North Texas

Scranton

Scranton Academy

Traveling from Tennessee in 1875 to seek better lives for their families, David C. Lane and brothers Joseph and Aaron Brown settled in the western part of Eastland County and established the community of Scranton – named after a surveyor employed by the Houston & Texas Central Railroad.  By 1880 the community had enough school-age children to build its own school.  That same year a cotton gin was constructed to help the local farmers prepare their crops for market.  Elisha E. Chunn, recently arrived from Alabama, opened Scranton’s first general store in 1891 – the same year that the town received a post office.

Scranton was prosperous enough after the turn of the 19th Century that the area’s farmers raised money through subscriptions to build a college preparatory school.  In 1903 Alabama educator, Orrin C. Britton helped open the Scranton Academy for high school students on a 12-acre site.  The academy included a two-story main building, separate boys and girls dormitories, a dining hall and athletic fields.  At its peak, the Scranton Academy had a student body of more than 350, with some students traveling from as far away as Fort Worth.  World War I devastated the school when its oldest male students enlisted in the military.  As a result, the school closed in 1917.

Meanwhile, as the town became a regional trade center during the 1910s, a dry goods store, hardware store, and two grocery stores opened in Scranton.  The Scranton Reporter started publication in 1911.  A boll weevil infestation in 1917 crippled the cotton industry, forcing most farmers to switch to peanuts as a cash crop.  Despite discovery of the Ranger oil field in 1917, the cumulative effects of the Great Depression sent most Scranton residents to the cities for jobs.  The population decline continued after World War II, effectively sealing Scranton’s fate.

Scranton School Gymnasium – This concrete-framed stone structure was built during the Depression with funding from the WPA.  Owned by the Scranton School District, it was the center of activity for the community.  The building was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.

Whitewright

Grayson College Chemistry Building

One of the first settlements in Grayson County was established by immigrants from Kentucky around 1850 three miles east of the current town of Whitewright, in the middle of the state’s richest farmland.  Kentucky Town received its official designation when a post office was established in June 1954.  The town – located along stage and freight lines from Shreveport and Jefferson – grew and prospered until the mid-1870s, when the Texas and Pacific Railway bypassed the town.  In the early 1870s, New York investor William Whitewright, Jr. had purchased a large tract of land located in the path the expanding Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.  By 1978, Whitewright’s land had been surveyed as a townsite and his two agents, Tennessean James H. Reeves and Kentuckian James M. Batsell, were selling lots in the new community.  Due to its rail connection, Whitewright attracted settlers and businesses.

Grayson College President’s House

 

By 1888, Whitewright had become an incorporated town and center for cotton production.  The town had a newspaper, a post office, several businesses – mercantile stores, hotels, a bank and cotton gins – a public school and Grayson College.  At the beginning of the 20th century, Whitewright’s population was over 1,800 and continuing to grow.  A branch of the Cotton Belt Railroad from Commerce to Sherman established a station in Whitewright in the 1920s, enhancing its status as a marketing and commercial center for producers of cotton, wheat, and corn.

Kay Kimbell grew up and attended public school in Whitewright, dropping out in the 8th grade to work in a grain mill.  He founded the Beatrice Milling Company in Whitewright in the early 1900s.  The company grew into Kimbell Milling Company, which became the center of a diverse business organization.  When he died, he owned or served as a director of over 70 corporations that included wholesale grocery, insurance, feed and flour mills and a grocery chain.  Kimbell was an avid art collector and established the Kimbell Art Foundation in Fort Worth in 1935.  He left his fortune to the foundation with instructions to build a first-class art museum in Fort Worth.

REFERENCE:  Brian Hart, “WHITEWRIGHT, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjw10), accessed December 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Archer City

Archer City is twenty-five miles southwest of Wichita Falls in the center of Archer County, of which it is the seat.  It was named for Branch Tanner Archer, a leading figure in the Texas Revolution and Republic of Texas.  The county was established and Archer City designated county seat by the state legislature in 1858, but the county was not organized until after the removal of the Kiowas and Comanches from the area. The townsite was originally surveyed in 1876 and was intended to lie on the projected paths of three railroad lines—the Fort Worth and Denver, the Houston and Texas Central, and the Red River and Rio Grande.  A local post office opened in 1878, and in about 1879 C. B. Hutto settled nearby and platted the town; he donated land for a town square, a lot for a county jail, and lots for the construction of Protestant churches.  He also donated a “frameless wooden building” to be used as a county courthouse.

Archer County’s first church, the First Baptist Church, was organized in the town in 1880 with eight members meeting in a building intended as a saloon.  The town soon after voted to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages, so the building continued to serve as a church; from 1881 to 1886 it was the first school building.  In 1884 the estimated population of Archer City was 150, and the principal business was county administration. Cotton was the most important shipped product, although the railroad had not arrived yet.

By 1890 the population was an estimated 250, and a weekly newspaper was being published.  The town now had daily mail and a daily stage to Wichita Falls.  In 1892 the post office name, Archer, was changed to match the town’s name.  An ornate stone courthouse had been built, two more churches had been organized, and a brickyard and a hotel had opened.  By 1900 the town had a bank and three livestock dealers, although cotton remained the staple of outside trade.  The first oil well in the county, twelve miles from town, began producing in March 1912.  Although it never produced great amounts it continued in operation at least into the late 1970s.  By 1914 Archer City had two railroads, the Wichita Falls and Southern and the Southwestern, and the population was estimated at 825.  Archer City was incorporated in 1925 and continued to grow as more oil wells were opened nearby. By late 1926 there were seventeen fields with 411 wells within thirteen miles of Archer City.  The largest field by far was Oldham, with 103 wells. Archer City was also a milling and market point for wheat and other grains and had about seventy businesses, including three banks.

