Navarro County
Historical Markers

Texas Lakes Trail Region
Markers (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Battle Creek Burial Ground | Corsicana Oil Field Discovery Well | Corsicana in 1860-1872 | Town of Dawson | Dresden Cemetery | Hill, Trading Post of Dr. George Washington | Last Review of the Confederacy | Former Site of Liberty Hill Settlement | Navarro County | Navarro County Courthouse | Site of the First Courthouse | Neill, James Clinton | Pearce Civil War Documents Collection | Reading Arrowhead and Indian Artifact Collection, Robert S. | Shelton, George Washington | Simkins House, Judge E.J. | Smith, Thomas Ingles | Spring Hill
Uncommemorated Sites (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Fort Trinidad

Battle Creek Burial Ground

Marker Title: Battle Creek Burial Ground
Address: SH 31, W of Dawson 2 mi.
City: Dawson
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1966
Marker Location: From Dawson, W on SH 31 about 2 miles
Marker Text: A surveying party of 25 Texans ran into about 300 Kickapoo Indians on a buffalo hunt; failing to heed warning to leave, the Texans were ambushed on October 8, 1838. Only seven survived, and four of these were wounded. After the escape, they came back to bury their comrades in a common grave. (1966)

Corsicana Oil Field Discovery Well

Resource Name: Corsicana Oil Field Discovery Well
Address: 400 block S. 12th St.
Architect: American Well and Prospecting Co.
County: Navarro
City: Corsicana
Marker Text: In the Spring of 1894 the Corsicana Water Development Company contracted Horace G. Johnson, Elmer H. Akin, and Charles Rittersbacher to drill a water well on South 12th Street about a block south of the Cotton Belt Railroad tracks. Drilling was done by a cable tool rig.

On June 9, 1894, a layer of oil sand was struck at a depth of 1,035 feet. The Corsicana Oil Field Discovery Well produced unneeded results for the drillers, because the oil had to be cased off to keep it from contaminating warm artesian water, which was finally found at 2,470 feet. However, oil continued to seep up from the ground around the casing.

When the oil was struck at 1,035 feet, samples were extracted and sent to the Standard Oil Company in Pennsylvania for tests. The oil was found to be of good quality.

The Corsicana Oil Field covers an area about five miles by two miles. Some of the best producing wells in this field were located on the eastern edge of Corsicana and had a daily output of forty-five barrels each.

Today, the 1894 Corsicana Oil Field Discovery Well is well preserved in the Petroleum Industry Park. The discovery well consists of a 6 inch pipe rising 3 feet out of the ground. The well site has been bricked to protect the pipe. The head of the well is capped and would reportedly flow by its own pressure if the cap were removed.The site of the first discovery of oil in the Corsicana Oil Field is significant because this field gave oil development in Texas its impetus.

In the early 1890's, Corsicana, Texas needed a better water system. As a result, in 1894 the Commercial Club of Corsicana discussed means of solving the water shortage. After a meeting, the Corsicana Water Development Company was incorporated by James L. Autry, Charles Allyn, and James Garrity and contracted the American Well and Prospecting Company (Horace G. Johnson, Elmer H. Akin and Charles Rittersbacher) to drill a water well on South Twelfth and West Ninth Streets. Using the cable tool method the drilling was started in the spring of 1894.

On the morning of June 9, 1894, a layer of oil sand was struck at 1,035 feet. This discovery infuriated the drillers because it meant that casing would have to be placed in the hole to seal off the oil formation. After repeated attempts to stop the oil from seeping around the casing, local speculators realized that the oil deposits might have some commercial significance.

The Corsicana Oil Development began leasing land in the vicinity of the new, city artesian well. John H. Galey and J. M. Guffey were contracted by the new oil company to drill five wells for an undivided one-half interest in all gas and oil found. Two hundred feet south of the city's well, oil was struck at 1,030 feet which produced two and one-half barrels a day. The third, fourth, and fifth wells produced 22, 20, and 25 barrels respectively. Soon afterward wells and derricks sprang up all over the eastern part of Corsicana.

