Gateway to Fannin County
By: Janice Golden Smith
Document submitted with the application for the Historical Marker
Approximately twenty-eight miles south of the Red River, in the southwestern corner of Fannin County, you will find the City of Trenton. This small city is approximately three miles northeast of the Fannin, Grayson, and Collin county lines. Although the population of Trenton has always been small, it has a very rich history with many of the ancestors of the original founding fathers continuing to make Trenton their home. The location of this small Texas city is truly the gateway to Fannin County.
In the beginning, this section of Fannin county was know as "Wild Cat Thicket". Forest with thick underbrush covered most of this new land. Life in the thicket ranged from a variety of animals including wildcats, bobcats, panthers, bears, deer, wild boars, and wolves. Wild turkeys and prairie chickens werre also in abundance. The land was virginal and untamed, buts its fertile black soil made excellent conditions for farming. Wagon trains bringing the Burns, Aldridge, Squires, Andrews and Chadwell families settled this portion of Fannin County, which later became the present day city of Trenton. These settlers built their homes [in the] northeast portion of present day Trenton, they built their homes from the "thicket" and fenced the land for cultivation. Water was in abundance just ten or less feet below the surface of the ground, making well drilling relatively easy. Soon, many homesteads began to spring up through the area. Word was quickly spread of this new land and the bounties it offered.
By the middle 1800's, the community resembled a thriving new community. The eastern and southern families moving westward that stopped to make the Trenton area their new homes brought with them some of their old customs and traditions. Life in this frontier community soon appeared to have many of the same functions as the larger cities from which the settlers had left. One of these traditions was the practice of the Order of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The first Masonic Lodge was known as the Ransom Butler Lodge Number 374 A.F. & A.M. It was located just south of the town in the home of Ransom Butler in 1873. Meetings were held regularly in an upstairs room of Mr. Butler's home. This lodge dismissed in 1881. It was not until December 07, 1893 that new new charter of Order of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was once again established in Trenton. This lodge remains to be an active part of the city to this day.
By 1875, Trenton was a booming frontier community. Although not incorporated at this time, several citizens felt a strong need for order and a more structured society. One of the individuals who became active in seeing changes made was Doctor W. C. Holmes. Doctor Holmes had been living in the community for many years and was very instrumental in moving the community forward. He, along with W. T. G. Weaver, W. Blassingame and Richard Sansom all traveled to the state capitol in Austin, Texas during 1875 for the first State Constitutional Convention. They all represented the twenty-eight district of the State of Texas, and helped to write the Texas Constitution. Today, the constitution has gone through several changes, but it largely remains the same as it was when a gentleman from Trenton made this long journey for the amelloration of the entire state.
In 1881, A. J. Russell, one of the early settlers, chose the name of Trenton for this new township. He chose the name of Trenton in memory of a hospital in Louisiana where he had stayed during the days of the Civil War. As was the case in most of the communities throughout the west, the railroad lead progress, and progress brought settlers. In 1881 the Denison Southeastern railroad laid rails and began operations through this corner of Fannin County. Trenton became a rail stop, and travel by rail brought more people. This Denison Southeastern railroad would later become the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Rail line. The earlier rail line connected Denison to Greenville and points east and south. When the first train came through, people came from miles around to see it pass through. Being an official rail stop meant a need for a depot and hotel. Through private subscriptions of one hundred dollars each from local settlers, a depot was financed and built.
Trenton's first post office began on July 27, 1881. George H. Sanders was the first postmaster. The town grew fast and by 1885 there was a population of 200 persons in this new land. The town now boasted two drug stores, two saloons, a hotel operated Burger Reed, a school house, four stores of general merchandise, a furniture store operated by W. A. Jackson, two grocery stores, two blacksmith shops, a saddle and leather shop, a grist mill and gin, two steam powered gins, hardware store, restaurant, and a boarding house. There was also a town marshall, a jail, and several physicians. The undertaker operated out of the furniture store. Ginning of cotton in Trenton was going strong for many years. Reports were spread throughout the county that Trenton's gin was running to capacity with cotton being ginned from all over the county. In one days operations a total of 450 bales were produced in Trenton, and cotton still remained in the fields.
