Interesting Stories and Events In Honey Grove’s Early History
Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, November 5, 1937
Written by H.P. Allen, assisted by W.J. Erwin
The railroad company with the assistance of land maps of the different counties, even in East Texas, found many blocks of un-surveyed land. They soon had the land surveyed. A few sections were found four or five miles north of Honey Grove. After getting the surveys completed with field notes, they took them to the land office at Austin and bonded them. Ben Epperson, a prominent citizen of Red River county, was a high official of the railroad company. We do not remember whether he was a vice president or division superintendent. At any rate, he was in high authority. The bonds were prepared, based on the land grants, and Gen. John C. Freemont was employed to take them to France to sell them. He was equipped with a copy of the acts of the Legislature of Texas granting the land as fast as the road was built. The railroad company was actively grading the road from Fulton on Red river to Boston in Bowie county, but by this time ominous war clouds were gathering, the abolition party had carried the Scott case to the courts, and soon Mrs. Harriet Stowe had written her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was a fire-brand. On a former occasion the slave holding party had threatened secession, when the brilliant Kentucky statesman; Henry Clay, introduced his bill in Congress to free the slaves by gradual emancipation, paying a reasonable price to the owners for them, but the radical of neither party were enthusiastic for the bill, and it failed to pass.
1860 was the year for both state and national elections. The northern party nominated Lincoln for president, and the South put out two tickets, Bell and Everett, and another whose name we do not remember. The South was threatening secession, if defeated. A man whose name was Runnels was governor of Texas and a candidate for re-election. Sam Houston was nominated for the office and made a vigorous campaign over the state. Runnels was not a good speaker and would not meet Houston on the stump, but money was raised and one of the finest orators in the South was employed to combat Houston. His name was Louis Wigfall. When they came to Honey Grove, Runnels did not go to the church house where the speaking held. Houston was a Southern man, but did not believe secession would be the proper thing to do. He believed it would plunge the South into a bloody war and it would result in freeing the slaves without compensation to the owners.
Mr. Wigfall’s reply to General Houston was pronounced a classic. It was indeed a fine flight of oratory, but it did not seem to counteract on the minds of the masses. Mr. Wigfall was afterwards a member of the Confederate Congress and later was accidentally drowned by falling out of a boat off the coast of Florida.
November came on, and Lincoln was elected president of the United States, and Houston governor of Texas. In the meantime, the people were unusually active in talking politics. A little while before the November election a large U.S. flag was put up on the square. A.G. Stobaugh was appointed keeper of it. It was rigged with cords and pullies and he would take it down late in the evening and lock it in his store over night, then run it up next morning. But one morning the citizens saw a Confederate flag floating from the 75-foot pole. A hotheaded citizen felt that it was his duty to take it down and destroy it, so he hurried to it, pulled it to the ground and proceeded to tear it to pieces, when a young man who was instrumental in putting it up, seized a large butcher knife and went to the defense of the Confederate flag. He made one lunge at the man who was tearing up the flag and had he been less active he would have most likely lost his life. Friends were already on the ground and intervened quickly.
While Sam Houston was elected governor of Texas, it seems that the majority of Texans voted for secession. A commission was either appointed or elected to count the votes, and, they declared Texas out of the Union. Then the trouble was on, and soon on a fine April morning the federal troops at Charleston, South Carolina, fired on Fort Sumpter, which was in possession of the Confederates. War was declared, and we lost our Memphis and El Paso railroads, General Freemont had been moderately successful in selling the bonds, but the French people soon discovered that their investment was valueless, as not a mile of rails had been laid. Therefore the title to the land which the bonds were based on yet belonged to the State of Texas. The French investors wanted to hang Freemont, and it was said he had to get out of that country in disguise. Honey Grove had to wait thirteen or fourteen years for a railroad.
In our next, we propose to go back to the early times in Honey Grove and surrounding country, and tell especially of the crude method of living and the self denial the settlers had to practice, and to tell something of their open hospitality and of their good neighborly deeds.
We sincerely believe the type of citizenship in and around Honey Grove was the best we have ever known. They have most all passed away, but their descendants are here and we have a large list of them, but some we cannot remember may be overlooked. We will be glad to receive sketches of the life of the early settlers who have passed away so that their names will be included in the list. It will be some time before these letters are discontinued.
Typed by Raeli Motley