Red River Project

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Red River County, Texas
Year range
1806 - 1930
The Red River Project

Why Red River County? Let me explain this in my own meandering, discursive way.

I'm an army brat, which means I didn't grow up near my relatives. (Also, as both my parents were only children, I didn't have that many near relations to begin with.) In the mid-1960s, when I first began to develop a serious interest in genealogy, I was living in Dallas -- but all my ancestry was Midwestern. Which meant, in those pre-email days, lots of correspondence-typing, and lots of patience in waiting for replies (if any). Fortunately, I was also beginning my career on the professional staff of the Dallas Public Library, which had one of the largest genealogy collections of any public library west of the eastern seaboard.

But while my people came from Indiana and Iowa, my (1st) wife was a 5th-generation Texan on both sides. Her father's family came from a small rural community near Clarksville, the seat of Red River County. Clarksville is less than 150 miles from Dallas and we began making regular visits, to poke around in the courthouse and to walk up and down the rows in the cemeteries, and I honed my family research skills by figuring out her lineage.

Old Red River, I discovered, was one of the "mother counties" of Texas, far greater in extent than it is today. It was "neutral ground" at first (the local border between Mexico and the new United States being disputed), and long-rifle hunters began infiltrating about 1806. The first organized settlers into the district crossed the river a decade before Austin's Colony got under way down south. Moreover, for complicated historical and legal reasons, most of those early folks in the northeast corner of Texas (still Spanish then) thought they were in Miller County, Arkansas. It took awhile for that to sort itself out and for the settlers at the river landings of Jonesboro and Kiamichi (both gone now) to become self-consciously Texan. A number of the early movers and shakers of Anglo Texas came from Old Red River.

Also, while Clarksville was a sizable community in the first third of the 19th century, compared to others in the northern half of Texas, it never grew much in the later period. Its population is still under 13,000. Marsha Rising once confided to me that considerations of scale -- how large a population it would be workable to study in depth -- also played a part in her own Ozark pioneers project on southwest Missouri.

The courthouse on the square in Clarksville is still the original stone structure built in the 1870s, replacing only two previous wooden buildings from the 1830s and the 1850s. Because of its limited growth, the county never outgrew its courthouse in terms of space, so all the bundled papers and bound volumes of records that were placed in the County Clerk's fire vault from the Reconstruction period on, are still there, unmoved and undamaged. And they've never had a courthouse fire or flood. And because all the surrounding counties were originally part of Red River, all their own early records are in Clarksville -- and many of those subsidiary counties have had fires. I became good friends with Mary Hausler, the County Clerk of that time and her several assistants, and they gave me the run of the vault.

Red River County took a strong part in the Texas Revolution but the population had come largely from the Upper South (especially Missouri and Tennessee) and it was never a hugely slave-owning district. The farther up the Red River one traveled -- away from wheat and corn and cotton and into stock-raising country -- the less economically viable slavery proved to be. So Red River was not particularly enthusiastic about leaving the Union, either, and was one of only a handful of Texas counties to vote against the Ordinance of Secession. Still, a number of militia companies were raised for the Confederacy, as well as much of the 29th Texas Cavalry (in which several of my wife's family served), and local copies of the formation musters and assorted other records of all those units are extant in the courthouse.

Finally, I discovered early on that the Northern Standard, established in Clarksville by Charles DeMorse in the early 1840s, had been probably the most important newspaper in North Texas for the nearly half-century of its existence -- and a nearly complete run was available on microfilm at my own library.

As a young historian and budding archivist, I was fascinated by all this. I acquired copies of the few books published about Red River and its early inhabitants, including local histories, articles from scholarly journals, and photocopies of academic theses and dissertations. I talked to residents of Clarksville who descended from the early people, of whom there were quite a few, especially in the 1960s, Red River having shown a high degree of demographic persistence -- though many of the next generation have departed for Dallas and Houston and California.

When the time came to do my own master's thesis in history, I embarked on a project to encode the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses for the county (we're talking punch cards and assigned time on the university's mainframe and the pre-SPSS "Wilbur" software), to combine that with information from the large number of extant public records I had been sifting through, and then to cross-tab everything, give the resulting data a good shake, and see what fell out. And then to digest and interpret everything. (I didn't know the term then, but today what I was doing would be called prosopography.) It all took me probably three times as long as it would today on a laptop, but I had a lot of fun with it and I learned a great deal, both of methodology and of local history.

I've continued my interest in Old Red River in the 30-odd years since then, picking up copies of the few additional books that have been published, searching for data online (especially these days through Ancestry and Find-a-Grave), and adding it all to my Red River database in TMG. But what should I do with all this information? Why, make it available through WeRelate, of course.