As oil reserves accumulated, local citizens saw the need to market the bountiful, Corsicana oil. Joseph S. Cullinan of the Standard Oil Company was approached with the proposition of building a refinery in Corsicana to distill the crude oil into a marketable item.

Cullinan brought in William Gushing, a pipeline man; E. R. Brown, a refinery superintendent; W. H. Page, a civil engineer; and Alexander Hamilton, a foreman in charge of refinery construction. In December of 1896, the refinery began operation producing distilled oil of various grades. Eventually the J. S. Cullinan refinery developed into the Magnolia [Oil] and Pipe Line Company.

Until 1890 cable tool rigs were the only machines being used. M.C. and C.E. Baker, brothers from South Dakota, had been experimenting with a simple rotary rig in which water was forced down the drill stem instead of forcing water down the outside of the pipe which caused mud and drilling debris to circulate up the stem of the pipe. Upon hearing of the oil discovery in Corsicana the brothers departed for Texas. In Corsicana they perfected the rotary rig for oil well drilling, the basic type used today in virtually all oil well drilling.

At about the same time, Johnson, Akins, and Rittersbacher, original drillers of the Corsicana water well that started the Corsicana oil field, had been drilling water and oil wells. Since there were no repair shops for oil equipment west of St. Louis, the partners invested in a blacksmith and repair shop. Johnson, Akins, and Rittersbacher, American Well and Prospecting Company, hired the Baker brothers and eventually put an improved rotary rig on the market in 1901.

During this same period, J.S. Cullinan developed one of the first locomotives to use oil products for fuel and instigated the use of oil on dirt streets in Corsicana to prevent dust from rising due to traffic.

The early Corsicana Oil Field led to the use of rotary rigs and added markets for oil. From these developments, especially that of the rotary rig and associated equipment, the technology was available for the subsequent exploitation of the great Spindletop Oil Field near Beaumont, Texas in 1901.


Spindletop gusher, 1901. Reportedly, the well flowed at
100,000 barrels a day for nine days before workers could cap it.
Photo from the University of Texas.

Although it is less familiar to the public than the later, larger fields in Texas, such as the Spindletop Field, East Texas Oil Field, and the Permian Basin Field, the Corsicana Oil Field was the first large field west of the Mississippi River and provided the technology which made later fields possible.

Corsicana in 1860-1872

Marker Title: Corsicana in 1860-1872
Address: 418 N. 13th St.
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1974
Marker Location: in front of Corley Funeral Home
Marker Text: A center of patriotism especially committed to the Southern cause. After the Nov. 1860 presidential election, citizens lowered the Stars and Stripes and ran up the Texas flag on the Courthouse. Early in 1861 influential men beat drums on the Square to recruit soldiers for the Confederacy. Some 450 Navarro County men enlisted. These included two officers who made outstanding records, Cols. Roger Q. Mills and Clinton M. Winkler. In the Courthouse, county commissioners appropriated funds for arms and ammunition and for support of soldiers' families. In 1864, civilians -- including old men, women and children -- helped stock a Confederate Quartermaster Depot which was located in a store building on this corner. After the Confederate surrender in 1865, Federal troops under Lt. A. R. Chaffee camped on this corner to enforce peace terms. One civilian resisting the troops was John Wesley Hardin, then only 16, and not yet a celebrated gunman. But he notched his pistol in a fight with soldiers 10 miles south of town. The Texas Democratic Convention met in Corsicana in 1872, after Federal troops withdrew, and made plans whereby military despotism was replaced by civilian control of state government by bona fide Texans. Incise on base: Marker Sponsored By: Corley Funeral Home

