Marking Hallowed Ground

Steeped in history, Bosque County serves as home to over 50 official state historical markers, 38 listings on the National Register of Historical Places

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

GEORGE SANTAYANA – Spanish Philosopher (1863-1952)

History helps us understand change and how society became what we know it to be today. But unfortunately, history usually only reflects the perspective of those writing it. And despite the proud legacy of the Lone Star State, historical monuments and landmarks in Texas often seem to represent only one side of the story.

But Texans have never fallen short in their efforts to tell that story. Historical markers all over Texas tell of pioneer families and Indian raids, of early commercial ventures and important buildings, of abandoned settlements and country churches—an endless collection of detail, even if it only yields a hint of the rich fabric of Texas history.

The State of Texas first commemorated a historical site in 1856 by contributing to marking graves at the San Jacinto battleground. From this modest beginning, the most ambitious program to mark historic sites across the state came in the middle of the Great Depression. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission placed more than 1,100 markers and monuments around the state to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Texas Revolution and the establishment of the Republic of Texas.

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The Texas State Historical Survey Committee , which would later become the Texas Historical Commission, was created in 1953. In the 1950s and 1960s, the committee placed pink granite monuments and grave markers across Texas, many of which commemorated the centennial of the Civil War.

The current Official Texas Historical Marker program dates to 1962, and it has been a popular means for interpreting local and state history while encouraging heritage tourism for more than four decades. With more than 16,000 state historical markers across Texas, historical markers commemorate diverse topics — from the history and architecture of houses, commercial and public buildings, religious congregations and events that changed the course of local and state history, to individuals who have made lasting contributions to our state, community organizations and businesses, military sites, and many more.

Subject markers are solely educational and reveal aspects of local history that are important to a community or region. A subject marker is placed at a site that has a historical association with the topic, but no restriction is placed on the use of the property or site. No legal designation is required for a subject marker.

Steeped in history, Bosque County proudly serves as home to over 50 official state historical markers – most recently adding markers at the Womack White Cemetery near Morgan, the Seventh Adventist Church in Norse and the Fairview Baptist Church near Valley Mills. Besides the historical markers, Bosque County also has 38 listings in the National Register of Historical Places, mainly of homesteads and city buildings.

Let’s take a virtual trip around Bosque County, stopping for a look at some of the most notable markers.

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BOSQUE COUNTY

The county has its own marker and is named for the Bosque (Spanish for "Woods") River. The territory now part of this county was traversed in 1841 by the Texan-Santa Fe Expedition. Maj. George B. Erath, noted surveyor and soldier, explored the region prior to its settlement.

The first colonists established homes in 1850-51. Among the national groups who immigrated here were the English (at Kent), Norwegians (at Norse and elsewhere), and the Germans (in eastern part of county). Formally created and organized in 1854, Bosque County has traditionally had farming-ranching economy. The Chisholm cattle trail crossed the area in the 1870s.

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CLIFTON

The Clifton Whipple Truss Bridge: Built in 1884 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, at a cost of $6,465, this bridge spans 150 feet across the North Bosque River. This type of bridge, called a Whipple truss, was named for its designer. One of the few remaining Whipple truss bridges in the state, it opened up travel routes from the south and west to the north and east.

Withstanding many floods, the bridge provided an important transportation connection for Bosque County residents from 1884 to 1941 when traffic was routed west of the Bosque River to the newly constructed Highway 6.

The Election Oak: One of three polling places in first election held after Bosque County was organized in 1854. Of 21 votes cast on that occasion (August 7, 1854) in county, 17 were polled under this tree. J. K. Helton was election judge. Officials elected were: L. H. Scrutchfield, judge; P. Bryant, sheriff; Jasper N. Mabray, clerk; Isaac Gary, assessor-collector; Archibald Kell, treasurer.

In later years, Bosque County Old Settlers Association used this site for reunions, by the courtesy of Tom M. Pool, owner of the land. The site is known locally as Pool Park.

