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EARLY RESIDENTS OF HAMILTON

 

The Ezekiel Manning family were the first residents of Hamilton arriving in 1855.

In 1855 Henry C. Standefer and James Monroe Rice opened the first general store near the location of Hamilton City Hall--intersection of South Bell and East Main Streets. James Monroe Rice died while purchasing supplies for their store on a business trip to Galveston in 1872. Merchandise had to be hauled by ox-drawn wagons from Galveston to stock their store. Thus the first Chief Justice of Hamilton County was buried in Galveston, because there was not anyway to return his body to Hamilton. Rice was a Methodist preacher.

John Chambers Blansit, born 22 February, 1827, came to Hamilton County in 1858 (or 1855--accounts vary) from AL. He served with the Texas State Troops which provided protection against Indian raids. John Chambers Blansit married Ellen White, daughter of John S. and Elizabeth (Barner) White. John S. White was a Primitive Baptist preacher who had come to Hamilton County in 1860. John Blansit was an original stockholder in the Hamilton National Bank.

 

John Jefferson "Jack" Durham, a graduate of Trinity University in Lebanon, TN was born 6 December, 1835, in Larkinsville, AL. Mr. Durham came to Coryell County, TX in 1857 where he met and married Elizabeth Ann McCutcheon. John Jefferson Durham brought his bride to Hamilton, where he taught the first school--a private school--in Hamilton in 1859, before enlisting in the Confederate Army. Returning to Hamilton after the war, Durham purchased 1500 acres on the Leon River from the Juan de la Garza Survey for seventy-five cents an acre on 19 May , 1868. His purchase included the land on which the Leon River School in which Miss Ann Whitney had been murdered by the Indians in July, 1867. Mr. Durham built a toll bridge across the Leon River, and in 1873 he build a large two-story limestone house on his ranch. In 1885 he built a similar limestone house in Hamilton. Mr. Durham continued to acquire property, so that when he installed a barbed wire fence around his holdings (after 1885), the fence extended seven miles from the town of Hamilton to the Leon River. Mr. Durham built two stone buildings in Hamilton used for stores, and then a third limestone house for his second wife, Docia May Price (Frost) Durham, whom he married after the death of Elizabeth Ann Durham. Mr. Durham was the father of seventeen children and the step-father of two.

Simpson Loyd was elected Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner in 1860 and as Tax Assessor in 1870. Simpson Loyd was one of the most noted Indian fighters and served as a Justice of the Peace for twenty-five years.

Dr. George Frederick Perry, born 5 December 1846, in Benton County, MO, was a graduate of St. Louis Medical College, where he earned a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1874. Dr. Perry began practicing medicine in Hamilton on 18 March, 1878. Dr. Perry opened a drug store on the northwest corner of the square and in 1881 took in a partner, John Thomas James. Because Dr. Perry had an iron safe in his office, cattlemen and farmers would leave their money in leather bags and wallets in his safe. As business grew a corner of the drugstore was separated from the remainder of the store with a metal wire cage in which the safe and a standing desk for a bookkeeper were enclosed. In 1890 James and Perry decided to separate the banking business from the drug store. The first bank in Hamilton County, Hamilton National Bank was organized 31 October, 1890, with a capital stock of $50,000. Bank officers were: Dr. George Frederick Perry, President; John Thomas James, Vice-President; Ed A. Perry, cashier; and directors--John L. Spurlin, James Allen Eidson, and W. W. Seeley, of Waco. Stockholders included: Henry Jones Carter, John H. Taylor. G. R. Freeman, William Maxwell, Thomas Hamilton Deen, John Chambers Blansit, D. H. Williams, John Potts, A. J. Foster, Isaac Gann, Thomas H. Vaughan, David  Crockett  Hendrix, and J. E. Smith. Interest rates were five percent per month on small loans and up to sixty percent per year on large loans. On 27 October, 1975, Hamilton National Bank moved into a new 13,000 square foot building constructed on the original location--the northwest corner of the square in Hamilton.

Andrew Miller, T. D. Neel, John T. Hull, and John Carnes presented a petition signed by 93 people in January, 1871, to the State Legislature asking that the county seat of Hamilton County be permanently located at the town of Hamilton.

