Town Named Telephone Because It Had One
Compiled by Tom Hymer, chairman of the Fannin County Historical Commission.
In 1886, Poke Hindman established the first business in Telephone, a general store. At that time the town did not have a name. Telegraph was a name submitted by the residents of the area. It was rejected as there was already a town by that name in the state. Hindman had the only telephone in the community and suggested the name “Telephone” which was approved as the name of the new town.
The Telephone Post Office was established Dec. 27, 1886, with Calvin Kemmins as the postmaster.
William B. Denton and his wife, Elizabeth Jane, were among the first settlers of the area around the future town of Telephone. They came about 1850 from Smith County Tenn. Their descendants were to be prominent citizens in Fannin County and the State of Texas. His grandson, Tom, was a Bonham merchant, a Fannin County deputy sheriff and a city judge. Tom’s son, James Gray, was elected a Texas Supreme Court Justice in 1970.
Another grandson, Joe C. Denton Sr., owned and operated the Wise Funeral Home in Bonham until his death in 1976 when he was succeeded by his son Joe Jr. Sterling, another grandson of William B. was manager of the Fannin County Electric Co-operative for several years.
James Rufus Mayfield came to the area about 1869 from Missouri with a widowed sister, her three small children and a brother’s family of six. He married Martha Eugenia Martin, the daughter of another pioneer, Benjamin Harris Martin, whose wife was the daughter of early day settler William Franklin Taylor. Mayfield school was named for this family.
Another early day settler in the area was Nicholas Orr Stallings who came to Texas with his Uncle, Walter G. Orr in 1871. The Orrs bought land in Northern Fannin County bordering on Red River. The area became known as the Stallings Bend Farm.
The Orr family was responsible for the establishment of Orr’s Chapel, a Methodist Church, which was later moved to Telephone.
Dr. W.E. Cravens practiced medicine in the area and was a large landowner on the banks of the Red River east of the Stallings Bend Farm. The old river bluff nearby carries many scars of former camp sites from the early 1840s.
W.D. Richardson, born in 1829, and his wife, Elizabeth, were among the earliest settlers of Telephone. A contemporary of Richardson was Dr. T.H. Brasher. Other settlers included M.H. Favors, J.C. Hawkins and George Henry Slagle. Samuel H. Copeland moved to Telephone in the late 1860s and farmed a large acreage.
Telephone and the surrounding area was linked to Oklahoma by a ferry. One of the earliest ferry operators was an Indian named Charlie Brown. The Bryant family, Dave, Hugh and Pearl, operated the ferry for many years and later hired R.E. Snow to help in the 1890s. Later, Snow took over the ferry operation. Bert Russell, his nephew, worked for him as a boy, and attended school in nearby Mayfield.
In 1926, a contract was let to Austin Bridge Co. to build a bridge crossing. An article in The Bonham Daily Favorite July 4, 1927 tells of the bridge; “In building the Telephone Bridge or Snow’s Ferry Bridge, a pier was washed out which called for another. Austin Bridge Co. experienced a lot of high water and flooding in the work but the fact remains that they built the bridge... At the same time, a bridge was built Sowell’s Bluff.”
The Telephone bridge had one center span-400 feet in length [portion of article is missing]
The charges were 10 cents for pedestrians; 15 cents for horseback rider; 25 cents for a buggy; 50 cents for a wagon and team and $1 for an automobile.
The name of the crossing where the ferry operated was first known as Bryant's Crossing. In 1800, Phillip Nolan led an expedition to Texas to catch wild horses and crossed into Texas at this crossing. He camped near Blue Bluff on Red River, north of the present site of Telephone.
Mrs. Bess Freeman, wife of Jim Freeman, was visited by a Mr. Cotton several years ago who had returned to visit the site of an old stockade along the river where he had lived as a child and remembered Indian attacks. One skirmish he recalled caused several deep wounds to the Indians. Cotton's grandfather brought the wounded inside the stockade and nursed them to good health. The Indians were so touched by his kindness that they never attacked the stockade again.
