Fannin County, Texas

The Site of the Hockaday Homestead

By Laurine Garrison, 601 Plano Street, Sulphur Springs, Texas 75482

From the files of the Fannin County Historical Commission

On December 6, 1870, Thomas Hart Benton Hockaday purchased 286 1/2 acres of land from Samuel Day and his wife, Nancy.(1)  This was a part of the 3170 acres issued by the Board of Land Commissioners of Red River County in February, 1838, to Curtis Jernigan; (2) transferred to Wiley B. Merrill on August 10,1846; to James Bourland (1970 acrres for $2000) on November 12, 1854; (3) and to Samuel Day on September 10, 1857. (4)  Mr. Hockaday later purchased one acre from Cal T. Scott and wife, (5) and nine acres from Jane Odell.(6)

Soon after the purchase of this land, Mr. Hockaday moved to this new homestead with his wife, Maria, and five children: Frederick, eleven; Emma, nine; Edgar, seven; Clarence, three; and Jimmy one month.(7)  After the move one other son, Albert Shepperson, was born on January 3, 1873; and a daughter, Ela, was born on March 12, 1875.(8)  She lived there, five miles east of Ladonia, until 1881 when, upon the death of her mother, she went to live in Bonham with her married sister, Emma.  She returned there in 1897 to teach at the Sunsine School,(9) located one fourth of a mile west of her father's home, and, later, to be principal of Giles Academy, located four miles east of ther.(10)  Mr. Hockaday sold part of his land, but kept this eighty-acre farm until December 13, 1916, when he sold it to Laurence E. Pickard and his wife, Laura. (11)  It was then the Pickard homestead until September 17, 1976, when it became the property of Laurine garrison, daughter of Laurence and Laura Pickard.

The west side of the Hockaday house was approximately ten feet west of the west side of the present home. (13)  Laurence Pickard moved the Hockaday house to obtain the building site for his new home in 1921.  Three rent houses were made form the Hockaday house.  One part of it was moved just outside the yard behind the new home and made a comfortable dwelling for hired help for years.  The remaining part of the house was moved a short distance west of the barn on the Ladonia-to-Pecan gap road.  It had two stories and was a better-than-average home for various families who worked on the Pickard farm. (14)  This building was later made into two houses, the second located a short distance west of the first.  One of these houses is still standing, and the other has been sold and moved away.(15)

The present barn was made from the cotton in built by Mr. Hockaday soon after moving there in 1870.  The old slipper elm poles that were used for his gin are still intact.(16)

The Hockaday family came from Southampton, England, and Wales between the 15th and 16th centuries.  They had taken their surname from the name of a feast day in the church called "Hockaday", which occurred the second Tuesday after Easter and commemorated one of the english victories over the Danes.  One of the famous ancestors was the writer, Joseph Addison.(17)

Thomas Hart Benton Hockaday was born April 29, 1835, at Lynchburg, Virginia.  When he was twelve, this parents moved to Spring Hill in Maury County, Tennessee.  He was reared by a cousin, Fred Thompson, who was a Presbyterian minister.  He married Maria Elizabeth Kerr on January 12, 1858.  They moved to Helana, Arkansas, where Mr. Hockaday taught school.(18)

One year earlier a small band of emigrants came from Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee, into the forks of Sulphur River and settled along the breaks of North Sulphur, at that time a part of Lamar County, about three miles east of what is now Pecan Gap.  They brought their families and slaves and built homes, gins, and mills.  Some came in grand style sitting back in carriages hitched to high stepping horses with elevated seats in front for the Negro drivers.(19)  These Giles County, Tennessee, people were proud of the fact that they, without a contribution from anyone who was not from Giles County, put up the first good building for school and church purposes in the Delta in 1859.  These ambitious patrons sent for T.H.B. Hockaday to establish their school and to be its first teacher.(20)  He came with his wife and son.  While he was teaching there, Giles Academy became a noted school for higher education and was the center for school, church, and public gatherings, both patriotic and militant.(21)  It was described as the best school within a radius of thirty or forty miles, and students came there to board.(22)  It was honored in June, 1973, by the erection of an official Texas Historical Marker.(23)

