Category Archives: General

From Bowie to Texas Governor: James Allred

James Burr V Allred was the 33rd governor of Texas.  He was born in Bowie, Texas in 1899 to Renne and Mary Allred.  He and his four brothers all became attorneys.

Photo courtesy of Montague County Historical Commission

Photo courtesy of Montague County Historical Commission

His political career started when he was appointed district attorney in 1923 in Wichita Falls, Texas.  While in this position he prosecuted several high-profile cases.  One of which was the Collier murder case.  Frank Collier, the mayor of Wichita Falls, was charged with murder in 1925.  His 17-year-old daughter, Mary Frances, secretly eloped with Buster Robertson.  She managed to keep her marriage hidden from her father for several months, but once he found out he filed for an annulment on her behalf.  But before the courts had a chance to legally eliminate the union, Collier took matters into his own hands and shot and killed his son-in-law.  Due to his popularity and high esteem in society, Collier was only sentenced to three years.  Allred felt this was grave injustice.  He then filed a murder charge against Mrs Collier as she had accompanied her husband that fateful day.  Testimony at the trial indicated that she was fully aware of her husband intentions toward Robertson.    Mrs Collier received a sentence of ten years.  Such acts of due diligence by Allred proved his character.

At the age of 31, he was elected as the state’s attorney general in 1930.  He served two terms in that position.  He was elected governor of the state of Texas and served from 1935-1939.  Upon completion of his gubernatorial term, he held a position as a federal district judge.

Allred married Jo Betsy Miller in 1927.  They had three sons: James, William and Sam.

The Mighty Red River

Early photograph of the Red River.  Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Early photograph of the Red River. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Today, as one drives over the “New Bridge” outside of Illinois Bend into Oklahoma, it is hard to imagine the Red River on a raging, out of control rise.  But over the years, she has flooded the country side causing damage life, limb and property.

There have been several recorded accounts of the Mighty Red restricting the crossing of cattle at Red River Station on the Chisholm Trail.  Causing herds of Longhorns to be backed up for days while the river settled back down into its natural flow.

In June of 1891 torrential rains caused the Red River to rise higher than ever previously recorded.  The Dallas Morning News accounted how it effected communities along the river bottom on the Indian Territory side as well as the communities in Cooke and Montague Counties:

“Gainesville, Tex. Red River, which so suddenly started on a rampage yesterday, as reported in this dispatches last night, continued to rise till noon today, having in the meantime risen forty fee, being ten feet higher than ever known.  great destruction to crops and live stock has resulted and several persons have been drown.”

The article gives first hand accounts from some of those fortunate to escape with their lives.  They describe the severe damage and loss caused by the flooding.

“Capt. William Bourland of the Chickasaw nation came in today and reports several families resident in the river bottom fifty miles west of Gainesville on the Indian Territory side as having been swept away together with their horses and drowned.  The loss of stock is very great. Capt J P Harris, a prominent ranchman had 400 head of cattle drowned and 60 head of horses.  Many others who had stock in the river bottoms have lost largely and from what is already known the number destroyed will amount to several thousand, all being on the territory side and within a scope of country about eight miles long.”

The rise of the water happened so quickly that most were unable to take any precautions.

“All crops in the bottoms have been washed away and the water today covers the fields several feet deep where yesterday was as fine wheat, corn and cotton as ever grew.   A large number of dwellings and other houses were washed away.  The rise was so sudden that people living in the bottoms near the river in many instances had not time to escape.  The first intimation that many had of the terrible waters was when they were swooped down upon by a wave or avalanche of water coming upon them during the latter part of Friday night.  Early Saturday morning word was telephone from Burlington, fifty miles west of there, of the coming flood and people down the river were notified, which enabled them to escape and drive their stock to the hills.”

The flood waters took out a railroad bridge.  And as with most disasters, people were fascinated by the fall out of the tragedy.

