When European explorers visited the region in 1687 they found it occupied by the Caddo Indians. By 1836, when white settlers first entered the area, no Indians inhabited the land. White settlers arrived by riverboat at Jonesborough in what is now Red River County. The pioneers crossed the river and established two early colonies. One, named Lexington, was located on the Red River and was headed by Dr. Daniel Rowlett. The other colony, begun by Daniel Slack, was on the east side of the middle Bois D’Arc Creek. Numerous other colonists quickly joined this initial band, and eighty-eight first-class land certificates had been granted before the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed in March 1836.
Because of rapid population growth, Rowlett presented a petition to the Texas Congress on October 5, 1837, requesting that a new county be formed from a section of Red River County west of Bois D’Arc Creek. The county was originally to be named Independence, but during the course of opening debates over the bill the name was changed to Fannin, in honor of James Walker Fannin, Jr., a martyred hero of the Texas Revolution.
On November 28, 1839, another act was passed by Congress to define the boundaries of Fannin County, which at the time included land that later became Grayson, Collin, Cooke, Denton, as well as quite a few more. The present-day boundaries were established and approved on March 14, 1846.
The development of Fannin County resulted from the efforts of several leaders. These included Bailey Inglish, John P. Simpson, Holland Coffee, Daniel Montague, Daniel Rowlett, and Roswell W. Lee. The first successful center of commerce was Warren, a fort founded by Abel Warren in 1836. The first courthouse, school, post office, and Masonic Lodge (Constantine No. 13) in Fannin County were in Warren. The county government was moved from Black’s cabin to Warren on January 8, 1840. The first district court for Fannin County was established at the same time.
Bois D’Arc became county seat in turn on January 16, 1843, apparently for two reasons: the Indian threat at Warren, and a shift in political power that strengthened the Bois D’Arc community. Bonham has continued to be the major center of commerce for Fannin County.
The early settlers of Fannin County faced many difficulties with Indians, particularly with the Cherokees. The first skirmish took place on May 16, 1837, when settlers attacked a band of Indians made up of various groups. Tension had been mounting as the Indians grew less friendly with the rapid influx of white settlers and the resulting damage to hunting. The Indians retaliated with constant raids of their own in which settlers were killed and livestock stolen. Stories describe brutal attacks of Indians on cabins and travelers. Residents of Fannin County were infuriated particularly by the Indians’ practice of mutilating dead bodies, and their indiscriminate killing of women and children. Skirmishes with the Indians continued over the next six years until the Treaty of Bird’s Fort was signed by Edward Tarrant with the Tehuacanas, Keechis, Wacos, Caddoes, Anadarcos, and others. This treaty, for the most part, ended Indian hostilities.
Early settlers were predominantly from the South, particularly from Tennessee. The population of Fannin County grew to 9,217 by 1860. Before the Civil War the county had about 25,000 beef cattle; afterward the number was reduced by half.
A Confederate commissary was located in Bonham, from where at least seven brigades drew supplies. A story has it that when a fire destroyed the commissary, which contained a large store of meat, the town turned out en masse to eat the accidental barbecue. More important than the commissary, the county hosted the military headquarters of the Northern Subdistrict of Texas, C.S.A., which was established by Gen. Henry E. McCullough and located at the site of present-day Willow Wild Cemetery in Bonham.
Fannin County grew steadily from the Civil War to the turn of the century. Numerous new businesses also were started after the war. Previously only five manufacturing establishments operated in the county; by 1870 factories numbered fifty-four, and new ones and continued to come into being. The Fannin County Bank was chartered in 1872. The first railroad in the county, the Texas and Pacific, built an east-west track across the center of the county in 1873. Major communities received their first electricity in 1889. The first telephone exchange began in 1889.
The population of Fannin County peaked in 1900 at 51,793 and slowly decreased afterward, with some fluctuations. Agriculture remained the main source of income. The chief crops were cotton and corn. In 1925 the Lone Star Gas Company ran a gas main through the county, providing a new source of heat for residents. When aviation became practical, Fannin County residents raised money to build Jones Field near Bonham, in 1929. On December 31 of that year fire destroyed the bell tower of the county courthouse.
The Great Depression in the 1930s caused economic hardship that lasted until World War II. Businesses hit an all-time low of fifteen in 1947. The number employed in manufacturing dipped to 310 in 1929 and slowly recovered to 630 in 1947. Agriculture was hit hard. The depression forced the average farm value to plummet 46 percent below its value in 1920. The number of milk cows dropped sharply in the 1920s, and an effort was made to prime the market in 1929 with financial benefits raised by local businesses. In 1934 the Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Company moved to Bonham and provided a market.
Fannin County had only 22,705 people in 1970, fewer than its population in the 1880s. During the 1970s the county’s population began to rise again, however; there were 24,804 people living there in 1990, and 31,242 in 2000.
By 1987, Fannin County had nearly 65,000 beef cattle but only a few thousand producing milk cows. In 2002 the county had 1,976 farms and ranches covering 483,446 acres, 59 percent of which were devoted to crops, 32 percent to pasture, and 8 percent to woodland. That year farmers and ranchers in the area earned $57,364,000; livestock sales accounted for $37,683,000 of the total.
The number of manufacturing establishments increased from fifteen in 1947 to twenty-nine in 1958 and thirty-seven in 1987. The main commodities were lumber and wood products. Banking and service businesses slowly increased from 1950 to 1990.
The citizens of Fannin County were for many years steadfast Democrats, and during the mid-twentieth century the area benefited from the influence and prestige of Samuel T. Rayburn, a resident of Bonham who served as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1940 to 1961. The voters of Fannin County favored the Democratic candidate in every presidential election until 1972, when Republican Richard Nixon carried the county over Democrat George McGovern. Though Democrats carried the county in 1976, 1980, and 1988, the area’s voters had begun to trend Republican. Democrat Bill Clinton was able to win pluralities in the county in 1992 and 1996, partly because third-party candidate Ross Perot ran strong in Fannin County in those elections. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, however, Republican George W. Bush won majorities in the county.
Settlement began with the arrival in 1836 of Bailey Inglish from Butler County, Kentucky. In 1837, when Bailey Inglish built a two-story log forth about a mile east of the present square. Inglish was joined by John P. Simpson, Mabel Gilbert and other settlers in the summer of 1837. The community was called Bois d’Arc until 1843 when the name Bloomington was first requested in the Texas Congress. Bois d’Arc was renamed Bonham on February 26, 1844, in honor of James B. Bonham, who died at the Alamo. Between 1843 and 1845 the county records from Old Warren and the post office from Fort Inglish were moved to Bonham and the town was incorporated on February 2, 1848.
During the Civil War the town was an agricultural center located at a strategic point near the state’s northern border, though few people lived there between 1855 and 1870. After the Civil War an influx of settlers from the upper South increased the population and contributed to the town’s educational, financial, and industrial development. In 1873 a charter was granted to Bonham incorporating all lands within a mile radius of the courthouse. In 1911 a special charter was granted Bonham and the city is still operating under this charter.
Growth of the community was slow until the building of the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1873. By 1885 Bonham had eight churches, three colleges, Carlton College, Fannin College and the Masonic Female Institute, two public schools, three weekly newspapers, a furniture factory, a sawmill, two grist mills and gins and a population of 2300. By 1890 an oil mill and an ice plant were in operation and population had increased to 3361.
By 1889 the first telephone exchange came to Bonham preceded by the first electric light plant in 1885. Bonham was one of the first cities in Texas to have electric light service. The first electric light plant was the old Bonham Electric Light and Power Company. In 1890 a competing electric plant, the Catron Electric Company, was established. Three years later the two plants consolidated and were successfully operated by Col. J. F. Strickland, pioneer electric utility builder in Texas. The Bonham Cotton Mill, once the largest west of the Mississippi, was chartered in 1900. The Bonham Free Kindergarten opened in 1907 to benefit mothers working in the mill. The mill was sold for profit in 1920 but retained its workforce and local manager. In 1912 Strickland established the Texas Power and Light Company, making Bonham one of the seven original electric properties. In 1925 the Lone Star Gas Company connected the main gas line at Denison with that of Paris and passed within two miles of Bonham.