Mr. Hockaday believed in the classics and placed emphasis on reading, writing, arithmetic, and the English language.  he was a strict disciplinarian, often cracking the knuckles of his pupils with a ruler then they misbehaved.  He was well-versed in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, and was often called upon to assist in the examination of candidates for the Presbyterian ministry.  He was quite a scholar in his day, and a favorite recreation of his was reading the New Testament in Greek.(24)   In early manhood he joined the Presbyterian Church U.S. (Old School) and for forty-five years, he was an honored and useful elder.  He served with distinction in the courts of the church and was faithful in his support of Austin college in Sherman.(35)  In 1862 Mr. Hockaday jointed the 6th Texas Cavalry, and from August of that year until the close of the war he was an ordinance officer under Brigadier General L. B. Ross.  During this period his family lived with the Kerrs in McKinney.(26)  After the war, he returned to Giles and continued teaching there until 1870.(27)  At that time, as has been stated earlier, he purchased his farm four and one-half miles west of Giles and moved there with is wife and five children.  Two other children were born before he lost his wife in 1881.  Little Ela, the future founder of The Hockaday School in Dallas, was six years old and went to live with her married sister in Bonham.

Mr. Hockaday, with the aid of a colored housekeeper, reared his five sons, and with them he oeprated his gin and his farm.  He was a progressive farmer and took advantage of all the mechanized implements of his day.  He also saw to it that his children receive all the education available at that time, and instilled the principles of Christian living in their minds.(28)  Each of the five sons left the homestead near Pecan Gap in early manhood, married, and became productive citizens in other communities.  Frederick had one of the finest homes in Honey Grove, developed a hardware store and implement business, and was a great lover of livestock, particularly horses and Jersey cows.  Edgar worked at Munger Gin Company in Dallas and at Kelly Field in San Antonio.  Brown was a progressive, diversified farmer in Honey Grove, later bought a fourteen-acre ranch near Graham where considerable oil was found.  Jimmy was superintendent of the oil mill in Terrell, operated an electric plant in Itasca, Chickasha, Cooper, Granbury, Cleburne, and green Cove Springs, Florida.  Albert Hockaday was sole owner of the light plant in Itasca, bought a ranch near Blum, and was associated with utility companies in Olney, Royalty, Andrews, and Big Springs.(29)

Emma Hockaday, the eldest daughter, married Brown Spurlock Johnson, a lawyer.  They lived in Bonham first, and later in Durant, Oklahoma.  She and her husband had four children of their own, and they took her younger sister, Ela, into their home when she was only six.  Emma early recognized that Ela was a person of great possibility and provided her with an inspirational atmosphere.  She died prematurely of pneumonia December 22, 1905.  She was loyal to the Presbyterian Church and gave much of herself to its service.  Her nephew, Olin, said "Aunt Emma represents the best in the tradition of the Hockaday family, and I think we should all be very proud of her."(30)

On December 22, 1892, Mr. Hockaday married Miss Miouri B. Bird of Corsicana.  She was a devoted wife and lovable step-grandmother.  The Hockaday home frequently entertained grandchildren.  Some of them were able to come on Saturday morning by pony and buggy, spend the night, and return Sunday afternoon.  Depending on the season of the year, they were fascinated by the operation of the cotton gin or the reaper, and the prospect of catching few perch in the gin pool.  Mr. Hockaday had them on their knees for evening prayers and delighted them with his sense of humor by telling them to holler when they went to sleep and by asking them later which eye they had closed first.(31)

After living on this farm for forty-six years, Mr. Hockaday acquired a lovely home in Ladonia where he and his wife spent their remaining years.  He died January 8, 1918, and is buried in the family plot, five miles west of this homestead.(32)

Ela Hockaday, the youngest daughter, was born on the Pecan Gap farm in 1875, but left there to live with her married sister, Emma, in Bonham in 1861.  She went to school in Bonham and later attended the former North Texas Normal College in Denton, then headed by M. B. Terrill who was later founder of Terrill School for Boys in Dallas which is known today as St. Marks Academy.(33)  She did post graduate work at the University of Chicago and Columbia University in New York City.  In 1940 she was awarded a Doctor of Literature Degree by Austin College.(34)

Miss Hockaday started her teaching career when she was eighteen at the Sunshine School, located one-fourth mile west of her father's home between Ladonia and Pecan Gap.  She was teaching there in 1897, abut left in 1902 to become principal of Giles Academy, founded by her father and located four miles of his farm.(35)  In 1904 she became principal of Jefferson Ward School in Sherman.  She was called to this position because it was believed she would know how to handle some tough boys who had created quite a problem.  She appealed to their constructive interests and soon had them under control.(36)  She later headed the department of biological sciences at Oklahoma State Normal and was on the faculty at Oklahoma College for Women when some political upheaval caused her and a friend, Miss Sara B. Trent, to leave.  They bought forty acrers of land near Falfurrias, sank a well, and put in a pump for irrigation purposes.(37)

