually divided into the winter and summer terms. About thirty-five years ago, Upshur County had its first county superintendent, Mr. A. F. Shepperd, and since that time, the schools have come into their own. Today, visitors are proudly permitted to inspect the schools. Upshur County compares very favorably with other counties of the state in its educational facilities. The stranger, driving across the county, is struck with the beauty and size of some of the school plants with modern brick buildings and attractive grounds.
The county has 18 white schools, all of which are accredited; nine high schools, affiliated with the state university; 143 white teachers, most of whom hold bachelor’s degrees, while some hold master’s degrees; 14 colored schools, with 71 teachers. The colored people have three high schools and eight accredited elementary schools.
County Board of Education
Upshur County at present has a fine school system, a live county superintendent, and an interested County Board of Education, which meets regularly in the county superintendent’s office. This board is composed of some of the leading school men of the county. They organize and adopt policies to be followed in the schools in the county under the guidance of the county superintendent; classify all the schools of the county, designate receiving schools for students whose grades are not taught in their home school; arrange a transportation set-up for all students in the county living more than two and one-half miles from the home school, and for students attending various high schools; appoint local trustees where vacancies exist; pass on all sales of school properties; hear all appeals on questions or controversies appealed from the county superintendent’s decision; advise and counsel with the county superintendent on all school problems; and pass on all transfers protested by local trustees.
One hundred years ago, there were only three white families living in Upshur County. John Cotton was the first settler and he settled somewhere on Lily Creek in 1835. In 1836, Isaac Moody settled somewhere near West Mountain, on the old Cherokee Trace and in 1838, O. T. Boulware settled near John Cotton where he established a trading post where he could trade with the Cherokee Indians.
The Caddo Indians were the original Indians of East Texas, but in 1820, the Cherokee Indians were expelled from Alabama and one tribe of them settled in East Texas. They were perhaps the most enlightened Indians living in the United States, having a highly developed tribal government, an alphabet, a rude literature, and some knowledge of property rights. These Indians never got permission from the Mexican government to settle in Texas, but did get a treaty from the Texas government, during the presidency of Sam Houston, giving them the right to their lands in East Texas. From 1820, to June and July, 1830, you may think of this vast section of East Texas extending from near Clarksville in Red River County to Nacogdoches as almost a complete wilderness, occupied, except for a squatter here and there, only by Indians and wild animals. As long as Houston was president of Texas, he kept the Indians quiet, as he had once been a member of their tribe. But in January, 1839, Lamar became president of Texas, and like most politicians, his policies were opposite to Houston’s. He started a movement to move the Indians out of East Texas. Lamar was partly justified in this, however, as the Indians were being agitated by hired Mexicans to make raids on the whites. Also, the people in the surrounding counties wanted the land occupied by the Cherokees. In June, 1839, a Mr. Lacy and John H. Reagan came to East Texas to notify the Cherokees that on account of their frequent raids upon the whites, and their continued intrigues with the Mexican agents, they must leave East Texas and go back to the United States. John H. Reagan wrote:
“When we reached the residence of Chief Bowls, he invited us to a fine spring near his house where we were seated, and Lamar’s message was read to him.”
Legend tells us that there was an Indian village where Gilmer now stands, and how do we know that they were not at the spring in Roosevelt Park? Chief Bowls told Lacy and Reagan that they would not move without war, so General Rusk, Albert Sydney Johnson, and others were sent against them. They met the Indians on the Neches River in a two-day battle. Chief Bowls, who was then 83 years old, remained on the field of battle, on horseback, wearing a handsome sword and sash which had been given to him by President Houston. He was killed, but the Indians continued fighting and retreating up the Cherokee Trace, until they got to the swamps of Little Cypress bottom where they scattered and made their ways individually or in small groups into Oklahoma.
Negroes of Upshur County
When the first settlers came to Upshur County, over a hundred years ago, they brought their Negro slaves with them, and they have been here ever since.
It would have been almost impossible to develop the country, clear the ground, build the log houses, and perform the other hard, physical labor incident to a new country. After they were set free, most of them remained with their former masters or somewhere nearby. They have made wonderful advancements in their educational and moral status and are generally recognized as law-abiding citizens. There are Negroes in all parts of the county, but the greatest colored population is in the eastern part of the county. They have a number of good schools in the county, with three fully accredited high schools with from ten to fifteen teachers. Ernest Ford, Thomas J. Downs, and F. R. Pierson, principals of these high schools, hold degrees from state institutions, and are recognized as leading educators. They have, in all, fourteen schools in the county with 71 teachers.
The Negroes and whites of Upshur County have always worked together in harmony, and we predict that they always will.
After Texas had gained her independence, Mexico had hopes of recapturing Texas, but they did not attempt, openly, to reconquer the infant republic at that time. The Mexicans endeavored to keep the Indians in a turmoil all the time, as they would give the Texans trouble. The story goes that the Mexican agents with plenty of gold and silver came to Texas to try to get the Indians to revolt against Texas.
The Cherokee Indians were a powerful tribe and highly civilized. Many of them lived right here in Upshur County and other parts of East Texas. These agents succeeded in stirring up the Indians to hostility by promising them plenty of money and land when the whites were driven out of the country. President Lamar sent General Rusk and Albert Sydney Johnson against them and defeated them on the Neches River. Chief Bowls was killed in the battle. The Indians began to retreat toward Oklahoma and had to pass through Upshur County. When they got to Little Cypress bottom, they scattered into the swamps and underbrush of the creek. The Mexican agents with most of their money still with them, feared they would be captured, therefore when they came to a deep hole of water in Cypress Creek, they threw all the money they had into this hole of water. This gold and silver was heavy and impeded their progress, and also they did not want the Texans to get this money, should they be captured. It is supposed that today, lying peacefully in the bottom of Little Cypress, somewhere, is a large amount of gold and silver. Word got around, finally, that the Mexicans had thrown the money into the Cypress, so several years after, two Irishmen, who had fought the Indians, came in and during one dry summer set up two boilers at different holes along the Cypress and pumped all the water out, but, as the story goes, never found any money.
No story of Upshur County is complete unless there is woven into it, the establishment and building of Gilmer, nor is the story of Gilmer complete unless it presents, likewise, a picture of Upshur County, for upon the development of the county has the growth of Gilmer depended—a growth that in the early days was slow and uncertain, but in the last few years has been rather phenominal.
At 4:50 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, May 7, 1931, the Mudge Oil Company brought in the J. D. Richardson well at East Mountain for an estimated production of 30,000 barrels of oil per day. It shocked this county from an easy going corn and cotton farming area to the prospects of great wealth. It meant that over night, people flocked to the county, and eventually to the county seat by the thousands. They came to buy, and they came to sell oil leases and royalty.
Town site lots for business houses were scarce. The county’s assessed valuation jumped from about $8,000,000 to over $25,000,000, and as a result, the county, long burdened with debts, accumulated during many long past lean years, again could issue script that was accepted at fact value anywhere. The old obligations were wiped off, and a beautiful concrete, steel and brick courthouse was built and furnished at a cost of $200,000 and every penny of it was paid in cash!
But despite the wealth that oil has brought, Upshur County people have still maintained the same old spirit of neighborliness toward each other, the same old friendships, and informalities remain, and so we are sure they always will.
Location of Gilmer
The town of Gilmer of today is about two miles south of the spot where the city was first located. A century ago it was two miles north, on the Cherokee Trace, and the occasional district court was held in the home of Captain William Hart. We find that the first court trial was in 1837. There was no public building, so court was held either in the Hart home, or if the weather permitted, under a large oak tree, that until a few years ago, was still standing.
Then Gilmer was, for the most part, a swampy waste, with a few houses dotting both sides of Cypress Creek. The location was most unfavorable as the creek often rose so high that the town was threatened with disaster. So the settlers decided they would move some distance either to the north or to the south of this location. There seemed to be a considerable sectional feeling among the settlers, however, and every one on the north side of the creek wanted the town to go north, while those on the south side wanted it to go south. The location was finally left to a vote. The night before the day for the election, so it is told, a heavy rain storm came up, and the creek rose to such a height that a number of those on the north side could not cross the creek to vote, and the voting place was located on the south side. So it was decided to move Gilmer to the south.
The legislature of 1849 appointed three of the board of the county commissioners of Upshur County to select the site for Gilmer, the county seat. They were Benjamin Fuller, M. M. Robertson, and Benjamin Gage. The committee selected the present site and bought the land from Mathew Cartwright, who made the deed to the commissioners as is recorded in Volume A, Book 1, of the Upshur County records. T. D. Brooks was the first county judge of Upshur County, and the first deed recorded in the sale of town lots of Gilmer, was to Augustus Walker for lots 1 and 2 from James H. Hunt. It was dated March 1, 1851. The home of Benjamin Gage, one of the first commissioners, was on White Oak Creek, north of the Gilmer and Big Sandy road, and is still standing, although built near a hundred years ago. The house is now occupied by Alton Gage, a grandson of Benjamin Gage, and bids fair to last another hundred years. It is reported that Mr. Gage paid a man one hundred dollars to build this house for him. It is said that the nearest neighbor when he settled here was nine miles away.
Gilmer was moved to its present location in 1848, and began a rapid growth. Eighteen years later, it was incorporated into a town with Alias Oden as first mayor. He named the boundaries of the town as follows: As far north as the termination of Trinity street; west to its present limits, just beyond Oak Lawn Sanitarium: South to what is now Warren Avenue, and east, one block from the square. The area of the town was almost as large as it is at present with fewer inhabitants. The incorporation charter died after a few years, but in 1894 the town was re-incorporated with Jim Bussy as mayor, and new boundaries were set up which remain the same to this day.
When Gilmer was moved to its present site, it had to be built from the very beginning. The land had to be cleared and lumber prepared for the building of houses, usually from logs from trees cleared away from the new town. It was a wild country they had to open up and make safe for living, since in 1849 it is reported that bears came from the nearby woods and ate food from the back doors, and deer and turkey and other game could be killed in the clearing of the town square. Many residents, now not so old, can still remember a great ditch, carrying a stream from the old Indian camp (Roosevelt Park) almost to the square. And it was not until Judge T. H. Briggs’ first term of office as mayor that a great gully ran diagonally across the square from the southeast to the northwest corner.
So Gilmer and Upshur County have had to change with the changing times. First the pioneer and the sawmiller, then the cotton farmer, then oil, now yams and a greater diversification than was ever known.
Early Officers of Upshur County
Elected in 1850: Chief Justice, Judge G. C. Patille; District Clerk, J. W. Richardson; County Clerk, R. G. Warren; Sheriff, Oba Roberts; County Treasurer, Jesse Tinder; Assessor-Collector, C. D. Halbert; Surveyor, Jesse Glasco.
Elected in 1852: Judge, William S. Martin; Sheriff, Geo. B. Medlin; County Clerk, R. G. Warren; Assessor-Collector, A. B. Denton; District Clerk, A. H. Abney; County Treasurer, D. F. Brancroft; Surveyor, Jesse M. Glasco.
Elected in 1854: Judge, William S. Martin; Sheriff, Geo. B. Medlin; County Clerk, R. G. Warren; Surveyor, Jesse M. Glasco; Treasurer, J. A. Derrick; Assessor-Collector, A. B. Denton.
Elected in 1856: Judge, J. M. Simpson; Sheriff, Alexander Earp; County Clerk, R. G. Warren; District Clerk, J. W. Richardson; Assessor-Collector, A. B. Denton.
Elected in 1858: (Same as in 1856).
Elected in 1860: Judge, J. M. Simpson; District Clerk, J. W. Richardson; County Clerk, R. G. Warren; Treasurer, J. A. Derrick; Surveyor, W. W. Corrie; Assessor-Collector, James R. White; Sheriff, Leander J. Daniel.
Mr. R. G. (Gus) Warren, who was the father of the late Judge Jim Warren, served Upshur County as county clerk, longer than any other man ever served as county officer in this county. Many of the other men mentioned above have relatives here yet. In 1857 there were about 2,300 Negro slaves in Upshur County and they were valued at $1,130,960.00, that is, they were worth about $500 each. A Negro between the ages of 18 and 25 sometimes brought from $1,000 to $1,500. Negro girls were worth more than boys. They were bought and sold more often than boys. The girls were bought more as wives than the boys were for husbands. The country was new and was being settled rapidly and slaves were hard to get and were therefore very valuable.
At the same time, there were only 465 poll taxes paid in the county, which shows that the slaves probably outnumbered the whites. Money on deposit then was $22,275.00. How does that compare with three or four million at the present time? They did not have automobiles then, and did not need much money.
Postoffices in Upshur County in 1857 were at Coffeeville, Earpville, Gilmer, Calloway, Hopewell, Pinetree, Pittsburg and Red Rock.
Some Early Settlers of Gilmer
W. Boyd and A. B. Denton, brothers-in-law, came to Texas in 1840. They first settled down near the Sabine River, but later moved to a location on Hoover Spring Branch about ten miles south of Gilmer. Sometime during the Civil War they moved to the little town of Gilmer. Mr. Boyd put in a beer and pool hall somewhere about the southeast corner of the present square. This is where Mr. Boyd got his start in business. His business grew with the town, however, and he became one of the leading business men of Gilmer, and remained in business till his death. Mr. Denton also played an important part in the development of Gilmer and Upshur County. Mrs. Fannie E. Mitchell, a widow, Tom Mitchell’s mother, came to Upshur County from Alabama in 1866 and settled in Gilmer. Her father, J. B. Norman, was already here teaching music, and she came to assist him in this work.
