Historical Sketch of Forreston [Texas]
By Colonel Bill Cox
May 22, 1926
(With Additional Notes)
Contributed by Jean Caddel
Although small and of comparatively recent origin as a town, Forreston
is distinguished from all other Ellis county communities in two
It was within a mile of the site of the present town where sometime in
the summer of 1843, W. R. Howe and family made the first settlement within
the boundaries of what was to become Ellis county in 1850. The late R. F.
Mayfield stated that Howe, his familhy and one Negro woman crossed the Brazoe
at the Falls near the present town of Marlin in June or Julhy 1843. The Howes'
third child was the first birth in the future count of Ellis.
In 1846, when the county of Navarro was organized, the temporary county
seat was located in the Howe settlement and the cabin of W. R. Howe was the
courthouse. It was under a tree near the Howe home where the first district
court of Navarro convened.
At the time of the organization of Ellis county, the Howe community contained
more population than any other section of the new county. By February 1844,
the settlement was augmented by the coming of Marshall Bartlett, W. J. Stokes,
Mr. Milbrink, C. N. Patrick, Mr. Beasley, J. P. McCauley and a man named
Waddell, all single men, Thos. I Smith and family, John Moore, Dr. Young,
Archibald Greathouse, Mr. Baker and their families. Thomas Smith came in
the fall of 1843. Toward the close of 1845, a company of immigrants from
Arkansas composed of Sidney Pruitt, Daniel Weaver, Robert Parks and families,
P. P. Smith, G. L. Hickman, a blacksmith by the name of Ayers, and C. M.
Winkler, unmarried, settled in the Howe community. Winkler boarded with Thos.
I. Smith and afterward married Mr. Smith's widow. When Corsicana became the
county seat of Navarro county, Mr. Winkler, a lawyer, moved to the new county
seat. He became one of the supreme judges and was the father of Mr. Winkler,
who has been conductor on the passenger train from Ennis to Fort Worth many
John Moore, mentioned above, is the same John Moore mentioned in the Italy
historical sketch. Dr. Young settled at what has been known in recent years
as the George Bullard place and was the father of Bob Young who married Miss
Ann Edmundson, a sister of the late Y. C. (Tobe) Edmundson and Elmore Edmundson,
James H. Young, long since deceased, Mary, who married Henry Haynes, ( father
of Roger Haynes, whose widow lives at Ennis), and Nannie, who married Polk
Hines, and lived about a mile south of Forreston.
About 1848, G. W. Couch and General E. M. Tarrant built a mill on what
is known as Mill Branch, where they sawed lumber and ground grain. In 1849,
Mr. Couch sought the gold fields of California where he died. The children
of Mr. Couch were James who reared a family in the Forreston community but
died many years ago; Georgie, who married Ed Loyd of Italy, and Miss Lizzie.
The Couch family came from Galveston to where they settled near Chambers
Creek. Mrs. Couch was tenderly reared amid refined environments. She was
a flower girl at the coronation of Queen Victoria. Until the family moved
to the future county of Ellis, she had dwelt in cities, having been born
in British Honduras, so for some years it was difficult for her to become
reconciled to pioneer customs.
When Capt. Carr Forrest came to the community in 1855, he purchased lumber
at the old saw mill of Tarrant and Couch for building purposes. After the
lapse of seventy years, some of that lumber is still doing service in tenant
homes of T. C. Forrest.
Archibald Greathouse left the Howe settlement, and settled in Red Oak.
He died and Mrs. Greathouse was twice married, first to Mr. Robinson and
then to Mr. Twyman. She was energetic and spent much of her time on the range,
knowing stock as well as any stockman of her time. Forty years ago there
were few people in the county who did not know something of Mrs. Greathouse
Robinson Twyman, as she was called. W. P. Stokes who was brother-in-law of
W. R. Howe came with his uncle Thos. Smith in 1843. Mr. Stokes was a leader
among men and was once Chief Justice of the county. Guy Stokes, a brother
of J. W.,, came to the Howe colony about the same time. They moved to another
community in the county and reared families. The man Baker above mentioned
is not any further referred to by any historical records the writer has found.
We do not find any further record of Mr. Millbank, Marshall Bartlett, C.
N. Patrick, Mr. Beasley or J. P. McConley. They probably sought their fortunes
in other fields. The man Waddell was drowned in Chambers Creek in 1844. The
writer has failed to find any further record of Robert Parks, P. P. Smith,
G. L. Hickey or D. R. Stephenson. Daniel Weaver settled about five miles
above the E. W. Rogers home in 1847.