“The approach to the Santa Fe bridge on territory side seven miles north of Gainesville, eighty feet in length, yielded to the current and passed down the stream.  It will be several days before repairs will be made so trains can pass.  A special train has been running from Gainesville on the Santa Fe to the Red river bridge and return all day and thousands of people have gone out to view the treacherous river in its mad flight and which covers a scope of country nearly a mile wide, and is by far much larger and more destructive in its course than known at any time in its past history.”

The article also described how included Saint Jo’s reaction to the flood waters.

St Jo, Tex.  Red river is higher than for many years. It commenced raining Friday and has been raining very rapidly ever since.  Saturday night the water rose so fast that it surrounded a number of houses before the inhabitants could get away and daylight found many persons on housetops calling for help.  So far as learned no one has been drowned, but terrible damage is being done to the growing crops and stock.  Hundreds and thousands of acres of the finest corn, wheat, oats and cotton are entirely covered by the wild and foaming waters.  The water is so rapid that is tearing the banks of the river away.  The great cottonwood and elm trees that line the banks are washed out by the roots and carried off by whirlpools of water.”

The article also reported from Belcherville:

“Belcherville, Montague Co, Tex.  The rise in Red river is the greatest ever known.  It rose by six to ten feet in great rolls with a noise almost deafening.  Houses, cattle, horses, hogs, sheep and all kinds of animals and grain are among the debris.  Hundreds of pieces of bridge timbers and logs of all kinds are going down.  This is evidence of great destruction up the river.  Thousands of acres of crops of all kinds are covered by from four to fourteen feet with water,  All kinds of wild animals are being washed down.  Hundreds of the curious town people are going and coming from the scene,  They tell woeful tales of drowning cattle and frantic horses.  One farmer, Joe Harris, has 300 acres of corn under water, and believes he has lost fifty head of horses which were in a bottom pasture.”

The situation was very similar at Red River Station.

“Henry Heaton, living at Red River Station, has 100 acres of cotton under water and believes he has lost all of his work horses which were on the territory side in a pasture.  Houses in the bottoms are nearly covered, and some being washed away.  No lives lost.”

These accounts show that Red River is a living and breathing thing, with a temperament that could calm and soothing or violently raging.  The Mighty Red must be handled with the utmost respect at all times.

4 March 2013 Addition:  Thank you Max Brown for these photos of the Red River on the rise in the not so distant past.

Red River flooding (2) Red River flooding

Charles Stroup Taxidermist: The Odder the Better

Charles and Lydia Stroup came to Ringgold, Texas in 1893.  (Their daughter, Gladys, was the first girl to be born in Ringgold.)

Inside of shop_front

Mr. Stroup was a well-known taxidermist and his wife Lydia worked in the shop by his side.  Their shop doubled as an oddities museum.  The collection included lizards, a monkey, skunks, ferrets, and a two-headed calf just to name a few.  People came from all over the country to view the rare and unusual fare offered at the Stroup’s taxidermy shop.

The unique establish succumbed to fire on two occasions, once in 1913 and then again in 1928.  Stroup rebuilt both times.

Photos courtesy of Max Brown

Forestburg Historical Society

The Forestburg Historical Society will be hosting a pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 10, 2012.  It will be held at the Community Center from 7am – 11am.  The proceeds from this all you can eat breakfast go toward further development of the Forestburg Historical Museum.  Adult tickets are $6, children $3, under 2 years of age are free.

This is for a great cause, come on out and show your support.

