Dancing with George Washington

One of the most important social events in Northeast Texas was held every February 22 during the Roaring 20s and early 1930s. The grand Hotel Washington on Washington Street in Greenville, Texas hosted the George and Martha Washington Dance that was the spot to be and be seen.

Women shopped for weeks looking for that exquisite gown that would stand out among all the others on the dance floor. Hairdos, jewelry, shoes, and wraps were carefully selected to give each lady the aura of elegance.

Young girls had high hopes of becoming a candidate for Lady Washington. A small group of teenaged girls were named about four weeks before the big event. Then the fun began. Lady Washington was chosen by votes, votes that cost a small amount of money, perhaps one dollar per vote. It soon became a family event, with fathers convincing clients, friends, and neighbors to buy votes for their daughters. Mothers and siblings also engaged in selling votes. The winner would finally be announced at the dance. Of course, the money was simply a contribution to a local men’s club like the Lions Club for philanthropic causes.

The evening began with a seven-course dinner in the Mezzanine Floor Dining Room. Only the finest china, silver and crystal were used. Lavish floral arrangements decorated each table and filled nooks and crannies around the room. Ensembles from Dallas often provided dinner music. Dinner tickets generally cost from $2.50 to $5.00. Ironically no wines, champagne or hard liquor were served as this was during Prohibition when Greenville was supposedly “bone dry.”

After the banquet, costumed George and Martha Washington led the procession to the Roof Garden for a late evening of dancing to another fine band.

It was here that the winner of the Lady Washington contest was announced with royal flourish.

Like the Dining Room below on the Mezzanine Floor, the Roof Garden was elaborately decorated. While it was an open garden in summertime, February’s cold winds demanded it be enclosed and heated. Floors were hardwood to make dancing easy. Seating for approximately 400 guests was provided. More food and drinks were available. However, the question becomes, did men and women bring in a flask of liquor to warm up with on such a cold evening? If so, it was a well-kept secret.

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Another New Deal Site in Hunt County

Many farm families were hesitant about electricity and its cost; but those in favor canvassed miles and miles of farmland. Volunteers urged everyone to sign up and light up the night. (Rural Electrification Administration)

Congratulations to Brandon Darrow and Farmers Electric Cooperative. They have recently received a Texas Historical Marker for the electric cooperative put together for and by citizens in rural Texas in the middle 1930s.

Electricity in an American city became available in the 1880s. Greenville actually had electrical service as early as 1891. But the vast numbers of Americans who lived in rural areas with no electric power was huge. As Brandon Darrow wrote, “there was no profit in delivering electricity to the backwoods farmer and his family.” Such was the sentiment of city dwellers through the 1920s.

Farmers had used cooperatives to run cotton gins, purchase equipment and supplies since the 1870s. While never completely successful, rural citizens and small town folks invested in cooperative shares readily.

With the onslaught of the Great Depression and the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president pushed for rural electrification as a means of adding jobs and creating better living conditions for farmers. Federal aid and use of cooperatives were vital to the experiment.

In May 1935 President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order for the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration or REA as another New Deal means of dealing with financial difficulties and rampant unemployment created by the Great Depression.

Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska and Representative Sam Rayburn of Texas sponsored the bill. Rayburn represented Northeast Texas in Congress and worked diligently for his constituents. Both men represented states that were some of the most devastated by the Dust Bowl and Depression. They understood farmers and their families drastically need help. The bill passed and was signed by Roosevelt just one year after the original executive order to create the REA was issued.

Darrow explained that the loan funding “would be available through REA and local manpower was at hand, small electric coops began popping up around the countryside, and in Northeast Texas. Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Inc. began in 1936 as did Rockwall County Electric Cooperative.” Tri-County consisted of rural residents in Hunt, Hopkins, and Rains County. The two cooperatives merged in August 1937 to become Farmers Electric Cooperative.

Immediately 1,950 meters were purchased, 500 easements were obtained, and 594 miles of line were installed between January and September 1938 for 101 new customers who had lights in their homes and barns. The following year the federal government gave a $215,000 allotment to Farmers Electric Cooperative. This allowed 860 more customers along 221 miles of power lines to see in the dark. At that point FEC began to service Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, Rains, Wood, Collin, and Rockwall Counties.