John Peteet, John Buchanon, Will and Lafayette Camp, were all old settlers in Gilmer and had great influence in shaping the affairs of Gilmer at that time. O. M. Roberts, who afterwards became “Pay-as-you-go” Governor of Texas, conducted a law school at Gilmer after the close of the Civil War. Drs. George and Henry Ford were popular physicians in Gilmer and Upshur County back in the 1860’s and 70’s. Gus Warren, father of the late Judge Jim Warren, served Upshur County for a number of years as county clerk. A. B. Boren was an influential lawyer back in the early days of Gilmer and had a large legal practice. Jim Derrick was another oldtimer and served the county for a long time as district clerk. Judge Lyons was one of the early county judges. He was running a newspaper in Gilmer when he was killed by a man named Ashley. Elias Oden, father of Marsh Oden, settled in Gilmer at an early date. A man by the name of Montgomery settled on Montgomery street. The street was named for him.
Later we have the Chandlers, Marshalls, Buies, Douphrates, Hoggs, Croleys, Crosbys, Stephens’, and many other family names that are connected with the life of Gilmer.
Streets in Gilmer Named
The town of Gilmer had no set rule or pattern in naming its streets, but as the town grew and what had been an opening between a few rough-boarded houses, became a street, the name followed later on, and indicated the character or location of the street. For example: Titus street was the road northward to Mount Pleasant and Titus County. Marshall street merged into the road to Marshall. Tyler street was so named because it connected with Montgomery street and thence to the Big Sandy road. The first route to Tyler was through Big Sandy, and it is still possible to reach Tyler by that route.
The principal residence street of the town, Montgomery, was named for one of the village’s early citizens that lived on that street where Dr. Madison Ragland’s new residence is located. Cass and Kaufman streets were evidently inspired from the same source that gave two Texas counties the same names. Bledsoe street was named for the Bledsoe family, who still live on this thoroughfare. Harrison street undoubtedly got its name from the Harrison family. Mrs. J. R. Warren of Tyler, named Warren avenue. She was instrumental in getting the street opened, and built her large home at the intersection of Warren and Trinity. It was sold to T. H. Glesen and is now Frank L. Futrell’s home. Mrs. Warren also built several other houses on this street.
“Silver Alley” in the downtown section, leading from the square to the city hall, may have had another name, but no one can remember it. This cognomen came from a bunch of town wags. The Gilmer Mirror was at one time located on the corner of Silver Alley and Harrison street. Mr. Holmes was editor at that time and he would always come up this alleyway to the square. His opening remarks, when he was collecting, were invariably, “Can you let me have a little silver today?” He probably remembered the paper money of Civil War days and his preference for “hard money” inspired the wags to call the street “Silver Alley.”
Trinity street is one of the main thoroughfares of the town, but no one knows why it was so named. In the Pecan Grove residence section, most street names were given by Mr. T. C. Mitchell, who once farmed and later subdivided this addition. Pecan street is very evidently named for the many pecan trees on it. Walnut street was so named because of the large walnut trees along Mr. Mitchell’s home property. Mitchell street was for the family name, and Mary street for the late Mrs. Mitchell, his wife.
One of the most picturesque names, no longer belonging to a street, but to a country road, is that of the “Cherokee Trace.” This road was probably the first road ever made through Upshur County from the north. It was the trail followed by the Indians in getting to the old fort at Nacogdoches. Later it became a wagon road. Now the Trace loses its name and identity at Walnut street, but in olden days it wound on down to the spring in the present Roosevelt Park. This spring was the site of a camping ground and from there the Trace went southward. During the Texas Centennial year, 1936, a marker was placed at the old camping ground in the park. The first Upshur County court was held on the Cherokee Trace before the present courthouse location was made. The country road that still bears that name is still one of Upshur County’s most picturesque and level rural roads.
The latest street to be named is that leading from the First National Bank to the Bell Hotel. Until it was paved, about five or six years ago, it was a nameless alley. Then, in honor of Mayor Horace V. Davis, who had been instrumental in bringing about Gilmer’s biggest paving program, it was named Davis street.
Gilmer’s Water Supply
Up to 1903, Gilmer’s water supply was obtained from shallow wells. Each household maintained a shallow well on its premises from which water for all purposes was supplied. In the business district there were three shallow wells that supplied water for the streets and for the public. One was located on the courthouse square, one on Henderson street near the entrance of Croley Brothers, and one on the west side of the square just off the sidewalk. This well proved to be a popular resort, as it was shaded in the afternoon, and was near the sidewalk. The men would sit on the edge of the sidewalk and whittle in the afternoons, getting their material to whittle on from a nearby grocery store. When the supply gave out, they would stand up and whittle on the well curb. Some of these men became expert whittlers. In a few years the city put in waterworks and these shallow wells were filled up.
In 1903, livery stables were doing a thriving business in Gilmer. They would rent horses and buggies, which was about the only means of travel, except by railway. Gilmer boasted four livery stables, all wooden structures. One located near where Safeway now is, one on Henderson street where Moody Chevrolet is, one on the east side of the square, and one on the corner of Marshall and Wood streets. Later, this enterprise was replaced by Mr. Ford’s Model T automobile. The horse and buggy creates about as much excitement on the roads now as the Model T did then. The Model T has passed on, however, and is replaced by speedier and more comfortable automobiles in Gilmer.
Gilmer’s First Automobile
As reported by Mr. J. M. Hays
Along about the spring of 1909, there were rumors that Judge Barney Briggs was losing his mind, as some said he had no more sense than to think that one of those horseless carriages could run on the streets of Gilmer. Some said he had already ordered one; others that he was just talking about it.
One Sunday, as we came out of church, we heard a noise like a young cyclone! The sky didn’t seem to be too overcast, but the noise persisted, and seemed to be coming nearer! We started for home with an uneasy feeling. The noise seemed to be coming from the west, so we looked back and, to our utter amazement, we saw a horseless vehicle careen around the corner in the deep sand at the Jim Mings place. It came toward town! Christine tried to hide behind us as there were no sidewalks to speak of, and the thing was wabbling from one side of the sandbed road to the other. To escape it, we ran upon the high board walk at Ray Brothers, and when it ran alongside, we saw it was Judge and Mrs. Briggs and the two Seagle girls, and they were holding on for dear life! There was a crowd of people running along on each side to see how the thing looked and how it navigated. When it would come down the street people would hunt cover, as they never knew which side it would be on when it reached them. Sometimes it would stall in the sand and spectators would have to push and pull it out. More often it took a span of mules to make it budge!
Of course there were no garages or filling stations in those days, and Mr. Will Bauman, who ran a blacksmith shop, repaired the best he could, but it was in the shop so much folks decided that the blacksmith had taken it over to pay the repair bills! But a milestone in Gilmer’s history was that first automobile, to brave the sandbeds of the city’s streets.
Recollections of Gilmer As It Was Sixty-Five Years Ago
By Mrs. Donie Rees
It is hardly necessary to mention the fact that sixty-five years ago, we had none of the modern conveniences, such as electricity, gas, city water, pavements, railroad, and so on. Nor did we have any daily newspaper in Gilmer.
At that time the printing office was a rickety affair, propped up by three large pine logs. “Old” Judge Lyons, once county judge, was editor, and the office stood about where the postoffice now stands. His death was a tragic one, and here are the details as I remember them: His partner was a man named Arthur Ashley, who resented Lyon’s use of profanity, especially toward him. Ashley’s wife was boarding with my parents, Mr. and Mrs. B. F. Culpepper, nine miles east of Gilmer, and was teaching at Emory school house, about three miles away. One afternoon, soon after she and the children had returned from school, all tired out from her day’s work and the walk home, her husband walked in and she went to the door to greet him with a kiss. At once he began telling her, “Judge Lyons called me a —— after I had warned him not to curse me. I picked up a side stick and killed him! Then I locked the door and walked out.” Mrs. Ashley fell back across mother’s bed in a dead faint. They worked with her till they revived her, and my parents prevailed on Ashley not to leave at once, as he meant to do, but to remain overnight with his family. This he did, but in the morning he sought safety in flight. It was two or three days before Judge Lyons was missed, and officers broke down the door of the printing office and found him dead. Ashley had got away by this time. Later he was captured in Alabama and brought back here for trial, but he broke jail again and was never heard of any more. (Note). If you will go to the city cemetery you will find the grave of Judge Lyons surrounded by an iron fence, and lying in the shade of a big magnolia tree, just about thirty steps from the Coffeeville road. At the head of the grave is a weather-beaten, lichen-covered graying marble stone which reads: “My husband, J. J. Lyons, died April 5, 1882. The strife is over, the loved of years hath left me with the gathering fears to struggle darkly, and lone....” Mrs. Lyons struggled 17 years before she was laid beside the judge, and the grave stone reads: “Sarah S. Lyons, wife of Judge J. J. Lyons, died January 20, 1899.” None of the stones give the date of birth or age.
In these days the courthouse was a wooden structure, and when I was about ten years old, my parents allowed me to spend the weekend with my teacher, Mr. Joe Martin, in his father’s home about a mile north of town. There, with the Martin family, I saw the courthouse burn to the ground. Later a brick one was built, and this one was re-modeled and covered with concrete stucco, to be replaced a few years ago by our present handsome and modern building.
What few stores Gilmer had then were built of plank with board walks in front. The late Judge Sid Moughon had a water well and a large water trough in front of his store for the watering of the farmers’ teams, as also did Roberts and Oliver. A big bell was used to sound fire alarms and closing time for the stores was six o’clock in the evening.
It was a little over sixty years ago that the Cotton Belt Railroad was built through Gilmer. And early in this century, another railroad was built from Winnsboro to Elysian Fields and came through Gilmer. It was called the Marshall and East Texas Railroad, or the M. & E. T., and the service was so poor it was dubbed, from its initials, “Misery and Eternal Torment.” I have made trips on the M. & E. T. when the passengers had to go to the woods and help bring up pine knots to fire up so we could continue our journey. Or, if someone had a nice orchard, we would stop and gather peaches, and in the fall, the train would stop so that those aboard could get ribbon cane to chew.
In the story of the growth and development of Gilmer’s banks, is a living history of the growth and development of Gilmer and Upshur County. Gilmer’s first bank was a small private bank, opened up in the early 1890’s, located on the west side of the square near the northern corner, and was known as the Sasser’s Bank. Mr. Walter Boyd was president of this bank and Mr. Sasser cashier. Prior to this time the citizens of Gilmer did their banking from a distance. Many of them at that time banked at Tyler. But a bank failure in that city, in which a number of Gilmer residents lost their savings, was a discouraging factor. These things, added to the increasing need and demands for the service of a substantial bank in Gilmer, led to the establishing on April 13, 1900, of the First National Bank. On organization the bank was capitalized at $25,000. Capital stock is now $100,000. Of much interest is the first statement of condition which was published April 26 of the same year, less than two months after the bank was founded. It shows that deposits were less than $40,000.00. (They are now two or three million), and since the slack summer season was approaching, the next two statements showed decreases in deposits. September showing the lowest deposits of $24,000.00. Then in August, 1901, three months after Mr. C. T. Crosby had organized the Farmers & Merchants National Bank, the combined deposits of both banks were less than $54,000.00. On December 31, 1940, they were $2,718,464.24. At the close of business, June 30, 1945, the combined deposits of the two banks were $5,240,864.01. Contrast that with the figures, $82,264.21 of April 26, 1900, and you have in a nutshell, the story of the banking growth in Gilmer. But to go back to some more of the history of the banks and the men in them. The next significant date in Gilmer’s banking history is May 1, 1901. On this date the Farmers & Merchants National Bank was organized by W. B. Womack of Whitewright, W. C. Barnwell, J. L. Croley, T. H. Briggs, W. O. Boyd and N. M. Harrison, in the office of T. H. Briggs, in the southeast corner of the courthouse yard.
The above named men were elected as directors and in turn the directors elected the following officers:
W. B. Womack, president; N. M. Harrison, vice-president; W. O. Boyd, cashier-bookkeeper; H. P. McGaughy, assistant cashier. W. O. Boyd served as cashier the first year and resigned because of other business interests at the first annual meeting in January, 1902, and W. C. Barnwell was elected in his place and served a number of years.
The bank opened for business in the tax collector’s office in the courthouse and in about two months was moved from there to the present location. Briggs & Warren served as the bank’s attorneys.
