Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
The River Road From Preston to Jonesborough
Bonham Daily Favorite, November 8, 1992
When the Congress of the Republic of Texas created Fannin County on December 14, 1837, the eastern boundary was fixed at its present location and stretched from north to south for thirty miles. The northern boundary was the southern bank of the Red River and the southern boundary ran from the eastern terminus to a point vaguely defined as east of the cross timbers. The territory encompassed by this act was all of present day Fannin and Grayson Counties and about half of present Cooke County. Less than a year later another act of the Congress "to better define the boundaries of Fannin County" extended the eastern border to a length of miles and pushed the ill-defined western limits over three hundred miles further west to include the territory now embraced by twenty-six counties.
The initial settlements during the formative years of Fannin County’s history were fairly well confined to the areas surrounding the major waterways, most notably Red River, Bois d'Arc Creek, Choctaw Bayou , and Big and Little Mineral Creeks. These riparian settlements were necessary not only to assure an adequate water supply but also to facilitate travel within the region since poorly defined trails made travel and shipment of supplies by water almost a necessity.
Because most of the early settlers were able to secure large tracts of land through Texas’ program of land grants, most homesteads were at some distance from the nearest neighbor and travel throughout the area was usually done on foot or on horseback. Only four villages or settlements existed where the settlers could get supplies and each of these settlements was located on Red River so the proprietor could secure supplies from the occasional barge that made its way through the snags, shoals, and low water points of the river. In the extreme northeast corner of the county, brothers John and Thomas Jouett operated a general store at their settlement of Raleigh. Further up river, near the area now called Tulip Bend, Dr. Daniel Rowlett and his son-in-law Richard Locke founded the village of Lexington. One resident was Jacob Black, whose cabin was to serve as the first Fannin County courthouse from 1838 to 1840 .
Rowlett and Thomas Jouett also received licenses to operate ferries at Lexington and Raleigh, the first authorized ferries in the area. John Jouett received a license to operate a toll bridge over Bois d’Arc Creek to connect the two river roads of Fannin and Red River Counties.
In late 1835 or early 1836 Abel Warren had built a trading post on Red River near the present Fannin and Grayson line. Although Warren abandoned the post by 1837 a thriving settlement grew around the site called Fort Warren or Warrenton,
The most western settlement was near Holland Coffee’s Station in northern Grayson County. This village, called Preston and Fort Warren were the two most active of the Red River settlements.
Soon after Fannin County was created out of Red River County, the Commissioners Court of the latter ordered the creation of a road from LaGrange to the county line of Fannin by way of Jonesboro and Kiamichi.
Dr. Daniel Rowlett appeared before the Fannin County Commissioners Court on October 2, 1838 to present a petition from citizens of the county requesting the construction of a road from the county line of Red River County to Daniel Montague’s [near Fort Warren}. The court appointed John Stephens, Sr., Richard R. Beal, Robert Kerr, Joseph Sowell, and Joseph Murphy special commissioners to lay out the road and to report to the next term of court.
At the January, 1839 term of court the special commissioners reported that the route for the road had been surveyed from a starting point near Carter Clifft’s cabin on Bois d'Arc and running in a straight line to John Stephens, Sr. John G. Jouett’s (at Raleigh), to Hart’s Prairie Spring, to the seat of justice (Black’s cabin near Lexington), to Joseph Sowell’s, past the Stewart cabins, crossing Caney Creek and passing equal distance between Journey’s field and the river to Daniel Montague’s. The court accepted the proposed route.
At that same term Rowlett presented another petition, this one calling for a road from Montague's to Coffee’s Station in Washita Bend. Charles Jackson, John F. Moody, James Blagg, and Thomas Shannon (later Sheriff of Grayson Co.) were appointed commissioners to mark out the route for this extension of the original road and to report at the next court.
At the April term the commissioners reported that they had been unable to comply with the court’s order "due to the unsettled state of the country." During the spring of 1839 increasing Indian depredations in the area had left the settlers in a state of panic. One of the special road commissioners, John F. Moody had been killed in February on the road to the west of Fort Warren. The unsettled conditions also resulted in no meetings of the Commissioners Court until January 8, 1840. At that term a new group of commissioners, James Baker, R.R. Mclntire, James B. Shannon, Rene Allred, and Charles Jackson were appointed to complete the survey of the Warren - Holland's Station road.
In June the commissioners reported that the proposed route had been laid out along the old road from Montague's to Richard Mclntire's cabin, intersecting the old road again at Shoemake Prairie, to the fork of the road where the Shawneetown road intersected and thence along the old road to Coffee's Station. After accepting the report the court then proceeded to divide the road into four precincts and ordered that all hands in the vicinity of the road in each precinct help clear and maintain the roadway. John Stephens, Sr. was appointed overseer for precinct #1, Joseph Swaggerty for precinct #2, George Damron, for precinct #3, and Daniel Montague for precinct #4.
Once this major thoroughfare was constructed the commissioners then began an extended period of ordering construction of many additional roads throughout the county, all of them to lead to or intersect with other roads leading to the new county seat at Warren. At the same time Congress was ordering the construction of two major roads designed to connect Texas with other important commercial and governmental areas of the United States.