World War II construction included a prisoner of war camp and Jones Airfield for pilot training (1941). Subsequently, row crops were replaced with pastures and small-grain farming, and Bonham farmers raised rabbits, poultry, beef, and dairy cattle. The Southwest Pump Company, General Cable plant, a Coca Cola bottling works, a cucumber-receiving station, and factories for ice, mattresses, brooms, mops, and ice cream employed local workers. In 1988 Bonham had 286 businesses, thirteen industries, a daily paper, an airport, an industrial park, the sixty-five-bed Northeast Medical Center, and a library facility completed in 1976. Bonham’s population increased from 6,686 in 1990 to 9,990 in 2000, when it had 446 businesses.
Bailey is on State highways 11 and 78 eleven miles south of Bonham in south central Fannin County. Settlement began in the late 1850s, when farmers moved into the area to take advantage of the rich blackland. Cotton and corn became the principal agricultural products. As the community developed, two prominent residents competed to have it named after themselves. Doctors Josiah S. Bailey and A. J. Ray owned land that was to become the townsite. The quarrel between the two men ended in 1885, when the St. Louis Southwestern Railway used the land donated by Bailey for its right-of-way. Two years later a post office branch opened. The railroad stimulated twenty years of economic growth. By the early 1900s Bailey had 300 residents, two churches, a school, a bank, a hotel, one of the few picture shows in the county, and a dozen businesses. In the mid-1920s the population peaked at 350. Bailey was incorporated in 1933. During the years of the Great Depression and World War IIqqv the population declined. By the mid-1950s the number of residents had decreased to 198. Bailey was the first town in the county to establish a “free lunch” program. By the mid-1970s farmers had abandoned cotton and corn in favor of small grains and cattle. In 1988 Bailey had an estimated 220 residents. In 1990 the population was 187. In 2000 the population was 213.
Dodd City is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and Farm Road 2077, five miles east of Bonham in central Fannin County. Settlement of the area occurred in 1839, when Maj. Edmund Hall Dodd and his wife, Elizabeth (Garnett), arrived from Kentucky. The couple built a log house that soon served area farmers and travelers as a trading center, post office, and stagecoach inn. From 1845 to 1865 a post office branch existed at the site under the name Licke. The post office was reestablished under the name Dodd from 1873 to 1902, when the name was changed to Dodd City. Before the Civil War several businesses were added to the growing community, including a two-story hotel. The war retarded growth, but over the next five years the community’s population increased as Civil War veterans moved to Texas from the upper South. In 1873 the tracks of the Texas and Pacific Railway reached a community called Quincy, one mile west of Dodd. Quincy was included in the community when Dodd incorporated in 1879. During the next thirty years the town served as a retail center and shipping point for area farmers. By the mid-1880s its population surpassed 400, making it one of the largest communities in Fannin County, with twenty businesses, four churches, a school, a weekly newspaper, and a loan and exchange association. The population reached 500 by 1900, but economic growth leveled off by 1910. Dodd City had 400 residents, an estimated thirty businesses, and two banks in 1926. After 1930 the population steadily declined. At the end of World War II the town had 308 residents and eight businesses. In 1950 the Texas and Pacific ended passenger service to the town, which had a population of 351 in 1990. In 2000 the population was 419.
Ector is at the intersection of Farm Road 898 and U.S. Highway 82, six miles west of Bonham in central Fannin County. The community started in the late nineteenth century when farmers settled near Caney Creek. Residents named it Victor’s Station but, when informed by postal authorities that a town of that name already existed, decided to honor one of the pioneer settlers of the area, Ector Owens. In 1886 postal service to the community began. The tracks of the Texas and Pacific Railway reached the site in 1892. The railroad quickly made Ector a shipping point for area farmers. In 1904 the town had 218 residents served by a church, a school, and a half dozen businesses, including a bank. The population reached 451 in 1926, when the businesses numbered twenty-five. In 1947 Ector had a reported 457 residents. Subsequently, the population steadily increased, reaching 650 in 1988. The number of businesses declined, however, from twelve in 1936 to three in 1988. By that time the majority of the residents were commuting to jobs in Sherman and Denison. The population of Ector in 1990 was 494. The population was 600 in 2000.
Honey Grove is on U.S. Highway 82 fifteen miles east of Bonham in east central Fannin County. The first Anglo-Americans who settled in the area arrived from Tennessee in 1842. Within a few years a community developed on a rise that provided residents a view of the surrounding countryside, timber on one side and prairie on the other. Near the site in a grove was an apiary from which the community received its name. In 1846 a post office branch opened to serve the growing community. A decade later the population of Honey Grove reached 300. Residents voted to incorporate in 1873. By the mid-1880s the tracks of the Texas and Pacific Railway had reached the community. The railroad established Honey Grove as a retail center and shipping point for area farmers. In 1890 it had a population of 3,000, 100 businesses, seven churches, two schools, two banks, and two weekly newspapers. By the 1890s a prosperous stone quarry was operating just outside the town. The population of Honey Grove in 1914 was 2,800. By the eve of World War I an ice and light plant and a third bank had opened in the city. Subsequently, the population steadily decreased. By the end of World War II Honey Grove had a population of 2,500 and seventy-four businesses. In 1988 it had a reported 1,861 residents and twenty-five businesses and was the second largest town in Fannin County. In 1990 the population was 1,681, and in 2000 it was 1,746.
Ladonia is on State highways 34 and 50, Farm roads 2456 and 64, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway sixteen miles southeast of Bonham in the southeastern corner of Fannin County. The area was settled around 1840 by James MacFarland and Daniel Davis. Other early settlers included Patrick Old, who built the first house, and Frank McCown, the community’s first merchant. James H. Cole, a carpenter who moved to the county in 1855, planned and staked out the actual townsite. The community was first known as McCownville. In 1857 McCown changed the name to La Donna, according to local legend to honor La Donna Millsay, a traveler on a wagontrain from Tennessee who had entertained local residents with her singing. By 1858 the settlement had a post office named Ladonia. Ladonia grew rapidly after 1860 because of its location in a fertile farming area and because of the arrival in 1887 of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway. The community incorporated in 1885 and around that time had a population of 350, two cotton gins, a bank, a flour mill, a school, and a number of churches. The arrival of the railroad, which town officials had enticed with a bonus, made Ladonia an agricultural marketing town for cotton, corn, oats, and wheat. Its population was reported as 1,500 by the early 1890s and had increased to 2,000 by 1897, when the town reported some 100 businesses, including six dry-goods stores, three drugstores, three cotton gins, and two banks. In 1936 Ladonia had 1,199 residents and thirty-nine businesses. By the mid-1970s it had 815 residents and eighteen businesses; at that time the town’s major industry was Texas-A-Pak, which shipped horse meat for sale in European markets. Also during the 1970s the community’s school was consolidated with that of nearby Pecan Gap to form the Fannindel school district. In 1989 Ladonia reported a population of 677 and ten businesses, and in 1990 it reported a population of 658. In 2000 the population was 667.
Leonard, on U.S. Highway 69 and State Highway 78 in southwestern Fannin County, is near the center of a tract of land that, on February 8, 1845, Anson Jones, president of the Republic of Texas, granted to Martin Moore. This 3,520 acres, now known as the Martin Moore survey, was sold to Solomon Langdon Leonard in February 1859 for $10,560. It is located on the Blackland Prairie, which angles through southwest Fannin County from northwest to southeast. The prairie was bordered on the south by Wildcat Thicket and on the north by Bois d’Arc Thicket. Wildcat Thicket was an “area of trees, briar bushes, thorn vines, and tall grass, so thick and dense that it was almost impossible to see through it, even in the daytime.” It was also a haven for outlaws and fugitives and the scene of several killings in the Lee-Peacock feud (1865–72).
On July 22, 1880, the town of Leonard came into existence on the Leonard survey with the sale of town lots at auction. H. L. Parmele negotiated the location of the town with the Denison and Southeastern Railway. A post office and a school were established the next year. Residents numbered fifty in 1881. In 1885 the settlement had a population of 350, nine stores, three blacksmith shops, a church, a school, a gin, two hotels, two doctors, and two lawyers. Leonard incorporated on September 14, 1889, with a population of 400 people. The first four churches in town were the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Church of Christ. The first city hall was located on the first floor of a two-story frame building in the town square. The Grove Hill Masonic Lodge occupied the second floor. Albert Ervin established the first newspaper, the Leonard Graphic, in 1890, and it was still in publication in the 1990s.
