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Grayson's Early Settlers - The History of Grayson County (Part 2)

Part 1 of our series entitled “The History of Grayson County, Texas” surveyed the county’s land. We looked at early prehistoric formations of the terrain and why, today, ancient layers of strata beneath Grayson County are ideally suitable for oil extraction. Part 2 will consider the pre-twentieth-century anthropological history of the region and more specifically, will visit recorded information concerning Grayson's early settlers.

 

The land of the area known today as Grayson County is not only conducive to oil production but to agricultural production as well. Caddo Indian Native groups including the Kichai, Ionis, and Tonkawa Tribes found the soils of this part of the Americas fit for their lifestyle; they are the earliest known inhabitants of the county’s region. Having established a sustainable way of life, the natives were in a position to trade with the Spanish and the French who moved up the Red River during the eighteenth century in order to establish trading posts.

The famed Cherokee tribe, one of the most renowned tribes in the South, settled near the Red River in the early 1800s and lived right along the border of modern-day Grayson County. When European settlers began to flock in, the Cherokees moved further south into Texas. They did not trust these pioneers, and as a result—and in hopes of obtaining legal rights to their land—they allied with Mexico.

During the Texas Revolution (touched on briefly during Part 1) the Cherokee nation remained neutral between Mexico and Texas. Eventually, however, the Cherokee went to war against Texas when Mirabeau B. Lamar took office. Lamar sought to marginalize all natives and relocate them on reservations away from white society.

In his book An Illustrated History of Grayson County, Texas, Graham Landrum argues that it was common people who established Grayson County in the 1800s and not the wild men who “swaggered in with a rifle, a pistol, and a Bowie knife” only to leave in a few years to “seek Eldorado somewhere beyond the horizon”. And he claims the county’s “real” history begins no earlier than 1836 or 1837. Prior to that time, the Indian, Frenchman, and Spaniard traversed the county but the place was “without permanent distinguishing feature”.

The first settler on record is John Hart. Hart was an English-speaking “white man”  who was renowned as a trapper and indian trader who also served in the Texas Revolution; when his service ended, he was determined to stake his claim and in 1837, with brothers James S. and William R. Baker as partners, finally returned and cleared and fenced seventeen acres.

The settlement was at Preston Bend, which is located on the northern peninsula of Grayson County that juts into Lake Texoma along the Red River. The property changed hands a few times when Hart leased the land to John F. Moody. When Moody’s lease expired, the gentleman Holland Coffee took over the premises.

This brief anthropological history of Grayson County is in no way comprehensive; however, Hart’s story does give us a sense of the hard work and determination that built up the northern region of Texas.  What makes Landrum’s account trustworthy is that he attempts to relate the history without omitting its less than flattering areas; his purpose, and the purpose of this series, is to present as  authentic a historic background as possible. In part three, we will consider the recent history of Grayson County to fully understand its current economic and social landscape.