Early in 1900, before the big Red River flood, Fred Muller owned 2,000 acres of farmland eight miles northwest of Denison. The land was all grass and now is divided by Highway 84. Lawson Lafayette Holder, whose grandfather is believed to have built the first schoolhouse in Grayson County, worked for Muller one hay season and a few years ago recalled the experience of that year as he reminisced over pictures taken of his co-workers on their hay mowers and a group shot on the Muller porch.
Holder recalled that this was either in 1906 or 1907 and he helped operate one of seven horse drawn cycles (mowers).
One picture he had kept through the years shows five of the mowers in Muller’s field. A man named Echols who worked for Muller year round also is seen with the front mower.
Holder is second and Richard Wilson, who once ran the North side Creamery here, is the third driver. Wilson’s son, Dick Wilson, who was well known in Denison and was employed by Johnson-Moore Funeral Home, shared the information and photos with us a number of years ago.
Holder’s brother-in-law Henry Linsteadt is next and Bill Dophied is the fifth driver. Muller is seen in back on his horse.
Muller used to buck rakes to push the hay to the baler, and had eight men to pitch the bales with wire by hand. Four more men were hired to tie the bales with wire by hand. The bailer had a horsehead feeder to feed itself.
When it came time to stack the hay, everyone was available to go to work. During hay season, about 32 men and women comprised the crew with the women and one man hired to cook for the group. It is quite a different way of bailing the hay today. And at that time, the large, round bales had not even been heard of.
Another picture Holder possessed was of the crew at a house in the middle of a hay field about a mile north of the Denison Country Club. The young boy in the picture with the dog is the son of Col. R.S. Legate, a Denison banker. The boy later drowned in a pool on the farm.
Fred Muller, who owned more land than anyone in the area at the time, is the man in the middle wearing overalls.
Holder said that for three days before the Red River flood in 1908, snakes and crawfish came up the trail from the river toward their house. He and his brother picked the crawfish up and fed them to the hogs. They shot many of the snakes, one a six foot rattler that Holder heard rattle within steps of striking distance.
Holder remembered the water 15 feet deep in the bottom farmland. Water, brought downstream by heavy rains to the west, remained high for a couple of days. During that period, Holder said the largest chicken house he had ever seen floated by with a crowing rooster perched on top. Large trees, cattle and remains of buildings also floated by the Holder residence.
Holder and his brother went down the trail to their boat and pulled themselves across the river to Rock Bluff Hill by grabbing a telegraph line. Some of the smaller houses had been washed away and others had been moved off their foundation. Holder said he didn’t remember anyone being killed
He saw one man walking near Coffey Bend with a wagon carrying all his furniture and belongings and water was up to the wagon bed. Seems like we’ve heard that story over and over in recent weeks in Houston area and in Puerto Rico.
Holder’s roots in Grayson County went back many more years than the early 1900s. His grandfather William Lafayette Holder built what is believed to be the first schoolhouse in Grayson County sometime between 1835 and 1840.
The cabin was built at Cold Springs near the intersection of Crawford Street and Harvey Lane of lumber hauled to the area by an ox team from Jefferson, Texas. That cabin now is the schoolhouse located at Grayson County Frontier Village at Loy Lake.
That cabin was the second structure that was moved to Frontier Village. The Holders were among the first six families to settle in Grayson County. They survived the elements for two years living in tents while waiting for their land grants to be approved by the Republic of Texas.
When Holder’s mother and father were first married, they lived in the cabin. His mother, Comanche Deleware Strait, was named for two Indian tribes and his dad was Clinton Lafayette Holder.
The little community elected to build a school for the children. Miss Maud Mangum was the first teacher, slept in the loft of the house and ate with the families of the students. The children paid tuition and furnished their own books.
The cabin was moved onto Preston Road north of Highway 120 in about 1876 and was used as a residence. In 1974, it was donated to Frontier Village by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sory of Sherman and moved to its present site and restored.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.