Town of Dawson

Marker Title: Town of Dawson
Address: City Park, Main and East St.
City: Dawson
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1978
Marker Text: This community grew out of Spring Hill (4 mi. NE), the oldest settlement in Navarro County. A Republic of Texas Indian agent, Dr. George Washington Hill, started Spring Hill in 1838 as a trading post to improve relationships with the Indians. When Britton Dawson (1817-1905) came to Texas, he lived first in Jasper County. He settled at Spring Hill in 1846 on land he received as bounty for his service in the Battle of San Jacinto. Married twice and the father of 13 children, Dawson moved here in 1847 and later built a large home that served as a stagecoach stop. In 1881 the Texas & St. Louis Railroad, known later as the "Cotton Belt," came through here on its route from Tyler to Waco. Dawson's sons, David E. and W. H., and their wives gave 100 acres in 1881 for a townsite on the new railroad. Named for the Dawsons, the town grew rapidly. Residents of Spring Hill, excited about business prospects, moved here. The railroad promptly set up a box car for a depot. Churches and schools were established immediately. Many merchants as well as the Masonic Lodge moved here from Spring Hill. This shift of population caused the Spring Hill community to decline while Dawson flourished.

Dresden Cemetery

Marker Title: Dresden Cemetery
City: Blooming Grove
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1976
Marker Location: from Blooming Grove take SH 55 about 5 mi. south, then take FM 744 about .5 mi. west to cemetery.
Marker Text: The pioneer town of Dresden was originally named for its founder, Ethan Melton (1793-1873), who settled here in 1841. The first post office in Navarro County was established in Melton in 1846. The original three-acre portion of this cemetery, probably opened for burials in the 1840s, was donated to the community by Ethan Melton by 1850. In 1852 the growing settlement, also called "Richland" or "Spanky," was renamed "Dresden" by Jacob Hartzell (1790-1881), who operated an Indian trading post, and Dr. W. S. Robinson (1823-87), the town's first doctor. Many of the early graves in Dresden Cemetery are unmarked or marked with plain stones from nearby Post Oak Creek. Among the oldest marked graves are those of Barnett Hollingsworth (1801-74), one of the 48 Civil War veterans buried here, and the Rev. James Johnson (1803-77), a Cumberland Presbyterian minister. Dresden Methodist Church, serving as a community church, has occupied a site adjacent to the cemetery since the 1850s. Care for the burial ground is provided by the Dresden Cemetery Association, whose members have met annually since its founding in 1877. The plot now (1976) covers 17.09 acres with over 2,000 graves. The pioneer village has vanished, but Dresden Cemetery is still used by descendants of the first settlers.

Trading Post of Dr. George Washington Hill

Marker Title: Trading Post of Dr. George Washington Hill
City: Dawson
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1970
Marker Location: Liberty Hill Park, off FM 709 about 5 mi. north of Dawson.
Marker Text: (1814-1860) Dedicated frontier physician and public servant to the Republic and State of Texas. Born in Tennessee, Hill received his medical degree from Transylvania University. He came to Texas in 1836, where he was a surgeon for Fort Houston at the opening of his lifelong practice. In 1837 Hill became the medical censor for Milam County. Later that year, he moved to newly created Robertson County, where he married Miss Matilda Slaughter. He entered public office as Robertson County Representative in the Congress of the Republic, 1838-41 and 1842-43. In 1838 Hill was reported operating a trading post near here. His home, called Spring Hill, became the first settlement in Navarro County. Later that year, however, it was connected with a tragedy. A few days after spending the night at Hill's place twenty-one surveyors (including Hill's brother) were virtually annihilated by several hundred Kickapoos. Hill was named Indian agent for the Republic in 1841, and in 1843 he became secretary of war. After Texas joined the Union he served in the Legislature. Throughout these years he continued to practice medicine, facing many dangers in order to render aid. In 1853 Hill County was named in his honor.

