The War Comes to America

American Pilot in France in 1919

American pilot with 91st Aero Squadron in France in 1919. (

When I began to post tidbits of local news on Facebook in 2014, I wasn’t certain how long it would last. I’m fascinated with the past, but was there others who might be interested? Well, my posts have never gone viral but I know they are read.

At the end of every month, I scan newspapers throughout North Texas. I use a website,, for most of my research. One hundred years ago, newspapers had small staffs so they borrowed materials from other towns. The Dallas, Fort Worth, and Corsicana newspapers were filled with interesting news from Greenville and Hunt County. The Commerce Journal has been digitized and can be found at for the period from 1901 to 1977. Some issues are missing but it is a great source for my project.

For August 1917 everything I post will be from the Commerce Journal. I chose to do that because I wanted to see what local communities were reading and found interesting. The college had just been accepted as part of Texas college system with very stable financial support. Cotton and the boll weevil made news. But the largest amount of news items related to the war and its effect on local residents.

The Hart brothers who owned the Commerce Journal had been outspoken about the war in 1914, and how the United States should stay out and let the European royalty fight their own battles. But with the announcement of the Zimmerman Telegram and the Mexican Revolution conflict along the U.S.- Mexican border, the Harts changed their attitude.

The first U. S. military to land in France were aviators and airplane mechanics. J. D. Jernigin, Jr., wrote home with a scant amount of news. The location was simply “Somewhere in France.” His parents and other parents shared their sons’ letters in the Commerce Journal, as did most newspapers throughout the United States. Parents went to training bases to see their sons off. Mothers cried.

The Red Cross was organized in Commerce, duly wrapping bandages that would be used by the thousands. The ladies had several social events to send off local young men. Women found new employment as mechanics, elevator operators, and telephone operators. And in Commerce as in Greenville and most other towns in Texas, canning and preserving food for allies in Europe and to feed U. S. troops were hot items. The Board of Trade in Commerce offered a new National Canner with all the equipment to the first person willing to work it.

Once the United States declared war on the Axis countries, Woodrow Wilson hired George Creel, a publicity mogul to convince Americans the war was the right thing to do. Creel, in turn hired a cadre of reporters to fill American newspapers with propaganda. Part was Uncle Sam’s Thrift Thought for Today. I suspect few people today would be interested in trying the recipes. I know I wouldn’t.

Looking at World War I from a century later is unique. Americans were in for rough times ahead. Join me at my Facebook page for news from the war, the Influenza epidemic, and the Paris Peace Talks. Nothing was smooth sailing.

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Treasures on Our Doorstep

TAMUC Stadium

Memorial Stadium began as a project of the Ex-Students Association in the fall of 1945. Construction was started in 1949. The opening ceremony on September 23, 1950 featured U. S. Speaker of the House and former student Sam Rayburn. (Photo by Jesse)

Earlier this summer Heather Goodson asked me to do a historic resources survey on Live Oak Street and Maple Street in Commerce as part of the preparation for the downtown Commerce renovation project. Commerce has always been a special place for me; my husband and I met there and years later I received a Masters of Science in History from Texas A&M University Commerce, two great events in my life.

On one of the hottest days we have endured so far this summer, I drove to Commerce with notepad, camera on my phone, and ideas I had gathered from research sources I had available at my house. The adventure did not start well. Campus police pulled me over when I parked in a No-Parking zone behind the goal posts at Memorial Field. The friendly policemen thought I was lost, but wished me well when I told them of my mission.

That was my first source for the survey. The stadium was originally built on that site in 1950. It was dedicated to the seventy-eight (78) students who lost their lived in World War II. Ironically, Professor Mayo who owned the college did not approve of football until his son wanted to play.

An old house at 1803 Live Oak has an interesting past. For as long as I can remember it was a fraternity house but now appears to be abandoned. A large For Sale sits in the front yard. From an old photograph in Pictorial History of Commerce 1885-2010 by Cheryl Westhafer and Dr. James H. Conrad, I learned that the house was built in the 1920s as a hospital/clinic for Dr. Clarence Allen, longtime doctor for the college, the railroads, as well as citizens of Commerce.

At 1509 Live Oak Street is an old gas station probably built in the 1930s or 1940s. It appears the owner or operator just locked up one night and never returned. I really wanted to see inside but I didn’t want to annoy the nice campus police.

