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In the 1880's cotton was the biggest crop in Johnson County, especially around Burleson, Grandview, Venus and Alvarado. Alvarado and Cleburne had cotton gins and wagons full of cotton were a common sight. The largest crop came in 1919.

 cotton gin

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On April 15, 1912 the Johnson County Courthouse built in 1883 burned down. (Incidentally, the same day the Titanic sank)  There was only one fatality from the fire: City Marshall, Albert Bledsoe who died fighting the fire. The original courthouse date marker is located on the east side of the present courthouse.

M.A. Bledsoe

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Bud Russell was born and raised Blum, Johnson County. He was the chief transfer agent for the Texas Prison System from 1914-1944. During that time he transported more than 115,000 prisoners all over the State including Clyde and Buck Barrow. He was highly regarded as tough, but fair. He had only one escape in all those years. In the picture below he is on the right of his son, Roy Russell standing in front of his transfer wagon.

Bud Russell

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Johnson County's second seat of government was Buchanan, named for president-elect of the United States. Buchanan was founded in December 1856 on a 60 acre town site donated by John P. Bailey. A jail (first for the county) and office for the district clerk were built in 1858. Unfortunately, lack of a reliable water supply hindered the town's growth. A later survey of county lines showed Buchanan was too far from the center of the County and it was necessary to find a new site. In 1867, Camp Henderson (renamed Cleburne on July 4, 1867 was chosen. The cemetery is the only remaining trace of the Old Buchanan town site. 

 

Buchanan Cemetery

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 In August of 1854 Johnson County held its first election. After all 120 votes were counted, these were the results:

  • Chief Justice - David Mitchell
  • County Clerk - Jeremiah Eastwood
  • Treasurer - J. Robinson
  • Sheriff - A.H. Onstott
  • Tax Assessor and Collector - F.L. Kirtley
  • County Commissioners
    • A.D. Kennard
    • Christopher Billingsley
    • Carr Wise
    • Wm. O'Neal

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Double log cabin

In 1849 William Balch built a double log cabin, a trading post and a hotel in the Alvarado area. It was so hot inside the hotel during the summer that pallets were spread under trees outside the hotel. The hotel gained the nickname “The Sprawls Hotel”.

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 Ben Bickerstaff

ben-bickerstaff-3

On April 5, 1869 outlaws, Benjamin Bickerstaff and Josiah Thompson, rode into Alvarado. They were both a Civil War veterans, but Bickerstaff was wanted for the murder of a African American man in Louisiana. Later he joined up with Thompson (an Alvarado business man) they perpetrated numerous robberies and several murders in and around Alvarado. When they rode in that day, organized citizens of Alvarado were waiting and shot them both dead. Both men are buried in the Balch Cemetery. (There is a historical marker on the square in Alvarado noting the incident.) 

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James Stephen Hogg

 Hogg

Before he was governor of Texas between 1891-1895, James Stephen Hogg was on the staff of Johnson County's first newspaper, the Cleburne Chronicle, established in 1868. Another prominent state leader and contemporary of Hogg Martin M. Crane, lived in Johnson County.  In 1890 voters elected him state senator from the Twenty-first District (Johnson, Ellis, and Hill counties). In the Twenty-Second Legislature he served on a special committee established by Governor Hogg that successfully lobbied for the bill establishing the Railroad Commission. Two years later Crane was elected lieutenant governor. 

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The first banker in Johnson County was Samuel Houston Meyers, Sr. He was quoted as saying “If a man’s word wasn’t good, then neither was his signature.” If historical accounts are correct, all of the loans he made were repaid.

 And:

Samuel H. Meyers, Jr. He was hanged in Johnson County on March 19, 1880 for the murder of his step mother. Unfortunately, the Courts hung an innocent man. On his death bed, Samuel’s brother-in-law, James Bowden, confessed to the murder. Samuel is buried in Meyers Cemetery in Alvarado.

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hanging 

 Johnson County has had five legal hangings

  • Samuel Houston Myers Jr. - March 19, 1880
  •  John Renfro - June 26, 1896
  •  John Stokes Shaw – November 25, 1898
  •  John Renfro - July 27, 1900
  •  Henry Fugett - February 12, 1904
    •  (Henry Fugett was the only individual of African American Descent to be hanged legally in Johnson County)

Henry Fugett

Henry Fugett

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 Briden Cabin

The first settler of Johnson County was Henry Briden, who built a log cabin on the Nolan River. His log cabin still exists, and it can be seen along  State Highway 174 in Rio Vista. 

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 General Patrick R. Cleburne

General Pat 

 Cleburne was named after Confederate Major General Patrick R. Cleburne. Although General Cleburne, who was from Arkansas, fought for the South, he owned no slaves. He fought for succession and stated he could not fight against his friends in Arkansas. He presented a motion to the Confederate President in early 1864 that would allow slaves to enlist in the Confederate army and upon doing so the slave and his family would be freed. He was an extraordinarily good military leader but his views on slavery assured he was never promoted to a higher rank. He carried his own flag during battle.

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