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”.
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.
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.
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.
The Linden Heritage Foundation met on January 12, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. at the Linden Garden Club in Linden, Texas. President, Joe B. Lovelace, called the meeting to order.
The first agenda item was the report of the Nominating Committee comprised of Lanita Williams, Wanda Burns, and Sandra Skoog. Ms. Skoog proposed the committee’s selection of four names as a slate to replace the expired terms of four directors. Mr. Lovelace asked for additional nominations from the floor and, upon receiving none, the quorum present unanimously elected for three (3) year terms to the Linden Heritage Foundation Board of Directors: Pat Rountree, Jo Anna Duncan, Becky Wilbanks, and Brenda Deming.
Following the election, Jana Bounds presented the financial report for the Foundation. The Foundation began FY2018 with a fund balance of $35,650.69. At the end of FY2018 the fund balance was $40,756.72, with $2,514.47 being restricted for the Firehouse Project.
Mr. Lovelace then gave a report on the 1939 Old Linden Firehouse.
Linden was the beneficiary of a number of New Deal era projects beginning with assistance in the reconstruction of the Cass County Courthouse after a 1933 fire. For some time afterward, Linden reeled from the futility of having faced a devastating fire with little means but bucket brigades to bring it under control.
The following year, 1934, a grant/loan opportunity was made available by the Public Works Administration to finance the first Linden Waterworks – a municipal sanitary water and sewer system that included the 1934 Water Tower now standing at the corner of Rush and Taylor Streets. In 1935, the Linden Volunteer Fire Department was organized and men were properly trained and certified, allowing fire insurance rates to be affordable to the town.
The “Old Linden Firehouse” built in 1939 with funds and material donated by its citizens is a remarkably simple structure. It served its initial purpose until the City had need for more room for its firefighting equipment. In 1949, a second floor was added to the 1939 building and a north addition was built.
The Old Firehouse remained in operation until 1962 when a new fire station was completed. The older building afterward had various uses until being abandoned. It fell into serious disrepair in recent decades, during which water infiltration and damage accelerated to the point of serious endangerment of the structure.
In January 2016 the City of Linden conveyed the Old Firehouse to the Linden Heritage Foundation.
The Foundation adopted a Rescue Plan for the 1939 Firehouse to. . .
. . . restore the Firehouse to the Secretary of Interior Standards,
. . . formalize the site’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places,
. . . give the building a use that will further Linden’s revitalization goals, and
. . . create a heritage asset out of the present eyesore on this important block of downtown Linden.
In November 2016, the Linden Heritage Foundation received a Texas Preservation Trust Fund grant from the Texas Historical Commission for a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for the Old Linden Firehouse. In July 2017, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded preservation funds for Plans & Specifications (P&S).
Reports from preservation experts established the structural elements from 1939-1949 to be not only historically significant but also to be of fair to good integrity.
This was not true for the structural elements dating post-1949. The 1949 addition was of sub-standard materials and poor design/workmanship.
The Linden Heritage Foundation conducted four Firehouse Clean-Up Days and added a supportive roof covering the 1939 structure.
The Historic Structure Report team established a Period of Significance (POS) 1939-1962 not 1939-1949 as requested by the Foundation. The longer POS attached to the building by that finding led to a functionally challenged, fragmented, and compartmentalized structure – more than 2/3 of which would not meet legal occupancy requirements.
The original use plan specified by the Foundation was commercial/retail. However, as applied to the POS 1939-1962 structure it proved to be a substantially more expensive project – involving rehabilitation of 1,738 sq ft, with only 487 sq ft meeting commercial occupancy codes.
Mark Thacker of Tyler was retained as a preservation architect to prepare Plans & Specifications (P&S). After extensive review of the building and its limitations, Mr. Thacker prepared Plans & Specifications for rehabilitating the building for residential use, a more viable preservation approach than commercial.
The Texas Historical Commission and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, having provided funding for the HSR and P&S, approved the change.
At its Board Meeting in April, the Linden Heritage Foundation directors will decide the next steps to take with the Old Linden Firehouse.
The Annual Meeting of the Membership of the Linden Heritage Foundation will be held on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at the Linden Garden Club (300 East Houston St in Linden) starting at 2 pm.
On the Agenda are a review of the Old Linden Firehouse Project and Election of Directors.
A historical presentation will be given by George Frost, Jr (teacher, coach & historian) of Maud, Texas. Author of “The Writings of J. H. Frost”, Mr. Frost is a member of the Cass County Genealogical Society. He traces the time of the “Populist” movement in Cass County through the use of newspaper columns of the Cass County Sun (Linden Standard) and letters of his great-grandfather J. H. “Jim” Frost.
1889 to 1904 was a dynamic political period for Cass County that included a Special Election to cede 176 sq. miles of west Cass County to Morris County, and move the county seat from Linden to Atlanta.
Politics runs deep in the Frost family – J. H. “Jim” Frost ran unsuccessfully for Cass County state representative and county judge. Two grandsons would be elected to public office – Joseph Frost to the city council of Texarkana and city mayor – Berry Frost as county commissioner in Cass County & great-great-grandson Stephen Frost as state representative.
A reception will follow.
All interested in Cass County history are invited to attend.