Olsen Farm: After the Joseph Olson family immigrated to the United States from Norway in 1858, they lived first in the homes of Norwegian immigrants in the Norse community. In 1866, Olson (1811-1894) built a log cabin for his family on part of his original seven-acre farm. The cabin served as the family's primary residence until 1872, when a larger stone house was constructed.

The log cabin remained on the Olson farm and in the possession of the Olson family until the 1970s. It was moved to the Bosque Museum site and reconstructed in 1985 as a reminder of the Norwegian heritage in the area.

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The Scrutchfield Cemetery: Deeded to Bosque County for public burials by Lowry Hampton Scrutchfield in 1883. Family records indicate that Minnie, the infant daughter of Daniel and Carolyn Mabray Henderson, was the first to be buried on this site. The earliest legible tombstone is that of six-month-old Alpheus C. Potts, who was born and died in 1885.

Lowry H. Scrutchfield (1824-1900), his wife Nancy Proffit Scrutchfield (1835-1903) and his mother Nancy Pool Scrutchfield Roberts (1800-1839) are all interred here. The graves of Nancy Scrutchfield Roberts and A. J. Lewis, another early settler, were re-interred here in the late 20th century. More than 50 identifiable graves, marked and unmarked, grace the cemetery.

CRANFILLS GAP

Bertelsen House: The stone portion of this house was erected in the 1880s for Norwegian settler Andres Johnson. Bertel and Christena Bertelsen bought the property in 1894 and enlarged the stone portion. They built a frame addition about 1910 for their large family of 18 children. Ownership of the home remained with the Bertelsen family until 1977. It is now a private residence.

St. Olaf Lutheran Congregation -- The Rock Church: Built in 1886 of native stone by architect Andrew Mickelson and his brothers, Christian and Ole Mickelson. It originally had a dirt floor and planks laid on wooden kegs for pews. The bell was acquired in 1897. The church served the Norwegian settlers of this area, who were members of Our Savior's Lutheran Church of Norse (6 miles east).

In 1902, the growth of the community necessitated separation from the Norse church, and the St. Olaf congregation was organized. A new edifice was erected in Cranfills Gap (4 miles west) in 1917, and this church has since been used only for special services. Incise on back: In Memory of Otto H. Reesing 1890-1974.

IREDELL

Riverside Cemetery: According to local oral tradition, land for Riverside Cemetery and the adjacent church was donated by the family of Ward Keeler, a New York native who came to Bosque County about 1870 and founded the town of Iredell. The oldest documented grave here is that of James W. P. Ware, who died in November 1870.

The primary burial ground for Iredell citizens for generations, Riverside Cemetery contains more than one thousand interments, both marked and unmarked. Its varied styles of gravestones stand as a reminder of the community's pioneer heritage.

LAKESIDE VILLAGE

Cedron Cemetery and School Settlement: Located in northeastern Bosque County, the settlement began in the 1850s as people traveling west through the area were attracted to the fertile lands along Cedron Creek. Among the first community projects of the new neighbors was the construction of a school building.

A one-room cedar structure, it was also used for church and social gatherings. The original schoolhouse was replaced in the 1930s by a newer frame structure. Like its predecessor, it also served as a church and community center. The school was consolidated with other area schools in 1938, and the building later was dismantled.

A community cemetery (about one-half miles west) was established on land adjacent to the school building. Although there may have been earlier, undocumented burials, the oldest marked grave is that of school teacher J. T. Hungerford (1844-1880), the apparent victim of tuberculosis. A few days after Hungerford's death, another community resident, Susan J. Arnold (1845-1880) was also buried in the graveyard.

Since that time many area citizens have been interred there. Few residents remain in the Cedron vicinity. The cemetery and school building foundation are the last visible reminders of a once-thriving rural community.