Last Review of the Confederacy

Marker Title: Last Review of the Confederacy
Address: 4511 FM 1603
City: Chatfield
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 2002
Marker Location: 1 mi. S of Chatfield at 4511 FM 1603
Marker Text: Last Review of the Confederacy General Joseph Orville "Jo" Shelby (1830-1897) led a cavalry force of Missourians known as the Iron Brigade and later, the Iron Division. From 1861-64, his troops rode with generals Thomas C. Hindman, John S. Marmaduke and Sterling Price in Missouri and Arkansas. During this time, Shelby earned praise for his command. Shelby and his men wintered in Texas in 1864-65. In the spring, when word of Confederate surrenders in the east reached him, he was ordered to lead his men to Shreveport, Louisiana, to surrender. Instead, they planned an attack on the city to prevent collapse of the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy. Waylaid by severe weather, they decided to go to Mexico. Shelby's soldiers stopped along the banks of Chambers Creek, south of Chatfield. Near here, they made their last bivouac as a Confederate unit. The next morning, June 2, 1865, the troops lined up for assembly and held what has been called "the last review of the Confederacy." By that time, they were the last organized unit in any Confederate state. Following the review of his troops, Shelby delivered his farewell, then asked his men to accompany him to Mexico. Hundreds reportedly answered his call. The next week, while his men gathered supplies from nearby Corsicana, Shelby visited the Hodge Oaks Plantation of Capt. Robert Hodge at Chatfield. Once prepared, the troops left for Mexico, where their offer of military service to Emperor Maximilian was diplomatically rejected. The men were offered land, though, and many, including Shelby, stayed. In 1867, Shelby returned to Missouri, where he farmed and served as U.S. Marshal. His dedication is celebrated there, as well as in Texas. (2002)

Former Site of Liberty Hill Settlement

Marker Title: Former Site of Liberty Hill Settlement
City: Dawson
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1976
Marker Location: from Dawson, take SH 31 about 3 mi. SW to FM 709, go north on 709 about .5 mi. to marker.
Marker Text: A mile west of the 1838 Battle Creek Massacre site, this cemetery marks the location of Liberty Hill, an Anglo-American community begun during the following decade. Samuel and Prudence (Matthews) Wright, from Maury County, Tenn., settled here in 1849. They were relatives of Dr. George W. Hill, Indian agent and trading post operator at Spring Hill, half a day's wagon ride from here. The Wrights acquired land and attracted pioneer neighbors. In 1860, Liberty Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized by members of the Fullerton, Garner, McCandless, Moore, Richey, Slaughter, Wright, and Younger families. Wright donated a church site. After the Civil War (1861-65), in which men of this community served, a new influx of settlers included the M. A. Wilkes family, relatives of the Wrights. Prosperity prevailed in the settlement. Continuing his interest in the public good, Wright gave land (1876) for this cemetery and (1884) for public school uses. The rise of Dawson and Hubbard, Cotton Belt Railroad shipping points, drew population from the Liberty Hill area. The school was removed in 1917; the church dissolved in 1929. Land which once was intensively farmed has now reverted to grazing. Incise in base: Marker Sponsors: Mrs. Myrl W. Lawrence and other descendants of Liberty Hill pioneers

Navarro County

Marker Title: Navarro County
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: 2.2 mi. north of Corsicana on Business IH-45 on east side of road in roadside park.
Marker Text: Formed from Robertson County. Created April 25, 1846; organized July 13, 1846. Named in honor of Jose Antonio Navarro, 1795-1871, soldier, patriot and statesman, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Member of the Texas Congress 1838. Commissioner on the Santa Fe Expedition, delegate in 1845 to the Constitutional Convention. County seat, Corsicana.

