The History of Paris and Lamar County, Texas

The first appearance of the name "Lamar County" in the congressional records of the Republic of Texas is found in the following law:

Early Laws of Texas, p. 561: Provides Section 1: That Red River County be divided into three counties with one Representative in Congress of the Republic of Texas from each and no more.

Section 2: Describes bounds of Bowie.

Section 3: Describes Lamar County as follows: Beginning at the mouth of upper Pine Creek above the Pine Hills on Red River; thence due south to Big Cypress; thence up said stream to its source; thence due west to Fannin County line; thence with that line to Red River with meanders to the place of beginning; and the same is hereby taken from the county of Red River and creates a new county to be called by the name of "Lamar."

Section 5: Makes the Senatorial District now composed of Red River and Fannin to include Bowie, Red River, Lamar, and Fannin, but the territory shall remain unchanged.

Section 6: Provides that the Chief Justice of the counties of Bowie and Lamar shall order all elections in their respective counties on the first Thursday in June, 1841, for the permanent location of the seat of Justice of said counties; same to be within 5 miles of the center of the territory embraced in said counties lying between Red River and Sulphur Fork. Place having highest number of votes shall be permanent seat of justice; until said election, courts shall be held at DeKalb in Bowie County, and for the county of Lamar at the house of George W. Wright.

Section 7: Provides that courts shall be held in Lamar County on the 1st Mondays in January, April, July, and October, and the county courts begin on the fourth Mondays in the same months. No term to be held longer than two weeks.

Section 8: That an election be held for all county officers on the first Monday in February, 1841, and until Chief Justices shall be elected hereunder the Chief Justice of Red River County will be acting chief for other counties.

Section 10: Provides that Frederick Zeidacam is appointed to run and mark the county line from Red River to Sulphur Fork and receive $5.00 per mile in Texas promissory notes between Red River and Bowie, and Allen Urquehart mark the line between Red River and Lamar.

Act approved December 17, 1840.

It will be observed that these calls describing the meters and bounds of Lamar County include both Delta and Hopkins Counties as they are now constituted.

Three County Seats

June 22, 1841, John Watson had executed to Chief Justice Rutherford for the benefit of Lamar county, a bond of $50,000, conditioned that so soon as he obtained a patent from the state for 640 acres of land due him as an original settler he would make the county a deed for 40 acres on which to build the county seat. The 40 acres lies north and west from the Airport [not the present-day airport] on North Fifth Street [now 19th NW]. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission caused to be erected on the ground a granite marker, carrying an inscription stating that it was Lafayette, first court site of Lamar county, where court was held from June 28, 1841, to June 26, 1843, when Mount Vernon became the county seat.

Why Lafayette was abandoned is not known. Some old citizens have said it was because good water could not be gotten in wells there. Others think it was because the site was too far north. Lamar County at that time extended through Delta county, and the law required county seats to be not more than five miles from the geographical center of a county, and Lafayette was outside that allowance.

July 24, 1843, the record says court met at Mount Vernon, transacted no business and met again in October with the same result. The last recorded meeting is January 22, 1844. No court house was built at Mount Vernon in the year that court was held there. Mat Click had a tavern there, and it is probable that during the winter, court was held in his house. In summer it was held out of doors under the shade of a large bois d'arc tree that was standing until not many years ago [written 1937]. About where the Click tavern stood is now a tenant house and the old stone-curbed well from which water was drawn for the tavern and the court and travelers who stopped there on the way to southern Texas is still in use. The court tree was on the slightly higher ground north of the house and here is another marker erected by the Texas Centennial Commission to commemorate Mount Vernon. It is on what used to be the road from Paris to Cooper, about half a mile west of Highway 24, and about five miles from Paris.

Because there is no record existing it can only be surmised that enough people in Lamar county were dissatisfied with Mount Vernon as a county seat to use the statute providing for removal of county seats by election following petition. This election was held early in 1844 and the Clarksville Northern Standard reports the result. It says:

"The election of a county seat of Lamar county resulted in Mount Vernon receiving 129 votes, Somerville 21 votes, in all 150 votes. These were nominated by the commissioners. Paris, alias Pin Hook, received 267 votes, and was the people's nomination."

Paris therefore became the county seat of Lamar count and the first term of the court was held here April 29, 1844. It should be noted that in July, 1841, in designating the election beats, the court had provided one at "Paris," with no mention of any Pin Hook, and it might be as well to tell the story of Pin Hook here.

Leven Moore, who unloaded his wagon November 25, 1836, where he spent the remainder of his life, at Moore's Springs east of Paris, said that "the year 1837 brought among others Jim Johnson, who opened a little grocery store where the Buckner property now stands. It was called Pin Hook." This was written in 1888, when Leven Moore was 79 years old. The Buckner property was at the southeast corner of South Main and Sherman Streets. How long Johnson remained is not known, but he was gone when George Wright built his store where is now the west side of the Plaza in 1839.

Daniel F. Latimer, who came to Paris in 1840 as a boy, and was a stepson of Claiborne Chisum, said that he and his brother used to fish in Baker branch, near the Chisum home west of the Frisco yards, using bent pins for hooks, and that when they went to Clarksville to visit their relatives, and told their small cousins there of their sport, the latter living in the fair sized town of "Clarksville, described the Chism home and neighborhood as "just a pin hook sort of place." Paris now covers what was once Pin Hook, in either or both places, but when Paris was established and named by George Wright and the county court it was an original site.