In 1913, on the recommendation of M. B. Terrill who had been her teacher in Denton, Miss Hockaday was summoned by Dallas citizens H. H. Adams, Ruth Bower Lindsley, and others to establish a college preparatory school for girls in their city that would be equal to any in the United States.(38)  On Saturday, September 21, Miss Hockaday agreed to establish the school and wired Miss Trent to join her.  Four days later she had located a house on Haskell, persuaded the widow who owned it to move out, had the house renovated, and started school with ten pupils.(39)  The curriculum included mathematics, English, history, Latin, German, and French.(40)  These were the usual requirements, however, and Miss Hockaday took steps to add to them.  She selected four words to be the corner stones of her educational structure: Character, Scholarship, Courtesy, and Athletics.  Her chapel services and Sunday night Vespers assured a religious atmosphere, and her innate artistic nature and her strong sense of justice permeated the school policies.(41)  For many of its alumnae it became not just a school, but a way of looking at life.(42)  Mrs. McCowen, who is over one hundred years old, recently recalled her associations with Miss Hockaday in Pecan Gap and Ladonia and concluded with, "For some reason she went to Dallas to start a school, and those who got to go to it thought they werre in heaven".(43)

From its beginning the story of Hockaday has been one of phenomenal growth and expansion  It is a history made and kept alive by many people who have been intimately associated with the school.  The first six years saw the advent of boarders, the addition of grades, the expansion of the faculty, the leasing of two houses, the organization of student government and the Athletic Association, the adoption of the uniform, the commitment to charity and war work, publication of the first year boo, extension of the curriculum to include several sciences, Bible, Current Events, Physical Education, and singing, and also the tradition of Neiman-Marcus-organdy dresses for graduation.(44)

The rapidly growing school was moved to new quarters on the Greenville road in 1919.  Nine acres of the Caruth farm on the edge of town were converted into a beautifully landscaped campus with five large buildings and several smaller ones.  Soon after the move to Greenville Road Miss Hockaday invited the forty-five graduates for dinner at the school.  That evening she asked them to organize the Hockaday Alumnae Asssociation.  This organization now forms the one unbroken from the beginning of Hockaday history, through the present, and into the future.  Individual alumnae serve as trustees, as teachers, and as patrons.  Some have made immeasurable contributions with voluntary gifts of time and effort which can never be fully estimated.(45)

The next eleven years saw further growth and building, and by 1928 the school had acquired a national reputation.  It was offering more candidates for college than any other girls' school southwest of Philadelphia, the girls were making good records in college, and Hockaday teachers were appearing on national committees.  A list of parents' names read like a Texas Who's Who;(47) and the Hockaday boards included such powerful civic leaders as Charles Huff, R. W. Higginbotham, Charles Kribs, Herbert Marcus, Karl Hoblitzelle, Jake Hamon, Eugene McCermott, and Erik Jonsson.(48)  By 1932 the fourth Travel class had departed for eight months of travel and study in Europe, and the school had expanded to include a Junior College and a kindergarten.(49)

On May 13, 1942, The Hockaday School was transformed from a privately owned educational enterprise into a self-perpetuating, self-governing, independent educational entity.  On that day the founder, Miss Hockaday, voluntarily relinquished her veyr substantial financial interest in it and its properties.  Her only recompense was the conviction that the future of her school with bound up with the future of the southwest, rather than with the hazards of one individual life.  The gift was itself so free and generous that it commanded the respect of all who knew about it.  Miss Hockaday continued to regulate the academic existence of the school with the Board of Trustees acting as the governing body and the Alumnae Association serving in an advisory capacity.(50)