Darrow pointed out “it took a great amount of work and cooperation to explain the proposition to the people, and get them sold enough on the idea that they would sign requests for service. It took house to house canvassing; it required the contribution of time and talent. The results were not always encouraging. The idea was new to the people and many were skeptical and private power companies were carrying on a vicious campaign at the same time against the REA program.” However, folks often refer to the day they received electric service as one of the greatest days of their lives.

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Let’s Talk Love

While he saved no Valentine’s Cards, my grandfather Corporal I. G. Coley of Company A, 315th Engineers, AEF, kept this Christmas card from the Red Cross in his hometown of Bryson, Texas.

The history of Valentine’s Day – and the story of its patron saint – is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

Valentine or Valentinus (in Latin), all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl – possibly his jailor’s daughter – who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From Your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and – most importantly – romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

At the end of the 5th century Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and English that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the aura that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of Landon following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 1600s. By the middle of the 1700s, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replaced written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Ester A Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.”

In the late 19th century and early 20th century the most elegant and beautiful cards were handmade in Germany. With the arrival of the Great War and the brutal invasion of Belgium, the market for German valentine greetings went down the drain, only to be replaced by workshops in Brooklyn.

With the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) well entrenched in the heart of France, American girls looked for Valentines for their special beaux and for friends. Many were cute cartoon figures; others still sported red cloth and lace, while others became practical encouragement for Hooverizing. Hooverizing was a scheme to encourage Americans to eat less meat, less wheat, less chocolate, and less of all the foods they loved. The purpose was to feed AEF troops, along with starving French, Belgians, Poles, and other allies throughout the continent.

Getting supplies, troops, equipment, materiel and ammunition to France was a huge job. Space on ships was crowded beyond belief. So how many valentines made it to the front? Mail service was erratic at best; all outgoing mail was screened for information the enemy might use, and where did the Dough Boys buy cards for their sweethearts Stateside? Certainly not in Germany. Did the Red Cross or YMCA sell them? I think not. Sometimes it’s fun to wonder about these trivial matters.

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The Mule Drawn Trolley

Horsecar

Horsecar – Wikipedia

If you lived in Greenville in the 1890s, you might have caught a ride in the new form of public transportation, the trolley. Often called a Horse Car, it probably was really a trolley drawn by a mule, the animal with more stamina and strength than a horse. Officially operated as the City Street Railway Company of Greenville, Texas, it operated briefly from late 1880s until the height of the 1893-1897 economic depression.

In March 1890 May W. G. Perkins and County Surveyor J. H. Morgan approved the route of the new trolley. Beginning at the Cotton Belt Depot at the bottom of East Lee Street, the line went up the hill to the Courthouse Square. There it turned south on Johnson Street, then west on Washington Street, before turning south again on St. John Street. The route allowed mules to avoid congested business traffic on Lee and Stonewall Streets as well as prevent rail tracks in the streets.

The trolley continued south on St. John to Oneal where it turned east to Moulton Street, again avoiding the exclusive housing development along Park Avenue, as the street was then named. At Moulton Street the trolley turned east again to Moulton Park, one of the early public parks in town. Baseball diamonds, a pavilion complete with a stage and a wooded area enticed visitors.

The first owner or at least major investor of City Street Railway Company was Judge M. M. Brooks. On December 18, 1888 Brooks sold his interest in the investment to Will N. Harrison. At the time, the route only passed through downtown and then south on St. John Street to Oneal. It was later expanded to the original plan. The trolley driver collected fares as well as steering the mule along the route.

A decisive economic depression in 1893 caused by overgrowth of the railroad industry led much of the United States to cease new investments and return to a more scale backed economy. The City Street Railway Company of Greenville became one of numerous victims. It folded not long after the economy failed, and long before it returned in 1897.