On May 23, 1894, Leonard Collegiate Institute was organized. It began in a two-room frame building on Connett Street and in 1906 built a three-story building with the new name Dodson College. In 1908 the presbytery of the Paris Presbyterian Church took formal possession of the school and changed the name to Manton College Institute. The school closed in 1914. In the middle 1930s Dr. J. J. Pendergrass established a hospital in Leonard, which was then the trading center of southwest Fannin County and adjoining areas in Hunt, Collin, and Grayson counties. The town was known for its outstanding cotton market. The principal crops were cotton, corn, and wheat. In 1989 the main crops were wheat and grain sorghum; ranching had replaced some of the farming. The population of Leonard slightly exceeded 1,000 for most of the twentieth century, then grew to 1,509 in 1980 and 1,744 in 1990. The population was 1,846 in 2000.
Ravenna is on Farm roads 274 and 1753, five miles northwest of Bonham and six miles south of the Red River in northwestern Fannin County. Settlers, among them John Hilyard Tackitt, Alonzo Larkin, J. T. Crawford, and T. A. Patillo, began moving into the area as early as 1850. The small community that developed was first known as Willow Point. By the 1870s four or five families had built homes, as well as a Christian church, which was still in use in the 1980s. By the mid-1880s the community had a population of 150 and a post office called Ravenna; the name, local tradition has it, was for the numerous ravines in the vicinity, especially a deep ravine that cut through the middle of the townsite. At that time Ravenna included some ten businesses, including a steam sawmill, a cotton gin, and a gristmill. The community incorporated in 1887. A school, Ravenna College, was established by G. L. Marshall and Kate Wolfe and offered private education to local children until it was moved to Ector in 1889. The Denison, Bonham and New Orleans Railroad built tracks through Ravenna in 1891, and during the early 1890s the population reached 400, served by some thirty businesses. Though the number of residents had fallen to 290 by 1900, Ravenna still maintained a number of businesses, including a weekly newspaper and a bank. By the eve of World War I, however, it had grown again, to 500 residents and thirteen businesses. By 1915 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas had taken over the tracks that ran through Ravenna. During the late 1920s Ravenna still served as a trade and cotton center and maintained some twenty-five businesses, including at least two banks, but by that time its population had fallen to 412, and rail service to the town had been discontinued. Between 1936 and 1966 the population fell from 254 to 145, and the number of businesses shrank from eighteen to three. The Ravenna school was annexed by the Bonham school system in 1949. The population of Ravenna was reported at 199 in 1990 and 215 in 2000.
Savoy is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and Farm Road 1752, on the Missouri Pacific line ten miles west of Bonham in extreme west central Fannin County. It was established about 1863 by Col. William Savoy, a pioneer settler and landowner who had arrived in the area in the late 1850s. The settlement grew slowly until after the Civil War, when hundreds of settlers began arriving in the area. In 1873 a post office opened; also in the 1870s the Savoy Male and Female College began operations and the Texas and Pacific Railway extended its tracks through the community. With the trade opportunities made possible by the railroad, Savoy became an agricultural shipping center for area farmers, who produced cotton, corn, grain, and numerous other products. In the wake of a May 28, 1880, tornado that killed eleven persons and virtually destroyed the community, Savoy rebuilt and continued to grow and develop. By 1885 it had incorporated, and by the end of the decade the local population had reached 300. By that time Savoy had twenty-five businesses, including several cotton gins, four dry-goods stores, two steam gristmills, two hotels, and a hardware store. More than 1,000 bales of cotton were shipped from Savoy in 1888. Fire destroyed the Savoy Male and Female College in 1890, but by 1897 the town reported a population of 500, some twenty businesses, three churches, and several public schools. Around this time area farmers shipped some 10,000 bushels of wheat, 7,000 bushels of corn, and perhaps 3,000 bales of cotton annually from Savoy. The population rose from 343 in 1900 to 400 in 1915 and declined slightly to 378 by the mid-1920s. On the eve of World War I Savoy had some twenty-seven businesses, including a bank and a weekly newspaper; by the end of World War II it had thirteen businesses and 298 residents. The population had increased to 493 by the mid-1960s, and by the mid-1970s it had reached 783, with eleven businesses. By 1990 Savoy reported a population of 877. The population dropped to 850 in 2000.
Trenton is on State Highway 121, U.S. Highway 69, State Highway Spur 220, and Farm roads 151, 814, and 815, twelve miles southwest of Bonham in extreme southwestern Fannin County. The first settlers arrived by wagon train from Tennessee in 1852. At the time the area was known as Wild Cat Thicket, from the abundance of wild animals, including wildcats, in the vicinity. After the Missouri, Kansas and Texas built through the area, and Dr. W. C. Holmes, the “father of Trenton,” laid off a townsite, the community of Trenton came into existence; it received a post office in 1881. It was named for Trenton, New Jersey. People apparently moved into the community almost at once; private subscriptions eventually funded the construction of a depot there. By the mid-1880s Trenton had 200 residents, a school, and two churches, as well as some fifteen businesses, including a steam gristmill, a hotel, and a boardinghouse. At that time it shipped cotton, corn, and oats produced by area farmers. By the late 1890s the community, which had incorporated, had a population of over 300, served by more than thirty businesses, including a newspaper. A public school opened at Trenton in 1896, and between 1900 and the mid-1920s the community population rose from 420 to 616. A national bank opened there in 1901 and by 1914 was capitalized at $40,000. In 1926 there were two schools, which enrolled a total of 300 students, and the small banking and trade center had some forty businesses. In the early 1930s farmers in the vicinity, influenced by P. E. Brown, began large-scale commercial production of onions. This new crop grew rapidly in importance, and production reached a peak in 1933, when 158 carloads were shipped from Trenton. In the mid-1930s the community had twenty-eight businesses. The population of Trenton had declined to 490 by 1936, but rose to 634 by 1948 and to 712 by 1967. In 1977 Trenton reported 615 residents and seventeen businesses. By the early 1980s the town had become the third-largest shipping point for onions in North Texas. It had an estimated 682 people and twenty businesses by 1988, and in 1990 its population was 655. The population was 662 in 2000.
Windom is on U.S. Highway 82, Farm Road 1743, and the Missouri Pacific line, ten miles east of Bonham in east central Fannin County. Early settlers in the area were Nancy Fitzgerald, Abraham McClellans, Jacob Baldwin, and Maj. James Donaldson. The settlement was established about 1870, and in 1872 the Texas and Pacific Railway extended its tracks through the small community, which became a flag stop on the line. Local legend attributes the name to its windblown location. In 1885 Windom had a post office, a school, and a number of churches. The population stood at 312 by 1900, and the town incorporated in 1918. In the mid-1920s 389 people lived there. In 1924 U.S. Highway 82 was paved. Like many small towns, Windom entered an extended period of decline during the decade of the Great Depression. The population decreased from 317 in 1936 to 290 by the mid 1940s. The number of businesses declined from seventeen to ten. In 1967 the town had a population of 218 and six businesses. Since the 1960s, however, Windom has grown slowly, perhaps because of its proximity to Bonham. In 1976 it had 247 residents and five businesses. In 1990 the community had a population of 269 and one business. The population dropped to 245 in 2000.
Before the coming of Anglo-American settlement Cooke County stood on the borderlands between the Caddo Indians to the east and the Comanches in the west. The first Europeans to visit the county may have been Spaniards on expeditions during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, but no permanent settlements were made. The county was included in the Cameron land grant, a Mexican grant of 1828, but no settlers came.
Cooke County was established by an act of the Texas legislature on March 20, 1848, and named for William G. Cooke, a hero of the Texas Revolution. The boundaries of the original county encompassed its present area, along with territory that became Montague, Clay, Wise, and Jack counties. Cooke County assumed its present boundaries in 1857. It was crossed by several early trails, including the Mormon Trail, a branch of the Chisholm Trail, and the Butterfield Overland Mail route. Fort Fitzhugh was established in 1847 to protect area settlements against Indian raids, the last of which occurred in the western part of the county in January 1868. Early settlers employed Daniel Montague to locate a site for a county seat fifteen miles west of the Grayson county line. Col. William F. Fitzhugh, commander at the fort, proposed that the town be named for his former commander, Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines. Gainesville, the county seat, was established in 1950. The southern and eastern parts of the county were settled by people primarily from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. The western part had only scattered settlements prior to the late nineteenth century, when German land speculators founded the towns of Muenster in 1889 and Lindsay in 1891.
