Tag Archives: Nocona

Nocona 1892 – In The News

From the Dallas Morning News, 14 March 1892

“Farmers are busy planting corn.  A good rain is badly needed.  Water is getting scarce.  The Baptist church gave a banquet last Friday night.  The proceeds were $56.50 for the benefit of their church building.

The new depot is nearly complete.  It is one of the finest on the Katy.  A grand railroad ball will be given Friday, March 18, in honor of its completion.”


Captain J T Rowland, Indian Fighter, Dead at 79 – In the News

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran the obituary of J T Rowland on 26 July 1914.  Captain Rowland was a Montague County legend.

Indian Fighter, 79, Dies at Nocona; 56 Years in Texas”

“Capt J T Rowland Once Mayor of Gainesville and Nocona.”

“Capt J T Rowland, venerable pioneer, soldier, statesman, patriot and citizen of this county, who died Saturday, was buried in Gainesville.

Captain Rowland was 79 years old, had lived in Texas for fifty six years and for more than fifty years actively identified with Montague and Cooke counties.  During the Civil War he commanded a company of Texas rangers in his county, stationed at Old Red River Station.  He fought many hard fights with Indians.

After the war was over he settled in Gainesville, served as mayor of that place many years, later again moved to Montague county ad was sent to the state legislature for three terms.

Retiring from the legislature, he made his home in Nocona and was mayor for six years.  He has lived in quiet retirement th past three years and was ill several weeks before death claimed him.

His first wife died about four years ago; he married the second time two years ago.  He is survived by his widow and four sons:  W D Rowland of Gainesville, R L Rowland of Denton, J M Rowland of SPur and J W Rowland of Pomona, Cal.”

Nocona Hogg Club – In the News

Dallas Morning News, April 21, 1892

“Nocona, Tex., Last Saturday night a ‘Hogg and commission club’ was organized with sixty members.  W. S. Thurman, mayor, was elected president and James Foashee secretary.  Speeches were made by W. S. Thurman and G. W. Barefoot.  The club invited Hon. Charles Stewart of Gainesville to address them next Saturday night.”

Anyone have an idea about what a “Hogg Club” might have been?

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.

Hardware Stores and Undertakers: The Scott Brothers

Riley Wiltshire Scott was a lawyer, a judge and an entrepreneur.  With a tent as a store front, he established a thriving business at Red River Station, TX.  He supplied the cowboys traveling the long, hot, dusty Chisholm Trail with gear and supplies.  In 1873, he moved his business to Saint Jo, where he erected a building and continued to prosper.  R W Scott had four children. One daughter and three sons.  His daughter, Ida Evangeline married well-known Saint Jo business man, John Davidson Bellah.  His son Austin, followed in his father’s footsteps and served as a Montague County judge for several years.  But it was his other two sons, Wiltshire Leander and Walter Eldridge that together established a business that continued in the family for almost a century.

W L Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

R W Scott sold his business to his son-in-law in 1875 and moved to Denison, Texas were he remained until his death in 1890.  His sons Wiltshire and Walter quickly filled the void left by his father and established the Scott Brothers Hardware Store in Saint Jo.

Walter E Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trailstext goes here W L Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

The original building was built on the square in Saint Jo where the bank is currently located.  A fire destroyed the building in November of 1911.  They rebuilt a two-story structure across the street and were opened for business again by September of 1912.
Wiltshire and his wife, Victoria Smith Scott,never had children.  Walter and his wife, Eula Hoover Scott, had seven children.  Two of their sons, W L and W E, continued the legacy begun by their grandfather, so many years before.

W L Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

W E Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails

After attending Austin College and working for Humble Oil, W E returned to Saint Jo in 1926 to join the family business.    His brother, W L returned in 1927.  W L had also attend Austin College and Mortuary school.  Both took an active role in the hardware business.  After the death of Wiltshire in 1936 and Walter in 1944, they took full control of Scott Brothers.

Scott Brothers Hardware Store in Saint Jo, Texas built in 1912. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1941, they expanded their business by purchasing J H Cone’s hardware and funeral home business in Nocona, Texas.  W L moved his family to Nocona in order to run that sector of their enterprise.  In 1944, they purchased the A A Croxton estate and remodeled the two-story home into a funeral parlor, which is still in use today.  In the late 1940s they opened a funeral parlor in Saint Jo as well.
Scott Brothers Hardware store in Nocona, Texas. Built in 1965. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1965, they built a modern brick building to house the hardware operation in Nocona.  In 1950 J Howard Morris joined the business in Nocona.  Morris took full control of the Nocona firm after W L’s death in 1985.  The name was changed to Scott Morris, and is still run by the Morris family today.

Scott Brothers Funeral Home in Nocona, Texas. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1979, W E Scott sold his funeral business in Saint Jo to J M “Mac” McCoy.  McCoy still runs the funeral home today.  W E continued to run his hardware business until 1983 when he sold it to Sue Yetter.  W E passed away in 1984.