In 1910 the first electric street railway line served Greenville until 1916. All were part of the national trend to introduce and establish an urban transportation system. Have you noticed that the subject occasionally rears its head, even in the 21st Century?

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Mardi Gras in Full Blast

Ned Sublette wrote The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square (Lawrence Hill Books, 2009), a delightful, enlightening piece combining cultural and political history of the Crescent City. Anyone who loves the city should read the book.

Next week at this time, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday will be over for 2018. The season of Lent then begins. The noisy crowds will slowly leave New Orleans, tons of trash will be dumped somewhere, and streets will be washed down. But the music, dance, and theater so loved in the city continue.

In a city that survived three European regimes in the 17th and 18th centuries, today it welcomes and entertains the entire world. The French came first, bringing their language and Catholic religion. Their most prosperous territory at first was along the rivers and streams of the Great Lakes and Canada. Since they claimed all headwaters of the Mississippi River, the port at New Orleans became a place of interest for slave traders. While New Orleans did not rank with Havana or other Caribbean ports for the slave trade, numerous African nationalities and cultures found a home in the city. As the French learned how to grow and export sugar, lands in what is now Louisiana became sugar plantations. The intensive labor cut short all lives and required more and more slaves.

Slaves entering New Orleans came from Ouidah, Senegal and Angola. The French officials allowed them to keep their language, music, foods, religion and other cultural identifiers. Gradually those slaves from Angola gravitated to an area known as Congo Square on Sundays where dancing and music continued all day and into the night. Later groups joined with music subtlely differently according to their African homeland.

In the 1760s Great Britain conquered Canada. Groups of French speaking Canadians known as Acadians or Cajuns as they would eventually be called were deported to the French territory around New Orleans. It was in the area southwest of the city that a new form of music began – Cajun music. As lively and rhythmic as African music, Cajun music has a special place in New Orleans.

New Orleans was always a source of mystery and intrigue, especially during the Spanish rule. A political deal involving Napoleon and the Spanish government briefly and not very successfully handed over New Orleans to the Spaniards. During this time, one of the United States’ greatest artists in treason, General James Wilkinson served as Commander in Chief of the U. S. Army as well as Agent 13 in the Spanish Secret Service. Many believe that Wilkinson was involved in the attempted filibuster of Texas by Aaron Burr.

However, the French were able to regain control of New Orleans in the late 1790s. In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of a vast amount of land in the watershed of the Mississippi River. Spanish and Americans were not as lenient with the slave population as the French had been. All cultural identifiers were abolished; English became the language of all slaves, no matter their origin. Yet, New Orleans retained its cultural, musical, and epicurean heritage proudly.

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Voices from Small Places: Connecting with Communities

Voices from Small PlacesLast weekend Susan Lanning, John Byrd, and I trekked to Marshall to learn about a new and interesting project for the Hunt County Historical Commission. John is a board member of the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum where Susan is the director. Both are members, along with yours truly, of the Hunt County Historical Commission.

We are often asked about the famous people here in Hunt County, about the most exciting event that ever occurred and which family settled here first. Those are good questions, but what about the common family who lived in a rural area, trudged through the mud to school, or washed clothes in a wringer washing machine before hanging them on a clothes line? Don’t they count, too?

None of us were born or raised in Hunt County. John comes from Dallas, Susan from St. Louis, and I’m from Jacksboro, a small town 75 miles west of Greenville. However, I did marry into a family who has lived in the Merit area for over a century. My interest in my Merit in-laws and their families convinced me to get John and Susan in on this new project.

Voices from Small Places: Connecting with Communities is a project that involves people who lived in these small places with less than a population of 100. Some stayed but many moved away for work, to live closer to children and grandchildren, or to explore a new lifestyle. All have maintained an attachment with those small places, though.

One of the leaders remarked that “memory is attached to a place.” I thought about instances with my grandmother, her daughter, and her son who was my father. Over thirty years ago, my grandmother and I drove down to the Home Place, the farm where she was raised. There she told me all sorts of stories I never heard before. About fifteen years ago my aunt and I looked around the old farm. She remembered much that her mother didn’t mention, liked playing with cousins in the hen house. Then about ten years ago my dad and I made the pilgrimage. He spent lots of time with his grandparents and knew wonderful stories about his grandfather and his nine uncles. Each one looked at the farm from a different perspective.

