Van Zandt County, Texas

Bits and Pieces

Information for this page has been transcribed from several different sources. The information was furnished by several individuals interested in preserving our history and helping others find their ancestors. We wish to thank everyone who furnished information especially the folks who spent their time scanning old newspapers and sending the information to us via email. Some of the information was aquired from a copy of The Southland Vol. XII. No 1. Information, corrections, compliments or complaints about this page or any other page within this site should be submitted to Betty Miller and Patsy Vinson.


Information transcribed from The Southland Vol. XII No 1, Waco, Texas; Established March, 1892

The territory of this county, as with all the other territory of Texas prior to 1836 a part of Mexico, and was in the state of Coahuila and Texas. It was included in the Cherokee territory granted by the Mexican government under agreement by Don Felix Tresplacios in 1822 and confirmed by Augustine Y. Iturbide, Emperor of Mexico, on the 27th of april, 1823. It was in the territory further awarded to the Cherokees in a treaty of peace by Sam Houston et al., February 1836. It was also included in common with surrounding territory in the Fredonian Republic, an ephemeral government established about the year 1830 with headquarters at Nocogdoches (sic), with Hayden Edwards at its head. In a more continuous stream of governmental authority it was a part of Nacogdoches municipality, the real specific boundary of which is not known, but it comprehended much of East Texas. The western portion of the county was comprehended in Mercer's colony. Soon after Texas was admitted into the American Union and on April 27, 1946, Henderson county was created out of the Nacogdoches municipality and included the territory of the present counties of Henderson, Rockwall, Kaufman, Van Zandt, Wood and Rains. By act of the legislature, march 20, 1848, Van Zandt county was created from the territory of Henderson county, and embraced it present territory, also that of Wood and much of Rains county. Jordan Saline was designated by that act as the county capital for two years. A court house was built of logs and covered with boards and was indeed a rude structure. The first election took place the first Monday in August, 1848, when eighty-seven votes were polled in the county, and the following officers were elected: Gilbert Yarbrough, Chief Justice, very like our present county judge; john Jordan, Thos. Horseley, Joseph Fisher and Isaac Clark, County Commissioners; P. S. Benton, Sheriff; James D. Wright, District Clerk; A. Fitzgerald, County Clerk; W. C. Greer, Assessor of Taxes; Carey L. Rice, County Surveyor; Peter Kuykendall, County Treasurer.

When Van Zandt county was cut off from henderson, it seems by design or mistake of some kind, the entire indebtedness of the former territory was left for henderson county to pay, and Van Zandt was jocularly called free territory, because it was exempt from any portion of this debt, beginning what has since crystalized into the sobriquet of the free state of Vanzandt (sic), and furnishing the cause considerable merriment. This incident was followed by others until as far as Vanzandt (sic) county is known at all, it is called the free state of Vanzandt (sic). Later in her history Wood county was formed, and Rains county, until her territory was fixed as it now exists. It is now bounded on the north by rockwall and Rains counties, on the east by Wood county, on the south by Henderson county, on the west by Kaufman and Rockwall. It is located on the border line between the great timbered section of East Texas and the magnificent prairie country of the west. It is bisected from east to west by the Texas and Pacific railway and is some forth or fifty miles east of Dallas, on the said railway. It comprehends the railroad towns of Wills Point, Edgewood, and Grand Saline, besides the smaller towns of Silver Lake and Fruit Vale (sic). Canton, its capital, is ten miles south of the railroad, but near the geographical center of the county. The county began to settle up in the early forties. Probably the first settler was Adam Sullivan, in 1844. Prior to this date he had moved to Red River county with his family, but in that year he came to the present Sullivan home five miles northwest of Wills Point, and had twenty-five acres of land broken with oxen and corn planted by means of making a hole with a club xe and covering the corn with the foot. They return to the home, but in the fall moved back to Van Zandt and gathered 250 bushels of corn from this little farm, which was entirely innocent of a plow or a hoe except in the breaking. William McBee, proprietor of McBee's Mill, and for whom McBee's Creek was named came the same year.

A florishing little town grew up at Cedar Grove, and soon afterwards settlers began to pour in from every direction, many of the best settlers now in the southern portion of the county came in the yea 1850, including the Rileys, the Hobbs, the Sides, Coxes, Townleys and others.

Since 1883 I have been an incessant traveler in Texas, and am familiar with every portion of the state, and have studied and examined the resources and capabilities of a great many counties, and after a careful study of Vanzandt (sic), I am willing to state that in our opinion no county in Texas has a greater variety of soil, a larger adaptability to the products grown and marketed in Texas or a more abundant capability for the easy maintainance (sic) of human life in comfort and happiness. It has the hoted cream level country in the southern portion, the town of Edom, Ben Wheeler and Martin's Mill, with cream level and other creeks, whose bottom lands are as rich as the Nile, and frequently produce two bales of cotton to an acre in a single season. Further north in the Canton and Myrtle Springs country we find the gray sandy loam, and also the dark sandy, well adapted to truck farming, fruit raising, vintage culture and every form of farming in the staple and light crop. Yet further west and north in the Wills Point country is to be found the prairie, both black and gray, with its cotton farms, pasture lands, meadows, etc. Then as you go east in the Edgewood and Grand Saline country the greatest variety of soil abound, and the finest products both in quality and quantity are produced. In all of these places they boast of a high altitude, good water and an healthy climate. We call special attention to biographical sketches of gentlemen from these different places for more detailed information, and many thoroughly attested facts about the almost unparalleled richness of the country in its natural and material wealth.

