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Early Red River, Texas One Place Study

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: About 1810 to 19 Feb 1846
Location: Red River County, Texasmap
Surnames/tags: Texas One_Place_Studies
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Early Red River, Texas

This profile is part of the Early Red River, Texas One Place Study.
{{One Place Study|place=Early Red River, Texas|category=Early Red River, Texas One Place Study}}


Continent: North America
Country: United States of America
State: Texas
County: Red River
GPS Coordinates: 33.62, -95.05
Elevation: 135.0 m or 442.9 feet

Scope of the Study

  • To identify and document the early settlers in the Red River district before the Republic of Texas transferred sovereignty to the United States on 19 Feb 1846, both individuals and interlocking family groups, where they came from, and the routes by which they arrived.
  • To identify, track, and document their descendants down to at least the beginning of the 20th century (including those who left the immediate area), and their participation in politics and the military.

History of the Project

My name is Michael Smith and I've been working on this stuff for a LONG time.

In the mid-1960s, when I first began to develop a serious interest in genealogy, I was on the professional staff of the Dallas Public Library. I'm not a native Texan (Army brat), but my wife was 5th-generation in North Texas and her family came from Red River County, from a small rural community near Clarksville. To hone my skills, I undertook to figure out her family's lineage and I became fascinated with the area's history.

Old Red River, I discovered, was formed in 1836 as one of the "mother counties" of the Republic of Texas, and was far greater in extent then 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 before 1810. The first organized settlers into the district crossed the river with their families more than 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, Pecan Point, and Kiamichi (all of them gone now) to become self-consciously Texan. A number of the early movers and shakers of Anglo Texas came from Old Red River -- including Robert Shaw Hamilton, principal author of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas and leader of the delegation sent to Washington, DC, to seek recognition of the new nation.

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 today is still under 13,000. Marsha Hoffman 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.

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.

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. And when I did an M.A. in Social History, my thesis was a prosopographical study of what the Red River area looked like in the 1850s & '60s by analyzing the censuses in depth, bolstered by all that other information I had been gathering. My interest in the early history of Red River has continued ever since, and I presently have at least some data on more than 7,000 individuals who were in the county in the 19th & early 20th centuries.


So far, there's only me: Michael K. Smith. If you have a particular interest in early Red River County (or in Lamar, Hopkins, Bowie, or one of the other counties formed from Old River River), and you would like be involved in this project, please contact me.


You will find here a detailed list of virtually all books, journal articles, & theses on the history of early Red River. I own copies of most of these, but many also may be borrowed through Inter-Library Loan (a tax-supported service which is available through ALL public libraries in the United States).

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Comments: 3

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I am very interested in early Red River County history. I have lots of relatives from there.
posted by Jim Ward
I grew up in Denison, Texas. I share surnames of Morgan and Smith, however I don't know my connection. My "known surnames" from the south are Mckinney, Newsom, Dutton, Kemp, and Shaw.
posted by Morgan McKinney