May 1, 1901, marks several significant events in Gilmer’s meeting which took place in the courthouse, and for several weeks the bank conducted its business in the courthouse in the office of Joe Martin, then tax collector, while the new quarters were being built. May 1, 1901 marks several significant events in Gilmer’s banking life. On that date C. T. Crosby, who is now cashier at the Farmers & Merchants National Bank, began his banking career, at the First National Bank, and paradoxically, H. P. McGaughy, who is now president of the First National Bank, started out that day as a banker in Gilmer, as assistant cashier and bookkeeper with the newly organized Farmers & Merchants. Mr. McGaughy’s connection with the First National Bank dates from 1906, and he gained the presidency following the death of the late Dr. T. S. Ragland. Vice-presidents of the First National are L. G. Martin, who has been with the institution over thirty years, and V. E. Todd, who became connected with the First National at the time that institution took over the defunct State Bank. Mr. C. T. Crosby, meanwhile severed his connection with the First National Bank about 1908 and moved to Glenwood, Arkansas, where he conducted a mercantile business for three years. Returning to Gilmer in the fall of 1911, he joined the staff of the F. & M. Bank in January, 1912. The late J. P. Ray, who was acting vice-president of the F. & M. Bank when he died, had been with the bank since 1923.
And that’s a brief history of banking in Gilmer. Now, just one more backward glance to the names on that first called financial statement in Gilmer’s history, of April 13, 1900. They were: L. R. Hall, cashier; W. Boyd Sr., S. D. Futrell and J. W. Saunders, directors, and the documents were duly notarized by J. B. Oliver, notary public.
Sand on the Courthouse Square
It was said about the square that the sand was so flea-infested that if one picked up a handful of it, by the time the fleas had all hopped away, there was no sand left. The stock law probably killed the flea story, but under the paving the sand is still deep, believe it or not. And the editor of The Gilmer Mirror says that fleas still live in that sand, believe it or not. At least, he says they were very much alive when The Mirror installed a new press a dozen or more years ago. It was necessary to excavate about four feet to build a foundation and have a roomy pit under the press. In doing so, the fleas came out of their hibernation and for weeks kept everyone in the office scratching. Worse than that, the man sent here by the factory to install the press was apparently allergic to fleas. At any rate he was so flea-bitten and covered with whelps that he had to be examined by the county health officer to prove that he did not have the smallpox, as some accused him.
In the early fall of 1903, someone got the idea of aiding the farmers who might haul two bales of cotton to town, but could not make it through the sand and across the square. Often it would take two teams to pull one bale of cotton through the hub-deep sand. At that time there was a sawmill and planer in the northern part of town, and shavings were hauled and spread over the sand. Citizens marveled when they saw two horses trotting, get—trotting—across the square, pulling a bale of cotton. But the sand swallowed the shavings so quickly that this “paving” did not prove practical.
About 1907 the night train arrived about four o’clock in the morning. A passenger alighted, but decided it was too late to go to bed, instead he wandered to the deserted sand square. That morning another paving idea was born. This “unknown man” thought that a good solution would be to scrape down the clay hills joining the square and spread this clay over the sand to form a hard surface. As the merchants arrived on the square that morning, this dreamer presented his plan. He sold the idea so well, that by mid-morning, teams and scrapers were assembled and moving clay in. The south, west, and part of the north side were covered. This experiment was more successful, and made it easy to think through to crushed iron ore rock, the immediate predecessor of the present brick paving, which was laid in 1926 when Dick Denman was mayor. The deep sand of Gilmer is now only a memory.
Animals Had Free Run of Square
By Mrs. J. M. Hays
My first visit to Gilmer was about forty-five years ago, when I came here with my father and brother on a wagon loaded with cotton and meal. My father was a ginner, as his stock in trade. Coming up what was known as “Culberson Hill” our pair of fine mules almost let the wagon roll back down the hill. It was raining, muddy and boggy. But the mules got down on their knees and pulled, and finally made the grade. I felt sure the mud and slush would be left behind after reaching the city, but imagine my disappointment and disgust to find the streets and square shoe mouth deep in mud. We wore pretty high-topped shoes then, too—it took about two yards of strings to lace them up.
The square was really a friendly place for pigeons, ducks, geese, chickens, hogs, dogs, horses, mules, and people all mingled together with one common purpose—to profit from their labors. People were there to sell whatever they could find. The goats loved to go to court. In fact, they acted as door-bailiffs, resting in the shade of the courthouse porches, chewing their cuds, and unmindful of whether people could get into the building to testify.
Along about 1901, the city incorporated or re-incorporated and ordinances were passed to banish Mr. Goat from court. But Mr. Tom Chandler, or Mr. Perry would trade in goats, and back they would come. On such occasions the Hays Studio porch was their sleeping quarters. We have gone to the door many times armed with broomsticks, old shoes, buckets of water, and other weapons. Mr. Goat would be just beyond range by the time the door was opened. It is needless to say much sweeping and fumigating had to be done after the hasty departure of the unwelcome guests.
Twenty-eight years ago the public school system of Gilmer Independent School District was well established and the community felt that splendid progress had been made in free public schools. The High School building, which is still in use, was built in 1915, and used for the Gilmer high school classes for the first time in the term of 1915-16. The graduating class of 1916 was the first class to graduate in the new building.
Previous to that year, the entire school, from the first to the eleventh grade had been housed in the red brick school house on Scott Street, which has become known to the present generation as the “Old Ward School.” Mr. I. A. Costen was superintendent of the Gilmer public schools at that time.
In 1931, conditions again became crowded in the Gilmer High School and changes in methods and curriculum, and teaching made a gymnasium almost a necessity, so another building was erected on the high school campus. This building, now known as the high school gym, was built to house the home economics department, band room, a large gymnasium and dressing room and auditorium. A commodious stage is also in the building, and the gymnasium and auditorium serve for almost every large function in Gilmer.
The next building program was inaugurated in 1938 when Gilmer Parent-Teacher Association pointed out the crowded condition and anticipated facilities in the old ward school. In 1915 this building was crowded with eleven grades, but in 1938 it was too crowded for seven grades. There are two outstanding reasons for this growth. One was the discovery of oil in Upshur County, which increased Gilmer’s population, and another was the compulsory attendance law, which requires every child to attend school until they are sixteen years old. Twenty-five years ago, a child could stop school any time their parents gave their consent. After the movement had been thoroughly publicized by the P.-T. A. a bond election was held and the present handsome ward school building was erected in 1938. It was opened for school use with the September term of that year. In 1941, the old red building was torn down and the material salvaged to be incorporated with new material to build a Negro school in the southern part of the city.
Twenty-eight years ago, Gilmer had just become an Affiliated School with 16 credits. Now the Gilmer High School offers 36½ units of accredited subjects to their pupils, and each student can choose the most of his subjects.
Gilmer has three friendly churches, working together for the spiritual and moral development of the town and surrounding country.
The Baptist Church
The first church organized in Gilmer was the First Baptist Church. It was first located in a log building on Montgomery Street. This was soon exchanged for a frame building a block north of the square on Titus, on the corner east of the Ragland Clinic. It was over sixty years ago that this building was used, and the church remained there many years. The records of the church from its beginning, were kept here, but when they disappeared, with them went the early history. After a long period of years a brick church was built diagonally across the corner from the site of the present church building. This was a very elaborate building with vari-colored window panes in ornate designs, as was the architectural style of that period. The pews, costing $1,700.00, were bought by the Women’s Missionary Union, and when the present building was erected in 1910, these same pews were moved to it where they are still in use. The continued growth made it necessary to erect an annex north of the main building. Just a few years ago the church installed a new $3,000 organ.
The Methodist Church
The next church organized in Gilmer was the Methodist Church, which dates back to about 1870. The work became a half-time station in 1894, and a full-time station in 1902. The records are not errorless, but the following have served as superintendents of the Sunday School: Gus E. Warren, M. P. Mell, W. C. Barnwell, Prof. Hibbits, John Mathis, Louis Martin, John Brogoitti; Romie Bishop, Warren W. Whittlesey, and at present, Mrs. Irvin T. Andrews.
The pastors in order were: Rev. Cruchfield, W. W. Horner, Rev. Fladger, Rev. Ball, Rev. Bloodsworth, J. C. Carr, G. A. Tower, Stuart Nelson, H. L. McGee, Dr. Ridley Moody, C. F. Smith, J. A. Stafford, H. M. Timmons, J. C. Carr, H. J. Hays, Alton Tooke, C. M. Myres, S. W. Thomas, G. W. Lekey, Jesse Lee, A. A. Tharp, Stewart Glendenning, G. W. McPhail, Ed H. Harris, Leo Hopkins and Irvin T. Andrews.
The present parsonage was built during the ministry of S. W. Thomas. The Sunday School has an enrollment of 400. The church membership is 765. Value of church property is listed at $51,000.
Church of Christ
William Holloway from Longview came to Gilmer in 1893 and delivered a series of sermons in the courthouse. As the result of this preaching, eight souls were baptized into Christ. Among the number were Mr. and Mrs. S. T. Richardson, Sheriff J. W. Willeford and wife, a Mrs. Douphrate, and Mrs. J. L. Basset. At the close of this meeting the church was organized and met regularly on every first day of the week in the courthouse. The following year, Bro. Holloway held a second meeting in which Horace Douphrate and wife were baptized along with others. In the meantime, the following families, who were already members, moved to Gilmer: Mr. and Mrs. Will Parker Sr., the J. M. Meadows and Bob Sturdivant’s family. The congregation continued to meet in the courthouse until 1897 when a church building was erected. For several years there was no local minister, but meetings were held annually by leading evangelists, including T. W. Phillips and W. F. Ledlow. The following preachers have done work with the congregation: E. A. Finley, Farmer, Foster, Gayle Oler, Ernest Witt and Clifton Rogers.
The church has grown from eight members to over a hundred. The building has been remodeled three times. The church is planning on building a $15,000 house as soon as the price of building material becomes normal. The building fund is now $12,000.
Some Improvements In Gilmer
In March, 1916, Judge W. R. Stephens was serving as Mayor of Gilmer. During Mr. Stephens’ administration, the city completed a sanitary sewerage system which had been started under Mayor Tom Briggs, and inaugurated several improvements for the town. Notable among these improvements was the reduction of fire insurance rates through improvements in the fire department and the purchase of the first motorized truck and equipment which was the pride of the entire county. In the April election of 1916, Judge T. H. Briggs was elected mayor. He had previously served the town four years, from 1910 to 1914, and during that time his accomplishments included the graveling of the courthouse square, and beginning a sanitary sewerage system. A contract was made with the Public Service Company to furnish the city light and power. Montgomery and several other streets were graveled during Judge Briggs’ second term as mayor. Residential streets were graveled, and the square; Tyler and Buffalo streets from the square to the Cotton Belt railroad were paved with brick during R. M. Denman’s administration as mayor. Mr. Denman was followed in office by L. N. Coe. Probably Mr. Coe’s greatest accomplishment was in securing natural gas for the town.
Gilmer today is one of the outstanding towns of East Texas. It has conveniences that many towns larger than it doesn’t have, including city mail delivery. Gilmer has a number of merchandising establishments, including four wholesale concerns, that do an extensive business throughout the country. There are two national banks here with a combined deposit of over five million dollars. Gilmer has a magnificent high school, with buses bringing high school pupils in from the surrounding districts. It has a beautiful grade school and a first class school for negroes. Gilmer has a public library, a public park, an active chamber of commerce and two motion picture theaters. There are four friendly churches here, all cooperating together for the moral and spiritual growth of the town. There are two cotton gins located here, a lumber mill, two ice plants, a cottonseed oil mill, a fertilizer plant, a bakery, and many other industrial enterprises. Gilmer is a clean, moral town, and is noted for its absence of saloons, honky tonks and other places of questionable character. The citizens of Gilmer are a big hearted people, working together in a friendly cooperation, with the one goal in view—the happiness of its citizens and the development of Gilmer and Upshur County. With its beautiful paved streets, its modern residences, its beautiful schools and churches, and above all, its friendly citizenship, we can’t understand why everybody doesn’t want to live in Gilmer!
The town of Big Sandy had its beginning at old Chilton, near where the Chilton Cemetery is located, back in the early 1870’s. A man by the name of Smith, and probably others, ran a store at that place as early as 1873. About the year 1873 the Texas and Pacific railroad was completed through here and a period of development began. About the year 1880, a man by the name of Ferguson built a hotel and saloon just west of the present site of Big Sandy, and the village of Ferguson came into existence. There was no Big Sandy till about the time of the completion of the Cotton Belt railroad in about the year 1880. This road at first only extended from Tyler, intersecting the Texas and Pacific at this place. It was a narrow gauge road and was known as the “Tyler Tap.” It was later extended on north and later changed into a standard gauge road. A switch was built here at the intersection of the two roads, known as “Big Sandy Switch.” Around this switch the town began to build up. The name, Big Sandy, was derived from Big Sandy Creek and the town was known for a long time as Big Sandy Switch.
Two Jews, Arenson and Yesner, put in a general merchandising business at the Switch, and did a prosperous business. Other businesses began to be established and Big Sandy began her career. It seems that no one knows just when the postoffice was established, but it must have been in 1880 or 1881. A man by the name of Gee was probably the first postmaster.
A Norwegian by the name of Yancy ran a blacksmith shop here in the early days. He later moved to Gilmer. Mr. Slagel also ran a blacksmith shop here for a number of years.
In those days, anyone was allowed to sell whiskey that could pay the license and revenue, and saloons were both common and proper. The whiskey business was the best paying business of that time. Mr. Joe Ingram ran a sawmill near by and put in a saloon at Big Sandy as a side line. Lee Trinkle and John Lowery both ran saloons at Big Sandy in those days. These saloons were popular gathering places for the men around, with their billiard and pool tables, offering means for recreation and amusement. A fiddler like Jerry Walton or Simon Shepperd usually furnished the crowd with music. These saloons were kept open day and night, and it was no uncommon thing to see drunken men lying out in the streets or by the road side.
