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.
Most of 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 much?
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
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.
Anyway, it never happened, which is just as well, since there is an
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
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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Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and vintage/historic photos, please contact