A year later, 1943, Miss Hockaday spearheaded a drive to acquirre a more adequate site for the school.  Much had been accomplished toward that goal before her retirement in 1946, but the move to Welch Road and Forest Lane was not made until give years after her death in 2956.(51)  On November 17, 1961, the school opened on its present campus with modern air-conditioned buildings and with much of Miss Hockaday's philosophy of education.  The new facilities included the Erik Johsson Classroom Building, the Primary Building, the Esther Hoblitzelle Auditorium, the Gymnasium, the Trent and Morgan Dormitories, the Fine Arts Wing, and the Alumnae Administration Wing.(52)  The administrators and teachers accepted the challenge to guide the school at its new location in the paths and according to the principles which Miss Hockaday established with her spirit of graciousness, dignity, loyalty, honor, and love of learning.(53)   The chief rooms of the "Cottage", where she had remained as a charming hostess after retirement, were recreated in the main building of the new school.(54) 

DMiss Hockaday labored in many ways aside from education to make Dallas a better community.  She was active in the women's work of the Frist Presbyterian Church and in numerous cultural and civic projects over the eyars.  "Few persons have accomplished more than Miss Hockaday toward making Dallas a great as well as a big city."(55)

The great end of education, as Miss Hockaday saw it, was the building of character.  To that end she molded young hearts and minds to become seekers after knowledge, every holding fast to the ideal of the golden mean that calls for a well-trained mind in a health body, with that goal she inspired a realization of spiritual values, both personal and civic, which are the extra dimension of the truly educated person.  She carried out her long life's work with a personal grace and charm that underscored her place as one of the great women of Texas.(56)  Stanley Marcus described her as "The perfect casting for the Virgin Queen".(57)

At the time of Miss Hockaday's death, the original school with 10 pupils and $1,200 worth of equipment had expanded into a million-dollar institution with an enrollment of 425.(58)  Today, almost 50000 girls have graduated from Hockaday, many of them having attended there fourteen years.  The present enrollment is 976, including six-four boarders.  These students represent eight states and ten foreign countries.(59)


1.  Fannin County Deed Records, Vol. 144, p. 135

2.  Ibid., vol. C, p.63

3. Ibid, File box 292, paper #7483.

4. Ibid, vol. J, p. 400

5. Ibid, Book 59, p. 212

6. Ibid, vol. 1, p. 277

7.  U.S. Census, 1870, Fannin County Precinct 3, P. O. Ladonia.

8.  Hockaday, Olin S., The Hockaday Family, privately published, 1956.  The following is listed as "Source Data":

             1.  Entries in Mr. Hockaday's family Bible.

             2.  Two letters from T. H. B. to his father-in-law, Major G. S. Kerr, written in 1858 from Helena, Arkansas.

             3.  Album kept by Maria E. (Lizzie) Kerr.

             4. Records of the Presbyterian Church U.S., Synod of Texas and the General Assembly.  

             5.  Memory of Albert S. Hockaday, Sr.

             6.  Notes kept by Olin S. Hockaday of conversation with his father (who was the son of Thomas Hart Benton  Hockaday).

             7.  Obituary from The Christian Observer written by the Rev. E. L. Moore, then pastor of the Main Street Presbyterian Church at Honey Grove.

9.  Kochendorfer, Bessie, Personal interview, March 7, 1981.  "Miss Hockaday was my teacher at Sunshine when I was seven eyars old.  i was born in 1890."

