Tombstone History

Tombstones, especially military ones, are great ways to trace histrory. And the history from the tombstone needn’t be a family member, either – sometimes, getting to know strangers from their past life is just as interesting. Plus, the dead don’t engage in awkward small talk, so there’s that.


This tombstone for Alvin Reeves is located in the African American portion of a cemetery in Bonham, Fannin County, Texas. Alvin Reeves served as the bugler for the 815th pioneer infantry. This unit was trained in Kansas and was sent to France in 1918. He may have stayed until 1919, which is when most troops turned home.

The United States entered World War I in 1917 because the British intercepted a coded telegram from Germany containing the message that if Mexico kept the US occupied in a war with German help, Mexico would retrieve the lands they lost in the Mexican cession (1848)… plus Texas.

WWI was called “The Great War” before anyone knew there’d be a WWII. It was the first war to institute a nation-wide draft. The U.S. introduced the selective service system to make the draft fairer than previous ones, when a draftee could pay his way out of service if he was rich enough.

African American soldiers were also drafted, of course. They served in segregated regiments. Initially engaged as support personnel, their tasks including building camps and posts for the U.S. army as it began to enter France. Some soldiers stayed in France rather than returning home to the U.S., especially if they were from the South. Knowledge and fear of several horrific lynching and other violent events – like the 1916 “Waco Horror” and the 1919 mass murder of sharecroppers in Elaine, Arkansas – made the transition quite easy. The majority of French had no segregation laws and did not treat African Americans as racially inferior… they simply saw the men as “les Americains” and demonstrated their gratitude towards the soldiers.

I read that the American infantry units introduced many a Frenchman to baseball and jazz music. I also read that American soldiers did not care much for French food. The French and English soldiers were amazed that American soldiers tended to be less precise in their dress code, but very respectful of private property. According to local accounts, the American were in constant search to buy “souvenirs and other trinkets to bring home.”

Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grayson County Rails (that aren’t Denison. Denison deserves a separate post).

RR City

Note that the map’s cardinal directions are a bit different. From left to right is north to south. To see a larger image of this map, click here.

According to this map filed by the Houston & Texas Railroad with the Texas General Land Office, their rail line was proposed to extend to the Red River in 1872. Their terminus would be an apparently large town called Red River City, which, according to the map, was even bigger than Denison (the city that the MKT built).

Alas, Red River City never became Houston & Texas Central’s terminus. Prior to the railroads, Red River City was a place to buy liquor after crossing the river on Colbert’s ferry (and was referred to Shawnee Town on land maps). When the H&TC finally came into Grayson County in 1873 (not 1872 as this map suggests), the line stopped in Denison to meet up with the MKT.

Red River City is no more, and never much was.

Union Station

Here’s the view from the north end of Sherman (Grayson County, Texas) along the Houston, Texas & Central Railway tracks towards Tower 16 and the Union Depot, which was razed before 1950. (City of Sherman, via Railspot – Hogan).

Union station place today

Today, the location of the depot and the tower are obliterated by trees (and abandoned cars) (Sherman, Grayson County Texas).


Van Alstyne (Grayson County, Texas) has kept its small-town charm, even though it’s right at the cusp of the ever-reaching Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex. The tracks for the Texas Traction Company railway still adorn Preston Street.

Van Alystne TX Traction Company

Texas Traction Company, ca. 1914, Van Alstyne Public Library.

The power substation and passenger waiting room for the street car line used to be at the corner of Marshall and Preston streets. The building has been replaced by a nondescript, white, metal building (left edge of photo). The Texas Traction Company line reached from Dallas to Sherman to Denison.

Sherman TE car 1946 Denver Public Library

Destroyed Texas Electric (once, the Texas Traction Company) streetcar being towed through downtown Sherman ca. 1946 (Denver Public Library).

Speaking of the Texas Electric (formerly Texas Traction Company) and Sherman… in the 1940s, a crash along the route destroyed one of the cars.

Sherman TE car 1946 Travis street

One of my hobbies is to find old location via Google Maps, and I did that (instead of grading, ha ha). Travis Street in Sherman hasn’t changed much, except that the TE tracks are no longer there.


