Early History of Dresden
Dresden, Navarro County, Texas


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Early History of Dresden
By Mrs. E. D. McCormick
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll",  1956
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society

Mr. President, fellow members of the Navarro County Historical Society, guest, as I stand here now it is comforting to me to know that all worthwhile organizations gain strength and value through age.  I am attempting to give the first paper on the first program of the Navarro County Historical Society and I'm so glad that I can look forward to better papers and better programs and a really interesting and worthwhile organization.

My subject is Old Dresden and in delving into the past I found that much too much of our history is not only past but dead and buried.

Before giving you anything about Dresden, I would like to present a little information about our county.  Early Navarro County extended from the Trinity to the Brazos rivers, from Robertson County to what is now Tarrant County.  All early deeds were recorded in Franklin.  On April 2, 1846, the county was formed.  An election was held on July 13, 1846, and this was when Dresden just missed by one vote being the county seat.  The first county recorded was R. N. White and the first District Clerk was Col. Riggs, who qualified for office on July 31, 1846.  The first article filed was on September 8, 1846.  The old courthouse burned on November 13, 1855.

District Clerk Riggs was living in Red Oak at the time of his election; then he moved with his family to Corsicana.  At the age of 14, his daughter Adelaide was married to W. S. Robinson, the young doctor who named Dresden.

The first settler in what is known as Dresden was a soldier of the Texas Army for Independence, Ethan Melton, who had a Spanish Land Grant.   He settled there in 1838.  Today his descendants live on some of the original grant.  Some of our present surveys still bear the Melton name - that of Ethan, Elijah, Buckner and others.

As others followed Ethan Melton to the lush prairies of Navarro County, a community sprang up known as Melton.  Later a postal exchanged called Richland was there.  My great aunt, Mrs. Daniel Hartzell as a girl went each week by horseback from the Carroll community to fetch her father's mail from Richland (now Dresden).  The postmaster would tell her each time that he could not give her the mail as he could not read writing.  She would then assure him that she could read her father's name, and she always brought home the mail.  This postal exchange served the people living in what is now Purdon to the Cryer Creek community.

It was an ambitious young man just out of medical school who left his home in Loudon County, Tennessee, who finally gave Dresden its name.   He was W. S. Robinson, as mentioned before, who came down the Mississippi River, across the Gulf of Mexico, then up the Trinity River to finally reach Springfield, now long gone, near old Fort Parker.  It was here that he learned from the freighters (drivers of ox-drawn freight wagons) that there was a thriving community to the north that would be a likely place for a young doctor.  From Springfield he set out by foot and finally arrived in Richland, or later Dresden, on February 1, 1851.  A year later he was married to Miss Adelaide Riggs and to this union were born thirteen children.  My uncle, Mr. Wiley D. Robinson, is the only surviving child.

As the settlement thrived -- now a gin, blacksmith shop, general store operated by Daniel Hartzell, the drug store and grocery by Dr. Robinson, a good school -- there came the need for a federal post office.  The town fathers gathered to name the proposed post office.  Among them was Frank Hagle, a native of Dresden, Germany, and young Dr. Robinson recognizing Dresden as the world's medical center of that time.  They swung the vote to name the post office Dresden.   I am told that after all agreed on the name that the jug was passed and everyone had a dram.  All were agreeable.  Dr. Robinson was made postmaster and his son Willie was assistant  The post office was in the drug store.

I was unable to ascertain the date, but it was not long after the naming of Dresden that a Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized. A building with a belfry and pointed windows with a touch of stained glass was erected.   The Reverend James Johnson, a forebearer of Mrs. Perry McCammon, Luther Johnson and others, was the first pastor.  Several years later a Methodist Church was organized and this church is still in existence.  The old Presbyterian building was destroyed by a wind storm and never rebuilt.

At the height of her glory Dresden could boast of a gin, a wheat and corn grist mill, a blacksmith ship, a Masonic Lodge ( a paper in itself), several stores, and the best school in the county.  The school was a large two-story structure known as Dresden College.  Many students came from Corsicana who, of course, were boarding students.  The late Hon. John Calicut started his career in Dresden as a teacher seventy-five years or more ago.

We all know from our Texas History that the Texas Declaration of Independence was written in the blacksmith shop of Lloyd T. Byers at old Washington-on-the-Brazos.  Some years after this smithy-notary public-preacher Byers came to Dresden.  While residing there Mr. Byers made one of the largest surveys in the county which still stands today as he made it and goes by his name.  It starts just north of the old Robinson home place and extends north almost to Blooming Grove.

Several persons with whom I have talked about Dresden, all mentioned a color character, Captain Rutherford, the blacksmith, a native of Scotland, who never lost touch of his Scottish dialect.  Mrs. Rutherford had once been a personal maid to English royalty and had traveled over Europe.  She, of course, was quite a novelty to the other women of the pioneer settlement.

Another pioneer family of Dresden was the Haden family.  Many of Old Captain Haden's descendants live in Navarro County today.   The Hartzells were early settlers from Pennsylvania.

The cemetery there is believed to be the oldest in the county.  It is told that a family coming through there in a wagon train had a sick child so they dropped out of the train.  The child died and was buried in a little clearing in the woods and thus began the Dresden Cemetery.

In her early days Dresden was quite a social center with a large number of eligible young men -- and ladies, too.  Dances were held frequently in the lodge hall with guests from far and near.

Her glory is now gone, but her heritage lives on.

 


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Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox