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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

FAIRMOUNT

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

The only visible reminders of Old Fairmount, an early East Texas community in southern Sabine County, are a well-kept graveyard and a church founded in 1887. The community was settled in the early 1850s around the swift, clear waters of South Prong Creek, which was used by pioneers as a source of fresh water and to power a grist mill and sawmill.

The community, supposedly named for an attractive mound in the area, received a post office in 1854 and had a population estimated at seventy in 1884. In addition to its grist mill and sawmill, the community also had a cotton gin, a school, a blacksmith shop and a general store. By 1896, the community’s one-teacher, one-room school had thirty-one students.

One of the earliest roads in the Fairmount area led from Sabinetown Ferry, a crossing on the Sabine River. A fork in the road led to another river crossing, Hadden’s Ferry.

One Fairmount resident, Edward Smith, deserves his own place in history. When he reached eighteen, he enlisted in the Confederate Army to fight in the Civil War. When federal naval forces approached the Texas coast, Smith and others in his company pushed through the East Texas swamps to reinforce Lieutenant Dick Dowling and his Texas forces at Sabine Pass.

The battle, the only Civil War conflict fought in East Texas, saw Smith, Dowling and about 40 other soldiers outnumbered 100 to one. But the Texans had no deaths or injuries while the federal force of 27 ships had about 400 men injured, captured or killed. The Texans were so fierce that the battle lasted only forty-five minutes. Following the end of the war, Smith came home to Fairmount, served as its postmaster 25 years, and became a Baptist preacher. The bravery he showed at Sabine Pass is also evident in a story told by his descendants.

Smith was walking with his dogs in the woods when a bear started chasing him. Smith scrambled up a tree and when the bear started climbing after him, Edward whipped out his pocketknife and slashed the bear’s head and paws while his dogs nipped at the bear’s heels.

The bear retreated, started chasing the dogs, but returned to climb the tree again. Again the dogs nipped at the bear, who started chasing them a second time. The distraction enabled Edward to climb down and run home.

Fairmount Cemetery has about 240 marked graves and about 15 unmarked graves. One of the best known graves is that of Thomas B. Anthony, who in the l880s volunteered to travel to Austin to collect a reward for the killers of Texas Ranger Jim Moore, who was shot down when he and other Rangers tried to capture outlaw Willis Conner and his sons.

It took considerable bravery on Anthony’s part to make the long trip, especially during a time when some of the Conners were still on the loose By the 1920’s, Fairmount had begun to decline, largely because of the development of new highways which gave Fairmount’s people easier access to other communities.

The great timber boom also lured many Fairmount men to sawmill communities, and World War I came along, pulling away more men.. Fairmount’s post office closed in 1937.

Today, because of Toledo Bend Reservoir, the Fairmount area is attracting new residents, but most of them are dispersed around the lake.

All Things Historical
August 25, 2007 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers.
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Asssociation. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 30 books about East Texas, including “The Forgotten Towns of East Texas”


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