The Southern Pacific Railroad founded Bisbee in 1883. In 1903, J.H. Middleton and family moved from Hunt City and located in the area. The family saw a need for a Sunday School. The Middletons, along with Gertie Pool and Effie Griffith, members of Rehoboth Church, soon had Sunday afternoon service meeting in Morgan School.
On Sunday, May 21, 1905, in an arbor in Bryson’s pasture, a church was organized and named Bisbee Missionary Baptist Church with Rehoboth Church as sponsor. Middleton, an ordained deacon, was elected the first deacon of the new church. Rev. D.B. Brown was elected to complete the associational year and preach or secure a preacher for the first Sunday.
Bisbee was a growing area at the time the church was organized. Cotton was plentiful and profitable. A large gin operated in the community and the old Houston and Texas Central Railroad had a station by the gin. Truck farming was a good industry due to the good soil productivity and the nearby Fort Worth market.
At the outset of World War I, cotton rotted in the fields, the gin closed and a brick factory started in the area only to close their doors soon after. After the war, the men did not return, but sought new jobs in town. After the war, a depression hit from 1920-1926, and the church doors nearly closed several times.
In 1955, 81 people belonged to Bisbee Baptist Church. Business in the area was good and people were moving to the area. A highway improvement program was advancing and oil companies were scouting the area.
Britton was originally called Helland beginning in November 1895 and was named for Joseph Helland, a general passenger agent on the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. Later the name changed to Hellandville and then on November 13, 1896, it became Britton, honoring H.C. Britton, a conductor on the railroad during this period.
Britton was situated on the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. State Highway 34 went through Britton until the new Highway 287 was constructed about four miles west of town in the 1940s. The trains brought the mail and two passenger trains stopped there morning and night.
Britton thrived at one time, with two gins, two churches, a school, three doctors, three or four stores, a post office, a depot, a bank, a restaurant, a drug store, a blacksmith, a barber, an ice house, a grain elevator, an egg-processing center and later a garage. At one time there was even a movie house. The population was reported as 300 in 1925 and 200 in 1932.
F.S. Windle built the first and only elevator, encouraging farmers to grow small grains. George Magee donated land for a cemetery as well as the Methodist Church and school site. G.W. Maynard donated land for the Baptist Church site. The Catholic Church began in 1941.
Since Britton is split between Ellis and Tarrant Counties, when the school closed the town consolidated with Midlothian and Mansfield school districts.
The farmer’s gin was located on the east end of town north of the railroad. The co-op gin was at the west end of town south of the railroad. Britton was annexed by the City of Mansfield and is now part of our growing community.
Cope Grove was originally known as the Howerton Grove, named after a man who settled here during its early days. He died before or during the Civil War. His widow and two daughters remained in the area until shortly after the War when the widow died and the two daughters were sent to live with an uncle. Howerton Grove continued for some time after J.B. Cope bought the property and moved to the area in 1875. It eventually became known as Cope Grove due the the family’s settlement of the land.
Other settlers in the area were: William Lowe, I. Emmons, Vieson Curry, Thomas Curry, and I.B. Goodnight. Nixon Curry had settled in the area about a year earlier. West and southwest of the area were the families of Jacob Back, John Germany, William and Cyrus Howard. Richard Bratton, L.H. Stephens and Joseph Nugent lived in the proximity of the area.
Gertie was located on the Mansfield-Cedar Hill road, about a mile east of the Friendship Baptist Church. There was a post office located in Gertie from 1895-1901, a cotton gin and a store operated by a Mr. Fowler.
The first school in Gertie was a white wooden building (photo on file at the Mansfield Historical Society). This building was demolished in 1918 and replaced by a two-room brick building. It had two teachers and 67 pupils in 1935.
About the same year, a man driving a two-horse buggy came to the community and spent the night with G.J. Renfro. While there, the man, J.W. Cunningham, bought some property from Mr. Renfro on which he was to place a townsite. Both Mrs. Renfro’s and Mrs. Cunningham’s first names were Lillian, and after some discussion, the two men decided to name the “town-to-be” after their wives.
By 1903, businesses were coming to Lillian. A drug store, blacksmith shop, grocery store, hotel and bank were all located in Lillian by 1905. Two churches were relocated from Pleasant Point to Lillian in 1903. The Woodsmen of the World Lodge was built adding a second story to the bank in 1905.
In later years, two lumberyards, a garage and filling station and a dry-goods store were built, as well as a hardware store, livery stable, and barber shops. H.C. Green built the first telephone building and Mr. Manning established it as a business. The last owner of the telephone exchange was Three-States Telephone Company which abandoned the system in 1933.
Lillian has had two gins in its history. The first was owned by the Lillian Gin Company, and burned in 1934. The second, built by Winfield Scott, also was destroyed by fire.