The Scott family members were pillars of the community for close to one hundred years, their  graciousness in a family’s greatest time of need was appreciated by several generations in Montague County.  The tradition is continued by the kind folks the Scott Brothers handpicked to carry on their legacy.

The Pony Express Rides Again

A publicity stunt, like no other, occurred March 1, 1939 in Nocona, Texas.  Miss Enid Justin, founder and owner of the Nocona Boot Company organized a re-enactment of the Pony Express which traveled  from Nocona to the World’s Fair in San Francisco.  The route followed the old Overland Mail Trail established in 1839.  The original trail entered Texas at Colbert’s Ferry in Oklahoma and stretched west through Gainesville on to El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, Yuma and Los Angeles and then up the  Pacific Coast to San Francisco.  The trip, from start to finish, was approximately 2000 miles.  Nocona was fast becoming known as the Leather Capitol of the Southwest and this event made Nocona and Miss Enid household names across the nation.

Miss Enid Justin. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

The rules were relatively simple.  Each rider would have two horses, that were exchanged after relays of no less than twenty-five miles.  A teammate followed with truck and trailer to make the switch along the route.  And the participants must finish with the same horses with which he started the race. Each rider was to carry U.S. regulation mail pouches, picking up mail along the route.  Specialty envelopes and Pony Express stamps were produced.  Upon reaching the World’s Fair the mail was postmarked and sent to the addressee.  Each rider was allowed to keep a percentage of the sales of these envelopes to help defray the cost of participating in the world’s longest horse race.

Pony Express envelope. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Forty-two individuals from twenty-six states originally signed up to participate.  Even Ruth Roach Salmon, famed female rodeo bronc rider, was  planning on making the journey.  But come race day, only seventeen individuals were mounted on their trusted steeds at the starting line.  Sixteen cowpokes from some of the biggest ranches in Texas and one young lady rounded out the group.  This daring young lass, Vennie Greenwood, was crowned Miss Nocona.  The Houston Press  described Miss Greenwood, “Vennie is a girl. 16 years old, with flaming red hair”.  Even though most of the newspaper accounts focused mainly on her appearance,  the veteran cowpokes viewed her as serious competition.

Vennie Greenwood, Miss Nocona. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

The contestants were:  Vennie Greenwood and Chris Uselton, both from Nocona; Lige Reid and Tex Frazier, both of Electra; Taylor Tuck from Saint Jo; Bob Moyer from Crowell; Hudie Helms from Dumas; Jack Clifton from McClain; Shorty Hudson from Knox City; King Kerley from Quanah; Marvin “Slim” Mathis from Dalhart; V H Henderson from San Antonio; Shannon Davidson from Matador; L E Speers, George Cates, R L Scott all from Crowell and T J Sykes from Duval, Oklahoma.
The send off for the race was a huge celebration.  It was estimated that up to 10,000 people attended the start of the race.  Speeches were made, bands played and Miss Enid cut the starting line ribbon.

Miss Enid cutting the starting line ribbon. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Amon G Carter, a native Montague County boy, gave the starting shot and the race was on.  All seventeen racers headed west out of town toward the first stop, 45 miles on down the road in Wichita Falls, Texas.  The stock trucks rumbled along behind the galloping mustangs.

Amon G Carter and Miss Enid at the kick off celebration. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

The first rider to reach Wichita Falls was Shorty Hudson, the cowboy from Knox City.  It took him six hours to complete the first leg of the race at an average of eight miles per hour.  The last to reach the pit stop was Miss Nocona, Vennie Greenwood after a grueling seven and a half hours in the saddle.  The riders bedded down in make shift camp sites near Olney to catch a few hours sleep before starting the second day.  During the second day of traveling, Miss Greenwood was disqualified by race judges for riding in her stock truck for a portion of the second leg.  She did continue with the race by vehicle as the mascot.
Large numbers of well wishers met the racers in each town, often accompanied by marching bands and other forms of entertainment.  Some towns handed out cash prizes to the first rider to reach their spot on the map.  The riders picked up more mail at each town.    T J Sykes who had taken a large lead on days two and three was only three miles ahead of Shannon Davidson and Chris Uselton by the time they reached their fourth stop in Abilene.

Stock handlers Lee Crenshaw, Jack Crenshaw and Andy Jennings. Photo courtesy of Tom Uselton

All of the contestants encountered hardships above and beyond the physical demands on their saddle weary bodies.  Taylor Tuck, the rider from Saint Jo, fell unconscious from his horse, suffering from flu-like symptoms.  Jack Clifton had to drop from the race due to a sick horse.  Bob Moyer was stranded for over a day near Odessa when his stock truck had mechanical difficulties.  Another great obstacle they met along the route was nasty weather.  They battled their way through blinding sand storms, rain and cold temperatures, each determined to be the first to reach the Golden Gate destination.

