Fannin County, Texas


The following article is from the

Bonham Daily Favorite, July 26, 1992

Historic Tales of Orangeville

By John Frair

The prairie in southwest Fannin County is dotted with scrub oaks growing in the shallow soil just above a layer of white rocks. Once the feeding grounds of thousands of buffalos and the hunting grounds of several Indian tribes, it became an area helping form some of the county's most colorful history.

Like several Fannin County’s communities, Orangeville had its day in history and now has sunk into virtual obscurity.

Much of the early history here is recorded in the writings of Judge John P. Simpson. Simpson was born in 1806 in Summer County, TN. He came to Bonham in 1836 seeking new land to homestead.

He brought his wife Sina Meedbam Simpson and their three children, Elisabeth, Martha, and Mary as part of a group of settlers led to Bonham by Bailey lnglieh.

Judge Simpson was the county's early unofficial historian. He was also the first sheriff of the county and built the county's first jail at his expense.

In 1843, he was elected chief justice of the county and was appointed by Sam Houston as lieutenant colonel of the county militia.

Two years after his arrival in Texas, Simpson recalls a trip in May to the area around Orangeville with five others from Bonham for a buffalo hunt.

". . .so in the month of May we got our wagons and oxen, guns and ammunition in readiness for the trip, not deeming it advisable to take horse teams for fear of being left afoot in the wilderness by the thieving Indians,"  he wrote.

​Traveling west they found an immense herd of buffalos on the prairie around Whitewright.  He continued, "We killed five that evening and camped for the night, feasting on fine buffalo beef and roasting the marrow out of them.  In the midst of this delicious feast we were suddenly alarmed by the sound and rush as of a mighty engine and cars on a railway, which was a new thing in those days.  We all spring to our arms, ready for battle not knowing, from the heavy tramp, sound and snort of animals, but what that the whole Comanche nation were charging upon us. Our alarm was soon relieved by ascertaining that it was an immense head of traveling buffalos."

After the passage of several thousand heads of buffalos, they discovered their oxen had disappeared and they were left without a way to pull the wagons.

Simpson and another man started following the wagon tracks they had made back toward Bonham to see if the oxen had returned home. After walking for ten of fifteen miles they made camp for the night

The next morning the man traveling with Simpson decided to go on home leaving him on the prairie alone, and in Indian country.

"You can not imagine my feelings under those circumstances," he wrote. “I do not make any pretensions to be brave for I truthfully say I was greatly excited and felt afraid of the scalping knife and tomahawk of the savage foe. I started for camp and had not traveled far when I heard a strange sound and saw a distressing sight.  Three mounted Indians, armed and equipped for battle with guns, bows and arrows, charged from the brush about sixty yards, from me and halted for a moment, when one of them galloped his pony around me and came to my lft; the other two charging up to me on my right and halted.  I asked them if they were Shawnees, Delaware's or Kickspoos.  One replied Keachi, which still increased by fears."

Simpson continued, "After talking to themselves for a few minutes in Indian, one asked me in English what I was doing there.  I replied as well as I could that I was buffalo hunting and had a camp about fifteen miles off. At this he made a grunt and pointed at a path for me to take. I quickly obeyed and started, one Indian on my right, one on my left, and one in my rear. We went a few hundred yards when I discovered some buffalo on the right, which I pointed out to the Indians, who hesitated a moment, then wheeled their ponies and started for the buffalo. I kept my eye on them until they could not see me, when, I can tell you I did some pretty tall running for a number of miles."

After returning to the buffalo camp he learned the oxen had been found and the others in the party were barbecuing the buffalos that had been killed.

"We secured our load of meat, and were to start for home in a few days,* he wrote, ‘when about forty Indians came and camped by us, killing meat and drying for themselves. When we came in on the third evening after the encamping of the Indians, our camp keeper (who was James Carter) informed us that the Indians had made preparations to take our scalps at night.  Our meat went into the wagon, the oxen yoked and we started in haste for home.  We traveled fifteen or twenty miles that night, freed from the Indians, and on our way rejoicing, none of us wounded, killed or scalped.

During the summers of 1838-39 there was considerable trouble from Indians in Fannin County.  To removed the Indians from this portion of the country, a battalion of citizens in Lamar and Fannin County were organized under the command of Gen. John H. Dyer of Red River County.

Tho group met at Fort lnglish when the settlement consisted of about ten families and then went in search of Indians.

"While the army was out," according to Judge J. P. Simpson, " William Dority, Andrew Thomas, Andrew Dority and William McCarty's son went in search of their pork hogs near where Kentuckytown now stands - they having lived a short time in that vicinity."

The four found and butchered a hog and started back to Port lnglish with the pork in the back of their wagon. Late in the afternoon they decided to stop for the night near at a deserted house near where Orangeville is now located.

"Mr. Thomas was cooking dinner, and one of the lads had gone to the creek (Bois d' Arc) for water, when the Indian warhoop was heard at the creek." according to Simpson writing in the History of Fannin County in 1885.