Smith Bend-Coon Creek Cemetery: John Jackson Smith (1799-1867) and his wife Margaret (1802-1881) migrated here from Mississippi in the 1850's and founded Smith Bend Community. They gave land for the Smith Bend-Coon Creek Cemetery after the death of their son Burton (1832-1856). The Smith's daughter Ann and her husband Silas McCabe started the nearby settlement of Coon Creek. Residents of the two communities, descendants, and friends help maintain the burial ground.

Enlarged by later land donations, the site contains over 500 graves. (1978) Incise on back: Marker Sponsors: Mmes. Marshall V. Bonds, Lois Smith Hill, Camille Smith Womack.

MERIDIAN

Bosque County Courthouse: Built in 1886, the limestone for the gothically-styled courthouse was quarried from nearby hills. The unique iron stairs and railing remain.

Boyhood home of John A. Lomax: Only a log kitchen now marks the homesite of John Lomax, one of the foremost collectors of American folksongs. Here, on part of the Chisholm Trail, young Lomax heard cowboys crooning and yodeling to restless herds; Negro servants taught him jig tunes, chants, work songs, and calls; and on winter nights his family sang songs and swapped stories around a blazing fire.

Lomax began to write down this music while still a boy; and when he left Bosque County at age 20, he carried with him a roll of cowboy ballads -- the nucleus of his lifelong work.

Lumpkin-Woodruff House: South Carolina native James J. Lumpkin (b. 1852) settled in Meridian in 1878. He established a medical practice and pharmacy, and was a prominent landowner. He married Ida Etoile (Fuller) (d. 1954), daughter of Moses W. Fuller (1830-1868), a successful Meridian businessman, and they became civic leaders and benefactors of the town.

The Lumpkin's home, the Lumpkin-Woodruff  House was built in 1898, and was a center of social life and activities. After their deaths, Frank Woodruff, Mrs. Lumpkin's cousin, owned the residence. The octagonal corner tower reflects the original Eastlake style of the structure.

Martha Mabray Randal (1852-1935) was the child of J. N. Mabray, one of organizers and first clerk of Bosque County. Married Thos. J. Randal; had 11 children.

Spring Creek Cemetery: As settlement along Spring Creek increased after the end of the Civil War, land in this area was set aside for a missionary Baptist church, a school, and the Spring Creek cemetery. According to local tradition, the first burial was that of a horse thief hanged in the vicinity.

The earliest marked tombstone, however, is that of two-year-old Will Bullard who died in 1881. In its role as a reflection of the area's heritage, Spring Creek Cemetery is the burial site of many early settlers, war veterans, schoolteachers, and church members.

Chisholm Trail, Kimball Crossing

MORGAN

Chisholm Trail – Kimball Crossing: Kimball, one of the first towns in Bosque County; was established at this site in the early 1850s. One of the westward wagon routes forded the river at this crossing until a ferry was built in 1865. The famous Chisholm Trail made its major crossing of the Brazos here.

During the 1870s, tens of thousands of Texas longhorn cattle forded the river and were driven to northern markets. Building of barbed wire fences and railroads in the 1880s caused abandonment of the Chisholm Trail. Kimball, with no railroad and loss of the cattle trail, became a ghost town by the middle 1900s.

Union Hill School: Started before 1879, the Union Hill School was one of several rural schools that served the early settlers of Bosque County. A two-room 1888 schoolhouse, located across the road, was used until 1914, when a two-story building was constructed at this site. A nearby stable housed the student's horses during the school day.

Enlarged by the 1926 merger with the Auburn Hill District, Union Hill became part of the Kopperl District in 1939. Former students, which include many area business, professional, and agricultural leaders, still meet for a biennial school reunion.

NORSE

Norwegian Settlements in Bosque County: Though never as numerous as some national groups emigrating from Europe, Norwegians left an imprint of rural life in Texas. Hundreds sailed to the United States beginning in the 1830's. For those who settled in Texas, Bosque County had great appeal, because with its woods, hills, and steep, sloping streams, it resembled parts of Norway.

In 1854, Ole Canuteson started here what became Texas' largest Norse settlement. Until past the turn of the century, the Gary Creek valley settlers spoke mainly Norwegian and retained many customs of their homeland.

