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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Roosevelt schoolin’

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The well-built little school in Roosevelt, built by the Works Progress Administration, had two entrances – one for girls, and one for boys.

In Roosevelt (Kiowa County, OK) sits this disused building that appears to have been erected by the WPA. Since the WPA lent labor to public works, and this place was last used as a pub (now closed), I asked Red River Historian readers on the Facebook page if anyone knew what the building’s original purpose was. Mijo Chard explained that it was the Douglass Seperate School (school designated for African American children), and Mijo even shared some documents with Red River Historian!

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Completed in 1938!

 

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I got a kick out of the signs on the door: “No longer a public bar. Closed. Keep out. Unless you’re a hot stripper.” RRH Reader Judy Hilliard Dean wrote: “After the school closed it was opened as a bar by Rube McGee. It was called Rube’s Night Spit. They kept the curtains on the stage closed because there was always gambling going on.
Don’t ask me how I know- lol.”

 

Report card 2 mijo chard

Mijo Chard shared a report card from 1947.

Employees for cafeteria mijo chard

A memo for the cafeteria workers at the Douglass School, date unknown. This was shared by Mijo Chard.

 

Fancy digs, once

Grand Hotel ohs

The Grand Central Hotel (first class, no less!) in Terral, Jefferson County, Oklahoma was an imposing building at the turn of the century – it sported three chimneys and a balcony.

 

Clark fire

The Clark Fire Insurance Map of 1900 for Terral depicts two hotels, both along Apache Street at the intersection of Second Street. Their outlines are not the same as the hotel pictured, however, and one is labeled as the “Cottage Hotel.” (Clark Fire Maps, OHS).

Both hotels are long gone.

Google

 

A Google maps image of Terral, Jefferson County, Oklahoma shows the same intersection – where two hotels once stood. Please note that the concrete foundations are the foundations from former service stations, not the hotels. Today’s travelers will not find overnight accommodations in Terral at all.

Published in: on March 13, 2019 at 2:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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An international boundary in the middle of nowhere

Just north of Logansport, Louisiana, along FM 31 in Panola County, Texas and CR 765 in De Soto Parish , sits one of the more interesting historical relics in the Southwest: the only remaining boundary marker between the Republic of Texas (1836-1845) and the United States. Set in 1840, the other boundary markers were washed away by rain and erosion.

Logansport RT marker 1

The boundary marker is in a little roadside spot that belongs to the Texas Historical Commission. Its nondescript location belies its importance as the only international boundary marker located within the United States. Talk about history written in stone!

Logansport RT marker 2

If you want to see the marker, you’ll have to want to see it… this isn’t a road that you’d simply drive on and happen to find the marker. To make the journey easier, here’s a map:

Logansport RT marker location

Happy trails!

Slices of Sibley

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Sibley (1757-1837) is buried in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

John Sibley was the first Indian Agent in the Louisiana Territory. Born in Massachusetts, Sibley became a physician in North Carolina and joined the army during the Revolutionary War. Years later, he offered his services again to the army along the Red River frontier. While there, he served as an Indian Agent in Natchitoches. He helped to procure the provisions and guides needed for Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and Col. Sparks to explore the Red River after the Louisiana Purchase.

The purpose of an Indian Agent was to ensure the security of the United States and its claims, which meant negotiating treaties, land sales, and agreements with tribes in the areas where they worked. Dr. Sibley documented his work as an Indian Agent through copious correspondence, some of which is reproduced below.

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In 1804, Sibley described the final peace negotiations between the Caddos and Choctaws at the Indian factory in Natchitoches in a letter written to his commanding general. In this excerpt, he explained that the availability of liquor in the “little town of Natchitoches” had a bad effect on all inhabitants.

Sibley all

In 1806, Sibley sponsored an expedition to “recover” a large meteorite from the lands between the Brazos and Red Rivers in Spanish Texas that Indian Trader Henry Glass had relayed to him.

Of course, “recovering” this medicine stone was highly illegal for at least two reason. For one, the Spanish had made their claims on the lands of Texas abundantly clear, and they definitely did not want the Americans invading their lands. Secondly, the Wichitas and the Comanches considered the meteorite an important medicine (religious /medicinal artifact). Sibley thus paid for this expedition out of his own pocket, as he had hoped the meteorite was made of platinum and, I assume, he could retire in luxury if he was able to sell it.

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The “platinum rock” turned out to be an iron meteorite, which eventually up at the Peabody Museum at Yale University.

Sibley’s expedition stole the meteorite from the Texas lands and sent it to geologists in New York once the sample was determined to be iron, not platinum. Purchased by rock collector George Gibbs, eventually the 1,600 lbs meteorite – the largest recovered as of that time period – centered Gibbs’s extensive collection.  Gibbs’s wife donated the rock to  Yale University’s Peabody Museum.