He continued: "The savages shot young McCarty full of arrows and cut off his head with their tomahawks. They then surrounded the house, yelling and screaming most horribly. Dority was shot in the left side and killed; young Dority was shot through the elbow and crippled for life."

Andrew Thomas rushed for the door and was met by the Indians armed with tomahawks and guns. Armed with a "fire poker" and rifle he charged into the Indians.  In the fight that took place he managed to knock out five of the Indians.  The others retreated into the brush for safety according to Simpson's report.

Thomas and the wounded young Dority then headed for Fort Inglish and arrived just before dark.

Simpson reported, “The next morning we started to the scene of slaughter. Arrived [sic] at the battle ground, there lay old man Dority in a pool of blood, three scalps having been taken from his head and the tomahawk having been sunk twice in the naked skull. . . "

Tbe bodies were brought back to Fort Inglish the next day and buried in the grave yard. They were the second and third people to be buried there.

Not all the settler's encounters with Indians ended in tragody. A third tale from Judge Simpson recalls a later story from the scene of the Dority/McCarty killings.

In 1839, the Indians in the territory of Fannin County, had reduced horse stealing to a science so perfect that the most watchful and adroit citisen was duped and deceived by their cunning. Wm. Rice, an old and talented bachelor, owned the house and land where Dority and McCarty's son were killed, near where Orangeville now stands. Rice having no helpmate to enjoy his pleasures and profits, or divide his sorrows, determined to live on his land and enjoy all the felicity arising from such a course of life, supposing that he could out*it and manage the dextrous savage in his plans and purposes of rascality."

​Old-man Rice had only a single horse, which he was determined to keep out of the Indian's hands.  To protect his horse, he placed its feed box on the porch of the house.  He would then fasten a lariat to the horse and the other end to himself until the horse finished eating.  He would then lead the mustang to a nearby meat house, put him inside, fasten a heavy slab shutter, chain and lock the shutter and then go to bed.

The procedure worked for some time.

Judge Simpson relates, “Mr. Rice having one night gone through his process of caution and vigilance, larirated himself to the opposite end of his rope, he being in the house, and after fastening his cabling around his waist, retired to his bed scaffold, and laid down to rest until his horse would be done eating, after which he intended to secure him in his fortress of safety. Thinking over the peril and danger to which he was exposed (which be afterwards told me [Simpson]) his horse suddenly stopped eating - he hesitated a moment - could hear nothing of his horse, and drew his cable to shore - but he found only anchor at one end and around himself. His lariat had been cut on the outside the house by the Indians who had taken his horse and gone.”

Simpson also relates in the tale how Rice made his first crop of corn in this section of the country in 1837 above the mouth of Choctaw Creek on Red River with a plow made of Bois d’ Arc timber.

The area was settled in the summer of 1836 by Daniel Dugan. He latter was joined by Samuel Q. Washburn, Israel Gabriel, and Jonathon Anthony in 1837.

The formal community of Orangeville was not established until 1839. It is still one of the oldest communities in Fannin County. By 1885 Orangeville had grown and had a dry goods store, a grocery, a mill and gin, a blacksmith shop and school house.

According to the History of 
Fannin County, “The country was described as being a very rich and productive one, the land once prairie but now what is termed brush land, which though a little troublesome to put into cultivation is decidedly the most productive land in the state."

The community reached its peak around 1890 and had four churches, a post office, about twelve businesses and a population of about 176. By 1910 the post office was removed.

An early settler in Orangeville was Lemuel O. Blanton who arrived in Texas around 1840 from South Carilona by way of Tennessee. His decendents still live in the community and helped keeping the community alive for many years. His son, John Dean Blanton owned the hotel, saw mill and  store in the community for several years. Around the community ia still Blanton Creek and Blanton Springs.

Besides Lemuel Blanton thero was also another unrelated Blanton family (Josiah) that settled in the same area. Josiah's son, Benjamin Franklin Blanton settled close to Leonard and became a Methodist minister. He helped establish many Methodist churches in Fannin County

Orangeville's largest attraction in recent history was the Swimming Pool and Picnic ground. The pool was dug for calachie to construct the highway from Whitewright to Orangeville in the early 1930s.

Albert Vestal, who owned the land where the pit was dug turned it into a public swimming pool.  It became one of the area's attractions for several years, according to Patsy Hymer Reskin.

Located just south of Whitewright, most of the population and businesses migrated to the Grayson county communities when the Missouri Pacific started operation through Whitewright and Fannin County.

By 1949 the town’s single remaining business was supported by a population of 25. Now all businesses have disappeared.

The prairie is still dotted with beautiful farms and neat houses. Arrowheads are still found, left from the time when the Indians hunted buffalo in the area. Most of Orangeville’s old families are no longer here. They have been replaced by 80-90 new comers that don't see the prairie covered with buffalos and Indians but, land of cattle and cotton.

John Frair is a retired professor of journalism and now resides in Ravenna.