Valley Creek Texas, A Thriving Village in the 1870's
By Tom Hymer
Leonard, Texas, 1980
The principal settlement in Southwest Fannin county, Texas, in the 1870's was Valley Creek, located twelve miles southwest of Bonham, the county seat and five miles north of the Hunt County Line. It was located near the creek for which it was named and was a lovely spot that presented a beautiful picture to the early settlers. In the spring the woods blossomed abundantly with wild plums and redbuds and
the creek ran half full of water. The nearby forests included Oak, Walnut, Pecan and Bois d' Arc trees suitable for lumber. Nearby was the site of a well known camp ground, Waller wells, that had been established in 1854 by Joseph Scales Waller to serve freighters operating between Sherman and Jefferson Texas. After the death of Mr. Waller his widow sold the property to Howard Netherton in 1867. Members of the Netherton family still own the land.
On June 3, 1869, Howard L. Parmele bought the land that the settlement was to be located on from John B. Seaman and Charles C. Peck. All parties were living in New York at that time. The land was bought for the purpose of establishing a Presbyterian U.S.A.
Mr. Parmele was married to a sister of Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph. Mr. Morse was married to a sister of a New York stock broker, Thomas Murphy, who had two other sisters, one married to a Mr. Colgate and the other to a Mr. Rockwell. The Rockwells had a son, Fred, who was a problem. Brothers-in-law Murphy, Colgate and Morse joined Parmele in organizing the colony so they could
send Fred Rockwell away to Texas
The colony, when organized, consisted of eleven families. The head of each family was trained in a trade or profession. Among the colonists were: Mr. Ludlow, a bookkeeper; Dr. Kuyrkendall, a physician; Mr. Conklin and his son-in-law, Mr. Van Pelt, bankers; Mr. Parmele, merchant and Thomas Wright, farmer. All were of the Presbyterian, U.S.A. denomination.
The colony made the journey in an immigrant train with possessions in the front half of the car and the family's living quarters in the rear half of the car. The train traveled across quarters in the rear half of the car. The train traveled across the state of New York and the New Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls into Canada, down the north side of Lake Erie through Ontario to Windsor, Canada, entering the United States again at Detroit and on to St Louis, Missouri, where the train stopped for two days to replenish supplies. There Fred Rockwell found a saloon, laid all night in a gutter in a rainstorm, and died. However, the colonists continued to their destination. At the end of the rail line, at Sherman, Texas, they loaded their possessions into wagons and moved overland to Valley Creek.
Mr. Parmelee built one of the finest homes in the area. The staircase and furniture, including a grand piano, were shipped from New York City, by sea, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and then up the Red River to Jefferson, Texas, and then by ox wagon to Valley Creek. Parmele was a good business man. Under his leadership Valley Creek soon grew into quite a village. He owned and operated a general mercantile store, a saw mill and cotton gin. He was often referred to as the "Bois d' Arc King" because he milled and shipped such a large amount
of wagon parts, house blocks and street paving blocks made from Bois d' Arc wood. He also shipped large quantities of Bois d' Arc apples for seed where they were planted in hedge rows for fences.
Dr. D. H. Dodson, educator and Presbyterian minister, came to Valley Creek in the early 1870's. He was a native of Iowa. He had received his education at the University of Iowa and The Union Theological Seminary of New York City. He was married to Miss Isabel Cox, whose father later founded one of the first schools for Negroes in Texas, located at Marshall. He began his preaching in Valley Creek in a building used as a community church. In 1875 a Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. was organized and Dr. Dodson became it pastor. In 1878, the Presbyterians built their own building. Because of his interest in higher education under Christian supervision, Dr. Dodson founded the small institution, in Leonard, Texas, known as the Leonard Collegiate Institute. This college later became known as Manton College and later still, Cumberland College as well as Dodson College.
Thomas Wright and his wife, Flora McTaggart, were natives of Scotland. They were married in 1867 and, with their daughter, Janet, migrated to the United States in 1869. In 1872, they joined the Presbyterian group of colonists bound for Fannin County, Texas. In 1882, Thomas Wright was out in a bad storm seeing to the stock of the colony. He took pneumonia from the exposure and died. The community offered to help Flora return to Scotland with the children, but she refused, saying Thomas wanted his children reared in America, and that wish she would carry out. One of her daughters, Mary Agnes, married R. C. May, who was the postmaster at Leonard Texas and published the Leonard Graphic for nineteen years. After his death, in 1934, his wife and son, Donald, published the paper until 1949.
