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Chapter 7: Stewarts Creek Settlement

Following the Hedgecoxe War, the northern part of Bridges Settlement and the adjoining land to the west took on a new identity as Stewart’s Creek Settlement.  The settlement was probably named after the nearby creek of the same name.  The settlement was also sometimes spelled Stewards Creek.  Based on land grant information, the boundaries of the settlement were similar to the boundaries of the original Bridges Settlement north of Indian Creek.

The settlement is known to have been the location of a post office, a church and the areas first public school.  Several trades were also represented in the settlement according to the 1860 Denton County census.  Most of the area residents listed there occupations as farmers  and a few ranchers or stock raising but other occupations listed were a physician, three cabinet makers, two school teachers, a blacksmith, and a shingle maker.  The settlements population is estimated to have been between two and three hundred.

The following settlers have been identified by Ed Bates as living in Stewart’s Creek Settlement: (Bates 37)

  • Jack Chowning

  • James Chowning - Elected county commissioner  1848-1860

  • Samuel Chowning

  • F.E. Cheneworth

  • James Cheneworth

  • Butler Dudley

  • Joe Dudley

  • W.R. Dudley

  • Tom Fouts

  • Jack Fouts

  • W.T. Fouts

  • Lewis H. Higgins

  • Lewis T. Higgins - Justice of the Peace 1848. Confederate States Postmaster 1864-1866

  • Sam T. Higgins

  • Elder H. Kerr

  • J. B. McWhorter

  • Rev. J.E. McWhorter

  • Dr. Newton

  • Charley Newton

  • Della Newton

  • Jake Riley

  • Bill Ritter

  • Jake Ritter

  • John Ritter

  • James L. Sparks - School teacher, first postmaster 1859 and Justice of the Peace

  • Isaac F. Stewart

  • Abe Stover

  • Joe Stover

  • Ben Strahan

  • Stephen A. Venters - County Clerk 1848-49 and 1860-63, County Judge 1856-59, State legislator 1878-79

The Stewarts Creek United States Post Office was opened on March 4, 1859 when James L. Sparks was appointed its first postmaster.  The post office was operated by the Confederate States of America (CSA) from August 5, 1860 until January 23, 1867.  The CSA postmasters were John Welborn (1860-61), Robert C. Epps (1861-64) and Lewis T. Higgins (1864-66).  The United States re-established the post office as Stewards Creek Post Office on June 4, 1877 when Lewis G. Higgins was appointed postmaster.  H. T. Higgins was post master from June 28, 1877 until it closed January 1886 (Jim Wheat’s).  It is likely the closing of the post office also signaled the end of the Stewarts Creek Settlement.

The Stewart’s Creek Baptist Church may have been the areas first church building.  It is unknown exactly when the church was organized, but it is known to have been in existence prior to 1864 and after 1924. There is also a Stewarts Creek Church shown on a 1921 Denton County Soil map.

Beginning with the earliest Peters Colonist settlers, the desire to send their children to school was important.  According to the 1850 Denton County census, even though schools were comparatively rare, almost half of the Peters Colonists in the Bridges Settlement area had sent their children to school in the county within a year of arriving in Texas.  The following Bridges Settlement families reported they had done so: Samuel Chowning, Lewis T. Higgins, Samuel Payton, John Ragland and Thomas West.  

The 1860 Denton County Stewart Creek census shows there were two residents, John Wilborn and John Lakin who listed there occupations as teachers.  It is likely the children who attended school in Bridges Settlement and the early days of Stewarts Creek Settlement met in their teacher’s home because there were few if any public buildings or churches available to use.  These schools were subscription schools supported by parents who paid tuition of one to three dollars per month.  The school year usually lasted two or three months during the summer.  School books consisted of McGuffey’s Reader, Webster’s Blue Back Spelling Book and Smith’s Grammar.  Paper was scarce, so each student was given a piece of slate and chalk.  Desks were likely to have been a log split in half with two legs placed against the wall, and the seats were a similar log split in half with four shorter legs (Bridges 42).

Amendments to the Texas constitution in 1876 made sweeping changes to school laws.  It established a community school system, whereby any group of parents could unite and organize themselves into a school community and apply for state funds based on the number of qualifying pupils ages eight to fourteen.  There were no school boundaries and reorganization was necessary every year.  The county judge appointed three trustees over each community school which carried both a name and number.  No taxes could be levied to build school buildings; however, half of one year’s school fund could be used for building purposes provided the parents supplied the other half of the funds within the same year.  The common method of financing the school building was by subscription. (Watson)

In response to the new law parents in Stewarts Creek petitioned the Denton County Commissioners Court on October 28, 1876 for funds to start the Stewart Creek School Community No. 8.   The school began with 30 students.  James L. Sparks, J.B. Shipp and J.M. Vardeman were appointed the schools first trustees.  School funding from the county was around $2.00 per student but it could vary a few cents from year to year. 

In 1884 the Texas legislature passed a new public school law that abolished the community system of school organization and adopted a numbered county school district system.  This law shifted control from the state to counties and permitted country school districts to levy taxes to support public schools.  The law also required that every school building had to have its district number displayed in large numerals above the school door.  (Watson)  

In response to the 1884 law the Denton County Commissioners Court reorganized the schools in the county. The area served by the Stewart’s Creek Community School No. 8 became Denton County District # 49.  The district boundaries encompassed 14 square miles that match almost exactly the boundaries of The Colony land purchased by Fox and Jacobs and the Austin Ranch area south of Highway 121 (See historical map for school district boundaries).

The school was initially known as High Point.  The name was later changed to Mays School, possibly named after the Mays family or G.P. Mays, Jr. a school trustee who served during the 1884-1885 school year.   The 1921 Denton Soil map shows the location of the Mays School.  

The following table includes additional information from early county school records:

Denton County School #49

School Year

# of Students

# of Teachers

Operating Funds Provided by the County

School Trustees

1884-1885

47

2

$244.40

- G.P. Mayes, Jr.

- L.S. Sparks

- Joseph S. Stover

1885-1886

?

2

$304.50

- James L. Sparks

- J.M. Vardeman

- J. Roark

1886-1887

61

?

$230.40

- J.H. Trout

- D.W. Newton

- D.M. Schultz

- S.D. Green

It was not until the 1870’s that the State of Texas issued the last original land grant titles for land in the area know as the Stewarts Creek Settlement.  See Appendix 3 for a list and history of all the original land grant title recipients.

Go to Chapter 8: Rector