Tag Archives: Saint Jo

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

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Stonewall Saloon

Stonewall Saloon Museum. Photo Courtesy of the Stonewall Saloon Museum

The Stonewall Saloon was built in 1873 by Saint Jo founder Irby Boggess.  It was the first permanent structure erected in the town.  It stands on the northwest corner of the town square.  It originally functioned as a saloon, and probably a supply house, to meet the needs of the cowboys traveling the Chisholm Trail, with the saloon downstairs and rooms above.

It continued as a saloon until the county voted dry.  In 1902, the building was being used as a restaurant.  In 1906, Mr Wiley purchased the building and converted into the Citizens Bank.  He added a vault and modernized the front facade of the building with a large picture window.

By the end of the depression, the town was no longer able to support two banks and the owner of competing bank, H D Fields, purchased and dissolved the Citizens Bank.  For the next few years the old saloon building was used for various commercial enterprises including a doctor’s office upstairs and a real estate business.  It was the head quarters of the Kenerey Brothers Oil Business until the late 1950s.

In preparation for the county centennial in 1958, under the hand of H D Fields, the building underwent a major restoration and it opened as the Stonewall Saloon Museum.  A large ornate mirrored back bar was purchased and hauled in from Floresville, Texas.  Swinging doors were added that sported area rancher’s and farmer’s brands.  Families donated items to be displayed in the new museum.  It became a major tourist attraction for the small town.  Stucco was applied to the exterior of the building at some point in the mid 1960s.  During its years as a museum Lewis Lauderdale, Leslie Hendricks, Boyd Whitson and Sue Yetter served as the curator.  All but Mrs Yetter, during their tenure, lived in a back room of the saloon.

Times changed and interest waned, and the museum closed for a number of years.  But was brought back to life in 1996 when it was purchased by Johnny and Rita Mueller.  They purchased the building and contents and remodeled the interior of the building to resemble an old timey western saloon and reopened the building  on weekends and special occasions as a museum.  They were forced to close when the northwest exterior wall collapsed.  The wall was repaired, but the family did not reopen the museum.

In 2011, a group of historically minded citizens banded together and purchased the building.  Their goal was to preserve the historic landmark building and to tell its story.  Not only its story as a saloon, but in all of its capacities, the saloon, the bank, and the museum.  Each chapter in the old building’s life touched the residents of Saint Jo and surrounding communities, each chapter has a story to tell.

Photo courtesy of the Stonewall Saloon Museum

While restoring the old building,  surprises were found at every turn.  Including corn cobs chinked in the wall as insulation and a .44 caliber shell under the floor.  But the most amazing discovery was the remnants of a 1870s German folk art mural on the wall behind the bar.  A portion of which is preserved in its original state for visitors to see.  A local artist, Joel Hale, recreated the mural in close proximity to where it was originally painted.

The caretakers of this historic relic are taking great pains to correctly preserve the old building.  They used historically correct mortar on the interior rock wall.  The original ceiling is still intact.  They lovingly removed the old, weathered, branded swinging doors in order to preserve them for a future display.

Saving the building itself was the first concern,  but soon they will begin the process of sorting through the contents that were carefully packed when restoration began, to see what items, donated so long ago, are still available for display.

The museum is currently opened to the public on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm and on Sundays from 1pm to 4pm.  Make plans to come see the old saloon, it is worth the trip.  The Boggess Volunteers are on duty and love to share the history of the Stonewall and Saint Jo.

Christmas Bananas

I recently had the opportunity to partake in the madness known as Black Friday at Walmart.  My pregnant daughter really wanted to go and I couldn’t send her into the abyss alone.  While I did score a vacuum cleaner for $8.88 and really enjoyed watching the mayhem, I could help but wonder how this became Christmas.

My father, Charles Don Castle, was born in Illinois Bend in 1932.  To say times were tough would be a gross understatement.  But when you ask him about his childhood, his memories are nothing but fond.

He was raised on the old home place that had been in his mother’s family since about 1897.  Arrowhead and squirrel hunting were his favorite past times.  His home was a typical  shotgun house, meaning you could stand at the front door and shoot out the back door without hitting any walls.  Three rooms in total.  The living room, that doubled as his parents bedroom, the kitchen, and the kids’ room. The remnants of which still lay in the pasture.  There was no outdoor plumbing, but the well and the outhouse were just a few yards from the house, so he never thought this was an inconvenience.

I recently asked him about what Christmas was like when he was a little boy.  I asked if they had a Christmas tree, he said no.  I asked if he hung a stocking, he said no.  I asked if Santa came to visit, again he said no.  It made me sad to think of my Daddy, who always made my Christmas’ very special events, as a little boy with nothing for Christmas.

“So, ya’ll just didn’t celebrate Christmas at all?”, I asked.  He looked at me like I had lost my mind.  “I didn’t say that”, he replied.  He told me that Christmas was one of his favorite childhood memories.   I reiterated his list:  no Santa, no tree, no presents.  He smiled, his blue eyes twinkled.  “Ah, but there were bananas!”, he said.

