Would you have
heard of it
if it were renamed "Autry Springs"?
Grayson County, Central
US 377 and FM 121
Approximately 70 miles N of Dallas
Population: 809(2010) 754(2000) 625(1990)
Hotel Here > Dallas
away in the SE corner of Grayson County is the tiny hamlet of Tioga.
We may not have learned about Tioga, had it not been for Hal, a viewer
self-described as new to the Internet, but wise enough to recognize
what Texas Escapes is about. Hal was wondering if we could say a few
words about Tioga and Saint
Joe, places where he grew up that are special to him.
came across a small book in the Burnet Public Library (no relation
to Autry's sidekick, Smiley Burnette) titled: I Remember Things:
An Informal History of Tioga Texas. Written by Ross Estes
and Compiled and Edited by Robert J. Duncan. Published by Nortex Press,
Quanah, Texas in 1977.
the book deals with the mineral water that was bottled there
and once promised to make Tioga a household word. What caught our
eye, though, was the part where Tioga was almost renamed Autry
Springs, Texas in honor of Cowboy
It seems as
though there was quite a ruckus about the proposed name change.
Gene himself thought "it was a gag" and critics said it was a plot
by Autry promoters and well owners to sell more mineral water with
a famous cowboy's name. The promoters (probably with pencil-thin
mustaches) offered to shoot a movie in Tioga if the town would change
its name. Pretty tempting. But suddenly skeletons starting coming
out of closets, and while they were innocent skeletons, they did
bring up a question that has been asked many times since. Namely,
is a town entitled to a cut of a hometown boy's fame? If yes, how
Gene, as you
know, died only a few years ago and maybe it was drinking that Tioga
water that aided his longevity. But even after becoming fabulously
rich, there never was a scandal attached to Gene's name. Palominos,
not Palimony was Gene's credo.
Autry Street in Tioga
But in the early
thirties, even Texas' national pastime of exaggeration was frowned
upon in some circles. His biography stated Gene graduated from Tioga
High in 1925, but this was disputed by a former teacher, who said
Gene was long gone by '25 and never graduated there. Then Dr. E.
E. Ledbetter dropped a bomb by announcing that Gene was not only
not born in Tioga, but six miles west in neighboring Cooke
County! Dr. Ledbetter's word carried some weight, since he delivered
Gene and indeed, it was Dr. Eu(gene) Ledbetter that Autrey was named
after. Gene stayed out of the fight, because after all, that's The
It was also
brought up that Autry was "The Yodeling Cowboy from Oklahoma" early
in his career. State Lines can be bent if County Lines can.
never happened, which is just as well, since there is an Aubrey,
Texas about 20 miles down the road (Hwy 377). Gene's
career never suffered, and Tioga is still on the map.
sign in Tioga
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2007
about Gene Autry:
Gene by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
Born to a farming family in 1907 in the East Texas town of Tioga,
Autry learned to walk and ride a horse at about the same time. His
grandfather was a Baptist preacher, and the youngster became a mainstay
in the church choir. When he was a little older, he also got to
be a good hand with a $5 mail order guitar. ... more
Between Two Cowboys in Moulton, Texas
Two other incidents
that occurred in Tioga:
commited suicide in 1930, but it had nothing to do with the proposed
name change. It occurred during a surprise visit by the Postal Inspector,
and since tall buildings were scarce in Tioga, the man drank carbolic
acid! Today, of course, he would've shot the postal inspector and
everyone else in Tioga. Times have changed.
In 1956, Sam
Rayburn was baptized at Tioga's Primitive Baptist Church by
Pastor Henry Ball. Five years later, Pastor Ball went to Bonham
(in neighboring Fannin
County) to preside at Mr. Sam's funeral.
Getting There From Dallas
Junction of Hwy 377 and FM121
I - 75 North 49 miles, then take FM121 west for 21 miles, or
I - 35 North about 58 miles to FM922 east to junction of Hwy377
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