10 Pickard, Laura, personal notes, nd., "Ela Hockaday was principal at Giles the last years I attended ther."

11.  Fannin County, op., cit., vol. 144, p. 325.

12. Ibid., vol. 569, p. 608

13.  Pickard, Laura, conversation often repeated in my childhood.

14. Southerland, Jeff, personal interview, June 11, 1980.

15. Kerr, Marie Pickard, personal interview, Feb. 23, 1981.

16. Ross, Albert, Letter to Editor of Cooper Review, 1958.

17. Hockaday, op. cit., p.2

18.  Albright. G. C., "History of Giles Academy," privately published, 1971.

19. Ibid., p.2.

20. Ibid.

21. Miller, W. B., "Pages from the Past", privately published, 1925.

22. Jefferson, Fern, "Mrs. D. T. Richardson", The Cooper Review, November 1, 1962.

23. Texas State Historical Survey Committee, letter, June 22, 1973.

24. Hockaday, op.cit., p.8.

25. Ibid., p.10.

26. Ibid., p.8.

27. Albright, op.cit., p.3.

28 Hockaday, op. cit., p.9.

29. Ibid., 11-12, 14-23.

30. Ibid, p.13.

31. Ibid., p.9.

32. Ibid., p. 10.

33. Ibid., p. 27.

34. Ibid., p.28.

35. Ibid.

36. Trent, Sarah B., "Miss Hockaday, the Founder", privately published, p.6.

​37. Alumnae News, Hockaday, 50th Anniversary, June, 1964, p.3

38. Trent, op. cit., 6-7.

39. Mackintosh, Prudence, "Why Hockaday Girls are Different", D Magazine, June, 1978.

40. Trent, op. cit., p. 12.

41. Denning, Frances Karmer, "A Brief History of Hockaday", privately published, p.6.

42. Alumnae News, op. cit., p.4.

43. McCowen, Modena, personal interview, Nov. 27, 1979.

44. Denning, Op. cit., p.14.

45. Ibid., p.5.

46. Trent, op. cit. p.6.

47. Mackintosh, op. cit, p. 4.

48. Ibid., p.6.

49. Denning, op. cit., p.14.

50. Alumnae letter, June 1, 1942.

51. Alumnae News, op. cit., 5-6

52. Lyle, Robert Simpson and others, The Hockaday School, p.2.

53. Kimball, Elzine, Hockaday Four-Cast, "Ela Hockaday: in Memory, March 13, 1962.

54. Alumnae News, op. cit., p.6.

55. Dallas Times Herald, "Miss Hockaday", March 28, 1956.

56. Dallas Morning News, "Miss Ela", March 27, 1956.

57. Dallas Morning News, "Miss Ela of Prrep School Dies", March 27, 1956.

58. Mackintosh, op. cit., p.4

​59. Hockaday School, administration office, February 27, 1981.


Albright, G. D., "History of Giles Academy", privately published, 1971.

Alumnae letter, June 1, 1942.

Alumnae News, "Hockaday, 50th Anniversary", June, 1964.

Dallas Morning News, "Miss Ela of Prep School Dies", March 27, 1956.

Dallas Times Herald, "Miss Hockaday", March 28, 1956.

Denning, Frances Dramer, "A Brief History of Hockaday", privately published.

Fann County Deed Records

Hockaday, Olin S., "The Hockaday Family", privately published, 1956.

Hoskaday School, administration office, February 27, 1981.

Jefferson, Fern, "Mrs. D. T. Richardson", The cooper Review, Nov. 1, 1962.

Kerr, Marie Pickard, personal interviewe, Feb. 23, 1981.

Kimball, Elzine, Hockaday Four-Cast, "Ela Hockaday: in Memorium", Mar. 13, 1962.

Kochendorfer, Bessie, personal interview, Mar. 7, 1981.

Lyle, Robert Simpson and others, The Hockaday School, 1965.

Mackintosh, Prudence, "Why Hockaday Girls are Different", D. Magazine, June, 1978.

McCowen, Modena, personal interview, Nov. 27, 1979.

Miller, W. B., "Pages from the Past", privately published, 1925.

Pickard, Laura, personal notes and conversations.

Ross, Albert, "Letter to the Editor", The Cooper Review, 1958.

Southerland, Jeff, personal interview, June 11, 1980.

Texas State Historical Survey Committee, letter, June 22, 1973.

Trent, Sarah B., "Miss Hockaday, the Founder", privately published.

U.S. Census, 1870, Fannin County, Precinct 3, P. O. Ladonia.

Hockaday Homestead Site

Marker Text:

After a noted career as an educator and founder of Giles Academy (4 mi. east), Virginia-born Thomas Hart Benton Hockaday (1835-1918) bought more than 280 acres in this area in 1870.  He farmed the land and built and operated a cotton gin.  He later sold much of the property but maintained an eighty-acre homestead on this site for his wife Maria and their seven children.  Following Maria's death in 1881, he married Misouri Bird in 1892.

Hockaday sold his property to Laurence Pickard in 1916 and moved to Ladonia (4.5 mi. west) where he spent the remaining two years of his life.  Pickard moved the Hockaday house in 1921 and divided it into rent houses for the farm's employees.  Although the house itself is gone, the existing barn was constructed from Hockaday's cotton gin.

T. H. B. Hockaday's youngest child, Ela (1875-1956), followed her father's footsteps into education in 1913.  At the peak of a teaching career that began at age eighteen, she established the Hockaday School in Dallas.  In the thirty-three years she was with the institution, the Hockaday School earned national recognition as an excellent college preparatory school for girls.  Ela Hockaday was instrumental in the founding of the Hockaday Alumnae Association which continues to carry on the Hockaday tradition.

Location:  .5 miles east of the intersection on FM 904 and FM 64 on FM 64.