Life was much different in the 1950s and 1960s. Driving into Greenville wasn’t a daily event. But we need to remember places like Shady Grove, Whitehead, Aberfoyle, and Tidwell. There are countless small places in Hunt County. After all, we had over one hundred rural school districts. Each was a community, and that history is rapidly fading away.

To slow the process you might be interested in Voices from Small Places. A small group use disposable cameras and notebooks to photograph and write a paragraph about special places of their memories. It might be the hayloft in a barn, the hen house like my aunt, or the tack house where I earned money sorting burlap sacks to take back to the feed store. I made the whopping salary of 5c per sack. From there we do oral histories, photograph and digitize articles of importance. Volunteers will be there to help. If you are interested, contact me at the email below.

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Parachute Riggers at Majors Field

Parachute riggers at work in 1944.

Parachute riggers at work in 1944. (ConnecticutHistory.org)

Much has been written about the young men who learned to fly during World War II at Majors Field south of Greenville. The aircraft-training center trained twenty-two classes, consisting of 5,604 cadets in the BT-13A Valiant trainer before advancing to the next flight training level. Some one hundred eighty flight officers led the would-be pilots through the Majors Field classes.

While a large number of persons at the field at any time were cadets, instructors, and mechanics, civilians were employed for clerical chores and other assorted jobs. One group of four women who worked at Majors Field is not well known. They rigged parachutes for every trainee and instructor who left the ground in those days.

Persons who successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft became members of the Caterpillar Club. Of all the trainees and trainers here in Greenville three became full-fledged Caterpillar Club members. Each of the three who safely bailed out had a parachute rigged by the same woman, Mrs. Chrystilee Adams. Here’s the piece that ran in the April 5, 1945 issue of the Greenville (Texas) Evening Banner on page 8.

Three new members of Majors Field’s Caterpillar Club who recently plummeted to mother earth during training here owe their well being to the efficient parachute rigging of Mrs. Chrystilee Adams, of the post parachute department.

After almost three years of uneventful ‘chute packing, Mrs. Adams finally hit the jackpot. Flight Officer E. L. Baden made the first jump on March 15 when he quit his disabled plane over the Gulf of Mexico during tow-target practice. He landed without mishap on an Adams-packed parachute.

Some time later on March 22, Lt. Robert K. Tinder, another pilot trainer, was forced to jump from his F-47 near Wade, Oklahoma. Mrs. Adams packed his ‘chute, too.

Last and crowning test of the petite redhead’s rigging skill was the spectacular leap of Lt. Norman W. Olsen two miles southeast of Majors Field, a sight witnessed by many people at the base.

The wife of Sgt. Robert R. Adams, one-time Majors Field soldier and now serving with the Ninth Air Force in England. Mrs. Adams received her training at Majors Field. She is a native of Greenville, and began work here in August 1942.

Majors Field ‘chute department, supervised by Robert Pendleton and under the military direction of Lt. Allan Wilcox, has batted .1000 as far as its three riggers, Misses Bertha Sue Pemberton, Betty Larue, and Mrs. Adams are concerned.

Of the 11 recorded jumps in ‘chutes packed by the department, made by seven lieutenants, one flight officer, two aviation cadets, and a corporal, there have been no fatalities.

Thanks to John Armstrong for sharing this article.

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Three More Guests for the Fantasy Dinner

The home Fred Ende built for his bride in 1858. The house was originally two blocks north of the courthouse facing Stonewall Street. Later it was moved to this location in Graham Park before finally restored on the grounds of the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum. (author’s photograph)

Last week I shared some of the guests I would invite if I could arrange a Fantasy Dinner with early settlers in Greenville. Today I will complete the resumes of the three remaining guests.

