Van Zandt County Historical Commission

Discover Our History

The Van Zandt County Historical Commission is a group of volunteers, appointed by the county Commissioners Court, to promote the history of the county and to help preserve historical sites.

Read and discover the history of our county and help us celebrate the past.  Click on the toolbar at the top of the page to find featured preservation projects around the county, the histories of our towns and their historical/community preservation contacts, interesting old stories about Van Zandt County characters, and more.

For useful links to other websites, check out the Our Towns page.

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Historical Photos: Part of Our Mission

The Historical Commission maintains a collection of historical photos of Van Zandt County.  The vast majority of the collection has been assembled by Commission Chairman Elvis Allen.  Other generous contributors have added to it.  The photo archive includes original old photos, many well over 100 years old, as well as copies made of old photographs.  The public has seen many of the images on the Van Zandt County Historical Commission Calendar, sold every fall.  The Calendar is now on sale at locations throughout the county.  (See article below.) 

If you have old photos, drawings or other images of Van Zandt County (1960 or earlier) and wish to donate them or let us copy them, please get in touch with us at vanzandttxchc@gmail.com

 L-R: Commission members Linda Mays, Suzie Bass and Elvis Allen reorganize the historical photo collection.

Historical Commission Sponsors Students'  Tour of Edgewood Historical Park

   Students and parents from the Van Zandt County Wild and Free Home School Association toured the Heritage Park Museum of East Texas on October 26.  Everyone had a great time and learned a lot--not a surprise at the Heritage Park, a museum of which Van Zandters are justifiably proud.  This three-block historical park in the heart of Edgewood is a preservation marvel, with historic buildings and memorabilia (many from Van Zandt County, most from East Texas) placed to give visitors a feel for how early Van Zandt residents used to live.  Log cabins, shops, barns, a church and school; all sorts of buildings, restored and furnished, can be toured.  There's even a historic jail, not to mention a beautiful replica of the first Van Zandt County Courthouse of 1850.  More information and the Park's hours can be found at: heritageparkmuseumofETX.org 

   The tour was arranged by Linda Dennis, a member of the Van Zandt County Historical Commission, as part of the Commission's goal of increasing historical education in the county.  Ms. Dennis and the Commission also arranged a tour for the Wild and Free kids at the Wills Point Depot Museum in May.

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Above: Van Zandt County Wild and Free Home School Association students in front of the General Store at the Heritage Park Museum of East Texas in Edgewood.  

At right: Kids and parents at the Park.

Driving through History: Dallas-Shreveport Road Tour

Chairman Elvis Allen of the VZ Historical Commission led a tour of the historic Dallas-Shreveport Road on Oct. 11, 2022.  The day-long trip, organized by Commission member Lona Hobbs, was sponsored and attended by the STARS (Seniors Taking Active Roles in Service) group of the Lakeside Baptist Church.  Members of the VZ Historical Commission also attended. The church provided a comfortable bus, and the group had lunch midway through the tour at the Lumber Yard Cafe in Edgewood.

The Dallas-Shreveport Road is a historic route, originally a Native American trail going east-west through Texas and Louisiana.  More than 30 miles of the road runs through the north part of Van Zandt County.  The road eventually became the main road from the key port of Shreveport west into North Texas.  Many county historical societies, including Van Zandt's, are preserving the memory of the road's history by putting up markers to show where the original road went. In Van Zandt County, the Old Dallas-Shreveport Preservation Association was established in 1993 to further this work.  Historical markers and special signs mark the key sites along the route.

Chairman Allen took the group to all the major sites, pointing out many landmarks that have all but disappeared, and many that have not, including the salt flats near Grand Saline.  The route highlights many of the oldest settlements in the county.  While the road has been changed, with the re-routing of old roads and the addition of modern highways, parts of the old road still have the feel of an old pioneer trail.

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Above: Example of signs that mark the Dallas-Shreveport Road.

