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Title: A Brief History of Upshur County
Author: Baird, G. H.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Brief History of Upshur County" ***

                               PRINTED BY
                           THE GILMER MIRROR
                              AUGUST, 1946

                            A BRIEF HISTORY
                             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

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

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.

                             Early History

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

                       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

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

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

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

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.

                             Other Schools

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

                    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

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.

                            Hidden Treasures

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.

                             Livery Stables

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

         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.

                             Gilmer’s Banks

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

                            Gilmer’s Schools

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

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

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

                           Gilmer’s Churches

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!

                               Big Sandy

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

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

                              Shady Grove

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

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.

                          Business Activities

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

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.

                             East Mountain

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


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

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.

                             Pleasant Hill

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

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.

                              Union Grove

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.

                             Soules Chapel

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.

                             Early Settlers

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

                             Early Settlers

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

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

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

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.

                          Present Enterprises

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.

                              Indian Rock

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,

                             West Mountain

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


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.

                         Outstanding Characters

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.

                              Mings Chapel

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.

                               Sand Hill

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

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

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.

                             First Settlers

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

                         Outstanding Characters

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.

                             Early Settlers

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—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

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