The next two were some of the most respected citizens in town. Fred and Amelia Ende arrived at the Port of New Orleans separately in the 1840s. Fred emigrated to escape conscription in the military. At that time, Germany was a maze of small countries, dukedoms, fiefdoms, city-states, all fighting for fertile, riparian land. Some of the facts are blurry, but it is known that Fred worked as a street sweeper, explored the Mississippi River to New Madrid, and wandered finally into Greenville. He like what he saw, decided to open a mercantile business, and hightailed it back to New Orleans. There he purchased goods for his new store and became reacquainted with the lovely Amelia who agreed to marry him when his store was open and a house was ready.

Some say Fred von Ende, his original German name, was a member of a wealthy German family. However, when he arrived in the United States he discarded the “von” and became Americanized. He hired a carpenter to build his home in 1857-1858. When completed, he returned to New Orleans, married Amelia, took a steamer on the Red River to Jefferson where he bought a buggy and hired a wagon.

His business was a success, both became important citizens, she as a musician and he as a strong supporter of his new hometown. Ende was an early moneylender, supported the campaign to bring railroads here after the Civil War. He was an advocate of desegregation and rights of former slaves. During the Civil War, he gave and sold rations to troops. At that time, the men in town issued US citizenship on him and his wife. However, there are no legal documents to confirm this in the courthouse.

I feel very sorry for the last guest, Rachel Arnold. Her story is typical of 19th century widows. Mrs. Arnold was the wife of Lee Arnold, who was elected sheriff and then Alderman. While living within the city limits of Greenville, Lee Arnold acquired farm tools, work oxen, 50 milch cows and 20 head of hogs. At his death Arnold’s probate showed a house and household goods valued at $2000. He named James Bradley, an esteemed attorney as administrator. In January 1855 Bradley accepted the position of administrator and did nothing, absolutely nothing.

Rachel and the children had no income, no food, no clothing; basically they were destitute. She could not legally manage the estate her late husband left. During the December term of court in 1856, Lee’s brother petitioned for guardianship of the five minor children and Lee’s widow. The guardian finally sold the house in February 1859 for $800. No cemetery records or marriage records or census records exist after Lee’s death for Rachel. I would love to hear her side of the story.

So two attorneys, a Colonel in the Texas Rangers, a couple who were German immigrants, a wealthy woman who cohabited with her father-in-law for over twenty years, and a widow almost turned out in the cold sitting around the dining room table. What a wonderful conversation would have transpired. And if Lindley Johnson had his way, the spirits flowed freely.

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Not all Mug Books Feature Criminals

A true Texas Classic, The Trail Drivers of Texas is one of many county and personal histories available to readers. Most of the tales in this book are less flamboyant than county histories contain.

If your local library has a genealogy section, go in and look around. You might find a collection of old county histories that include biographical sketches of prominent citizens. If the volume was published before 1900, the citizens will likely be white males. After women formed civic-minded clubs in the early 20th century, a few women made the cut. Again they were white, only.

If you read some of the biographical sketches, the odds are you will be impressed with the accomplishments and pedigrees these individuals had. But don’t be fooled. There’s an interesting back-story to this process.

The American Centennial of 1876 was a patriotic event as full of excitement as was the second in 1976. Americans are proud of their nation, their families, and themselves. And they intended to share that pride with everyone.

Newspaper and book publishers saw a moneymaking endeavor from this pride. But the newspapermen and the publishing employees didn’t have time to write up all this information, so they created a system that increased their moneymaking. They hired a local person, usually a prominent man or woman who was fairly knowledgeable of local history to write the book. Accuracy was not required. In fact, there was an old saying that facts were not allowed to ruin a good story.

Then letters were sent to all the so-called leading citizens, those who were considered the crème de la crème in the community. For a specific amount, these citizens could submit their biography or that or a spouse or parent. Some grammatical editing may have cleaned up the biographies but the story was not changed.

County histories were the most numerous, but not the only histories published between 1876 through 1929. Miss Mamie Yeary, a true Daughter of the South and invalid who all her life lived with her family in Farmersville, Texas. She began writing letters to Confederate veterans asking for their stories. She collected hundreds; some simply answered her questionnaire while others provided in-depth accounts. In 1912 she published her collection as Reminiscences of the Boys in Grey along with the Constitution of the Confederate States of American and a listing of all Civil War engagements. Again, the work contains much that is factual, but slanted to the Confederate viewpoint.