Melvin Watkins put in a little drug store about the year 1884. Mr. Bob Ferrell also ran a drug business for a while. Mr. Ferrell later united with Billie Shepperd in a general merchandising business under the firm name of Shepperd and Ferrell. This firm was later dissolved and Mr. Shepperd and T. J. Kelly went into business together. They built the first brick building in Big Sandy in 1892. This building was later remodeled and converted into the Commercial Hotel.
Dr. Folks ran a little grocery business down near the Cotton Belt. P. L. Fox ran a restaurant and grocery business down east of the depot. Mr. G. A. Tohill worked a while for Mr. Fox and took, as part pay, Mr. Fox’s beautiful daughter, Miss Essie. Mr. Tohill was made postmaster, in which capacity he served for a number of years.
Mr. Pop Gorman, grandfather of Vance Gorman, ran a large business located about where Clyde Mings is now. It faced the railroad. There was a considerable gully running east and west along where W. P. Mings sidewalk is now. There was a little bridge across it where the street turns south toward the railroad. J. M. Dorrough had a considerable business located where the bank building now stands. A little way north of this building was a rail fence, and most of the town north of that fence was in cultivation. In 1896 W. P. Mings put up the brick building on the corner where he did a big business. Later, in 1904, he had the other two buildings east of this erected. The next year, before either of these buildings were occupied, he sold the one on the east to G. C. Ferrell, who put in a first class drug store, which he ran as long as he lived, and since is being run by his son, Grady Ferrell.
In the early days the most popular part of the business section of Big Sandy was down next to the railroad. A number of brick buildings were put up down there, which now stand vacant.
Big Sandy has had a very romantic history. Dame Fortune has never smiled upon her in a miraculous way, yet she has had her periods of prosperity as well as adversity. She has suffered from fires, thieves and robbers. In spite of all this, however, Big Sandy continued to grow steadily, and until a few years ago she held a place of considerable importance in the commercial world. The business houses now standing and others that burned, were occupied and doing flourishing businesses. Crowds came to Big Sandy, especially on Saturdays and trades days, and took wagon loads of goods home with them. There were two banks, both of which had all the business they could handle. Big Sandy was recognized as the best cotton market in this part of the country. But the motor vehicle and the good highways have taken a considerable part of the business away from Big Sandy. The development of the larger towns near by, and the easy means of transportation have shifted a part of the trade to these towns. Lately, however, Big Sandy is gaining back what she has lost. A number of new businesses have been put in, and a large oil refinery is being built here, which will add considerably to Big Sandy. While Big Sandy has lost part of her business, she has gained in importance as a residence community. She has all modern conveniences which offer ideal service. With its magnificent high school, with pupils coming in from all the surrounding country, with its four friendly churches, all cooperating together in the religious and moral development of the town, and the social, friendly citizenship, all combine to make Big Sandy a pleasant place to live.
The town of Rosewood occupies the location of the old Double Springs community. Back in the beginning, Double Springs was a thickly settled community, filled with a lot of mighty fine people. There was a school and a Missionary Baptist Church located here since the early days of Texas history. Some of the early settlers were: the McKinneys, the Wades, the Stephensons, John King, Dr. Carson, Rev. William Arrington, the Bullocks, the Hurts, the Carters, Berry Wilson, Pack Williams, Henry Petty, Steve Williams, and many others, living like most other people lived at that time.
When the Marshall and East Texas railroad was built through here, it passed through Double Springs, and the town of Rosewood was built up. Town lots were sold and soon a considerable town was in operation. Several stores were opened and Rosewood became a considerable trading center. A bank was established and a postoffice secured. A nice school building was erected and a large school was maintained for several years.
After the railroad went out of business and was discontinued, Rosewood, like all other towns along the road, lost its importance as a commercial town. The bank was closed. The postoffice was discontinued and rural delivery established. The Rosewood school district is at present a part of the Harmony consolidated district, with the school building located just west of Rosewood on the Rhonesboro road. This is a fully accredited high school. They have a nice rock building, with all modern equipment, with a number of buses bringing high school pupils from the surrounding districts.
The early settlers of Shady Grove were of a high moral class of people. It seems that the rough, lawless characters that we hear so much about back in the early days, were absent in the Shady Grove settlement. Texas was, at this time, a country with its boundless resources undeveloped. She was offering unusual inducements to settlers, and all roads leading to Texas were crowded with emigrants to the Lone Star State.
It is not known at this time just who made the first settlement in the present Shady Grove area. We know that the community was well established before the war between the United States and Mexico in 1846. When Texas joined the United States in 1846, Mexico declared war on the United States. Tom Ellison, then a young man, came on horseback from Tennessee to join the forces against Mexico. He came through Shady Grove and stopped a while with some of the citizens. After the war was over, he came back and homesteaded a tract of land on Big Sandy creek, and built the log house in which his son, Jim Ellison, now lives.
The Snows came to Texas in 1849. Sam Snow built a little house and cleared a plot of ground. The first year he made one bale of cotton. He carried that cotton to Shreveport to market. He sold it for a little over a hundred dollars, and was paid the hundred dollars in gold. He still had that hundred dollars in gold, with other accumulated gold money, when he died in 1903.
The Mayfields, McWhorters, Calhouns, and Wilsons all came together in wagons from South Carolina in 1848. Charlie Calhoun had come to Texas sometime before and was living near Fort Worth. Fort Worth was at time only a pioneer Indian fort, with a few settlements nearby. These new comers went to Fort Worth in search of Charlie. Failing to locate him, and being in danger of hostile Indians, they returned to East Texas and settled near Shady Grove. The black lands were not very attractive to settlers at that time. Water was scarce, and there was no timber for fencing. Barbed wire had not come into use at that time, so the black lands seemed worthless to these South Carolinians.
The Mayfields settled north of Shady Grove, at what is now known as the Jot Walker place. Billie Calhoun settled up near old Calloway. Dave McWhorter settled on Blue Branch, but later moved to Shady Grove. The Whites came to Texas before the Civil War and settled at old Chilton, near where Big Sandy now stands. They later moved to Shady Grove. John Wilson settled near Sam Snow. He was a blacksmith and gunsmith by trade. He made guns for the Confederate soldiers during the war. Capt. Lucy Iris Wilson, an Army nurse of national fame, is a great granddaughter of John Wilson.
The Crows, Stephensons and Prices all came together from Tennessee in 1851. A Mr. Mann settled where Hubert Snow now lives, back in the beginning. He sold out to Mr. Humphreys, who in turn sold the place to Green Weldon, just after the close of the Civil War. The Coxes and Orrs settled where old Paint Rock stood. They sold out to Jeff Stringer, a Primitive Baptist preacher. William Baird also settled near old Paint Rock, and ran a large water mill down on Big Sandy creek. Owen Davis settled where John Mooney now lives in 1845. James Blackstone came in here in the early days. Elias Hail, an ex-Texas Ranger, settled north of Shady Grove. Ed Elder came from Comanche County in 1883, and exchanged his place there for the place where Guy Weldon now lives. Wiley P. Hays came, when a young man, from Tennessee and joined his fortunes with the people of Shady Grove. Amos Willingham settled where A. T. Hill now lives. F. M. Satterwhite, a Primitive Baptist preacher, settled at the Lowe place. These family names, together with many others, are woven inseparably into the history of Shady Grove.
The first church at Shady Grove was established back in the beginning of the settlement by a congregation of Missionary Baptists. They erected a building and continued to meet for some time. Later, some evangelists of the Church of Christ held revival meetings here and a congregation was established. The Baptists sold their building to them and disbanded.
A Primitive Baptist Church was established at Paint Rock with Jeff Stringer as minister. Later F. M. Satterwhite served this church. A Missionary Baptist Church was organized and a building put up at Myrtle Springs, just west of Shady Grove.
Before the World War, the fourth Sunday in each month was spent in singing and preaching. Lunch was spread at noon, and the afternoon was spent in singing. This custom had been kept up for years, but as flour and sugar and other foods were scarce, these meetings were discontinued. After the war, conditions had changed so much it was impossible to restore the old order. Now the fourth Sunday in June is Home Coming Day.
In the latter part of the 1880’s, some of the citizens of Shady Grove were sending their boys away to school. This was inconvenient and expensive, so they decided it would be better to build a school at home. Accordingly, in 1889, a number of the leading citizens organized a board of directors, erected a new building, hired a competent teacher, and opened up a high school to run eight months in the year. The first teacher was C. B. Reader from Add-Ran Christian University, then located at Thorp Springs.
When the school opened up in the fall of 1889, there was a number of local boys and girls in attendance. Prof. Reader only taught one year. He was followed by Prof. A. F. Shepperd, who also held a degree from the Christian University. The board of directors made all rules and regulations governing the school. The rules were strict and well enforced.
Miss Mittie Warren from Gilmer taught piano music in connection with the school, and while Mr, Shepperd was principal, they had a brass band. The school did a fine work, and sent out a number of young teachers. In a few years, however, the board of directors disorganized and turned the management of the school over to the local trustees. Soon after this the district voted bonds and erected a nice two-story school building and equipped it in the modern way. It soon proved to be too small to meet the requirements of the school, so it was torn down and a larger one put up in 1935. This building had fine class rooms, a large auditorium and stage, two halls, cloak rooms, and library and store rooms. The school had electric lights and running water. It was destroyed by fire in 1943. The present building was ready for use in 1943.
Immediately after the organization of the high school at Shady Grove, people began to move in from the surrounding country to take advantage of the school. Some of these families boarded pupils from a distance who were attending school. A post office was established, with a star route from Gilmer, that delivered mail twice a week. R. D. White and J. W. Wall, and S. B. Davis ran general supply stores, and Shady Grove became quite a business center. At one time Shady Grove had two general supply stores, two blacksmith shops, a drug store, post office, barber shop, a shoe shop, a cotton gin and grist mill. John P. Mooney operated a telephone system with a switchboard in his residence. Dr. Sorrells, Dr. Duke, and Dr. Walker all practiced medicine at Shady Grove.
About the year 1905, the M. & E. T. Railroad was built north of Shady Grove and the town of Rhonesboro was laid off. Most of the business at Shady Grove moved to Rhonesboro, and Shady Grove lost its importance as a trading center.
The citizenship of any community will make almost a complete change in fifty or sixty years. It is interesting to note that very few people, who were here fifty years ago, are here now. The old people have passed away and the young ones have become old. The cemetery has grown from a few scattered graves to a thickly populated “City of the Dead.”
Shady Grove still has a fine lot of citizens who will tell you that it is a nice place in which to live.
The Calvary Baptist Church
On Friday, June 13, 1936, in a tent just east of the county rock building on the Gladewater road, the Calvary Baptist Church was organized, with 13 charter members. Bros. Obie Barton and J. W. Harper assisted in the organization. A church building was then erected on the corner of Cass and Bledsoe Streets, with an auditorium 36 by 48 feet, with four Sunday School class rooms, all of which are air conditioned. A little later an adjoining lot was purchased on which was built a nice five-room parsonage and a garage.
Mr. J. M. Hays set out shade trees all around the parsonage and church building and kept them watered for several years until they became well set. Some of them are large enough now to make a good shade. They will serve as a living monument to the memory of J. M. Hays for many years to come.
The membership of the Calvary Baptist Church at present is about 200.
Edd Spier, Obie Barton, Jack Bullard, H. D. Martin, and the present pastor, Roy Alford, have served the church.
In the history of East Mountain there are several colorful incidents, and several major steps in its final development. The bare story of this community’s development is intensely interesting to its present day citizens. It is interesting to go back to when your grandfather and his companions blazed the first trails, when deer, fox, turkey, and other wild game were plentiful, and when the Indians held their pow-wows on the summit of the picturesque little mountain.
Buck Smith, grandfather of County Superintendent Frank T. Smith, settled here some time in the 1870’s, where C. H. Landers now lives. W. W. Bowden settled here about the same time. Sam Salter Sr. also settled here in the latter part of the 1870’s. He ran a horse-power cotton gin. William Ramey lived at the Jones place. Mr. Caldwell settled in the northern part of the community at what is still known as the Caldwell place. Mr. Mackey, father of Charley Mackey, lived here in the early days and helped to develop the community. Mr. Jones, father of John and Lee Jones, settled at the E. S. Salter place. Fayett Loden settled at the J. M. Everett place. J. M. Everett settled here in 1882. Thomas Wells came here from Erath County in 1885 and settled where his widow still lives. In the following year, A. G. Loden settled at the Allison place. In all, up to this time, there were about twelve families in the community.
There were no free schools in those days. Parents had to pay for their children’s tuition. Money was scarce and the teacher’s salary was low, and the terms of school short. They put up a log school house somewhere about where the cemetery is now located. They hired Tom Jones to teach a two months school at a salary of twenty-eight dollars a month. He had only seven pupils.
