TIOGA — The little town of Tioga is full of history. Don Davenport knows this firsthand — he was around for much of it.
“Tioga has been my home for 79 years, said Davenport. So it makes sense that he and his wife J.R. would literally write the book on the history of Tioga and nearby Collinsville.
That book, “Tioga and Collinsville,” will be available on April 21. It is a pictorial history of the two small towns in the southwest corner of Grayson County, separated by just six miles. The book uses over 200 images to tell the stories of the towns and their citizens.
“It took about a year of continuously gathering photos and information,” said J.R. Davenport. This book of history was not her first, however. J.R Davenport created a similar project on the city of Flower Mound two years ago. “I’ve always had an interest in preserving things that need to be remembered,” she said.
Don Davenport gives his wife most of the credit for the project. “It was all her. She wanted to do it for me. Probably 90 percent of the work was hers.”
It was Don Davenport, however, whose ties to local history got the project off the ground. He was able to track down many historic photos by calling other long-time locals, and even able to identify a few unlabeled faces from his own memory.
“I knew how to put the book together, and he know where to find the pictures,” said J.R. Davenport. “It worked out just fine.”
Although her husband already knew most of his hometown’s history, J.R. Davenport said she enjoyed learning new things about the area. As an example, she gives William Murray’s ill-fated visit to Collinsville in 1932.
Oklahoma Governor and presidential hopeful William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray was born in Collinsville, although the town was not called that at the time. “It used to be named Toad Suck,” explained J.R. Davenport. Murray’s campaign train would be passing through, so the citizens of Collinsville prepared a large celebration in his honor. The festivities, J.R. Davenport said, were to include the unveiling of a large statue in Murray’s honor.
When the train arrived, however, the Governor “was too inebriated to stand up” and refused to leave the train. He even, according to J.R. Davenport, went as far as to say that he wasn’t even really born in the town. When word spread, irate citizens buried the new statue upside down on Main Street. “From then on, every time somebody said Bill Murray’s name, they had to spit after they said it,” said J.R. Davenport. The book contains several images of this event.
The photographs themselves cover over a hundred years of Texas history. The subjects range from horses walking through downtown Tioga in the late 1800s to the Collinsville girls’ volleyball team playing a game in 2013. Notable locals like singing cowboy Gene Autry and musician Randy Travis are featured along with the faces of everyday citizens.
All photos are in black and white, and feature a caption written by the authors.
Don Davenport, who has worked as a truck driver and a road builder as well as serving with Army military intelligence and the U.S. Postal Service, welcomes his new role as historian.
“It was enjoyable,” he said. “I got to talk with some people I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I had fun.”
“Tioga and Collinsville,” from Arcadia Publishing is available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.