By Carl Dean Ator – Written in 1948
Having a truly inspiring, appealing, and romantic history, Lipan, Hood County, Texas dates its existence as far back as 1870. At this time, the thriving little community was known as “Crossroads,” due to the fact that the road running from Weatherford to Stephenville crossed with the Granbury-Palo Pinto Road at the present site of Lipan.
A man named Burns, who began business in 1869, operated the first business establishment and post office. After a period of about two years, a man named George A. Morris established the second store. Then came the enterprise, which cursed the very well-being of “Crossroads”-the saloon which was operated by that rough, tough “Black Snake” McCoy.
It was about that time that those daring early settlers of Lipan had a fight with a group of Indians from the Lipan-Apache tribe about two miles west of the present town site. In this battle, the Indians killed two white men. These two men’s names were Chickery and Weaver. The creek running by the J.J. Wilson home and the creek running by the present Roy Clary place were named after them.
In 1872, there were less than one hundred inhabitants around the entire Lipan community; the homes would average about six miles apart. So, one can see that their closest neighbors were a long way off.
The people needed and wanted a school. A small one-room building was erected not far from the well on the creek of the present F.M. Ator farm in 1872. A fellow from Tennessee by the name of Gordon taught the first school in Lipan. After a few weeks of teaching, the settlers became very dissatisfied with the location of the school. It was very unhandy for many children because they walked as high as six to eight miles counting the morning trip and the return trip in the evening.
A new site was decided upon, and another log cabin was built in the northeast corner of the present J.J. Wilson farm. Still dissatisfied with the set-up, the settlers erected another school building on the hill where the Dave Key home now stands.
All three of these school buildings were log houses in which the cracks were not chinked at all; the cold wind “whipped” right on through. Dirt was the only floor; split logs were used for benches. The three R’s–reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic–were all that they even proposed to teach in those days. All of the students read aloud all of the time; one certainly had to have the ability to concentrate, in spite of the noise, if he or she got anywhere in school.
The location of the school on the Dave Key hill was more satisfactory than the two previous school sites; but, before the beginning of the term in 1873, a little school house was built on the present campus site of Lipan High School. Considerable improvement was made in the quality of the building put up, but it was still made from logs. Because the home of a fellow named Wells was the closest to the school, it was known as “Well’s School” for many years.
In 1876, a better building was erected on the same site. Before the beginning of the 1877 school term (each term lasted only about three months), the first plank building was built. It has been said that the lumber in the 1877 schoolhouse was of very rough quality because the settlers took the logs from native trees to the sawmill and had them split. Due to the relatively poor quality of timber in this country, much of the bark remained on the planks in the building. But, the cracks were closed; that was what the people wanted.
In those days, all of the older pupils wore pistols because of fear of an attack by the Indians. Everybody hung his gun on the wall while school was in session. Mr. N.B. Self, my grandpa, recalls that one day school was progressing nicely when, all at once, a large herd of cattle on stampede ran through the underbrush toward the school. The teacher and the pupils, thinking the cattle were Indians, instantly bolted the door; all grabbed their guns and prepared for an attack. They certainly were relieved when they saw the herd, still running with much rapidity, divide around the little building and run out of sight.
Just as had been their custom with the first log school houses, the local citizens wanted to rebuild every three or four years after they got the plank building. It has been said that between the erecting of the first plank building in 1877 and the building of the first two-story schoolhouse in 1890, the building was completely torn down and rebuilt three times!
In 1883, two cotton gins were operated not far from the Paul Bowden home with one on each side of the creek. Orand Nelson owned one gin while Uncle Bobby Bishop’s father owned the other one. They were located on the creek for a two-fold purpose: one, to dispose of the cottonseed by running it down the creek (its fine feeding value had not been discovered then) and two, to have water for the boiler.
The awful drought of 1885 broke some of the businesses in Lipan and crippled all of them because they sold on credit from fall to fall. Some farmers and large families would often owe four to five hundred dollars in spite of the fact that they had completely paid up every thing the fall before. It can easily been seen that the farmers were depending mainly on two things for a living, cotton and more cotton! When the cotton crop was a complete failure due to a dry year, everybody was in a bad fix. It was said that this condition prevailed in 1885.
The farmers could not pay the merchants when they did not have the wherewith all to pay. The businessmen could not pay their jobbers when their customers did not pay them. People began to realize that it was imperative that they take out the insurance policy of diversified farming if they were to be able to stand should another drought hit them like the one in 1885.
