Early Days in Bangs

Upon reading the following account I couldn't imagine a better introduction to the history of Bangs.  It serves as a great prelude to the history of Texans Incorporated, and is itself a valuable historical document.  This interesting chronicle was written in 1986 by former Bangs Postmaster Ben Sullivan, and is reproduced here with the generous permission of Thomas Sullivan and family.  Notations in brackets are my own.  Photos are from the collection of David Cole.

Bangs, Texas - Early History
by Ben F. Sullivan

In the early 1800's, in the western part of Brown county, a few settlers were beginning to arrive and start buying small tracts of land on which to begin farming and ranching.  The general area to which we refer was some four to fifteen miles south of the frontier settlement of Thrifty, near Jim Ned Creek and five to twelve miles west of Brownwood.  The area was an untamed wilderness, and some times referred to as "the thicket" and "wild-horse valley."
In 1884 a young man by the name of T. C. Fitzgerald came to Texas, and this area of Brown county, from Popular Bluff [Poplar Bluff?], Missouri.  At the time of his arrival there was no land in cultivation, no barbed wire fences, no roads, and the only evidence of civilization was one small farmhouse, located about one mile east of the present town square of Bangs.  The house was owned by a man by the name of Felix Byars.  Mr. Fitzgerald bought a 160 acre tract of land four miles north of the present Bangs site in the fall of 1884.  He said he could have bought better land cheaper farther north but preferred to buy where timber for building fences was plentiful.  Mr. Fitzgerald took upon himself the gigantic task of building a home, and clearing and fencing his land.  Soon after his arrival others began settling here and soon the community took on the appearance of a town.
The first residence within what is now the city limits of Bangs was built by T. J. Backus, who was to become Mr. Fitzgerald's father-in-law.  The next house built was located approximately two hundred yards north-east of the present First State Bank building.
Now let us go back to April 15 1847, at which time the Honorable J. Pinckney Henderson, Governor of the State of Texas, through PATENT No. 93, Volume 2, General Land Office, State of Texas, made a grant of land, known as and to be designated as the Samuel Bangs Survey, from that day forward.  Said tract of land having been granted to Mr. Samuel Bangs for his contribution to Texas as a printer.
Samuel Bangs was a Yankee printer who, as far as can be ascertained, never set foot this deep into Texas.  He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, about 1794.  In September of 1816 he sailed from Baltimore, Maryland, as a printer with the Francisco Xavier Mina Expedition.  En route to Mexico, Bangs first stepped on Texas soil when the expedition stopped at Galveston Island.  In Mexico, the unfortunate Bangs was captured by Joaquin de Arredondo.  Fortunately, Arrendondo spared Bangs' life because he was a printer.  Arriving back in Texas, Bangs became associated with a number of newspapers up and down the Gulf Coast area.  His contribution to Texas is considered to be of some importance.  His Mina Manifesto, printed in February 1817, was one of the outstanding documents to be printed on Texas soil. He printed the first daily newspaper in Galveston and he printed the first "war paper" of the United States - Mexico War in Corpus Christi in 1846.  Bangs is believed to have died in the Ashland, Kentucky area, about 1856.
Records indicate that Samuel Bangs transferred the land to a Charles Frisbie who died soon thereafter, leaving the land to his widow who had to sell the tract to support her children and help pay off the mortgage against the Frisbie Homestead.  Together with other real estate holdings in the Frisbie Estate, the 1,280 acre Samuel Bangs tract sold to Alfred E. James for ten cents per acre, total price being $128.00.  The date was 12 October 1850.  Eleven days later on 23 October 1850, Alfred E. James sold the tract to John Shackelford Jr. for the same price he gave for it, $128,00.
