Johnson County Historical Markers

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Texas Lakes Trail Region

Map of Johnson County Historic Sites

Topics (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Bass Holdup, Sam | Briden Cabin, Henry | Cattle Trade, Early | City Spring | City Wagon Yards | Grandview Cemetery and Original Grand View Town Site | Hart House, Meredith | Johnson County | Johnson County Courthouse | Johnson County Pioneers and Old Settlers Reunion | Johnson, General Patrick R. Cleburne; Colonel Middleton T. | Layland Museum Complex | Norman Springs & Norman Grove, Site of
Uncommemorated and Unmapped Sites
Landrum, Thomas; Millsap, Fuller and Miss Donnie
Bass Holdup, Sam

Marker Title: Sam Bass Holdup
Address: SH 174
City: Joshua
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1966
Marker Location: 4 mi N of Joshua on SH 174
Marker Text: Along with two partners, Sam Bass, daring Texas outlaw, stopped a Fort Worth-Cleburne stage near here Dec. 20, 1877. Without firing a shot, they disarmed the driver, robbed passengers of $11.25. One outlaw, shot by a witness, was left by Bass to die. Less than a year later, Bass too was slain.

Briden Cabin, Henry

Marker Title: Henry Briden Cabin
City: Rio Vista
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1975
Marker Location: First State Bank grounds, Highway 174, Rio Vista
Marker Text: Henry Briden (1825-1908) came to Texas from his native Germany in 1845 and served for two years as a Texas Ranger. In 1849, he and his wife, Lucinda Sevier (1831-75), became first permanent white settlers in what is now Johnson County, when they built this cabin on the east bank of Nolan's River (2.5 mil. northwest). The one-room log structure was later used as a barn when Briden erected a larger home nearby. In 1974, it was restored and moved to this site.

Cattle Trade, Early

Marker Title: Early Cattle Trade
City: Rio Vista
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: on grounds of Rio Vista Street Bank SH 174, Rio Vista.
Marker Text: Famed for its beef since era of the Republic, Texas fed a great part of the Confederacy-- both civilians and army-- in the Civil War years, 1861-1865. Routes for beef supplying were many: Shreveport Trail to Vicksburg, Miss.; Alexandria Trail to Natchez, Miss.; Opelousas Trail to Woodville, Miss., and on to Mobile, Ala.; Old Government Road to Little Rock, Ark.; Oliver Loving's 1859 trail north, to Indian Territory; trails to all army depots and even to Mexico. Cowboys had to swim cattle across rivers-- even the Mississippi. After undergoing such hardships, one outfit was mistakenly arrested by Confederates. Lt. Col. J.F. Scurlock and son, from Johnson County, on a Texas beef drive into southern Louisiana, were arrested by Federals and died in prison, of fever. Meredith Hart (1811-1864), a leading beef supplier, came to Johnson County in 1855, after fighting for the Texas Republic in 1836. In the 1850s, he sold beef to the U.S. Army. During the Civil War, he was one of the ranchers victimized by beef contractors using counterfeit money, but accepted losses in the faith that beef was feeding his sons and others on Confederate fighting fronts.

City Spring

Marker Title: Site of Old City Spring
City: Cleburne
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1966
Marker Location: 304 West Henderson Street, Cleburne
Marker Text: Early-day watering spot for explorers, Confederate Camp Henderson, settlers. People came many miles to wash, haul water and visit. At a nickel a bucket, boys "toted" water to merchants. Brick-lined pool often was dipped dry, but spring always refilled it. First city well tapped source.

City Wagon Yards

Marker Title: City Wagon Yards
City: Cleburne
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1966
Marker Location: (across from City hall in parking lot) 300th block of West Henderson Street, Cleburne
Marker Text: Were meeting places for early rural folks coming to town to buy, sell, trade, catch-up on latest news. Here on this lot, farmers, travelers for "two bits" got feed, water for teams; crude overnight accommodations. Wagon yards, outdated by better roads, cars, trucks, were forerunner of motels.