After the discovery of oil in this part of the county, East Mountain entered upon a period of sure-enough development. People became rich overnight, and new homes, new churches, and new schools were built. The East Mountain High School was organized in 1933-34. It is now one of the outstanding high schools of East Texas. The building and equipment cost $250,000. They are affiliated with the State University with 33 credits. They operate six buses in carrying the pupils to and from school. They have a cafeteria in the building, and maintain a brass band. They use 18 teachers and have 330 students.
The first church established at East Mountain was a congregation of Primitive Baptists. It was organized sometime in the latter part of the 1870’s, in a little log school house, where they continued to meet for a while. H. B. Jones was the first pastor. Caldwell and Smith were the first deacons. A church building was put up in 1881, and the present brick building was erected in 1933.
A Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1914.
A Church of Christ was also established in about 1937 or 1938.
East Mountain secured a postoffice back in the early days with H. B. Jones as first postmaster. The office was known as “Savannah” for a while, but was later changed to East Mountain. Route No. 2 was established out of Gladewater in 1906 or 1907. Mr. Graves was the first mail carrier.
Mr. Salter ran a horse-power gin back in the beginning, and a little later on, Mr. Wells put in a steam gin, and ran a sawmill in connection with the gin. About 1905 Mr. Fenton put in a steam gin. H. B. Jones and Thomas Wells both ran stores. There is one store at East Mountain now, run by C. H. Pittman.
Grice was originally Hamils Chapel. On the western border of Upshur County, at the edge of the “Big Woods,” was the modest little settlement of Hamils Chapel. Only a few people lived near here, and the community was unknown a few miles away. The land was heavily timbered, and the settlers had a task in removing this timber from the farm lands. Thousands of feet of fine pine timber was wasted and destroyed.
Some of the settlers back in the 1880’s were: Mr. Moon and his sons, John and Robert; Daniel Burnett, Tobe Davis, Alec Davis, Mr. Grice, who ran a little store and became the first postmaster. Sam Hill, William Fennell, Ben Lankford, Will Davis, John LaRue, Mr. Holmes, Mr. Cavitt, and a number of others.
In 1891, Mr. Grice put in a little store here and got a postoffice established. The postoffice was named Grice in honor of Mr. Grice, who became the postmaster. The church and school was, for a while, known as Hamils Chapel, but was later changed to “Grice.”
Anyone was allowed to sell whiskey at that time, so Bob Moon put in a little saloon and did a big business. John Bates moved from Soules Chapel community and put in a general merchandising business. A cotton gin was put up, and new settlers moved in. For a while the school was taught in the church house, but later on a school building was erected. About this time a Rev. Weatherby, a Congregational preacher, came in here and established a church, and another church building was erected on the original church grounds.
A Mr. Cone, a sawmill man, came in here sometime in the 1880’s and bought up all this pine timber and put in a big sawmill. This added many more inhabitants to the community, and increased the attendance of the school.
The community has changed considerably in the past fifty years. The old people of the 1890’s have passed on to their reward, and the young ones have become old. Mr. Allen now operates a store at the Pittsburg and Gilmer, and the Big Sandy and Simpsonville roads. The postoffice has long been discontinued, and the school has joined the Harmony consolidated school district, with the building located near Rosewood. School buses carry the pupils to and from school, and they have all modern conveniences.
About nine miles southwest of Gilmer is located the old-settled community of Pleasant Hill. Back in the 1870’s, 1880’s and 1890’s, Pleasant Hill was a progressive community. People drifted in here from Harrison and other counties, and from the old states, and Pleasant Hill had its beginning. The early settlers and builders of Pleasant Hill were some of the best people in Texas. John T. Holloway, Madison Read, Joe Mathis, Henry Bauman and many other noted families settled at Pleasant Hill.
John T. Holloway, a Christian evangelist, held meetings here and established a church at an early date. John Mathis ran a county store and cotton gin and grist mill. Henry Bauman ran a blacksmith and general work shop.
A building for church and school was erected on a little deviation, hence the name, Pleasant Hill. The land at that time was fresh and fertile. The farmers made good crops and were prosperous. Wild game was plentiful in the woods, which furnished a means of recreation and sport as well as meat for the settler’s table.
Back in the early days, good schools were scarce. The state had but little money to finance schools, hence the public schools were poor. Our best schools were private institutions, financed by private individuals, by tuition, or by church organizations.
Sometime in the 1880’s, Prof. T. J. Allison established a private school in connection with the public school at Pleasant Hill. He erected a two-story frame building, and equipped it for high school work. He conducted a large school here for several years, with pupils coming from the surrounding settlements. One particular feature in regard to all early schools, we note, was the thoroughness of their work. Pupils were required to master a subject before they passed it. Public examinations were held at the close of the term, and each class was examined on the entire term’s work. These public examinations were important occasions attended by the entire community.
Prof. Allison sold his school to the local community in a few years and took up the practice of medicine. C. B. Reader succeeded him.
In about the year 1900, the town of Pritchett began to be built up on the Cotton Belt railroad near Pleasant Hill, and the business and a number of the citizens of Pleasant Hill moved over to the new town. Prof. W. W. Saunders established the Pritchett Preparatory Institute in 1891, and the history of Pritchett began. A considerable town was built up, with a number of nice residences, several stores, a postoffice and a bank. After the Pritchett Normal Institute ceased to function, the citizens of Pritchett established a high school which was affiliated with the State University and received pupils from the nearby districts whose grades were not taught in their home schools. The school building was destroyed by fire, and the school ceased to function as a receiving school. Later, the school united with Gladewater and the high school pupils are carried to that school. A modern rock school building was erected at Pritchett, where an elementary school is now maintained.
Some Early Settlers of Pleasant Hill
Sam McCullough settled about three miles north of Pleasant Hill in 1845. His nearest neighbor at that time was eight miles away. A Mr. Samples and a Mr. Jacobs settled here shortly after Mr. McCullough came. Jim and John Lockhart settled near what is now Pritchett, in 1861. About 1870, J. M. Baker, a minister of the Methodist Church, settled here.
On December 24, 1865, John T. Holloway and Ed E. Elder came from Rusk County and established a church and school at Pleasant Hill. Aunt Texas Mings is the last surviving charter member of this church, established by her father. John T. Holloway was a minister of the gospel and a music teacher. These early settlers were fond of music and the first Sunday in each month was devoted to singing with a public lunch spread at noon.
Back in the 1880’s and 1890’s, there were only a few settlements in what is now known as the Union Grove area. Mr. John O’Byrne settled a few miles to the east, where he ran a large sawmill business. Bill Phillips settled near old Union Grove. Jim Victory settled where Nick Sherman now lives. Mr. Watkins came here in 1892 and settled where he now lives. John Mackey settled about one half mile east of the present location of the Union Grove school, and Rufus Gay settled about one mile west.
At first there was a little school house put up over near Mr. O’Byrne but was later moved to the present location about three miles north of Gladewater on the Gilmer road. There has never been a church building at Union Grove. At one time a few members of the Church of Christ met in the school house, but they disbanded and the members went either to West Mountain or Gladewater.
When oil was discovered in this area, the people who owned land here became rich before they knew it. Oil wells were drilled, people rushed in from everywhere, and leases and royalties were sold. Today the country is covered with oil wells and beautiful modern residences. The people have all late conveniences and are independent and happy.
The most outstanding feature of Union Grove is the school. It stands second to none in this part of the country. After oil was discovered here, wells were drilled on the school property, which enabled them to build a first class school. A magnificent brick building was erected and the school put on high school basis in 1933. It was affiliated with the State University in 1935-36, and became a member of the Southern Association in 1937-38. The school operates a number of buses bringing in pupils from the surrounding districts. They use 18 teachers and have 36 units of affiliation.
About ten miles northwest of Gilmer, a few miles west of the old Cherokee Trace, is the pioneer settlement of Soules Chapel. The church and community were named for a bishop in the Methodist Church by the name of Soules. He probably was the first minister to preach at that place. Mr. Williams, father of Sam and Louis Williams, who used to be important citizens of the community, donated the land for the location of a Methodist Church. This was sometime in the early 1880’s.
The early settlers came into the Soules Chapel community in the wee days of Texas history, and settled on large tracts of land, which were later divided up and occupied by new settlers. The early settlers here, like those in other parts of the country, first built log houses in which they lived till sawmills were installed to convert these pine forests into lumber. Early settlers brought their slaves with them, who helped to clear the land and build these log houses.
There were several old settled places which served rather as land marks in the community. The Williams place, the Robertson place, the Bailey place, the Morris place, and others. John Bates lived on part of the Williams place. Wash Spencer was living on the Robertson place when he died. The Robertson place now belongs to Ustice Spencer. T. G. Morris now lives on the Isom Hill place. There was the Hogan place, later occupied by the Blounts, Floyds, and Whitesides. William Fennell lived on the Jim Bates place, which was part of the Robertson land, and is now occupied by Horace Morris. Mr. Fennell came from South Carolina to Texas. He first went to Waco, but moved from there to Upshur County and settled at Grice. Later, more than fifty years ago, he moved to Soules Chapel and settled on the old Kerns place. This Kerns was the father of Charlie Kerns, who once lived in Gilmer. The Schrum place was originally settled by a Mr. Nelson, father of Lent and Ed Nelson of Pittsburg. I. E. Hill moved with his parents to where he now lives, when he was five years old.
The Methodist Church is the only church in the community.
A common district school has been maintained since the origin of the community. The high school pupils are now transported by bus to the Harmony consolidated high school.
Fletcher Morris ran a horse-power gin here in the early days. Wash Spencer ran a steam-power gin and mill. Thee Spencer operates a gin in the community at present. He also runs a sawmill in connection with the gin. A. J. Morris runs a store at Soules Chapel at present.
The community is served by a mail route out of Gilmer. There are a number of nice, modern rock residences along the roadsides, and the community has the air of prosperity.
Graceton began to be settled up during the 1880’s. Judge Walton Simpson owned a large body of land here, and he donated the land for the erection of a church building. He had a daughter named Grace, and he named the community Graceton, in honor of her.
L. S. Covin settled here in 1866. He bought a section of land from Judge Simpson. He gave all his boys a home from it. Jim Hallmark settled two miles west of the Covin place, while G. A. Floyd settled two miles north. They each operated large farms. W. H. Greer settled where L. L. Covin now lives. Edmond Greer came here in about 1855. He had a large family and settled them around him. J. B. Oliver bought land from W. H. Aaron, where some of the Oliver family still live.
The Methodist Church was the first church organized at Graceton. It has later disbanded, however. The Walnut Creek Baptist Church was organized and is still kept up. Later a Church of Christ was established.
Graceton operated a common district school until the New Diana high school was built, which now serves this community.
J. N. Hooton ran a gin, grist mill and sawmill, all combined. A number of these farmers operated large plantations and used a number of negro hands. Each individual farm had its own cotton gin. Sugar cane was raised in the creek and branch bottoms. Some of the farmers would make as much as a thousand gallons of syrup in one year.
When the Marshall and East Texas railroad was built through here, a considerable little town was built up at Graceton. A post office was located at Diana, with one store. The post office was changed to Graceton, and L. L. Covin served as postmaster for seventeen years. When the railroad went out of business, Graceton, like all other towns on the line, went down.
Graceton now has two stores run by Les Wilson and Otis Smith. Dr. Garrett settled in the eastern part of the community where he looked after the health of the community. The town was generally served by doctors from Coffeeville, however.
The post office was discontinued and the community is served by route No. 5 from Gilmer.
About fifteen miles southeast from Gilmer is the settlement of Glenwood, one of the most popular and progressive communities in Upshur County.
When Texas was a Republic, and even after it joined the United States, all the land in East Texas was considered government land, or public land, and everyone felt free to use the land or timber without permission from anyone. Consequently some of the large cotton growers from Louisiana would come into East Texas with their slaves and clear up large tracts of land and put it in cotton. In a few years they would move on to other parts. These fields would be left to grow up in pine bushes. When the first settlers came into this part of the country, they found a few fields that had once been in cultivation.
Near the close of the Civil War, settlers began to locate in the Glenwood area. They established a post office and Mr. Wiley Florence was first postmaster, who named the post office and the community. No one knows where he got the name, but he selected the romantic name of Glenwood. This was in 1865 or 1866. The post office was kept in Mr. Florence’s house for a while, but was later established at its present location. Mr. Bledsoe followed Mr. Florence as postmaster and continued in office until the post office was discontinued and rural delivery established.
Wiley Florence, grandfather of Mack and the other Florence boys, settled at what is known as the Florence place, a little southeast of Glenwood. Larkin Berry settled just north of Glenwood. The old home is still standing, but is not occupied at present. O. E. Oliver lives on part of the old homestead. W. J. Bledsoe settled the Bledsoe place a little farther north. The old home, a two-story residence, is not occupied at present. J. J. Wheeler lives on part of the estate, near the old home. Mr. Bledsoe settled here in 1867 and was one of the most influential and progressive citizens. He put in a gin and grist mill when he first settled here, which was operated by horse-power. It was later operated by steam. Later, in 1904, Mr. Bledsoe put in a large sawmill, which he ran for several years. There was a lot of fine pine timber near by and he did a large lumber business. J. J. Wheeler came here from Wood County and married one of Mr. Bledsoe’s daughters in 1893. He located on part of the Bledsoe estate in 1894 and has since that time been active and influential in directing the affairs of Glenwood. The Brawleys came from South Carolina and settled at first near the Florence place. The Brawleys have always been important citizens. There were the Willefords, the Kennards, the Lovells, and many others who united their efforts in building this fine community.
