An 1899 Ride Through Anderson County
A horseback traveler's observations, made as he traversed Anderson County in 1899, picture life and affairs of the time. The traveler's letter, signed "D. W.," included the following:
"I rode several miles without seeing another house. The next was a very humble one.
"From what I know about house building it required about three days of hewing and leg-raising to make it take the form it now has. At one time the occupant's note was good for $50 ..... A lightning rod agent came through this country about that time. It is now a rather peculiar sight to see a $50 lightning rod on a $7 log house.
"I stayed overnight with a preacher. His wife entered and looked at me suspiciously. He has a two-room log house. The preacher's yellow beard hung like a golden fleece from his chin.
"He has been right here for fifty-five years. He was wearing a well-worn hickory shirt, jean pants and brogan shoes. He sat on the gallery for an hour and talked.
"When we retired, according to an unwritten social law, I retired first and turned my face to the wall. An hour later they got into their bed, which was almost in reach of mine, in the same room.
"We ate breakfast by candlelight. The old man prayed devoutly over our daily bread and meat. On the table were three slices of bacon, some cornbread and no coffee.
"He told me while I was saddling my horse that he had neither a horse, cow, chicken, hog, or even a dog. As I mounted he invited me to return next month to his annual revival.
"A short time after leaving my friend, the preacher, I crossed a swift running, clear, deep creek. On its left hank, near the road, there is an overshot water mill which saws lumber, grinds grain and gins cotton. Its owner is making money."
"From here to Palestine, fifteen miles, the people and country improve gradually ... Along this stretch of road, I counted fifty-eight good, comfortable country homes, the majority of which were log houses.
"Parson Ben Parker, who was known to nearly every man, women and child in East Texas, died here a few months ago. He was the survivor of the original Parkers .... It was my luck to have spent a day with him just before he died, and to hear him tell of his family's history. A volume could be written on this historic family.
"Old Palestine contains the old courthouse, the old residences, the old business houses, the old groves and the old people.
"New Palestine contains the International and Great Northern Railway offices and shops, the Queen Anne Cottages, the pawn broker's shop, the saloons and a hundred other business houses.. It has avenues with young sycamores set out thereon. There are about 8,000 active and hustling people.
"Only a little creek divides the past from the present. I entered the courthouse for the purpose of consulting the records. I counted eight old men sitting on a rustic bench in the courtyard.
"In the treasurer's office downstairs, I met Judge John H. Reagan. Around him were sitting about a dozen men. The judge was telling them an anecdote of an event which happened long ago.
Anderson County Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1912. Firefighters
stand by at the scene after blaze was tapped out.