History of Honey Grove, Texas
Dated July, 1923
As reprinted in the April 6, 1973 Honey Grove Signal-Citizen
In the year 1836 David Crockett left his native state, Tennessee, with a company of men to join the Texas Army at San Antonio. They traveled the western route which brought them thru Arkansas and Indian Territory. Then they entered Texas by way of Fulton's Ferry on Red River.
A small settlement in Texas called Pin Hook, which is now known as Paris, was the limit of Western Civilization. But when Crockett's company reached this last settlement they did not falter but rode bravely on into the wilderness that they might reach their goal and join others in the great battle for liberty.
This locality, where our pretty little city of Honey Grove now stands with its some 3000 population, was then an unknown wilderness - the home of the Indians, buffalo, deer, turkey and other wild animals. It was the place that Crockett and his men reached after one or two days travel from Pin Hook. They pitched their tents in the grove, just north of the present square, near a spring of fine water.
This place proved to be an ideal camping ground. So they remained in camp several days while they made a definite decision as to which route they should take to complete their journey. Crockett found many trees in the grove containing swarms of bees with abundance of honey. Then he carved his name and the name "Honey Grove" on the trees and always spoke of this famous camp as Honey Grove, which name still lives and today is loved by thousands of people.
For six years after this time the Indians roamed this country and the wild animals lived undisturbed, save by their savage friends, and played peaceably around Crockett's old camp ground, while the bees still swarmed in their home - the tall stately trees. But they were not always to remain thus, for the golden west had a bright future. Many travelers were coming in from the east in search of homes and prosperity.
One of these travelers was Samuel Erwin, who chanced to settle near the old camp ground of his beloved friend. The relationship of these two men was very close for Samuel's Uncle had reared Crockett. And when Samuel was married the ceremony was performed by Crockett, when he was an humble magistrate in Tennessee.
Erwin bought land grants from the government at twenty five cents per acre for which he paid by his surveying land for them. He built his home near the spot where Crockett's company had pitched their tents six years before. They were the only residents of Honey Grove for three years and their nearest neighbors, Capt. Yeary, lived three miles south.
The next settler was Dr. Nicholson and his brother, A. J. Nicholson, - the latter a mere boy - who came in 1845 and settled to west, - the land now known as "West Hill". These were followed in the same year by John McKinzie, who settled on what is now the old Provine place. Next came J. T. Allen and James G. Gilmer. The former bought the home of McKinzie while the latter built a log house about there the south west corner of the square now is.
There were so many Indians thru the country that the houses were all built with only a few windows and some of them with out windows so that the Indians would not see their lights at night.
One day while Mrs. Yeary was at home alone, she heard the Indians coming. She immediately blew the horn, which meant trouble, then she ran to the door with her pistol. The men hearing the signal, ran from the fields to her aid, carrying with them their hoes, - their only weapons. But before they reached her an Indian had shot her with his bow and arrow, piercing her limb. The Indians were frightened away when they saw the men with their hoes, but some of them were shot with the pistol that Mrs. Yeary had succeeded in handing to one of the men. The nearest doctor lived about fifteen miles away, but he came and cut the arrow out of her flesh, then he dressed the wound, which healed in source of time.
From the year 1845 settlers became frequent, and as years rolled by they came more often to find a home in and near the little village. So they began the form or organized government and Erwin was the first dispenser of law and Justice in 1844.
Clouds of sorrow hovered over their little settlement on April the 15th, 1846, for the death Angel had made his first visit in their midst and claimed James G. Gilmer. No cemetery had been prepared so then it was that the family and friends must choose a suitable burying ground. This was the beginning of our present beautiful Oakwood Cemetery.
But while the little village still mourned the loss of their loved one, ten days later their hearts were made glad by the birth of their first born, - James P. Gilmer, son of the James G. Gilmer.
W. W. Brown, Assistant Post Master General, wrote a document that a Post Office should be established in Honey Grove, Texas on May the 22nd, 1846, and that Samuel Erwin was appointed Post Master. This old original document has been kept and is preserved by Erwin's grand daughter, Mrs. J. E. Breckeen of Honey Grove.
Then four denominations, Methodist, Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterians, and Christians, united in building a union church, which stood just west of where the public school building now stands.
The bell for the church was brought from New Orleans. The boat, in which the bell was being brought, was wrecked and destroyed, but the bell was rescued and sent on to Honey Grove. The same old bell is today in the Baptist church, they being the last to leave the Union church, and will remain there, loved and praised by all citizens of Honey Grove as a valued treasure of Auld Lang Syne.
This church and a small school house, board covered and unceiled, were the first public buildings. Judge Rutherford taught the first school in 1858. One of his pupils - Judge McClellan - became one of Honey Grove's first lawyers.
The Smith Hotel, a three story building - the third story being used as a Masonic Hall - was built about the same time by Granville Tucker. The lumber was hauled in wagons from beyond Clarksville in Red River County, a distance of more than seventy miles.
The Masonic Lodge, first secret order of Honey Grove, was organized by Jas. W. Moore, M. M. Moore, A. J. Nicholson, S. W. and A. G. Page in 1856, under a charter from the Texas Grand Lodge. The second secret order was the I.O.O.F.-67, with Daniel Baker as first Noble Grand.
In 1858 B. S. Walcott built a mill in the grove, - twenty four years later this mill burned.
Honey Grove was many miles from any navigation or boat landing and the only way of getting here was in wagons. There were only a few roads, most of them bad and with no bridges. The people had to make at home almost everything they used, for all the supplies that they could get had to be hauled in wagons from Jefferson, which took almost six weeks for the round trip. The merchant only made one trip a year to market.