A vacant lot is all that remains of Union Church at 1301 Live Oak. Most small towns had a Union Church in their earliest days for all worshippers to share church services. Later it was the home of William M. Rhew, an early photographer.

Across the Live Oak Street to the north was the first school in Commerce, built in 1910 also on a vacant lot.

Somewhere in the vicinity Live Oak Street and Pecan Street intersect. Very early Pecan Street was known as Buttermilk Alley. No reason found, but it could make a great tale.

A large Colonial Revival house occupies 1209 Live Oak Street. Built in 1940 it served as a family residence and funeral home. In 1942 it was sold to Houston Jones who turned it into a funeral home and moved his family elsewhere. In 1990 the Richard Ward family purchased it and members of the family still operate the seventy-seven year old facility.

My other street to explore was Maple Street, a short street near City Park with several fairly new apartment complexes. However, where Maple and Washington Streets I found a real gem, or gems I should say. Three “Shotgun” houses faced Washington Street, all in various conditions. The middle one appeared to be occupied. If you don’t know what a “Shotgun” house is let me explain like my father explained it to me. They were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. If you wanted to get rid of someone, you walked up on the porch, aimed your shotgun at the door, and most likely since the bullet went straight through the house, you killed that someone. Three small rooms made up the house, one behind the other. Railroad workers likely occupied these cottages since Commerce was a fairly large railroad town.

And my final find was not really a find. I knew an old 1950s era drive-in soda shop was there at one time; right across the street from the swimming pool in the park. Like the old gas station, the drive-in appears to have closed one summer, never to open again.

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The Amazing Captain Benjamin A. Van Sickle

Gravesite of Benjamin Van Sickle

Benjamin Van Sickle and his wife are buried in the Van Sickle Cemetery in Southeastern Hunt County near the site of the former Van Sickle Community. Photo courtesy of Find A Grave.

Captain Benjamin A. Van Sickle was a most unusual man. A native Texan born in 1808 in San Augustine, he was a citizen of Spanish Texas, the Republic of Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, the Confederate States of America, and finally the United States of America for a second time. But he never left the area we still call Texas.

As a young man he participated in the Battle of San Jacinto where he was wounded. The wound did not deter him from serving with a mounted rangers group during the Indian Wars in Texas. After statehood, when the United States went to war with Mexico Van Sickle again enlisted, this time in the US Army.

Somewhere along the way he bought a printing press imported from Vera Cruz to start one of the earliest newspapers in South Texas. Sometime after the Mexican War he found his way to Sulphur Springs in Hopkins County where he studied law before becoming an attorney.

When the Civil War began Van Sickle joined L. G. Harmon’s Company of Col. William Young’s Third Regiment, Texas Cavalry with other men of this northeast Texas region. However, before the men left to persuade Native Americans in Indian Territory to join the Confederate Army, Harmon noted on his roster that S. S. Boss would substitute for Van Sickle. At the time, Van Sickle was fifty-three years old, pushing the upper age limit. More than likely because of his age that early in the war, he was given a position more suited for a man of his status. A document found on listed Benjamin A. Van Sickle as Enlisting Officer in Hopkins County.

This may have been Plunket’s Store in the Van Sickle area around 1900.  It may have been Shrum’s Store around 1920.  Notice the advertisement for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper.

This may have been Plunket’s Store in the Van Sickle area around 1900. It may have been Shrum’s Store around 1920. Notice the advertisement for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Gore, Tracy Tredway Ruff, and Odeal Farris Bethea.)

Within one year Capt. Van Sickle and his wife Orlena moved to a small, unnamed community about eight miles south of Greenville where they purchased land and rode out the war. Van Sickle became a leading citizen. When a post office was opened in the Van Sickle home in 1877, citizens decided to name the community in his honor. Appropriately Capt. Van Sickle served as postmaster for six years. He passed away in 1904 at the age of 96 and is buried in the Van Sickle Cemetery.

The community of Van Sickle became one of many small communities in Hunt County providing school, church, post office and cemetery for the nearby residents. The Van Sickle Church of Christ was one of the largest in the rural areas. A two-room school educated many children through eighth grade. At that time many students chose to complete high school in Caddo Mills.