The Denison and Pacific Railway reached Gainesville on November 7, 1879, from the east; it later became the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (Katy) Railroad. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe connected Gainesville and Denton on January 2, 1887, on its way to meet the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe at Purcell, Indian Territory. These links provided for the first time a north-south rail line from Chicago to Galveston. The Katy was later extended west toward Wichita Falls.
The earliest settlers brought slaves with them, but not in the numbers that accompanied migrants from the Deep South to East Texas. The slave population of Cooke County in 1860 was 369, 10.9 percent of the total. Although in 1861 the county’s citizens voted more than 61 percent against secession, sentiment for the Confederate cause was so potent during the Civil War that in October 1862 an estimated forty-two men were executed because they were believed to have participated in a pro-Union conspiracy.
During most of its history Cooke County has voted for Democrats. From 1884 to 1916 the county gave more than 75 percent of its votes to Democratic presidential candidates; William Jennings Bryan received 83.2 percent over William McKinley in 1896. Democratic congressman and senator Joseph Weldon Bailey came from Cooke County. The Democratic hegemony continued through the Great Depression and the New Deal era. Harry Truman received 53.1 percent of the votes in the 1948 presidential election. From 1948 to 1992, however, Cooke County voted for Republican nominees for president, except in 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson received 65.7 percent.
Throughout its history Cooke County has been heavily agricultural. In 1900 it had 3,307 farms, averaging 142.4 acres. Farm income in 1900 was more than $2.2 million. Cattle in 1900 numbered 48,765. Corn production was 1.68 million bushels-1.5 percent of the state’s corn crop. The oats yield stood at 840,790 bushels, 218,330 more than wheat production. The years between World War I and the depression saw cotton production peak at around 20,000 bales a year. The emigration of the Dust Bowl and depression years reduced cotton production to 8,906 bales in 1936. Cotton production was only 1,540 bales in 1956, but rose to 6,200 in 1965.
Cooke County was hit hard in the 1920s. The number of farmers owning the land they worked decreased from 1,299 in 1920 to 720 in 1930, a 44.6 percent decrease in one decade. The number of sharecroppers increased from 1,390 in 1920 to 1,848 in 1925, but dropped to 1,673 in 1930 as tenant farmers went broke and moved away. The New Deal years saw the trend reverse somewhat. By 1940, 51.9 percent of the farms in the county were operated by tenants, either cash-renters or sharecroppers. The same year, the number of farms in Cooke County had dropped to 2,530, only 76.5 percent of the number at the turn of the century, partly because smaller farms were being consolidated. Only large farms-those of more than 180 acres-increased in number in the late 1930s; between 1935 and 1940 farms greater than 700 acres increased from sixty-five to eighty-two.
The number of cows and heifers kept mainly for milking increased from 7,929 in 1930 to 11,565 in 1940. As cotton production decreased and the cattle industry increased, corn production rose. Wheat production increased in the 1934–39 period by 62.75 percent. By World War II, then, Agriculture still dominates the economy of Cooke County, for 77.9 percent of the county’s total area is occupied by farms. 57% of the acreage is pasture or rangeland. In the 1978 agricultural census the value of all agricultural products sold was about $26,095,000, and 81.8 percent of it derived from the livestock industry. Of the income from livestock, 36.7 percent came from dairy products and 58.7 percent from the sale of cattle and calves. Cooke County is still cattle country.
The crops grown in the county also reflect the predominance of livestock. Corn culture is decreasing, though sorghum culture increased slightly during the 1970s. Peanuts and hay are also important, though by 1978 cotton production had fallen to 5 percent of the peak yield of the early 1920s. By 1978, 58 percent of the farms in Cooke County were owned by the farmers, and only 11 percent were worked by tenants. Individuals or single families owned 87.4 percent of the farms.The average market value of all machinery and equipment for each farm in 1978 was $19,037.
The county’s major mineral resources are oil and gas. The first oil well started operation on November 9, 1924, two miles east of Callisburg. From 1924 to 1982 oil production was 4,288,009 barrels. The total value of oil production in 1983 was $131,899,471.
Points of interest in the county include the Frank Buck Zoo, located in Leonard Park in Gainesville; Morton Museum in downtown Gainesville; and a center for diabetic children at Camp Sweeney east of Gainesville. Camp Howze, a military training base during World War II, had a troop capacity of 39,963. The installation was abandoned in 1946. A popular attraction in Gainesville is the driving tour of the Victorian homes on Church, Denton, and Lindsay streets.
Cooke County’s population has remained relatively stable in the last hundred years. The 1880 census counted 20,391 inhabitants. By 1900 the figure had reached 27,494. Postwar urban migration brought the number of residents to 22,146, its lowest twentieth-century level, in 1950. The 1980 census counted 27,656.
In the early 1960s Interstate Highway 35 was built across the county from north to south. There is no longer any railroad service in the county. Automobile registration in 1981 stood at 28,612. The county has one daily newspaper, the Gainesville Daily Register, which has been published continuously since 1890, and two weeklies. The population of Cooke County was 30,777 in 1990. As of the census of 2000, there were 36,363 people residing in the county.
In 1850, Gainesville was established on a 40-acre tract donated by Mary E. Clark. At the suggestion of Col. William F. Fitzhugh, commander of a stockade 3 1/2 miles southeast, the town was named in honor of Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines. Gaines, a United States general under whom Fitzhugh had served, had been sympathetic with the Texas Revolution. Gainesville originally consisted of three families who lived in log houses near the banks of Elm Creek.
In the decade after the war, the county seat had its first period of extended growth, catalyzed by the expansion of the cattle industry in Texas. Gainesville, only seven miles from the Oklahoma border, became a supply point for cowboys driving herds north to Kansas. Two major cattle trails, the Chisolm Trail and the Shawnee Trail flanked Cooke County. An important gateway into the great grassland empire of Texas, Gainesville became an important hub of commerce and one of the most significant cattle towns in the state.
When the last of the major Indian raids occurred in 1868, the county population began to increase with the arrival of the “Katy” railroad in 1879. Cattle money also financed the construction of the new county courthouse in 1878 and provided much of the tax revenue to support local schools and the building of public roads. Gainesville was incorporated on February 17, 1873 and by 1890 was established as a commercial and shipping point for area ranchers and farmers.
On June 22, 1878, workers of the Denison and Pacific Railway laid the first rails and crossties of a new extension from Denison to Gainesville. After sixteen months, they finally completed their 42-mile connection between the two towns. On November 7, 1879 people came from all corners of the county to witness the arrival of the first locomotive Gainesville. Then the following January, the Denison and Pacific became part of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas system, better known as the “Katy”. In 1886, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe extended its North Texas line from Fort Worth to Gainesville.
In 1884, a mule-drawn streetcar line had run along California, Dixon, and Harvey streets, providing cheap transportation in the town’s business and residential districts. The municipality owned and operated a public water works, a dam having been built on Elm Creek in 1883 to create a reservoir which would hopefully provide the community with an adequate water supply.
Also contributing to Gainesville’s relative well-being in the 1930s was the success of the Gainesville Community Circus which first performed in May 1930 and thereafter gained a national reputation. The circus survived for many years, and brought national attention to Gainesville through newsreels, radio broadcasts, and magazine articles. Many members of the circus were instrumental in starting and supporting the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville.
World War II had an enormous impact on Cooke County. Camp Howze, an army infantry training camp, was established on some of the best farmland in the county. The construction of the camp helped bring Cooke County out of the Great Depression by providing jobs. The county population doubled and the area boomed.
In the last several years, tourism has brought renewed prosperity to the area. The return of Amtrak on June 14, 1999 brought Gainesville back full circle to one of the original sources of its growth and success. In the early 1990’s, Gainesville had 600 businesses and a population of 14,587. In the year 2000, the population was 15,538.
