Old friends

Sanger depot

The depot from Sanger (Denton County, Texas) was moved to Tioga (Grayson County) and now has a second life as an antique store.

Drove to Tioga (Grayson County, TX) yesterday and visited several places in Gene Autry’s home town: Clark’s Outpost (re-opened after a bad fire – best BBQ in North Texas), the Tioga calaboose, and the Sanger (Denton County, TX) depot!

Sanger’s Santa Fe depot is now the Cedar Depot, home to antiques, architectural salvage items, and a wood shop.

Whenever I visit old depots, I zero in on their graffiti. Passengers and workers idled their time away by either burning or writing their initials, dates, and artwork into the boards. Sanger’s depot has some fine examples, though you have to look past the wares to see it.

The owner, Andy, showed me around. One item he found of most interest was a tree stump from Pilot Point, with a farm implement grown into the wood. Andy told me that in New York, where he’s from, placing farm implements in trees became a tradition for young men drafted into war. When they came back, they took the implement out. If they didn’t come back, the farm implement stayed… he wondered if this was also a Texas tradition. I’d never heard of the practice around these parts, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

A cell complex from the old, demolished Denton County jail, which was state-of-the-art in the 1920s, is for sale at the depot. These are the same cells that I discovered at an estate sale earlier this year. I think the jail cells would make a great addition to the historic park in Denton.

Sanger grafitti

If you look inside the freight section of old depots (which aren’t wallpapered but simple boards), you’ll often find graffiti, like this inscription from 1922.

Sanger stump

A farm implement inside a cedar log may indicate that the person who placed it there never came back from war. At least, that was the tradition in New York state; unsure if that was a tradition in Texas. This log was inside the Cedar Depot (nee Sanger Depot) in Tioga, (Grayson County, TX). The log came from Pilot Point (Denton County, TX).

Sanger Denton cells for sale

The cells from the old Denton County Jail (1891), which I once found at an estate sale, are for sale at the Depot (at least as of this writing, April 2020).

Tioga calaboose 2

Another jail – Tioga’s old calaboose – sits in a park in Tioga.

Published in: on April 2, 2020 at 12:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Jail bait

hardy accomodation

Inside the jail cells in a field in rural Denton County.

I love estate sales, where I look for old correspondence and photographs. I’m also nosy and estate sales let me find some awesome places… like today.

I live in Denton County (Texas) that once had a two story, bricked county jail. Built in 1891, it was demolished a few decades ago. I met the son of the warden’s family just the other day, and he mentioned that somewhere, out in a field, were two cells from the old building.

Well, whadya know… I came across the cells today at the estate sale. The property consisted of all sorts of machinery, barns full of scraps, and this beauty.

I took tons of pictures and my poor husband got nervous. He saw me eyeing the price ($1250). “We have no where to put it,” he kept saying, in a small but determined voice. “And how would we move it?” He had flashbacks to the time I bought 500 Thurber paversand drove them home in our F150 (which broke the struts. Oops).

I said cryptically, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” but alas, it was not meant to be.

Luckily for Mr. RedRiverHistorian, the cells were bought by a person who wants to use them to decorate a restaurant. I don’t think that worked out, because I recently saw the cells for sale at the old Sanger Depot, which is an antique store in Tioga, Texas. But I have pictures!!!!!

jail 1891 built 1980s demo

The Denton County jail before its demolition in 1981.

cell

Trees and brambles anchored the remaining cells onto the prairie.

Freddi

Some denizens of the jail from the 1940s left their mark.

Published in: on April 1, 2020 at 11:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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Rural education

Farmeres Industrial School main principal cottage school bell

Farmers Improvement College near Ladonia, Fannin County, Texas. (Baylor University)

In 1906, a group of civic leaders put their collective minds to work and opened the Farmers Improvement College on donated land. This well-funded college, along the Sulphur River and Santa Fe Railroad just southeast of Ladonia, Fannin County, Texas, served African American girls and boys from grades six to twelve and was designed as an agricultural school grounded in the sciences. Male students learned farming and female students studied home economics. Families paid room, board, and tuition to secure their children a place. The school closed in 1946.

Like most historic schools in the Red River Valley, the many buildings that made up the Farmers Industrial College (aka Farmers Industrial School, or F. I. S.) no longer exist. The school was still on the county’s soil map from 1940, but nothing remains of the site now except for a simple granite marker.