The first school was in a single frame building, completed in 1903. On November 7, 1904, the first school of Lillian, known as the Lillian Institute opened. Fifty-five pupils were present for this first day. Their ages ranged from six to 24 years of age. In 1906, the Lillian Independent School District was formed. In 1909, a new, two-story, brick building was erected. About this time, the Shaw School was consolidated with Lillian. West Point Valley joined the school district in 1917 and Pleasant Point followed, joining in 1931.
At one time, there were about twenty businesses, a depot, churches and forty-five homes in Lillian. The public well that stood in the center of Main Street was filled in during March 1935, and the street was graveled; the first road improvement in that part of the county.
Lillian is located south of Mansfield and is still a growing, thriving community.
In 1885, under the leadership of Pastor D.L. Smith, 14 people met for worship in the old “New Hope” schoolhouse across the road from where the church stands now. The church joined the Tarrant County Association in 1886.
By 1907, the church had grown enough for the organization of its first Sunday School. Under the direction of Bob Flake, it grew from 25 to 85 in 1911. The church began full-time preaching in 1942 under Pastor Reeves.
In 1946, work began on a new auditorium which was completed in 1948. In 1961, the church observed its 75th anniversary under Rev. Bill Hamilton.
On August 30, 1841, W.S. Peters of Louisville, KY and nineteen associates entered into a contract with the Republic of Texas to bring immigrants to Texas. These settlers were referred to as the “Peters Colonists”, and their settlements were the first of the Empressario Colonies.
- Peters Colonists in Tarrant County - Dee Barker, 1984
The Crossroads Community was the early name for the Rendon area. The Rendon name was derived from Joaquin Rendon a Spanish-Mexican resident. He had the first land grant to the area. It was said to be a Spanish land grant. The survey is named Joaquin Rendon and is located in southeast Tarrant County. The center of the community soon formed around the property given to the citizens of the Crossroads and Rendon neighborhoods by W.L. Norwood on October 23, 1897. The property donated was given for a cemetery, a school and a church.
Retta is said to be named for the wife of a supervisor of the I.G.&N. Railroad. We describe Rendon and Retta together because most of the residents have always considered the area as one community.
The settlers of the Rendon-Retta area believed in the education of their children. Schools were set up very early and children were required to attend. The area had two schools at the turn of the century. The earliest one was called Eldorado. In 1907, Eldorado consolidated with the Rendon School, which was being held in the church at Rendon. It remained here for two years and in about 1911, a two-room school was built where the Rendon school gym now stands. This was property sold by W.A. Norwood and his wife, Julia, for school purposes. Time passed and the population increased. The school was later enlarged.
The churches around Rendon and Retta have been numerous and varied. There have been Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, and Assembly of God. Every summer the community would have a singing school and it would last for twenty days.
The business activities of Rendon centered around Wash Norwood’s store which began somewhere around 1895. In this store there was a post office and a doctor. Mr. Norwood boarded the doctor, Dr. McNairn in 1899. Rendon for a time had a cotton gin and the Maxwell Syrup Mill. In 1905 to 1907, the township of Retta’s business district was platted, sold and a town began. It occupied an acre of land. The railroad right-of-way was signed in 1902.
After WWII, Rendon business increased. Earl Jones constructed a garage to repair cars. Lendon and Gwen Sheffield opened a cafe named “Lindys”. Next to the cafe was a feed store and skating rink. Marvin Berry opened a TV repair shop.
There have been various grocery stores in Retta. Probably the oldest one was a two-story deeded to Frank Thornton in 1907. His brother-in-law, Tom Widener was half owner. In the second floor of this building, the Woodmen of the World held their organization’s meetings.
One of the reasons that Retta was larger and more prosperous at this time than Rendon was because of the cotton gin in the area. There were three cotton gins in Retta at one time and the flag station in Retta was where all the cotton was picked up.
On July 1, 1954, neighbors met to organize a volunteer fire department. While the men fought fires and answered calls, the women formed an auxiliary and did all they could. They carried water, drove trucks and held fund drives of all kinds.
The activities of the area have always been community, school and church related. Rendon-Retta is a thriving and growing community, just west of Mansfield on F.M. 1187.
The St. Paul Community was located about ten miles west of the Ellis County seat, Waxahachie, on State Highway 287. For years it was a thriving community. W.S. Fife donated the land for a church on the condition that it would have a biblical name, hence “St. Paul”. This is recorded in the deed records in Waxahachie. William Gardner donated the land for a school and a cemetery, also recorded by deed. The school was named Gardner School, though everyone called it the St. Paul school.
The Cemetery Committee of the new St. Paul Cemetery met on February 21, 1906, to “lay out” the cemetery on the land donated by Mr. Gardner in 1885. Several burials were on the site before Mr. Gardner officially donated the land.
Lumber for the church was hauled from Midlothian by wagon. A carpenter, Mr. McElroy, of Midlothian, was hired to build the church and was assisted by other settlers in the area. It was completed in July 1894.