In 1883, Rev. Elijah Owens organized the High Prairie Baptist Church. The land was donated by J.G. and M.E. Phillips to the trustees of the church who were L. P. Hawkins, H. T. Phillips and Pinkey Martin. It was located one mile east of Telephone. In 1936 the building was torn down and rebuilt in Telephone and the name changed to Telephone Baptist.
The first Church of Christ in the area was organized in or about 1870. The Methodist Church was moved into Telephone about 1900 from Orrs Chapel.
Forest Grove, the principal cemetery of the area, was established in Jan., 1884. The first burial was that of Dixie Mitchell whose body was removed from the High Prairie Baptist Church lot to the new cemetery. A Cemetery Association was formed in 1945 and a Mr. Hood was the first caretaker.
The first school in the immediate area of the present town of Telephone was one and a half miles northeast of the townsite. In Civil War days it was said to be one large room. The name of the school is not known. In 1905, Telephone had a school with three teachers and an enrollment of 240, and with nine grades being taught.
Telephone Lodge No. 348, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, was chartered June 13,1872, and had a membership of 45.
In the early years, Telephone had a drug store, blacksmith shop, two grist mills, barber shop, and two or three general stores where anything could be purchased from a coffin to a pair of shoe laces and even a buggy. Some of the early merchants were J .M. Darling, J.C. Neal and Mitchell Mayfield.
Some of the doctors who practiced medicine in Telephone were; Dr. Pirth, Dr. Williams, Dr. Pierce and Dr. Yarbrough. Dr. Cooper and Dr. Cravens were two of the earlier doctors.
(The material for this article was taken from “Facts and Folks" a History of Fannin County; A History of Constantine Lodge No. 13; A History of Fannin County by Floy Crandall Hodge.)
The following is a portion of a series of articles apparently published in 2002 in a column called Telephone Tattler published by Jean Magness.
Many of my readers have requested more of the history of Telephone. This history was compiled by my friend, Alice James. She did a good job and spent many hours compiling and researching for an accurate account. I hope you enjoy it.
George Henry Slagle, who was bom in 1834, came to Telephone in 1858. W.D. Richardson, born in 1829, and his wife, Elizabeth, were also among the earliest settlers of Telephone. A contemporary of Richardson was Dr. T.H. Brasher. Samuel H. Copeland moved to Telephone in the late 1860's and farmed a large acreage. Other early settlers included Middleton H. Favors, and J.C. Hawkins.
James Rufus Mayfield came to the area about 1869 from Missouri with a widowed sister, her three small children and a brother’s family of six. He married Martha Eugenia Martin, the daughter of another pioneer, Benjamin Harris Martin, whose wife, Mary Ann, was the daughter of early day settler William Franklin Taylor. Mayfield school was named for this family. For more information on this family, please refer to the biographical data in another section of this compilation.
FRATERNAL ORGANIZATIONS IN TELEPHONE
Telephone has had several fraternal organizations through the years. Telephone Masonic Lodge #348, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, was chartered June 13, 1872, and had a membership of 45 members. They met in Tulip until they moved their building to Lamasco during the 1890’s, and then moved it again to Telephone in 1931. This building was destroyed by fire. The Masons built the one-story brick building they are currently using in Telephone in 1969. The Woodmen of the World Lodge was organized in Telephone in 1900. Calvin Felts and William Phillips were active members in this Lodge. The Fraternal Union of America was organized about 1900, also.
Early settlers staked their claims for land, and Telephone and the surrounding areas were developed into primarily agricultural lands in the early days. Cotton and corn were well suited for the farm lands and supported the local livelihoods. Texas is still the nation’s leading cotton producer. There were three cotton gins in operation in Telephone during these times and at least two grist mills. Improvements were made to the land and eventually peanut farming was added. Later soy beans were brought in and success in their growth resulted in a long-term growth pattern with the farmers of the area. The Texas Farm Bureau was formed, and farmers in this area joined. They kept abreast of latest developments in the agricultural field and have had a strong interest in conservation as the years progress. Family farms and ranches, some many generations old, are still prevalent, in addition to big spreads in the area. Both boost the economy of the county and add to the quality of life here. The efficiency of the agricultural system employed by the farmers is proven by the good yields of the community. Watermelons grown in Telephone are considered to be among the best in the country. The farmers have a deep love of the land, face their challenges, and arrive at profitable solutions.
