A Special Election – Cass County 1899 – An Untold Story

As time passes and memories diminish, the significance of an event may recede into oblivion.  It is the historian who uncovers it.

While researching information about his great-grandfather, J. H. “Jim” Frost, a prominent politician of the Populist Party in Cass County in the 1890s, George Frost, Jr.* found a story “too good to be true”.

George Frost, Jr. as J. H. “Jim” Frost – Linden Heritage Foundation Annual Meeting – Photo courtesy of Jo Anna Duncan

The struggle for political power in Cass County in that decade is demonstrated by the outcome of a general election in November 1894.  A full slate of Populist candidates was nominated for county offices, including State Representative, the position sought by “Jim” Frost.  The Populist slate won the vote. However, the count was required to be certified by the County Commissioners Court made up of Democrats. The Commissioners overturned the votes for the Populist in key precincts, which resulted in a Democratic victory.  (The Stolen Election, Neil Abeles, Texarkana Gazette, January 7, 2015).

The 1894 campaign was fully covered by the local press.  The voice of the Populist movement was the Cass County Sun (purchased in 1889 by J. W. Erwin and renamed The Linden Standard).  It was opposed by the Democratic Citizens Journal in Atlanta.

While conducting research on that election, Mr. Frost found in the Commissioners Court records a significant election, the outcome of which would have reshaped Cass County as we know it today.

On July 1, 1899, the Cass County Commissioners meeting in Linden received petitions requesting elections be called on two issues.

One petition, signed by 1,151 resident freeholders, asked that the county seat be moved from Linden to Atlanta.

The other, signed by over 50 qualified voters, asked for a large portion of western Cass County to be ceded to Morris County.

The proposed strip to be detached to Morris County was 176 square miles.

Map of Cass County, Texas – Shaded area in yellow to cede to Morris County

Both petitions were presented and approved by the Cass County Commissioners.  Cass County Judge W. A. Callaway ordered the vote for both issues to be held on August 9, 1899.

When the votes of the Special Election were tallied, Linden remained the county seat by a slim margin of 44 votes (1,974 for Linden – 1,930 for Atlanta).  The total vote to cede part of Cass County was defeated as well (1,988 against – 1,822 for).

What appeared as separate issues had almost identical voting results.  Every precinct that voted for part of the county to be detached also voted to move the county seat to Atlanta.  Every precinct voting against detachment voted against moving the county seat.

Results of the Special Election of 1899 to cede part of Cass County to Morris County and move the county seat from Linden to Atlanta.

The eastern half of the county, with the exception of Queen City, voted to move the county seat and cede the Cass County acreage to Morris County.

*Credit is given to George Frost, Jr. for this story “The Cass County Special Election of 1899”.  Unfortunately, it appears that no Cass County newspapers were saved for the year of 1899.  The background of the election was found during research of the Commissioner’s minutes and election returns recorded in the Cass County Courthouse.  A retired teacher and coach, Mr. Frost is an active member of the Cass County Genealogical Society where he serves as editor of their quarterly publication.   He was raised in Bryan’s Mill and now lives in Maud, Texas.