Callisburg is eleven miles northeast of Gainesville in eastern Cooke County. The town was near the Butterfield Overland Mail route and on the Mormon Trail, a route established in 1846 by a group of Mormons led by Lyman Wight, who were migrating to Texas. The community was named for blacksmith Sam Callis, the first settler there. By 1873 a post office had been established at the community in Billy Rousseau’s dry-goods and grocery store, and ten years later Callisburg reported a population of 300, a school, and some twenty businesses, including a steam gristmill-cotton gin. By 1902, however, its population had declined to about 110, and its post office had closed. In 1902 residents thought an electric rail line was to be built between Gainesville and Sherman to the east; Callisburg was to be used as the headquarters for this line, but the project never developed. In 1924 the Big Indian Oil and Development Company Well No. 1 was drilled on B. W. Davis’s farm, a mile east of Callisburg. The community’s population level fluctuated between 110 and 200 until the early 1970s, when it dropped sharply to around sixty-eight. By 1980, however, Callisburg had become incorporated, and by 1988 its population had reached a new reported high of 329. In 1988 the town had two churches, two stores, a volunteer fire department, a city hall, a community center, and its own independent school district. Its population was 344 in 1990 and grew to 365 in 2000.
Lindsay is on U.S. Highway 82 six miles west of Gainesville in north central Cooke County. When it was established as a switching station on the Gainesville, Henrietta and Western Railway in 1887, it was named for Judge J. M. Lindsay. It was a German-Catholic colony promoted by land speculators Anton and August Flusche. In 1891 the brothers signed a series of contracts with J. M. Lindsay, W. W. Howeth, and others, granting them 9,300 acres on the railroad. In the spring of 1891 the townsite was surveyed, and the remaining property was divided into farms. Colonists began arriving in October 1891, and in January 1892 eleven heads of households were present for the first colony meeting. The people of Lindsay celebrate March 25, 1892, as the town’s birthday, because on this date the first Mass was celebrated in the William Flusche home by Father Hugo Bardenhewer. The apparent success of this new colony caused Judge Lindsay to donate nearly eight acres to the Diocese of Dallas as a building site for a church, a school, and a cemetery. Rev. Joseph Blum of Muenster selected the highest point near the western end of the townsite, and a twenty-by-fifty-foot frame church was built there for $800. The money was raised by Judge Lindsay, citizens of Gainesville, and the Flusche brothers.
In 1898 the Reverend Heuchmer, pastor of Gainesville and Lindsay, stated that Lindsay was too small to remain a separate parish and should be incorporated into the Gainesville parish. Wanting to remain independent, Anton Flusche, J. D. Boesken, and Henry Sandmann talked to Bishop Edward Joseph Dunne and secured a promise that Lindsay would remain a separate parish; on September 1, 1899, the Benedictine Fathers of Subiaco, Arkansas, were given the responsibility of religious duties for St. Peter’s Parish. In 1903 a new brick church was built to serve the parishioners. This church was destroyed by a tornado on May 31, 1917. A new church, still extant in the 1980s, was dedicated on October 12, 1919. Residents of Lindsay, with the help of Father Bonaventure, established a parochial school, which opened in October 1893 with sixty pupils. It was run by the Sisters of Divine Providence until 1932, when the school system became public. In 1969 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line discontinued service through Lindsay, and U.S. Highway 82 became its main traffic artery. Lindsay was incorporated in December 1959, and in April 1960 its residents voted to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages within the city limits. Restaurants and package stores, built on both sides of U.S. Highway 82, constitute a large part of the business in Lindsay. In 1982 the town had 581 residents, most of whom were descendants of the early German-Catholic settlers. The Lindsay economy includes farming, dairying, oil production, and liquor and food sales. Some residents commute to work in Gainesville. Lindsay has two local festivals, Octoberfest and the Lindsay Homecoming Picnic in July. In 1990 the town’s population was 610. The population grew to 788 in 2000.
Muenster, on U.S. Highway 82 fifteen miles west of Gainesville in west central Cooke County, is named for the capital of Westphalia. It was established as a German Catholic colony by the Flusche brothers, land agents. In October 1889 Emil and August Flusche and the three owners of the Childers and Fisher pastures, Jot Gunter, C. E. Wellesly, and J. W. Childers, signed a contract that obligated the brothers to sell 22,000 acres in two years to immigrant settlers. Even before the surveying was completed and the acreage divided colonists began arriving, drawn to the new town by letters that the Flusches wrote to other settlements they had established in Iowa and Kansas and by advertisements in the German-language papers published in the Midwest. Twenty-five men, seven women, and six children were residing in Muenster by December 8, 1889, when they observed the feast of the Immaculate Conception with a Mass celebrated by the Reverend H. Brickley of Gainesville. The date marks the official birth of Muenster. On January 1, 1890, the colonists decided to build a permanent church and school. The school, which also served temporarily as a church, was completed by the spring of that year at a cost of $1,000 and still served the community in 1987. Gunter donated $500 toward the construction of a church. A church was begun in 1891 and was to cost $6,000, but a storm in December destroyed the building before services could be held. The second church, a Gothic frame building, was completed by the spring of 1892; it was also destroyed, this time by a tornado, on July 31, 1893. The third structure, a brick building of Gothic style, was begun in 1897 and served until the present church was built in 1952.
In 1887 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad constructed a branch line from Gainesville westward to Henrietta. It served Muenster until it was discontinued in 1969. The main traffic artery in the late 1980s was U.S. Highway 82, which connects Muenster with the rest of North Texas. Muenster was incorporated in December 1927, and on September 5, 1959, the residents voted to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages within the city limits. Muenster had 1,408 residents in 1982, the majority of them descendents of the early German Catholic settlers. Industries included farming, dairying, and oil. The town had a hospital, two high schools (Sacred Heart High School and Muenster High School) a public library, a large community center, and two churches (Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the First Baptist Church). The town holds an annual spring festival, the Germanfest. In 1990 the population was 1,387. By 2000 the population grew to 1,556.
Valley View is on Spring Creek at the intersection of Interstate Highway 35, Farm Road 922, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway ten miles south of Gainesville in southern Cooke County. The site of the community was first settled in 1870 by the Lee family. L. W. Lee plotted a town on his land in 1872, naming it Valley View, presumably for the view offered at the site of Spring Creek valley. Eighteen families moved in, and a post office opened in the community that same year. A blacksmith shop was opened in 1873, and the shop was used for the community’s first school. By 1884 the town had an estimated 250 inhabitants, three steam gristmills and cotton gins, and three general stores and shipped cotton, livestock, and wheat. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway reached the town in 1886. Valley View had four churches and a hotel by 1890, and the Valley View school district was incorporated in 1902. In 1903 the town witnessed dramatic growth with the completion of a two-story brick school house and six brick business buildings, the arrival of telephone service, and the opening of a bank. The following year the Valley View News began publishing weekly. The community had an estimated population of 600 by 1914. Two fires struck the town in 1924. In the fall the east side of the town square was burned down. On the morning of December 19 bank robbers started a second fire as they robbed the First National Bank of $5,000. A further two city blocks were destroyed. Valley View’s population was estimated at 700 from the 1920s through the mid-1960s. In 1970 it was 805, but the town declined during the next decade. When Valley View incorporated in 1980, it had 514 inhabitants and six businesses. The town began to grow again in the 1980s and had a population of 640 in 1990. In 2000 the population was 737.
Various Caddo groups, including the Kichai, Ionis, and Tonkawa Indians, were the earliest known inhabitants of the area that became Grayson County. French and Spanish expeditions resulted in the initial settlements established in 1836–37 at Preston Bend on the Red River, at Pilot Grove in the southeastern part of the county, and at Warren. After the establishment and surveying of the Peters colony in the early 1840s, settlement of the region progressed rapidly. On March 17, 1846, Grayson County, named for Peter W. Grayson, attorney general of the Republic of Texas, was marked off from Fannin County. The legislative action also specified that the county seat be called Sherman.
By 1850 Grayson County had a population of 2,008, most of whom had come from Southern states. The census enumerated 186 slaves, used mainly by farmers and stockmen along the Red River and its tributaries to raise grains and livestock, cotton being a minor crop in the area until much later. By 1860 Grayson County’s population had grown to 8,184, a significant part of the increase having occurred after 1858.
