by James Timothy (Tim) Sears, Lipan Historian
June 30, 2001
Nestled in a small valley in northwest Hood County is the town of Lipan, Texas. Lipan is named for the Lipan Apache Indians who once roamed the Southwest.
Lipan is surrounded by small creeks including Crockery Creek, Kickapoo Creek, and Weaver Branch.
The valley has come to be known as Kickapoo Valley with Kickapoo Falls as a distinctive landmark.
These creeks eventually empty into the mighty Brazos River.
For many centuries this tranquil valley was home to native American Indians from several tribes including Wichita, Apache, and Comanche tribes and to bountiful wild game of deer, turkeys, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, etc. The creeks ran year round; the wooded land provided for the needs of both man and beast.
About 1853 the first known white settlers of the area were Sam and George Allen who settled between what is now known as Crockery Creek and Weaver Branch.
Crockery Creek derived its name from the waters that cooled crocks of milk and butter placed in the water. Weaver Branch was originally named after the Allen men; the name was later changed to Weaver Branch to honor the memory of a gentleman named Weaver who resided there and was killed by Indian marauders.
Another early settler was John Middleton who settled just west of Lipan between Dry Branch Creek and Double Mountain; he settled in what was first known as Middleton Point. Other early settlers were C.A. Gilland, James Capps, and George Killion. These early settlers were adventurous men who were seeking lands in their native form.
By 1873 an Irishman named Thomas Allen Burns (1832-1933) arrived on the scene and laid out a township which he called Lipan. He was aided in his founding of the town by land agent John H. Traylor.
Burns was the first postmaster at Lipan in 1875 and owned a general store. A mill and a blacksmith shop were the other early business ventures. In 1878 Burns sold his property and moved on to Granbury where he served as postmaster. . He eventually settled in Burkett, Texas where he died at age 101. His plat was subsequently owned by Emma O. Marr. The land changed hands several times; the town plat was finally filed at the Hood County Court House on September 13, 1882.
The Lipan area began to grow and prosper. Land began to be cleared for farms. As the lands opened up, people came west and chose Lipan as home. Early names associated with Lipan included Self, Allison, Sweek, Aiken, Cook, Beavers, Woodburn, Key, Gardner, Roach, Lee, Martin, Foster, Mugg, Helms, Huffstuttler, Lane, Yeats, Hale, Davis, Holt, Simpler, Stavenhagen, Castle, Luttrell, Compton, Cross, High, and Gafford. These are only a representative cross-section of the many families who were early settlers of Lipan.
One of the earliest needs of the community was a burial ground. Two burying grounds were established in early day Lipan. Present day Evergreen Cemetery was established in 1866 on a hill east of Lipan. The Baptist Cemetery was established southeast of town on Crockery Creek near one of the early school buildings; graves which date to the early 1870’s are among the first burials at that site. Most modern day families choose plots at Evergreen Cemetery. Veterans from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Viet Nam War are buried in Lipan’s cemeteries.
Several schools were established during the early history of Lipan. These early schools were subscription schools and usually were in session for five months and housed in log cabins or other crude structures.
The first school was established about 1871 and was located north of present day Lipan where Marion Ator once lived. The second school was located east of that location on the hill across from Evergreen Cemetery. Children attended a “picket schoolhouse” which was made by sticking poles in the ground. It had a dirt floor and the students sat on split logs. Students walked three miles to and from school and carried their lunches in tin buckets. Another school term was conducted at a nearby site. A subsequent school was at the church building at the Baptist Cemetery site. Even later, a subscription school term was conducted at the site of the present school property in Lipan proper.
During the late 1880’s residents of Lipan voted a tax for construction of the first permanent school building. It consisted of two stories and was a plank building. A well, cistern, and outhouses were located nearby. School was conducted on the first floor and divided into two educational levels. The Masonic Lodge leased the second floor of the building for its meeting place. A wing was added in 1890 for additional classroom space.
The second permanent school building was constructed about 1900 and was also a two-story plank building. It consisted of four rooms. In 1923 a high school was established; Lipan High School graduated its first senior class in 1924.
During the Great Depression, the Work Projects Administration constructed the third permanent school building with an indoor gym. This building was built of brick and tile. Additions to the building were made during the 1940’s. A kitchen/cafeteria area was incorporated as a part of the complex about 1950. The last additions to the third building were added in the early 1960’s when a new cafeteria and agriculture classroom/shop complex were constructed. The gym complex was struck by lightning late on the night of May 10, 1968. The gym quickly caught fire and burned into the early morning hours of May 11. The complex was completely destroyed. The entire collection of school trophies which dated from the 1920’s was also destroyed.