Navarro County Courthouse

Marker Title: Navarro County Courthouse
Address: 300 W. Third Ave.
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1983
Marker Text: Navarro County was created in 1846 by an act of the first Texas Legislature. It was named for early statesman Jose Antonio Navarro (1795-1871), a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The first county seat was established at the home of William R. Howe, an early settler on the Chambers Creek in present-day Ellis County. In 1848, Corsicana was designated the seat of government, and temporary offices were set up in the home of pioneer Hampton McKinney. The second temporary courthouse for Navarro County was a log cabin located on the corner of West First Avenue and Twelfth Street. A second courthouse, built at this site in 1853, burned in 1855, requiring the construction of a third building. In 1880, Austin architect F. E. Ruffini designed a fourth courthouse for Navarro County. The elaborately ornate building proved too small for the needs of the growing county, and a shifting foundation caused the structure to be condemned in 1904. The present courthouse was designed by architect J. E. Flanders of Dallas. Constructed of red Burnet granite and gray brick, it was completed in 1905. The Beaux Arts Classical Revival structure features a clock dome and a pedimental entryway with free-standing Ionic columns. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1983

Site of the First Courthouse

Marker Title: Site of the First Courthouse
Address: 223 W. 1st Avenue
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1976
Marker Text: The Texas Legislature specified that the seat of Navarro County should be called Corsicana; but the location was not secured until 1848, when this site was donated by David R. Mitchell, James C. Neill, and Thomas Smith. Other structures served briefly as quarters for county business; but the fist actual courthouse was a log cabin erected here in 1848. The 15' by 17' building had the judge's stand in one corner and county clerk's table in another. A two-story frame courthouse replaced the cabin in 1853.

James Clinton Neill

Marker Title: James Clinton Neill
Address: 1465 W. 2nd St.
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1986
Marker Location: 2nd Ave. (SH 22) at N. 24th St.
Marker Text: Born in 1790 in North Carolina, James Clinton Neill came to Texas in 1831 with Stephen F. Austin's third colony. He settled in Milam County, and represented his neighbors at the Convention of 1833. On September 28, 1835, Neill entered the Texas Army as Captain of artillery, and was promoted to Lt. Colonel in December. He was in charge of artillery at the Siege of Bexar, and soon thereafter was appointed by Sam Houston to the commandancy of San Antonio and the Bexar District, including the fortifications at the Alamo. When he received word in February of illness in his family, Neill left the Alamo in the command of William B. Travis, and so was not among the defenders who lost their lives on March 6. In charge of an artillery unit with Sam Houston's army in April, Neill was wounded in a skirmish on April 20, one day before the Battle of San Jacinto. He was appointed Indian Commissioner in 1844. Neill was living in present Navarro County when it was created from Robertson County in 1846. He and two partners donated land for the county seat. James Clinton Neill and his wife, Margaret Harriet, were the parents of three children. Neill died in March 1848, and is buried in Grimes County. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986

Pearce Civil War Documents Collection

Museum Name: Pearce Civil War Documents Collection
Street Address: 3200 W. 7th Avenue
City: Corsicana
Zip Code: 75110
Area Code: 903
Phone: 874-6501
County: Navarro
Types of Exhibits/Collections: Science, Art, Military, Aviation, Natural History, Archeology, Interactive, Photos, Historical, Local/Pioneer History, Archives, Other

Robert S. Reading Arrowhead and Indian Artifact Collection

Museum Name: Robert S. Reading Arrowhead and Indian Artifact Collection
Street Address: 3200 W. 7th Ave.
City: Corsicana
Zip Code: 75110
Area Code: 903
Phone: 874-6501
County: Navarro
Types of Exhibits/Collections: Science, Art, Military, Aviation, Natural History, Archeology, Interactive, Photos, Historical, Local/Pioneer History, Archives, Other

George Washington Shelton

Marker Title: George Washington Shelton
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1967
Marker Location: Oakwood Cemetery, entrance on N 15th St. Marker is just inside on right.
Marker Text: (Jan. 12, 1814-Nov. 15, 1882) A Texas War for Independence soldier. Born in Virginia. Lived in Tennessee, where he joined 15 other recruits late in 1835 to come to Texas and fight against dictator Santa Anna. Served Jan. 14 to Sept. 18, 1836. Was awarded two land bounties for military duty. Became a pioneer citizen of Navarro County. His wife was Sara Elizabeth Johnson. They had four children: Izora, Ann Madora, George W., Jr., and Emma Tennessee. Recorded, 1967 Presented by family of Raymond Shelton Crawford.

