"First to settle there was George M. (Martin) Smith, more familiarly known as "Big Smith". He was born in Cherokee County,
Alabama[sic, Georgia] in 1814, coming to Fannin County in 1842, so stated by his granddaughter, Mrs.Martha Brooks. Mr. Smith located in what is known as the Dr. Jones place. He and several other prospectors were looking for a location. The large Oak Grove attracted their attention. ran a foot race which Smith won."
"Mr. Smith lived in Fort Inglish before coming to Grove Hill. The first night they arrived and camped there, a herd of buffalos passed and killing a calf which supplied their camp with meat. While there his step-son (see footnotes) Rae Black was killed by the Indians. The story goes like this: Late one evening after hearing a cow bell, Mr. Smith sent the boy after the cows, and the lad did not return. Night coming on, they sent someone to see what was the trouble and found the cowbell on the ground, so at once they suspected Indians. And all went in to the fort not knowing what to expect. Early next morning, part of the men stayed at the fort to protect the
women and children, the others going to search for the boy. The searching party found his body down on Powder Creek, his heart had been cut out and stuck on a pole, his head laying at the foot of the pole: the rest of the body burned."
"Powder Creek runs just south of the present-day depot. Mr. Smith gave the ground for the Grove Hill Cemetery,
and the first person buried there was one of Mr. Smith's negro slaves. We find that a man by the name of Armstrong, was born in 1765, and who died in 1863 is buried there. He was the great- grandfather of Mrs. Reece Brinkley."
"The first building for a church and a Masonic Lodge Hall was built in 1876, a frame building. The lumber was hauled from down below Jefferson. The first school was taught in a log building east of Grove Hill, somewhere near the old Abraham Suddereth place, the Stancells living there at that time. The first Sunday School was organized in the early sixties in a log building south and west of the present church on the T. F. Powell place, a short distance from the Graveyard and church. Before the building of the church in 1869, preaching was held in the home of Joseph P. Ring, the father of Mrs. Sallie Cobb who is still living in Leonard now at the ripe old age of 91, December 13 of this year."
"The first post office was Oak Hill, just south of the present burying grounds on what is known as the Billie Baxter place of today. That was in the fifties, during the war this post office was discontinued, and Bonham became the Peoples Post Office. This data was secured from W. K. Cook from letters written him by his grandfather he has in his possession."
"The first settlers coming after Smith was one Pettis, settling on what is known as the Cook Place, filing on it in 1847. The deed was granted by Governor F. M. Peas in 1856. Cook had it deeded in on sheep skin parchment that Mr. W. K. Cook has in his possession today. This was in 1856."
"The Rings came in 1850, Groves in 1852. The oldest house is still standing, the log house on George Groves place where Mr. Groves was born 70 years ago, and he has lived there all his life. Who can beat that record? "
"The first Sunday School spoken of was organized by Aunt Polly Stancell, Mrs. Clyde Nevelli's grandmother. Mrs. Nevill lives in Bonham at this writing. The Gobers came in the fifties. A Mr. Kirk lived on the present day place of Uray Gray's farm. The Driggers came in an early day, in the early fifties. One Grogan built the first house on Cook's place with loop holes for fighting Indians. The house was torn down some years ago."
"Uncle John Connelly was a boy preacher, preaching in Mr. Ring's home. George Driggers, who lives inBlue Ridge, has a Mexican silver dollar given his father by Sam Houston, after the battle of San Jacinto. Driggers was in that battle, saw Santa Anna after he was captured by Houston's men. All the early settlers mentioned came in the late forties and in the fifties."
"Fannin County to that time extended to the Land or (in the year of 1839 was a part of Fannin County Texas) County line east, west to Young County, then north to the Kansas line, taking in part of the Panhandle, a few counties in Oklahoma, thence south to near where Dallas and Fort Worth are, about one-fourth of the state. There were only three counties at that time. Court was held at that time at old Fort Warren on Red River near Tulip, in the present day of Fannin County."
Footnote: by Shirleen Johnston.
I found this record in an odd history book dated 1937. I am assuming that it was written during the depression probably because money was scarce to buy new history books. It was in the genealogy section of the Bonham Library in 1986 when we visited Bonham.
It had been typewritten and contained some obvious errors. When it tells about the Gobers, it had been typed Govers. There were numerous Gobers there and I believe this was a typing error. Martha Brooks was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Smith, son of George Martin Smith. Thomas served in the civil war and lived in Fannin County until he was over 90 years old. I believe his gravestone still exists, but we did not go to find it.
We did find the old cemetery that G. M. Smith donated land for, but did not find any Smith headstones, which was disappointing to me. It is still surrounded by Oak Trees that seem to be quite old. I did pick up an acorn.
George Martin Smith had a son named James Monroe Smith who married a daughter of Joseph P. Ring and his wife, Carolyn Gilliam Ring, named Susannah Elizabeth Ring. She was the sister of the Mrs. Sallie Cobb mentioned in the article.
James Monroe and Susannah lived in or near Leonard and had 10 children. Four of these died in childhood. My grandmother, Fay Smith was the only daughter to survive. The youngest child was a son, Houston Stanley Smith, who remained a bachelor and became a well known lawyer and Judge in Ozona, Texas. He was very interested in tracing the genealogy of the Smiths and the Rings. In 1930 he wrote an unpublished book for the family members so the children and grandchildren, etc. could know where they came from. It has become an invaluable guide for those of us who can now trace the families back several generations.
His story tells about the first night the wagon train arrived at Ft. Inglish. George Martin Smith owned several slaves that he brought with him. Houston's story differs from the story told by his cousin, Martha Brooks in 1937. George did not have a step-son. He sent a 12 year old slave boy to find the cow and did not return. I think, perhaps, back in 1937 when Martha told her story, she was aware of the fact that the former slaves' families still lived there and she probably did not want to hurt these people. The death of the young slave boy was dreadful, but the new settlers had to face hard times in 1840.
Fannin Home page