Grandview Cemetery and Original Grand View Town Site
Marker Title: Grandview Cemetery and Original Grand View Town Site
City: Grandview
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1999
Marker Location: FM 4, just E of CR 401
Marker Text: John Whitmire, the son-in-law of early settler F.L. Kirtley, is credited with naming this town in 1854 by saying, "What a Grand View!" Kirtley donated 2.5 acres for a Baptist church and cemetery in 1856. Intending to lay out a town plat, James F. Scurlock purchased about 1400 acres of land surrounding the cemetery the same year. The oldest marked burial here is that of James F. and Rebecca Criner Scurlock's child, James C., who was born and died on June 4, 1857. By 1860 Grand View included three general stores, a blacksmith shop, a church building and Lodge No. 266, A.F & A.M., chartered in 1861 as the first Masonic lodge in Johnson County. After James Scurlock's death during the Civil War, his family sold the town site to F. M. Sansom. Several stores, a saloon, and more churches were established as the community grew. Of the many graves in the cemetery, one has taken on the status of local legend. A pair of young travelers came to Grand View one evening in summer 1867. The young woman was found murdered the next morning with no sign of her companion. The people of the community buried her in a handmade coffin and marked her tombstone "Annie," the name on an embroidered handkerchief she carried. The African American section of the cemetery contains the graves of many residents, including the unmarked graves of Scott and Elmira Matlock. They were among Grand View's earliest settlers. The railroad came through about a mile southeast of the town in 1881, and by 1883 the main section of Grand View had moved to it. The cemetery gradually took over the entire old town site. The cemetery continued to serve the community, now known by the single word "Grandview." The cemetery and the original town site remain as a chronicle of the pioneers of Johnson County. (1999)
Hart House, Meredith

Marker Title: Meredith Hart House
City: Rio Vista
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: Private from Rio Vista, take FM 916 .5 mile east
Marker Text: Built 1856 by Indian fighter, cattleman, Texas Ranger, patriot. Early Texas colonial. Built by slaves. Hand-hewn and pegged foundation. No nails in framing. Timbers carted from Louisiana by oxen.

Johnson County

Marker Title: Johnson County
City: Cleburne
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: 2nd and Hillsboro Street, Cleburne City Park, Cleburne
Marker Text: Named for Middleton T. Johnson (1810-1866), native of South Carolina, for 7 terms an Alabama legislator, a leading Texan after 1840. Served in 9th Texas Legislature; in Texas Rangers, Mexican War, Civil War. County created and organized 1854, from land earlier in counties of Ellis, Hill and Navarro. First county seat, Wardville, 1854-1856. Second was Buchanan, 1856-1867. Camp Henderson, at famous springs 3.5 miles southeast of Buchanan, a recruiting place in county during Civil War, in 1867 was made county seat and renamed in honor of a Confederate General Patrick Cleburne.

Johnson County Courthouse

County: Johnson
City: Cleburne
Description: The Johnson County Courthouse is a freestanding structure occupying a full block at the heart of the Cleburne commercial district. The structure is essentially rectangular in shape, with the East and West facades representing the longer sides of the rect.

Johnson County Pioneers and Old Settlers Reunion

Marker Title: Johnson County Pioneers and Old Settlers Reunion
City: Alvarado
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1992
Marker Location: 1 Reunion Drive, Alvarado
Marker Text: One of the largest events of its kind in Texas, the Johnson County Pioneers and Old Settlers Reunion traces its beginnings to 1892, when local farmer and newspaper correspondent John James (1852-1927) proposed the idea to some of his neighbors. Although met with initial rejection, James, together with some fellow newspaper writers, organized a picnic at Elm Grove in June 1893. Those in attendance voted to form an organization to oversee plans for an annual reunion. The first official Johnson County Pioneers and Old Settlers Reunion was held July 27-28, 1893, at Gathings Park northeast of Cleburne, with more than 2,000 people in attendance. Subsequent reunions were held in Alvarado, Grandview, Venus, and Cleburne, until the organization purchased land at this site for a permanent reunion campground. The first pavilion, built here in 1906, was later destroyed in a tornado, and the second one burned in 1965. It was replaced by a larger structure in 1966. Through the years, the reunion has grown to attract more than ten thousand participants to such events as carnivals; parades; queen, baby, and fiddle contests; and musical concerts. It has evolved into one of the area's most significant cultural institutions.