At Right: Lona Hobbs, Historical Commission member and organizer of the tour, with Elvis Allen, who gave information along the route about the history of the Dallas-Shreveport Road.  (Ms. Hobbs is also a member of Lakeside Baptist Church, which provided a bus for the tour.)

2023 Historical Commission Calendar On Sale Now!

The 2023 Van Zandt County Historical Commission Calendar is now available at participating merchants around the county.  It can also be purchased by going to the Van Zandt County Genealogy Library in Canton.  Or, if you want a copy mailed to you, email us at the Commission at vanzandttxchc@gmail.com, or the Genealogy Library at vanzandtgensoc@gmail.com. 

The theme this year is Our Fascinating Past.  The calendar features each month a different story of an interesting person, place, or thing in the county's history.  As usual, the price is a $5 donation to the Commission, which helps fund our work on county historical projects. We will also charge shipping if you wish for your calendar(s) to be mailed to you.

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Commission Chairman Speaks on Reconstruction

Van Zandt County Historical Commission Chairman Elvis Allen spoke to the STARS (Seniors Taking Active Roles in Service) group on September 15, 2022, regarding the Reconstruction Era, the tumultuous time immediately following the Civil War in the southern states.  Chairman Allen’s speech focused on the Freedman’s Bureau, which helped freed slaves make their way in the post-war society. 

As told by Chairman Allen, the Freedman’s Bureau was created by Congress in 1865 to help provide help such as job training, education, and assistance finding lost relatives to Black persons who had been in bondage.  Most of the work of the Bureau ceased around the late 1860s due to lack of funding and political support, but the Bureau did essential service while in existence.

STARS is a group within the Lakeside Baptist Church in Canton, Texas.  Members meet regularly to share fellowship, promote missions and listen to educational programs. The Reconstruction speech event was organized by Commission member and church member Lona Hobbs.

To see the full speech on Reconstruction by Chairman Allen, check out our News and Events post, or click here.

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Elvis Allen, Chairman of the Van Zandt County Historical Commission, speaks to the STARS group at Lakeside Baptist Church about Reconstruction.

Celebrating A Soldier, Farmer, Family Man

  The Van Zandt County Historical Commission joined with many history organizations, local and statewide, to host a celebration of the life of a former War of 1812 soldier, Texas Revolution participant and Texas Ranger, on Jan. 29, 2022.   The Van Zandt County Genealogical Society, the Former Texas Rangers Association, Daughters of 1812, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and other organizations put on the event, which drew a large crowd to Asbury Cemetery, outside Edom.  (The unseasonably warm weather helped!)

   Adrian Anglin was born in 1796 in Virginia, and fought in the War of 1812.  Having survived the war, he tempted fate by moving west for land.  He lost his first wife and, while living in Illinois, he married Phebe Parker.  He moved to the Republic of Texas in the early 1830s with a large wagon train that included many members of the Parker family, settling in Limestone County and helping to build Fort Parker.  He became one of the first Texas Rangers in 1835. 

   In 1836, Fort Parker was attacked by a band of tribes, including Comanches, and numerous settlers were killed.  Anglin's sister-in-law, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured in the raid and spent most of the rest of her life with the Comanches.  

   Anglin participated in the Texas Revolutionary War, providing food and supplies, and as a result he received a headright of land in Henderson County, part of which later became Van Zandt County.  He settled in the Edom area as a farmer, in addition to his Ranger duties.  He died in 1865, about 70 years old, and is buried at Asbury Cemetery alongside his second wife, Phebe.

   The Texas Rangers placed their own special marker--the Ranger Cross--at Mr. Anglin's grave, and special medallions were affixed to his gravestone by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the U.S. Daughters of 1812 to mark his service in the War of 1812 and the Texas Revolution.  The January 29 event was the unveiling of these markers and a chance for the community to remember Mr. Anglin, who was a link to the early history of Texas and Van Zandt County.