After the death of John Shackelford, his widow Mrs. A. E. Shackelford, Administratrix of her husband's estate, became the wife of James S. Sullivan.  On 4 January 1873, A. E. Sullivan, formerly A. E. Shackelford, Admrix. of John Shackleford, was joined by her husband, James S. Sullivan in the conveyance of the said 1,200 acre Samuel Bangs Survey No. 108, to Joseph Franklin, which at that time had been divided into forty acre tracts, numbering from 1 to 32.  The total price was $380.00, or thirty cents per acre. (Please note that at the time of issuance of the original patent of the Samuel Bangs Survey, the 1,280 acre tract of land was situated in the Bexar District and Travis County, but later, prior to 1873, became a part of Brown County.)
Joseph Franklin, on 4 January 1873, the same day he bought the land, sold same to Gustav Ranger for $1.00 per acre.  Gustav Ranger, on 4 March 1800, sold the same 1,280 acres to Frank M. Spencer for $3,200.00.  At this time Mr. Spencer started selling smaller tracts to various parties, and on 5 December 1885, conveyed 187.5 acres out of the north-east corner of the original 1,280 acre Samuel Bangs Survey to the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company for the total sum of $437.50, or $2.33 per acre.  The city of Bangs today covers that 187.5 acres plus a great deal more on all four sides.
In the fall and winter of the year 1885 the first tracks were laid for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company through this community.  The first trains ran through here in 1886.  But before the trains came, a stage coach line ran through the area from Fort Worth to Fort Concho, which is now the city of San Angelo.  Tom Jenkins operated the stage stand here.  Mr. Jenkins was the grandfather of Seth and Sam Jenkins.  The stage line was discontinued with the coming of the railroad.  The depot was built in 1886.
Also, in the year 1886 a man by the name of Atchison, who had been a school teacher at the Mukewater school, moved a small stock of general merchandise here and set up the first store.  In honor of this man the growing community became known as Atchison, which name it would undoubtedly bear to this day had it not been discovered that there was another town by the same name in Texas, and a post office grant could not be issued until the name could be changed.
The matter was finally settled one rainy night in 1886 when a group of men met in the new depot to decide on a name for the community. T. C. Fitzgerald and James W. Atchison were two of the men at the meeting.  Eleven names were submitted and as the twelfth, Mr. Fitzgerald suggested the name Bangs. Everyone laughed.  Someone remarked that it was a funny name to give a town - that it sounded more like a ladies hair style.  It was explained, by Mr. Fitzgerald, that the land on which the town was being built was located upon the survey which was granted to Samuel Bangs.  Viewed in this light all agreed it was the most appropriate name.
The name was submitted to the Postmaster General, Washington, D. C. and as the name Bangs was the first choice of the citizens of the town it was accepted.  Thereafter, the name was placed upon the map of Texas as BANGS, and the new post office which was located in the little country store of Mr. James W. Atchison, had a small hand painted sign outside which read, U. S. POST OFFICE, Bangs, Texas. Mr. Atchison officially became postmaster, the first at Bangs, on 24 May 1886.  Prior to the coming of the post office settlers in the Bangs area had to ride horseback over to Brownwood to get their mail and buy a newspaper occasionally.
In the year 1886 the first gin was built in Bangs by S. P. Martin and T. J. Backus.  During the years of 1886 and 1887 water was very scarce and they paid thirty-five cents per barrel to have water hauled from Thrifty with which to operate the gin.  Also with the coming of the railroad, trains would deliver water in barrels for town use, leaving them at the depot.  However, it was reported that stray cattle would turn all the water over on occasion, leaving the town without water until the next train came through.  Soon thereafter, however, it was discovered that upon the exact spot where the gin was located water was quite plentiful at a depth of only ten feet.
The first gin was located some 500 yards east to northeast of the present location of the First State Bank. With the location of the first shallow well, people of the area began digging their own wells and found that the Bangs area was sitting on top of an abundant water supply.  Water witching became quite a lucrative business.  Some of the water witchers were remarkably accurate in their estimation of where water could be found.  Famous for his ability as a water witch was a man by the name of Jacob Tervooren, who was reported to have an almost uncanny aptitude for discovering water and being able to judge the exact depth at which it could be found.