James Allen Eidson, a South Carolina lawyer, came to Hamilton on 24 December, 1871. He opened a law practice with J. G. W. Pierson and C. M. Rutherford. James Eidson married Hamilton County native, Miss Charity Elizabeth Rice on 11 August, 1874. In 1896 James Eidson formed a law partnership--Eidson and Eidson--with his son Arthur.

 

From "Lancaster, Dallas County, Texas Herald" February 21, 1908, p. 2, column 2

"Judge J. A. EIDSON Dead

"Hamilton: After an illness that extended over a period of several days past, Judge EIDSON passed away at his home in this city at 3:30 o'clock Tuesday morning. Formerly Associate Justice in the Third Court of Appeals, Judge EIDSON was well known, especially to the legal fraternity of the State, and was regarded generally as one of the most learned jurists in Texas."

 

Felix Cadmus Williams moved to Hamilton County in 1873 with his mother and brothers--H. T., John Mark, and Hogue. Felix Cadmus Williams was a deputy sheriff, deputy county clerk, postmaster of Hamilton, and County Clerk before opening his furniture, undertaking, and insurance business.

Captain Walter Terry Saxon (who was one day older than the State of Texas) came to Hamilton in 1874 and taught school in a double log cabin for four years. Saxon was the first editor of the Hamilton Herald in 1876. This newspaper has been published continuously since that time. In 1877 he became the county surveyor and held that office for forty-seven years. He laid off the boundary lines of the county in 1878. 

Capers E. Horton arrived in Hamilton County in 1876 and became a deputy sheriff in 1877.

Charles Milton Boynton came to Hamilton in 1875. Boynton became editor of the Hamilton Herald and organized the first Union Sunday School in Hamilton for all Protestant churches in Hamilton which had a population of 200 people. This Sunday School was first held in a small building on the east edge of Hamilton before moving to the new rock school on College Hill. In 1886 each denomination had enough members for each to form its own Sunday School.

Thomas Hamilton Deen, District Clerk of Hamilton County from 1880 to 1896, arrived in Hamilton County in November, 1876. Deen lived on a farm two miles northwest of Hamilton until 1880 when he moved into town.

John Thomas James, a pharmacist from Missouri came to Hamilton in 1876 and opened the first drug store in Hamilton County with Z. C. Law, a pharmaceutical salesman.

By 1878 Hamilton had a flour and grist mill with an attached cotton gin, six lawyers, three physicians, four dry goods and grocery stores, two drug stores, two blacksmith and wagon shops, one cabinet shop, two hotels, one butcher shop, one restaurant, a livery stable, a stone courthouse, and a jail.

Ralph Piper Edgar came to Hamilton County in time to marry Jane Emily Baker (daughter of William Thatcher Baker) on 22 August, 1883. Edgar was born 29 April, 1856, probably in Missouri. In 1885-1886 Edgar was employed to teach school at Blue Ridge. Professor Edgar’s long career in education included teaching in many schools in the county, as well as his being Hamilton County Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1912 through 1916. Edgar was an elder in Central Christian Church. Ralph P. Edgar died 3 August, 1933.

The family of George and Elizabeth (Beaman) Miller arrived in Hamilton from Caddo Mills in 1885. George, born George Muller in Germany in 1842, purchased property and opened a blacksmith shop on the northeast corner of the square. Miller, an aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant, was in Texas on a mission to determine the source of the supply of horses for the Confederacy when the Civil War ended.

He Left Hamilton in 1884, But Recalls Many Old-Timers Here

Printed in a November, 1951, issue of The Hamilton Herald-News

 

Mrs. Ernest Robert Williams (Simmie Crews Williams) received a letter with an enclosure from her brother, Floyd C. Crews of Washington, D.C. this week. He has lived away from Hamilton since 1884, Mrs. Williams says, but was a newspaper man several years before leaving Texas in 1889 to accept employment in the U. S. Government Printing Office in Washington. He retired in 1932. While in Texas, he was editor and publisher of The Dublin Telephone

Mr. Crews and Mrs. Williams are the son and daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Leonidus Crews (Mrs. Crews was Sarah Helen Coachman before her marriage.), who came from Georgia to Hamilton in 1875 and lived here until their deaths.

Many people here will be interested in the following communication from Mr. Crews:

1514 17th St. N.W.