There has never been but one church at Glenwood. Just after the Civil War, Larkin Berry donated a plot of ground for the location of a Methodist Church. A crude building was first used, but later on a nice modern church building was erected and a real live, active church is still making its influence felt in this and adjoining communities.
The land for a cemetery was donated by G. W. Anderson.
Glenwood has had good schools all along. Mrs. Eugenia Greer Floyd taught the first school. Rev. McClelland also taught in the early days. For a while the school was taught in the church building, but later a house was built at the present location. Charlie Christian established a boarding school here back in the 1880’s. This school exerted a great influence over this part of the county. Later a large two-story building was put up and Glenwood had an excellent school, taught by some of the best teachers of the county. At present, Glenwood has a nice stone school building, fully accredited, with twelve grades, employing eight teachers. It operates two buses in transporting pupils to and from school.
Dr. Buchanan practiced medicine here for a long time. Bill Davis put in the first store at Glenwood and there has been one or two stores here ever since. Jim Darden used to operate a blacksmith shop here.
Coffeeville, located in the eastern part of Upshur County, claims the honor of being the third or fourth settlement made in East Texas. Tradition says that during the Civil War, or before that time, it was almost impossible to buy coffee anywhere. The settlers used parched corn, okra, and almost everything else as a substitute for coffee. At this time there was quite a little town at Coffeeville and one of the merchants went to Jefferson or Shreveport and brought back a quantity of green coffee! When the settlers learned about it, everybody rushed in to get a supply of coffee. As that was the only place they could buy coffee, they nicknamed it “Coffeeville,” and it has kept the name ever since. Coffeeville has an interesting early history and served as an important distributing point for East-Texas.
Dr. Cunliff was one of the early settlers and practiced medicine here all his active life. Hal Cunliff was post master a long time. This was one of the first post offices established in Upshur County. Mail was brought from Pittsburg by La Fayette and on to Coffeeville, three times a week. Joe Spratt ran a store here at an early date. He brought his goods from Jefferson. J. P. Morgan and Henry Collins ran stores following Joe Spratt. George Murrell ran a store in the present store building, which was at one time used as a saloon. C. W. Williamson settled where he still lives. A public well was dug here back in the early days, and is still in use.
Gerald Hogg, father of the Hogg boys of Gilmer, settled here and raised a large and influential family. Mose Bell ran a gin and grist mill in the early days. Charlie Melton lived here where C. R. Ambrose now lives. A Mr. Wright also ran a store at Coffeeville in the early days. Frank Chapman used to run a blacksmith shop here.
Coffeeville has maintained a public school during all the years. Lately, two or three districts have consolidated with a nice school building located on the old Hogg homestead. They operate one school bus in carrying the children to and from school.
At one time there was what was known as the First Baptist Church, The Methodist Church, The Presbyterian Church, and the Northern Missionary Baptist Church. They, at one time, had separate buildings, but they use one common building at present.
Ore City is located in the eastern part of Upshur County among the picturesque little hills, rich with iron ore deposits. Ore City was originally a part of the old Murry League, and had a part in the Murry Institute. Its early history is involved in the history of this needed institution.
About 1910, an iron ore boom struck here and Ore City came into existence. A move was put on foot to develop the millions of tons of valuable ore lying in these local hills. A company was organized, and a boom was on foot! The town of Ore City was laid off and settlers rushed in and bought building lots. The town began to build up and bid fair for a prosperous city. A post office was secured, a bank established and a number of stores opened up. The ore failed to be developed, as was expected, and the city failed to fill out. The city is still there, however, with its streets and avenues, with its four hundred inhabitants quietly waiting the development of this fine iron ore, which is bound to take place at some time in the near future. Ore City has an interest in the Daingerfield iron industry, and a number of her citizens have stock in that enterprise.
Back before the Civil War, back in the 1860’s, the Murry Institute, located near the present Ore City, was doing a great work educating the boys and girls of that part of the country. After the institute was discontinued, and after Ore City was built up, they had good schools. They have a nice brick school building, with five class rooms and an auditorium, equipped with all modern aids and helps. An independent district was organized and a bus route established to carry the pupils to and from school.
Ore City has two churches, the Missionary Baptist and the Methodist.
Ore City, at present, has five stores, two garages and filling stations, bank, barber shop, post office with rural route. It has a cotton gin and grist mill, and a hammer mill which grinds all kinds of grain and hay for stock feed. Six saw mills are now operating from Ore City, and everybody seems to be busy and contented.
When the Indians were driven from East Texas, there was found, about five miles east of Gilmer, a large rock. This rock was about thirty feet square, with a comparatively smooth surface containing marks which the Indians had made. The Indians had previously had a settlement or village near this rock. A few scattering settlements were made near this Indian rock at an early date, but the community did not exist as such until about the year 1898. In that year, Bill Johnson, who owned a large tract of land, deeded to the officers of the Missionary Baptist church land for the location of a church building. John Reynolds, who also lived here, deeded a plot of ground for a school building. Henry and George Johnson, sons of Bill Johnson, settled in the community. Bill Johnson first settled where Robert Taylor now lives. John Reynolds settled the Chatman place. Bill and George Johnson both settled up on the road toward Gilmer. Mr. Floyd settled at the Aaron Floyd place, now owned by Willie Starr. Will Ray now owns the Erly Floyd place. Originally all the land in the settlement belonged to the Floyds, Johnsons, and Vivians. Other settlers bought land from them as they moved in. T. O. Baugh settled where he now lives, in 1900. C. H. Baugh settled on an adjoining place. Nims Tilman lived on the Maxie Floyd place, settled by Aaron Floyd. Sam Rogers settled where Otis Shipp now lives. There is a beautiful lake near here, known as the Crosby Lake. A settlement was made near this lake by W. E. Crosby. Steve Barton now owns this home and lake, and his son-in-law, Lofton Berry, lives near by.
Indian Rock has always had a good school. Frank Smith, now County Superintendent of Upshur County, took charge of the school in 1920 and later organized a high school. A beautiful brick building was put up in 1934, and high school pupils were brought in from the near by districts. This high school was maintained for several years till the scholastic population became so low they were forced to lower their grade. They still have a good school, however, with eight grades and four teachers.
The Baptist Church is the only church in the community, with Otis Shipp and wife, and Willie Floyd, as leaders.
D. F. Smith, Matt Camp, Gordon Carrington, Cleon Floyd, Milton Rash, and W. O. Hancock are the present trustees of the school. Buses from Glenwood and East Mountain, also one local bus, serve the district.
At an early date, the Johnsons put in a cotton gin operated by horse power. Aaron Floyd later put in a gin run by steam. John Reynolds also ran a steam gin. There is no gin in the community at present, however. W. A. Phillips and brothers once ran a saw mill in the community. Luther Stanley and Mont Camp are running saw mills at the present time.
Maxie Floyd runs a store at Indian Rock at present. Clyde Baugh also runs a store here. Mrs. Thornton operates a store at Thornton City, a little farther east. There is a large car wrecking yard, run by Douglas Davis, a little way on the road to Gilmer. Two mail routes from Gilmer serve the district; Routes No. 1 and No. 5.
Floyd Cemetery is located two miles east of the church,
About eight miles south of Gilmer, on the Gilmer and Gladewater road, is a picturesque little mountain, around which, in the early days, a large progressive settlement sprang up. Farther east, is another little mountain, so they were known as East Mountain and West Mountain. This location was ideal for settlement in the pioneer days. With a rich sandy soil, with abundance of pure water and fine timber of all kinds, this made a desirable location for homes.
One of the earliest settlers of West Mountain was John Morgan, who came here from Alabama with his family and a few Negro slaves. He reared a large family of children, three boys and seven girls. The boys were, Mack, Sebern, and Richard. They all remained at West Mountain and raised large families, who were instrumental in building up the fine community of West Mountain. There is no house at present on the place where Richard Morgan settled, but Mrs. Alice Brazille, a granddaughter, owns the property. Tump Morgan, a son of Sebern Morgan, now lives where his father settled. Coleman Starkey now owns the Mack Morgan place. Alph Phillips settled near the center of the community, where he raised a large family. He had three sons, Alpha, James, and Ben. They all remained in the settlement and raised their families. Ras Phillips of Gilmer, now owns most of the Phillips place. When Mr. Phillips settled here he built a large log house, which was removed only a few years ago. This house consisted of two large rooms, twenty-four feet square, with side rooms downstairs, and two large rooms upstairs. It had a hall twelve feet wide and a twelve-foot porch. It had a stock chimney with a fireplace downstairs and one above. It was made of large, hewed logs, and was a relic of the pioneer days.
Lon and Adolph Phillips, who became progressive leaders in the community, and in the county, were sons of Jim Phillips. Otis Phillips now owns the Jim Phillips place. E. C. Shipp now owns and lives on the Ben Phillips place. Mr. Bradshaw also built a log house where they lived for a number of years. Part of the house is still standing, and is owned by a grandson, Douglas Bradshaw. Alph Phillips donated land for the cemetery and school. The Morgans and Phillips were influential in the community and through their leadership, a progressive community was built up. Ben Phillips served in the state legislature, and Lon Phillips served as county clerk and as county judge of Upshur County.
A family of Todds settled here at an early date. V. E. Todd and his sister, Miss Achsa Todd, of Gilmer, are grandchildren of the original Mr. Todd. He settled at or near what is now known as the J. M. Perdue place. Five fine boys of this couple settled here, or nearby. Also one sister, Mrs. J. M. Perdue. Lowe Perdue and his sister, Miss Laman Perdue, now own this place.
Dick Morgan’s oldest daughter married Charley Mackey and reared nine children, all of whom Settled near West Mountain. B. B. Elder and wife, Octa, who is a daughter of Charley Mackey, now live on the old home place.
The Church of Christ is the only church ever established in the immediate settlement of West Mountain. Mr. John O’Burns built a Catholic church near his residence, where regular services are held.
West Mountain has always had the reputation of having good schools. Mr. J. M. Perdue, an outstanding educator, conducted a school here of considerable note. Prof. Chrisman also taught here. W. A. Phillips, together with his brother, Adolph Phillips, taught here for a number of years. Other good teachers taught here from time to time. Later, after the discovery of oil, a nice rock school building was erected and an excellent school was maintained. A high school was built up at Union Grove, on the Gladewater road, and as the scholastic population became too small at West Mountain to do the grade of work they desired, they consolidated with Union Grove.
The Morgans, Phillips and Mackeys were outstanding leaders in the community. They were all noted singers and took a great interest in the musical development of their local community and the entire county. Monroe Morgan, a son of Richard Morgan, became a music teacher and composer with a state reputation.
Jim Shipp, Lum Smith, and Jim Edwards were also outstanding families who lived at West Mountain. John O’Burns, who ran a large saw mill in the lower part of the settlement, was also an important community leader and builder. B. B. Elder, a retired school teacher and minister of the gospel, now lives at West Mountain, and is an influential leader in the church and in the social affairs of the community.
There has been at least one store at West Mountain all the time. A post office was operated here until rural delivery was established. Dr. Allison practiced medicine here for a number of years. Dr. Pritchett also practiced here.
The oil industry has added greatly to the population and wealth of West Mountain. There are a number of wells in the community, and the citizens have electricity and gas. Rube Smith now runs a store and filling station. The community is served by two mail routes, one from Gilmer and one from Gladewater. The State Highway No. 271 passes through the community and buses make regular trips over this highway.
About six miles south of Gilmer, near Glade Creek, is the settlement of Mings Chapel. “Grandpa” Mings and Joseph Beavers were the first settlers in the community and it was named in honor of “Grandpa” Mings. Mr. Mings was the grandfather of Phillip and Mace Mings, formerly of Big Sandy. He brought a number of slaves here with him, and operated a large plantation back before the Civil War. Sam Kelly, father of Tom Kelly, who at one time ran a business at Big Sandy, settled here. Henry Vessel later settled on part of this place. Billy and Jim Mings settled at Cedar Grove near Glade Creek church. Joseph Beavers settled where his son, Hop Beavers, now lives, shortly after the close of the war with Mexico. He served in the Mexican War and received a large tract of land as compensation for his service. James Long settled east of Glade Creek in 1866, just after the close of the Civil War. Mr. Shettlesworth settled near the schoolhouse, where he died. Ed. Beavers now lives on part of the old Mings place. A Mr. Boyington settled near where Bill Palmer now lives. Frank Long now lives on his father’s old place. Jesse Beavers settled near the Long place on Glade Creek.
A little house was built some time back in the 1850’s to be used as a school house, and also a church house for all denominations. Later, the Missionary Baptist organized a church and built a meeting house near Glade Creek, and named it Glade Creek Church. Brother Christian of Gilmer was once pastor of this church.
A Mrs. Humphreys taught the first school at Mings Chapel. They used a large, double pen log house. She taught school in one end of the building, while the family lived in the other end. Jeff Allison also taught here in an old dwelling house before the school house was built. Later, a one-room building was put up, with a little belfrey on top, which was used for a number of years. The community now has a large school building, well equipped, teaching eight grades and is accredited with the state university. The school uses buses to transport children to and from the school. Pupils above the eighth grade are transported to East Mountain.