One of the first businesses in Bangs was established in 1890 by T. C. Fitzgerald. He sold his land and opened a store which became known as Fitzgerald Brothers General Merchantile and Grocery. In connection with the store he also operated a Wagon Yard and Livery Stable. The store was located on the north side of what is the town square today facing the rail road. It was in the middle of the block. The store was operated twenty-five years.
In the later 1800's a hotel was built in Bangs. It was known as the Sullivan Hotel and was operated until around 1907 by Benjamin F. Sullivan and wife Nannie E. Sullivan. It was located just north of the railroad, across the street from the depot. Later and until the 1920's the hotel was operated by Mr. William Jackson. It was a huge two story frame building.
Mr. Jackson was a merchant in Bangs for many years, and was credited with building the first rural telephone system in the community. He also owned the first mail box on the first rural route out of Bangs.
First Baptist church of Bangs was organized from Clear Creek and Mukewater Baptist churches in 1892. The first pastor was Rev. Ben Wilson. The first Methodist Church was organized, in the Bangs area, in 1893. The Rev. C. W. Templing held the first service for the church. The Bangs Church of Christ was organized in 1910. The Bangs Presbyterian Church was organized around 1900 and was located on the land where the Dr. J. B. Stephens Clinic is now located. The Presbyterian Church was active in Bangs until the late 1950's. Mr. H. J. Tervooren was a charter member and helped organize the church.
Some early settlers in the Bangs community included: C. A. Brooks, J. A. Bell, Mrs. A. L. Hall, Mrs. J. S. Wilson, Henry McGeorge, Mrs. H. McGeorge, Luther Fitzgerald, Mrs. H. B. Smith, Bird Smith, Mrs. J. G. Reagor, A. C. Lovelace, W. J. Schulze, Lizzie A. Schulze, A. L. Bedford, Mr. and Mrs. Mark S. Rhodes, L. V. Phillips, Mrs. M. E. Strohm, S. P. Martin, Louis Garms, Mrs. J. B. Stokes, W. M. Drury, J. W. Sneed, Mrs. J. W. Sneed, W. H. Phillips, Thomas Lilly and Claudie Lilly, Mrs. S. A. McDonald, Mrs. Fannie Howard, D. A. Hise, S. G. Tesson, Mrs. Matilda Mosier, Homer Mosier, T. F. Harris, C. T. Harris, Charlie Harris, F. M. Brooks, Mrs. F. M. Brooks, Mrs. Lizzie Starkey, Mrs. M. A. Childress, Benjamin F. Sullivan and Nannie R. Sullivan, Will McGaughey, Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Walker, John H. Sheffield, L. R. Brooks, W. E. Curry, Mrs. Maude Whaley, Will and Laura Coppic, Tommy and Stella Hall, A. F. Stewart, Mrs. A. F. Stewart, E. B. Sikes, G. H. Matthews, J. B. Read, Mrs. J. B. Read, J. A. Forbess, Charlie Gintz, Mrs. C. Gintz, B. J. Starkey, J. F. Payne, H. J. Matthews, C. E. Scott, A. N. Davenport, B. M. Eiland, Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Strange, Noah McGaughey.
Other early settlers included: Jess Kennedy, Mrs. Jess Kennedy, Mrs. Leacy McGaughey, Mr. and Mrs. H. Storm, Levi Spain, Mrs. Lizzie Spain, Mrs. Noah McGaughey, D. N. House, L. N. and Hattie Yarbrough, Mrs. J. W. Prince, Claude and Bertha Jenkins, Mrs. J. D. Visart, Mrs. M. E. Marlof, Mrs. J. H. Buse, W. W. Layman, Mrs. W. W. Layman, Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Taylor, J. P. Eiland, Mr. and Mrs. Cook Scheffield, Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Palmer, Raymond Starkey, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Schulze, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Schulze, Mr. and Mrs. John Schulze, Mr. and Mrs. John Stephens, H. J. Guyer, Mrs. Hugh Lee Allcorn, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Eads, Mr. and Mrs. F. R. Early and Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Lovelace, Hugh Lee Alcorn.
