High above Grayson County flies the blue, red, and gold colors of its flag. The county was established in 1846 and, as alluded to in our last post on Grayson’s history, it was a rough and rugged path that led to the peace and stability that we can enjoy today. After John Hart staked his land near the northern border of present-day Grayson County and was killed by Colville in 1841, Abel Warren put up a trading post, which is now considered the second official settlement in the area and one of the region’s most important.
Soon after the community began to enjoy some permanency (having begun to organize the new county with the founding of the Board of Land Commissioners), the Warren settlement became a catalyst for conflict between the new settlers and the Indians. The Choctaws and Chickasaw Tribes arrived in the county just before the pioneers did, having been moved into new homes by order of the Federal Government.
The Indians took exception to the Whites killing wild turkeys and retaliated by killing the settlers’ cattle. The skirmish escalated until the county seat was removed from Warren and peace was brought to the region; as Landrum notes, there was “less and less reason why the little town should be the center of the community”.
Nevertheless, it was at Warren that Grayson County’s institutions were started. The first civil government was there; the first school was there; the first religious services were held at Warren, too. John Denton preached the first sermon and the settlement was the site for the first Methodist camp meeting in 1847. Warren, Landrum maintains, “unquestionably had great significance in the development of Grayson County, Texas”.
The peace and stability created in the late 1840s lapsed momentarily during the Sherman Riot of 1930. On May 9 1930, Grayson County’s 1876 courthouse was burned to the ground by arsonists during the trial of an African American man by the name of George Hughes.
Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was in Grayson during the riot and reported the situation to Texas Governor Dan Moody; the governor sent the National Guard to Grayson on May 9 and 10 to suppress the riot. A new courthouse was erected in 1936 and still stands as Grayson County’s official jurisdiction for legal matters. Moreover, The Bridge War, was yet another conflict fought over the county’s land. In 1931, the U.S. states of Oklahoma and Texas disputed over an existing toll bridge and a new free bridge crossing the Red River between Grayson County and Byran County, Oklahoma.
Other notable modern-day structures in Grayson County are the Red River dam, built in 1938 and authorized by the U.S. Congress; the Perrin Air Force Base, constructed in 1941; the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site, which is the birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower acquired and restored in 1952. The Red River dam was completed in part by the use of labour provided by German prisoners of war held in Cooke County, Texas during World War II; the structure is now officially known as Denison Dam.
The air force base was closed in 1971, although the availability of labor from the base contributed to the opening of industrial plants in Grayson County. The base was converted to a civilian airport we know today as North Texas Regional Airport. And, finally, the Eisenhower Birthplace Historic Site is still intact but is no longer maintained by the state because of budget cuts; instead, it’s run by a private non-profit.
Today, Grayson County, Texas is 169 years old and is a bustling area charted by four U.S. highways and six State highways. The region’s population has increased from 2,008 in 1850 to 123,534 in 2014; the Hart and Warren settlements have expanded to nearly 43,000 households. The County’s land has survived the shifting, cracking, and erosion of prehistoric formation, a revolutionary war and violent disputes over its acreage, Indian wars, a riot, and a civil battle over a one of its bridge crossings.
As nineteenth-century western and south-western America passed by like dust and gun smoke in the wind, Grayson County’s renowned landscape has truly stood the test of time and has emerged as one of many vibrant communities in the northern part of our great state of Texas.