Van Sickle School

Notice that the schoolhouse sits on the open prairie with no trees or grass surrounding it. It was probably built on farmland, earlier cleared of all vegetation. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Gore, Tracy Tredway Ruff, and Odeal Farris Bethea.)

Typical of numerous small communities in northeast Texas all that is left of Van Sickle is the church, but not the Church of Christ. A new Van Sickle Baptist Church was founded in 1971. It grew into a large and lovely facility on FM 1564 west of Highway 34.

I would like to thank Brenda Gore, Tracy Tredway Ruff, and Odeal Farris Bethea who compiled this information. They put together an informative booklet that can be found in the Genealogy/Local History Section of the W. Walworth Harrison Public Library in Greenville.

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Old-fashioned Camp Meetings

Richard Harrell (1813-1895), farmer and stockman, businessman and lay minister, donated land for the Harrell Campground in northwest Hunt County.  The campground was used for camp meetings in the summer.  Neighbors gathered from miles around to hear the Gospel preached and to socialize with friends seldom seen.

Richard Harrell (1813-1895), farmer and stockman, businessman and lay minister, donated land for the Harrell Campground in northwest Hunt County. The campground was used for camp meetings in the summer. Neighbors gathered from miles around to hear the Gospel preached and to socialize with friends seldom seen. Photograph courtesy Find A Grave.

Now that the long Fourth of July holiday is over and Little League Baseball finished for another year, most people will either head to water parks or hibernate inside their homes under the air-conditioning. Texas heat is about to crank up.

But 19th century residents often packed up and set off for the nearest camp meeting. Originating in England and Scotland, Camp Meetings were religious services featuring worship, preaching, and communion with socializing thrown in for good measure. The movement crossed the Atlantic in the late 18th century and peaked near Cane Ridge, Kentucky in the summer of 1800. In one week some 23,000 people gathered to hear emotional preaching by evangelists in mass religious meetings. All activities were held outdoors in the woods. Families came in wagons prepared to camp out for the event. Some actually tied the milk cow to the back of the wagon and cobbled up a chicken pen for the family hen and tied it to the rear axle.

Northern and Southern camp meetings varied in support of moral issues. Northerners supported women’s rights, abolition, and temperance while Southerners pushed for temperance. As the population of the country moved westward, evangelism at camp meeting followed.

Here in North Texas, the first known Protestant minister was Rev. William Stevenson, a Methodist preacher who came out of Arkansas. By the time of statehood in 1846, more and more ministers were traversing the region preaching the gospel, marrying couples, and spreading news. They stayed with strangers or slept in the woods in all kinds of weather.

Sometime in the 1850s, the Harrell family who lived northwest of the present site of Kingston opened up a campground in their woods. Every summer, neighbors loaded up the wagon, brought the milk cow, kids and chickens for a week of religion, socializing, and rejuvenation. These meetings usually took place in August after it was too hot for gardens to produce many more vegetable, wheat and corn were harvested, and cotton was near bloom. Music and preaching filled the air day and night. Women visited with friends seldom seen. Children were free to roam with others their own age. I have often wondered if men argued politics at that time just before the Civil War.

The Civil War did end the camp meetings. The campsite was abandoned until about 1872 when Mr. and Mrs. Harrell opened it to families fleeing from the war-torn areas of the South in search of new homes and a new start in life. Nothing is mentioned about reviving the religious aspect of the campground.

In 1895 Rev. Eugene C. DeJernett of Commerce purchased land northwest of Greenville on the Sabine River in what is today known as Peniel. His intent was to create a spot where revivals of the old campground venue would be available to all in his religious sect, The Holiness. The precept was so successful that it became the groundwork of Texas Holiness University, later Peniel University.

Today there are few outdoor revivals, just like there are few semi-pro baseball teams around. The audiences were lured away by air-conditioning and television.

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Bethel Cemetery

Bethel Cemetery – This photo shows part of the cemetery where a young girl frequently went while sleepwalking. At the time Bethel schoolhouse and Bethel Methodist Church were located across the road south of the hamlet of Neola.

Drive down State Highway 34 to the traffic light at FM 1570; turn left and in a short time you will be on the north side of the hamlet of Neola. Actually Edgewood Drive marks the entrance to Neola. James Willis Devenport (sometimes spelled Davenport or Devanport) owned the town, named it for some unknown woman, and served as postmaster while the post office was located in one of his buildings.