Dr. Hardin, Dr. McCruchin, and Dr. Bill Watkins served the community at different times in the early days. Later, Dr. Shettlesworth practiced here for a number of years before he moved to Pritchett. Jim “Red” Smith ran a cotton gin here and lived where Bill Palmer now lives. Alvin Palmer ran the first store at Mings Chapel about thirty five years age. Will Nation also ran a store here before he went to Gilmer. Joe Youngblood and Lon Craig both operate stores here at the present time. The community has rural electricity, and gets its mail from Gilmer on route No. 3.
This settlement was begun and named by W. A. Bland about 1898. It was named Sand Hill because of its deep sand.
W. A. Lloyd settled where C. L. Lloyd now lives. M. D. Matthews settled here. Part of his place now belongs to D. T. Loyd, superintendent of East Mountain school. Robert Shaw settled where Howard Jones now lives. Bill Hawkins settled where his son, Henry, now lives. Mark Shaw settled west of the school house, where he still lives. Dick Guest settled a little to the east of the school house, where he lived till his death. Mr. Guest was an influential citizen in the community and took a great interest in the school and community life. Florence settled where I. Glasco now lives. W. W. Hawkins ran a cotton gin before the first war, but there is no gin now. There was, at one time, a saw mill here, operated by Glasco and Glasco.
The Missionary Baptist Church is the only church meeting here at the present time. The Methodist Church, the Church of Christ, and the Nazarenes all formerly met here, but they have discontinued or changed their place of meeting.
Children in the high school grades are carried to East Mountain, while the lower grades attend the local elementary school.
Sand Hill gets mail from Gilmer on Rural Route No. 5.
In about the year 1900, there was a fine area of timber land lying about eight miles a little to the southwest of Gilmer. Most of this land belonged to the public schools of Nacogdoches County. Mr. L. A. Latch came in here about that time and bought up a lot of this land and timber and put in a saw mill and began cutting this fine timber into lumber. There was an abundance of large, heart timber with trees from two to three feet in diameter. This lumber was of an excellent quality, and houses built back in those days are still standing in almost perfect condition.
This country was all in the woods at that time, with the exception of a few scattering settlements nearby. There were the Carrols, who lived near what was known as Carrol’s Chapel. The Steelmans lived to the north, near Hopewell church. A Mr. Steelman ran a horse power cotton gin out on the Gilmer road.
As the timber was cut off this land, it was sold to settlers and a prosperous farming community was built up. Some of these settlers were, Tom Bullard, Jim Moore, Giles Steelman, John Earp, the Longs, and many others who helped to build up the Latch community. Latch got a post office, with a star route, which came from Gilmer around by Calloway and Shady Grove. Soon a school building was erected and later on, Latch had a good school. Latch at the present time is a prosperous community. It has two stores and filling stations that do nice business.
After L. A. Latch cut off all the timber, he went out of the saw mill business, and operated several farms. Later he went into politics, and served as sheriff of Upshur County for a number of years. The community was named for Mr. Latch, and everybody in the community loved him. He was known as “Daddy Latch,” and was over 90 years old when he died.
After Mr. Latch went out of the saw mill business, Lark Carrington ran a saw mill at Latch for some time. Will Mathis ran a gin at Latch for several years, but cotton gins for the past few years have all moved to town.
Dr. Craddock married one of Mr. Latch’s daughters and located in the community, where he has lived since, as the community doctor.
The entire Latch school transferred to Harmony, a consolidated school near Rosewood, and is still with that school. It may eventually consolidate with Harmony, because they do not have sufficient pupils to do the grade of work they desire.
Forty-five years ago, the territory now known as the Stamps community, was undeveloped. Mr. John Smith owned a large tract of land, including a large part of Gum Creek bottom, together with a lot of land covered with fine pine timber. Mr. W. O. Stamps bought this land and improved it. He put in a large saw mill and planer and for a number of years did an extensive lumber business. His son, the late Virgil O. Stamps, famous song writer and publisher, hauled logs to his father’s mill with a team of oxen, when he was a young man. Mr. Stamps had the rich bottom land in Gum Creek bottom put in cultivation and planted in ribbon cane. He put in cane mills and cooking vats and manufactured thousands of gallons of the finest quality of ribbon cane syrup. Mr. Stamps also put in a canning factory, which did a large business. To operate these various industries, it required a number of hands. A considerable settlement was built up, and the community of Stamps, named for its founder, was placed on the map.
Mr. Stamps was a great organizer and business man and social leader. His influence was felt not only in his home community, but in all the county as well. In addition to his local activities, he served four years in the state legislature.
Mr. W. O. Stamps was the first to settle in the present Stamps area. C. T. Culpepper settled where he still lives. G. A. Lloyd, B. F. Culpepper, and J. P. Bland were also among the first settlers. Later, Will Willeford bought the Stamps home. His brother, John Willeford, also lives here.
The Methodist church meets in what is known as the Union Church building. The Church of Christ has a building down toward Graceton, where they meet regularly.
Stamps maintained a public school since the community was first settled until about the year 1930 when the school was consolidated with New Diana.
Dr. Childress of Gilmer did his first practicing of medicine at Stamps. V. O. Stamps, Frank Stamps, D. A. Lloyd, and others are natives of the Stamps community. There was at one time an old Indian settlement on the Stamps land. Old Indian pottery and relics have been unearthed in later years. There is a string of miniature mountains nearby, known as the “Camp Mountains.” There are also other little mountains nearby, known as the “Barnwell Mountains.”
Just after Texas joined the United States, there was a considerable rush of immigrants into Texas, which was considered “The Land of Opportunity.” A number of families generally came together for companionship and mutual protection from the wild animals and the Indians. As these settlers came in groups, they generally settled in groups. They were dispersed throughout East Texas and Upshur County, and many local communities had their beginnings about the time Texas became a state. A few settlers came, however, while Texas was an independent republic, and even when it belonged to Mexico. But they, as a rule, settled in the southern part of the state around San Antonio, or Goliad. The early settlers brought their Negro slaves with them, and with plenty of timber for building and fencing, abundance of pure spring water, and the woods full of wild game, this seemed to be the settlers’ paradise.
Simpsonville was named for one of its first settlers named Simpson. Other early settlers were the Hart brothers, George, Jim and Joel. They were of the same Hart family as William Hart, who was one of the first settlers of Upshur County, and who played an important role in its establishment. Jim and Washington Tucker were among the first settlers. Woods Wright settled about a half mile east of the present town of Simpsonville, and in 1853 a Missionary Baptist church was established on his farm. It was a little log house, but was later moved to Simpsonville where a better house was built. The first preacher was Reverend Ziegler, who now has a great, great grandson living between Simpsonville and Perryville, and preaches regularly for the churches nearby.
John R. Taylor settled down near Soules Chapel, but later moved to Simpsonville. Dock Taylor, one of the leading citizens of Simpsonville today, is part of the original Taylor family.
Dr. Couch, Sr., father of the late Dr. J. E. Couch, was the first physician in Simpsonville. Dr. Harrison settled east of Simpsonville on the Bettie road, but later moved to Simpsonville. Dr. Winn ran the first automobile in Simpsonville. It was a little high-wheeled, buggy-like contraption, steered by a lever, but it would run. Bill Spencer settled a little way south of Simpsonville. He first built a little log house, but in a short time he put up a large house, built of hewn pine logs, which were plentiful. While Mr. Spencer was building his new house, and before he got it completed, he had to be away from home on business and was detained several times until after night. Mrs. Spencer being alone as night began to come and darkness gathered, became frightened, for the woods were full of wild animals and Indians. So she climbed up the wall of the new house and sat on the plate until Mr. Spencer came home, away in the night, Mr. Spencer raised a large family of boys and girls who became leading citizens of the communities where they lived.
A post office was established at Simpsonville at an early date. At first it was only a delivery point for the mail which was brought from Pittsburg about once a week. Some time later a regular post office was established, and as there was already a post office in Texas named Simpsonville, it was given the name of Thomas, for the active post master at that time. Mail is now brought into the community both from Gilmer and from Pittsburg, but still the post office is maintained.
Simpsonville grew into a considerable little country town. There were a number of stores, all of which did a good business. Woods Wright, Dr. Couch, Fletcher Morris, and Alf Morris all ran cotton gins nearby operated by horse power. Most of those gins were changed to steam power and continued to serve the public. Tom Spencer ran a gin south of Simpsonville. S. G. Dean, Dave Calvert and others operated stores here at different times. Calvin Reeves ran a blacksmith shop. A bank was established at Simpsonville in 1923 and continued to do business until it was taken over by the First National Bank of Pittsburg in 1927.
Simpsonville is in somewhat an isolated position. It isn’t felt so much now, however, as it was in the days before motor transportation and good roads. Goods had to be brought from Pittsburg, about 15 miles to the north, or from Gilmer, about the same distance to the southeast. At times, during the winter, the roads would become so bad it would be impossible for the merchants to get groceries hauled out. During such times the citizens would have to divide their supplies of staple goods, such as sugar or flour, until the roads dried.
Simpsonville has had good schools from the beginning. A man by the name of LeRoy taught here in the early days. Professor LeRoy was a peculiar character. He was highly educated, and was said to have been an excellent teacher, but he knew nothing outside of books. He could not distinguish one kind of tree from another, and could not tell the different directions. He boarded with George Hart, Sr., who lived a little way off the main road that led to the schoolhouse. If the mornings were cloudy, or snow was on the ground, Mr. Hart would have to go with him and show him the way. On one occasion, it was told, the professor started to his school while it was cloudy and snow was on the ground. During the day Mr. Hart had occasion to pass the schoolhouse and saw the children in the house, with no teacher. He began to search for the teacher and traced him to a little outhouse. He was sitting in there waiting for the children to come to school. When Mr. Hart approached the door, the teacher said, “It seems like the children are late getting here this morning.”
Simpsonville has kept up a good interest in educational affairs. She has had good teachers all along, and for a while put on graduation exercises at the close of the term. The school students are now transported by bus to Union Hill high school near Bettie. Prof. McWaters taught here during the Civil War, and Prof. Lowler also taught here seventy-five years ago.
The history of LaFayette began about one hundred years ago. The place was named for LaFayette Locke, one of the earliest settlers. A group of new settlers came in every year until about 1880, when a considerable little town and flourishing settlement was built up. These settlers were from all the southern states, and brought with them their Negro slaves. These settlers were industrious, hard working men and women, but it would have been almost impossible to develop this new country without the slave labor.
LaFayette is located in the extreme northern part of Upshur County with part of the settlement over the line in Camp County. The town, however, and all industrial enterprises are located in Upshur County. Time brings about many changes. The history of LaFayette has been rather romantic. She has had many periods of prosperity, as well as her share of adversities. But she has survived them all.
The Montgomerys were among the first settlers of LaFayette.
A Mr. Wilks settled just over the line in Camp County. Mr. Sewell settled in the heart of the village, where his widow still lives. Mr. Gregory, father of Dr. George Gregory, settled here where Mr. Reed now lives. Mr. Massey settled where Mr. Rosenkoutter now lives. Mr. Atkins settled here in 1883, at the J. H. Strange place. Dr. Bailey practiced medicine here in the early days.
A post office was established at LaFayette at the very beginning of the settlement. A star route was established from Pittsburg to LaFayette and on to Coffeeville. Mail was delivered three times a week. There is a post office here at present with mail delivered from Pittsburg every day. One carrier brings the office mail, while another carrier from Pittsburg served an R.F.D. route in the settlement.
There was a great iron ore boom at LaFayette in 1892 or 1893. This caused the town to build up. Excitement ran high. Many families moved in and many new homes were built. Other business enterprises were established, and the prospects for a real town were good. This boom caused the town to build up, influenced the social and business life of the community, but because of the money panic which came on about that time, and the lack of financial support, the iron ore enterprise failed to materialize.
The Missionary Baptists were the first to establish a congregation at LaFayette. They erected a two-story building, with a Masonic lodge in the upper story. A Methodist church was located here also.
The first school was taught in a log house. H. L. Sewell probably taught the first school. A Mr. Stephens also taught in the early days. Jack Sanders taught in the 1890’s. He had a large school during the boom days, as many new settlers moved in. In later years, the scholastic population decreased until it was impossible to maintain a school such as the community desired, so the entire school was transferred to Union Ridge.
Doctors who have served LaFayette were Dr. C. F. Henderson, Dr. Bates, Drs. George and Will Gregory, Dr. Adkins and possibly others. There is no doctor at LaFayette at present.
At one time there were three cotton gins located in different parts of the community, also a grist mill and a shingle mill. A newspaper, The LaFayette Iron Record, was printed here for a while, but is now discontinued. There are two stores and filling stations here at the present time.
Mr. Adkins has been influential in the school and social life of the community, and Mrs. Willie Sewell has run the post office most of the time since 1914.
LaFayette has rural electricity and telephone service. It has two stores, a black smith shop, a barber shop, the post office, a milk route and several local curing plants. The livestock industry is increasing. In the early days, there were saloons here, and for a while a fish house was operated here. All the residences in the town, except two, have been remodeled in the past few years. LaFayette has had no case in court in the past two years. The citizens say this is proof that it is a good place to live.