The attitude of the county in 1860–61 toward the issue of secession was not consistent countywide. The 1861 election resulted in a vote of 901 to 463 to remain in the Union. Fear of alleged Union sympathizers in five north central counties, including Grayson, resulted in the deaths of forty men in the Great Hanging at Gainesville in 1862. During the Civil War Grayson County men served the Confederate cause in various parts of the South, but the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, composed of many area recruits, was commissioned to capture the federal forts in Indian Territory north of the Red River. No armed conflict was involved in these captures. The frequent visits of William Clarke Quantrill’s guerillas during the war years afforded county residents some anxious moments. The political instability and economic depression that characterized much of Texas in the Reconstruction era plagued Grayson County as well.
From 1870 to 1880 settlement in North Texas flourished. The arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad in Sherman and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas in Denison in late 1872 initiated a period of phenomenal growth and development for Grayson County. The population expanded from 14,387 in 1870 to 38,108 in 1880, an increase unparalleled in the entire history of the county. The number of farms increased 460 percent between 1870 and 1880, and since the railroads provided transport for produce, Grayson County soon became a milling and market center for surrounding areas. In 1876 Sherman had five flour mills and the largest grain elevator north of Dallas. By 1891 it had erected the largest cottonseed oil mill in the world at that time.
Between 1920 and 1930 Grayson County experienced the only decennial population decrease in its history. Having increased steadily from 1850, county population reached 74,165 in 1920. By 1930, however, it had dropped to 65,843, and in spite of subsequent regular increases the 1920 total was not exceeded until the 1970 census enumerated 83,225. The agricultural and manufacturing sectors declined as Grayson County faced the traumas of the Great Depression and World War II. The number of farms decreased from 5,169 in 1930 to 4,296 by 1940. Unemployment rose from 6.9 percent in 1930 to 19.5 percent by 1940, and in 1935, 4,705 county residents were on relief. Federal agencies were at work in the county, however, during these years. The courthouse, destroyed by fire in the Sherman riot of 1930, was rebuilt in 1936 with Public Works Administration funds, and the Civilian Conservation Corps did extensive soil-conservation work throughout the area. In 1938 the Rural Electrification Administration brought electric power to rural Grayson County, and by 1944 the cooperative had 2,086 members. The number of members increased steadily thereafter, to 4,633 in 1954, 7,497 in 1964, and 12,197 in 1984.
In 1938 Congress authorized the construction of a dam and reservoir north of Denison to control the flooding of the Red River, generate electrical power, and provide irrigation. Lake Texoma, the reservoir, with a shoreline of 1,250 miles, was developed by the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service and remains a major recreation area and tourist attraction. The dam project was an economic boom to the county, as was the construction of Perrin Air Force Base in 1941. The blow to Grayson County’s economy caused by the closing of the base in 1971 was tempered somewhat by the conversion of the facilities into an airport, one of three currently in operation, and an industrial complex. The Denison Dam Project and the construction of Perrin Field precipitated a period of expansion and development that subsequently characterized Grayson County as a whole. Although the sale of livestock and livestock products remained high throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the number of farms decreased at a rate commensurate with declines on state and national levels. The opening of the first oilfield in the county in 1930 heralded a business that became integral to the economy. Grayson County had produced 120 million barrels of oil by 1970 and in 1980 recorded an average annual income of $54,000,000 from oil, gas, and stone, as compared to $28,000,000 from agriculture. In 2000 more than 1,546,800 barrels of petroleum were produced in the county; by the end of that year more than 249,976,800 barrels had been produced in the area since 1930. During the 1970s and 1980s Grayson County emerged as a manufacturing and trade center, with 31 percent of its labor force in 1980 employed in manufacturing and 19 percent in wholesale and retail trade.
County voting was solidly Democratic before the Civil War and after Reconstruction. The voters of Grayson County favored the Democratic candidate in virtually every presidential election from 1892 through 1976; the only exception occurred in 1928, when Republican Herbert Hoover took the county. In both 1952 and 1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower failed to carry the county, though his birthplace in Denison is the feature of the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historical Site. After 1980, when Republican Ronald Reagan took the county, the area began to trend Republican. Republican presidential candidates carried the area in virtually every presidential election from 1980 through 2004; the only exception was 1992, when independent candidate Ross Perot won a plurality of the county’s votes.
In 2000 the census counted 110,595 people living in Grayson County. About 85 percent were Anglo, 6 percent were black, and 6 percent Hispanic. More than 80 percent were high school graduates, and more than 17 percent had college degrees. In 2002 the county had 2,597 farms and ranches covering 441,246 acres, 53 percent of which were devoted to cropland and 40 percent to pasture. In that year farmers and ranchers in the area earned $41,865,000; livestock sales accounted for $21,857,000 of the total. Austin College in Sherman and Grayson County Junior College midway between Sherman and Denison offer county residents varied educational opportunities.
Founded in 1872, the city of Denison was named after Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT) Vice-President, George Denison. Today, the MKT, better known as the Katy Railroad, has merged with Union Pacific. From its beginning the railroad has been an important part of the city. The town had over 3,000 residents by the summer of 1873, when it incorporated. On February 6, 1873, Denison established the first free public school in Texas. The first Denison Independent Order of Odd Fellows was organized on February 19, 1873.
Denison had the first women’s club in Texas; the XXI club began in 1876. In 1886 a post office opened, and in 1889 the town had 5,000 residents. During the next ten years Denison established itself as a retail and shipping point for North Texas. In addition to the tracks of the MKT, the town also became a stop on the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas and the Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf railroads. Five additional rail lines that connected Denison with other communities in North Texas were chartered between the late 1870s and 1900, including the first interurban electric line between Denison and Sherman in 1896. By the end of the 1870s local businesses included two cotton compresses, a large flour mill, and a slaughterhouse capable of handling 700 cattle a day. In 1884 the town had an opera house that seated 1,200. In 1889 the Denison Herald began publication. During the twentieth century industrial and manufacturing plants provided a diversified economic base for the community. Electronic parts, clothes, furniture, and a variety of plastic goods are among the products manufactured in Denison.
In 1900 the population surpassed 10,000. By the mid-1920s Denison had just over 17,000 residents and 400 businesses, including four banks. It also had two high schools, nine grade schools, and numerous churches. In 1936 Denison had 13,850 residents and 460 businesses.During the 1940’s, the Denison economy was strongly impacted by the establishment of Perrin Air Force Base. Today, the former air base is under the control of Grayson County and serves Denison as a viable private airport and industrial park. By the end of World War II the number of residents was just short of 16,000.
Denison’s history is rich in flavor and personality, and its residents are dedicated to preserving the unique history. In 1988, Denison was officially designated a Texas Main Street City by the Texas Historical Commission. Many homes in Denison have preserved their original character and design. Historic walking and driving tours guide visitors through neighborhoods and the historic downtown arts district.
In 1989 Denison had a reported 24,234 residents and 427 businesses. In 1990 the population was 21,505, and in 2000 it was 22,773. Denison was the birthplace of the thirty-fourth president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower. Denison has grown from a small community to modern city full of industrial and technological opportunities. Denison’s local government is extremely pro-business, and has established significant programs to assist new and existing businesses.
The City of Sherman was created by an act of the 1846 Texas Legislature and was named after General Sidney Sherman, a hero of the Texas Revolution. In 1848 Sherman was relocated to a site three miles east of the original location.
The community was not immune to the sectional passions that flared during the 1850s, and by 1860 the county commissioners’ court had established an armed detachment of men to patrol the county in search of runaway slaves and abolitionist threats to law and order. The Civil War years witnessed William C. Young’s organization of a force of 1,000 men from the Sherman area. This group became the Eleventh Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army. Despite hardships imposed by wartime, Sherman continued to grow and develop during the early 1860s. In 1861 the community’s first flour mill began production and became the foundation of industrial development. Although outlaw bands led by Jesse James and William C. Quantrill appeared in Sherman during and after the war, and a period of lawlessness and depression accompanied reconstruction. Two fires in 1875 destroyed all of the buildings south of Sherman’s city square and all but two buildings east of the square. The city suffered a devastating blow on May 15, 1896, when a tornado cut through the west side of town, destroying some fifty homes and killing between fifty and eighty people.
As it grew, Sherman developed educationally and culturally, gaining the nickname of “the Athens of Texas” from its many schools and cultural events.