After the Civil War when cotton became the premium crop in Hunt County about 100 such villages popped up at crossroads. Neola exemplified such communities. Devenport owned a large two-story frame building with two rooms downstairs and a large meeting room for the Woodmen of the World on the second floor. One of the downstairs rooms was a grocery store and the other sold dry goods. The Woodmen of the World Camp # 1088 originated in the building in 1881, giving us a good date to use in determining the heyday of Neola.

Devenport also owned the local cotton gin. Barbara and James Horan’s mother Mary told that her home on the corner of Timberside and 1570 was the site of the gin pool. The pool was vital to the gin as it held water used for steam production.

Motor south on Timberside Drive to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Park set among towering trees that still stand amid homes. A bandstand, campground with fire pit, and picnic tables provided entertainment a five-acre space during the yearly summer picnic. The annual picnic was not held on July 4, as Southerners at that time did not honor that day as a holiday.

The late Don Hayter who owned the last original home in Neola told me that Edgewood Drive was the main street. Homes and buildings sat on the south side. In addition to the cotton gin, two blacksmiths and a gristmill operated in the little town. Peter Inabinette was one of the blacksmiths. South of the village was Mount Bethel Methodist Church, school, and cemetery. Today all that is left is the cemetery, but the school was moved across Highway 34 several years ago. Today it is a Community Center.

Don once told me about a young girl who kept having strange dreams. One morning she told her parents how many tombstones were in the Mt. Bethel Cemetery. When the family counted, she was correct. They began to watch her; she suffered from sleepwalking.

Little is known about James Willis Devenport before the Civil War. He served in the 1st Indian-Texas Regiment, sometimes called the 13th or 22nd Stevens Regiment, CSA. His papers show he enlisted on December 15, 1861 and started out in a cavalry unit that was dismounted. He kept his horse and saddle, though. Returning home unharmed, Devenport traded both horse and saddle for 640 acres of prime farmland. Today a vast majority of those 640 acres lie inside the fence at L-3. Not a bad deal for an old warhorse.

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Celebrating Our Nation

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

On the eve of our nation’s two hundred forty-first birthday, I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s award-winning biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting something to read when the summer gets hot and to anyone concerned about the track our state and federal governments seem to be following.

While set in the background of the Civil War, the book is by no means a shot by shot account of the horrific conflict that created disunion of states and loss of more than 750.000 lives. The tensions began with the Declaration of Independence and climaxed with the election of Abraham Lincoln, a little-known prairie lawyer from Illinois. The elections of 1860 were more chaotic than those of 2016. The Democratic Party split into two groups, both with candidates. The Republican Party was relatively new and full of a few Southern sympathizers and lots of abolitionists. None were without ill feelings. To make matters more complicated for 21st Century Americans, the Democrats of the time were the conservatives while the Republicans were much more liberal. Finally, eleven states seceded from the Union to form what they called the Confederate States of America. Incidentally, Lincoln never acknowledged the name or the country.

Lincoln waited until after his election to choose his cabinet. Amazingly, he chose four men who opposed him at the Republican Convention in the summer of 1860. Lincoln chose his chief opponent William Henry Seward for position of Secretary of State. The two became close friends. Simon Cameron reluctantly accepted position of Secretary of War, but was replaced the following year by Edwin M. Stanton. Both Seward and Stanton served until Lincoln died. Salmon P. Chase agreed to serve as Secretary of Treasury, quite a challenge during wartime. Chase and his daughter Kate continued a campaign for the Chase presidential candidacy. Chase submitted his resignation four times; Lincoln called his bluff on the last one. Edward Bates was another reluctant candidate; Lincoln cajoled him into becoming Attorney General.

Goodwin shows how Lincoln was able to hear various opinions, to soften the discord with humor and stories, while deciding the venue he would take. Often Lincoln allowed an issue to stall until he felt the nation’s citizens were ready for such a change. The Emancipation Proclamation that led to the Thirteenth Amendment was an example.

Goodwin used many primary source materials; something a great historian does. She used many of the detailed diaries kept by cabinet members. What a person writes at the time of the event is often very realistic, especially if the author believes no one will ever read it. Hence, Goodwin ably created a realistic account.