During 1886 the saloon had become an intricate part of Trenton. There was a number of saloons operated throughout the town. Liquor and very little law enforcement during these earliest times made a combination for trouble. Young men from the neighboring communities would come to Trenton and sample whatever beverage they were able to obtain in the saloons. When impaired by their drinking, they would become very boisterous. Trouble was sure to follow and did. However, because someone knew their families their conduct was often overlooked by the local officials. This did not set well with many of the citizens of the town and before long the founding fathers and a group of local businessmen met and through mutual decision agreed to petition the local townsfolk to determine if this area should be incorporated. Laws were needed for a more structured government that would provide safety for the citizens. Prior to the town being officially incorporated, several men would meet and enact laws to try and govern the town. The saloon, however, remained a very profitable business that continued to thrive. Trenton's reputation of a wild and unruly town began to reach other areas of the county. This small section of southwest Fannin county was developing a reputation . . . . and not an altogether good one at that.
On September 10, 1890 an election was held for the incorporation of the town. A total of fifty-nine votes were cast in that first election. During these early days, election laws virtually did not exist and anyone wanting to vote was allowed to do so. At the end of the election there were a total of thirty nine votes cast for the incorporation and twenty votes cast against the incorporation. Following this election, the results of the petition was presented to Fannin County Judge William A. Bramlette. Now there was an official town of Trenton. The next order of business was to create a government body to legislate laws and govern this new town. On September 26, 1890, another election was held for the purpose of electing a governing body for the newly incorporated town. The results of this election were taken to the county seat, Bonham, and presented to the County Judge for recording of the results.
The first Mayor of Trenton, J. R. Hopkins, took office on october 18, 1890 and served only a five month span until March 1891. During the first year, a total of four individuals served as Trenton's major. In those early days of incorporation, no one was strong enough to withstand the pressures of being a Mayor. It was and remains to be a thankless position. Following the resignation of Major Hoskins, a gentleman named Herrell took over as major, his term lasting two months from March 1891 until April 1891. Again in April of 1891, it was decided John Graves would become Mayor . . . only to resign one month later. Dr. W. C. Holmes was then elected that May to serve as Major for the next three months. September 10, 1891, B. L. Ross became the next Mayor, serving seven months from September 1891 until May 5, 1893. On May 5, 1893, Trenton's new Mayor was Andrew Bird. By March 2, 1894, Henry Finger became Mayor only to resign the following year in October. It appears the Mayor's position may not have been an election of the people, but perhaps by the board itself. This would account for the large number of men becoming Mayor in such a short period of time.
One of the first on-going accomplishments of the newly created governing body was to map out the town. Although Mayor Ross was no longer the Mayor, he did signed the map which created the official town of Trenton in 1894, and designated the Earnhart addition. The town was now four years old and had already had a total of seven mayors.
Growth! Growth! Growth! It was not until a long resident and respected individual named Doctor W. C. Holmes, at the age of fifty-four, was elected to take Mayor Finger's place. Doctor Holmes served out this term as Mayor from October 1894 until April 6, 1897. Now it appeared the governing body of the newly incorporated town was beginning to make some progress. Mayor Holmes' term of office lasted longer than any previous person to this position. Met by resistance from most locals, and feeling the pains of growth, Mayor Holmes continued the efforts to lay out this small settlement into blocks. His first home was on Augustus Street about two blocks north of the downtown area which had been named Hamilton Street in honor of his son Thomas Hamilton Holmes. Many other streets had already been named after the children of Dr. Holmes. Pearl Street was named for his daughter Pearl; Daisy and Carrie Mabre Streets were named for his two other daughters; and Augustus Street was named for another son, Augustus "Gus" Holmes. The sir name of "Holmes" was also dedicated to a street name. To date, these streets remain as they were in the earliest part of history.
In April, 1897 Dr. W. C. Holmes stepped down from his mayoral duties and G. W. Moreland became Trenton's ninth mayor. Moreland served this office for a total of two years and five months. An election which was held in September 1899 put R. S. Gaines into the position as mayor. Mayors' Holmes, Moreland and Gaines were the mayors that actually put into writing the first of a series of ordinances regulating various laws and resolutions governing Trenton. The basic format for initiating these documents continues to be used today.
