Aledo

History of Aledo

Aledo

 Aledo town center 1907

Southeastern Parker County is nestled among gently rolling hills about fourteen miles from the city limits of Weatherford.  In the early 1800s Comanche Indians covered the area with an occasional Kiowa, Lipan and Keechi tribes.  Evidence of the Native American settlements have been found by local archeologists.

The first white settlers came into the area around 1850.  Mulkins Mill, the first mill in what would become Parker County, was in operation on Bear Creek in 1853 near the Goforth Farm.  Ezra Mulkin’s land grant was located on the Clear Fork of the Trinity.  Others to receive State land grants in the area were James F. Gomer, G.B. Jones, Thomas Durrett, Solomon Durrett, Jason Lorance, William. A. Tharp, Richard C. Eddleman, Littleton R. Fawks, A.B. Smith, William Cole, William H. Carr, C.M. Carr, J.B.A. Evans, J. Rufe Evans, Mrs. M.J. Nichols, Norman Underwood, Robert Elkins, C.W. Kutch, J.H. Higbee, and the famous trail driver, Oliver Loving.  There was a large grant to the heirs of Francisco Sanchez of almost 3,000 acres.  The various railroad companies received many sections of land from the State. These were eventually settled by other early settlers, which included Martin Harvick, J.H. Mayes, John C. Jones, H.W. Middleton, Thomas Brown and W.R. McConnell. These were just the beginning of the settlers to that area.

The Butterfield Stage Line ran east and west several miles north of Aledo. One stop was at Kelsey’s Springs at Mary’s Creek.  John Kelsey provided water for the teams and a small saloon for the travelers.  A man named Richardson kept a post office in his home near the saloon.

Bear Creek Station was another stage stop in the area at that time. It was located near where Highway 377 crosses the Bear Creek.

Robert Elkins was postmaster of the Newburg post office in 1859, his land grant was west of Aledo.  Near Elkins’ place was Rufe Evans Hollow and the Evans School House.  By 1870 there were school houses on Bear Creek, Alma and O’Neal Springs.

Early Cemeteries

The cemeteries in the area help to locate many of the families that were living in the area.  The earliest tombstone inscriptions are to be found in the Cole-Markham Cemetery on the Clear Fork, which later became the Cortez Wiley farm.  William A. Cole, age 16 was buried there in 1855.  G.W. and E.J. Cole buried their son Edmond in October, 1856. J.B. and M.E. Cabb’s daughter, Mary was buried in December, 1857. This cemetery is on land originally granted to J.B. Hibbert. Alexander Brown was buried in the Brown Cemetery March, 1858. Martin Harvick was buried at the Gomer Cemetery October, 1861. Aunt Polly Cart (1787-1862), a relative of the Brown family was interred at Brown Cemetery.

The oldest persons buried near Aledo are Col. David Kerr McEwen (1781-1868), a veteran of the War of 1812 and his wife, Lydia Lane McEwen (1780-1868), both buried in Hood Cemetery.  They were the great-grandparents of General Hood Simpson.

Establishing a Community

Alma was the first community in the area, located south of Brown Cemetery, near Clear Fork.  The first churches of the community and the Alma school were established there. In July, 1876 the Alma Lodge was organized with charter members S.M. McConnell, F.M. Medearis and Mr. Swain.  Alma was named for a daughter of Milton McConnell that died young. Her grave at the McConnell Cemetery is marked only as “Baby” on a homemade slab.

The arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railroad tracks went to the north of Alma. Otherwise Alma might have been the center of the area.  Instead the railroad tracks went through the land that was the original Sanchez grant and became a train stop.  As this grew into a settlement it was called Medearis, Hood’s Ranch and then Parker’s Station.  When the Federal Government set up a mail station in the corner of the T.J. Overmier General Merchandise store, the confusion over the name warranted a request for a permanent name for the post office.  An engineer for the T&P Railroad suggested that it be named for his hometown, Aledo, Illinois.  The government, without consulting the people, accepted the name. Aledo, Texas was on the map.

One of the first buildings, housing a number of “businesses,” was owned by J.D. Bowlen.  It looked like a large two-story rooming house with a flat porch-awning all around the building from which hung signs indicating what one might find inside.  Perhaps this was a forerunner to the strip malls?  On the signs were such things as J.D. Bowlen Confectioneries, Baker’s Bread, Tobacco and Cigars, Hot and Cold Lunch, Furnished Rooms, Wagon Yard, etc.  The building stood on the west end of Front Street.  There were six bedrooms upstairs, which were rented out to travelers coming through on the train.  Mr. Bowlen had a barber chair in one corner of the store and a shoeshop in the other.  He also kept two rubber-tired buggies for hire. (If anyone reading this knows of photos of this establishment, please let the PCHC know).

The only other “traveler’s rest” in town was the Perry place, which was built in 1863 by William and Jerome Perry.  (Also, photos of this place, if still in existence would be greatly appreciated).

