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From the historical files of June E. Tuck, who does not validate or dispute any historical facts in the article.
Early History of Nelta, By Eli Hargrave - 1938
When Nelta community was first inhabited by white people, it was not Nelta, but was known as Pleasant Hill, and bore that name for almost 40 years before the name Nelta was applied.
The first settler in these parts was William Hargrave and family from Indiana, coming to Texas in December 1842, with his brother Perry Hargrave. In February 1843, James and Eldred Glen Hargrave, two other brothers, made their advent into this unsettled country and made settlement in what became the Pleasant Hill community. In March 1843, Eldridge Hopkins and Brade Hudson came to this neighborhood from Red River County, though we have no knowledge of where they made their homes.
Gilbert Clark, a Presbyterian preacher, native of Kentucky, came here from Red River County during this same year, and his son, Thomas Car, married a daughter, Barilla, of William Hargrave, October 16, 1843, this being the first wedding in the neighborhood. Perry Hargrave, brother of the bride-to-be, went with Clark on horses back to Paris for the license and they had to swim Sulphur River on the way. Abner McKinzie, J. P. at Clarksville, came on horse back to perform the marriage ceremony.
The first death was William Wallace Hargrave, 5, son of William Hargrave and Wife, Lettie, August 26, 1843, and was the first person buried at what became the McFall graveyard.
The Neely family came here from Indiana in about 1845. They were Greenlief, Matthew and a sister, Harriet, wife of Daniel Hudson. Not related to Brade Hudson. Then the Conners came in 1848, though none by that name made homes in this community. But a daughter of Ishmael and sister to Abe, Henry and William Conner, came with her family and husband, Julius McFall, and made their home here the remainder of their lives. The above named families became the base of the population of this Pleasant Hill community. From the Hudson, Neely and McFall families came the Tuckers, Wash White, Bradley Merchant, Joe A. Shrode and James Davis families.
Hugh Barclay, father of Andy and Henry Barclay, made a settlement where Elzy Hargrave now lives in 1845 after his landing here from Missouri. It was on the west side of his farm, on Goonan branch, the first log school house was built in the late 1840's. In 1855, Enoch Chapman taught school at this place and Johnnie Hargrave was one of his pupils. My father, Lee Hargrave, attended his only term of school, three months, at this place. The first schools were by subscription.
The next school house was the log structure, one room, with a big fire place and stood some two hundred yards northwest from Nelta cemetery. Some of the boys and girls of that day well remember this hallowed spot as the place where there were no churches at this time, so the school house was used for church services as well as all other public gatherings.
I think about 1878, a plank building was erected near the southeast corner of the present cemetery lot. Joe A. Shrode was the chief carpenter and also the builder of the benches and desks for the accommodation of the children. We had no money to buy wood so the neighbors would haul a load occasionally, and then the boys would get to go out and chop it up. This building was used for a long period, till the two-story structure of today graced the top of old Pleasant Hill.
Ben S. Leewright and Ford France of Indiana, Levi S. Midgett and Frank Pierce of Kentucky were other early settlers in this community and many more that we do not have space to mention, figured in the development of this commonwealth. Henry T. Barclay, one of the noblest sons of any community, was the first blacksmith, with Lee Hargrave soon to follow. Uncle Henry located north of Nelta where his double lot house was built by Enoch Chapman in 1852, and the last walls of this structure were taken down a few years ago. The writer had heard him say that often he had stepped into his front yard with his rifle and killed a deer. At this time this country was a paradise of wild game. Henry Barclay married Serelda Hargrave in 1853. Ben S. Leewright married her sister, Clara, and three of the Clark children married Hargraves all of the same family, and Jake Hudson married a granddaughter of the same family. Now you see, we are all kinfolks and you dare not talk about anybody.
Some early settlers were Mr. Cotton, Enoch Chapman, Jim Taylor, Jesse Green, and Mr. Slaughter. Some early preachers: Mr. Bishop, Mr. Cotton, Gilbert Clark, Mack Neely and W. A. Shook.
The first store house, of which we have any knowledge, was built just across the road north from where George Ward now lives, then the home of Mr. Lee Cargile. This store was operated by Doc Cargile, cousin to Lee Cargile and father to Tommy Cargile of Birthright. Well does the writer remember when his first pair of red-topped, brass-toed boots was purchased at this store.
In 1882 a post office was secured for this place with V. Roberson as its post master. This post office must have a name, and I am told that William Kyle suggested the name Nelta, as he had once had a sweetheart by that name.
Up to this time we had gone to Sulphur Bluff for our mail and either to Birthright, Smith Mill (Dike) or Sulphur Bluff to get our corn. ground. When this post office was established it was housed in a small building which stood by the road and on the home site of V. Roberson where he had purchased from old Dr. Harrington. It is now the home of John P. Hargrave. Mr. Roberson also operated a community store in this building in connection with the post office for a few years when the business was sold to J. W. Davis and moved east to another building where Thad Stephens had operated a store of merchandise. I think Mr. Davis succeeded Mr. Roberson as postmaster and served in that capacity until we had the R.F.D. system. Mr. Davis continued in business in this building, near where the Methodist Church now stands, for a number of years when he moved to the present location where he continued to serve his neighbors and friends as a splendid business man until his death. His service to the people of this vicinity covered a period of more than 40 years. He was succeeded by his son, Bert W. Davis, who is following very successfully in his fatherís footsteps.
John Dial once conducted a business at Nelta in a building just across the road west from the W. J. Davis store. He was succeeded by Mr. Johnson who served for a few years as business manager of this establishment and later J. M. Conner and George Livington operated a business in this building but at different times.
In the early 1880's, I donít know the exact date, Wilbur and Dick Davis, brothers, built a gin on the farm of their mother, Aunt Mary Davis, just south of her house where Will Conner now lives, and operated it till 1884 when Dick, the younger, died. In 1885 this gin was run by Wilbur Davis and John P. Talkington. After this A. J. Hargrave and sons became the gin men with the building located on their farm near what is now known as West Nelta. It was at this gin that I saw the first cottonseed sell. They had been burned or thrown away. They sold for 4 cents per bushel. Warrick France afterward bought the gin and moved it to its present site. Since it was moved it has been operated by France, H.W., then Dent France and Cal Shrode, then Elzy and John Hargrave and then Clifford Taylor.
V. D. Tucker once operated a tan yard north and east a short way from Nelta. They cleaned and dressed hides to make leather for harness, boots and shoes. Mr. Midgett was the cobbler as well as wood workman. I have seen him and Uncle Joe Shrode with my father at his blacksmith shop make coffins for the dead. Had no caskets then. They built them for poor people that were unable to buy.
Nelta now has two nice churches to grace Old Pleasant Hill, a plank building occupied by the Methodist people, and a brick structure for the Church of Christ congregation. Quite a contrast to the old log house in which our forefathers worshiped. The first settlers often held service and religious worship at each otherís home.
Eli E. Hargrave (Written as Eli E. Hargrave)