Published in: on February 8, 2018 at 3:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Montague County

In the 1890s, these unnamed men from Montague County, Texas posed for a photograph after filing claims against the U.S. government for suffering Indian depredations. (University of Texas at Arlington Special Collections).

Since the southern Plains Indians were supposed to be under government supervision inside the post-Civil War reservations, any Indian activity (war, ambush, horse taking, hunting) was viewed as criminal, even if an ambush or attack was instigated by the settlers. American settlers thus could file claims against the reservations via the Bureau of Indian Affairs to recoup their losses. The monies were deducted from tribal annuities.

Check out the man in the middle (I don’t know his name). He must have suffered incredibly… though I’m not sure if the injury was from a depredation or from an attack or even from an unrelated calamity (Civil War, maybe).

In doing my master’s thesis research, I encountered Charles Goodnight’s depredations claims. His Palo Duro Canyon ranch was part of the Kiowa and Comanche lands that he received from Texas after his Ranger activity along the Texas/ Comancheria frontier during the Civil War. He used the money from the claims against the tribes to build up his livestock, which he then sold to the Fort Sill (Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache) and Fort Supply (Cheyenne) reservations.

As I tell my students, form your own conclusions about this.

Cattle Barons

Charles Goodnight (center, seated) with others at the JA Ranch, Palo Duro, TX, 11/29/1921; standing, from left, M.K. Brown (Pampa), Whitfield Carhart (Palo Duro), T.D. Hobart (Pampa), H.W. Taylor (Clarendon), J.W. Kent (Palo Duro), H.W. Patrick (Clarendon), S.W. Dunn (Mobeetie); seated, from left, Vass Stickley (Canadian), T.S. Bugbee (Clarendon), Goodnight, G.W. Arrington (Canadian), Judge O.H. Nelson (Amarillo). (UT Arlington Special Collections)

Montague, Parker, Clay, Palo Pinto, Jack, and Young counties reveal incredible amounts of history about the clash between Texas and the Comancheria. It’s only been pretty recent that historians have taken a serious look at this very important part of history. It’s one of the reasons the U.S. won against Mexico in 1846, and one of the reasons Texas seceded from the United States in 1861.

The white men fighting along the frontier before the Civil War were cattlemen. Their wealth was on the hoof, and they used slave labor, along with paid hands, to work their capital. The Indians’s use of the land was always suspect to them – by 1859, the tribes in the Brazos Indian Reservation in Young County had been forced out of Texas. By 1876, a mere year after the end of the Red River Wars, the state of Texas refused to allow Indians to enter into Texas at all, and Indians who still lived in Texas were forbidden from owning guns.

There’s a lot of history to be uncovered in group portraits.

Published in: on February 4, 2018 at 4:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Muriel Wright, Oklahoma Historian


Boggy Depot Plan numbers Depot Muriel Wright 1927
1. Gov. Allen Wright’s residence.
2. John. Kingsbury residence.
3. House built by Mr. Lore (cobbler).
4-5. Wood shop and residence of A. J. Martin.
6. Dr. T. J. Bond’s residence.
7. Store of Reuben Wright—later store of Edward Dwight.
8. Temporary schoolhouse (hewed logs)—later Aunt Lou’s bakery,
9. Apothecary shop.
10. Joseph J. Phillips’ store.
11. Mr. Maurer’s blacksmith shop.
12. Mr. Maurer’s residence.
13. Miss Mary Chiffey’s residence.
14. Brick Church—Hospital during the War.
15. Livery Barn.
16. J. J. Phillips’ residence.
17. James Riley’s residence.
18. Old graves.
19. Dr. Moore’s residence.
20. Barn for Stage Coach Company.
21. Capt. G. B. Hester & John Kingsbury store.
22. Dr. Bond’s office.
Page 17
23. Store of Mr. Ford.
24. Barn for Hotel
25. Tom Brown’s blacksmith shop.
26. Capt. Charles LeFlore’s residence.
27. Col. Wm. R. Guy’s Hotel.
28. Old graves.
29. Capt. G. B. Hester’s residence.
30 New schoolhouse.
31. New Church—upper floor used by Masonic Lodge.

In 1927, Muriel H. Wright, a teacher and one of Oklahoma’s most detailed historians, mapped Boggy Depot (Atoka County, Oklahoma) from memories collected by her, her family, and other inhabitants. Today, Boggy Depot is a state park managed by the Choctaws, and the outline of the town is barely discernible.