Farmers College 1946 Soil Map of Fannin County portal

1946 soil map from the Texas GLO shows the Farmers’ College just southeast of Ladonia.

Farmers College location today

An aerial satellite map of the Farmers College’s location shows no buildings remaining.

Published in: on March 10, 2020 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Town, erased

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Beautiful tombstone of Ella Colbert, Wife of Holmes Colbert (1869 to 1896), Willis Cemetery, Marshall County, Oklahoma. Due to the imagery, I wonder if she died in childbirth?

The Willis Cemetery sits just off US 377 north of Lake Texoma in Marshall County, Oklahoma. This is the only remain of the former town of Willis. Willis is an old town; it was first settled by a Chickasaw family in the 1840s, where they operated a ferry crossing the Red River. By the 1920s, the town of Willis was fairly large, with eight stores and a preacher who had a side business as a casket maker (an entrepreneurial chap!).

In the mid-1940s, the Dension Dam was built to provide water and hydro-electric power to southern Oklahoma and northern Texas. Because of the many rivers that fed the Red from Oklahoma, Oklahomans lost three times as much land as the Texans did. The community of Willis lost its ferry, its downtown… pretty much everything that made the town, a town.

1905 map snip of Marshall County with Willis OK LOC

Willis is written in all caps in this 1905 map of the territory, indicating its relative prominence. Notice that two ferries operated in close proximity to each other by Willis, Marshall County, Oklahoma. (Library of Congress)

1948 OK highway map official OK DOT

A 1948 Oklahoma highway department map doesn’t even show Willis, Marshall County, Oklahoma anymore – its vital link between Oklahoma and Texas was erased by the lake.

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Hand carved tombstone in the Willis Cemetery (Marshall County, Oklahoma) reads: Rachal Junetia Looney / Borned Nov 19, 1925/ Died Sept 12, 1930.

Published in: on February 25, 2020 at 2:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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A visit to Brushy Mound

BM 2

A feature map of Cooke County, Texas, reveals the Brushy Mound community, also known as Brushy Mountain (Texas General Land Office).

The cemetery and former church (?) or school (?) site in Brushy Mound, Cooke County, Texas (identified as Brushy Mountain on an 1888 map) are located in some of the most beautiful countryside along the Red River Valley.

Two above-ground remnants indicate that a quite substantial building was once here – a stone base and a very large (but flooded) storm shelter. However, the only reference to a “Brushy” school that I’ve found in cursory search is in Montague County. It was mentioned in volume 1 of the Texas Teachers Journal (1888).

Brushy Mound sits at the base of steep hills and rolling prairie northeast of St. Jo (Montague County). Lots of wineries to try out in this area once your history thirst is quenched, too!

BM 1

A storm shelter on top of Brushy Mound, that sits just east of the cemetery’s limits, hints that at one point, there must have been a fairly large structure near the cemetery.

BM 4

Another hint of the now-gone Brushy Mound church and/or school building. The actual structure may have been a combined Masonic Lodge/school/church.

BM 3

The cemetery is all that’s left of Brushy Mound, which sits in the high, scenic hills between northern Cooke and Montague Counties in Texas.

 

Published in: on February 17, 2020 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Warren once was

Warren on Red River 1841 GLO

Warren (Fannin County, Texas) sat along the Red River during the Republic of Texas (1836-1845) and early statehood years (1845-1860).

Warren, Texas was once the seat of Fannin County. The town originally consisted of a private wooden fort and trading post along the Red River, erected by Abel Warren around 1836. Daniel Montague received the original land grant surrounding the trading post and opened up a store at the site after the Texas Revolution.

At one point, Warren was connected via a primitive road to Coffee’s Station, Lexington, and Raleigh, all early trading posts along the Red River in north Texas. Today, whatever is left of the road is used by tractors in pastures.

Warren on Montague Land 1885 county line straddle GLO

Daniel Montague, one of the more sinister characters in Texas history, owned the land patent where Warren would grow into a town surrounding his trading post.

Daniel Montague is the namesake of Montague County, though he never resided there – his last residence was in Marysville in northwestern Cooke County. In Texas history, Montague was known as an Indian fighter as well as a staunch Confederate. During the Republic of Texas period, he led at least two brutal raids on bands of the Wichita tribe, which started local warfare between the Euro-American and Native American settlements. He also served as the jury foreman during the trials of alleged Union sympathizers in Cooke County. He and the jury ultimately sentenced 41 men to hang for opposing the Confederate draft.