As of July 2011 May 2015 May 2017, I have created more than 5,000 6,000 7,000 Person & Family pages for people who lived in Red River County and the earlier, larger Red River District in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I've done another 80-100 pages describing sources (not including censuses, which I don't bother to watch after I create them) and places (mostly local cemeteries), and I'm trying to add useful information to those, as well. I haven't worked up a "Red River Project" banner or anything, and probably won't. I've thought about an "index page" of some kind but haven't yet figured out how to do that in a useful way for several thousand people. (Suggestions are welcome!) I'm not rushing this, just gradually adding to and correcting the existing family groups as I wade through the source material. Some pages still have unsourced assertions (mostly dates and places of birth taken from people's faulty memories, or scraps of notes made 30+ years ago), but I'm trying hard to correct that.

If you yourself have Red River County connections you are, of course, encouraged to add what you know to any of the pages I've created -- adding soruces wherever possible, of course. (Most of them involved few or no merges with existing pages when I uploaded the basic GEDCOM a year ago, so I guess I'm the resident expert by default, at least for awhile.) --MikeTalk 16:34, 24 January 2011 (EST)



The following is a list of all the secondary sources about Red River of which I am aware. Copies of the majority of them are in my own library, including photocopies of the articles & dissertations and downloaded ebooks of a few of the older titles. I really don't believe there's much out there beyond what appears in this list.

Amsler, Robert Witt. "Life and Times of Arthur Goodall Wavell." Ph.D. thesis, University of Texas, 1950.

Beachum, Larry M. William Becknell: Father of the Santa Fe Trade. (Southwestern Studies, Monograph No. 68) El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1982. 89p.

Bowers, Eugene & Evelyn Oppenheimer. Red River Dust, True Tales of an American Yesterday. Waco, TX: Word Press, 1968. 4th ed: Oppenheimer, Evelyn. Red River Dust, True Tales of the Red River Valley Frontier. Austin: Eakin Press, 1983.

Butts, Marion R. Reflections of Red River County, 1830s - 1890. Clarksville, TX: The Author, nd. 53p.

Clark, Pat B. The History of Clarksville and Old Red River County. Dallas: Mathis, Van Nort & Co, 1937. xix, 259p.

Clark, Pat B. North Texas 100 Years Ago. Austin: Family of Simeon E. Clark, 1947. 52p.

Crow, Corinne. "Settlement Patterns and Subsequent Social Development of Red River County, 1814-1849." M.A. thesis. East Texas State University, 1972.

Dale, Lawrence & Sue (comps). Cemeteries Located in Red River County, Texas. Blossom, TX: The Authors, 2005. 56 leaves.

Dale, Lawrence & Sue (comps). Cemetery Records for Red River Co., TX. Blossom, TX: The Authors, 2000. iv, 991p.

Dale, Lawrence & Sue (comps). Civil War Veterans Buried or Dying in Red River County, Texas. Blossom, TX: The Authors, 2005. 98 leaves.

Dale, Lawrence & Sue (comps). Index to Burial, Cemetery and Death Records in Red River County, Texas. Blossom, TX: The Authors, 2005. 248p.

Davis, Andrew. "Folk Life in Early Texas: the Autobiography of Andrew Davis." (R. L. Jones, ed.) Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (October 1939, January 1940).

Davis, Kathryn Hooper. East Texas Militiamen, 1838-1839. 2v. Nacogdoches, TX: Ericson Books, 1992- . [Vol. 2 includes Red River County]

Deaver, J. Mark. (ed). The Pioneers of Pecan Point: a History of North East Texas Up to Statehood. Livermore, CA: P. Saltgaver, 1997. vi, 105p.

Demorse, Charles. "Historical and descriptive Account of Red River County, Texas." Northern Standard [Clarksville, Texas] (25 August 1882).

Dewees, W. B. Letters from an Early Settler of Texas. Louisville: Norton & Griswold, 1852. 312p.

Elmore, Pat Shively. Are You English? Are You Kin to John and Sinai (Ballew) English? Bloomfield, MO: The Author, 2004. 126p.

Ericson, Joe E. & Carolyn (comps). Red River County, Texas in the Civil War. Nacogdoches, TX: Ericson Books, 2010[?]. 283p.

Ericson, Joe E. & Carolyn. They Came to East Texas, 500-1850: Immigrants and Immigration Patterns. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2009. 250p.

Gable, Bertha. Red River County Cemeteries. 7v. Clarksville: The Author, 1984-92.

Garrett, Julia Katheryn. "Dr. John Sibley and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1803-1814." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 49 (July 1945).

Gordon, Mrs. George. "Mrs. Ibbie Gordon." Dallas Morning News (6 January 1894).

Hall, Claude V. "Early Days in Red River County." East Texas State Teachers College Bulletin 14 (June 1931). Also appears in: Bulletin of Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College, no. 38 (January 1932).