A Dr. Gore was one of the first medical doctors in Bangs; then came a Dr. Wilkerson, M. D.  Then in the early 1900's Dr. Jim Nichols and Dr. John Nichols. At that time Bangs had a hospital, which was operated by Dr. John Nichols until about 1920. Then came Dr. Sonendriker, M. D.  In the 1920's and 1930's Bangs had two medical doctors. They were Dr. T. D. Holder and Dr. E. J. Ashcraft. Then came Dr. E. J. Burns, M. D. in the 1940's. Dr. Burns had a clinic. Dr. J. B. Stephens, M. D. has been our fine doctor since 1946. He also has a clinic.
The first mayor of Bangs was a man by the name of L. P. Dale, an employee of Leeper-Curd Lumber Company. The city became incorporated 15 June 1915.
The Bangs cemetery: The first block of land to be used as the Bangs cemetery was bought, surveyed and plotted in March 1905. Mr. T. J. Backus was the first Bangs citizen to be buried here on 27 April 1905. The second was Homer Schulze, infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Schulze. The cemetery which is one of the most beautiful and best kept in the state, today has 2,167 graves.
In the early years, the 1880's and 1890's Bangs became well known as a cord wood market. Land was being cleared in the area for farming, producing huge quantities of cord wood, which was sold mostly to people in the Ballinger and San Angelo areas. Cotton production was increasing and Bangs had a gin. Bangs also became famous as a truck farming area, raising fruit and vegetables. Berries, cantalopes and watermelons did well in the area. The community also has a small nursery south of Bangs known as the W. J. Schulze Nursery, having been established in 1902. By this time Bangs was really growing. The population by the turn of the century was 136, within the city limits.
By the year 1900 the small community had two small churches, a number of businesses, a school since the year 1892, a post office since 1886, was located near a railroad and in the midst of a thriving farm trade territory. In the year 1906 the First State Bank was established. The first bank employees were Henry McGeorge, president, and Mr. and Mrs. Pete Rutherford. In the year 1909 Bangs had its first newspaper, The Bangs Advocate, later called the Bangs Enterprise. The Bangs Masonic Lodge was chartered in 1908 and the Odd Fellow Lodge in 1909.
In the year 1914 the F. R. Early Grocery was established, and continued under one ownership and management for nearly thirty years. In 1941 its name was changed to Piggly Wiggly. Also in 1914 another famous business had begun. It was the City Garage operated by Mr. D. A. Schulze, who had a business partner named Henry Speck. Donald and Henry were fine mechanics, would work on anything from ox carts to those new "gasoline buggies." This business continued until during World War II.
In 1918 another very unique business was established in Bangs. It was the Gaston Tesson Fruit Farm and Cannery. Mr. Tesson had moved to Bangs in 1906 and bought fifteen acres of good sandy soil in the north-east section of Bangs. Mr. Tesson was an expert gardener and truck farmer, and he became famous for his endeavors in this line of work. He sold fruit and vegetables to the public. His cannery was equipped with modern equipment for that day. He became well known for his own labeled jams, jellies, fruits and vegetables.
By the later 1920's and early 1930's Bangs had a population of about 500 people, around twenty-five businesses, including the First State Bank, The Texas Theater run by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Strange, Garms Tailor Shop operated by M. E. Garms, H. L. Allcorn Hardware and Undertaking Company, Bell's Drug Store, F. R. Early Grocery & Market, Bangs Service Station with Frank Sullivan owner, Alcorn Bros. Chevorlette [Chevrolet?] Company, City Garage, J. C. Prince Grocery, South Texas Lumber Company with D. Hise manager, Eads Motor Company operated by Perry Eads, Rescue Dry Goods Company, Texas Water & Power Company successor to Hart Gas Company which furnished gas for the city of Bangs with C. A. Harris manager, Perfection Bread Company, Bangs Drug Company with C. B. Palmer owner, J. S. Wilson Grocery, Henry Thompson Blacksmith Shop, Morgan's Garage with Frank and Henry Morgan, Modern Way Grocery with Payton Dick owner, Andy L. Pruitt Cafe, C. O. Jenkins Ice House, Head's Tailor Shop operated by E. L. Head and R. J. Schildler Blacksmith shop.
