Bosque County: Land and People (A History of Bosque County, Texas) Page: 69
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Meridian Depot-circa 1880
When Bosque County was organized in
1854, a new town had to be built as there were
no settlements near the center of the county.
After Dr. J.M. Steiner had donated 100 acres
of land and Andrew Montgomery 20 acres,
George B. Erath, assisted by Neill McLen-
nan, surveyed a portion of this tract on April
12, 1854. The original town went a block west
of Fuller Street and extended north just past
Lane Street. To the east it went about to Hill
Street and south just past the cemetery.
The organizing commissioners planned to
auction lots July 4, 1854. To make the town
appear more attractive, they gave away or
sold for a small amount, provided the new
owner would place some kind of building on
it at once. One of these lots was in Block 4,
and A.J. Manner paid $1.00 for it. J.N. Mabry
built a log house in Block 6 in the fall of 1854,
and in it the first sermon in the town was
This account will try to tell the story of
Meridian as a town, and not the official
business of the county, but since the court-
house and the jail were located here, there
was some influence.
Let's get a picture of the village. The square
was left vacant for a future courthouse. It was
forbidden to cut trees on this block. The
temporary courthouse, a log cabin, was on
Block 5 Lot 1 where the old bank building is
now. William McCurry had the contract to
build it for $150. It is said his son-in-law,
Nathan Screws, helped him.
Large post oak trees and some live oak
trees were scattered here and there. Log
cabins were used for houses and for store
buildings at first.
On Block 33, having 2 acres belonging to
Mrs. Louisa Dennis and located west of Erath
Street about Lane Street, was located a big
spring. Many people got water there, women
brought clothes to be washed, and some
picked and ate the watercress which grew
In the original survey the cemetery was
Block 41, five acres. Later Block 48 was
bought south of there. The school was
planned to be on Block 40, just north of there,
but there were objections. The first log school
was on Block 11 Lot 3 on West Morgan.
Church was held there too. In 1860 Buck
Barry reports a Methodist camp meeting on
the banks of the Bosque River. This was
probably just west across the field and under
the trees on the river.
A post office, the first in the county, was
established August 26, 1856 with Joseph W.
Smith as postmaster. Occupying a log cabin
on Erath Street Block 31 west of the present
Methodist Church, it remained here several
years. Joseph W. Smith owned much of the
land north of there, and he and several
members of the family are buried back of 902
The first jail was built between September,
1856 and February, 1857 on Block 18. It was
a two-story log jail with double logs all
around. This jail was used until about 1880.
The log cabin courthouse was used until
1859 when a three-room board structure was
built on the northwest corner of the square.
The square was larger than now. In the 1930's
some of the north, the east, and the soutnh
sides were removed for car parking.
Some years later W.S. (Wid) Powell wrote
in the Meridian Tribune how Meridian
looked about 1860. Powell and Carruthers of
the Brazos River south of Kopperl were
delivering corn to the government forts
northwest of here. (One was Camp Colorado.)
They took two days to reach Meridian,
coming in on East Morgan Street. The ox
wagons turned right to go out Main Street
north to Hanna Crossing.
Here is what Powell says (with my update):
"What of Meridian in those days? On the
corner where Lee's Grocery is, the firm
Goodlet and Jones was selling goods. Just
across the street where City Discount Drug
now is, Old Joe Smith was running the only
hotel in town. On the corner where the old
bank building is, John Bailey was running a
store. The buildings were made of burr oak
boards from the bottoms of the Leon River.
These old board shanties and their owners
are all gone now."
About 1860 M.D. Emerson built the fam-
ous Emerson Hotel, which occupied Block 14
where the present post office is. This re-
mained until about 1930 when it was demol-
ished. Lumber for this was hauled from
Jefferson, Shreveport, or Galveston. Much
later Waco had a supply of lumber.
But Bosque County was full of limestone
rocks, and three houses of tabee construction
were built in or around Meridian in the
sixities. One of these, still standing, is the
octagon-shaped house two miles southwest of
Meridian. Built by Dr. W.M. Bridges, it was
a form of primitive concrete. Forms were set
up and filled with an aggregate of rocks and
powdered limestone moistened with water.
Two other houses like this were built by
Moses Fuller. One was a two-story dwelling
house where the present Methodist Church
is. This one burned. The other house was a
two-story business where the present
"Library Building" is now. Downstairs was
the newspaper Eagle; upstairs was the
Knights of Pythias Lodge. This was known
as Fossett Hall. It was remodeled in 1877, but
was torn down in 1916 when the present
library building was built by Dr. and Mrs. J.J.
Lumpkin and later deeded to the city.
As the Civil War approached, some were
for seceding; others were against. When the
time came, men enlisted. Allison Nelson, who
lived about four miles north of Meridian,
enlisted a company of men, the Tenth Texas
Infantry. Another group from Bosque
County, Company H of Hawpie's Brigade,
later the 31st Texas Cavalry, served in the
Confederacy. Most of the Bosque County
men served in the Frontier Regiment, patrol-
ling west and northwest for Indians or others.
Some of the men left behind were suspec-
ted of being sympathetic to the Union, and
some openly said so. A committee drew up
resolutions, detailing ways to deal with
suspected traitors. First, the individual
would be asked to swear allegiance to the
Confederacy. If he refused, he would be given
transportation to the North, or he would be
hanged. Some families in the community
simply disappeared for the duration of the
war and reappeared at the end.
The period after the Civil War closed in
1865 was very trying. The people had no
money, very little goods, and taxes were very
high. All those who had fought for the
Confederacy, helped it, or sympathized with
it were without the right to vote or hold office.
A period of military rule for ten years
followed. Many tracts of land were bought for
very little money because of delinquent taxes.
These years were lawless years, and many
criminals were hanged. A favorite place was
the big live oak on the west side of the
cemetery. At least one was hanged from the
big oak in the Ed Goff (originally Lumpkin
house) yard. About 1876 a mob stormed the
jail and took three prisoners and shot them.
Probably these men are buried in unmarked
graves in the cemetery.
Besides this, it was legal to hang a man if
he had been tried by a jury. In such cases a
scaffold would be erected on the courthouse
lawn. When Rev. L.A. Dunlap and his family
arrived in Meridian in the 1890's, a scaffold
was in place after a hanging. The Commis-
sioners' Court once chided the Sheriff and
ordered him to "remove the unsightly
In 1871 the three-room frame courthouse
was destroyed by fire. Some say all county
records were destroyed, but most records
from 1854-1871 are still here. One informant
said some young fellows knew a complaint
had been made against them. If these were
burned, they would go free, and they did. In
Ten Texas Feuds, C. L. Sonnichsen remar-
ked, "It was a Texas custom at the time for
people with many indictments on the books
to destroy the records by burning the build-
Five years went by before a courthouse to
replace this one was built. However, a room
for the clerks, county and district, was built
of stone by E.B. George, contractor, in 1872.
It was located on the southeast corner of the
square and was used until a new courthouse
was built. Then it was made into public
restrooms, and later demolished.
What did people do when court met?
Records show the court rented a room from
some of the merchants, as Sam Fossett,
Goodlet and Jones. Sometimes a tent was
In 1875 a two-story rock courthouse was
built in the middle of the square by Enoch
George and Dave Neely. This was the third
About this time the Masonic Lodge began
meeting in a building near Bosque Street,
south of the Episcopal Church. The public
school met in this building also. Just west of
Here’s what’s next.
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Bosque County History Book Committee. Bosque County: Land and People (A History of Bosque County, Texas), book, 1985; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth91038/m1/85/?q=campbell: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Denton Public Library.