A third class of personal histories is The Trail Drivers of Texas edited by Marvin Hunter. Hunter personally knew most of the men and few women featured in this book. Each had submitted a short piece about their experiences to the Trail Drivers of Texas Association at one point. Hunter used those memoirs in his book.

One time I found an extensive article about my Looney family of Virginia. Enthralled that here was a wonderful genealogy with such prominent family members, I later read that the author had created every word and was unable to present even one piece of documentation. So beware of anything too good to be true.

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Fantasy Dinner Party

Well-fed guests partaking of a fine meal at a 19th century dinner party. Maybe a little too fancy for ante-bellum Greenville. (NPR)

This year I decided it was time for a little pizazz in my dining room. How exciting can a room be if the walls are painted “file folder yellow?” While the paperhangers were busy prepping walls and hanging the paper, I began to think about dinner parties I could give.

I found myself thinking about early settlers here in Greenville and Hunt County I would have enjoyed dining with. The list included one couple, three men and two very interesting women. You may be surprised at my choices. You may not have heard of some or even all of them. So sit back and enjoy my Fantasy Dinner.

The first person I would invite was Lindley Johnson, probably the very first settler in the Greenville vicinity. He arrived in this part of Texas in 1833, volunteered in Texas Rangers and received a commission as Lt. Colonel before he acquired a considerable amount of land through grants. In the 1840s Johnson and his family settled on land where KGVL/KIKT radio station is located. He appears to have been the first moneylender in the area. His probate in 1858 showed considerable loans and a fairly lengthy bar bill. Definitely Lindley Johnson would be invited.

I would also invite two attorneys, neither for their legal prowess, but their collection of early Greenville history. Alfred Thomas Howell was raised in Virginia, trained as a lawyer at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. After graduation, he headed straight to Texas to make his fortune. After trying to build a clientele in Red River County and Lamar County with little success, he came to Hunt County, where the court was full of fraudulent land claims. Along the way he wrote colorful, honest letters to his brother back in Virginia. The brother and his family saved the letters until donating them to the Tennessee State Archives. They are priceless.

Linton L. Bowman loved serving as the Eighth District Judge when that was a circuit court. Every time he called a recess in a trial, he visited with the audience (people came to watch court in session like we watch television or movies). His collection of notes regarding the Northeast Texas area from the Civil War until about 1920 is exceptional and wonderfully curated at Texas A&M University Commerce Archives.

Eleanor Carruthers Langford was probably the most interesting and fearless woman ever in Hunt County. She was born in Kentucky but moved with her family to Arkansas Territory where she married Maxfield Langford in 1822. Her husband died before 1825 leaving her a widow with two small children. When her in-laws decided to move to Texas in 1825 she followed and made her home in a small cottage on their property. Sometime between 1828 and 1830 her father-in-law Eli Langford moved in with Eleanor, abandoning his own wife and children. In 1832 Eli and Eleanor moved to Red River County. Both filed land claims but Eli’s was complicated with the fact this was his second land claim, definitely not allowed by either the Mexican government or the soon-to-be new Republic of Texas.

Eli and Eleanor never married, although they were arrested and charged with adultery in Red River County. Both were separately found “ not guilty” by a jury. With numerous lawsuits, lost land claims, and snubs by neighbors, the couple lived there until 1848 when Eli went to Jefferson to build bridges. No one knows what happened to him but he completely disappeared. Eleanor moved to Greenville where her children lived about 1852. She involved herself in land transactions, of course, and was one of the original charter members of the First Baptist Church. Because she remained a widow, she was able under both Mexican and Republic of Texas laws to hold her own property. Before she died in 1861, she divided her property among the children she had with both Maxfield and Eli. Some of those descendants still live in Greenville.

Time and space are running out. Next week you will learn who the last three invitees to the Fantasy Dinner Party are.

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