In 1926 Bangs completed its first water system. Water was furnished from hand dug wells throughout the city, piped to storage facilities and filter plant. A new water tower was built, and water lines were laid throughout the city. C. O. Jenkins & Sons managed the system. In 1928 the Bangs Volunteer Fire Department was organized with Frank Sullivan the first fire chief. Some of the other members were John Eads, P. D. Miller, Alton McGaughey, Andy Pruitt, Jessie Byars, Carl Heffington, Bryand Harris and Lee Brown.
The first school was taught in Bangs in 1892 - 1893. Miss Clemie King taught the first school which had about thirty-five pupils. Mr. Louis Garms taught the second school, which was a free public school by then and the length of the term was six months. Miss Mattie Brumley taught the next school. In 1895 - 1896 a Mr. Flynn taught. And in 1896 - 1897 Mr. Favors and Miss Madie Lowery taught the first two teacher school. When Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Joe Smith taught, the school was graded about 1897 - 1898.
The first school building was a two-story wooden building, and it was located south of the railroad and some 200 feet south of the present location of the Bangs City Park. Later the location was changed to the northern side of the Santa Fe Railroad, its present location where a rock school building was built. The year was 1903. At that time the school became a three teacher school with two Misses Laws and Mrs. Oddie Wilson as teachers.
The first two graduates of Bangs high school were Glen Brooks and Mae Butler Wooldridge, in 1906. The School had ten grades. In 1921 there were nine graduates, all girls.
In 1923 a new brick building was built on to the rock building. In 1927 Bangs became an independent school district. There were nine teachers who taught 258 students. The new building had a beautiful auditorium equipped with 500 opera chairs and a large number of folding chairs. The stage scenery for the auditorium cost $300.00. In the new building was a music studio equipped with piano where Miss Branum of Daniel Baker College taught music in 1926. There was also a room used only for "expression classes" where Mrs. Morris Harper taught all forms of expression. Since the construction of the new building the school had a term of nine months, whereas the term was only eight months before.
The present and only gymnasium was completed in time for the 1935 seniors to hold their graduation exercises and senior play, which was the first event held in the gymnasium.
In 1943 a new high school building was built. The building had six classrooms and an office for the superintendent.
In 1952 another nice elementary was completed and occupied in September 1952. It had seven class rooms.
In 1963 a very modern refrigerated air-conditioned high school was built. It had areas for agriculture, home economics, band and science as well as an office for the superintendent.
A very modern lunch room, auditorium was built in 1971 - 1972 including an addition to the high school, a business room, rest rooms and four additional class rooms.
In March 1981 a new elementary school was completed at a new location in the north-east part of Bangs. This school was named the J. B. Stephens Elementary. The new school served kindergarten through the first five grades. In 1986 there are three classes in each grade with a total of 450 students.
In 1986 the junior high school has a total of 225 students, serving grades six, seven and eight. At this time high school has 248 students in grades nine through twelve.
In January of 1986, new administrative offices were completed in a new building facing Highway 67 - 84.
Bangs schools have been outstanding both in their academics and athletic endeavors. It is interesting to recall a first in one sport, that being the first football team in Bangs high school in 1929. Fourteen boys lettered on that team. Captain Firman Early was quarterback, Jack Pulliam was right guard, Brendon Bond played fullback, Clarence Bissett played left guard, C. H. Sheffield played left tackle, Jerry Lilly played left end, Howard Sikes played right end, J. D. Hall was halfback, Emory Ray was halfback, Neil McClain was left guard, Sam Jenkins was right tackle, Ralph Guyer was halfback, Owen Spivy played end. W. C. Mitchell was principal and coach.