Sherman suffered a major setback when, in 1896, a huge tornado ripped into the southern and western sections of town, killing and wounding over 100 citizens. Sherman was able to surmount this challenge, as it was the 1930 burning of the courthouse by a racially motivated mob. World War II brought economic prosperity to the area, with the establishment of a pilot training base called Perrin Field. Unfortunately, this base closed in the 1960’s, resulting in a reversal of economic fortunes. Through the good and the bad, Sherman continued to grow.
Sherman’s population increased dramatically during the second half of the twentieth century, rising from 20,150 in the mid-1950s to 26,100 in the mid-1960s and 30,400 in the mid-1970s. Its businesses increased in number from 575 to 750 and then declined to 628 during the same period. By the 1970s Sherman was the home of about forty manufacturing plants that turned out products ranging from salad oils and shortenings to disposable hospital products and integrated circuits. In 1990 Sherman’s population stood at 31,584, and about 600 businesses employed the local workforce. The manufacturing community remained at about forty producers, turning out such goods as clothing, rifles, coffee, meats, hospital products, and electronic components. By 2000 the number of inhabitants had increased to 35,082, and the number of businesses had jumped to 1,953.
Today, Sherman is home to many amenities and well-known institutions. Austin College is the oldest institution of higher learning in Texas, and Sherman boasts its own symphony orchestra, this being most unusual for a city its size. Sherman Community Theater productions and Red River Historical Museum add to the cultural base. The beautifully-restored Kidd-Key Auditorium is a magnificent performing arts venue for all to enjoy.
The Red River Historical Museum is also a tourism draw, with visitors coming from many states and even some foreign countries. Sherman eagerly awaits a future that will be worthy of its proud heritage.
Bells is on U.S. Highway 82 ten miles east of Sherman in east central Grayson County. Daniel Dugan settled in the area in 1835. Community development, however, did not occur until the early 1870s with the arrival of the Texas and Pacific and Missouri, Kansas and Texas railways. The community was called Dugansville, for the local pioneer family, from 1871 to 1878, and was renamed Bells, perhaps in reference to the area churches, in 1879. In the 1870s the community had a post office, nine stores, a mill, a cotton gin, and Corneilison School. The community grew up south of the railroad, and incorporated in 1881. By 1900 the community had 400 residents, twenty businesses, two schools, a number of churches, and a weekly newspaper, the North Texas Courant. By the mid-1920s the number of residents had grown to just over 600; businesses numbered thirty, including a bank. The community supported a high school and a grade school. The depression and World War II slowed the growth. Beginning in the 1950s, however, a steady increase in population resumed. In 1955 the population was just over 600; in 1990 it was 962, and in 2000 it was 1,190.
Collinsville is on U.S. Highway 377 eighteen miles southwest of Sherman in southwestern Grayson County. The first Anglo-Americans to settle in the area arrived in the late 1850s. Originally the community was called Springville, and land for the townsite donated by Joshua Miller. A post office operated there in 1857–58. In the late 1860s another town, Toadsuck, was established in the area. Following the Civil War L. M. Collins and her two sons arrived from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and established what many believe to be the first free school in the North Texas area. In 1872 a post office opened. Nine years later the Texas and Pacific Railway arrived. The railroad established the community as a shipping and retail point for area farmers. Sometime early in the 1890s residents voted to incorporate and rename their town in honor of Collins. By 1900 Collinsville had a population of over 600. That figure fluctuated little over the next five decades. The town had Methodist, Baptist, Christian, and Cumberland Presbyterian churches and fifty businesses. Beginning in the mid-1970s a ten-year growth in population occurred. In 1989 Collinsville had an estimated 911 residents and sixteen businesses. In 1990 the population was 1,033, and in 2000 it grew to 1,235.
Gunter is at the intersection of State Highway 289 and Farm Road 121, twelve miles southwest of Sherman in south central Grayson County. One of the later towns to be established in Grayson County, Gunter received a post office in 1898 and was organized as a community in 1902 when the tracks of the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas Railway reached the area. The town’s namesake, John Gunter, a cattleman and surveyor, donated land for the townsite. The arrival of the railroad established Gunter as a retail and community center for area farmers. By 1914 the town reported a population of 800 and thirty-six businesses. It also had Baptist, Methodist, and Church of Christ churches and a weekly newspaper called the Grayson County Advocate. The community’s population surpassed 500 in 1924, the year Gunter incorporated. Its residents were served by some fifty businesses, including two banks; it also had a school and numerous churches. The Great Depression slowed Gunter’s growth, and its population declined to 475 by 1936. During the 1960s its population once again surpassed 500, and in 1991 Gunter reported a population of 926 and some twenty-four businesses. In 2000 the population was 1,230 with thirty-seven businesses.
Howe is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 75, State Highway 5, and Farm Road 902, on the Southern Pacific line ten miles south of Sherman in southern Grayson County. The first settlers in the area arrived around the time of the Texas Revolution in 1836. In 1843, it is said, the last Indian battle in Grayson County was fought in the area. The first settlers of Howe were Jabes and Harriet Haning and Jabes’s brother John. They received land through the Peters colony after their arrival from Pennsylvania before 1850. The Houston and Texas Central Railway built through the area in 1873, and a railroad switch was located in the community. It was called Summit because at 810 feet above sea level it was supposed to be the highest point between the Red River and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1873, when Summit received a post office, two businesses were located at the switch: a general store and a saloon. Several houses were built to the east of the switch. Jabes Haning persuaded the railroad to establish a depot on his land by donating every second lot in his newly platted town to the railroad. The name of the depot, the store, and the post office was changed in 1876 to Howe, after F. M. Howe, who worked for the Houston and Texas Central. Howe had three saloons until around 1900, when the town voted to go dry. Its first one-room school building opened in 1877 and was replaced by a two-story building in 1884.
In 1884 Howe was incorporated, with George M. McCrary as mayor. By the late 1880s the town had become a major grain-shipping center and was the home of Red Rust-proof Oats. A number of seed companies had their beginnings there in that decade. Howe became home to a Farmers’ Alliance Cooperative Association, which was absorbed by the Howe Grain and Mercantile Company in 1894. In 1890 Howe had a population of 450, a steam gristmill, a Farmers’ Alliance Cooperative, and Baptist and Methodist churches, as well as a number of hotels, doctors, druggists, and barbers. Several newspapers were published in Howe, such as the Messenger and the Howe Herald in the early years. During the 1930s the Howe Chronicle was published by former Governor James E. Ferguson and his brother A. M. Ferguson. The Howe Enterprise was established in 1963 and was published until the late 1980s. By 1914 the Texas Traction Company, better known as the Interurban, was providing service to Howe. This electric train ran between Denison and Dallas with a stop in Howe. By 1914 Howe also had the Farmers National Bank, the Howe Herald, three grain elevators, and an ice plant. The community’s population had grown from 521 in 1904 to 680 in the early 1960s. After that it rose rapidly through the early 1980s, reaching 2,173 by 1990. By 2000 the population was 2,478. Throughout most of its history Howe remained primarily an agricultural center, some oil has been produced in the area. During the early 1980s Howe reported some thirty businesses. In 1981 local industries included a shirt manufacturer and a hydraulics company, and by 1991 the number of manufacturers at Howe had risen to five, including makers of plastics, electronics, and agricultural equipment.
Pottsboro is on Farm Road 120 eight miles northwest of Sherman in north central Grayson County. It was established in 1876 by James A. Potts, a pioneer settler who donated land for a town and a right-of-way so that the Missouri, Kansas and Texas would extend its tracks westward from Denison to his settlement. The community, no doubt aided by its status as a stop on the railroad, grew rapidly for the rest of the 1800s. It incorporated in 1880, and by 1885 its population had reached 200 and it supported a cotton gin, several gristmills, and a number of churches. A post office opened there in 1891. The population reached 454 in 1920 and 500 in 1925. By that time the community was served by some twenty-five businesses, including a bank, and by two schools with a combined enrollment of 300 students. Pottsboro declined to a population of 358 by 1936 and 312 by the mid-1940s. It then grew to 383 by 1957. The number of businesses had fallen to twelve by 1948, though by the late 1950s it was back up to more than twenty. The town began to grow again during the 1950s, perhaps spurred by the rapid expansion of nearby Denison. By 1967 Pottsboro reported thirty businesses and a population of 750, and by 1990 its population was 1,177. The population grew to 1,579 in 2000.
