Fannin County, Texas

Warren - Fannin County first county seat

Bonham Daily Favorite, September 6, 1992

By John Frair

By 1830 the Indian territory was vaguely defined by the area bounded by the Red River, Arkansas and Missouri.  Young adventurers quickly saw the opportunity to make a quick fortune and started establishing Indian trading posts along the waterways and trails of the Indian Territory.

When the tales of the successful trading post filtered back to the eastern portion of the United States others started looking at the possibility of establishing a trade with the Indians.  One of these men was Abel Warren of Northborough, Mass.

​Warren, a few weeks after his 20th birthday sailed for New Orleans.  Here he planned to buy goods and materials he would need to establish a trade with the Indians.

After buying his goods he traveled to Ft. Smith, AR and became a leader of a small band of men and Indian guides.  After hearing the tales being brought back to St. Smith from hunters and traders, Warren and his group were determined to establish a trading post on Red River.

In late 1835 or early 1836 they had settled on the great bend of the Red River about a mile south of Choctaw Bayou in the northwest corner of the present Fannin County.  The area became known as Warren Flats.

After selected their site, the group built a stockade, blockhouse, and storehouse and began to trade in furs and hides with the Indians.  The trading post at Warren Flats became a popular spot with the early settlers, but the profitable Indian trade was slow to materialize because the trading post's location was too gar east of the profitable trade areas.

Warren closed down his operation and moved his inventory back to Ft. Smith to regroup.  It was after the Civil War before he returned.

Even though the business failed the abandoned structures of the fort became the nucleus for one of the first settlements in Fannin County and the 1st seat of government in the county.  By 1837 Daniel Montague and William Henderson had built a general merchandise store at the fort.  Joseph Sowell (Sowell's Bluff) was the proprietor of a tavern and later became the communities postmaster in 1840; Samuel Westbrook had established a blacksmith business while Warren was still in business, and John Kitchens had a general merchandise business.

Life around Ft. Warren in 1839 was described by J. W. Wilbarger in the 1889 publication "Indian Depredations in Texas."

"The flight of the settlers into Warren referred to in my last letter, was but a foretaste of what was to come.  It was not long after the occurrence that the people were compelled to concentrate for mutual protection.  The Indians were gathering in a body on the frontier, and a combined attack upon the settlers was eminent.  Preparations were made by the settlers in the vicinity of Warren to move to that place, and a fort, or stockade of logs stood on end, was built large enough to accommodate a great many, and to be used in case of attack."

"But some preferred houses built of logs, or tents, near by to live in, depending upon the fort in time of extreme danger, while others lived inside the stockade until their return to their homes.  They brought their cows with them, made butter, spun and wove,  and as well as they could under the circumstances, performed their daily routine of labor."

​"Those of the men living near enough to the fort to go and return the same day, worked their farms, some one standing guard always while the others plowed.  Eternal vigilance was the price of safety."

Wilbarger says the 1st families to move to the fort for protection were the Shannon brothers, Micajah Davis and the Carothers brothers from Iron Ore creek, the Dungan family from Chocktaw and the families below Warren were the first to take advantage of the fort's protection.

At this time, the area was so unsettled that many of those that arrived at Warren were forced to stay the summer and they decided they needed to have a school.  "The young idea must be taught, as well as the fingers how to shoot, and extensive preparations were made to forward the cause," according to Wilbarger.

The school established in thos early days of Ft. Warren was a log cabin that had been used for a stable.  The stable was cleared out and some split logs placed in it for benches, a chair was furnished by some patron for the teacher, a man named Trimble.

According to Fannin County historian Tom Scott, Trimble was succeeded by Logwell W. Lee, long-time Fannin county clerk.

"The list of text books used in this pioneer school will compare favorably with those in present use (theology excepted), but I will leave their classification to some one better posted.  The New Testament (the old was too historical for new beginners), Life of Nelson, a Methodist Preacher, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Fox's Martyrs, a few old spelling books and a Murray's grammar and arithmetic completed the catalogue."

"Among those who were brave enough to encounter this formidable array of condensed wisdom were:  William and Lee Lankford, Aretelia Baker and little sister, Mary and Louisa Davis, Catherine and Henry Dungan, a Miss Moody and Martin Hart, both of Hardin Hart. . ." according to Wilbarger.

The 1st regular session of the commissioner's court held in the new court house in Warren met January 8, 1840.  The court appointed Solomon Chambliss county tax assessor and directed him to remain at the house of James Hart in Warren while in the "discharge" of his duties.  The amount of taxes to be raised by the county was equal to that due the Republic of Texas from Fannin County.  The court also appointed 2 boards of road reviewers, one to lay a road from Warren to Honey Grove, and the other to assume the duties of the group previously appointed to mark out the way from Warren to Coffee's Station.