The town went wild over this football team. All games were played in the day time of course. At home games the business houses closed and everyone went to the game. The dragons had a .450 percent average for the first season. They lost five games, won four and tied one. Not bad for the first year, and "King Football" was on its way at Bangs.
The community was always sports minded even in the early years. In the early 1900's and 1920's baseball was the big sport for the community. Bangs always had a good ballclub, and over the years produced some great ball players. Bryan Harriss, Debbs Garms and Warren Garms were three young men in the 1920's who went on to play in the major leagues and making fine careers in baseball.
Bangs first newspaper was the Bangs Advocate in 1909, then it was called the Bangs Enterprise which burned in 1923, leaving Bangs without a news media. However on 11 May 1923 the Bangs Gazette was born. The new publisher was George Brosious. He sold the paper on 1 December 1940 to Forrest Kyle and the name changed to the Brown County Gazette. Later Mr. W. T. Hays was to be the publisher. Bangs has been fortunate to have a good weekly newspaper over the years, and today, 1986, the paper, The Brown County Gazette is still going strong.
By 1940 Bangs had grown to 756. World War II was just beginning and with Camp Bowie at Brownwood, the population would grow some more in the next few years. Every available vacant room and rental was to be put into use, as the dependents of soldiers being trained at Camp Bowie, moved into the area.
By 1946, the post war period, Bangs had a population of around 900 and about thirty businesses. Between the years of 1941 and 1948 the following firms were in business in the Bangs community at one time or the other: Palmer Drug Store, Bell Grocery and Market, Piggly Wiggly Grocery and Market, Swann Cafe, The Brown County Gazette, South Texas Lumber Company, Bangs Poultry Association, Victory Theatre, Marvin McHorse Frozen Food Lockers, Sullivan Shoppe of Mrs. Vera Sullivan, Elsie's Beauty Salon, Baily Brothers Garage of Joe and Glen Baily, Red and White Grocery operated by Mrs. Hugh Wilson, Bangs Variety Store operated by W. W. Layman, Sikes Bakery with M. B. Sikes owner, J. Mark Boler Insurance and Loans, Schulze Dairy operated by John Schulze, Humble Service Station operated by Carl Greer, Jenkins Variety Store operated by Mr. and Mrs. Seth Jenkins, Baker and Bain Food Store, Forman Funeral Home, H. L. Allcorn Funeral Parlor, Dr. E. J. Burns Clinic, Helen Curtis Beauty Salon operated by Ida White and Eunice Hicks, Garms Tailor Shop operated by M. E. Garms, H. H. Taylor Service Station and Ice House, Palmer and Young Drug Store operated by C. B. Palmer and Tommy Young, City Garage operated by D. A. Schulze, John Eads Service Station, Levisay and Sullivan Grocery operated by Thomas Levisay and Ben Sullivan, Stephens Service Station operated by Ben and Stacy Stephens, R. H. P. Grocery operated by Raymond Morgan, Howard Sikes and Pete Eads, Sikes Insurance operated by Lonnie Sikes, Pete and Neva Bakery, Morgan's Garage operated by Frank and Henry Morgan, Snow Service Station operated by Jack Snow.
In the mid 1950's at Texans, Inc., a manufacture of fine ceramics and lamps was established in Bangs.
The population of Bangs in 1970 was 1,214. In 1976 it had grown to 1,396. In 1980 the population of Bangs was 1,716. A population of 1,805 was reached in 1986. The city has seventeen miles of paved streets, an excellent water supply and system, a city park and excellent voluntary fire department. Bangs has fine churches, a good school system and thirty-five business firms.
Bangs has always been, and still is, a good community in which to live and raise a family.