Category Archives: Settings

Texas: Bob Jones

In attendance was Bob Jones’ grandson Dr. William Jones. Photo courtesy of the Southlake Historical Society. Art location: Bob Jones Park, Southlake, Texas. Artist: Seth Vandable.

My first giant schnauzer was named Shotz. One of her favorite pastimes, besides a walk in the park, was to simply go for a ride in her 4Runner. One morning, I loaded her into our SUV and we drove to north Southlake to check out a new park—Bob Jones Park. We walked the trails for over an hour, and then drove down Bob Jones Road to where it came to a dead-end. The land beyond the end of the road had been in the Bob Jones family since 1868—certified by the Family Land Heritage. I left the area wondering: “Who was Bob Jones?”

After reading about Bob Jones, I will say he was someone I wish I had known—a man who overcame the adversities of the time to become a prosperous landowner in the Roanoke-Southlake area and a well-respected rancher and family man. 

John Dolford Jones, nicknamed “Bob,” was the son of a white man, Leazer Alvis Jones, who bred racehorses in South Carolina, and his slave Elizabeth. Around 1859 Leazer left his white wife in Arkansas and moved to Texas with Elizabeth and his two sons Bob and Jim. They lived on a farm near Elizabethtown and the Medlin community, present-day Roanoke.

In 1861 Bob Jones was freed near the Medlin community, and herded sheep for a livelihood. He bought his first 60 acres of bottom land from his father and began to farm and raise livestock. His hard work increased his landholdings to 2,000 acres on the Tarrant-Denton county line. 

Living alone left a lot to be desired, so he took a friend’s advice and one weekend attended a dance in Bonham. There he met Almeady “Meady” Chisum, also born into slavery. Her father was cattle baron John Simpson Chisum, and his slave Jensie, Meady’s mother. In 1875 Bob and Meady were married and they eventually had ten children.

Like most pioneering families, the Jones family were self-sustaining farmers that planted a vegetable garden and orchard, and raised chickens, hogs, milk cows, and sheep, and planting cotton and corn for the livestock. Bob supplemented his income by raising horses. Many of his deals were made with only a handshake as collateral: debts settled when his “crops came in.”

As many have said, Bob Jones was an exceptional man who worked around life’s obstacles. Both he and his wife Meady valued education. When his children and grandchildren couldn’t attend white schools in a segregated society, that didn’t stop Bob. He’d hire teachers to teach at the church he built—Mount Carmel Baptist Church. 

After the school term ended, Bob hired a private teacher to live on his farm to teach his children spelling, history, English, arithmetic, and geography throughout the summer months. At one time he bought a home in Denton, and each spring, Meady and the children moved there so that the children could attend school, but that proved disruptive to farming the land. His solution? Build a one-room school house next to their home in Roanoke, which allowed the children to attend school year round and they could still tend to their farming chores.

In 1920, for the benefit of his children as well as other black children, he donated an acre to the county for “colored” schools and built Walnut Grove School near Bob Jones Park. By the 1940s, when not many of Jones’s grandchildren were still living in the area, several families were invited to the Jones community so that their children could be schooled.

Christmas Day 1936, Bob Jones passed away. Over 500 people, black and white, were in attendance at this funeral. Upon his death, Bob had divided his land among his children. One of the youngest, Eugie, swapped her land with her brother Emory, so she could keep the 40 acres that was the “home place.” 

In the mid-1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers began planning Lake Grapevine. Much of the original Jones land, situated along Denton Creek, was taken by eminent domain.

In 1948, the family home burned down, but Eugie and her husband McKinley rebuilt “just up the hill a piece” from the original homesite. Before Meady died in 1949, she told Eugie, “Don’t sell the home place. The children need a place to come home to.” 

In early 1950, tragedy struck again with the construction of the Grapevine Reservoir. When the plan changed to include the family home and the 40 acres around it, Eugie fought back. Long court battles ensued, but for two years, Eugie refused to give up her land. Then one day she received a letter saying she could keep the land but had to return the money. She slipped the uncashed checks into an envelope and sent them back to Washington DC.

My father once told me that there are two things in life you can never have enough of—land and trees. So to know that today most of Bob Jones’s land is under water is a sad finality for me.

In 1976, seated on a screened-in porch, gazing at the sailboats on Lake Grapevine, Eugie Jones Thomas recalled her childhood days as one of the ten children of Bob and Almeady Jones. 

She stated that Grapevine Reservoir hasn’t bothered her too much. There is a good fishing hole at the end of her road, but she keeps it open so that people can get to the “place where the fish always bite.”

“I have always worked and I have always been happy. I don’t worry or grieve. I have lived a good true life—a Christian and faithful life. You have got to have faith.” This philosophy of life has been the guideline of Eugie Jones Thomas, the granddaughter of John Simpson Chisum, for 90 years.

As many stated, and I agree, Bob Jones was an exceptional person—a heritage of work, education, family pride, self improvement, and a love of the land. 

Texas: Bonnie and Clyde

Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Elizabeth Parker met in Texas in 1930. Bonnie was 19 and married to a jailed murderer. Clyde was 21, single, and a free man, but not for long.

After his arrest for burglary, he went to jail, but escaped with Bonnie’s help. She smuggled a gun to him. He was recaptured and sent back to prison, but paroled in 1932, and the two career criminals returned to their crime spree—murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping—in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Missouri, to name a few states. The FBI believes they committed at least thirteen murders.

In late 1932, the dangerous duo began traveling with a gunman named William Jones who had replaced a former member—Raymond Hamilton. In 1933, the three joined forces with Clyde’s brother Ivan “Buck” Barrow, recently granted a full pardon by the governor. He and his wife Blanche joined the group. They now numbered five and began making headlines across the country, escaping capture despite various encounters with the law.