As I read Team of Rivals, I thought about challenges we face today. While I came to no definitive conclusion, I believe that Doris Kearns Goodwin’s work is an inspiration for all of us. The United States divided before and recovered. There’s hope for us today.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July! Be thankful for the incredible rights we have.

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Peniel, a Separate, Incorporated, and Religious Town

Peniel CollegeSeveral years ago a historical marker relating to the history of the Peniel community northwest of Greenville was destroyed. Rumors floated around that it was stored somewhere in Peniel, but after an intensive search, the Hunt County Historical Commission decided to purchase a new marker to be installed on the northeast corner of North Rees and Alpha Street.

Rev. Eugene C. DeJernett purchased 53.1 acres of woodland a mile and one/half northwest of Greenville on March 5, 1895. He planned to use the property as an annual campground for members of the Holiness faith. Members came in wagons, camped in groves of oak trees for several weeks each summer while attending revivals. On certain days ‘faith healing” occurred.

DeJernett, the son of Dr. Reuben DeJernett, a pioneer doctor in Hunt County, joined with B. A. Cordell and wife Ethel to obtain a total of more that 95 acres for Texas Holiness University, chartered June 17, 1899. Financial support came from Rev. W. G. Airhart also known for his award winning poultry. Airhart paid for the Girls Dormitory. Sales of lots surrounding the college paid for other buildings.

Each deed to new home lots included a most unusual proviso: “While owned by me or in my possession or under my control, I bind myself not to, or allow anyone else, to sell intoxicating drinks, tobacco in any form, morphine, cocaine on said premises, except as medicine, and it is further understood and agreed that worldly amusements or practices which the trustees and faculty of Texas Holiness University pronounce as deleterious to the well-being of the University, shall no be practiced by me or allowed by me . . ., I consent it invalidates the title of the land.”

As a result no ads for no ads for liquor, tobacco, or cards were posted on electric streetcars running from Greenville to Peniel.

The college opened in September 1899 with 27 students, and 108 before the term ended. They came from 19 states. Tuition, room, and board totaled $106 per year with an extra charge of $12 per term for music classes. Students learned Greek, Theology, Latin, Mathematics, English, and Music including piano, voice, and guitar. Elementary and high school students attended the prep school or academy as it was called. Such arrangements were common at the time.

The community grew around the college. The Holiness Post Office opened in 1901, but the name changed to Peniel (Pe NI el) at the request of citizens in 1902. The Texas Holiness University name changed to Peniel University in 1912 after the Holiness denomination merged with others to create Church of the Nazarene. An orphanage and widows’ home opened in 1919 a year before the university was moved to Bethany, Oklahoma. That institution is now known as Bethany Nazarene College and holds most of the old Holiness University and Peniel Univeristy records in the library archives. The archivist gladly answers questions about the college.

After the college closed in 1920 the widows’ home and orphanage remained until the hard times of the Great Depression. Both closed in the 1930s. Peniel existed as a small community with a post office, a few stores, a blacksmith’s shop at one time, and an independent school district. In 1957 Peniel citizens petitioned the City of Greenville to annex them. In April of that year, Peniel became a suburb of Greenville. Stop and read the historical marker sometime. Drive around in the wooded area that was once a charming college. It’s a treasure.

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Vigilantism in an Extremely Volatile Environment

Among the accounts of Civil War-era violence in this book are several that take place in Northeast Texas.

Among the accounts of Civil War-era violence in this book are several that take place in Northeast Texas.

Last week I wrote about an event that occurred in northeast Hunt County in 1844, prior to the creation of Hunt County. After several thefts and at least three murders, settlers in the vicinity took the law into their own hands, formed posses who arrested eight men, and set up a mock court system. All eight were charged with theft; four were charged with murder. The so-called jury found the four guilty of murder and sentenced them to hang. The four not involved with murder were forced to leave Texas after putting nooses around the necks of the murderers and witnessing their compadres hang.

Today we skip ahead almost twenty years to 1862-1863, in the throes of the Civil War. Before Texas left the Union a vote was taken in all counties to determine whether to secede or remain in the Union. The vote in Hunt County was incredibly close, 51% voted to secede while 49% wanted to remain. It created an extremely volatile environment that would continue until 1874 or later. Lack of trust and violence once again led to vigilante justice. Here are some of the stories Judy Fall and the late David Pickering captured in their book Brush Men & Vigilantes: Civil War Dissent in Texas (Texas A&M Press, 2000).