Warren, as you may have guessed by now, is no longer a town. By 1843, the settlement surrounding Fort Inglish (also a private trading post), had replaced it as a county seat due to its more central location. The new county seat, originally called Bois d’Arc, became known as Bonham. Apparently, the old courthouse in Warren was moved to Bonham in the 1920s but never re-built… and now, I have to wonder where it is.

Warren near Ambrose Google Maps

Today, Warren lies under silt and sand between Ambrose and the Choctaw Bayou in the extreme northwestern part of Fannin County … and into the extreme northeastern part of Grayson County.

Published in: on December 2, 2019 at 5:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Reclamation

Inside the old cemeteries where American dead reside, nature is taking back what was culled from her.

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A tree eats a decorative iron fence at the Pioneer Cemetery, aka the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, in Clarksville, Red River County, Texas. This was the town’s first graveyard from 1834 to 1897 before a new one was deeded. Both blacks and whites are buried here.

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The main cemetery in Mansfield, De Soto Parish, Louisiana is still in use, but two centuries of random neglect take their toll. Civil War dead from the Battle of Mansfield are buried here, along with town leaders, church elders, and paupers. The cemetery is divided into military, black, and white sections. Another iron gate has been consumed by a tree – beware the future lumberjack who decides to fell it.

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The ancient cemetery in Natchitoches, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, sits at the former site of the original French & Natchitoches trading post. Many of the early burials were not marked well, so very few French burials remain. After the Louisiana Purchase and the establishment of a Diocese, the town’s Catholic dead were buried away from this cemetery, as Americans (mostly Protestant) began to use it – hence its current name, American Cemetery. Both Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers are buried here, but sadly, no one’s going to know who’s buried under this crepe myrtle tree, as it has almost completely swallowed the headstone.

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Hand-carved tombstones are my favorites, as they connect to the grief of those left behind better than any elaborate statuary can. In the Spencerville Cemetery in Spencerville, Choctaw County, Oklahoma, Ms. Lusie’s stone is being gradually relocated by a tree root. Spencerville was the site of the Academy for Choctaw Boys, founded in 1850. Those who died at the Spencerville Academy are not buried in this cemetery.

James Cemetery Bryan County

Sometimes, it’s not nature, but man-made nature that reclaims a boneyard. The remains of the people buried at James Cemetery in Bryan County, Oklahoma, were relocated in 1942 to make way for the Denison Dam and Reservoir, now Lake Texoma. The removed bodies were re-interred at the Yarborough Cemetery. The James Cemetery was located near Cartwright (Bryan County, Oklahoma).

 

Published in: on November 4, 2019 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Map that textbook

Map

A sketch of a map drawn for a textbook yields some interesting information.

Here’s a mid-19th century, hand-drawn map of the Indian tribes in the United States, as per the creator’s assumption of what was known in 1650 (the original interpretive date of 1592 has been marked out and replaced by 1650). This is a manuscript map made by the US Army, meant for publication in a geography or history textbook. Its located in the Library of Congress.

Around the Red River in today’s Texas, Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas, the tribes are simply hand-labeled as “Texans.” The Caddos in Louisiana have been identified as “Appalachians” but the darker color than their supposed kin east of the Mississippi indicates that the map maker may have recognized that they were indeed separate.

Tribes are identified through language kinship, but I don’t think this map reflects that. If it did, the Caddos would be shown in a different color beyond Louisiana to include the Wichitas of the Cross Timbers, as the Caddos had a language of their own, unrelated to the other tribes. The Shoshones would have extended into Texas, as the Comanche language had Shoshone roots.

This is a fascinating history lesson of historiography!

Published in: on October 16, 2019 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Recipes and Memories

Polly Colbert

Lucinda Davis, a person enslaved by the Creeks and a resident of former Indian Territory, was interviewed and photographed by the Federal Writers Project in the late 1930s.

Polly Colbert was 83 when the Federal Writers Project interviewed her. Her story and dozens of others have been compiled in several volumes of “Born in Slavery” (1936-1939) that can be found in the Library of Congress.

While the Federal Writer’s Project was initially created to provide paid employment to teachers and journalists during the Great Depression, the work they compiled has become some of the best cultural documentation of American people and their histories.