Muriel Wright was the granddaughter of Rev. Allen Wright, principal chief of the Choctaw Nation from 1866 to 1870. She was born in Lehigh, Coal County, in 1889. Due to her prolific writing and research, she was one of the first people inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

current view

Current view of Boggy Depot. Not much there anymore!

The Boggy Depot cemetery is a treasure trove of Indian Territory history – graves include Choctaw and Chickasaw nation citizens. While none of the town’s buildings exist anymore, the outlines are still discernible if you don’t mind taking a walk. The Butterfield Overland Stagecoach made a stop at Boggy Depot before the Civil War, and if you squint, you can still make out ruts. On my sojourns through this very historic area, I did find a remnant of old Boggy Depot – a daubed log cabin, surrounded (and protected) by later additions.


If this daubed log cabin could talk, it would remember Boggy Depot when it was still inhabited. Between the state park and Atoka on Boggy Depot Road, Atoka County, Oklahoma.


Ruts from the Butterfield stage coach line are fairly discernible. (Boggy Depot, Atoka County, Oklahoma).


D. J. Hendrickson
was born in Dekalb
Co., Tenn. Age 31 Yrs.
Killed Feb. 26, 1864
Co. E 20th T.D.C. Regt.
I am learning from my searches that T.D.C. might mean “Texas Dismounted Cavalry.”
20th (TEXAS) Cavalry Regiment, recruited in Hill County, TX, was organized during the spring of 1862 with about 850 officers and men. The unit was assigned to Cooper’s and Gano’s Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department, and primarily confronted Federals in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma, VR) It was included in the surrender of the Indian troops at Doaksville on June 23, 1865. The field officers were Col. Thomas C. Bass, Lt Col Andrew J. Fowler and T.D. Taliaferro, and Majors Dempsey W. Broughton and John R. Johnson. (From Joseph H. Crute, Units of the Confederate States Army), p. 336

Published in: on February 2, 2018 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mapping the Red River Valley

Google Maps have been my constant companion since they were introduced back in the stone ages (okay, a few years ago). I can’t believe I ever did research without them, and I seriously pity the historians who came before me who didn’t have this kind of tool at their disposal.

I should mention that I’ve been a map fiend from way back, and have always used them extensively… but! The satellite pictures on Google Maps (and Google Earth) truly help me understand the geographical context of what I’m researching.


A snapshot of Spanish Bluff, the place where the Custis/Freeman Expedition was halted by Spanish troops in the early part of the 19th century.

History cannot exist without a grasp of the geography where events took place. The location, time, and space are all important factors in understanding why and how things happened. Sometimes, it’s not the easiest thing to picture… landscapes change, after all.

Let’s take at a photo I found on the Texas & Pacific Railway Historical Archive website:

denison tp tunnel

Denison, where this photo was taken, doesn’t look at all like it did back in its railroading hey-day. So I checked the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to make sure that I am seeing the intersection of tracks correctly, as it seems the T&P tracks are passing underneath the MKT tracks:


Using descriptions from the T&P site (behind Crockett and Hull Streets) and discerning the railroad bed from up in the air, I found the disused right-of-way on Google Maps. I made sure it was the right one when I traced it back to Bells.


And, if you look closer, you can even spot a section of the stone wall from the old tunnel:


Which is what I photographed when I visited Denison the other day:

Denison wall on old katy right of way


Looking at the photograph and the current condition of where the railroad used to be gives me a sense of how much Denison has changed over the years.

Then, there’s the question I had about something I saw from the air in Sherman, between Mulberry and Pacific Streets (south/north) and Willow and Lee Streets (west/east):


It looked industrial (that wasn’t too far-fetched) so I decided to see what I could from old maps. First, I checked out the Bird’s eye map:


And then checked the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map:


So, the bases I’m seeing are peanut and cotton oil tanks. Not earth-shattering, but at least I know what I’m looking at when I check out the ruins.

Another way to do this is to check city directories from the time periods, but since I don’t have them handy, I’ll use the maps to figure things out.

This kind of research is what goes on all the time inside museums, archives, libraries, bored people’s laptops at Starbucks, etc. Hey, it’s something to do!

Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 1:45 am  Comments (2)  
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