The Old River Road

(and Names)


       Meeting at Jacob Black’s cabin on January 8-9, 1839, the Commissioners Court heard a report of its committee charged to lay out the first road in Fannin County from Rocky Ford on Bois d’Arc Creek to Daniel Montague’s plantation near Warren. Its route was traced—“passing equal distances between Journey’s field and the river”through what will become Mulberry

        This “River Road,” at a point ten miles north of Bonham, present day county seat, continues west. The distance is six miles, up and down, over small creeks draining north. The home place of the Cain’s, Fred and Nannie, was on Sandy Creek’s east bank. When Alta Cain married John Rich, “dugouts” for human habitation could still be seen. Fred’s father, William, was buried near Sandy Creek church outside the boundary of the present cemetery; his grave is lost.


        1852 May 17: [Court minutes trace the origin of these roads.] Upon petition of Gideon Smith it is ordered that the River Road be so changed as to run South of said Smith’s farm, to intersect Old Road at or near Sandy branch, said Smith to open and cut out said road as the law requires 2nd class road be made.

        1878 March 28: [Gideon Smith petitioned for] the opening or reestablishing of the old River and Warren Road...from Sowell’s Bluff on Red River to the Paris and Denison Road East of Warren....

Syl [Sylvester] Reed, Eugene Agnew, Frank Smith, Deupree Smith and Peter Schules appointed a Jury of View to locate and mark said road....

        1882 June 12: [Milton Smith and others petitioned for a change in the Old River Road] beginning at the South West corner of J. W. Craven’s place, thence West through the farm of Dr. J. C. Smith, also West through the farm of Col. Gid Smith, thence South on the line between Gid Smith and E. F. Lyday’s farm about three hundred yards, thence West on the line between said Lyday and Ralph Abernathy and Captain Lightfoot about eight hundred yards where it will intersect the present River Road. Provided that the petitioners make said change as good as the present travelled road.

        1869 May 17: [Sylvanus Reed petitioned Commissioners’ Court for a change in Kemp’s Ferry Road]...falling into the Old Road near Dr. Reid’s.

        1872 January 1: [Court ordered] ...a county road be laid out between Bonham and Kemp’s Ferry on Red River and Gid Smith, Silvanas Reed, James Reid, Drury Grogan and James Anthony be appointed to review and report the same, and they are instructed to keep as near the Old Road as possible.

        1879 December 30: This day came on to be heard the petition of Thomas Lightfoot [and others] for a change and for the opening up of the Bonham and Kemp Ferry Road on the north end...commencing at the Old Kemp Ferry Crossing on Red River, thence running nearly South leaving Dr. J. M. Reid’s farm on the East and thence up Caney Creek intersecting the Old Road at the SW Corner of Syl Reed’s farm.

        1882 February 17: [Thomas Lightfoot petitioned for changes in the Old River Road] ...commencing at the lane between said Lightfoot and Fountain Oliphant, thence North to a point opposite Lightfoot’s residence, thence to the Kemp Ferry Road, thence South with said road to the original Old River Road at or near Syl Reed’s.

        1888 November 19: [Gideon Smith petitioned Commissioners’
Court for] ...change in the Ravenna and Halls Ferry Road...beginning where the River Road crosses the line between the Petitioner and George Arledge east....

        [This mention of Hall’s Ferry predates by twenty years the arrival of the J. F. Hall family in Mulberry. On March 1, 1888 Ida Pennington, a daughter of Gideon, gave a deed for 150 acres “on the banks of Red River” to three Hall men: T.M., W.H. and Z.W. In December they deeded it back, but their name appears to have replaced “Kemp” as the name of the road.]

        1905 November 15: ...then came to be heard the petition

of Sam Smith [and others] for a second class public road as follows: Beginning at the NE corner of the Sawyer tract on the Ravenna and Hall’s Ferry road; thence W to the SW corner of Fount Oliphant farm; thence N to SE corner of T. J. Moore [Lightfoot] farm; thence W along said Ravenna and Hall’s Ferry road to Mulberry, and the court having heard said petition appointed Milton Smith, J. E. Spies, C. W. Parks, Sam Smith and E. G. Garland a jury of view to lay out, survey and describe said road....

        [Sam Smith and E. G. Garland were prominent black men of the Siloam community.]

        Now approach a curve embracing the Methodist church, old school ground, and cemetery. That oak was outside my mother’s school room window; she’s under it, my father too. Doyle and Dwight Cain, and their mother, “Miss” Grace, are buried here. She presided over the “cook shack,” putting (1942)

surplus raisins into our cupped hands at recess.

Grace Cain (left) and Edna Hall

below: Graves of Gladys and Clayton Hall in the Mulberry cemetery