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Terrell is very fortunate to have three houses still standing that were built between 1860 and the late 1870s. The oldest home in Terrell and in Kaufman County is the Robert Adams Terrell home, currently situated on the campus of the Southwestern Christian College.
The town of Terrell was named after Robert Adams Terrell when it was incorporated in 1873. Captain Terrell (as he was called) came to this part of the country in 1839 as a Nacogdoches County surveyor. This was Nacogdoches County at that time. Kaufman County was not formed until 1848. The headrights and bounty lands citizens and soldiers had received from the Republic of Texas (1836-1846) needed to be surveyed. Miss Emily Love of San Augustine, daughter of Judge John G. Love became Terrell's bride in 1846. They came to this location soon after marrying and built a log cabin and raised their nine children in that structure. It was located just to the south of the present house. Robert Terrell said he "once killed a bear in their front yard and he could sit on his front porch and shoot deer and turkey." This octagonal house originally faced south. It was turned to face west in 1914 when this college campus became Texas Military College. It served as the college mess hall for many years.
It was built circa 1865 and possibly as early as 1860, since a master carpenter, M. Goodfellow from New Brunswick, Canada was living in Terrell's household on the 1860 census. Robert Terrell was gone to the War Between the States between 1861 and 1865. The architecture was a very new and novel idea and innovative for its time. Legend had that it was built this way to look out for the Indians, but that isn't so. The Indians were long gone from Kaufman County by the time this house was built. It was built this way for the light and the air to circulate. It was the first house with window glass in the county. The logs for the foundation were brought up by wagon from East Texas and hand hewn on the site. When the floor was removed a few years ago, the ax marks were still visible. There are only two octagonal houses left in Texas.
More can be learned about the history of Robert Adams Terrell and his contribution to the great State of Texas in Dr. Horace P. Flatt's book, "Cap'n Terrell's Town."
Dr. L. E. Griffith Home Place - 805 First Street - Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
This is the second oldest home remaining in Terrell. It was built in 1875 or possibly in early 1876 by James Brown, a carpenter who, in 1872, had built Kaufman County's 3rd courthouse. Building of homes and businesses in the new city of Terrell was booming. Lumber yards were appearing on the scene to furnish supplies Adler Bros. Brick Yard was in operation at the time. An article appeared in the Dallas Daily Herald on 14 June 1874:
"We were shown, on yesterday, a sample brick made by Messrs. Adler Bros., in the vicinity of Terrell, Kaufman County, which, for hardness and smoothness, we have never seen excelled, of ever equaled in Texas. Mr. A. informed us that the material from which the brick is made is found in great abundance near Terrell. He has a kiln of one hundred and fifty thousand brick already burned, some of which we learn will probably come to Dallas to help build up our city."
Mr. Brown had purchased the property from Jasper Johnson (for whom Johnson Street and Johnson Addition are named) in December 1874. In 1880, James Brown and his wife, Margaret A. sold their six (6) acres to C. M. Johnson for $2000. In October of 1882, there is a mention in the newspaper, the Terrell Times of the handsome residence of Mr. C. M. Johnson. In that same year, Mr. Johnson and wife sold their six (6) acres with improvements to Sarah Jane Griffith, wife of Dr. L. E. Griffith of Nacogdoches County for $3,000.00. Mr. Johnson held the note on the house to be paid out in installments. Sarah Jane Griffith was the daughter of William Clark, one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. She only got to live in her Terrell home for four years. Dr. Griffith had come to the San Augustine area soon after the Texas Revolution from Maryland.
John Henry Brown, author of Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas wrote of Dr. Griffith,"General Sam Houston was his first patient in Texas, the Doctor attending him after his return from New Orleans." The General was treated on the San Jacinto battlefield by Dr. Lemuel Gustine of Natchez and he returned from New Orleans to San Augustine on the 5th of July 1836 after receiving treatment on his leg from Dr. James Kerr, who had been his physician twenty years before when suffering from the wound received at the battle of To-ho-pe-ka. John S. "Rip" Ford, a well-known figure who played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution wrote in his book Rip Ford's Texas there was a thespian corp (or acting group) formed in San Augustine in 1838. He stated, "Dr. Lycurgus E. Griffith acted well. He is a gentleman of fine attainments."
More can be learned about the history of Dr. L.E. Griffith from Dr. Horace P. Flatt's book,"Cap'n Terrell's Town" and a researched article with footnotes by Jean Ann Ables-Flatt, titled "Family Lore, Fact or Fiction" located in the Riter C. Hulsey Public Library, Terrell, the Terrell Heritage Museum and the historical landmark files of the Texas Historical Commission.
The H. H. Hickok House - 105 Pacific Avenue
This house with the French mansard roof was built in the 1870s by H. H. Hickok, a capitalist. He and his wife separated after their young daughter died here and his wife rented the home to a married woman, with a young son and daughter, Mary Spragins. She was the wife of G. M. Spragins, a telegraph operator for the railroad. Mr. Spragins had been living in Colorado and working at his job for the railroad and had not been home for two years when a tragedy struck. On the night of May 1, 1905, 4 shots rang out from the house and when the neighbors rushed to see what the matter was, the body of Mr. Joe A Overton, handsome bachelor and owner of the Overton & Gilmore Co., a fashionable gent's clothing store was lying in the hall dead and Mary was fatally wounded. To this day no one knows exactly what happened that fateful night! A delicious melodrama about the tragedy was performed for many years during the Heritage Jubilee on the stage of the Terrell Heritage Museum.
More information about H. H. Hickok and his involvement in Terrell history may be found in Dr. Horace P. Flatt's Book, "Cap'n Terrell's Town". The script of the melodrama is located in the files at the Terrell Heritage Museum and a video of the melodrama may also be viewed at the Museum.