When the hassle of over the location of a county seat was settled by George Wright's donation of 50 acres in the northwest corner of his property, T. H. R. Poteet -- with support by Dr. William T. F. Cole -- suggested that the new town be called "Paris."

Previous to the establishment of a permanent county seat in Lamar County, Hopkins decided to set up housekeeping for herself [and] It therefore became necessary for the Congress of the Republic to pass two laws, one defining the metes and bounds of Hopkins County, and the other to establish the south boundary of Lamar County after Hopkins was carved out of her territory.

Early Laws p. 823 fixes the south boundary line of Lamar County at the principal stream of, or south of Sulphur.

Section 2: That George Wilson, Jesse Shelton, Joel Wafer, Joseph Bowerman, and Dr. John Davis be and are appointed Commissioners to ascertain the Geographical center of the county of Lamar, and then to proceed to dominate some two or more points within 3 miles center so ascertained having due respect to donations that may be offered for a town site for use of said county commissioners, are empowered to hold an election giving ten days' notice and return shall be made on the 3rd day thereafter, and the place receiving the highest number of votes to be the county seat of Lamar County and said site shall be named by said commissioners.

Section 3: Says said commissioner shall proceed to lay out a town, sell lots, contract for public buildings, and do all things necessary for the promotion of the interest of the county for which service they shall receive $3.00 per day out of the proceeds of the sales of the county town lots.

Approved December 26, 1842.

It will be observed that from and after the passage of the above law that Lamar still had within her boundaries all of that territory which later became Delta County. The location of the county seat at Mt. Vernon was an effort to put the county seat in the center of a county territory which then included Delta County.

The Naming of Paris

After Lamar county had been organized and the village of Pinhook had been selected as the location of the "County Site" a committee was appointed to rename the burg and give it a name more in keeping with the capital of a county. History, as handed down in our [Gibbons Poteet's] family, has it that T. R. H. Poteet had the honor of suggesting the name which was adopted--Paris--beautiful Paris--progressive Paris. The tradition is that our people once sojourned in France for a while. There the family was know as "Petite" and that after having migrated to America where schools were scarce and spelling bees few and far between some of the gang forgot how to spell their names with the result that the name finally shows up on the records in its present form. This Frenchy origin is given as the reason why the name Paris suggested itself to T. R. H. Poteet on the occasion of the naming of the city. I am aware that there are other versions as to the naming of Paris but this story has been told in our family ever since the event happened. And I have been told by one of the county clerks that the first record book of the county, now on file in the clerk's office, is an old account book--Poteet and Beauchamp, I believe, furnished the young county by T. R. H. Poteet.

First Charter of Paris

The first mention of "Paris" in the records of the Congress of the Republic of Texas is to be found in the subjoined law which gives the town its name officially and also its corporate existence.

Writing paper must have undoubtedly been scarce in those days since the act of incorporating Paris did not set out the metes and bounds of the body corporate and politic but made reference to a similar act which had previously been passed for the benefit of the town of Marshall.

It is therefore necessary to insert the Marshall act of incorporation in order to complete that of Paris.

(Early Laws, Vol. 2, p. 1168)Section 1: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas in Congress assembled:

That the citizens of the town of Paris, the County Seat of Lamar County, be, and they are hereby declared a body corporate and politic under the name and style of the Corporation of the Town of Paris.

Section 2: Be it further enacted: That the citizens of the Corporation of the Town of Paris shall have all the benefits, privileges, and in all respects be governed by the provisions of an act for the incorporation of the town of Marshall in the County of Harrison.

Approved December 31, 1844.

Section 3: Be it further enacted: That the limits of said corporation shall not exceed the limits of the corporation of the town of Marshall in the county of Harrison.

Approved February 3, 1845.

(Early Laws, Vol. 2, p. 1052)Act to incorporate town of Marshall: The substance of which is that the town shall be one and miles square with the public square in the center. The citizens of said town to be a body politic with power to sue and be sued, hold and dispose of real and personal property in said town. Shall elect a mayor who will be ex-officio, a Justice of the Peace, Treasurer and Collector. Eight Aldermen who then shall elect a constable. Jurisdiction to amount to $100.00; must have resided six months in said corporation to be eligible to hold office; shall have power to make and pass ordinances and by-laws. Mayor and majority of Aldermen to constitute quorum for transaction of business.

Approved December 31, 1844.

For some reason the municipal government was not very promptly organized after the passage of the act of incorporation. Inquiry was made as to the reason of this delay at one of the earlier meetings of the Historical Society, and the answer was jocularly given by one of the old timers, "that there were not enough people living in the town to fill the offices prescribed by the act of incorporation."

There was, of course, a joke; the real reason was perhaps that it was necessary to await the return of our congressman that it might be ascertained just what were the stipulations of the act.

The Historical Society had a considerable record of the early municipal offices; much of it was speculative--but all that information was lost in the fire of 1916. The Society would appreciate any information along this line.

Bibliography

Mills, Betsy, compiler. Loose Leaves of the History of Lamar County. Paris, Texas: 1995.

Neville, A. W.. The History of Lamar County (Texas). Paris, Texas: The North Texas Publishing Co., 1937.

Steely, Skipper. Forty-Seven Years. Paris, Texas: Unpublished Manuscript. 1988.


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