School patrons immediately voted a bond to construct a new school building in the summer of 1968. Parts of the old building continued to be used for classrooms. The new building included classrooms, gym, and cafeteria. Other classroom additions have been completed since that time.
A modern library was constructed in 1997 and named for long time teacher Sylvia Wilson Baccus. A referendum was passed in 1998 for construction of a new high school. The new high school was occupied in 2000. A new high school gym will be completed in 2002.
Churches have played a vital role in the community since its earliest days. The first Baptist congregation was located on Crockery Creek in one of the log cabins that was also used as a school building. The earliest known Baptist Church organized about 1876. The membership voted to move the congregation into Lipan proper in 1894. The group met in the Lipan school. Later church buildings were built in Lipan near the school property. This congregation was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and eventually took the name First Baptist Church of Lipan.
Primitive Baptists also established a congregation in the Lipan area but it did not survive as a viable congregation. A second Southern Baptist Church was established in Lipan during the 1980’s and took the name Calvary Baptist Church of Lipan.
The Methodists established a congregation in Lipan by 1880. They were housed in several locations near the current school property. They chose the name Lipan Methodist Church. They provided worship for Lipan area families until the 1970’s when their membership began to decline. The church was discontinued and members moved memberships to nearby communities. The building was purchased by the First National Bank and is used for storage purposes.
Presbyterians also made an effort to establish a congregation in Lipan, but there was not enough interest to form a permanent church.
Many early Lipan families were members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The congregation formed during the 1880’s was greatly influenced by prominent Christian Church ministers Addison and Randolph Clark. It was about 1900 that members could not agree on whether or not to have musical instruments in the church. Most members of the Lipan congregation were opposed to musical instruments. They formed the Lipan Church of Christ in 1904. Their church building was also located near the school property. Their current building was constructed in 1938. An addition to this building was completed during the 1960’s.
History of the tabernacle in Lipan is sketchy. Church congregations first constructed brush arbors to be used at various times for their summer meetings. All three church congregations later used a tabernacle constructed before 1900 for their “protracted” summer meetings. The first tabernacle was located where the Methodist Church building now stands. Funerals were conducted there as were other community gatherings. The present tabernacle was constructed after 1918 and remains in use today.
Several organizations were established in the Lipan area. The Masonic Lodge granted a charter for Charity Lodge #565 in 1882. The lodge is still in existence today. The Order of Eastern Star is the companion organization for ladies and also continues in existence to the present day. The Woodmen of the World organized in 1900 and continued for many years; they had a companion Women’s Drill Team.
The Oddfellows organized in 1884 and existed until the early 1940’s. The Lipan Chieftains and Squaws organized as a community group in the 1960’s. This is only a representative list of organizations; others have also been organized.
At one time “Cotton was King” in the Lipan area. As farms grew in number, farmers began growing cotton; there was a need for a gin. The earliest gin and mill was built in the late 1870’s by a man named Harrison Davis. His gin was horse drawn for power. The gin/mill was located on property known in later years as the W.J. Aiken and J.J. Wilson homestead. A subsequent series of gins were established on both Crockery and Weaver Creeks since water was needed for the boilers. During the early 1880’s gins were located on both sides of Weaver Creek; operators were Nelson and James F. Bishop. Another gin with a grist mill was operated by Dearl Carter on Crockery Creek. That operation was later owned by Sherrill Jackson and then by Frank Williams. Another gin and grist mill was built behind George Ator’s home on Weaver Creek. J.C. Culberhouse and Jones were owners until it burned. Frank Williams and Walter Doss later built a new gin on the same site; it continued as a thriving business until 1940 when cotton crops were decimated by boll weevils. Many current and former residents of Lipan remember when school was closed for a week each fall so students could assist with cotton picking. Also, many students missed time each spring to assist their parents with plowing and planting.
As cotton fell into decline, ranching increased. Ranches have grown and decreased in size throughout the year. Names of large ranches have changed frequently.
Several large poultry and egg farms also flourished for a time. Ranching and hay farming continue to be vital to the local economy.
Banks have played an important role in the history of Lipan. The earliest bank was privatized and owned by a Mr. Hilburn. The Lipan State Bank was chartered in 1904. The Farmers and Merchants State Bank was organized in 1907. The F&M Bank was reorganized as the First National Bank in 1914. A second charter to the same institution was issued in 1922. Shortly after this time the two banks merged and continued under the name The First National Bank. This business continues today in a modern building with a drive-up window.
MERCHANTS AND BUSINESS OWNERS
Merchants and business owners have been the life blood of the village of Lipan for its entire history.
Thomas Burns, founder of Lipan, was the first merchant. Early businesses included blacksmith shops, general stores, dry goods stores, cotton gins, grist mills, a privately owned bank, and boarding houses.
Undoubtedly there was a wagon yard and livery stable as well.
