Ben Franklin old photo, date unknown
Click on image to enlarge
Photo courtesy Ginger Andrews
a Pecan Shell
Settled in 1835,
the community got its post office (in Issac Nelson’s cabin) in 1853
when it was hardly more than the juncture of two roads. The post office
closed in 1859 but was reestablished eight years later.
In 1870 the towns first livery stable was opened and its owner B.
F. Nidever started a stage line to Cooper.
The population reached 200 by 1884 with all essential businesses in
place – including a restaurant.
In 1886 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway came through just
north of the town and three years later the town became a stop. The
population swelled to 1,000 by 1890 and businesses grew to include
two new hotels by 1892.
The Texas-Midland Railroad arrived in Delta
County in 1895 to serve other towns and this diminished both Ben
Franklin’s status and economy.
The population fell to just 343 by 1904 and only two businesses survived.
By the mid 1920s the decline settled at 300 residents – but the remaining
two businesses had closed their doors.
1929 showed an increase in population (500 residents) and new businesses
opened. Postwar departures for better jobs left Ben Franklin with
a mere 150 people by the mid 1960s.
The current (2017) estimated population of 75 has been used since
Academy Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Mike
Price, April 2008
who came to this area from Giles County, Tenn., founded an academy
at this site in 1859. Hired fellow-Tennessean Thomas Hart Benton Hockaday
(1835 - 1918) as the first teacher, and named the new school in memory
of their southern Tennessee homeland. Hockaday taught at Giles until
his enlistment in the Confederate Army in 1862, and after the Civil
War for several years before moving to Fannin
County in 1870s. He presented a curriculum emphasizing arithmetic,
reading the classics, and uses of the English language. (His daughter,
Ela Hockaday, 1876 - 1956) founded the well-known Hockaday School
for Girls in Dallas in 1913.)
School expenses, including teachers' salaries, were paid by parents
of the students.
A small community center, with a blacksmith shop, general merchandise
store, and church, grew up around the large log schoolhouse. After
the organization of common school districts in Texas in 1883, the
Academy became Giles School, District No. 4. The old log house was
replaced with a frame structure in 1886. A more modern building, erected
on this site in 1924, was badly damaged by a tornado in 1936. The
Giles School never reopened, and its students were distributed between
the Ben Franklin and Pecan Gap schools.
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