“Pap would ride into town (St Jo) and take the train to Gainesville every year right before Christmas.  He would bring back the biggest bunch of bananas you have ever seen.”, he explained.  He held his arms wide, indicating the bunch of bananas was at least three feet long.  He went on to describe how my grandfather would hand this large, yellow, bunch of bananas from the rafters in the kitchen of their home.  “You know what the best part was kid?”, he asked,  “I could get a banana anytime I wanted it.”

It was a very important lesson my Daddy taught me that day.  Christmas isn’t about the hustle and bustle, or the decorations, or the gifts.  It is a time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, to spend it with true friends and family.  It is a time to really appreciate what is important in your life.

Merry Christmas!

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.

Pioneers Lost and Found: The Boggess Cemetery

Boggess Cemetery located north of Saint Jo, Texas. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

If you have ever spent any time in Saint Jo, Texas and wondered why the streets were named  Meigs, Boggess, Crump, Howell or Williams, a leisurely stroll through the Boggess Cemetery will ease your curiosity.  Many of the major movers and shakers of early day Saint Jo are laid to rest in this cemetery.  Including the town founders, Irby Holt Boggess and Joseph Anderson Howell.

Back row: Dr John G Crump, Capt Blevins, Sam Rowe, Professor Hughes. Front Row: W M Ross, Henry Ira Chancey, Frank Warren Sr, Irby Holt Boggess. Photo courtesy of Eddie Yetter

Both Boggess and Howell served with the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  Moving to Montague County around 1869, they formed a business partnership and plotted out the town of Saint Jo around 1872.  Boggess was originally from Meigs County, Tennessee.

Boggess, his wife and several other family members are buried in the Boggess family plot.  This plot is located just beyond where the original entrance gate was located.  It is rumored that after moving to Montague County, Boggess survived an Indian attack by taking refuge behind a cabin door made of Bois d’Arc wood.  This strong and dense wood stopped the bullets, saving his life.  As the story goes, he kept the door  as a memento and it was used as the lid to his casket.

Irby Holt Boggess tombstone seen through the footstones of the original gate

Not too far from the Boggess plot is the double tombstone of Joseph Anderson Howell.  He is buried next to his infant son. 

Joseph Anderson Howell's gravestone. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Tombstones throughout the cemetery represent several well know families of the area.  Carrie L Crump, young wife of Dr John G Crump.  Dr Crump, remarried after his wife’s death and is buried in the Mountain Park Cemetery.

Grave of Carrie L Crump, wife of Dr John G Crump. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

There are a few fenced plots in the cemetery.  Two of which belong to the Hale and Fulton families.       These ornate fences have,    for the most part, withstood the test of time and the elements.    One of which is large enough to hold six to eight gravesites, but only two markers are present.  It is believed that the other graves were never marked or the stones have been lost or damaged over time.

The cemetery contains old graceful tombstones that are inscribed with a wealth of information.  Some relay only the names of the souls they protect, others give clues into the family history. 

One of the fenced plots at Boggess Cemetery. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Others still, give hints to how harsh live could be, such as the double marker for the infant twins, Effie and Everett Hurd.  The earliest marked graves that can be found in the cemetery are that of Florence M Gann, a baby  girl not even three months of age.  A transcription of those buried in the Boggess Cemetery can be found here.  This list was compiled in 2004.  There have been a few graves that have been added in the last few years, since the list was put together.

Grave of infant Hurd twins. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Along with the traditional tombstones, there are several markers made of sandstone.  If they were ever engraved with the name of the interred, the message has long been erased by decades of sweltering Texas heat, torrential spring storms, and freezing snow and ice as the seasons relentlessly changed over the years.  Other markers have  succumbed to vandalism or old age.

Example of broken headstones. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

The Boggess Cemetery is located about a mile north of Saint Jo on FM 677.  It is easy to spot on the right hand side of the road, but this has not always been the case.  As the families of the pioneers of Saint Jo died off, the cemetery was not in high demand.  The Mountain Park cemetery located within the city limits of Saint Jo, became the central cemetery. 

Jorden Crump Boggess, son of Irby Holt Boggess died in Oklahoma 1949 and his body was brought home for burial.  It was a cold, bitter December afternoon when the family laid him to rest.    The seasons came and went, native grasses crept in and over the worn tombstones until this historic resting  place was all but lost.  In 1963, a brave grave-digger took his chances among the briars, weeds and snakes in order to bury Jorden’s brother, A A Boggess.  Again, mother nature took its course, trying to recover this sacred patch of earth. 

Broken tombstone at Boggess Cemetery. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Most people who passed the cemetery on daily basis traveling on FM 677, did not know the cemetery existed, those who did hardly took notice.   Everyone that is except an eighty year young spitfire named Kate Harris.  She along with the help of her niece, Janis Sneed, cleaned up the cemetery and continued to maintain it until her health would not allow it.  It was not an unusal sight to drive by the cemetery on a hot summer day and see Aunt Kate out on her riding mower tending the resting place of the town’s fallen pioneers.  Kate’s younger sister, Clara Bell Trice joined the effort when her sister could no longer hold up to the physical task of being the care taker.  Today, Aunt Kate’s niece, Clara Bell’s daughter, Janis Sneed still stands guard over the small patch of ground that was the final Earthly resting place of some of Saint Jo’s pioneer families.

Old gated plot at the Boggess Cemetery. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette