The Spring Hill Community

by the Home Demonstration Club Collection
Mrs. A. G. Hardin, Pres. 1951

Would the people of the Spring Hill Community like to say with the poet: "backward, turn backward 0! Time in your flight, Take us back to 1840, Just for tonight"?

The Spring Hill Community is located about 4 miles east of Aubrey on Farm to Market Road 428.

The first three settlements in Denton County were the Bridges Settlement in the southeast part of the county in 1843, Prairie Holford and Pilot Point in 1844. Denton County was organized in 1846.

Peters' Colony had their land office in the Bridges Settlement and soon some of these settlers were locating in this community of Spring Hill. The Company lured immigrants to this section with an offer of 640 acres to married men and 160 acres to single men if they would live on the land three years. Boundary lines were not always clearly defined thus giving cause for dispute and trouble among the settlers.

It is almost impossible for the person of today, 1951, to visualize the country as it was in 1840s. It sounded good to the weary travelers from Kentucky, Tennessee or Virginia to get 640 acres free. These states were a long way off in those days. The pioneer settlers set out from these states with all their earthly possessions consisting of a gun, which was always near at hand, bedding, axe, coffee pot, skillet and lid and the food that was gathered on the way. They invariably settled on streams.

It took a strong and courageous spirit to bear the toils and hardships that faced those early settlers. Just think...No houses, no schools, no churches, no doctors, nothing but timber in this part of the country, as it is part of the East Cross Timber Belt that extends from Red River about 200 miles or more southward. Of course, now and then, there was a soul without the fortitude to face these odds so he, in time, wended his way back home.

Then, too, there was the constant menace of Indians, who might at any time raid and scalp a white settlement. There were Indian trails, also Ranger trails crossing this country east and west. One trail is the Fish Trap Crossing road and another is the old road crossing Elm Creek at what we now call the old McKinney Bridge. There was also the fear of wild animals. The loneliness at night was often broken by the unearthly scream of panthers or wolves, often so close that it would make your hair rise.

A story is told of a family with a sick child. The father went to get medicine for the child and the mother sat up all night caring for the child, which lay in a homemade cradle. The only light was that of a homemade candle. Hungry panthers prowled around the cabin all night, even going under it. The green lumber had left cracks in the floor as it had dried. Could this woman believe her eyes? Yes, it was true! There was the paw of that horrible old panther reaching up through the crack in the floor toward the cradle of her baby. 94

This brave pioneer woman grabbed the old muzzle-loading shotgun and fired two shots into the crack. Her husband came home about sunup and found two dead panthers close to the front door.

The first marriage in Denton County was in this community in 1884, when Shelton Luttrell and Bettie Dierce were married by a Baptist preacher, Rev. Hammons. They were married without a license and four years later were married again with two children in their arms. This was on or near the place known as the Dr. Gilbert place in 1884.

Agricultural implements were quite crude. At first the settlers used a wooden plow with wooden mould board. Next came the "Cary Plow", which had an iron mould board. Wheat was ground on a steel hand-mill bolted to a tree. Corn was dropped by hand. As time went on, bigger fields were cleared of stumps and put into cultivation. Four or six heavy horses or mules were the pride of every progressive farmer.

Now the farming is mechanized and a good tractor sits in every man's shed. Today it looks quite odd to see a team of horses to a plow or wagon. The lovely goober has come into its own in these parts, often producing over $100.00 per acre, and in many instances supplanting cotton, which is so easily infected with insects. To make an ordinary crop of cotton now, dusting as soon as it is up and continuing until it matures is necessary. This sandy land produces good corn, hay, fruit and garden stuff. Farmers have found that diversification pays. There are good milch cows on nearly every farm, a flock of chickens and a few hogs. A milk truck comes by each morning to haul milk to market from Grade A Dairy barns such as those of N. H. Hardin, Chester Thomas and Harvey Carter.