Tioga, twenty miles southwest of Sherman on U.S. Highway 377 in the southwest corner of Grayson County, was founded in 1881 when the Texas and Pacific Railway reached the site. The crew used water from the local well and named the site Tioga, a New York Indian word said to mean “swift current” or “fair and beautiful.” When mail service began in 1881, Dr. J. S. Nichols, a physician and druggist, became the first postmaster. In 1884 the community had two churches, a school, a cotton gin, a grocery, a general store, a pharmacist, a carpenter, a blacksmith, and a population of sixty. By 1892 the town also supported a military academy, a gin and gristmill, a physician, and a restaurant. The population was 600. The town was incorporated in 1896.
In 1884 Matt Rains, a blacksmith, discovered medicinal qualities in the local water; after he bathed a burned hand, the hand reportedly healed quickly. As a result in the 1880s several companies-Tioga Mineral Wells Company, Radium Mineral Water, Tioga Mineral Water Company, Atlas Water, and Star Well-marketed the mineral water and attracted health seekers to Tioga. It was said that ten trainloads of visitors came to Tioga each day. In 1925 the population reached a peak of 777. In 1937 there was an unsuccessful effort to change the name of the town to Autry Springs, after Gene Autry, who was born in Tioga and graduated from Tioga High School in 1925.
The first local newspaper, the Tioga North Texan (1895–98) was subsequently published as the Tioga Tribune (1899–1904) and thereafter as the Tioga Herald. In 1955 it ceased publication. In 1940 Tioga had a population of 638, a post office, and sixteen businesses. In 1947 one of the bathhouses was destroyed by fire, and the wells were temporarily shut down. However, a new proprietor built new bathhouses and continued to boost the town as a health resort.
The resort business, however, declined. In the 1970s Jim and Deedie Wendover attempted to revive the town and bottle its water. They renovated old storefronts and started an antique trading center. Wendover also sold many of the town’s commercial structures in a 1982 auction. In 1989 Tioga had a restaurant, a leather store, several convenience stores, and six churches. Many residents commuted to nearby cities to work. The Primitive Baptist Church has a historical marker which tells of the baptism (1956) and funeral (1961) of Samuel T. (Sam) Rayburn. The population of Tioga in 1980 was 380. In 1990 the town had 525 residents and six businesses. The population was 754 in 2000 with thirty-three businesses.
Tom Bean is on State Highway 11 and Farm roads 902 and 2729, ten miles southeast of Sherman in southeastern Grayson County. It was established in 1888 as a stop on the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, and that year a post office opened there. The community was named for Tom Bean, a surveyor from Bonham, who, in hopes of enticing the rail line to extend its tracks across land that he owned in Grayson County, donated a fifty-acre tract for a townsite and railroad right-of-way. The presence of the railroad drew settlers and businesses from the nearby community of White Mound, and by the early 1890s the incorporated town of Tom Bean had the post office and a school, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin, and a weekly newspaper. By around 1900 its population stood at 299, and in the mid-1920s the town had a population of 367, with twenty businesses. In the mid-1950s Tom Bean had 286 people and eleven businesses. After the 1950s its population began to grow, reaching 570 by the mid-1970s and 926 in the late 1980s, when the town had four businesses. In 1990 Tom Bean reported 827 residents. The population reached 941 in 2000.
Van Alstyne is on State Highway 5, U.S. Highway 75, Farm Road 121, and the Southern Pacific line, twelve miles south of Sherman in extreme south central Grayson County. Settlers established the community of Mantua in the area during the 1850s. When the Houston and Texas Central Railway bypassed Mantua in 1872, many of that community’s residents purchased land from the railroad company and laid out a townsite. They named the new community after either William A. Van Alstyne, a civil engineer with the railroad who surveyed the right-of-way and the townsite, or Mrs. Marie Van Alstyne, a shareholder in the railroad company. The community opened a post office in 1873 and grew rapidly for the rest of the century. Van Alstyne incorporated in 1890, when it had a population of 400, two gristmills, a flour mill, a newspaper, and a college. Around 1900 the town had 1,940 residents and a number of businesses, including several banks, a grain elevator, a roller mill, and a chemical company. Though the population of Van Alstyne declined somewhat during the early 1900s, it remained an active center for retail trade, banking, schools, and churches. Its population was 1,453 in 1936, when fifty-five businesses, including two banks and various stores, served the community. The town’s population fell from 1,650 around 1948 to 1,608 by 1967; during this same period the number of rated businesses in the community increased from forty-two to forty-five. By the mid-1970s the town had 2,230 residents and some forty businesses, among them seven manufacturers, including producers of clothing, motor homes, and mattresses. By the late 1980s the population of Van Alstyne stood at 1,990, and it had some thirty-five businesses, including factories of plastics and aluminum products. In 1990 the population of the community was reported as 2,090. The population reached 2,502 in 2000.
Whitesboro (Whitesborough) is on State Highway 56, U.S. highways 377 and 82, State Highway Loop 441, and the tracks of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas and Texas and Pacific railroads, fifteen miles west of Sherman in extreme west central Grayson County. Although the first settler in the area was Robert Diamond, the arrival of Ambrose B. White and his family in 1848 marked the beginning of the settlement. At this time the area was called Wolfpath. The settlers who came after White chose to live very near one another. The Butterfield Overland Mail route used White’s Westview Inn as a stop on its trail from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast from 1858 to 1861. Fourteen families lived there by 1861. A post office, under the name Whitesborough, began operations in 1860. After the Civil War residents were attracted to Whitesborough in such numbers that it became a relatively “wide-open” frontier town; female residents were prohibited from leaving their homes on Saturday nights because shootings were so common. Whitesborough was incorporated on June 2, 1873. At that time it had a population of 500, saloons, several stores, and other businesses.
By the end of the decade the community had a bank, a newspaper, and train service from the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, which had extended its tracks to Whitesborough from Denison in 1879. In 1887 local officials reincorporated the town and received a second charter, this time altering the spelling of its name to Whitesboro. By 1900 the population was 1,214, and by 1920 it had increased to 1,810. Surrounded by farms producing cotton, corn, wheat, and oats, and served by two rail lines, by the mid-1920s the town had become a commercial center. Some seventy-five businesses, including three banks, operated in Whitesboro. In addition, the community had a small number of manufacturers, producing such goods as cottonseed oil and bedding. The population of Whitesboro declined slightly during the 1930s and 1940s, no doubt affected by the Great Depression and World War II. The postwar decades brought growth; the town increased from a population of 1,854 and eighty-three businesses in 1957 to 2,985 and 100 businesses by the late 1960s. In the late 1970s Whitesboro had manufacturers of clothing, metal products, and petroleum products. In 1989 it had fifty-eight rated businesses, and in 1990 the population was 3,209. The population reached 3,760 in 2000.
Whitewright is on State highways 11 and 160 twelve miles southeast of Sherman in extreme eastern Grayson County. The settlement was established in 1878, when New York investor William Whitewright, for whom the community was named, purchased a tract of land in the path of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad, which was then extending its tracks across the county. Whitewright had the land surveyed as a townsite and left two of his agents, Jim Reeves and Jim Batsell, to sell lots in the new community. Likely due to the combination of its rail connection and its location in the center of perhaps the richest farmland in the county, Whitewright soon attracted settlers and businesses. Within ten years of its founding the community had incorporated and supported a private school, Grayson College, a public school, a newspaper, and several businesses, including three hotels, two cotton gins, and two banks. In addition, a post office began operations there in 1888. By 1900 the population of Whitewright was 1,804. Although it declined slightly, to 1,563 in 1910 and 1,666 in 1920, the business community flourished. By the mid-1920s both the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas and the Cotton Belt served the town, and sixty-eight businesses, including two banks and manufacturers of cottonseed oil and flour, operated locally. Whitewright served as a marketing, retail, and commercial center for the farmers of the surrounding area who produced such crops as cotton, wheat, and corn. The population rose from 1,480 in 1936 to 1,537 by the late 1940s. The number of businesses, however, declined from sixty to forty-six. During the 1970s and 1980s seven factories, producing goods ranging from sausage to clothing to fertilizers, employed local workers. By 1989 Whitewright had twenty-six businesses, and in 1990 the population was 1,713. In 2000 the community had 1,740 inhabitants and 106 businesses.