Some of the leading farmers through the years and up to the present time are: Melvin Allen, Dora Anderson, Dilno Bernethy, Evans Dale, Johnny Deloach, Pete DeLoach, Lloyd Dillow, f Easterwood, Arno Evans, Calvii Felts, Larry Felts, Wiley Fox, Lym Gibbs, Bill Gooch, Jack Gooch Woodrow Gooch, Calvin Gray, Clovi Gray, Wallace Gray, John Harris Gene Harrison, Abb Hawkins, Jin Hawkins, Albert Haywood, Arthu Jackson, Rayburn Jackson, Franl Keen, Eddie Kelton, Fred Keiton, Let Kelton, Lonzo Kelton, Raymonc Kelton, Lloyd Lankford, Bob Lawson Harry Lawson, Lawrence Little, Douj Magness, Jerry Magness, Royct Magness, Will Magness, Thorn Mann, Charlie Manry, Billy McCraw J.R. McCraw, Jack McCraw, Mayfielc McCraw, Phillip McCraw, Robed McCraw, Leonard Merrell, W.T Merrell, Albert “Red” Moore, Arthur “Bill” Moore, Frank Moore, Jess Moore, Sam Moore, Luther Morrison, Hubert Nichols, Bob Old, Hubert Peel, Wes Richie, Will Richie, Floyd Roach, Luie Sangster, James Skidmore, Arvil “Bud” Slagle, Bobby Slagle, Wesley Slagle, Oscar Smith, Othel Smith, Matt Stanley, Everett Todd, S.L. Todd, Edwin Wade, Leslie Wade, Clayton White, Dewey White and J.W. White.
Texas is the number one cattle state in the country and this area developed into a big part of that production. The settlers found rich pastures in the grasslands and were immediatelv enaaaed in growing meat for the use of their own families. Water was abundant in the many lakes and streams, and ponds were dug which filled rapidly with the natural springs and rainfall. Cattle producers became an important part of the area’s economy. The growing demand for beef caused the beef industry to increase, and electricity and refrigeration aided this growth. Our beef producers generate an abundance of meat year after year. The cattle business callea for extensive changes in farming in the area, with the need for crops of hay, corn and other grains for food supplies for large herds of cattle. Ranching became a big business and Telephone had its share of big cattle growers. Local ranchers are committed to productive ranching and agriculture and to make a good living for themselves and their families. Dairy farming also became a profitable business in the area. Some of the leading cattle producers through the years and up to the present time are: Calvin Felts, Larry Felts, Woodrow Gooch, Tom Halbert, Royce Magness, Jerry Magness, Billy McCraw, Mayfield McCraw, Leonard Merrell and W.T. Merrell.
HISTORY IN THE 1930’S
This description is of downtown Telephone in the early 1930’s. The first building on the west which is a two-story building, is the Wes and Dow Moore grocery store with the upstairs being used by the Woodmen of the World (WOW) Lodge. The second building was a two-story building also and was owned by the Masonic Lodge. Masonic Lodge #348 was originally organized in Tulip in 1872. They moved their building to Lamasco during the 1890’s and then to Telephone in 1931. In the mid 1930’s, this building burned and the Masons met in the same upstairs room where the Woodmen of the World Lodge was meeting.
This two-story building had an outside staircase going to the second floor. The second floor was used as a court room on Saturdays. Mr. Gray was Justice of the Peace during this time and presided at these court sessions. He was succeeded by Mr. Eugene E. Felts who was also a Justice of the Peace.
Also during this period Telephone frequently had circuses come to town. The circuses would set up tents on vacant lots around downtown. They always had with them live animals - elephants and monkeys. The children rode the elephants and fed the monkeys, and bought popcorn in a box with a prize! The circuses always had medicine shows and strange and wonderful sideshows!