Hall, Claude V. "Territorial Overlapping of Texas & Arkansas." Southwestern Historical Quarterly __ (date?).

Ingmire, Frances Terry. Pioneers of Red River County, Texas. St. Louis: The Author, 1982. 65 leaves.

Kerbow, Blewett Barnes. "The Early History of Red River County, 1817-1865." M.A. thesis. University of Texas, 1936.

Lee, Johnie. It Happened in Post Oak (or Thereabouts: A Slice of Lamar and Red River County History. Detroit, TX: The Author, 2000. 300+p.

McNeely, Patricia G. et al. Knights of the Quill: Confederate Correspondents and Their Civil War Reporting. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2010. 480p. (Includes "Charles Demorse: Reporting from the Indian Territories")

Marriage Records for Red River County, Texas. 3v. Clarksville, TX: Red River County Clerk’s Office, 2003. [transcribed from the originals, 1846-1999]

Marriage Records, Red River County, Texas, 1845-1881. Mesquite, TX: Mesquite Historical & Genealogical Society, 1978[?]. 103p.

Marrin, Richard B. & Lorna Geer Sheppard. Abstracts from the Northern Standard and the Red River District. 2v. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2006-7. 6v. (so far; vols. 1-6 cover August 1842-July 1859)

Marrin, Richard B. Going to Court in Texas: Riding the Circuit, 1842-1861. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007. 158p. [Focuses on Charles DeMorse’s newspaper reports from his circuit]

Marrin, Richard B. & Lorna Geer Sheppard. The Paradise of Texas: Clarksville and Red River County, 1846-1860. 2v. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007-10. [Material taken from the Northern Standard]

Marshall, Thomas Maitland. A History of the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase, 1819-1841. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1914. xiii, 266p.

Morris, Harry Joseph (Mrs.). Citizens of the Republic of Texas. Dallas: Texas State Genealogical Society, 1977. xxii, 564p.

Murray, Joyce Martin. Red River County Deed Abstracts. 2v. Dallas: The Author, 1986-90.

Murray, Nicholas Russell. Red River County, Texas, 1845-1891. North Salt Lake, UT: Hunting for Bears, 1986. 103p.

Neville, Alexander W. History of Lamar County. Paris: North Texas Publishing Co., 1937. 246p.

Neville, Alexander W. The Red River Valley Then and Now. Paris: North Texas Publishing Co., 1948. xiii, 278p.

Osburn, John Douglas. "A History of the Present Red River County, Texas, Area through 1845." M.A. thesis. Southern Methodist University, 1954.

Red River County Historical Society. Red River Recollections. Clarksville: Red River County Historical Society, 1986. 464p.

Red River County, Texas, Genealogical Society. Bible Records of RRCOTXGS Members. Clarksville: Red River County, Texas, Genealogical Society, 1988. [unpaged]

Smith, Michael Kalen. "Red River County, Texas, 1850-1860: An Investigation of the ‘Planters and Plain Folk’ Hypothesis." M.A. thesis. University of Texas - Arlington, 1983. 145 leaves.

Steely, Skipper. 1850 Combined Census, Lamar and Red River Counties, Texas: Includes Added Notations. Paris, TX: Wright Press, 1985. viii, 223p.

Steely, Skipper (ed). George W. Wright Memoirs: a Trip Through Texas, 1816-1846. Paris, TX: Wright Press, 2008.

Steely, Skipper (ed). Northeast Texas, Historical Articles About Its Beginnings. Paris, TX: Wright Press, 1984.

Steely, Skipper. Six Months from Tennessee: a Story of the Many Pioneers of Miller County, Arkansas. Wolfe City, TX: Hennngton Publishing Co., 1982. iv, 184p.

Strickland, Rex W. "Anglo-American Activities in Northeastern Texas, 1803-1845." Ph.D. thesis. University of Texas, 1937.

Strickland, Rex W. "Establishment of 'Old' Miller County, Arkansas Territory." Chronicles of Oklahoma 18 (June 1940).

Strickland, Rex W. "Miller County, Arkansas Territory, the Frontier That Men Forgot." Chronicles of Oklahoma 18 (March 1940) & 19 (March 1941).

Stroud, Martha Sue. Gateway to Texas: History of Red River County. Austin: Nortex Press, 1997. 446p.

Wallace, Ernest. Charles DeMorse, Pioneer Statesman and Father of Texas Journalism. Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1943. vi, 271p.

White, Gifford E. First Settlers of Red River County, Texas; edited . . . from the originals in the General Land Office, Austin, Texas. St. Louis: Frances Terry Ingmire, 1981. iv, 76p.

Whittington, G. F. "Dr. John Sibley of Natchitoches, 1757-1837." Louisiana Historical Quarterly 10 (Octobe 1927).