The sixties brought many heartaches for it was war times. Honey Grove sent her best and bravest to uphold those principals that she thought to be right. During part of this time Lake Wilson of Bonham carried the mail on horse back from Paris to Bonham through Honey Grove. Then later the overland stage with its for proud steed displaced the one horse rider. As the stage made its appearance into the village the settlers listened with pleasure to the music of the stage horn.
When the flag of peace was flying and the soldiers had returned to their homes, they set in with an earnest zeal to improve their little village.
In 1873 the little town was incorporated under a charter granting to it the right to frame laws and ordinances for its own local government and providing for the election of officers to see that the laws were enforced. The first board of officers were Joe H. Smith, Mayor; B. S. Walcott, A. G. Stobough, John Blain, W. A. Ryan and Joshua Fuqua, aldermen, and J. M. Dunn Marshall.
B.S. Walcott put up the first building of stone in 1874 from the famous quarries about three miles south of town, which were owned and operated by William Floyd and sons. In November 1877 the building was destroyed by fire but rebuilt in a more modern style in '78 - '79, which is the present Walcott building. Then T. B. Yarbrough seeing that this stone was a success, built a handsome house of this material.
The Honey Grove High School - known in present time as the old Wall School, but which was torn down about 1910 - was begun and finished in 1875 under the auspices and control of the Paris District, M. E. Church South. It was a $11,000.00 two story brick building, 48 x 82 feet with a seating capacity of 320. Rev. J. C. Parks was first principal. Mrs. E. C. Waltermire came with him from Sherman to take charge of the music department. Rev. Parks was succeeded by I. W. Clark in 1877. In 1882 Rev. Clark joined the itinerant ministry and was succeeded by Prof. J. J. Richardson, who held the position only a year, then Dr. W. A. Wilborn of North Carolina was elected principal. He was then succeeded by the Rev. T. M. Cecil. About 1876 the Texas & Pacific railroad reached here, so that brought assurance of prompt shipments at less rate for freight than the old system of hauling from Jefferson. At this time the population was about 800. In the same year, "The Honey Grove Independent" a weekly newspaper was established by T. B. Yarbrough.
While the firm of A. G. Stobough and Company had transacted a loan business for years there had been no banking house. Finally, in 1877 a few men putting their money together applied for authority under the National Bank Act to open a national bank in Honey Grove, which was granted. T. U. Cole, then only sixteen years old, was the cashier.
In 1880 the town had grown to such an extent that they required a larger public square. So in the winter of '80 - '81 the square was enlarged to almost twice the original size. In September '82 the old charter of '73 was discarded, and a general charter provided by the state was adopted.
In 1880 The Old School Presbyterian church built a $1,000.00 frame building, 28 x 40 feet with a seating capacity of 200.
The year 1880 meant a division of the old union church. The members had increased to such an extent that the denominations began preparation towards establishing their own churches. So the Methodist were the first to build their church. It was begun in 1880 and finished in '81 under the supervision of William Floyd. The building was of stone, rustic style, with a seating capacity of 450 at a cost of $5000.00. J. V. Corbin was first pastor and in February '82 the house was dedicated by Dr. Winfield of Little Rock, Arkansas. Rev. D. F. Fuller was pastor in '83 - '84. Then W. D. Mountcastle served '85 - '86, when he was succeeded by J. R. Wager. The Sunday School was organized in '81 and T. B. Yarbrough was superintendent.
Then the next denomination to build their church was the Christian. After that the Cumberland Presbyterians built a $1500.00 frame building 26 x 52 feet with a seating capacity of 225.
The Baptist church which had been organized by Elder Wilis M. Picket, was the last to leave the old church of former days with their charter members and deacons, John W. Jones, Tamazine D. Jones, Tamazine F. Jones, Margaret Hart, Sinclair Stapp, Sallie R. Stapp, Betty G. Gilmer, Berry B. Parish, Tressu C. Parish, Picket Poston and J. W. Jones.
In the summer of '81 came the Walcott Institute with a seating capacity of 180 built by J. S. Kendall and named by him in honor of B. S. Walcott.
After the death of Stobough, the Honey Grove banking association was organized in 1882 by W. Underwood, Young Burger, C. W. T. Woldon, T. U. Cole and R. J. Thomas with a paid up capital of $20,000.00 which was increased to $40,000.00 in the fall. They were organized under U.S. laws January the 29th, 1883, and the First National Bank was chartered with a capital of $50,000.00 and began business.
In 1883 the Episcopal church 24 x 48 feet was built at a cost of $1600.00 with a seating capacity of 230. In the same year the telephone made its appearance in Honey Grove, and a line was put in from Honey Grove to Ladonia, with G. A. Daily as president of the company and T. W. Cole treasurer. The capital stock was $1000.00 with an estimated cost of $600.00.
Improvements have been made so fast that it is difficult to try to mention all, for the compress was put in in 1885. The third secret order of Honey Grove - Knights of Pythias was organized in the same year. A branch of The Santa Fe Railroad from Paris to Dallas came through Honey Grove in 1885. The Oil Mill was built in '89 and a platform for storing cotton 80 x 116 feet was built at a cost of $1000.00. Also in '89 The Planters National Bank was organized with J. T. Holt president, Peyton Wheeler, vice-president, R. J. Thomas, cashier, T. B. Yarbrough and W. N. Sadler assistant cashiers. The came the flour mill and ice factory. So to day we have a prosperous little city with all modern improvements and conveniences.