Falls and Pickering relied on early newspapers, oral histories gathered by Judge L.L. Bowman in the 1920s and 30s, along with few legal documents created at the time. Dates and names may be slightly erroneous, but the gist is true.

In 1861 attorney Martin D. Hart of Greenville raised a company of men known as the Greenville Guards. At the top of the roster, Hart wrote, “We are willing to serve on the Confederate side if our home county is invaded, but not otherwise.” Clearly, Hart and his men were part of the 49% of Union supporters in the county.

In the summer of 1862, Hart and thirty-seven others made their way to Missouri where they volunteered in the Union Army. Hart then sent about twenty men back to Hunt County to recruit Unionists. They arrived here in late January, shortly after Captain Hart and his lieutenant, a man from Illinois named Hayes were captured and hanged at Fort Smith by Confederate troops.

News quickly spread in Hunt County and before 1863 was over, at least nine men associated with Hart were captured and executed by vigilantes, or Brushmen.

The first to die were Parson Austin H. Glenn, a Methodist Protestant (Northern) preacher and a man known only as Trace Chain Smith. Glenn lived near Prairie Valley, between Lone Oak and Campbell where arms captured in Arkansas were hidden. Taken by bushwhackers, the two men were held in a barn until a mob overpowered the guards and hanged them on the banks of Cowleech Creek.

Parson Glenn aided the injured Horace DeArman who slipped away and joined four other Hart followers in Jernigan Thicket near Commerce. There they joined several others in hiding. When food stores became desperate, DeArman and three others agreed to surrender. After much negotiation, the four came out of the thicket believing they would be taken to Greenville for a legitimate trial. Instead, the negotiators escorted them to Sulphur Springs, the home of the radical Knights of the Golden Circle, a pro-Confederate group. Colonel Earley (Early) from Fannin County led the prosecution “charging the men with treason and complicity with a company of murderers and robbers.” All four were hanged near White Oak Creek in present day Sulphur Springs. The remaining men managed to escape that time, but many were later caught and hanged.

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Does the End Justify the Means?

blind justiceDoes the end justify the means? This age old question is at the core of today’s article and the one I plan to write next week. Comments are welcome.

By 1839 Anglos hoping to claim land along the Red River of northeast Texas found most of it taken. So they looked farther to the west or south. At least five families settled in what is now Hunt County, including Godfrey Smith, John Nail, Peter Barrow, Miller Green or Greenberry Miller, and Isaac Banta.

Within the next five years other families moved in from Missouri. All of these men were refugees from the law. However, that was fairly common of emigrants from the United States who either escaped from the law, debt collectors, or angry wives. The Missourians wanted everyone to believe they were regular farmers who grew wheat and sorghum. They also traded poultry, cattle or horses, which they had previously stolen.

The Shawnees and the first group of Anglos in the area negotiated a trading license through the Republic of Texas Indian Agent at an earlier date. Led by Loud Ray (Rhea), four of the Missouri group raided a camp of Shawnee hunters and traders near present day Scatter Branch. The Anglos killed two Native Americans, caught and stabbed a young Indian boy, stole twelve horses, a few rifles, chickens and valuable beaver pelts. As a result the Shawnee turned to the first five settlers for help.

Those men turned to Colonel James Bourland and President Mirabeau B. Lamar who refused to assist, both being staunch racists and believers that the “only good Indian was a dead Indian.”

So the good men of Hunt County appointed a judge and jury, heard testimony from the Shawnee witnesses, and convicted Ray and his men in absentia.

About the same time, John Nail and his son returned from Jefferson with a load of goods to sell to neighbors. Arriving home late at night, the Nails stopped the wagon next to the door intending to unload when the sun arose. But the next morning they found only the wagon, relieved of all the goods Nail hoped to sell.

An open prairie beside the South Sulphur River called Smith’s Prairie served as a common meeting place. Settlers throughout the area gathered again to determine the sources of trouble. Some had seen Loud Ray and his men with various items lifted from Nail’s wagon. Since the nearest law enforcement was in Bonham, over thirty miles away, the group decided to take the law in their own hands for a second time. A posse formed to find, arrest, and return the criminals was successful.