Washington 6, D.C.,

Apt. 502

Nov. 17, 1951

Dear Editor:

It is said to be a prerogative of the aged to dwell much in meditation and reminiscence on the past. I am 84 ½ years old, and have been blind for nearly 8 years. Does this condition qualify me for the above classification? If so, and you will bear with me, I shall try to entertain or bore your readers with a few of my childhood memories of Hamilton and Hamilton County during the period 1875 to 1884 which dates cover the time of my residence in that town and county.

My parents settled in the then small village of Hamilton in the month of May, 1875, when I was just 8 years old. I left Hamilton permanently in May, 1884, at the age of 17 years.

Some of the names that I remember are Isaac Steen and Thomas Dean, Mrs. Nancy Pierson and her sons, John and Thomas, and her widowed daughter, Mrs. Williams, the mother of Cad, Hal, John Mark, and Hogue. Mrs. Williams soon thereafter married Capt. Watson, a one-armed Confederate veteran from South Carolina. William Sparkman ran a blacksmith shop. John Penny was postmaster and kept that office in a nook of his small general store, and had his brother-in-law, Alec Bottom, as helper. Marion Graves, George Gentry, Squire Shockley, Simpson Loyd, Eli Terry, Capt. Saxon, the Doggett family, Rufus Rice and his brother Joe, Thomas Emmett, W. T. Cropper, Col. Freeman, Mr. Shannon, Ralph Edgar, the Baker family, N. C. Howard, several Carter families, J. O. Clark, Mr. Salter, Tom Neel and his family of several sons, Dr. G. F. Perry and his brother E. A. Perry, four Boynton families (C. M., J. N., H. R., and A. S.) and C. E. Horton. Lawyers of the town whose names I remember, were: Mr. Eidson (whose initials I forget, but who I think came to Texas from South Carolina, C. K. Bell, G. H. Goodson, C. W. Cotton (perhaps others).

Simon Kuykendall, I think was the only veteran of the Texas War of Independence who lived in the town.

Sim Stovall and his brother, Joe, closed their Hamilton store and moved to Hico, when that town secured the railroad which was being extended from Waco to Albany. M. J. Hearne & Co., I think succeeded the Stovalls and John L. Spurlin took over when Mr. Hearne died.

James & Law, a pair of young men from Missouri, opened Hamilton’s first drug store and these young men later married sisters, Misses Bouldin who with their parents came to Hamilton from Belton. Major and Mrs. Bouldin were also parents of Mrs. G. W. Wade, who, with her husband and son, had preceded them in the move from Belton to Hamilton.

Hamilton County had fewer than a thousand population, although its territory was somewhat larger then than now, since a slice was taken from the southern end of the county in the formation of Mills County by the Legislature in the early 1880's.

Waco was the nearest railroad point, and it was the terminus of its one and only rail line, a branch of the H & T. C., which left the main line at Bremond. It was a week’s trip or more for a wagon to make the round trip to Waco and return with freight.

A few county names which stick in my memory are S. D. Felt, Brockman, Capt. Potts and Tom Patterson of Pottsville, Hawley Geralds (Gerrell) and his widowed daughter, Mrs. Helen Stoddard, of Indian Gap. Mrs. Stoddard for a number of years was president of the Texas W. C. T. U. And was a very fine and highly cultured woman.

Jack Durham lived on the Leon a few miles from town, and was reputed to be the wealthiest man in the county.

I should not close these memories without mention of Mr. Tate, who for years operated the mail and passenger hack between Hamilton and Hico after the latter town had become a railroad town. And there was a similar service three times weekly to Gatesville by a Mr. John Pressly.

Floyd C. Crews

The first telephone in the county was installed in either 1890 or 1892 in Hamilton linking the home of M. S. Brunk with his grocery store. Sid Ross installed a telephone switchboard in Hamilton around 1900. In partnership with V. F. Wieser of Hico, the Hico and Hamilton exchanges were connected with company offices in Hico. A long distance line connected the two towns. Will Linton was lineman and Mrs. Carter Walton was the first telephone operator on the Hamilton exchange. D. Adkinson was the messenger boy in Hamilton who notified businessmen when they needed to come to the telephone office to receive long distance calls. The Hamilton and Hico Telegraph Company was organized so that messages received in Hico could be relayed to Hamilton. Mrs. Walton operated both the telephone and the telegraph service in Hamilton. When the telephone company leased services from the Bell telephone system so that long distance services could be extended outside of the county, Bell equipment had to be used on all exchanges and telephones. Mrs. Walton made the installation on telephones in Hamilton.

