Back in 1936, two Sherman women who had been collecting material on the settlement and history of Grayson County for many years put their heads together and wrote a wonderful little book, “A History of Grayson County, Texas.”
Mattie Davis Lucas and Mita Holsapple Hall, mother of Dr. Clyde Hall, another historian of Grayson County, researched their book in the county and in Austin at the University of Texas and at the state library. Dr. Hall has carried on the preservation of Grayson County history that his mother began.
Readers are taken through “The Land and the First Inhabitants” to “The Coming of the Railroads” and the last chapter about organizations in the county up until the time the book was written. The book was published just days after Mrs. Lucas’ death in 1936.
The book is out of print but it occasionally shows up on eBay or at a rare book store for a pretty hefty price. While looking for some information about one organization in early-day Sherman, I called up the names of the two authors, Mrs. Lucas and Mrs. Hall and found a site on the internet that contains the entire book. The site where I found the book is: A History of Grayson County, Texas/Mita Holsapple Hall. Once it brings up the site, there are several options as to size and pages you need to check then you can read the entire book if you want.
I’m fortunate enough to own a copy of the book, given to me by my uncle, R.C. Vaughan, many years ago. I wouldn’t take the world for it. It contains passages that my uncle, a historian from way back, as well as the 15th District Judge in Grayson County for many years, underlined so that he could find them quickly.
I began thumbing through the book and first found a lot of information beginning with the Great Southwest Trail that crossed Red River at what now is Preston Bend. This also as known as the Shawnee Trail.
In February 1846, Texas was annexed into the United States and about a month later the first legislature created Grayson County, named in honor of Peter W. Grayson. The first court was on the farm of Bob Acheson on Iron Ore Creek. At that time, there were 500 people in Grayson County. Officers of the court ordered a contract be let to build a courthouse and to dig a public well. Court would be held in Acheson’s home until the courthouse was ready.
In July 1847, the courthouse was finished at a cost of $232. A barbecue and dance were planned to celebrate its completion. Barbecue was served from a refreshment stand built around a barrel of whiskey.
There was an old pecan tree in the center of the community of Sherman. Preaching services were held under the tree on Sundays. The men stacked their guns nearby just in case of Indian attacks. On weekdays, the tree served as the post office and bank. An old coat held letters in its pockets waiting for the stage to come along to deliver them to other points in Texas. Saddle bags belonging to traders would be thrown over the limb of the tree while they spent the day in town. The book said there was no record of anything ever being stolen from the “pecan tree bank.”
Once when court was in session, word was received that Indians were on a rampage several miles south of town. Court adjourned so that the city leaders could join in the fight against them.
Supplies came to Sherman from Jefferson in East Texas by ox wagon trains and by boats on the Red River that landed at Shawneetown and Preston. As the boats traveled on the river, a whistle would sound bringing people to the landings to make purchases.
The first road was built between Sherman and Colbert’s Ferry in August 1853. Late in 1858, John Butterfield and his associates with the Overland Mail were honored at a champagne supper in Sherman. The celebrants argued about where a nest of an old gray geese was located. Some said it was under the old log courthouse in Sherman. So the crowd tore the courthouse down to music played by a banjo player whose fingers were very nimble thanks to the champagne.
The next day, the sheriff was pretty upset because he had papers that needed to be posted on the courthouse door and there was no door, not even a courthouse. The resourceful sheriff propped the courthouse door against the old pecan tree and posted his notices.
I remember my uncle telling me about my great-grandfather, Samuel Alexander Vaughan, being a cowboy and herding cattle. On page 144 of the book, I found a paragraph about an episode in his life as a cowboy. Thousands of cattle crossed the Red River at Rock Bluff headed to market in the northern states.
This bluff was ideal for getting the cattle into the river and keeping them from moving away from the herd before beginning to swim the river. They were driven into this natural chute and were in the water before they could stop and hesitate.
Historical tidbits in this column are but drops in the bucket of all the wonderful Grayson County history contained in the Lucas and Hall book.
Mrs. Lucas came to Texas as an infant. She earned a teaching certificate in 1884 and was active in civic and women’s clubs. She spearheaded the establishment of a Carnegie Library in Sherman and her efforts to commemorate the Texas Centennial resulted in the placement of several historical markers.
Mrs. Hall came to Sherman as a child and graduated from Mary Nash College. She organized the first Camp Fire Girls group in Sherman and was committed to the organization for 44 years on the local, district and national leadership levels, thus endearing her to young women in Sherman. She was active in many other civic and cultural activities.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com.