The route selected from Honey Grove was described as "Commencing at Honey Grove on the old way from Mark R. Roberts to Bullard Creek, thence on to Bois D'Arc down the Prairie Ridge Way to Jacob Katchem's thence to Timber Creek at Cottonwood Tree thence to Caney Creek at the Shawnee Trace, thence on to Brushy Creek at wagon for at Montague's," according to the records of the Commissioners Court for Fannin County.

The district court for Fannin County didn't function until the erection of the courthouse at Warren.  On April 27, 1840 judge John Hansford opened the 1st session of the court.  The seat of county government remained in Warren until 1843 when the Republic's congress legalized the location of the county seat at Bois D'Arc, that became the town of Bonham.

Warren served as a safe haven from Indian attacks in 1836-37.  The Indians, however, were not altogether to blame for the beginning of actual hostilities.  On May 16, 1837, Daniel Montague and a party of 17 men without provocation attached a band of Kickapoos, Shawnees, Cherokees, and Delawares near Warren.  Several Indians were killed and burned.

A truce was arranged after this fight but the Shawneetown Indians started stealing the settler's horses.

In the spring of 1838, 2 volunteer companies were organized to punish the Indians.  The Fannin County group was commanded by captain Nathan T. Journey and they met south of Ft. Inglish.  That night the Indians stole the horses of the leader and 2 of his command.  The group finally found a camp of roving hunters and the Indians were "speedily" killed by the scouts.  Their scalps [were] taken by Captain John Hart.

Despite the precautions of building 3 forts in Fannin County, life, property and life was only secure in the sight of the forts.  The Indians rode into the country during the light of every moon.  Scouts were constantly on the alert, but even then Indians were able to penetrate their lines to steal horses, kill the cattle on the prairies, and to kill settlers and solitary travellers.  Hunting practically ceased except to be carried on by scouts.

Tragedy stalked the frontier during the winter of 1839.  Bushnell Garner and Isaac Camp left Warren to go to Coffee's Station.  When they reached the site of the Ray Yard's west of Denison, they were fired upon form ambush and instantly killed.  On the same day James G. Kiethley was murdered at his home b Indians who were probably belonging to the same band that killed the 2 travelers.

The Spring of 1839 brought no relief.  Crops were planted and tilled cooperatively.  Two men watched, one at either end of the field, while the guns of those who were doing in the farming were piled conveniently close at hand in the center of the field.  Fortunately the harvest was a bountiful and when it was divided there was enough for all.

Late in the spring of 1839, Hollard Coffee returned to Warren from serving as a member of the 3rd Congress of the Republic.  Coffee, while waiting, made an investigation of the Indian situation and promised the harassed settlers to use all of his prestige with the Indians to establish peace.  No sooner had he reached the trading post than Coffee raised a party of men and set out to hold a series of peace parleys with the Indians.  His negotiations were successful and gave the settlers a much needed rest from Indian hostilities and permitted the settlers to return to their neglected farms.

Warren was located near the Grayson line not far from Red River.  It proved to be such a good location that it served as county seat for three counties:  Fannin, Grayson and Lamar Counties.  

By 1880 Old Warren consisted of 2 general stores, a blacksmith shop and about a dozen dwellings.  In 1890, the D.B. & O Railroad company put a track from Denison to Bonham and the track lay about one-half mil north of Old Warren.  When the station was built there it drew business to that point and name was changed to New Warren.

About 1930 the trains were discontinued and so was the development of Warren.

By the mid-1940s periodic floods on Red river and an extensive sand and gravel operation eventually obliterated all traces of Warren's trading post and the first county seat of Fannin County.

Fort Warren

Marker Text:

First settlement and fort in Fannin County.  Built in 1886 by Abel Warren, Indian trader from Arkansas, to protect his trading post.  Constructed of Bois d'Arc wood, the structure had two-story guardhouses at all four corners.  Kiowa, Tonkawa, Caddo, Wichita and other Indians came here to trade furs for paint, knives and trinkets.

In Civil War, Fort Warren was a transport and food supply center, where goods were sent to Confederate Indian refugees and troops in Indian territory (to the north) and to soldiers in Lousiana and Arkansas.

Location:  .5 miles east of Savoy on US 82.  This is the location of the marker.  The fort was six miles north, but no evidence of the fort now exists.