Back to the earlier days.. The Preston Road was built from Dallas Courthouse to Red River and the people hauled their supplies in wagons from Sherman, the nearest town, a distance of 50 miles or more. What a thrill it was to haul a wagon load of cotton to Sherman and see the father bring back the year's supply of domestic, calico, shoes, sugar, coffee, soda, salt and a few other articles they could not produce at home. Young girls worked late at night getting that new calico ruffled for next Sunday's Meetin'.

This country abounded with wild meat. Great herds of buffalo grazed on the prairie grass, which was often high and glittering in the sunlight like rolling waves of the sea. Timber on the creeks almost groaned at night with the weight of wild turkeys and wild chickens which often flew in droves a mile long. Deer were plentiful and the streams were full of fish. Little did these early settlers realize that some day all this wild game would be killed. The Indians killed a lot of it. All wasted it wholesale. The Indians would take the choice cuts of buffalo or deer leaving the rest to wild animals. There was plenty of wild honey in the bee trees. Many kind of grapes were found all up and down the creeks to be had for the picking. People came from west of Denton, many miles to pick grapes. When they found the vines growing high up in the trees, they cut the trees down. This became such a common occurrence that the owners of the land finally put a stop to it. Persimmon orchards furnished persimmon bread and persimmon wine.. Just north of the present town of Frisco, there was a plum orchard of 100 acres. Man, fowl and animal alike procured food from this orchard. There were also red and black haws, acorns, pecans, and hickory nuts and walnuts. 95

The Indians called this country their "Happy Hunting Ground", and fought to maintain it. The settlers considered it their promised land, flowing with milk and honey, promised to them by the Peters Colony in blocks of 640 acres to the family. So, with undaunted courage the settlers shouldered their axes and guns and went to work in earnest to build better homes for a better world.

The people brought their religion with them to this new settlement. They built brush arbors and during the big meetin' they camped for several days. Old "Red" and "Jerry" ate their food out of the feed box at the end of the wagon while the family met another family who lived five miles away on the other side of the creek. Many a romance rooted and blossomed under the old brush arbor. Often these meetings were broken up with the advent of wild Indians whooping to stampede the horses. Men never went to church without their guns. They grabbed them and followed in hot pursuit. What a sickening sight it was when a man returned to his home to find his family all killed in cold-blooded murder.

Rangers were organized for protection of Denton County when the county was about 16 years old. At the Secession Convention, which met in Austin in 1861, Denton County sent 1000 brave, hardy men to the Confederate Army. They were poorly armed. A man would carry a home-made butcher knife, a Choctaw pony, home-made saddle, an old cast-barrel shotgun and an old style seven-shooter pistol, whose only defense was in its name. Some of these sturdy pioneer soldiers never returned, others did return crippled and maimed for life, a constant reminder of the price that must be paid for freedom.

This little community felt not only the sting of the Civil War, but also World Wars I and II and the Korean War of today. Some of our neighbor boys are home on furlough, to return to the troubled zones and others are too disabled to return. The first wounded soldier from Korea is J. D. Grissett, who spent the weekend here with his parents but returns to a San Antonio Hospital. Junior Boswell visited his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey Boswell.

Names of the early days still familiar today are the Johnsons, Davises, Smiths, Jones and Coffeys by the dozens.

Goose Ranch, located about 3 miles southwest of Spring Hill store, acquired its name in an odd way. Mr. Stewart bought this piece of land and moved to it from his former home in the black land. His friends wondered why and one remarked that he would as soon have a "goose ranch". This name stuck and became so well known that when a person asked for directions in the neighborhood, he was directed from this place. The Stewarts improved the land and owned it for many years. A daughter, Mrs. Howard Googer still resides in the community.

The Holmes family settled on the place now owned by Bailey Boswell and operated a nursery. Rays settled on what is now known as McNatt Lake and owned by Claude Miller. Spring Hill's first electricity was furnished here by a Delco System. Two bath houses were built. The lake was converted into a swimming pool, and it became the recreation center for miles around. Swimming lessons are taught here by the craft school of Aubrey..1951. The McNatts had the first talking machine in the country and it drew as big and enthusiastic crowds as did television, today. 96

The Montgomery family settled what is known as the Waldron place today. As there were no early cemeteries, two or three graves may be seen on this place. Another family, the Beckers, hadn't been here long, coming from Germany. The children went to school and learned a little English. The Red Cross sent out garments to the different schools for the children to take to their mothers to be made. The little Becker children took a big bundle home and told their mother in German what to do with them. Long before the appointed time, the Beckers returned their garments nicely made. When the teacher asked how the mother got the sewing done so soon, the little boy said that his mother sat up all night she was so glad to do something to show their appreciation of this country.