   For more information (and photos!), visit the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society website at vzcgs.org

Gun salute by Former Texas Rangers reenactors, with Children of the Republic of Texas Colo

Former Texas Ranger reenactors fire a salute in honor of Mr. Anglin. Color guard of the Children of the Republic of Texas, local chapter (C. Moser and H. Roberts) at right.

Elvis Allen, Chairman of Van Zandt County Historical Commission, with Van Zandt County Dis

Elvis Allen, Chairman of the Van Zandt County Historical  Commission, with Karen Wilson, Van Zandt County District Clerk.

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Descendants of Mr. Anglin, by grave, with new medallions and Ranger Cross..

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Overflow crowd at the Asbury Cemetery pavilion for the Anglin ceremony.

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Carrie Woolverton, President of the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society and of the local chapters of the Daughters of 1812 and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, officiates at the event.

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Reenactors representing the Former Texas Rangers Association, Van Zandt County Genealogical Society and Historical Commission, and several lineage societies. Ladies in front are, L-R: Carrie Woolverton, Paige Sanders, Cathy Calfy, Benja Mize, Suzie Bass.

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Lt. Kenny Ray, Texas Ranger ret., speaks on behalf of the Former Texas Rangers Association.

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Refreshments afterward: Cake with image of early Texas Ranger.

 Refurbishing Anglin Historical Marker

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Volunteers restoring the Anglin historical marker: L to R: Lawrence Greer, Elvis Allen, Cathy Calfy, Ronnie Jones, Sandra Jones, Becky Rosson, Sherrie Archer, Carrie Woolverton.

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Anglin historical marker before refurbishing.

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Anglin historical marker after refurbishing.

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Adrian Anglin gravestone., with War of 1812 and Texas Revolution medallions added. Ranger Cross is to the left.

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Elvis Allen repaints the historical marker.

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L to R: Lawrence Greer and Elvis Allen sand the historical marker to a shine.

  Adrian Anglin, pioneer, early Texas Ranger, and Van Zandt County resident, was honored on January 29, 2022, at 2 p.m., when the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society partnered the local chapters of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the Former Texas Rangers Association, and many other lineage societies, to place new insignia on his grave at Asbury Cemetery, close to Edom.  (See article, above.)

  On December 3, 2021, in preparation for the ceremony on January 29, the Van Zandt County Historical Commission led the members of the Van Zandt Genealogy Society and the local chapters of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas the Daughters of 1812 and the United Daughters of the Confederacy in cleaning the Adrian Anglin historical marker that has stood in front of Asbury Cemetery for decades.  Historical markers eventually need refurbishing and cleaning, after years of being exposed to the weather, and the Van Zandt County Historical Commission often takes on this responsibility.

   Van Zandt County Historical Commission Chairman Elvis Allen and member Lawrence Greer demonstrated to the assembled volunteers how to refurbish the metal marker.  The process involves cleaning the metal plate, coating the plate with special black paint, and (after a long wait for the paint to dry) sanding the paint off the raised lettering on the plate, so that it shows clearly above the black background.  A varnish is added on top of this.

The process took several hours, with a lunch break in the middle to allow for paint-drying.  The process was shown to the public via a live video feed on the Van Zandt County Genealogy Library Facebook page.  The video is still available on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VanZandtCountyGenealogy.  Volunteers had plenty of opportunity to learn the process of historical marker maintenance, and to talk about the subject of all the effort--early Van Zandt County settler Adrian Anglin.

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Volunteers take a break from refurbishing historical marker to eat lunch at Moore's Store in Ben Wheeler.

Commissioners Court Session Welcomes Rebuilt 1850 Courthouse and 1890s Poor Farm Calaboose (Jail)

Restored Poor Farm calaboose (jail) of Van Zandt County.  The building had one door and one window (shown above), with an iron grate covering it.