At one time, a cotton gin was located on or near Mountain Creek in the St. Paul community. The gin was built by Tom and Bill Gainer. The gin was moved to Britton in 1895. Sometime in the late 1940s, the school was disbanded and the building was sold and moved to Midlothian where it was converted into apartments. Women in the community organized the St. Paul Home Demonstration Club in 1952.
- History of St. Paul Community - Juanita McVean
The community of Sublett was named for John William Sublett who purchased a 1,000 acre tract of land eight miles south of where the City of Arlington is now. There was also a school and road named Sublett. The road remains today, inside the City of Arlington, but the school was consolidated with Mansfield ISD in about 1950.
The Sublett Post Office was established in 1892 and Charles A. Sublett was the postmaster. The post office dispatched and received mail from Johnson Station. The carrier, Joe Kelly, rode horseback to deliver the mail and earned $75.00 a month in wages. The mail in Johnson Station, now the City of Arlington, was delivered there by stage coach.
The post office, located in the home of Charles Sublett, was also a general store. Dr. J.H. Hammack also had his office there before moving to Kennedale.
The Rehoboth Cemetery is located in the Sublett Community and many old-timers who have family buried there come for annual reunions. The Rehoboth Cemetery received a state historical marker from the Texas Historic Commission.
In 1894, Jabe Smyth (Smith), a well-known businessman in Johnson County, saw the need for a more convenient trade and marketing center for the eastern section of the county. Consequently, a town was surveyed and platted on land that he owned. According to the Handbook of Texas, the town was named after Venus Housby, daughter of a local physician.
Some of Venus, including the local post office had originally been located in a town call Wyatt Switch. Wyatt Switch had been established in 1881 when the Santa Fe Railroad came through. Santa Fe put a switch at the present location of Venus and what was left of Wyatt Switch moved to Venus. The Santa Fe depot opened in 1895. The depot on either side of the tracks included freight depots, express and telegraph offices making Venus very progressive.
Venus is in the midst of a once great cotton producing section. At one time, there was a cotton compress and three gins. The town was laid out around a square with a two-story Justice and jail at the center. Before 1900, and for quite a while after, Venus claimed to be the largest town in the county. At its peak, it had two banks, two hardware stores, two dry-goods stores, two newspapers, two telephone systems, two barbershops, a post office, lumberyard, livery stable, blacksmith shops, and a first-class hotel.
Burnette College was in existence from 1896 until 1906. Students from all over the area were enrolled. It took children from first grade through the college years. The school began with two frame buildings and two dormitories. At its peak, there were 525 day students and 75 boarding students. The structure burned in 1905 and was rebuilt. In 1910-1911, the college was abandoned and became a public school. IN 1941, a new modern school was built.
Back in the 1880s Dan Zuefeldt, formerly of Canada, decided he wanted to build a general merchandise store and cotton gin on property he owned in the area now known as Webb. He had plats drawn up and sold as lots as a financial venture. No one really knows why the town received the name Webb, but it is guessed that a a local resident must have been the namesake.
Zuefeldt owned the first mercantile store. Tom and Martin Rhodes opened another. The first cotton gin was owned by Charlie Duke. It burned and Mr. Zuefeldt rebuilt it. It also burned. The Midlothian Cotton Seed Oil Company built the next gin and it was later sold to Farmer’s Co-op. This gin also burned and was rebuilt by the Southland Cotton Seed Oil Company.
The first school in Webb was the Loyd School, named after one of the early families in Webb. It was located in South Webb, about one mile south of Webb proper. South Webb faded away in the early 1900s when the Baptist Church and Webb School located in Webb proper. The one-room school was a typical structure for the period. The next school built was a three-room wooden school built near the cotton gin in Webb. After that, a two-story brick school was built, it was condemned in 1927. The last school was built and classes continued until 1965 when the Mansfield ISD approved a consolidation of the district.
The community of West Valley was located in the extreme northeast corner of Johnson County. A school was built there in the late 1890s. The building was of wood and it faced a road on the east. Records state that Mr. Peyton Irving was Superintendent of Johnson County schools until 1898. Upon his visit to West Valley, he found a new one-room school in excellent condition with home-made wooden benches. Forty-four pupils were present that day. The school was in District #77. West Valley School had no water so it was carried as needed from Mr. C.J. Prater’s house, a short distance east of the school. Students would take turns taking the bucket for water and everyone drank from the same “dipper”.
Mr. Ernest Prater, who attended school there in 1914, could remember two of his teachers. Mr. Ralph Walker, who still resides in Mansfield and Miss Alice Ponder, who lived in the Mansfield community and for who an elementary school in the MISD is named.
The West Valley school building was also used as a church and a community center. To reach the old school site, go south on Main Street in downtown Mansfield, turn right on F.M. 917. Continue on for three miles, turn left at the paved road #617. Go around two double corners and the site is on the right.