In 1846, Gen. E. H. Tarrant, a lawyer with extensive military experience,
in whose honor the county of Tarrant was named, settled on what is known
as the Fort farm on Chambers Creek. General Tarrant was a member of the
legislature from Navarro county and author of the bill creating the county
of Ellis. Gen. Tarrant had no children but reared a niece, who married Wade
Cobb, who settled at the mouth of Houston Creek across Chambers Creek from
the Tarrant home.
After the laying out of the new county seat, Waxahachie, General Tarrant
moved to town and engaged in the practice of law, taking in partnership J.
M. Hawkins, a young lawyer. After the death of Gen. Tarrant, Mr. Hawkins
married his widow and reared a family on Rogers street.
Capt. Thos. Hines settled one and one-half miles southwest of Forreston
in 1853. Capt. Hines was the possessor of slaves, opened a large farm and
erected a brick dwelling, probably the first brick structure in Ellis county.
Capt. Hines was twice married, the offsprings of the first marriage were
John M., Martha H, who married S. S. Yarborough, a Methodist clergyman, and
reared a family two miles south of Waxahachie; Thomas J., who reared a family
one mile north of Boz; Alexander, who reared his family two miles northwest
of Forreston; Eliza, who became the wife of L. S. Nelson and the mother of
the late Mrs. Mollie Hampton of Forreston; Jas. K. P., who died in 1887.
Children of Capt. Hines second marriage were Blanch, who married the late
James Thomson; Nettie, who became the wife of the late Walter Timmins, and
Ernest Hines, deceased.
According to the information conveyed to Mrs. W. J. McDuffie of Waxahachie,
to whom the writer is indebted for much of the Forreston history, there was
a log school house erected near the Couch place in 1847. In addition to the
numerous instances wherein this community was first, it is probable that
this was the first school house in the county. However, there seems to have
been a church organized at Shiloh about the same time. In 1845, Col. Frio
moved to the Howe colony from Frio county. Col. Frio settled on the east
side of the road from where the Forrest store was located and established
a store. Mrs. McDuffie says there was also a blacksmith shop at that point.
James R. Henderson in 1851 with his family left their Mississippi home and
settled near what is now known as Hughes graveyard. The children were Elihu,
who married Matilda Ann Cobb; Mary, who married Jerry Hughes before coming
to Texas; James, who was a member of the Texas Rangers; and who never married
until after the Civil War; Mark, who died a bachelor; Peggy, who was the
mother of the late Sam Tinsley of Italy; Daniel H., who married Miss Lucy
Kellum in Navarro county; and Alexander, father of Mark Henderson, now of
Waxahachie. To Mr. And Mrs. Dannie B. Henderson were born Dannie D. Henderson
were born Mary Catherine, who married John Maggard; Dan Ella, who married
W. J. McDuffie, they have been residents of Waxahachie many years and have
reared a large family; and Sarah Ann, who married George Crabtree.
Jerry Hughes came to the same community about the same time of the Henderson
settlement. Mr. Hughes at one time was superintendent of the Tarrant place.
He had two sons, James and Frank, and a daughter, Amanda, who married George
Smith and who was the mother of Mrs. W. S. McKinnie of Avalon. Frank married
a sister of Joe McClean, a business man of Italy, and reared two daughters,
one of whom married Bob Jennings, a son of probably the first Italy Doctor
and druggist. Frank Hughes has been constable of the Italy precinct for more
than thirty years. James married but the writer never knew any of his family
except a son, James, who moved west many years ago.
In 1855, Capt. Carr Forrest came to Texas locating near Forreston. At
first he engaged in the sheep business, which proving unprofitable, he soon
sold out and engaged in farming and selling merchandise at Forrest' Store.
He became postmaster of Chambers Creek where he continued with the exception
of the period of the Civil War until the M. K. T. Railway established a station
at the site of the present town of Forreston, the town being on Capt. Forrest's
land. Capt. Forrest was a Captain in the Confederate army. He was a true
type of the southern gentleman and bore himself with military precision.
Captain Forrest married Mess Virginia Sims, a daughter of John D. Sims, a
pioneer of the Italy country. To them were born Alice, Lee V., wife of George
S. Patterson, and Thomas C., a respected citizen of Waxahachie.
. With Captain Forrest came his mother, Susan Forrest, who lived to a
ripe old age; Matilda P. Lane, a widowed sister, who afterward married F.
Van Leer. Mrs. Van Leer had one daughter, who married Dr. Ferniss, and after
his death married J. C. Fort and became the mother of Earl Fort, to whose
estate belongs the 1,400 acres known as the Fort Farm, the original General
Tarrant home. Dr. Ferniss and Captain Pannell came to the community about
1862, bringing with them one hundred and fifty Negroes. The Chambers Creek
postoffice was named for the creek of that name, which ran nearby. The creek
was named in honor of P. J. Chambers, a noted Texas pioneer. April 26, 1865,
the Chambers Creek C(umberland). P(resbyterian) Church was organized at the
old school house.