By 1930 the town’s population was 1,512, and the county hospital had been built there.  The county’s fiftieth-anniversary celebration had been held in Archer City the year before, a year early in honor of the opening of the county’s first highway, State Highway 79.  By the 1930s researchers from Harvard University were collecting fossils in Archer County.  Two of the best fossil pits are near Archer City, and from one of these came a fossil that was named Archeria in honor of the county.  Archer City continued growing slowly despite the loss of some businesses during World War II.  The population peaked at 2,025 in 1970; the number of businesses had begun falling off in the 1960s.  In Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show (1966), which derives its setting from Archer City, the closing of the Royal Theater is a major symbol. McMurtry is a native of Archer County.  In 1986 the town had a post office, forty-nine businesses including a bank, and a population of 1,862. By 2000 the population was 1,848 with eighty-six businesses.

REFERENCES: Monte Lewis, “ARCHER CITY, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hja11), accessed July 21, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Greenwood

Greenwood is on Farm Road 1204 fourteen miles northeast of Decatur in Wise County.  It was established when two cowboys camped in the area in the 1870s.  The two men, named Hart and Greenwood, decided to begin a new settlement, and so they gave their names to the area.  The creek, which was near their campsite, became Hart’s Creek, and the town became Greenwood.  Tenvill Cecil built the first cabin, and Wag Wilson built Rock Ranch, a stone house used as a fort in the constant battles between settlers and Indians.  The post office was established in 1877.  In 1884 Greenwood had a population of seventy-five, a steam gristmill, and a cotton gin.  The town served as a post for shipping cotton.  In 1892, when the population was 200, Greenwood built the Greenwood Male and Female Normal College, which lasted until 1908, when the building burned down.  From 1895 to 1920 the Campbell Hotel flourished in Greenwood, as the town became a major trade center for area farmers.  In 1886 a weekly newspaper, the Greenwood Enterprise, began documenting local and state events, and Greenwood had two dry-goods stores, two drugstores, and a blacksmith.  By 1914 Greenwood had a telephone company, a bank, four grocers, three general stores, and two drugstores.  But a series of devastating fires did irreversible damage.  The population fell to 100 by 1925 but then rose again in the 1930s to 314.  During the Great Depression the WPA built a stone school building.  In 1937 the high school was consolidated with that in Slidell.  After World War II small farms disappeared as farming procedures became more mechanized.  In 1962 the Greenwood elementary school was consolidated with the Slidell school.  In 1949 Greenwood had a population of 200.  In 1953 another terrible fire wiped out half of Main Street, and it was not rebuilt.  In the 1970s the economy was dependent on the dairy and beef industry.  In 1972 Greenwood had Baptist, Church of Christ, and Methodist churches, a post office, a fire station, and a Masonic lodge.  The buildings from the old businesses were used to store hay.  From 1974 through 2000 the population was reported as seventy-six.  In 2003 the town had a combined grocery and gas station.

REFERENCES:  Robin Dutton, “GREENWOOD, TX (WISE COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hng33), accessed August 25, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Myra

Myra Store

Myra is twelve miles west of Gainesville in western Cooke County. It was founded in 1887, when the Gainesville, Henrietta and Western Railway constructed a line from Gainesville westward to Henrietta, and was named after the daughter of the railroad superintendent of  construction.  In 1900 the Sears and Bradford Company, which owned land in the area, decided to build a separate town on the south side of the railroad tracks.  George W. Aldridge, the real estate agent for Sears and Bradford, sold town lots and recorded the name of the town as Aldridge in the county deed records.  However, the post office department refused to change the name from Myra, and Aldridge was eliminated as a separate town.  Eventually, the communities became the town of Myra.  In 1898 one of the first oil wells in Cooke County was drilled at the townsite. Interest in Myra grew, and lots sold for as much as $500.  The well was abandoned in 1901, however, when oil and gas production proved unprofitable.  Myra nevertheless continued to grow during the following years.  In 1902 Thad Harrison began a water system and Jack Felty a telephone system.  The latter became the Myra Telephone Company in 1906.  A bank was begun by H. C. Bluhme several years before the First Guaranty State Bank was started in 1910 by T. P. Rosson.  An electric plant was built in 1919 by George Thomas.  James Harrison purchased the plant in 1920 and maintained it until 1927, when Texas Power and Light extended service to Myra. Dr. C. L. Maxwell opened a drugstore in 1903, and in 1914 he established Mercy Hospital.  A decline in population and an exodus of businesses to more profitable towns started when U.S. Highway 82 bypassed Myra in the early 1930s.  In 1964–65 the Myra Independent School closed, and in 1967 the school district was divided among Muenster, Era, and Lindsay.  In 1988 Myra had a population of seventy and six businesses.  It also had a volunteer fire department, a Masonic lodge, and two churches.  In 1980 Myra began an annual spring barbecue dinner for the public as a fund-raiser to benefit the Myra Volunteer Fire Department.  In 1990 the population was still seventy. The population grew to 300 by 2000.

REFERENCES:  Robert Wayne McDaniel, “MYRA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org /handbook/online/articles/hnm77), accessed March 14, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.