Educated in Mississippi and Virginia prior to the Civil War, wounded and discharged from military service at the rank of captain, W. C. Holmes returned to the University of Virginia where he graduated. For a short period of time he taught school, and received his medical training in New Orleans. These formal years of education instilled in him a need to try his hand in the newspaper business. On October 22, 1909, Doctor and Ex-Mayor of Trenton, W. C. Holmes first started publication of The Trenton Tribune, a weekly newspaper. Today, a third generation newspaper, this remains the only newspaper in Trenton and is operated by Tom Mc Holmes, Grandson of Doctor W. C. Holmes. Publication is on a weekly basis with subscriptions throughout the United States.
Now that the town had a formal government, several civic minded ladies began to organize. The Culture Club was born. Organized in 1916 and federated in 1917, the club began one August morning when a group of fiove neighbors met in the kitchen of Mrs. L. F. Southerland. What began as a social organization for the women of Trenton later developed into a more civic minded organization. The aim of the club was "the intellectual improvements of its members, the promotion of civic pride and betterment of our public school." The first regular meeting was held in October at the home of Mrs. B. T. Southerland with twenty members present. They completed deeds of "good will" for the city and school. They held bake sales in the downtown area and other community wide events to raise money for various community programs. Among these efforts they helped to purchase library books for the school in 1938. Other projects they sponsored was the installation of a water system at the school, the purchase of playground equipment, laboratory equipment for the science classes at the school, and the promotion of athletics. Today the Trenton Garden Club operates as a civic minded organization with many of the attributes and activities of the earlier Culture Club.
On September 30, 1938 Trenton drilled the first public water well. Trenton had its first good clean water. The tank atop the new water service holds 50,000 gallons of water which flows by gravity into distribution lines throughout the city. The entire cost for this project was $30,151.00. Drastically less than it would cost for a well of this same size to be drilled. Trenton's first sanitary sewer system began in 1954. Up until then, every home had a septic tank system. During the first part of 1969, a second city water well was drilled. A ground storage tank with a capacity of holding 250,000 gallons of water remains in operation today. Again in 1987 Trenton's third city water well was put into operation.
In the One Hundred Seven years of being an incorporated city, Trenton has had a total of twenty-seven mayors. Only once was a mayor elected that would not serve. He won the election by "write-in" votes. Today Trenton is an opeative city under a Texas General Law Type "A" government. Today's governing body consists of five city council positions and a mayor. Regular meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at seven o'clock p.m. in the City Hall.
Trenton is centrally lcoated twenty-six miles fom the cities of herman, Greenville, and mcKinney. It is served by two major highways. U.S. Highway 69 runs east/west through the area connecting Trenton with Sherman and south/east connecting to Greenville. State Highway 121 is the major north/south route, connecting to the cities of Bonham on the north and McKinney on the south. The Dallas Metro-plex, one of the most dynamic economic centers in the country, is less than an hour's drive away.
In 1990 the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census indicated the population of Trenton to be 721, with a total populous of 24, 804 persons for the entire county. Dun and Bradstreet listed a total of twenty business establishments in December 1991. Today there are a total of thirty-three business establishments in the city. We are proud of retaining our "Country" atmosphere, and yet continuing growth. Several of the buildings in our downtown area remain the original buildings with very little change. Trenton remains a small city, with steady growth. Our past remains a very special part of our present, and we are truly a "Gateway To Fannin County".
The earliest Anglo settlers in this area, drawn to the fertile farmlands, probably came to the locality known as Wildcat Thicket in the mid-1800s. By the 1870s a community had begun to form, and settler A. J. Russell reportedly named Trenton for a hospital in which he'd been treated during the Civil War. The railroad arrived in Trenton in 1881, the same year a post office was established, and the town began to boom. By 1885 there were several thriving businesses in operation. Trenton was incorporated in 1890. Dr. W. C. Holmes, a former Trenton mayor and active citizen, began to published the weekly Trenton Tribune in 1909. The town maintained its size during the 20th century, outlasting many of its neighbors. Trenton remains a bustling community.
Location: Intersection of US 69 Business and Hamilton Street