The roll of members follows:
Appleton Lane, Matilda Ann Henderson, Susan Forrest, Eliza Cobb, Mary
C. Cobb, Amanda Hughes, Elizabeth Couch, Mary V. Frio, Desirie Malone, Mary
Moore, Matilda Lane, Annetta Young, Georgie Ann Couch, Elizabeth Young, Louisa
Lilly, John Moore, Jefferson M. Cobb, Lucy Henderson, Henderson M. Cobb,
and Daniel H. Henderson.
It would be interesting to publish the names of the pastors down to the
present, but some good things must be left out or these sketches will be
too long and tedious. In addition to the first settler, being the first county
seat of Navarro, having the first brick house in the county and probably
the first school house, Forreston had the only case of Yellow fever known
to the writer in the county. In the year 1858, some of the Haynes children
were at Calvert when the yellow fever was raging there. Dr. De Bartaleaben
volunteered to bring them home. After returning home, the Dr. Contracted
the disease and did not survive. It would not be doing justice to the subject
were these historical sketches to close without the mention of the oldest
native of the Forreston country. In 1852, or 53, there was born to
a slave mother in the quarters of General Tarrant a boy child. In his childhood
days he was a waiting boy for the General and has been a citizen of the community
most of his life. It is said that he and Frank Hughes are the only ones who
can point out the spot where repose the bones of General Tarrant. The party
referred to is George Hawkins, a man respected by both white and colored
because of his life of strict integrity. It is said that the late Earl Fort
provided in his will that George Hawkins should have a home on the Fort estate
during life. In the year 1890, the M. K. & T. Railway began the operation
of trains through Ellis county. One mile north of the Forrest's store and
on the Forrest land a station was built and the town of Forreston was born.
During the past thirty five years, the town has grown until it contains a
population of three or four hundred human souls. Forreston is located ten
miles south of Waxahachie and about six miles north of Italy.
Forreston is surrounded by a rich black soil and a crop failure is unknown.
Some of the early business men of the place were Jeff Phelps, Ira Phelps,
Carr Forrest and son, D. H. Newton, drug store and lumber; Albert Huguelet
associated with I. W. Phelps in general merchandise; Mr. Matthews, father
of Stanley Matthews, dry goods; Render and Gentry, general merchandise; Nestor
B. Newton, who succeeded his father, D. H. Newton, as druggist; W. H. Saunders,
druggist; Dr. Z. N. Thornton, still in the practice; Mr. Teague, grocer.
These business men are named from memory and doubtless some have been over
looked. The present business enterprises are conducted by a live energetic
set of men, all of whom have the name of being fair dealers.
W. C. Harwell has been a resident of the community thirty-six years and
has conducted a black-smithing business twenty-six years. In addition to
his shop, Mr. Harwell is owner and manager of the water system. He is a native
of Giles County, Tenn., is married and has reared several children.
Ira W. Phelps, one of the early day Forreston merchants, retired several
years, but began business again about 18 months ago and he and Mrs. Phelps
are usually at their general merchandise store. Mr. Phelps also came from
Giles County, Tenn., but has been a resident of Ellis County since 1878.
Mrs. Phelps is a native of the Mertens community.
Owen and Bilbry are engaged in the sale of general merchandise. J. F.
Owen came from Collin county ten years ago and had been selling merchandise
since settling at Forreston. A few years ago T. W. Bilbry, who is a native
of Tennessee, reared near Avalon, joined with Mr. Owen and they have been
pulling together since.
B. C. Henderson is a native of Cass county who came here twenty-five years
ago and has been a dealer in dry goods and groceries ten years. Mr. Henderson
was recently appointed post master of Forreston. Mrs. Henderson is his assistant
in the store.
W. L. Burton, a native of Kansas, has been a resident of Ellis county
thirty years: he was a tiller of the soil until five years ago when he engaged
in the grocery business at Forreston. Mrs. Mollie Burton, wife of W. L. Burton,
assists him at the store. She is a native of Fannin county, Texas. This couple
have reared four boys and three girls, all of whom have left the shelter
of the parents roof.
G. W. Watson, son of Mr. And Mrs. G. L. Watson, aged thirty one years,
conducts a market business. Roy Raines, an Ellis county native, has been
doing a general merchandise business several years, during a good part of
which time he was postmaster. Mr. Raines retired a few days since. J. L.
Erwin, who was reared near Milford, has been selling confections several
years, and in addition thereto, serves meals and lunches. Dee Shytles, an
Ellis county boy, and Will C. Worley, a Giles county boy, largely reared
in Ellis county, have recently opened a drug store at Forreston.