The county was named in honor of the Hon. Isaac VanZandt (sic), minister to the army of the United States from the Republic of Texas.


The county is generally level, but is broken in hills and many flowing rivers to the east. It is traversed by a number of creeks, so that while generally level, variety is found.


These are good; the climate is salubrious and in the winter is tempered by its forests and other agencies. It is therefore not subject to the severity of the western blizzards; and is sufficiently elevated to escape the sultry conditions of the far South. Water is plentiful, streams, wells and cisterns abound. The head waters of the Nechez river are in this county, and it is bordered by the Sabine for many miles on the northeast, besides many other streams of lesser importance such as Saline Creek, Kickapoo, Lacy, and others. Health is good; malarial conditions may exist in portions of the county, but with little precaution and judgment these may be avoided, and the health statistics and the general appearance of the people will compare favorable with those of any other section.


A conservative estimate would give the county 30,000 people; these are principally white. Very few negroes (sic) live in the county. As a rule the people own their own homes in the country, and their own homes and business houses in the towns. The farms are small, but well kept, and made to produce well. While there are not many large farms or pastures, Capt. Charles E. Brown is said to have one of the most elegant ranches near Wills Point to be found in the state. Mr. H. C. Manning, a brother of Hon. Wentworth Manning, has a large meadow which are only samples of others to be found elsewhere in the county.


The religious sentiment of the county is good. Churches flourish in all the towns and in country communities, and all of the Christian denominations found in this country are represented in the county. The school interest is also good, but is improving with every year. New and commodious buildings are being erected and much attention is being given to the school term and the quality of the teachers selected. There are one hundred school houses and one hundred and fifty teachers in the public schools of the county besides several private schools.


Probably no section of Texas of any other country, no larger than Van Zandt County, can come nearer furnishing the kind of land a man wants than may be found in Van Zandt County. The black waxy, the gray prairie, the mixed, the light loam, the gray sandy, the black sandy, the creek bottom all abound and may be had at reasonable prices as there is to be confessed a lack of development in this county which allows her land prices to be much lower than exists in other counties where the land is even not wo good.


Up to this date cotton is the principle money crop. Corn is made for home consumption, but little for the market. Sugar cane grows well in many parts of the county, fruit, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, irish (sic) potatoes, ground peas, carrots, berries, tobacco, corn, beans, peanuts, pumpkins and vegetables, and as it is claimed by all its citizens, the county can produce well every crop known to Texas farming. The native grasses do well, hay farms and meadow lands flourish. Bermuda and alfalfa do well. More attention will necessarily be paid to growing grasses and light farming than ever in the past. This is the clue for Van Zandt County and the man is pure blind if he can not see it. By accident Uncle Eli sides, of Martins Mill discovered a new grass that he thinks will revolutionize the hay question in that country, write him for particulars.


By far the largest portion of the county is heavily timbered, oak, hickory, gum and other varieties abound, fence posts, wood and other necessities in the timber line are easily and abundantly supplied. The timber of this county will supply quite a source of income. thre are a number of saw-mills erected in the county for the manufacture of lumber from these forests and suited to the purposes of the inhabitants.


Among these may prominently be mentioned, of course, salt, salt, salt every where almost, but especially at Grand Saline where it is found in the greatest abundance and has become an industry there of large proportions. Three large factories for the manufacture of salt have been erected in that town and are doing great good in building the town and developing the county. We were shown a very elegant specimen of soft coal obtained from the farm of Dr. Allen, some five miles from Grand Saline. Also abundant evidences of oil are shown in and new his farm. The doctor is quite an enthusiast on the subject and thinks that great wealth will be obtained in these lines in Van Zandt County no distant day.


There is an immense oil mill at Wills Point mentioned elsewhere in this issue. There are large numbers of saw mills in different parts of the county. the are sometimes called oak mills, but are quite useful in their spheres and withal are profitable to their propietors (sic). The county abounds with first class and up-to-date- cotton gins, and especial (sic) attention might be called to the salt factories at Grand Saline.

In regard to the transportation facilities the Texas Pacific runs immediately through the county from east to west, and has done very much to ward the development of the county and bringing convenience and prosperity to its citizens. Also, the Texas short Line already operated from Alba to Grand Saline and being constructed southward to the county capital. This road will be of great service to the county and will do much toward the development of her resources.

In the extreme western portion of the county there are a number of thriving villages, such as Stone Point, Roddy, Tundra, etc, with good lands and prosperous conditions.

Take the county altogether, it can not be surpassed. Its prices are low, its resources are excellent, its promises of early development are of the very best. it has excellent people and its social and religious (sic) atmosphere is up to a good standard. If you want a home you can find one to suit. If you want an investment with unquestionable security, you can find it there.

We commend those represented herein as trustworthy and the information they give as reliable and trustworthy altogether.

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Betty Teal Miller Patsy Finley Vinson