Historical Sketch of Forreston

Ellis County TXGenWeb Banner

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 particulars.

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 years.

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 for business.

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 merchants.

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, another bachelor.

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.)


Copyright © 2005-2017, Ellis County TXGenWeb. All Rights Reserved.


This page was last modified: Monday, 10-Sep-2018 10:23:33 MDT