By Tom Hymer, Chair, Fannin County Historical Commission
"The story of this faulous land of the wonderful and colorful state of Texas would be incomplete without the story of Savage, Fannin County, Texas," so wrote Mrs. Belle Smalley Lackey, in 1971, in her "History of Savage, Fannin County, Texas." This once thriving community of some 75 families, which grew up at the crossroads leading five miles west to Leonard, six miles east to Wolfe City, give miles south to Celeste and twelve miles north to Bonham, has now vanished.
To a person living in a city whose address can be stated, it might seem difficult to explain some rural communities of the past. Such a one was Savage. The mail, after the closing of the post office in 1903, bore the address Route 2, Celeste; Route 2, Leonard; or Route 2, Wolfe City, Texas.
When the children were asked where they went to school, the answer was Evans. Upon a similar question as to Sunday School, the answer was Antioch, and still further questioning revealed that the community bore the name of Savage.
William Hamilton (Uncle Billy) Savage and his wife, Elizabeth Henson Savage, their three children, John, Lafe and a daughter, who later married David Marshal, came to Fannin County, Texas, in 1869. They were on their way to California, but one of their oxen died, which Mr. Savage was unable to replace, so they located on a farm at the "crossroads."
He found ti inconvenient, and sometimes impossible, to go t town for family and farm supplies to to travel conditions over muddy roads, so he began to bring in large supplies of necessities to tide him over a considerable period. Neighbors, when they ran out of necessities, would procure their needs from Mr. Savage to tide them over until they could go to town. People began to speak of going to Savage's to see if he had what they needed.
At first, he had only a few shelves in a side room of his house, where he kept a bit of surplus. Then he built a small building separate from his house in which he stored surplus commodities. This was the beginning of the Savage Store and the Savage Community.
The Savage community grew rapidly during the 1880s and 1890s and until World War I. On May 19, 1891, a United States post office was established at Savage. David Marshal, son-in-law of William H. Savage, was the postmaster. He served until October 8, 1891, when he was succeeded by William H. Savage, who served until the postoffice was discontinued, in 1903, at which time the Leonard postoffice began serving the Savage Community.
The postoffice was in the general store owned by William H. Savage and occupied the first floor of a two story building, in which the Woodmen of the World lodge was located in the second story. A lodge of the Farm Labor Union also used the lodge hall. This local of The Farm Labor Union had a membership of sixty members in 1921.
Merchants who had businesses in Savage at various times included William H. Savage, J. A. Robbins, Mr. Long, Frank J. Jones, Lee Owens, Henry Goode, Dad Perkins, Ray Haley, Wilfred McBroom, Betty McClellan and Roy Treadway.
A blacksmith shop was operated by a Mr. Condor. John Macon ran a cotton gin. There was a hardware store, a dry goods store and a milnery shop. The last store in savage closed about 1937. A Dr. Davis served the community as a physician several years before moving to nearby Bailey.
A church was organized soon after the Savage family arrived. Another church, the Antioch Baptist, was organized in the early 1890s. This church was active in the community until 1957, when it merged with the First Baptist Church of Leonard. Pastors that served the church were George McGraw, R. P. Mayes, T. B. Randolph, U. C. Broach, Chester Brunch, H. T. Money, Everett Springfield, Carter Lyles, bill Ferguson, Thomas Reece, Paul Hunt and John David Quick.
The one room school established by William H. Savage in the 1870s became the Evans School in 1901, and was located about a mile east of the store and post office. At one time it had three teachers and over 100 pupils. The first principal in the new building was Cicero Atterbury. He was paid $30 per month. Assisting teachers were paid $20 per month. The school term was sic months or less.
Other teachers of the Evans School were Roy Owens, Gertrude Glass (later Mrs. Roy Owens), Sudie Taylor (later Mrs. Elmer Clark), Mavis Felty (later Mrs. Clarence Coleman), Millie May Mankin, Maurine Durrett (later Mrs. Melrose Owens), Adna Lou Lewis (later Mrs. A. M. Savage), Nell Lumpkin, Ewell Fowler, Hugh L. Lackey and Belle Smalley (later, Mrs. Hugh L. Lackey). The Evans School closed in the 1940s.
Two of the largest and most influental families in the Savage community were the Smalley family and the Owens family.
George W. Smalley, born in 1932, in Tennessee, a Confederate Army veteran, and his wife, Jamina S. Carden, settled in the Savage community in 1876 with their children, W. R., Sarah, Phillip, Frank, Ace, Rachael and Samuel K.
William Lafayette Owens was born in Hardeman County, Tennessee, in 1845. He married Frances Adeline Tucker in 1873. They moved to the Savage community in 1884.
Trouble developed over land lines between the Owens and Smalley families. W. L., now known as Fate, borrowed $1,000 from a Bonham bank, went to Wolfe City and made arrangements with the Santa Fe Railroad to bring 42 relatives from Booneville, Mississippi to Wolfe City. The relatives included Fate's five brothers; Wash, Pleas, France, Jess and Tom; three sisters, Margaret, Ellen and Mehenia. They all settled in the Savage community. The land lines controversy was settled amicably.
Another prominent citizen of the Savage community was E. T. Stansell. He and his wife, Mary A., came to the area in 1850. Their son, Napoleon B., married, first, Sally, and later Mollie Shiels. Their children were William, who married Opal Grisham; Oscar; Nell, who married Dr. Clyde Nevill, of Bonham; and Robert, who married Rose Cline of Bonham.
The Crelia family, William Marion and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Wright, and their children, William Edgar, Wallace Leslie and Marietta were active in church, school and community affairs.
The decline of Savage began after World War I. Farms began to get larger. The younger men and women migrated to the cities where they found employment. The new highways missed Savage. Roads were closed, the "cross roads" eliminated.
Former residents and their descendants, of the Savage community have an annual reunion on the Sunday following the ___ day of the Leonard Picnic in Leonard, with an attendance of over 200 persons. This group sponsored the Texas Historical Marker located on Texas Highway No. 78, two miles west of the now demised townsite.
William Hamilton "Uncle Billy" Savage (1822-1909) and his wife Elizabeth (Henson) moved to this area in 1869. Due to bad road conditions, they often stocked extra supplies and sold them to their neighbors. Their store became the center of the Savage Community (25 mi.E). The village had a doctor, blacksmith, cotton gin, stores, school, church, and a post office established in 1891. Savage began to decline after World War I (1917-18) when was bypassed by construction of new roads in the area. Annual reunion activities are held in Leonard (3 mi. SW).
Location: 2.5 miles northeast from Leonard on SH 78.