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.

Not the right Red River

Waud Red River MN better

I found a couple of 1872 sketches of the “Red River” by Alfred Rudolph Waud. Waud was an English illustrator who worked in the last half of the 19th century for several US publications. His sketches became illustrations for magazines like Harpers Weekly.

I discovered the sketch, “On the Red River” in the Historic New Orleans Collection at the Louisiana Digital Library (see above). I thought I had found a treasure trove of art that depicted life on the Red River, which I was hoping to share with my website‘s readers.

Alas, a search through Archive.org uncovered an 1878 book that shows that Waud’s sketch became an illustration of the Red River in the Dakotas, NOT the southwestern Red River. Dang it! Pretty neat detective work on my part, though. :).

(An aside: Waud was the only eye witness to sketch Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg in 1863).

Here’s the 1878 book that shows the finished illustration.
https://archive.org/stream/picturesqueameri04brya#page/538/mode/2up/search/Red

Published in: on June 4, 2019 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Humphreys’ History

The school in Humphreys closed in 1961 and is now used for storage for cotton farmers

The former elementary school in Humprheys, Jackson County, OK is a bit on the sunny side.

Even though Jackson County (Oklahoma) is home to the air force base at Altus, it is full of ghost towns. Many of them lost population during the Great Depression, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century when the communities lost their schools (to me, the loss of a school is the hallmark of a ghost town).

I visited Humphreys in southeastern Jackson County and took a picture of its school, which closed in 1961. This was the “new” elementary school, at least for a while. Three teacherages (teacher homes) sat across the street, but they have been razed. I got a lot of my information from two extremely knowledgeable and pleasant people, Bill and Louise Snodgrass, who came out to talk to me. Mr. Snodgrass attended school in Humphreys. He was born not far from the Red River in a half dug-out. Ms. Snodgrass was the former county clerk of Jackson County!

There is nothing better than hitting the road with a vague destination in mind. You’ll never know what – or especially who! – you’ll find.

Bill and Ms Louise Snodgrass of Humphreys M. Snodgrass was the county clerk of Jackson County for nine years

Bill and Louise Snodgrass from Humphreys shared A LOT of history with me. Lovely people whom I’m so honored to get to know, even in passing!

An Embarrassment of Architectural Treasures in De Soto Parish

According to the National Register, De Soto Parish, which lies between the Red and Sabine rivers in northwestern Louisiana, contains the highest concentration of Greek Revival architecture, outside of New Orleans, in the state.

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A perfect example is this beautiful 1850 mercantile in Keachie (aka Keatchie, aka Keachi), an antebellum town north of Mansfield. Keachie’s history is palpable in its buildings.

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The antebellum Baptist Church in Keachie is similar in style to the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in this beautiful town.

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An old farm house sits on the site of the former Female Seminary, which served as a hospital in the Civil War and later burned in an unrelated fire.

Cactus Jack’s home town

gas station in detroit

Lovely former gas station in Detroit, Red River County, Texas.

DEE-troyt was the home town of “Cactus Jack” John Nance Garner, a Speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, contemporary of Sam Rayburn, and Vice President to Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 1933 to 1941. He ran for the presidency in 1940, but Roosevelt was re-nominated for a record 3rd term, and after Roosevelt won, Cactus Jack left politics soon thereafter.

The Garner family home is still extant in Detroit, but I tend to shy away from posting pictures of private homes. I prefer abandonments, so that’s why Cactus Jack gets a gas station treatment. Sorry, Jack.

Published in: on May 19, 2018 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Your mom may have gone to this college, Napoleon.

The buildings at McKenzie College, j depicted in photographs in the WPA Guide to Texas

From 1841 to 1868, McKenzie Institute (also called McKenzie College) was the pride of Clarksville, Red River County, Texas.

Until the end of the Civil War, high schools and colleges along the old southwestern frontier were invariably private (also called “by subscription”) and available only to the free middle class. Even with limited educational opportunities, a solid classical foundation remained very important, as the institute’s ad in the Dallas Herald (Aug 9, 1856) attests. Smith Ragsdale, by the way, was the Reverend McKenzie’s son-in-law.

Many of its students volunteered for service in the Confederacy, which left the school with a limited enrollment. The mandates of public schools during the Reconstruction era (by 1876, the Texas Constitution guaranteed free public schools throughout Texas) and the lack of tuition forced the institute to close its doors.

An advertisement for McKenzie Institute was published weekly in the Dallas Times Herald in August 1856

Spelling may have been an optional class at McKenzie – can y’all spot the spelling error in the ad?

KY town

Another advertisement in an 1866 newspaper, this time for an academy at Kentucky Town, Grayson County, TX. Until the railroads bypassed it, Kentucky Town was a very prominent community in the 19th century. During the Civil War, William Quantrill and his notorious guerilla gang even camped out here, and the citizens did not take kindly to him.

KY town tombstone

Today, not much of the town – named after the origin state of its settlers – remains. It does have a pretty neat cemetery, though.

Published in: on April 26, 2018 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cobble Cobble

The cobble stones, also called “cannonballs,” used in the structures (pictured below) constitute good examples of Indigenous architecture of the western Red River Valley.  The stones were quarried from the rivers surrounding the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. Oklahomans began using the native round, granite rocks at the turn of the 20th century to adorn school houses, homes, hotels, and even Fort Sill. Some of the stones made their way to buildings in northwestern Texas, too.

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Saddle Mountain, Kiowa County, Oklahoma. Not sure what the use of this building was. It is concrete, double pen, with cannonballs (granite stones) embedded in the mixture before it dried. (I’d live here!)

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Victory School near Saddle Mountain in Kiowa County, Oklahoma. I would have walked closer but there were A LOT of sticker bushes.

Medicine Park

Cannonball architecture exists all over Medicine Park, a beautiful resort town at the base of Mount Scott in the Wichita Mountains, Comanche County, Oklahoma.

Medicine Mound

The abandoned gas station in Medicine Mound, a ghost town in Hardeman County, Texas, also sports cannonball architecture.