Our Savior's Lutheran Church: The Mother church, former Evangelical Lutheran Church in Texas. It was organized June 14, 1869 by Norwegian settlers of Bosque County. Building erected 1875-1885. Cleng Peerson, pioneer of Norwegian emigration to U.S. (landed 1821) is buried here. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1965.

Supplemental plate: Centennial 1869-1969. Church built by Norwegian pioneers, 1875; contractor Gunerius Shefstad. Dedicated in 1885; enlarged, veneered with brick in 1907; veneer work redone, 1956; memorial windows given in 1958.

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Cleng Peerson, (May 17, 1782-Dec. 16, 1865): Called the "Father of Norwegian Immigration to America", Peerson migrated to the United States from his native Norway in 1821. He traveled extensively and encouraged his countrymen to settle on land he selected in the east and midwest.

Coming to Texas in 1849, Peerson discovered Norwegian families living near Dallas and located sites where others might move. In 1853, he led a group to Bosque County, beginning the large Norwegian settlement in this area. Peerson lived on the O. Colwick farm his death. He is buried in the church cemetery at Norse.

VALLEY MILLS

Original Site of Valley Mills: A. H. Steagall and Dr. E. P. Booth purchased 300 acres of land on the north side of the Bosque River in 1868. They mapped out and platted a town site, which they named Valley Mills.

As settlers began arriving in the area, the first homes were built of logs. Soon, however, with products provided by a local sawmill, many more homes were constructed of sawn lumber. In addition to the sawmill, flour and grist mills were also built in the valley. Cotton gins were soon built, as well, to process hundreds of bales from neighboring farms.

A United States Post Office was established in Valley Mills in 1867, with Moses Isenhower serving as first postmaster. Experiencing steady growth, the town at its peak boasted homes, general stores, a drugstore, blacksmith shop, boardinghouse, and stagecoach stop.

In 1881, the Santa Fe Railroad line was built through the area, but the tracks were laid on the south side of the river about one mile from the original town site. Soon thereafter, the residents of Valley Mills moved their town to be closer to the rail line. By 1900, the original site of Valley Mills had become a ghost town.

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Valley Mills Sante Fe Railroad Depot: A standard No. 9 combination freight-passenger depot, built in 1910 on Temple-Cleburne line of Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway. It was a local social center, especially at train time, when in pre-radio and TV era the conductor brought late news or traveling political candidates wooed votes.

Highway travel and instant communication robbed depot of its business and glamour. Phased out in 1966, it was relocated here as museum in 1969.

Tennessee native Roden Taylor Crain (April 29, 1819-July 20, 1891): A member of Capt. William Kimbro's Company of San Augustine County volunteers, was a soldier in the struggle for Texas Independence from Mexico. He fought at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, and later received a land grant and pension for his service.

Crain settled on his land in present Bosque County, where he lived the rest of his life. He drowned in the Bosque River and was buried here in 1891.

Gary Cemetery: South Carolina natives William and Rutha Gary migrated west with their family, and by 1852 settled in this area, then part of McLennan County. In 1854, when Bosque County was formed, William Gary was chosen as one of five county commissioners. Five Gary family members were among the voters in the first county election.

William Gary died in 1855, followed by Rutha in 1868. Their graves formed the nucleus of this cemetery that grew slowly over the next sixty years. About 35 graves are marked; 25 more stones are not inscribed. The last burial occurred in 1932.

Jens Jenson Homestead (1835-1912): Jens Jenson came to this county with his Norwegian parents and their family in 1854. Later, he was a sailor berthed in Galveston for some years; he also served in the Confederate Army in the Civil War (1861-65).

After Jenson bought part of his parents' land in 1867, he built one stone room of this house and married Sarah Swenson in 1868. As his family grew to 11 children, he added rooms, three of stone, two of wood.

After his death, a son, Palmer, bought the place. In 1958 grandson Arden Jenson purchased the land. He lives in the house, farming the ancestral acres.

