Texas Historical Marker set for Smith Plantation
On Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. a Texas Historical marker, commemorating the Smith Plantation, near Mulberry in Fannin County, will be dedicated. The dedication ceremony will be at the marker site on FM Road 274, four miles west of State Highway 78, at the home of Mrs. J. J. Bond. H. G. Dulaney, curator of the Sam Rayburn Library, will make the dedicatory address.
The marker commemorates a plantation of 3,000 acres established in 1851 by Gideon Smith, a native of Alabama.
Smith became an outstanding citizen of Fannin County. He served a term in the Texas Legislature as a representative from Fannin County. He also participated in the Civil War as a colonel in the Confederate Army.
John C. Smith joined his brother, Gideon, as part owner of the plantation in 1855. John Smith became a doctor and practiced medicine in the area.
The Smith Plantation was one of the earliest in the area and was worked by slaves. The Smiths were successful planters and lived in the tradition of the south.
James Earl Spies, a native of Wisconsin and a school teacher, who had settled in Lamar County, Texas, around 1890, bought 1,300 acres of the plantation in 1900 from the Smith heirs. After acquiring the place he built a large two story house that was the show place of the area. Mr. Spies owned the place until the early 1930s. The Denison, Bonham and New Orleans Railroad served the plantation with a siding called Spies Switch around which developed a small community with a school, Parker Grove.
Mr. Spies was a leader in the area being a director in the Ravenna Bank. He operated a gin in Ravenna in which he lost an arm. In 1920, Mr. Spies was elected tax collector for Fannin County, and in 1934 he was elected Fannin County Judge. He died in 1941.
In 1933, J. J. Bond and his wife, Melissa, became the owners of that part of the Smith Plantation that had belonged to J. E. Spies. Soon after they purchased the place the house burned. The Bonds replaced it with a large two story house that is now the show place of the area.
Mr. and Mrs. Bond came to Fannin County from Fort Worth. They were both natives of Greenville, Texas. Mr. Bond had been manager of cottonseed oil mills for Swift and Co. Mr. Bond died in 1950 and Mrs. Bond makes her home in the house they built in 1933. The place is now known as Cloverdale Ranch.
Bryan Dupree, long time resident of the area and grand nephew of Gideon and John C. Smith, sponsored the marker.
The following document is from the files of the Fannin County Historical Commission.
The Smith Plantation
Gideon Smith was born in Madison County, Alabama, and came to Texas in 1847 at the age of 32 years. He purchased this 1500 acres, along with an additional 1500 acres on January 27, 1853. This constituted the entire Siraco Contes survey which was patented on July 21, 1841.
The first permanent settlement in Fannin County was at Tulip and settled by Daniel Rowlett and others. This was in 1836. Bailey Inglish, Mabel Gilbert, John P. Simpson and others located at the present site of Bonham and by 1845 the county was well settled along Red River. It was in 1843 that Bois d/Arc settlement became the county seat and changed its name to Bloomington, then to Bonham. So you can see that Gideon Smith and his brother, John C. Smith were early pioneers of this area. Gideon had persuaded his bother, John, to come to Texas in 1855 by deeding him 1500 acres of the 3000 acres, which is this particular tract of land.
You can understand why the Smith brothers came to this area. Texas stretched from the Sabine to the Rio Grrande and from the Gulf to and beyond Red River. On the north was a land as fair and as rich as ever tempted a man. It had a climate of unsupassed excellence. Rich and succulent gasses sustained vast herds of cattle and wild horses. Deer were in countless numbers on the prairies. The air of springtime, as now, was redolent with the perfume of flowers, beautiful and abundant. Every tree and bush had its chorus of singing birds. Comfort and independence beckoned these two brothers to Texas.
The two brothers lived on this land and engaged as planters. Gideon and John C. Smith had a great many slaves prior to the war and were successful planters as well as community leaders. Gideon Smith served as a State Representative in 1857 and also served in the Civil War where he was promoted to Colonel. After the war, times got hard and he sold part of his 1500 acres. The story, as told to me by Vera, was that Colonel Gideon Smith went on a sheriff's bond and when the sheriff skipped the country he was forced to sell the property. The Gideon Smith 1500 acres was finally broken up in smaller tracts and was purchased or given to negro slaves following the Civil War and their ancestors today live on some of this property. In fact, Jessee Higgs' wife, Mary Helen, heired some of this property. There is a cemetery on the Smith farm where the slaves were buried and it is still being used as a cemetery for the negroes in and around the Ravenna community.
J. E. Deupree, the father of Brian Deupree, and a nephew of Gideon and John C. Smith moved to Fannin County in 1853 when he drove a herd of some 200 head of cattle to the Smith ranch from Marshall, Texas, about two hundred miles. The cattle ran loose after being branded as there were no fences in those days. Part of the Gideon Smith land is now owned by the late Bryan Deupree, who was a very prominent citizen of this community and highly respected.
John C. Smith engaged in the practice of medicine and farming until after the Civil War. In the later years of his life it is said that if one wanted to enjoy true Southern hospitality, all he had to do was visit Dr. Smith's home and family on Red River. Dr. Smith died in 1884 and the property was purchased by Judge J. E. Spies on January 3, 1899.
Judge Spies was a remarkable man and raised seven children, four girls and three boys, all well educated. Allen Spies, one of his sons, became a banker. Dr. John W. Spies, another son, after serving as the head of a British hospital in India, because dean of the medical branch of the University of Texas at Galveston. Dr. Tom Spies and Sam Rayburn were very close friends because of the great humanitarianism of each. When Dr. Spies received one of his many decorations Mr. Rayburn sent the following message: "I consider tom Spies as one of the greatest benefactors to human beings that I have ever know, and may God spare him to carry on his marvelous work for the people." This is how one great humanitarian salutes another great humanitarian.
In 1933 the 1500 acre tract was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Bond. It was not through obligation but with a deep sense of appreciation that Mr. and Mrs. Bond have preserved, on this acreage, what is the best of our past, our present and our future. As you can see, they have had the vision to preserve the plantation for the next generation.
Gideon Smith (b. 1815), a native of Alabama, moved to Fannin County in 1851 and purchased a 3000-acre tract. He deeded half of the property to his brother John C. Smith, who joined him in 1855. Smith served one term in the Texas Legislature (1857-1858) and participated in the Civil War as a colonel in the Confederate Army. John Smith became a doctor and practiced medicine in the area. Both men were successful planters. Part of the plantation, one of the earliest in the area, has been continuously in production of grain and cattle since 1851.
Directions: From Bonham, drive 10 miles on SH 78 north yo FM 274, then drive west for four miles on FM 274.
A descendant of the Smith family, Letha B. Smith, has written a history of the Smith family, Blood's Thicker Than Prejudice; a Story of Slavery in Texas (1996). A copy of this book is at the Fannin County Historical Commission.