The Van Zandt County Commissioners Court, in session in the 1850 Courthouse, presents a proclamation dedicating the historic buildings. L to R: Commissioner Chad LaPrade (Precinct 1), Commissioner Virgil Melton (Precinct 2), County Judge Don Kirkpatrick, Commissioner Keith Pearson (Precinct 3), and Commissioner Tim West (Precinct 4).

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Event organizer Stephen Goode and his wife, Marianne Goode, both members of the Edgewood Historical Society, in front of the 1850 Courthouse.

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Van Zandt County Commissioners Court members arrive by mule wagon. (Video: click on triangle in center.)

  The past came to life on November 6 at the Heritage Park in Edgewood, Texas, as the Van Zandt County Commissioners Court held a special session to issue a proclamation dedicating two restored historic buildings.

  County Judge Don Kirkpatrick and Commissioners Chad LaPrade, Virgil Melton, Keith Pearson and Tim West arrived at the event via mule-drawn wagon and proceeded to convene the session at the reconstructed 1850 Van Zandt County Courthouse--an 18 ft. square log cabin built to the specifications of the original building, which in 1850 was located in Canton.  The court and many attendees wore 19th century attire, and enjoyed an old-fashioned stew lunch afterward, cooked over an open fire outside. 

  The event was kicked off by organizer Stephen Goode, of the Edgewood Historical Society. Van Zandt County Historical Commission Chairman Elvis Allen then gave the history of the two buildings. He explained that the 1850 Courthouse was built immediately after the county seat of Van Zandt County was changed from Jordan's Saline to Canton. The structure eventually was replaced by a newer courthouse, then many others, with the current courthouse in Canton being the county's seventh. The Commissioners Court records of the county from 1850 gave the exact specifications for how the courthouse was to be built, which made the reconstruction of the old courthouse possible.

  Mr. Allen also explained that the Poor Farm of Van Zandt County, which was created to provide a place for indigent persons to live, was where the Calaboose was located.  ("Calaboose" is derived from the Spanish word calabozo, meaning "jail.")  The Poor Farm Calaboose, built in the 1890s, was the one-room jail where persons convicted of minor crimes, who were working off their fines, would live until they had completed their obligation to the county.  The Van Zandt County Poor Farm was closed in the 1920s and the Poor Farm land was sold to the Van Zandt County Sheriff, Ira Burnett.  The Calaboose was abandoned, but remained standing.  In 2018, the structure was donated to the county by Ira's daughter, Ira Nell Burnett Skillman, and family, who still owned the land where the Calaboose was located.  Descendants of the Burnett family who attended the dedication Nov. 6 are sisters Jane Hunter (member of the Van Zandt County Historical Commission) and Sylvia Barbee (member of the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society).

  The Edgewood Heritage Festival was held on November 13, 2021.  Among other activities, visitors will be able to see the new buildings, along with all the other expertly preserved historical structures at the Heritage Park, during the festival. This year's Festival was dedicated to the memory of Pattizo Humphries (who passed away in 2020), a member of the Van Zandt County Historical Commission and the Edgewood Historical Society.  Ms. Humphries was a dedicated worker and promoter for the Heritage Park for many decades.

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Van Zandt County Reconstructed 1850 Courthouse with Historical Commission members (L to R) Sherrie Archer, Cindy Cooper, Elvis Allen (Commission Chairman) Suzie Bass, and Van Zandt Genealogical Society President Carrie Woolverton. 

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Who We Are

Our mission at Van Zandt County Historical Commission is to collect historical information, formulate programs to mark historic sites, landmarks, buildings and Civil War graves and to preserve records of historic significance.  We promote public awareness of local history.

Do You Have Old Photos?

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Grand Saline, Texas, firemen. 1930s?

Get in Touch

Van Zandt County Historical Commission
P.O. Box 251
Canton, Texas  75103

The Van Zandt County Historical Commission has a large collection of historical photos and drawings of County people and places.  If you have old photos or artwork of historic Van Zandt County (or Texas) that need a home, please contact us!  We are happy to accept copies that we can preserve; no need to give us originals unless you wish to.

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