It might be well, at this time, to give some of the Lipan “firsts.” As has already been stated, a man by the name of Burns owned the first store. Mr. Burns was also the first postmaster. A man named Wells was the first star mail carrier and carried the mail from Weatherford to Stephenville once a week. A fellow by the name of Burnstark was the first blacksmith. A man named Hilburn organized the first bank. Dr. Hughy White was the first doctor who ever lived in Lipan. Mr. Robert Sears was the first rural route carrier on route number one; Mr. Joe P. Self was the first carrier on route number two.
Some of the old-timers who lived in Lipan in 1891 were such men as N.J. Gardner, Ellis Baker, Tommy Helms, Bill Wilson, Jack Huffstutler, Bill Gafford, W.T. Roach, Pleas Gafford, J.D. Slyger, Lon Woodburn, J.E. Dennis, Tom Petty, N.B. Self, E.T. Cook, Henry Ator, Mr. Holler, and W.J. Aiken. In 1881, the Masonic Lodge met over the school building and only had about fifteen members.
Among the early settlers, there were more Presbyterians than those of any other belief. In the “gay nineties,” the Presbyterian preacher was a man called “Crying” Tucker. It is said that he was very emotional and cried during the most part of every sermon he preached.
It could certainly be called the good old days when folks of every religious belief could meet together and study the Bible without chewing the rag about every little “whim” or “ism.” This fine condition prevailed in the gay nineties in Lipan. Each Sunday, they had what was known as the Union Sunday School. The people met in the school building and learned more of the will of God concerning them. About 1889, the Baptist meeting place was built. In 1900, the Methodists erected a building. The first Church of Christ building was built in 1904.
When the Henry Ator family moved to Lipan from Arkansas in 1891, there were only eight houses in the radius of a mile around Lipan. In those days, no one knew how to build a house. The house of Henry Ator had a sixty-foot front; there was nothing so very uncommon about the way it was built. It was just “one-room” deep though. As the family became able, they would build another room on the end of the house. They surely did need this room because everyone had unusually large families.
Parties were a common thing in those days. Often they had what was called “ten minute” parties so that a boy and a girl could be introduced. If they were friendly to each other, they held a conversation and after ten minutes, they were separated. On-the-other-hand, if they would not talk to each other, they would have to sit together all evening. This soon made the bashful become less bashful or made them quit coming to parties at all.
The businesses that were operated in Lipan in 1909 and their owners were as follows: G.F. Followill; J.P. Gafford and Son; Hite Rippetoe; Petty and Goodman Barber Shop; Saxon and Pope Black smithing; W.H. Brewen; J.I. Bagwell; Henry Angley; L.D. Hurn and Sons; W.J. Aiken; J.P. Tolbert and Son; Yeats-Stell Hardware Co.; W.B. Byrd; J.E. Dennis; and J.H. McCauley. Besides the above mercantile establishments, there were two banks-The Farmers and Merchants Bank and the Lipan State Bank. There was also a real estate agent. There were two doctors, R.R. Ranspot and E.F. Gough. Businesses established during World War I were B.J. Stearns, Mrs. Ida Gafford, Ator Brothers, W.J. Aiken, A.L. Dickinson, and Bob Saxon.
Because the community has followed a diversified farming program, it has been thriving for many years. Due to the rich, adaptable soil around Lipan, King Cotton ruled supreme until about 1912 when the boll weevil began its daring career in this country. Two gins went full speed ahead in the early 1900’s and ginned from 6,000 to 10,000 bales of cotton each year.
Lipan has developed from its meager beginning to where it is today with about 250 population, between 15 and 20 business establishments, a trade territory of over a thousand people, a consolidated school district of 100 square miles of rural and star routes, three active churches, one of the strongest banks of any town its size anywhere, and a modern school plant with an attractive campus. The town is connected by way of paved top with Highway 281 thereby putting many larger towns in Lipan’s back yard.
No better place or finer folks, it seems to me, can be found than Lipan and Lipanites!
Carl Dean Ator is a native of Lipan and a graduate of Lipan High School. He is a descendant of two pioneer Hood County families, the Self family and the Martin family. Both families originally settled near Robinson Creek.
© Copyright by Carl Dean Ator – 1948, 1999
Permission has been granted by Carl Dean Ator to the Hood County Genealogical Society for use of this story on the HCGS web site