Nurse Claudie Brown says goodbye to Taylor Tuck as he is sent back to Saint Jo by ambulance. Friend E N Dunbar looks on. Newspaper clipping courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Once T J Sykes took the lead on day two he pushed himself harder and harder to maintain the distance between himself and the other riders.  His strategy was to cover more miles per day than the others.  His longest non-stop stretch was 125 miles in length.  But even this was not enough to hold back his strongest competition, Shannon Davidson and Chris Uselton.  By the time they had reached Midland, Texas on the eighth day of the race, Davidson had a seven mile lead on Sykes with Uselton close on his tail.  Even those further back in the pack were still in it to win it.  In a letter home to his parents, Lige Reid mentions a telegram his stock handler sent home stating “We are riding in the rear without any fear.”  He went on to tell his parents that he felt the other riders were working their mounts too hard and that the excellent care his horses were receiving was going to pay off in the end.  All of the riders were pushing hard to reach El Paso which would mark the first third of the race.  Some even rigged tail lights on their saddles in order to ride safely late into the night.

Shorty Hudson and his stock men taking a quick rest in Quanah

Shannon Davidson arrived in El Paso eleven miles ahead of T J Sykes.  Chris Uselton was twenty miles further back.  The next stop would be in Deming, New Mexico.  Davidson rode several legs of the race bareback to spare his horses the extra strain and wear of a saddle.

Bob Moyer and Shorty Hudson. Newspaper article courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Pushing toward Deming, New Mexico, Sykes, Davidson and Uselton are all contenders for the lead.  Sykes reached the rest stop first, but was forced to drop out of the race as one of his horses was too ill to continue.  As the bone crunching adventure continued, Davidson led with Uselton close on his heels.  About sixty to seventy miles back, practically out of the running, but determined to finish were V H Henderson, Shorty Hudson, Lige Reid, Bob Moyers and Hudie Helms.

George Cates. Newspaper clipping courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Even further back in the pack was George Cates.  He relentlessly plodded along, determined to finish the race.  For Cates it was more than just the prize at the end, it was a personal tribute to his father, I M Cates.  The senior Mr Cates had delivered mail on Pony Express in 1878.  He eventually had to drop out of the race when his horse became lame.

Shannon Davidson managed to create a sixty mile buffer between him and Chris Uselton by they time they reached Tuscon, Arizona.  He maintained this lead as he entered Phoenix, the half way mark, sixteen days into the race.  Upon arriving in Phoenix, Davidson was met by Arizona Governor, Bob Jones who gave the weary rider an honorary escort through the city.  Trying to keep his lead, Davidson did not tarry long before striking out again.

Shannon Davidson cinches up his spare mount outside Los Angeles, CA. From left to right, Wood Byrd, Davidson, Bill Meyer. Newspaper clipping courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

When Davidson reached Santa Barbara, California, he was still in the lead, but Uselton was making a run at closing the gap.  Uselton had made camp in Los Angeles for the night and was planning on shortening the distance between first and second the next day.  His hopes were dashed, when he and his horse were struck by a vehicle in Ventura, California.  His horse suffered a broken leg which made it impossible to continue the race.  Just 340 miles from the finish line, the Nocona home town boy had to call it quits, leaving King Kerley in second place.
The longest horse race the world had ever seen was coming to a close.  On March 20th, Miss Enid Justin left the boot making at the Nocona Boot Company to her trusted employees and traveled to San Francisco to be on hand as the rider crossed the finish line.

Map showing the route taken by the riders. Newspaper clipping courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Shannon Davidson had about a 100 mile lead with only 196 more miles to go when he reached King City, California.

Shannon Davidson crossing the finish line. Newspaper clipping courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

He rode day and night for the remaining journey to ensure he would arrive first.  Twenty four long, hard days after the start, Shannon Davidson crossed the finish line.  The twenty-two year old cowpoke from Matador, Texas won the race with the help of his faithful ponies, Ranger and Rocket.  Davidson’s friends and family  traveled the long distance to California to celebrate  his victory.  Miss Enid Justin was on there to hand  deliver Davidson the 750 silver dollar prize money.

Winner Shannon Davidson with his cash prize. Newspaper clipping courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

King Kerley came in second place, 100 miles behind.  The few remaining riders left in the race straggled in over the next two days.  The hoopla of the race was over and the remaining cowboys had a difficult time navigating through San Francisco without a greeting party.
Shannon Davidson returned home a hero.  He landed a few bit parts in western movies of the day as a result of his new-found fame.  Shannon Davidson died in a tragic farm accident a few years later.

San Leandro city manager, Ray Billings, Miss Enid Justin and race winner Shannon Davidson shortly after crossing the finish line. Newspaper article courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum.