Interesting Stories and Events In Honey Grove’s Early History
Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, [specific date unknown; likely Spring, 1938] (G)
Written by H.P. Allen, assisted by W.J. Erwin
We wish to remind our readers of the statement we made in our first letter giving sketches from the lives of the pioneer settlers of Honey Grove and surrounding country. We stated that we had but little experience in writing for publication. Next, that we claimed to have no merits within ourselves that we wished to parade before the public, but one or often both of us knew personally all the good men and women whom we have written about, with the exception of two or three who had passed away before our days of remembrance. After reviewing the lives of many whom we knew to be fine citizens and good neighbors we agreed that they ought not to be forever forgotten, and our agreement was that what we would say would be intended as a long past due
to the good men and women who are resting peacefully in Oakwood and other cemeteries.
The Honey Grove cemetery was started in April, 1846. In that year Mr. James M. Gilmer died in April. Having come from Adair County, Ky., he arrived in Honey Grove in November, 1845 with his family and bought land from Dr. J. J. Nicholson, the tract of land on which most of the town is built. Mr. Gilmer lived only from Nov. 1845 until early in April 1846. After his death his widow (who is a sister of Mrs. Allen and also Miss Parrish and Ben Parrish) requested T. J. Allen to select a suitable place for a burying ground, as no one had ever been buried here. He selected the present site, which was on his 820 acres bought of John McKenzie, who had bought it from Dr. J. J. Nicholson, Dr. Nicholson having secured patent to two and half sections, making his full allowance of a homestead. The writer holds today a patent on parchment and signed by Anson Jones, president of the Republic of Texas. After Mr. Gilmer was buried, John T. Allen deeded to the public three acres out of the J. J. Nicholson survey, described by meets and bounds, to be used for a public burying ground, free of any cost. There was no organization to take charge and lay it off in an orderly manner, so when there was to be a burial the family of the deceased selected any part of the grounds that suited them, which accounts or the lack of order in the old portion of the cemetery. Now, this occurred before this writer was born, and if you ask how I know, my reply is that my father and mother told me. There were so few people here that the public knew it and acted on it by taking their dead there and burying them there. Two of the three men, S. A. and Jack Erwin, who dug the graves, told me so. Not a year before Mr. Gus Erwin passed away he told me that some man was telling that he had helped dig the first grave, when, in fact, it was he and his brother Jack and another, whose name I have forgotten, but it was not the one claiming to have helped. Many years after this we ran across the deed my father had made in the old family Bible. It was the usual form of warranty deed and acknowledged before a notary public. This writer was so ignorant of titles that he supposed there was nothing more to do to it. My father thought he had sent it to Bonham for record, buy it does not appear to have been recorded, but there is not a court in Texas that would disturb the occupants after holding actual possession for 90 years.
Honey Grove's First Lesson in Civic Pride
In the early 70's there was a newspaper published at Detroit, Mich., (if our memory is correct), by the name of Pomeroy's Democrat, which had a large list at Honey Grove. The editor's true name was M. M. Pomeroy, though commonly called Brick Pomeroy. He was a versatile writer, somewhat after the style of Mark Twain, and he indulged in many jokes. Every Monday he would have in his paper an editorial under the heading of "Our Saturday Night." He had a picture of the interior of his home, which represented a winter evening, with a bright fire in the grate, himself seated at a table writing; his wife sitting on the other side of the table either knitting or sewing, and the little children playing with their dolls and toys; the family cat on a rug before the fire, altogether making a picture of a happy home. In his editorial, Our Saturday Night, he would tell what he had seen, heard or experienced in any way. He could describe almost any emotion that the human heart knows. Finally, he announced in his paper that he intended to visit Texas in a short time and that as Honey Grove now had a railroad he would visit that town. Later he announced his entourage. It included Honey Grove on a certain day. The business men got together and appointed a committee to meet Mr. Pomeroy at the depot and appointed Mr. T. B. Yarbrough to take him around and introduce him to the citizens. There were no sidewalks in town at that time. The east side had only a few buildings and a few loose boards had been lain down lengthwise across ten vacant lots. We were at that time having some heavy summer rains and the Jamestown and other weeds were about three feet high and thick enough to make a shade under them. As Mr. Yarbrough was showing Mr. Pomeroy over the town, they were walking north on the east side and in passing those vacant spaces we noticed Mr. Pomeroy stop a moment looking at a sow and pigs wallowing in the mud and water under the shade of the weeds. He smiled pleasantly and walked on. After going home, there was a nice write-up of Sherman and Bonham, and when Honey Grove was named he had a picture which was a cheap wood cut of the sow and pigs wallowing in the mud and water under the tall weeds on the public square. Some of the citizens laughed over and some got as mad as a wet hen. We think Mr. Pomeroy lost some of his subscribers and Honey Grove learned its first lesson in civic pride.
