Monday, January 14, 2013


My favorite time of day when I was a child was evening when my dad spoke of his family pioneering in Texas in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and forward. Perhaps those tales are the reason I love history so much today. Certainly he told the stories masterfully so that I had a mental image of each of the people in his family saga.

Pioneers on the move to a new life

Daddy always said he was born in Van Alstyne, Texas. Imagine my surprise when he died and I saw his birth certificate. The document listed Pilot Grove as his birthplace. I found out why after reading a brief little booklet titled NORTH TEXAS: THE PEOPLE, THE PLACES, THE TIMES, which I purchased in Denison, Texas. The collection of newspaper stories and recollections was edited by Tom Johnson for the Texoma Council of Governments in 1993.

Van Alstyne, in Collin County, became a city when  the rail lines bypassed nearby Mantua. Readers know this happened to communities all over the United States. As a result in this case, the businesses of Mantua, and even Pilot Grove, moved to the new rail site of Van Alstyne. I figured this is why my dad said he was born in Van Alstyne even though his birth was long after the railroad arrived. No one has heard of Pilot Grove. Until now.

Coming of the railroad made
or destroyed townships

I love the old newspaper accounts in this booklet. Here are a few I found interesting, and I haven't corrected the spelling or punctuation.

The Denison Daily News of November 8, 1873

A free fight took place Sunday night between a pair of soiled doves on Skiddy street. Much hair and calico was spoiled, and the Marshall escorted one to the ‘boose.
The Mayor, council and other city officials of Sherman have tended their resignation to allow the citizens to make another choice on the day of the general election.

If the Denison Mayor and city officials will only do the same thing, they will receive the thanks of all Denison.

The Denison Daily News on March 30, 1874:

A resident of our city furnished his wife funds last week to visit her relatives in one of the older states. After bidding her an affectionate farewell at the depot, he returned to his domicile to find a delicate little note in her handwriting. It stated that she could no longer “love, honor, and obey him”--that he need not be mourning about her long absence, as she never planned to return.
Lawyers, doctors and dentists in the City of Denison, after this date, will be required to pay an occupational tax of $25 a year, instead of $5 as before. Somebody will suffer!
John Younger, who murdered the Sheriff of Dallas County in 1871, and recently made his escape, was killed at the head of a gang of robbers, near Montagaw Springs, St. Clair county, MO.

Gainesville Daily Hesperian of February 5, 1888

A soiled dove of a bad nest of squabs, who recently domiciled herself in the Third Ward, was yanked before the mayor Saturday morning as a vag [vagrant] where she willingly accepted the cognomen [name], and was charged in the sum of $7.70 and in default of not possessing the necessary kopecks [money] she was tow lined to the calaboose, where she will be kept safely anchored until the majesty of an outraged law is satisfied.

The Denison Daily News on April 30, 1874

A well dressed, matronly looking lady walked into a saloon the other day. Laid her muff on the counter, and took out a pair of spectacles. The bar tender promptly informed her that no Bible reading would be in order there! Reaching down into her dress pocket, the woman produced a flat bottle and coolly called for a pint of whisky--much to the relief of the bartender.

The Denison Daily News on May 10, 1874

Business is getting alarmingly dull in Sherman. The City Council at a recent meeting reduced the license on saloons from $200 per year to $100 and on wholesale liquor dealers from $200 to $50, in the hope of livening things up a little.
An ingenious mechanic of Denison proposes to get up a patent family cremation oven (portable) on the rotating principle, furnished with an odor destroyer of his own invention. Wealthy families who cremate will probably have a room set apart for the cremating oven, supplied for cushioned seats for mourners.

And, finally, one last commentary:

From the Cooke County Immigration Society, 1888

We have to say that we will welcome to Cooke County all people who come with the desire of settling among us and making useful citizens. We care not what your political or religious opinions may be, so they do not outrage common sense and decency.

But we need no anarchists, grumblers, and social reformers.

Thanks for stopping by!

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