Johnson; General Patrick R. Cleburne, Colonel Middleton T.

Marker Title: Johnson, Middleton T., Colonel; Cleburne, Patrick R., General
City: Cleburne
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Location: Courthouse Square, Highway 174-171, Cleburne
Marker Text: County named for Texas Confederate-- Colonel Middleton T. Johnson, 1810-1866 South Carolinian; Legislator Alabama came to Texas 1840. Member Republic of Texas Congress. Cavalryman in U.S. War with Mexico. Texas Ranger surveyor of early railroads. As colonel raised 14th Texas Cavalry regiment, taking them to Little Rock 1862 for induction C.S.A. service. Buried Mill Creek Cemetery, Arlington, Texas. Johnson County voted 500-50 for secession 1861. Soon raised 9 companies for C.S.A. service. 12th Texas Cavalry regt. which served in Arkansas, Louisiana, on Texas coast to prevent invasion Texas. Remaining eligible men western part county placed in state militia late 1863 to protect frontier. City named for Confederate-- General Patrick R. Cleburne 1828-1864 Born near Cork, Ireland came to U.S. 1849. Drug clerk in Ohio, became lawyer in Arkansas. Recruited 1st Arkansas Regt. for Confederacy. Elected colonel. Promoted brigadier general March 1862, made major general Dec. 1862. Rapidly earned reputation as a superb combat officer on numerous fields with army of Tennessee Eight. Texas regiments of Granbury's Brigade were under Cleburne, and in 1864 Atlanta campaign he said, "The piles of the (Union) dead were silent but sufficient eulogy upon Granbury and his noble Texans. "On Nov. 30, 1864 Cleburne, a savage fighter, met death six paces from the Federal lines in battle Franklin, Tenn. Became known as "Stonewall Jackson of the West." Erected by the State of Texas 1963.

Layland Museum Complex

Museum Name: Layland Museum Complex
City: Cleburne
Zip Code: 76031
Street Address: 201 N Caddo Street
Area Code: 817
Phone: 645-0940
County: Johnson
Museum Classification: History, Historic Site, Historic House, Non-Historic Structure.

Norman Springs & Norman Grove, Site of

Marker Title: Site of Norman Springs & Norman Grove
City: Alvarado
County: Johnson
Year Marker Erected: 2000
Marker Location: 6921 US 67 at IH-35
Marker Text: William Balch (1804-1870) claimed land around this site as a member of the Peters Colony in 1849. When he returned with his family in 1851, they found a group of Caddo Indians camping on one side of the springs. The Balch family built their cabin on the other side and lived peaceably with their neighbors. Other Caddo were living in the area that became Alvarado. Like the new settlers, they were attracted by the abundance of fresh water. The springs were located on the road from Birdville and Fort Worth to Hillsboro, Waco, Ft. Graham and other destinations. William Balch founded the town of Alvarado in 1854 and the family moved into town. Joe (1798-1882) and Sarah (1797-1897) Shaw and their family settled here and farmed the land. Joe Shaw was a three-term county sheriff. With settlers coming in increasing numbers, the Caddo Indians moved to the Oklahoma territory or further west, and by 1860 the area was dominated by new settlers. Tennessee native Lafayette Norman (1826-1904), veteran of the U.S. war with Mexico and later the Confederate Army, purchased 245 acres around this site with his third wife Julia In 1872. The Normans supplied thirsty and weary travelers with access to their spring; the site became known as Norman Springs and Norman Grove. A seven-year drought in the 1930s and a five-year drought in the 1950s significantly reduced the water table in this region. Norman Springs slowly became little more than a muddy patch. By the dawn of the 21st century, the once free-flowing spring that provided priceless fresh water to the early Indians and pioneer settlers of the Johnson County frontier was marked only by a willow tree. (2000)

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