William Gafford was a hotel keeper. His son J.P. Gafford was also an early merchant and saloon keeper. Members of the Yeats family built a hotel which existed until about 1940 on the site of Lance Key’s home. The current home of Mike Rippetoe also served as a boarding house at the turn of the 20th century. Names of many merchants and business owners prior to 1900 are unknown. Individuals since 1900 include the following: Aiken, Angley, Ator, Bagwell, Brewin, Dyer, Baker, Dennis, Campbell, Stell, Followell, Hurn, Gafford, Petty, Goodman, Key, Roach, Rippetoe, Saxon, Jones, Harris, Pope, Sears, Tolbert, Warren, Yeats, Huffstutler, Windsor, Bustle, McPherson, Addison, Compton, Baldree, Ives, Stowe, Tipton, Rogers, Wheeler, Light, Weaver, Howard, Chandler, Branson, White, Pena, Dickinson, Jones, Iles, Byrd, McCuan, Robinson, Sims, Lambertson, Norman, Smith, Edwards, Tuggle, Penick, Hunt, Allen, Price, Perry, Baker, Law, and others.
Physicians have also played an important role in the history of Lipan. Doctors from the late 1870’s to the 1960’s include Hall, Kerr, Strange, White, Rodgers, Ranspot, Philley, Perry, Gough, McFall, Gandy, Roan, Weathers, Gunderson, and Thomas. The last doctor to live in Lipan and serve its residents was C.I. Tout.
Dr. John W. McFall gained special fame in Lipan when he delivered the Hewlett triplets on September 18, 1911; this was the first time triplets were born in Hood County.
A hospital was built through subscription shares in the late 1940’s. After the hospital fell into disuse, it was vacant for a long period of time.
The hospital building found a new life in the 1970’s when it was renovated and turned into a community center. It is the scene of reunions, parties, meetings, etc.
One service provided by the community is a location for family lunches when there is a death of a loved one.
Early day Lipan residents constructed their own coffins for burials. Later on, Hite Rippetoe sold coffins through his drug store. He was one of several local men who took on the role of “undertaker.” Lawrence C. Smith became the first licensed funeral director in Lipan and opened a funeral home about 1938. He remained in business until 1968 when he sold his funeral home to George Martin. Lipan now has one funeral chapel. It is owned by Billy Wiley.
Local families were responsible for the maintenance of their own cemetery plots from the inception of the cemeteries. Families usually gathered to clean their plots on Decoration Day. As the size of the cemeteries grew, more and more plots became overgrown and unkempt. Elon Aiken and Mary Ruth Gandy led efforts to clean the cemeteries in 1937. They were assisted by Tom Stell, John Dyer, Pete Queen, Lawrence Smith, Freda Ives, and others. A committee was established for each cemetery, caretakers were hired, and the Lipan Homecoming was established.
The committees decided that Homecoming would always be held on the first Sunday in June each year.
The first homecoming was held on Sunday, June 5, 1938. Entertainment was provided on Saturday night at the tabernacle. Sunday was a day for visiting, a short memorial service and business meeting, collection of money for the cemeteries, and dinner-on-the-ground. The wonderful custom of Homecoming continues even today.
MORE ABOUT LIPAN
Lipan was a village for many years. Several private water systems have served the community during the last 75 years. Private wells served homes and businesses prior to the community water systems. At one time, a well, wooden water tower, and watering troughs were located in the area near Lambertson’s store.
Lipan was incorporated in 1956. Streets were paved during the 1960’s and a sewer system was installed during the 1990’s. A volunteer fire department and emergency ambulance service exist today.
The first phone company was organized in 1906 and served many area residents; long distance service was provided. Dial telephones were installed in 1963. A modern, privately owned phone company serves the Lipan area today. Internet connections are also available to subscribers.
Natural gas service became available to Lipan area citizens by the 1930’s from Lone Star Gas. Various forms of electrical service were available in early twentieth century Lipan. Texas Power and Light bought the system in 1937 and continues service today. Lone Star Gas and Texas Power and Light eventually combined into one utility known as TU Electric.
Lipan continues to have an active business district downtown with two funeral chapels, gas stations, grocery store, bank, cafes, general store, feed store, post office, city hall, beauty shops, etc. The school and churches are within walking distance of downtown. Residents enjoy the advantages of rural life, but can reach major cities and shopping areas in an hour’s time or less.
Lipan, established more than 125 years ago, continues to be “Home” to many honest, decent, hard-working individuals and families. Lipan will always hold a special spot in the hearts and lives of those who grew to adulthood in this dear village but now reside elsewhere. May it flourish and prosper far into the future!
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE BORN OUT OF THE PAST!
© 2001 J. T. Sears – All Rights Reserved