Churches and Schools
In our preceding letters we have had much to say about the splendid qualities of the early settlers of Honey Grove and the surrounding country. As a rule they came from the older states and were possessed of fairly good English educations; not all of them, but a majority of them were Christian men and women, and Christian character is a power not easily confined, and we sincerely believe that the good deeds and find examples of those men and women have had much to do with making Honey Grove a good place in which to live.
Somebody has said that character is the poor man's capital, and when wealth is lost nothing is lost; when health is lost something is lost, but when character is lost, all is lost.
After the union church was built it was rather surprising to see the number of men and women who came in with their church letters from the older states and joined, and after awhile they were enjoying a fine fellowship. We have often thought that a delightful fellowship of the kind that enriches hearts and lives of men cannot exist where there is lack of confidence. That word confidence, when analyzed, has a tremendous meaning. Each of the four denominations which built the old church house had one Sunday every month, and there were some good Bible preachers employed. Our recollection of them is that one of the early men whom the Baptists employed was a man who lived at Clarksville. His name was Pickett. He would ride horseback and our father lived on the Paris road about a mile from town and Mr. Pickett was a Kentuckian, as my father and mother were, and my mother had been a member of his church. He and his horse were tired after riding 51 miles, so he would stop by and spend the night with us. Mr. Buckner, who established the orphanage home out east of Dallas, was also at a later period pastor for the Baptist church in Honey Grove.
The Methodist folks would have some one to fill their Sunday some times, though not often, Mr. Graham of Paris. The Presbyterians had three or four supply preachers, but quite often have Uncle Bob Jones, who lived near Whitewright. I do not remember who preached for the Christian congregation.
This is perhaps the last of these rambling sketches we will be able to write on account of failing eyesight. We can only write a few minutes at a time and must discontinue.
We had a large list of families we hoped to give attention, and among them are some of the very best friends we ever had, both in Honey Grove and the surrounding country. These sketches have not been written in the spirit of a Who's Who inquiry, but character has been almost everything, and good characters have been no trouble to find, in either town or country. We will tell of the largest and best school Honey Grove ever had up to that time. There were no free school systems at the time. There was a local teacher, Prof. Baird, and a college teacher from Missouri opened school in the Masonic Hall, which stood a little east of the present auditorium. We do not remember the date of the opening, but it was about September, 1863. The female department was taught upstairs by Miss Prudence Baird. Prof. Wigfield would call for the first recitation. Butler's grammar class, which was composed of 16 young ladies and nine boys. When the nine months term ended the faculty announced that they would open school again September 1st. This was during the dark days of the Civil War. Very soon after the close of school it was discovered that the conscript law only exempted teachers from army service while actually engaged in teaching. So after conferring with the patrons, the faculty opened the school for another nine months term after a two weeks' vacation. The school was not reorganized and the same classes were called for recital as usual. Prof. Wigfield called his Butler's grammar class and almost every member answered present the first day. That class continued through another nine months' term, making 18 months with only two weeks vacation, and now, after practically 74 years, there are just three of us living - Mrs. J. E. Breckeen, who was Miss Mary Erwin; Mrs. Lucy Compton, who was Miss Lucy Lovell, and the writer. We could today write out a correct list of the 23 of the 26 who have passed on.