But the law prevailed and the hunt for the five intensified. During a shootout in Iowa, Buck was fatally wounded, his wife Blanche captured, and they caught up with Jones in Houston. Bonnie and Clyde escaped unscathed.

Shortly after the death of Buck, and the capture of Blanche and Jones, the Dallas sheriff’s office set up a trap in nearby Grand Prairie, Texas to capture the outlawed duo. But again they escaped the gunfire, carjacked an attorney on the highway, abandoned the vehicle in Oklahoma, and ended up in Shreveport, Louisiana where they committed an armed robbery.

Two months later, in a hail of machine-gun fire, they liberated five prisoners from Eastham State Prison Farm in Waldo, Texas—Raymond Hamilton and a former accomplice of theirs, Henry Methvin.

But the crime that caught my attention happened on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934. State Troopers H.D. Murphy and Edward Wheeler along with State Highway Patrolman Polk Ivy were patrolling Texas 114 in present-day Southlake. Ivy rode north toward Roanoke, but Murphy and Wheeler, seeing what appeared to be a motorist in trouble, turned up Dove Road. Ivy who had ridden several miles up the highway realized his partners had stopped off somewhere and retraced the route to locate them. He found them both lying on Dove Road—dead—pistols still holstered and their murderer(s) gone.

A self-proclaimed eyewitness, farmer William Schieffer, claimed that he saw the murders. He contended that Bonnie and Clyde acted alone, murdering the troopers in cold blood. However, upon further questioning, his story changed several times and conflicted with gang member Henry Methvin’s later testimony that he had also participated in the killings.

Weeks after the murders of Murphy and Wheeler, FBI agents learned that Bonnie and Clyde had been seen in the company of Henry Methvin. The elusive duo, along with the Methvins, planned to attend a party at Black Lake, Louisiana and would then return to Texas.

On May 23, 1934 in Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, one of the most spectacular manhunts in the nation came to a violent end. In the dawn light, a posse concealed in the bushes along the highway, spotted Bonnie and Clyde motoring down the road. When they attempted to speed off, the officers open fired, killing them both instantly.

Side notes: Bonnie and Clyde were known to hang around the area west of Grapevine (now Southlake). When Clyde was a boy, his family lived near what’s now Texas 114 and Kimball, and some of Bonnie’s kin lived on Dove Road.

While I certainly do not condone the actions of Bonnie and Clyde in any way, I do want to point out that there are two sides to every story. The abuse Clyde suffered in prison may have shaped some of his hostilities in life. As for Bonnie, I have no second story, except for a marriage gone bad.

Clyde’s side of the story: He, too, did time at Eastham Prison Farm, which Texas Monthly called “the worst of the worst” for the abuse inflicted upon its prisoners. But Clyde also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of an inmate known as Big Ed Crowder. The repeated sexual assaults became unbearable and one night Clyde took matters into his own hands. He beat Crowder to death with a pipe. Another inmate took the rap and Clyde was eventually paroled. A good friend of Clyde’s said prison changed Clyde “from a schoolboy to a rattlesnake.” While in prison, Clyde began formulating his plan for revenge. He’d start a gang, steal money and guns, then return to Eastman to kill all the guards.

In 1996, a 6-foot historical marker commemorating E.B. Wheeler, 26, and H.D. Murphy, 24, was unveiled on Dove Road east of Texas 114. Doris Edwards, the widow of Trooper Wheeler, attended the ceremony. She said she appreciated the memorial because Bonnie and Clyde had become infamous but their victims were often forgotten. “It’s just stayed inside me and festered all this time — all the publicity on Bonnie and Clyde, glamorizing them,” Mrs. Edwards told an Associated Press reporter.  “I want the world to know what vicious killers and murderers they are.” (Source: City of Southlake.)

Read more about the nefarious duo: “The Untold Truth of Bonnie and Clyde.”

For a different perspective:“Bonnie and Clyde: 9 Facts About the Outlawed Duo.”

 

 

 

Texas: Grapevine Lake

December morning at Katie’s Woods, Grapevine Lake.

Grapevine Lake is an artificial reservoir in the Trinity River basin northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The lake lies in north Grapevine near the border of Denton County and Tarrant County on Denton Creek, a tributary of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. The reservoir, which was built for flood control, is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1945 the federal government authorized the lake to tame Denton Creek, which overflowed every spring. And so the condemning of land began—some 12,000 acres. Where the lake now stands once dairy and produce farms flourished. As one historian recalled, people were angry and suspicious, but they had no choice. They said it was progress. Some residents had lived on Denton Creek all their lives and it pained them to see their homes moved, most to the neighboring town of Grapevine. 

Construction of the lake began in March 1945 with the 12,850-foot dam started in January 1948. Both the dam and lake were completed in 1952 at a cost of $11.8 million. 

Locals were told that it would take 10 years for the lake to fill, but as the locals predicted, it filled during the first big rain. After all, the bottomlands reside in the Trinity River floodplain. 

Sailboats on a cloudy October day at Grapevine Lake.

In fact, the lake filled so fast that after 62 years pieces of machinery still rest undisturbed at the bottom of the lake: a mammoth gravel washer and a towering conveyor, as well as a tractor and two dump trucks.

The towns that surround Grapevine Lake are Grapevine, Southlake, Trophy Club, Roanoke, and Flower Mound, but only three municipalities have water rights to the lake: the city of Grapevine, the city of Dallas, and the Dallas County Park Cities—Highland Park and University Park.

Not only is Lake Grapevine a water source for the above mentioned cities, it is also a recreational wonderland. Learn more: Grapevine Parks and Recreation Master Plan.