All Trails Lead to Montague County

Well, perhaps not all trails lead to Montague County, but throughout history several have laid tracks through this area.  Each marking and shaping what Montague County would eventually become.  In 1882, the railroad laid the first tracks in Montague County.  Between 1867 and 1884 several hundred thousand longhorns passed through Montague County as the Chisholm Trail funneled across the Red River.  The Butterfield Overland Mail Route crossed the corner of the county on its short-lived existence between 1848-1869.  Even before that Marcy’s California Trail of 1849 (which Highway 82 follows today in several instances)  and the Texas Santa Fe Exposition in 1841 trekked across Montague County.  The earliest organized trail that traversed our county was the one laid out by the Chihuahua Trade Expedition

In 1839 and 1840, the Chihuahua Trading Expedition wound its way back to Mexico through Montague County.  The expeditions purpose was to open trade between Mexico and the United States via a less circular trail than the established trial through St Louis, Santa Fe and El Paso.  It was organized by Henry Connelly.  Connelly was a physician hailing from Missouri and a prominent merchant in Chihuahua.  The group consisted of Connelly and a party of 150 men.  With a bankroll of between 200,000 and 300,000 specie, the party left Chihuahua on 2 April 1839.  They traveled northeast to the Rio Grande, on to the headwaters of the Colorado and Brazos rivers.  They accidentally followed the Canadian River, thinking it was the Red River, for some distance, but eventually found their bearings and followed the Mighty Red downriver.  They crossed into Indian Territory at the mouth of the Wichita.  With the guidance of a Delaware Indian band, the party arrived at Fort Towson.

Fort Towson was a frontier military outpost for the Frontier Amy Quartermaster.  It was located approximately two miles northeast of the present day community of Fort Towson, OK and about seventy miles east of Fort Washita.  From Fort Towson, the expedition traveled on to Arkansas where Connelly boarded a steamship to Louisiana in order to trade his gold and silver from merchandise.

On the return trip, the caravan  included between sixty and eighty new wagons loaded with goods.  Also joining the group was a troupe of American equestrian circus performers transporting tents and various equipment in order to entertain in Mexico.  The return route passed from Fort Towson into North Texas, through present day Red River, Lamar, Fannin, Grayson, Cooke Montague, Clay and Archer Counties.  The party passed Paris and Bonham, dipped south of Sherman through Whitesboro, north of Gainesville and Muenster and into what is now the town of Saint Jo. The group then headed northward between Montague and Nocona where they encountered muddy prairies that impeded their progress for about five weeks.  Unfavorable weather caused problems throughout the trip.

Eventually they hit their original trail and traveled south to the Rio Grande, where once again they were met by difficulty.  They spent forty-five days negotiating tariffs in order to cross back into Mexico.  Governor Jose Irigoyen who had promised a cut-rate on the tax had died before Connelly and his crew returned.  The new regime requested full payment.

They reached Chihuahua 27 August 1840, some sixteen months after they set out on the voyage.  The route was not repeated due to unfavorable reports of the trail and the excessive tariffs.

Although this particular trail was only blazed once, other adventurous souls were not to far behind in making their way to Montague County.

The Old Jail and Outlaws

On November 26, 1927 Montague County commissioners contracted with Southern Prison Company to build a new jail building, the third such building for the county.  At a cost of $34,000, the building was completed July 11, 1927.  The building stands on the southeast corner of the courthouse square.  For 53 years it served as the county jail.  After the new jailhouse was built in 1980, this old building was seldom used except for storage.  In 1996, the Montague County Historical Commission gained permission to use the building as the group’s meeting place.  It is now opened to the public as a museum.

Old Jail. Photo courtesy of Max Brown.

The outside dimensions of the building are approximately 39 feet long by 28 feet wide.   The layout of the jail consisted of jail cells upstairs and living quarters downstairs.  throughout its use, the Sheriff and family occupied the downstairs portion as their home.  The living area contained two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen.  There was one other room that was used as an additional bedroom or dining room, depending on the size of the family.   Four adult and two juvenile cells made up the jail portion.  The adult cells were nine by eight feet in size, each having four metal bunks bolted to the walls.  The juvenile cells measured eight by eleven feet, each with two bunks.  A total of sixteen adults and four juvenile offenders could be housed at any given time.