About seven months ago Stewart Shirley came from Tioga, Texas, and engaged
in the business of barbering. James Martin came from Italy three years ago
and is a barber.
A few years ago D. H. Newton retired from the lumber business, selling
to Irby and Campbell. When these gentlemen bought the yard they moved it
and built ample shelter. Mr. Irby manages the business and must be busy for
he is seldom seen on the street.
Forreston has three church buildings - the Methodist, Baptist and Cumberland
Presbyterian, all in good repair and presumably well attended. There are
two cotton gins - the Farmers Gin, superintended by J. H. Godfrey, and the
Forreston Gin, managed by a son of T. C. Forrest of Waxahachie. These gins
are equipped with all the modern appliances and are amply able to care for
a large cotton crop, which all are hoping for the present year. The M.K.T.
Railway operates trains through the place, but the writer has forgotten the
name of the agent. The Dallas-Waco branch of the Texas Electric Railway runs
cars hourly each way during the day and to near midnight. Mr. Huckabee presides
over the ticket window and receives and delivers express. He is always ready
While not pioneers, the following old settlers deserve mention: Y. C.
(Tobe) Edmondson, lately deceased. Came here soon after the Civil war from
Tennessee, married a daughter of G. H. Cunningham and reared a family. His
home was two miles northwest of Forreston. Thos. Johnston came to the community
with his family more than forty years ago. His sons, James, John, Will, Al
and Chester have assisted in building up the country. They came from Kentucky.
Chester, one of the sons, is the present mayor of Waxahachie. The Johnston
home is one mile north of Forreston. J. W. Lumpkins came here about fifty
years ago and has always been identified with the country's progress. He
is the father of Jack Lumpkins, ex-county Judge. Mr. Neron was another one
of the old citizens who lived near Forreston. Raleigh Sims, a pioneer citizen
of Ellis county, settled near Forreston more than forty years ago. J. W.
McKby?, another good citizen from Missouri, reared his family two miles northeast
of Forreston. His widow lives at the old homestead. Jake Brandon for many
years live on his farm on Dry Branch; he now lives at Forreston. George W.
Martin lately deceased, was another who came too late to be a pioneer, but
lived many years one mile southeast of Forreston. N. C. Phariss lived many
years on Dry Branch and his son Will was one of the early Forreston
J. W. Jones lived two miles north of Forreston many years and passed away
a few years ago. B. B. West was also an early settler, one and one half miles
north of Forreston; he now resides at Nash. Elmore Edmondson is bachelor
brother of Y. C. Edmondson and has been a citizen of Forreston many years.
His nickname is Spread. Another old Forreston resident is J. W. Appling,
The Forreston State Bank was first established about eighteen years ago,
as a private bank. J. H. Hamlin was president and C ? Johnson was cashier.
Later it was converted into a State bank with J. H. Hamlin as president;
he holds that position yet. J. E. Cooper, for years cashier of the Forreston
Bank, came to Forreston more than 20 years ago as station agent. The telegraphers
of the Katy system went out on a strike; Mr. Cooper went out with them; stayed
out, married Miss Kuykendall, a daughter of Mrs. J. H. Hamlin and has been
intimately identified with the business interests of the place since.
Other notes by Allie Roberson , 1972 -
Early Postmasters of Chambers Creek and Forreston: James M. Lewis, February
17, 1850; Carr Forrest, November 18, 1851; Archibald McCulloch, December
21, 1852; Henry Tremble, February 18, 1854; James Lewis, February 17, 1855;
Charles W. Macklin, May 4, 1866; William R. Carr, June 29, 1866; George R.
Randall, March 12, 1867; Christopher C. Norman, March 6, 1871; Fletcher E.
B. Stevenson, January 20, 1872; James T. Young, June 11, 1873; Carr Forrest,
February 18, 1879.
Name changed to Forreston March 28, 1891: Carr Forrest, March 28, 1891;
Theory A. Hawes, April 11, 1898; Joe H. Godfrey, December 3, 1903; Wm. G.
Gardner, December 24, 1908; Melvin E. Burton, September 20, 1913; Benjamin
F. Dorsey, September 16, 1916; Roy Raines, March 25, 1920; John T. Tome,
July 21, 1923; Benj. C. Henderson, January 12, 1926. - (U.S. Postal Service,
Washington, D. C.)
The Handbook of Texas Online
By 1904, Forreston had well over 200 residents. The population peaked
at a reported high of 350 by the mid 1940's. Later it declined and only claimed
300 in 1986, when Forreston supported eleven businesses. In 1990, the population
was still reported as 300.
(Note: At present there are few businesses left but there is still a small
community. The Katy Depot has been moved and converted into a residence.)
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