After the depot was built, there was passenger service to Weatherford and Fort Worth every day.  T.J. Overmier had a well dug between the depot and the buildings on the “boardwalk” on Front Street.  The well had a roof and about six buckets hung around the edges. Its use was rented to T&P Railroad for the benefit of the passengers, but anyone could drink from it.

Another building was a two-story structure built by J.J. Sears.  Mr. McConnell was the contractor and built it in 1893.  The second story was to house the Masonic Lodge and the Order of the Eastern Star.  Mr. Sears handled all kinds of merchandise and performed many services, one of which was to act as a mortician.  The driver for Sear’s horse drawn hearse was R.W. Gray.  Emerson White worked for Sears for many years.  A shed at the back of the store housed the coffins, some of which Mr. White acquired when he went into the merchandising business.

Next to Sear’s store, Newt Markham built a one-story building that housed a drugstore operated first by J.W. McGaughy.  Druggist G.W. Morgan later ran the drugstore.  The last pharmacist in Aledo during those early years was A. Jones, whose business occupied part of the Overmier building. His walls were literally plastered with patent medicine advertisements.

Three medical doctors kept the town of Aledo well cared for.  Dr. William Lasater had his office in his home.  Doctors H.F. Leach and Z. Boaz maintained offices in the back of the bank building.

The bank building was down the street from Overmier’s Mercantile store. It had been built by J.J. Sears and was a privately owned, unchartered bank.  It served the people well for many years until the owner’s son embezzled some funds. Properties around Aledo were sold off to pay the depositors and the bank closed in 1925.  (Does anyone know the name of the bank and the owner?)

Located in the bank were offices of Aetna Life Insurance.  H.E. Law wrote the first insurance policy in Aledo.  Later insurance agents were Guy Lasater and Burton Coder.

Around the corner from the bank was a lumber yard.  The upstairs was headquarters for the Woodmen of the World organization, which had a very large membership.

Across the road from the bank on the east was M.C. Griffin’s blacksmith shop. His shop stood where the grain storage and elevator now stands. He repaired tack, harness, collars, wagon wheels and shod horses.  Directly across the railroad tracks to the south, R.W. Gray owned and operated a livery stable with buggies and hacks for hire.  In addition he sold pianos and stoves, which made for a curious combination.  When the first “gas buggies” or automobiles appeared he furnished them with gasoline hauled from Weatherford in barrels. Mrs. Esther Gray ran a millinery shop—the one and only Aledo ever had.  She was known to have the fanciest, flowery, ribboned, and most beautiful creations. Apparently, the Grays were quite the entrepanuers.    On the west end of Front Street was C.D. Alexander’s general merchandise store, which was mostly groceries and ice hauled in from Weatherford.  The community was well supplied with goods and services.

The Post Office was moved from T.J. Overmier’s store to the east end of the buildings on Front Street in 1885. Mrs. J.P. Hamaker was the first postmaster. Her husband, who had fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, served as her mail messenger.  He carried the mail to the depot in a small two-wheeled cart.  Later, Glenn Kelly was given this job at age sixteen.  At age eighteen, Glenn became a substitute carrier for two mail routes, which was the youngest age possible by law.  When Mrs. Hamaker died in 1938, Glenn took over her duties until Mr. Lucy Reynolds was appointed.  After Mrs. Reynolds, Glenn became postmaster and served for many years.

On land owned by J.D. Bowlen stood the old independent telephone company, owned by Dr. H.P. Leach.  Lillian Griffin operated the switchboard by day and Marion Coats was the night operator.  Later, the building was torn down and the exchange was moved to the home of D.W. Medford.  Medford later moved the exchange to the southwest corner of the railroad crossing where it remained until Southwestern Bell took over the utility.  Early telephone service was primitive compared to what it is today, but it was instrumental in bringing communities together.

Only two businesses were operated on Sunday in those days—the telephone switchboard and the trains.  Carl Lasater, Archie Underwood and J.E. McMurray were dispatchers for the T&P Railroad.

Ray Smyth built a small red mill on the corner lot just west of the Methodist church first and later erected a large complex on Front Street, facing the railroad.  Two cotton gins were located on the old Bear Creek Road.  J.J. Sears and C.G. Emmons built one in 1903. Later, Emmons bought out Sears share. The other gin, which also ground corn, was owned and operated by Tom C. Bennett, which was located further to the south.

Emerson White bought the general merchandise store where he had worked for T.J. Overmier.  He and his wife, Jewell operated the store for 64 years.

On the south side of the railroad, next to Gray’s Livery Stable and piano store, Charlie Alexander built a grocery store and café operated by his son, Fred.  The café was later run by W.T. Carver and many others.  Much later, Luther Sullivan had a general merchandise store and café next door.

Law enforcement in Aledo was a matter for the county to handle.  One early constable was Dick Spain.  Mr. Giffin, Mr Sumner and J.P Hamaker were early Justices of the Peace.

On May 4, 1963, the petition was granted for Aledo to incorporate.  Bob Daugherty was elected the first mayor.  First commissioners were Felix Reynolds and J. Vernon Whitmire.

Aledo has continued to grow over the years and its close proximity to Interstate 20 and to Fort Worth will assure its growth for many years to come.

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