Polly was enslaved by Holmes and Betsey Colbert along the Red River in Bryan County, Indian Territory. Her narrative reveals long-forgotten recipes she learned as a girl enslaved to Choctaws and Chickasaws.

Following a few of the recipes; they have been transcribed by me as they’ve been written by the interviewer, who apparently tried to recreate accents in written form. There is on-going debate if transcriptions like this are professional. The entire interview can be read on the Library of Congress – https://www.loc.gov/resource/mesn.130/?sp=37

(Please note that the interview includes archaic and harsh words that are now considered unacceptable).

“We cooked all sorts of Indian dishes: Tom-fuller, pashofa, hickory-nut grot, Tom-budha, … corn or corn meal was used in all de Indian dishes. We made hominy out’n de whole grains. Tom-fuller was made from beating corn and tasted sort of like hominy. We would take corn and beat it in a wooden mortar wid a wooden pestle. We would husk it by fanning it and we den put it on to cook in a big pot. While it was cooking we’d pick out a lot of hickory-nuts, tie ’em up in a cloth and beat ’ema little and drop ‘e in and cook for a long time. We called dis dish hickory-nut grot. When we made pashofa we beat de corn and cook for a little while and den we add fresh pork and cook until the meat was done. Tom-budha was green corn and fresh meat cooked together and seasoned wid tongue or pepper-grass.”

The photograph is of Lucinda Davis, who grew up as an enslaved person in the Creek tribe and for most of her life, only spoke Creek. She called hickory-nut grot by its Creek name, sofki: “… you pound up de corn real fine, den pour in de water and dreen it off to git all de little skin from off’n de grain. Den you let de grits soak and bile it and let it stand. Sometime you put in some pounded hickory nut meats.”

While the transcription and interview may not meet standards for today, the information contained therein is incredibly valuable.

Mad Man Road

Eagletown mad man road

Eagletown’s downtown, McCurtain County, Oklahoma.

Eagletown may be the oldest town in the southeastern part of the state. It may not look like much, but around the 1820s, this town was the first place the Choctaws came to during the initial removals from Mississippi to Indian Territory. To them, Eagletown is known as Osi Tamaha.

There was always a mystery to me surrounding a name of a street in town – Mad Man Road. Who was this person, I’d wonder. Well, RRH readers solved the puzzle on Facebook (I love crowd-sourcing questions): The road was named after the CB handle of a long-time resident and all-around well-known guy.

Here are some of the comments:

Debbie Roan Ticknor: We lived next to him my whole life, we across the pasture and through the thicket… We rode our horses to his house many day for goat roping. He and daddy we’re very good friends. Always felt like one big family.

Marty Willis: Mad man is one of the all time best guys I know. Known him since i was a lil kid…

Dianne Wilkes: A special man in my heart

Patsye Farmer:  I wish you could have visited with my dad, Vernon Luttrell. His family moved to Eagletown in 1908 when he was 3. His dad immediately established a store that sold everything from food to clothes and other things, he had a sawmill, grist mill, planer mill it was all close to the present post office. The school was also there, on the north side of hwy 70. His dad was murdered in front of his store. My dad was sitting in his lap, my grandfather had fired him two days before, he came to the store the next day making threats, my grandfather had gone to Idabel. On Jan 10 he came back on horseback, daddy’s dad put him down and told him to go in the store. He was shot between the eyes. I have the newspaper story, called Crime and Punishment 1910. Eagletown originally was in the area where our house is only north. It moved to where most later residents remember when they put in the railroad, and tie yard, I have picture and newspaper clippings if I can ever get them in the Memories. The Luttrell’s maintained stores in Eagletown until after Uncle Vic died. Daddy.Uncle Vic and Ma Luttrell later had a store about where Homer Coleman lived, and Daddy had one on the curve across from the highway. daddy spent much of his youth in a store, meeting and talking to people. He had a sharp mind and memory for all things Eagletown

Tres Dunn: I have always thought a lot of him.. only place that you can get a cb peaked and tuned and then eat a home cooked meal before you leave. Bunch of good memories, still have one of his connexs in my Toyota.

Dicky Dunn: I’ve hunted,bought CBs, and visited with Mad Man. Friends with his daughters, grandsons. Also had the privilege to coach one grandson, Kolten. Fine family!!

I LOVE these comments from readers. Mad Man was a guy who was a true blue gem.

1902 map

1902 USGS map with Eagletown – notice there was the original and then a westerly Eagletown.