Jail cell photo courtesy of Max Brown

At least eleven sheriffs and their families made the jail their home during their terms.  These sheriffs were John W Wales, R T Anderson, Lee A Husband, Herman Chandler, Kate Chandler, Dick Lawrence, Bedford Henley, Helen Henley, J L Jameson, J T Lindsey, Howard Middleton and W F Conway.  Both Kate Chandler and Helen Henley finished their husband’s term when they died while still holding office.
The Old Jail is certainly one of those “if these walls could talk” buildings.  Oh, the stories they could tell.  These sturdy cells held criminals that had committed crimes ranging from drunkenness to murder.  Other  offenses included theft, bootlegging, forgery, and insanity. Some notorious outlaws called the Old Jail home, even men associated with the Barrow gang of Bonnie and Clyde fame.

Floyd Hamilton (left) and Ted Walters (right) Photo courtesy of Frank Ballinger

In 1938, known associates of the Barrow gang, Floyd Hamilton and Ted Walters were arrested in Montague County for burglarizing the W W Gilmore drugstore in Ringgold.  The duo had stolen about a hundred dollars in inventory and $15 in cash.  They were incarcerated along with horse thief Ervin Goodspeed.  Together these three plotted a jail break on April 30, 1938.  On that night the only jailer on duty was the twenty-three old son of Sheriff Kate Chandler, Kenneth Chandler.  When Kenneth went upstairs to the jail cells to deliver cheese and crackers to the inmates, he was ambushed.  Goodspeed had managed to cut his cell bars and was waiting for the jailer as he approached.  He stabbed Kenneth in the leg with a pair of scissors.  It is believed that Goodspeed stole the scissors from the barber when he visited to the jail to give the inmates haircuts.  After stabbing the jailer, Goodspeed unlocked the cells of Hamilton and Walters.  Once downstairs, the trio offered to dress the jailer’s wound, but he refused.  They then helped themselves to jail’s arsenal, taking three shotguns and two pistols and disappeared into the night.  Goodspeed was caught in Nocona within a couple of days.  After stealing a car, Hamilton and Walters led law enforcement across a tri-state area on a massive man hunt.  They were both eventually captured in August of 1938.  Hamilton was eventually  sent to Alcatraz.  He survived a botched escape attempt from the famous island prison.  He was released in the late 1950s and live the life of a model citizen in the Dallas area until his death in 1986.  Walters spent the next few years in and out of prison.  He apparently managed to skip by under the radar of the law enforcement until he is shot and killed by a Texas Ranger in 1971.

Ervin Goodspeed (center)

Another jail escape occurred in 1941.  Rex Beard, Jr found himself housed within the confines of the Montague County jail for robbing the  banks in Nocona and in Bowie.  Due to his method of carrying  a paper sack into the bank with which to conceal his weapon as well as to  carry out his stolen loot, he became known as the Paper Sack Bandit.  He escaped from the Old Jail, but was caught in Wichita Falls after another robbery.  Beard was responsible for robberies across the state including theaters, banks, department stores and liquor stores.  One newspaper article described his antics as “the Paper Sack Bandit has so many prison sentences officers are not certain how long it would take him to serve them.”  While waiting sentencing in Abilene he attempted another escape.  In the process, he killed Deputy Sheriff Wade Willis.  During the gunfight, Beard was critically injured.  He survived these injuries, but was given the death sentence for his crime.  He was executed by the State of Texas in  September of 1943.
Today the Old Jail stands a memorial to all of those in law enforcement that served Montague County with pride.  It is now known as the Old Jail Museum.  It is opened Fridays from 12:00 – 5:00 pm and on Saturday from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.
There is more to the stories of Hamilton, Walters, Goodspeed and Beard.  I hope to add more posts this week under the ‘More of the Story’ section.  To learn more about the Barrow gang and Bonnie and Clyde, visit Frank Ballinger’s website.

Welcome To Montague County, TX

Welcome to Historical Bytes.  The plan is to tell the exciting stories of Montague County’s history in bite size pieces.  This county has such a varied past that includes being the home to Wichita Indians, the birthplace of both Justin and Nocona boots, the crossing of the Red River along the Chisholm Trail and much more.