Alice McGarvey Lemmons, who arrived in Hamilton in September, 1896, was the first woman to hold public office in Hamilton County. She was the County Treasurer from 1916 to 1923. In 1923 she bought The Gift Shop and operated it until shortly before her death in 1959.

Organized 3 March, 1906, with a state bank charter, the second bank in the town of Hamilton was the Hamilton Bank and Trust Company. Officers were: John L. Spurlin, president; C. E. Horton, first vice-president; C. W. Cotton, second vice-president; John Mark Williams, cashier; and J. E. Moore, assistant cashier. This building constructed for this bank on the southwest corner of the square is occupied by David Lengefeld Insurance Agency.

 

Some of the Hamilton County men who volunteered in the Spanish American War in 1898 were: Dr. Thomas E. Boyer, J. T. Dempster, Jack Collier, Lon Dunn, George Shockley, Mark Brunk, George Holladay, and Robert Cox, most of whom spent time in Miami, FL, building sidewalks and fighting mosquitos.

The Stephenville North and South Texas Railway Company was organized and chartered on 4 February, 1907. The first train from Stephenville arrived in Hamilton on 25 December, 1907. This railroad connected Hamilton and Carlton with Stephenville so that Hamilton was no longer dependent on transfer of goods via wagons from Hico and Gatesville. This connected Hamilton to all of the major markets in the United States. The charter of Stephenville North and South Texas Railway was amended in 1910 so that the railroad could be extended from Comanche to Gatesville. Before this extension could be built, the Cotton Belt Railroad arranged to build a line from Gatesville to Comanche. The Cotton Belt Railroad was completed in 1911 connecting Hamilton with Comanche and Gatesville. The first train from Gatesville arrived on 14 February, 1911, and the first train from Hamilton to Comanche ran on 3 September, 1911.

Haskell Harelik arrived in Galveston in 1909 from Minsk, Russia. Leaving Galveston for Dublin where his cousin lived, Haskell had fifteen cents and understood not a word of English. Throughout the area Haskell sold bananas from a cart. Since he could speak German, he chose Hamilton to rent a market stall from Ed Perry. Saving his money he sent for his family and his sweetheart, Miss Paley Mattaley. The banana stall was expanded to a grocery store, then a department store in the middle of the north side of the square. Haskell’s brother, David Harelik had a department store on the south side of the square. The story of Mr. Harelik’s pioneering and persevering spirit has been immortalized in the drama, "The Immigrant, A Hamilton County Album" written by his grandson, Mark Harelik, son of Milton Harelik.

Dr. J. B. Winn was the first citizen of Hamilton to own an automobile a Hayes-Apperson which he purchased from Mr. Nance in Hico. George Carlton opened the Buick agency in Hamilton in 1913, while John L. Spurlin became the Chevrolet dealer and the William Connolly Company sold Fords.

Many young men from Hamilton County volunteered for military service during World War I. They were supported at home by Red Cross Chapters which made bandages, sewed, and knitted for the service men. Citizens purchased Liberty Loan bonds.

Ed A. Perry (brother of Dr. George F. Perry) resigned as cashier of the Hamilton National Bank in 1920 to organize a new bank, the Perry National Bank. Mr. Perry was president of this bank until his death in 1948. G. M. Carlton was vice-president and Joe Cleveland was cashier. Joe Cleveland succeeded Mr. Perry as president. Perry National Bank built a building on the southeast corner of the square. This building is now the offices of the City of Hamilton.

 

In 1971 Tom Joseph purchased controlling interest in the Perry National Bank, and under his leadership the name was changed to First National Bank and was relocated to a new building at 200 South Bell.

 

 

 
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People and Places: Gazetteer of Hamilton County, TX
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Copyright © March, 1998
by Elreeta Crain Weathers, B.A., M.Ed.,  
(also Mrs.,  Mom, and Ph. T.)

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