A few miles west of Gilmer is the little creek known as Kelsey Creek. It was named for Dr. W. H. Kelsey, one of the first settlers of Upshur County. In the 1890’s there was a few scattered settlements near this creek, who claimed either Double Springs or Enon as their home communities. About this time, two brothers, John and Jim Edgar, who were members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, settled here. This church is peculiar, in that its members settle in groups, or colonies, under the direction and oversight of the headquarters, located at Salt Lake City, Utah. The faithful members of this organization, endeavoring to carry out the admonition of St. Paul to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together,” will sacrifice their homes, if need be, and come together in these colonies.
John and Jim Edgar decided that this location on Kelsey Creek would be an ideal place for the location of a colony. Through their efforts, other members of their faith were induced to come in and a church and a colony were established. The colony has a systematic government, with a president and other officers to manage its local affairs. The colony at Kelsey was organized about the year 1900, and W. C. Harlis was the first president. Other presidents who have served the colony at different times, were Presidents Cox, Morris, John A. Futrell, Green, Maroni Hamberlin, J. C. Wade and others. J. C. Wade is president at the present time.
After the Kelsey colony was established, it was settled almost overnight. People from different parts of Texas and other states, flocked here until soon the Kelsey community was a thickly populated area. The land was fertile and truck farming became an important industry. A large church building was erected with many class rooms, where various classes met for study exercise almost every night in the week.
A large school building was put up by the church organization, and an excellent school was maintained for several years. Teachers were sent here from Utah to carry on the work of the school. Part of the time it was run as a church school, and part of the time as a state school. The church sent many girls here from Utah to work as missionaries in the school and in the families of the community. They taught domestic science and agriculture, and for a while the school had a brass band, and a large gymnasium. Because of the lack of pupils, the school was finally discontinued at Kelsey and moved to Gilmer. The gymnasium was sold and moved away, while the school building was kept for a community center and recreation building.
It seems that no one at the present time, knows how Enon got its name. Nor does anyone know just when the first settlement was made in the community.
A man by the name of Knight gave the land for the location of a Missionary Baptist Church.
Among the early settlers were, Mr. McPeek, father of Bill and John McPeek. He settled near the center of the community at a very early date. The Rays settled south and southeast of the church building. Mr. Simpson, father of Judge Simpson, settled a little south of the church. Mr. Petty settled at a place just east of McPeek’s store. “Aunt Susan” Petty was a well known and highly respected character. The Carters settled to the northeast of the church. Mr. Fowler settled up on Cypress creek near where the Fowler bridge is located.
The first school was built just across the road south of the church. Walter Roberts and others taught school here back in the 1890’s. Later on, the school was moved farther south to what was known as Myrtle Springs. A good building was put up here, and a large school was kept up until the building was destroyed by fire. A new building was put up farther north, toward the store.
John McPeek put in a store and got a post office established at Enon, about 1890. The post office was named McPeek for John McPeek, the first post master.
Enon at present is a thickly populated community and enjoying all modern rural conveniences.
Enon Baptist Church
According to the church record, Enon Baptist Church was organized almost one hundred years ago, on May 13, 1848. The following members met at the residence of M. S. Long, for the purpose of constituting a Missionary Baptist Church, namely: S. I. Knight, David M. Davis, J. D. J. Davis, Sarah Knight, Martha Mattock and Lucinda Davis. A sermon was preached by David Louis, after which he was chosen to act as moderator and J. D. J. Davis, clerk. S. I. Knight, the only ordained deacon, took charge of the work.
One can fully realize the age of the Enon Baptist Church when he parallels its organization with other historical events. Its origin dates back to the time of slavery in the States. There are instances on record where slaves held membership in Enon church. They were designated as slaves of certain white owners.
J. M. Griffin was the first pastor, chosen in 1849. Since that time the church has had thirty-two different pastors, W. R. Arrington holding the longest record of service, having served the church 29 years at six different callings. The church had services only once each month, until 1945 when it voted to have services twice monthly in adding strength and power to the church.
Few people who now live on or near old Calloway Hill, know anything of the history and the tragedies of that little elevation. Calloway was one of the very earliest settled communities in Upshur county. Before the Civil War, it was a place of considerable note. A post office was located there when only two or three post offices were found in the whole county. A store or two and a saloon did a thriving business. In those days there was no law against making whiskey, and anybody had the right to get drunk, if they wanted to. The first settlers of Calloway believed it was every man’s natural right to get drunk and engage in fist fights just for recreation and amusement.
Calloway was the voting place for a considerable area in the western part of the county. An election was a great social occasion, celebrated by horse races, swapping horses, and drinking home-made whiskey. An old man, who was then a little boy, tells of going to an election at Calloway with his father, who was to help hold the election. He said a keg of whiskey was arranged at a convenient place, with a little tin cup for the accommodation of the voters. Undoubtedly, the whiskey was supplied by the candidates. This boy said he remembered that his father and the other men holding the election, had to close up the polls now and then and get out to help settle a drunken row. The early citizens of Calloway could be identified by their manner of dress. The men wore high-top boots, with spurs, broad brim white hats, and a red bandana handkerchief around their necks. While some of these men were rough and rowdy, they possessed high ideals of honor, and believed in treating everybody fairly.
Tom Cranfill lived at Calloway and served as justice of the peace and a kind of lawyer. He had three sons, Luther, Albert, and Tom. The boys all left the county when they became grown and became leaders in the affairs of other parts of the state. Dr. J. B. Cranfill, an influential leader in the Baptist church, is a cousin to Tom Cranfill, and lived at Calloway for awhile when he was a boy.
Dave Barton lived at Calloway and served as justice of the peace and county commissioner. Mr. Barton lived near a large spring, which became a popular resort, and was known as Barton’s Springs. Jim Barton, a druggist at Big Sandy, is a grandson of Dave Barton. Jack and Hans Finnie lived in the Calloway neighborhood and were noted horse traders. Dr. McClennon lived on top of Calloway Hill and practiced medicine as long as he lived. There are no traces of the old Calloway Hill left there at the present time, for the place is dotted with nice, modern homes, whose inhabitants are happy, law-abiding citizens. Johnson’s Chapel church is located near by, and the community is a prosperous one.
Bettie began its career in 1880. It was named for “Aunt” Bettie Anderson. Neri Anderson, who settled what is now known as the Waller place, was the first post master.
Billie Gipson, J. H. King, Bill Davis, and others, were instrumental in building up the town of Bettie. Jim Rider ran the first store. Ed Morris followed Mr. Anderson as post master. The Rose Bud saw mill located near by, shipped a large quantity of lumber from Bettie. In fact, Bettie was a considerable lumber town. Judge Lowe ran a saw mill about five miles away, and shipped his lumber from Bettie. With the lumber business and the other local trade, Bettie did a considerable business.
A bank was organized in 1913, with I. Goolsby as president and Delbert McIntosh cashier, with Mrs. Dr. Taylor assistant cashier. The bank, like all other little banks of the county, was closed in 1921.
Dr. G. A. Taylor came here in 1889, and began the practice of medicine. He has remained here all these years, and now, though he is old and feeble, the people of Bettie love him and respect him highly. Other doctors who have practiced at Bettie are, Dr. Charles Duke, Dr. Shipp, and Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Taylor, 81 years old, and Mr. W. I. Carter, 76 years old, who came here in 1890, are two of the oldest persons in Bettie.
A Methodist church was established at Bettie, and was dedicated by Ed Jones in 1891. This is the only church at Bettie, while there is a Missionary Baptist church at Oak Hill, only two and a half miles west. A cemetery is located near the old school building.
School was first taught at Rocky Point, but was moved to Bettie in 1894. It was consolidated with Union Hill in 1914. This is an accredited high school, located just west of Bettie on the Simpsonville road. The Gilmer and Pittsburg Highway passes just a short distance east of Bettie, which is located on the Cotton Belt railroad. A number of stores and filling stations, together with a lot of nice homes, have been built up on the highway, which is known as “East Bettie.”
Upshur County’s County Agents and County Fairs
The first county agent Upshur county ever had was H. L. McKnight, who was appointed to that office in the latter part of the year 1908. The idea of a county agent was quite new to the farmers of Upshur county at that time and they did not know how to take it. McKnight was greatly interested in his work, and advised the farmers as to the best varieties of crops and the best methods of cultivation.
There was a standing joke told on McKnight at that time. It was said that he told the farmers they were raising the wrong kind of cotton, as it bore both red and white blooms. He advised that they adopt a variety that produced only white or red blooms. McKnight got just as much kick out of this joke as anyone else. The farm demonstration work was so new in Upshur county, that many of the farmers thought that he was a revenue officer or spy, sent into the county to see if they were really working, or putting in too much time fishing.
McKnight was succeeded by M. L. Kuykendall, who came from Hallsville. He traveled over the county in a gig, or two-wheeled cart. He was a long-winded fellow, and it was told that he would talk his audience to sleep before he quit, and when they began to wake up, he would begin all over again. However, jokes or no jokes, McKnight and Kuykendall laid the foundation for the Farm Demonstration work in Upshur county.
J. O. Allen, one of the best known cotton raisers in East Texas, was the first district agent to cover all Northeast Texas. He was the owner of the old Holly McGee farm at Concord, which, at that time, was considered the best farm in the county. In the summer of 1910, Allen, with the help of some of the leading citizens of the county, organized the first Upshur County Fair. He was assisted by Lon Phillips, who was county judge at that time, Jack Obyrne, J. M. Perdue, W. M. Dunagan and all the business men of Gilmer. The Fair was held in buildings constructed around the court house square, and with the traveling shows and carnivals, a great show was produced. Every one looked forward to the opening day, and they came from all the surrounding country for three days recreation. This Fair was also a source of education for the citizens of Upshur county, demonstrating the resources and possibilities of the county.
Dock Douphrate, Bob Barnwell, and Berry Futrell had new Buick cars at this time, and they gave the Corn Club Boys a free ride out to the end of Montgomery Street. This was the first automobile ride for those boys and they enjoyed it very much. But during these trips, teams of horses and mules that they met, became so frightened that they climbed the steep banks along the road, carrying wagons and drivers with them, while barrels of flour rolled out of the back of the wagons. Someone, too, ran an old Model-T Ford out to the circus stand for ten cents a round trip. Many of the older people got their first automobile ride during the first Upshur County Fair. The cars caused so many runaway scrapes of the farmers’ teams that they became very resentful against them. County Fairs and automobiles hit Upshur county about the same time, and the car added a big attraction to the Fair.
The County Fair was kept up in Gilmer for a few years, but soon interest began to lag, and now the County Fair exists only in memory. The old time County Agent who began the Farm Demonstration, passed with the County Fair, and now that work is on a more business-like basis, and the agents are no longer looked upon as spies or secret revenue agents, the farmers no longer seem to fear that the County Agent is trying to pry too deeply into his affairs.
Upshur county has had a number of County Agents since 1908, and among them were, W. M. Dunagan, of West Mountain, and A. W. Kinnard, who was the first A&M graduate to serve as county agent. He was sent from Brazos county. Many others have followed them, and all have done a noble work for the county.
The East Texas Yamboree
For a number of years prior to 1935, farmers of Upshur county and the adjoining counties, had turned their attention to the cultivation and improvement of the sweet potato. The yam, so extensively grown and so popular in East Texas, was found to be of superior quality. To further encourage the cultivation of this excellent product, and to further advertise and popularize the modest East Texas yam, the “East Texas Yamboree” was inaugurated. It was not to represent Gilmer and Upshur county only, but all East Texas, hence—“The East Texas Yamboree.”
It seems that the idea of the Yamboree originated with J. A. Brogoitti, who was acting manager of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce at that time, and J. L. Sowell, vocational teacher in the Gilmer high school. They were assisted by W. D. Seals, who was serving as county agent for Upshur county at that time, and Miss Lorene Stephens, then county Home Demonstration agent. The idea was very popular and every public official and individual citizen assisted when they could. W. C. Barnwell and J. R. Penn, two outstanding potato raisers of the county, gave their moral and financial support to the new enterprise.
The East Texas Yamboree was organized in the fall of 1935, with W. C. Barnwell president, and J. A. Brogoitti, manager. It was a modest beginning, but it continued to grow until it became quite an extensive Fair, with a number of other exhibits than the yam. About forty counties of East Texas took part in the exhibits, and it continued to grow in interest and popularity, until it became one of the outstanding events of East Texas. It was also a great social event. The schools and other enterprises of the county, and of the surrounding towns and counties, took part in the parades with their brass bands and decorated floats. Traveling shows and carnivals added their attractions to the occasions. Fiddlers’ contests, and the old-time square dance, with its called sets were held on the paved street adjoining the courthouse square, in the evenings. Crowds gathered from all over the state, until it seemed that Gilmer could not hold all the people.
Because of the war conditions, the East Texas Yamboree was discontinued in 1941. It is scheduled to be opened up again, however, in the Fall of 1946, in a celebration of unusual importance, to be known as “The East Texas Victory Yamboree.”
—Silently corrected a few typos.
—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook is public-domain in the country of publication.
—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by _underscores_.