Another landmark in the community is the "Big, Old Oak Tree" in the middle of the crossing roads north of Spring Hill Store. The present mail-carrier, Gene Whitley, serves several boxes here with mail from Pilot Point Post office. He has his daily sandwich and cup of coffee under this tree. The southern part of the area is served by Homer Coffey out of Aubrey Post office. He serves 3 farm boxes owned by members of the original Coffey families.

The Tisdells, Richeys, Looneys, Kellys, Hol1ingsworth, Phillips, Nixons, Harts, Russells and many others played a prominent part in the development of this community.

Barbed wire fences had much influence and it was a gala day when the first Texas and Pacific train lumbered down the track in 1874, giving new hopes and energy to a tired neighborhood that had felt the crime wave that existed all over the South during Reconstruction Days after the Civil War.

The Mustang Creek divided the Ed Jones place from the A. Coffey place. About 1908, an oil derrick was erected and when the oil driller was about to give up in despair after many days, he returned to his derrick one morning to find oil oozing around all over the place. It was a prank of a couple of oil-minded but fun-loving citizens.

In 1944, a group of ex-students and former citizens of Spring Hill gathered for an all-day visit. Out of this meeting came the annual Spring Hill Homecoming. Miss Ruby Coffee was elected president and Mrs. Kyle Harper, Secretary. Each year the homecoming crowd increases. In 1951 the president is George Bell of Aubrey and the secretary is Mrs. Roland Hollingsworth.

In 1870, the neighbors built a little log school house on the J. A. Williams place, and a little later one was built on the Boner place. The Williams, Jones, Boners, Smith, Stewarts and others decided to consolidate their schools. This may not have been the first consolidation in the county but it was an early one. In deciding on a name for the school, there was noted at the foot of the hill a cool sparkling spring. People came for miles around to get drinking water and to do their washing. They called the school "Spring Hill". Three acres of land was acquired from the Hulen and Boner land and a two-room house was built.

In 1908, a tax was voted and another room transformed the old building into a modern three-room school. These three teachers have done much to build and uplift the community and the schoolhouse became the recreation center. Such teachers were Will Coffey, Mrs. Bess Stewart Goodger, Eleanor Key, the first two are still living in the community. 97

In 1932, the Antioch Baptist Church was moved to the south end of the lot. In 1938 the Spring Hill Store was built with living accommodations in the rear. In 1915, the first Demonstration Agent came to Denton County. July 4, 1916, Mrs. Edna Trigg came to a picnic at McNatt's Lake and organized a group of twelve women into the first demonstration club in the county. They bought the first pressure canner and soldering iron and Mrs. Trigg showed them how to use it. They still have this old canner, which is outdated but still intact.

In 1946, the Spring Hill School was consolidated with Aubrey and the building was moved to Aubrey. The land was deeded to the Home Demonstration Club as a community center. On April 24,1951 the Spring Hill celebrated its 35th year of existence. The following charter members were present: Mesdames Will McNatt, Virtie Kerby, H. D. Tisdell, Belle Hollingsworth, Bess Goodger, Frank Yarbrough, Minnie Romack and Miss Minnie Lybass. The club has never missed a regular meeting except in case of death or funeral. The annual picnic is held and Mrs. Frank Yarbrough brings rolls made from everlasting yeast, which has been in her family for 36 years. The first president was Mrs. Kage McNatt. There have been 16 presidents since.

Automobiles, radio and television have all played an interesting part in developing this community. We, the people of Spring Hill, feel that we should be numbered on the roll call of Denton County Communities.

Mrs. A. G. Hardin, Pres. 1951