SHIRO PRESERVATION SOCIETY






SHIRO PRESERVATION SOCIETY

SHIRO, TEXAS

A Historical Overview of Shiro, Texas

--compiled and edited by Joni Harsh, former President of the Shiro Preservation Society, Revised 05/11/04

In 1800, after more than 200 years of Spanish rule, aside from the Indian population, there were only three villages in what is today Texas. There were no settlements between the Colorado and Trinity rivers until 1821 when Stephen F. Austin’s first colony of 300 families began to colonize the region and take advantage of land grants made by the Mexican government. Among Austin’s colonists there were 64 original grantees in what is now Grimes County.

Mexico had won its independence from Spain in 1821, and in 1834 subdivided the territory of Texas into three departments. These departments were divided into 18 municipalities. The municipalities were the nucleus of the counties created by the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. In 1836, the municipality of Washington became Washington County, which contained territory that later formed into nine counties.

The territory later to become Grimes County continued to be in Washington County until Montgomery County was created in 1837. The new county included what had been Washington County east of the Brazos River.

Grimes County was created April 6, 1846, by the First Legislature of the State of Texas, as a result of a petition from the people of western Montgomery County for formation of a new county. The new county was named in honor of Jesse Grimes, a signer of Texas’ Declaration of Independence, who was serving as Senator for Montgomery County at that time.

The northern line of Grimes County was changed on January 27, 1853, when Madison County was created. When Waller County was created from the Southern part of Grimes County on April 28, 1873, Grimes County assumed its present form.

Abraham Zuber and William McGuffin were two of Stephen F. Austin’s “original 300”. By 1890, descendants of these two colonists, along with other families including the Edwards, Mayfields, Harmons, Neasons, Franklows, Thomases, Davis’s and Oliphants, were living in the area soon to become Shiro. Most of them were cotton farmers; and the nearest established community was Prairie Plains, also referred to as Red Top, just three miles east of present Shiro. In 1892, a the Star Mail Route was established by the Post Office and running tri-weekly between Prairie Plans and Roans Prairie. By 1898, Prairie Plains had three cotton gins: the Bookman gin and store, the Keisler Brothers gin and store, and John Thomas gin and sawmill. There was the A.F. Rea General Store, Bederson Jewelry, and the Mrs. Stewart grocery store. The Methodist church which was situated one mile west of present Shiro, was the only church in the area and nearby was a five room frame school building.

In January 1902, a post office was established at Shiro with Frances Marion Mayfield appointed as postmaster. The same year the townsite and streets were mapped.

In 1904, Reid Rickard and Lon Norman built a mercantile store, and later a drug store.

In 1905 the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad was surveyed through the town site, with Marion Mayfield and Dr. Hamp Franklow giving land for the right-of-way. Meanwhile, the Post Office Department in Washington D.C. requested that the new post office and town site be named. There are several versions of how this was accomplished, but the one most widely accepted was that a group of town fathers got together, chose a name and submitted it to Washington. It was rejected. After three such efforts, Marion Mayfield, postmaster, who also sold Japanese fruit trees and shrubs, selected the name Shiro from a nursery catalog. The name was submitted in 1907 and accepted by the Post Office Department. In Japanese the word is pronounced She-row.

The railroad was completed in 1908 and Shiro began to grow with stores, blacksmith shop, saddle shop, jail and Shiro Independent School District was born with a new two story brick building built in town on a four acre site given by E.A. Edwards. Prairie Plains had “moved” to Shiro.

The and the Prairie Plains Cumberland Presbyterian Church was moved to Shiro in 1909 to its present site on land donated by Virginia Lee Edwards Mayfield. This culminated the moving of Prairie Plains to Shiro.

In 1912, J.G. Davis helped start the and Baptist church and the Methodist church was moved in to its present location with Walter and Beulah Horton getting married inside the building while the move was in progress. By this time there were stock yards and a bank had been organized by Dr. Hamp Franklow. The train stopped each morning at 11 a.m and again at 5 p.m. where everyone who could would come to meet it. The postmaster was always there with his bag of mail until someone rigged up a pole near the track to leave it on. Nearly every farmer grew cotton, so by late summer wagonloads of cotton traveled to and from the gins day and night.

Then in 1915 Shiro had several major disasters. Fire destroyed the business section north of town, leveling that whole block of buildings. Later, fierce winds and heavy rains, lasting three days, did much damaged to crops and buildings.

The town quickly rebuilt and in 1916 Edwin Harmon bought the first automobile in Shiro, a Model T Ford. This he paid for by running a jitney service to Huntsville. Before automobiles the county roads were unpaved and often impassable. It took an entire day to go to and from Navasota from Shiro. Jasper Rotan recalls that once, when Barnum’s Circus passed through town via the old Richard’s road, the wagons loaded with animals and equipment got stuck. Whereupon the elephants were put to work pushing the wagons free while the monkeys got loose and scrambled up on to the camels and giraffes for a ride. This is known as “the day the circus came to town” and stayed for a week gathering spectators from all around. According the an article published in the East Texas Accent September 1979, Walter Horton recalls, “Kids could hire on to work and get a free ticket, so I did.”

Along came World War I, with about 26 men serving from the Shiro area.* When an Armistice was declared, the station agent, at the railroad depot, was first to hear by telegram from Washington D.C. Mrs. Ed Foster organized the kids into a parade with noisemakers and red, white and blue crepe paper streamers. Everyone went to her home afterward for a party.

Electricity came to Shiro about 1918, but it was only from 5 p.m. each day until 8 in the morning. No appliances could be used until 1921. Meanwhile the railroad was the center of town life. During national elections everyone waited around the station until the outcome was wired to the station agent. When someone was sick enough to need hospital care he was loaded onto a cot and placed in the baggage car to be sent to Houston.

By 1924 there were 16 businesses establishments, including a Ford dealership, two garages, and two hotels. Besides the jail, the bank, and the post office, there were three churches and a Masonic Hall housed in the old church building when the Baptist church built their present brick building.

With the coming of the automobile and paved highways, the tide turned away from Shiro. Old timers stayed behind, but the young ones moved to big cities like Houston. Many of the young folks who moved away in the 30’s retired and came back to Shiro. As a true testimony to faith and steadfastness, Shiro’s four original churches refused to give up on her and her people. Their doors being the only ones to have remained opened continuously with the ebb and flow of the population. There is indeed a “new spirit” in Shiro, as Janis J. Mayfield reported in her History of Shiro, Texas. It began in 1980 with the inception of the and Shiro Volunteer Fire Department and the formation of the Shiro Civic Association.

Today she boasts of the Shiro Gas and Grocery Store, the post office, Mrs. Ina True’s bookkeeping service and gift shop, Granny’s Country Kitchen, an antique shop (in the original Davis building), and a feed store. The Shiro Preservation and Historic Society was formed in 2003 with a vision to “spruce up” Shiro and archive her history for generations to come.

*tidbit – George F. Wingard, Jr. was born 1924 in Shiro. He flew 50 combat missions while serving as engineer-top turret gunner on B-24 during World War II.

Sources: Excerpts from Early History of Grimes County, E.L. Blair, 1930 were taken from Reflections of Grimes County, Texas 1994. Other sources include: The Navasota Examiner and Grimes County Review, The History of Shiro, Texas by Janis J. Mayfield.

 


Copyright© 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008 by Shiro Preservation and Historical Society