Ray and all his men were captured, some as far away as Shreveport. Loud Ray testified as state’s witness. The Shawnees objected that they were ignored. The jury heard two cases, one dealing with the three Native Americans killed and the other over the thief of Nail’s goods. Only the four men, including Ray, were tried for murder but the entire gang was tried for robbery.

The first four were sentenced to hang. The thieves were to leave Texas within ten days after they put a noose over the head of each killer. The hanging was held on Ray’s Prairie, named for the leader of the ruthless Missouri emigrants.

NOTE: the word emigrant is used when someone moves from one country to another. Since Texas was an independent nation at the time, anyone from the United States was an emigrant.

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Who Killed Clarence Glass?

Grave of Clarence A. Glass in Lone Oak, Texas.  Glass was killed by a lone robber on the night of December 8, 1916.  Glass was Cashier at the First National Bank in the neighboring community of Point.  Working late auditing the bank’s books, Glass was shot in the back of the neck.  No one was ever charged with the murder.  (From

Grave of Clarence A. Glass in Lone Oak, Texas. Glass was killed by a lone robber on the night of December 8, 1916. Glass was Cashier at the First National Bank in the neighboring community of Point. Working late auditing the bank’s books, Glass was shot in the back of the neck. No one was ever charged with the murder. (From

On the evening of December 8, 1916, an unknown assailant fatally shot Clarence A. Glass in Point, Texas. More than a century later, the murder still remains unsolved and probably long since forgotten.

The First National Bank of Point employed Glass as cashier. Reportedly he was a responsible young businessman of “worth and promise” according to the December 15, 1916 issue of the Greenville Messenger. Why he was at the bank that night is unknown. Perhaps he went to the bank to write a condolence letter to Rev. S. E. Luker as the Messenger reported or perhaps he went to examine bank records for any misappropriation of funds as his wife believed.

While consumed with his project at hand, Glass realized an armed, masked man stood behind him demanding money. With the time lock on the safe engaged, Glass could only give the assailant petty cash valued at approximately $300. The masked man shot him in the back of the neck three times before vanishing. Glass regained consciousness later and made his way to the nearest residence. There he told what occurred at the bank. Immediately he was given medical treatment and his wife Ray Etter Glass who was in Lone Oak visiting her parents quickly returned. Around three o’clock the following morning Glass succumbed to death, leaving a young wife and daughter.

Downtown Point, scene of murder of Clarence A. Glass.  In the last 100 years, buildings were razed to make room for Highway 69.

Downtown Point, scene of murder of Clarence A. Glass. In the last 100 years, buildings were razed to make room for Highway 69.

Immediately citizens of Point and neighboring towns raised a $1,000 reward as they set off to discover the culprit. Within days authorities, including Will Thornton of Point and Joe Humphreys of Greenville, arrested Chas Carter, a young man who lived near Point. Carter had in his possession a pistol with an empty chamber. Carter claimed he borrowed the pistol to hunt squirrels. It matched the caliber of the murder weapon but the evidence was circumstantial at best. The Rains County Grand Jury did not convict Carter and the investigation began again.

At this point much of the evidence is completely missing. From what is available, it seems that Carter was released for lack of evidence. Then, J. W. Bergen was arrested in Louisiana in December 1916. He was held in Emory until May 31, 1917 when he was transferred to the Greenville jail after the Rains County special grand jury was discharged without a bill of indictment. Bergen stayed in the Greenville jail until tried in Rains County in December 1917.

The trial was continued until May 1918 when most witnesses did not show for various reasons. Bergen claimed to have been in Anderson County on the night of the murder, riding the International and Great Northern Railroad to Shreveport. Another witness was P. R. Schumacher, a detective/manager for Burns National Detective Agency in Dallas who investigated the crime. He was hired by the young widow and expected to testify that some other person committed the crime.

At the trial in May 1918 all but two witnesses were present. Two Point residents were ordered to bring a box found recently in a creek near Point. After a long deliberation the jury found J. W. Berger not guilty as he had pleaded the whole time.

Was the culprit found and punished? No, although Ray Etter Glass would spend the rest of her life trying to find the murderer. She believed that someone in the bank guilty of the misappropriation of funds hired the young man who killed her husband. She believed her lawyer and the detective knew more than they told her. Unfortunately, the assailant was never found and Ray Etter Glass found no earthly peace.

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