Soon after the village was settled a school building was erected. A three months school was taught in the winter while a Sunday School was held each Sunday and preaching almost every Sunday.
Early settlers from Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and other states, added to the population of Valley Creek. In 1880, there were 200 people living in the town. It was the largest town in Fannin County south of Bonham. Among these early settlers were the families of Tom Grider, J. J. Scott, A. M. Phillips, Joe Roberts, Tobe and Wilfred Allison, Thomas Thomas, Dave Mitchell, O. S. Ferguson, Hayes Arnold, Frank and J. R. Wilson. Those of different religious beliefs were privileged to use the Presbyterian Church House. Among the early ministers were: Reverend T. P. Reese and Reverend N. A. Rogers of the Baptist Denomination; Reverend Thurmond of the Christian Church; Reverend Burwell Cox of the Presbyterian Denomination.
In the late 1850's a post office had been established at Oak Hill about three miles east of Valley Creek to serve Southwest Fannin County. That post office was moved to Valley Creek in 1876 and set up in Mr. Parmele's store with Mr. Parmele the postmaster. A Mrs. Robinson operated a two-story hotel while her husband worked in the general store. There were also a drug store, barber shop, blacksmith shop and grist mill. Among the physicians serving the community were Doctors Ewing, Watkins, and Doctors Scott and Al Pendergrass.
The town of Valley Creek was doomed. In 1880, the Denison and Southeastern Railroad, later to become the Missouri Kansas and Texas, built through Southwest Fannin County. The railroad was three miles south of Valley Creek. By 1882 the town of Valley Creek had moved to the new town of Leonard on the railroad. The leading citizens of Valley Creek became the leading citizens of Leonard. Mr. Parmele
built a general store, Mr. Thomas and Mr. J. R. Wilson opened a livery stable and Mr. Wilfred Allison and Mr. G. R. Grider established a hardware store in the new town.
Records show that Valley Creek had a post office as late as 1899 with O. S. Ferguson serving as postmaster.
The only building now on the former site of the town of Valley Creek is that of the Valley Creek Baptist Church. The first church to serve the community was non-denominational and used the school building. In 1875 a Presbyterian Church U.S.A. was organized. In 1878 they built a church building which other denominations used until it was destroyed by a cyclone in 1885, at which time the Presbyterians
moved to Leonard. The Valley Creek Missionary Baptist Church of Christ was organized in 1876. In 1916 the church bought the school building which they used until 1925.
In 1925, the church, now known as the Valley Creek Baptist Church built a new church building. This building burned in 1952 and was replaced in 1953 with the present building. the names of some of the families that worshipped here were: Steele, Owen, Robinson, Felmet, McDuffy, Netherton, Bolding and Leever.
Adjoining the church ground is the well kept Valley Creek Cemetery which is about as old as the community. Many of the pioneer citizens of the area are buried here. It is still used as a cemetery. H. L. Parmele, the patriarch of the community, was buried here in 1905. His body was disinterred in 1906 and reburied in New York state.
The first permanent settlement in this area began in 1869 when eleven Presbyterian families migrated here from New York. Organized by Howard L. Parmele and others, including his brother-in-law Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventory of the telegraph, the colony was formed for the establishment of a Presbyterian U.S. A. mission. Land for the settlement was located near the site of Waller Wells, an early campground used by freight haulers operating between Sherman and the East Texas port of Jefferson. Named for a nearby stream, Valley Creek became a thriving community in the 1870s under the direction of Howard Parmele, who established a mercantile store, sawmill, and cotton gin here. The town also included a school, hotel, post office, drugstore, grist mill, barbershop, doctors, churches, and a blacksmith shop. With the assistance of Dr. D. H. Dodson, an Iowa minister and educator, the local Presbyterian U.S.A. church was formally organized in 1875. Bypassed by rail lines in 1880, the town declined. Businesses were moved to Leonard (e mi. S), where many former valley Creek residents became prominent leaders. Only a church building and a cemetery remain at the site of the pioneer Valley Creek community.
Directions: From Leonard, take Fm 896 north for 3 miles.
Read more about the Valley Creek community in the Handbook of Texas.
Information on the Valley Creek cemetery is at the Fannin County GenWeb site.