|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
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
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