The Grayson County Poor Farm


Charles & Edna Goldston Tuley standing
in front of the Grayson County Farm

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The following is copyrighted, taken from the book, "The Grayson County Poor Farm" by Dusty Williams.

A Brief History
The history of the Grayson County Farm for most people seems to be somewhat of a mystery. Most of us didn't even know that Grayson County, Texas ever had a poor farm and an even greater number of us couldn't even tell you where it was located. The county "poor farm" as it was called back in the day, was located on what is now called Shady Oaks road west of Sherman, which stems from the more popular road of Lamberth. The county poor farm is first discovered on the United States Federal census of 1880. Before the establishment of the Grayson County Farm, the James H. Vaden family lived on the tract of land which would eventually become the poor farm. In 1870 Grayson County, Texas, James and his wife, Elizabeth Jackson Vaden are living in their home west of Sherman. Later that year on December 10, James Vaden died and was buried in the Vaden family cemetery not far from their home. Elizabeth lives until the year of 1875 and is buried beside her husband. It is most probable that after her death the land was sold to the county and the poor farm was created between the death of Elizabeth in 1875 and the 1880 United States Federal Census.

The Vaden Cemetery was a very small cemetery, which included burials of family members and their slaves. It should be noted that Frank Campbell Vaden, son of James and Elizabeth, was married to Jane Madison Taliaferro, who was the great neice of President James Madison. After the founding of the County Farm the small cemetery was expanded into what would be considered a fairly large burial ground. However, most of the graves are not marked and can only be identified by holes and impressions in the dark ground. A survey of the known burials in the cemetery can be found elsewhere in this book.

The first known Superintendent of the County Farm was Joseph D. Dagby who appears as head of the County Farm in 1880 with his family. In 1880 we also see the names of Mary Cole and Tabitha Searcy listed as residents, both of whom would stay for over twenty years. In December of that same year, James M. Weems is appointed the new Superintendent and was to receive $460.00 for his services to the county. On top of the large salary he was also to be given free food and housing for him and his family. Though his wife, Kittie, didn't like the idea of moving to the county farm, she consented to go so her children could go to school nearby. (Probably the Pecan Grove School that the Vaden Family helped to form). By the year 1900 the Weems family has left the county farm and James is now the Grayson County Commissioner, leaving Thomas Freeman in charge of the poor farm and it's 39 residents.

The year of 1910 is a turning point for the history of the county farm. Bruce Whitaker and J.B. Searcy are in charge of the county farm, which housed 28 residents at this time. It is also the year of 1910 that a new two story brick building was constructed to house the residents which also consisted of a basement for them to store their food. (Information omitted-see book for more information)

In 1920 we see yet another new superintendent, Adolphus R. "Dolphus" Vaughn, a native of Alabama who came to Grayson County, Texas with his parents between 1880 and 1900. There were 36 residents, one hired man, William Crain and his family; and one laborer, Gus Spilher along with his family. The year of 1930 is yet another important year to the poor farm, and once again another new superintendent is found, Thomas J. Farr. The farm housed 39 residents, none of whom were black. Every census year up until this point, there were a significant number of black residents. In May of that same year, the Sherman Riot of 1930 took place, destroying the County Court House and most of the black business that were located in downtown Sherman.

(Information omitted-see book for more information)

As the depression swept through the state of Texas the number of residents at the county farm reached as many as 68. During the years of the depression, George Hestand was the superintendent and hire Herman Goldston (William Herman Goldston), as his hired man around 1935. Around the year of 1940 Mr. Hestand left the County Farm and saw to it that Herman Goldston became the new superintendent. Herman with his wife, Lois, and their eight children treated the residents as if they were their family. They had church in the lobby on Sunday and Doc. Stout from Sherman made visits to the farm if one of the residents needed medical attention. Behind the county farm was a jailhouse, which at the begining house convicts and inmates, but had since been emptied. A colored man named, Nolly, who fed the hogs, chose to stay in the jailhouse and made it his home. Most of the residents enjoyed gardening in the big garden not far from the county farm building. Usually around Christmas time every year a church group came to the farm and sang Christmas carols to the residents.

On Monday, August 12, 1946 at 4 a.m. in the morning tragedy struck the residents of the county farm (information omitted, see book for more information)

Exert: "It should be known that the residents of the County Farm were not treated as prisoners, but as a big family and together they made many happy memories, many of which are now lost due to the passing of time.

The rest of the history of the Grayson County Poor Farm can be found in the book, The Grayson County Poor Farm by Dusty Williams.

Known Residents

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Photos

County Farm Cemetery


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