The third building was Frank Smith’s hardware and grocery store. This store operated in Telephone until after World War II. Frank bought this store from Obie Mitchell and Ben Mayfield in the 19-teens. Dan Bernethy and Frank Keen bought it from Frank Smith.
There was a blacksmith’s shop owned and operated by Pap Lowery to the right of the Moore grocery store next to the cotton gin lot, which is now occupied by the Telehpone Baptist Church complex.
The building east of the brick bank building was built by Monroe Ferguson in the early 1930’s. He rented it out to someone who opened a grocery store which Carol Davis operated for a time during the 1940’s. 3arol Davis’ father was a mail carrier, and Carol was his assis-ant. Telephone had three mail outes at that time. Carriers on he three routes were all named Ed”: Ed Davis, Ed Hopper and :.d E. Morris. They serviced leir routes on horseback or rove buggies. Noble Haywood
bought and operated the__gro-cery store after Carol Davis. Then the building was turned into a cafe operated by Mrs. Marie Smith, Herbert Smith’s mother. She specialized in fried fish every Friday.
After the cafe closed, a frame shop was opened by Herbert and Emma Nell Smith in 1973. Next door to the frame shop was a building which was formerly the Everett and Easter Todd grocery store at an early date, then Tom Burrows made it into a grocery store and service station. The Todds and the Burrows both lived in a frame • building behind the store while they each owned it. (This structure was moved by Perry Davis down the highway west of his house and he remodeled it so that his daughter, Terri, and her husband, Mike, could live in it when they married.) The Smiths expanded their frame shop into the old grocery store building next door as the business grew and the first building was used for storing supplies. Kathryn Davis bought the frame shop from the Smiths in 1978 and operated it until she sold it to Kenneth and Janette Doss on December 31, 1988, when it was moved.
On the South side of the street in Telephone, Frank Smith and his son, Bynum, owned a grocery store. It was across the street from the brick building which was the State Bank of Telephone. In fact the bank first operated in the grocery store. Huey Copeland bought out the Farmers Union and took over the grocery store and operated it for a time. Later on, Sterling Denton owned and operated the grocery and Will Hull was owner after him. Tommy Felts owned stock in the store and upon his death, Will asked Calvin Felts, Tommy's son, to take his place at stockholder meetings. Newt Ball late bought out the grocery store and operated it for several years.
Electricity came to Telephone in 1936. Calvin Felts made a deposit for the first electricty to his barber shop in the amount of $10.00 with Texas Power and Light on April 25, 1936. The receipt is in one of Calvin’s books.
A deed transferring property from Grand Lodge of Texas to Trustees of the Monkstown Methodist Church was adopted on July 11, 1941.
Movies were actually a big entertainment feature in Telephone! In 1948 or ‘49, an army barracks was brought to Telephone from Direct, and movies were shown there until the building burned in the mid-1950’s. Noble Haywood’s grocery store also burned in this fire.
Sid and Eva “John” Anderson opened the Dew Drop Inn Cafe and Gift Shop in Telephone in the late 1940’s. This cafe was east of Wes and Dow Moore’s grocery store on the south side of the street, where highway #2029 intersects highway #273, and where the Kutin Korner Beauty Shop now sits. Claude and Icie Anderson Vaught operated the shop during the early days and added groceries. James and Shirley McBroom took it over and operated it in 1949 and 1950. Brooks and Letha Moore operated the establishment following the McBrooms. Jean Hurst Jackson owned and operated the Dew Drop Inn until it closed.
This photo was published in the Bonham Daily Favorite on April 20, 1976. The caption reads:
"Telephone's Main Street Way Back "” The postcard mailed at Telephone back in 1909
shows the main street of the town around 1900, according to Calvin Felts who brought the picture in. It belongs to Gene Jackson and was mailed to C. B. Jackson, Afton, Texas, June 21, 1909, by Rule Darling."