Judge E.J. Simkins House

Marker Title: Judge E.J. Simkins House
Address: 514 W. 2nd Ave.
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1975
Marker Text: Eldred James Simkins (1838-1902) then of South Carolina, served 4 years in the Confederate army. A brother, William S. Simkins was credited with firing the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861. E. J. Simkins moved here in 1871, established a law practice, and built the first rooms of this home in 1873. He was a regent of the University of Texas, 1881-93; served as a state senator, 1887-92; and as a justice on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1893-95. Simkins helped draft the law creating the Texas Railroad Commission and wrote a noted volume on jurisprudence.

Thomas Ingles Smith

Marker Title: Thomas Ingles Smith
City: Corsicana
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1986
Marker Location: Navarro Co. Courthouse Grounds, 300 W. Third St.
Marker Text: (1800-1848) Thomas Ingles Smith was born in 1800 in Virginia and was a soldier in the War of 1812 in a company commanded by his father, General Bird B. Smith. Smith arrived in Texas late in 1836, and soon enlisted in the Republic of Texas army under Gen Felix Huston. He was wounded in the Battle of the Salado in September 1842. In December of that year President Sam Houston sent a small group of Rangers under the command of Smith and Eli Chandler to move the archives of the Republic to Washington-on-the-Brazos. The citizens of Austin, in a show of force, prevented the move in what became known as the Archive War. By 1843 Smith was living along Chambers Creek in present Ellis County, and in 1844 was a Texas Ranger and Indian Scout. He commanded the Robertson County Rangers along the frontier in 1845. As commissioner to negotiate with the Indians, he signed the last treaty made by the Republic of Texas. Fort Smith, one of a line of fortifications from the Colorado to Red River, was established in 1846 and named for Thomas I. Smith. Along with two partners, he gave land for the townsite of Corsicana, and was a member of the commission to locate the Navarro County seat in 1848. He died in Austin in March 1848. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986

Spring Hill

Marker Title: Spring Hill
City: Dawson
County: Navarro
Year Marker Erected: 1974
Marker Location: From Dawson, take FM 709 N
Marker Text: Oldest community in Navarro County. The springs at this site supplied water to Indians for centuries before white settlers arrived. In 1838 Dr. George Washington Hill (1814-60) built a trading post near the springs, and in October of that year a skirmish between a surveying party and Kickapoo Indians occurred in this vicinity. After serving as Republic of Texas Secretary of War under President Sam Houston, Dr. Hill returned here about 1843, reopened the trading post, built a home, and began practicing medicine. In Jan. 1847, his brother-in-law, Robert Harve Matthews (1814-94), settled here. A post office was established on Nov. 5, 1849, with Dr. Hill as postmaster. A building erected in 1850 served as both church and schoolhouse; by 1855, Matthews had opened a store. During the Civil War, a Confederate training camp was located here. At the height of its growth, in the 1870s, Spring Hill boasted general mercantile stores, blacksmith shops, saloons, a drugstore, hotel, masonic lodge, flour mill, cotton gin, and rock quarry. Decline began in 1881, when the community was bypassed by the Cotton Belt Railroad. The post office closed on June 15, 1906. The cemetery and a few foundations bordering deserted streets remain to mark site of Spring Hill.

Fort Trinidad

The following excerpt is from the book, Texas Forts, by Wayne Lease.

Established around 1805 along the Trinity River on Camino Real highway (now Highway 21) between Midway and Crockett. A commemorative marker is placed along the south side of Highway 21 between Midway and the Trinity River.


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