Pioneer John Odle (1824-1913): A native of Tennessee, Odle moved to Texas in 1843, one year after his marriage to Lucinda Reeder (d. 1890). They came to this area in 1856 and built the Odle Log Cabin of oak logs about 1860. They occupied this structure until Odle could erect a more substantial rock house for their family of 13 children.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Odle served in a frontier ranger company and fought in the Battle of Dove Creek, January 8, 1865, against Kickapoo Indians.

Pool-Tibbs House: S. A. Pool built the residence, a store, and a cotton gin on the river bank in 1870, when the town of Valley Mills stood on the north side of the Bosque. The building stone came from nearby Fitzhugh Hill.

Robert A. Tibbs, a Mississippi Civil War veteran, bought the house in 1891. After acquiring it in 1926, Anselm Tibbs (1886-1967) removed the original Greek revival portico and made other changes. The town of Valley Mills moved south of the river when the Santa Fe Railroad was built. As a consequence, this is the oldest house in the present, or "new" town.

Poston-Odle Cemetery: One of the earliest settlements in this area was established in the 1850s along Hog Creek. A rock building used for a school and church was erected, and the area became known as Rock Church on Hog Creek. The family of John Odle settled here following the Civil War.

Land for Poston-Odle Cemetery was set aside by Odle following the death of his sister, Mary Odle Poston, in 1875. Those buried here include members of the Odle, Poston, Cutbirth, Pool, Cureton, Adams, Hord, Callan, Hoffman, and Le Fever families. The cemetery gates were built from the stones of the Old Rock Church.

The Rev. James B. Sadler (1828-1911): A self-educated former slave, Sadler started Rock Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church black congregation in 1870 and helped establish a separate black Presbytery in 1876. Worship services were held in a nearby brush arbor or in homes until the present structure was erected in 1890.

This building also housed a community school for a time. The Rev. Sadler and his wife, Susan, owned the property until 1909. It was then deeded to church officers, who maintain the church and adjacent cemetery today. The congregation's annual homecoming is held in November.

Lowry Hampton Scrutchfield (June 11, 1824 - November 2, 1900): Scrutchfield was born in Nacogdoches in 1824 to Fleming and Nancy Pool Scrutchfield, Scrutchfield moved to Nashville on the Brazos with his widowed mother about 1834.

In 1845, he met George B. Erath, who taught him land surveying and introduced him to local Indian tribes. Scrutchfield assisted Erath and John McLennan in surveying Waco Village in 1849. He married Nancy Proffit in 1851; they settled on the John C. Pool survey.

Scrutchfield emerged as leader of the small band of pioneers who settled and organized Bosque County. He was elected the new county's first chief justice (county judge) in 1854.

WALNUT SPRINGS

James Buckner "Buck" Barry, C.S.A.(1821-1906): Barry left personal records of his years in frontier defenses. Buckner is buried in Bosque County between Walnut Springs and Iredell.

Captain J. J. Cureton, C.S.A. (1826-1881): Indian fighter, lawman and rancher, Cureton served as Sheriff of Bosque County from 1876-80. He is buried on Flat Top Ranch near Walnut Springs.

He settled on the Palo Pinto County frontier, 1854. Led neighbors in defending homes during Indian raids.

In 1860, Cureton helped rescue Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been taken 24 years before by Comanche. Captain in frontier troops during Civil War, defending northwest Texas from Indians and northern invasion. Camp Cureton, Archer County C.S.A. outpost, was named for him.


While those listed only represent a fraction sprinkled across the Heart of Texas, the vast majority of the historical markers focus on national themes like pilgrims, settlers and brave soldiers on a local level, pointing out important events or notable residents to travelers as they wind their way to their destinations.

Although they may only provide a one-dimensional view of our past, historical markers not only honor our past, but they remind us of where we have come from and encourage us to learn from they legacies they provide.

The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT – 26th President of the United States of America (1858-1919)

Site of Caney Post Office

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS & TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION

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