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Chapter 4: Bridges Settlement

This first settlement was named after one of the first Peters Colonist families to settle in the area, the John Bridges family.  The boundaries of the settlement straddled what are the Denton and Collin county lines from Stewarts Creek on the north, a short distance into Dallas County on the south, a mile or so into Collin County on the east and approximately three to four miles from the Denton County line on the west (Bates 27).  The boundaries of a settlement typically covered a large area because they encompassed the homestead and agricultural land of the residents.  Whereas, the boundaries of a community or town were much smaller because they usually only included commercial and residential buildings and the lots they were built on.

Even though the settlement’s boundaries enclosed a large area, research has found few references to the southern half of the land following the settlement in the area.  Based on the settlements original reported boundaries, Barksdale Creek (now called Indian Creek) would have been the approximate middle of the settlement.  The area south of Barksdale Creek appears to have rapidly lost its identity with Bridges Settlement as other settlements formed along the north Dallas County line. (Unless otherwise noted, reference in this report to Bridges Settlement refers to land north of Barksdale Creek.)  The Colony of today is mostly on Bridges Settlement land north of Barksdale Creek.

Barksdale Creek was likely named by Henry Hedgecoxe after Ralph Barksdale.  Barksdale was one of the first land agents for Peters Colony in the early 1840’s and a Peters Colonist.  Hedgecoxe became the Peters Colony’s chief land surveyor and agent in 1845 and named many of the area creeks in the area.  Research indicates the creek was renamed Indian Creek sometime in the 1850’s or 60’s in remembrance of an Indian raid along the creek.

During the 1840’s there were some hostile Indians in North Texas.  The few in Denton County were located in the western part of the county.  In November of 1846, a raiding party of Indians stole some horses from Samuel Chowning and other settlers on Barksdale Creek.  Earlier in the year, a group of area settlers had organized a “minute company” for mutual protection.  The organization was designed to always be ready in case of an attack.  Twenty-two volunteers went after the Indians and horses.  They located them two days later near the present day city of Decatur.  In the ensuing fight, two Indians were killed and some of the horses were recovered in what was named the Grand Prairie Fight. (Ogle 35)

Early settlements were typically groups of people that had been friends, neighbors, or relatives who traveled to Texas in wagon caravans (Bridges 50).  Many shared religious ties with the most prominent denominations in this area, Baptist and Methodist (Cowling 16).  The Peters Colonist in Bridges Settlement seemed to follow this scenario as many moved from Greene County, Ill (north of St Louis) and several counties in Kentucky.  It was not uncommon at this time for families to move throughout the United States during their lives (Ogle 19).   Many Peters Colonists shared this nomadic existence including the Bridges, Chowning and Wilson families who settled in Bridges Settlement.

The following is a list of settlers that obtained land grants in the part of Bridges Settlement that is now part of The Colony, and are recognized as Peters Colonists (Original Land Grants – Texas General Land Office)

  • William A. Bridges – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 23 year old family man. Occupation: farmer from Green County, Illinois.

  • Samuel H. Brown – He is listed on the 1850 census as a 30 year old farmer born in Virginia with three children.

  • Samuel Chowning – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 35 year old family man with four children.  Occupation: farmer from Greene County, Illinois.

  • Henry O. Hedgecoxe – Recruited to manage the company headquarters and chief surveyor for Peters Colony. He migrated with his wife and children from Clarke County, Indiana.

  • Lewis T. Higgins – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 35 year old family man with three children.  Occupation: farmer from Greene County, Illinois.

  • Philemon Higgins – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 24 year old family man.  Occupation: farmer from Illinois.

  • Mathew Jones – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 27 year old family man with two children.  Occupation: farmer from Illinois

  • William Loving – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 21 year old single man.  Occupation: farmer born in Arkansas.

  • John B. Martin – He is listed as a married 26 year old farmer born in Kentucky with one child.

  • Samuel Payton – On the 1850 census he is listed as a 48 year old family man with three children.  Occupation: farmer from Missouri.

  • John W. Ragland – He is listed as a 39 year old family man with three children.  Occupation: farmer born in Tennessee.

  • Thomas A West – He is listed as a 46 year old family man with six children.  Occupation: farmer from Illinois.

  • Thomas C. Wilson – He is listed as a 44 year old family man with three children. Occupation: blacksmith from Louisiana.

In addition to those who obtained Peters Colony land grants in the Bridges Settlement portion of The Colony, the area also became home for others in search of a new life in North Texas.  Most stayed only a short time, just until they obtained Peters Colony land grants for other Peters Colony land, obtained land grants from the State of Texas after the Peters Colony contract expired in 1848, or started a business or found a job that supported the areas growing agricultural economy. 

The following settlers have been identified by Ed Bates as living in Bridges Settlement (Bates 28):

  • Ben Baccus

  • Dow Baccus

  • Jake Baccus

  • Pete Baccus

  • Ralph H. Barksdale, surveyor for Peters Colony. Barksdale Creek (now called Indian Creek) was named after him.  Obtained a Peters Colony Land Grant in Denton County.

  • C.C. Bates

  • Rev. E. T. Bates

  • Ed F. Bates

  • Rev. William E. Bates - a Methodist Minister

  • W.P Bates

  • William Bonham

  • David Bridges

  • Alfred Harrington - later obtained Peters Colony Land Grant in Collin County

  • Silas Harrington - later obtained Peters Colony Land Grant in Collin County

  • C. C. Portman

  • Rev. Jesse Portman - a Baptist minister

  • Jim Portman

  • Mat Portman

  • Abe Stover

  • Joe Stover

  • John M. Vardeman

  • George Vardeman

  • L. Vardeman

  • Stephen. A. Venters - Peters Colony company clerk.  Obtained Peters Colony Land Grant in Denton County

  •  John West

The most tangible proof of the existence of Bridges Settlement is Bridges Cemetery.  The cemetery is located on one and a half acres of the William Bridges land grant.  It is possible, but not confirmed, that the cemetery’s beginning may have begun with the death of John Bridges shortly after the Bridges family moved to Bridges Settlement in the mid 1840’s.  William’s son Francis, and his wife Sallie Ashlock Bridges, inherited the land and the cemetery when his grandmother Mildred died in 1868. They donated the cemetery to the Denton County Judge in 1889. (Deed)

The earliest inscribed burial date on a stone marker is inscribed “Infant daughter, April 5, 1855”.  The last marker is inscribed “Infant 1969”, and was the daughter of a migrant worker family who had been working at a nearby farm.  Everyone in the cemetery is related by blood or marriage, except the last child buried there.  Over 100 markers in the cemetery are still easily read although many early headstones are known to be missing that may have contained earlier dates. (Bridges Cemetery Historical marker application 3-5)

The Bridges Settlement area primarily evolved into a place for new settlers to live for a short time while they became acquainted with the area, located land to settle and applied for their land grants.  The area was also a commercial center between 1844 and 1852 when Willis T. Stewart became the principal investor in Peters Colony and moved the company’s headquarters from Farmers Branch in Dallas County to Office Branch Creek in Bridges Settlement.  Bridges Settlement has the distinction of being established during the existence of the Republic of Texas and is acknowledged as the first settlement in Denton County.

Go to Chapter 5: Stewartsville