Interesting Stories and Events In Honey Grove’s Early History

Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, November 26, 1937

Written by H. P. Allen, assisted by W. J. Erwin

Our last letter brought us down to the Civil War.  We would turn back and review the past several years.

            Exact dates are practically impossible to obtain, but we wish to make it clear to the minds of our readers that the traditional part of our stories are the things our fathers and mothers handed down to us and are verified by the Erwin and other papers, and by the records at Bonham and Clarksville.  All territory lying west of Red River County was attached to it for judicial purposes until new counties were organized.

            The new-comers in arriving in the Honey Grove country found themselves possessed of only such household commodities and necessities as they had hauled in their wagons from east of the Mississippi river.  The few settlers they found here were living in rude log cabins, with mud and stick chimneys, often hauling their drinking water quite a distance.  Chills and fever were common, and some seasons, malaria opthalmya, which was commonly spoken of as red sore eyes, and was believed to be contagious, and the same treatment for chills cured sore eyes – calomel.

            The writer was 7 years old before he ever saw a cook stove, and we know of none in the country before Sinc Stapp brought from Louisville, Ky., an invoice of four or five, but the boat on which they were shipped was sunk in Red river, and had to remain there until the next low stage of water, which was the next summer.  The stoves finally arrived, but were, with all the vessels, covered with rust, and we well remember what a time our mothers had freeing them of rust.

            Matches had been invented, and were certainly in use, but none were here.  About 1856 B. S. Walcott brought them to Honey Grove. They were in round wooden boxes deep enough for the matches to stand on end.  There were 50 in a box and sold for 25c per box.

            Before matches came, fire was kindled with a flint and steel, but often by turning up the convex side of a skillet lid, then sprinkle a little gun powder on it, laying a little cotton beside the powder, having already prepared some fine wood shavings, then some split wood kindling; then with any hard piece of steel, preferable an old file, strike glancing blows on the lid. The first spark would usually explode the powder, which was a blaze for your cotton, then your shavings on that had a fire started.  All cooking was done with skillets and ovens with lids, and frying pans.  All meats and soda biscuits cooked in this way were excellent.

            Lack of farm implements was a great drawback.  Wheat on the fresh soils yielded remarkably well, but it had to be cut with the cradle and bound by hand; then when sufficiently dry scrape off the stubble from a circular piece of ground 40 or 50 feet in diameter, scrape off the loose soil, sweep with broom until only the hard earth is exposed, and on this lay the bundles of wheat about three bundles deep; then put a boy on the single horse, leading two more horses to go around and around, stopping occasionally to rest the horses, while a man would go over the bundles with a fork, turning them over and bringing the bundles from the bottom to the top and working the empty straw to the bottom in order to keep the horses from tramping up the dirt, which would get mixed with the grain.  After the tramping had been sufficiently done, the straw would be carefully raked to one side, a wagon backed up to the place and a large box placed in the backend of it for a man to stand on.  Wagon sheets were spread on the ground to catch the grain as the man upon the box slowly poured it from vessels of it handed up to him, and there was a stiff breeze blowing and it would separate the chaff from the grain, and after this process had been repeated two or three times the wheat was sufficiently cleaned to grind.

            James Tucker had on this homestead two and a half miles south of town, a grist mill, using horse power.

            The first mill ever erected in Honey Grove was built and operated by Rev. W. A. Provine and his eldest son, George.  The site chosen for the mill was north of the square, where the residence stands that was the home of W. A. Dial and we think is now owned by P. M. Price.

            George Provine was a fine business man and gave the mill his undivided attention, and prospered, but after the big steam mill built by B. S. Walcott had gotten into operation there was no longer business enough for two mills in a small town, so George sold their mill to be junked and moved away.  He then went to Paris and built a steam mill there and spent the balance of his life there, a highly respected, useful citizen.

            In the meantime the town had been growing, and Sinclair Stapp had built and was operating a general store on the corner where the Ryan building now stands.  He and B. S. Walcott had practically a monopoly of the trade of the town, and were both upstanding, good men.

            The trade territory was large, extending to Red river on the north and halfway to Bonham on the west; to Sulphur on the south, and eight to ten miles into Lamar County.

            J. M. Tucker, who was an early settler two and a half miles south of town and owned the mill, sold out and moved to town, put up a building on the south side of the square and opened up the first saloon ever in Honey Grove.  He soon expressed surprise that his friends did not patronize him nor loiter about his place of business.  He yet had faith in the town, and built a two-story frame hotel on the lot on which the tabernacle now stands, but as the town was too small to support two hotels, he sold out and went west.

In about 1858 the town felt that an abundant supply of water was a necessity. Soon plans were made for drilling a deep well, hoping for a flowing supply of artesian water. The town promoter, Mr. Walcott, readily admitted that he would be the chief beneficiary if a flowing well was obtained, as his steam mill was sometimes idle on account of a lack of water. He largely financed the undertaking. Tools were ordered and a site was selected. 

Honey Grove Preservation League

Saving and Documenting the History of Honey Grove, Texas