On Historical Veracity

B.F. Hicks

I hate to think back to the year 1973,  some major debacle.  Well, not exactly.  The City of Mt. Vernon celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1973.  That’s reason for celebration.  I started college in the fall of 1969; I was going to be a journalist.  Jim and Tish Bass were publishers of the Optic-Herald.  They let me work most summers; it was great fun.

And for a couple of those years, in between covering the city council, other community events, and running errands with advertisements or filling the racks, Jimmy had me straighten up the pages of the old torn issues of the newspaper.  He had the newspapers from 1907 through the current year and a firm in El Paso lined up to microfilm the papers.  I read a great deal of history.  And the records of the papers were saved in a form insuring that we could access the historical record.

Jimmy allowed me to write a lengthy article about the founding of the town.  A lot of that was conjecture. We knew the anniversary date.  What we didn’t realize was the actual development of the adoption of the formal post office name which was not consistent with the name used to identify our town.  To this day, I think that all prior newspaper articles had just said that Mt. Vernon was known as Keith.

Stephen and Rebecca Keith gave the 24 acres where the town was laid out.  On November 19, 1850, the post office name was changed to Lone Star.  Finally on September 21, 1875, Mt. Vernon was given the post office designation conforming to the town’s “name.”

So, the town gets a post office in 1848; there are enough people here to warrant that; the name is “Keith.” Charlie Brown says we produced the first commercial cotton crops by 1840.  Carl Newsom said he thought schools here started by 1836.  We do have early settlers.   But I write the 1973 article about the town’s anniversary and announce that the town doesn’t adopt the name “Mt. Vernon” until 1875.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The paper comes out.  It didn’t take a month for Bill Meek, county judge at the time, to pull up some records of the Mt. Vernon Masonic Lodge.  I think the lodge was formed, disbanded and reinstated.  But he had records of a lodge at Mt Vernon, Texas in the 1850’s.  And then I saw the 1849 deed where the Keiths give 24 acres to a group of men, as trustees of the town of Mt. Vernon; with the directive to sell off lots and use the proceeds from the sale to fund public schools.  And in the 1850 United States Census, people living within this townsite are enumerated as within the Mt. Vernon Precinct, Lone Star Post Office.  And on July 16, 1861, J.F. Johnson, Capt., enrolled 76 men as the Mt. Vernon Grays and marched off to war.  No, nothing to dream up any report that people here called themselves citizens of Lone Star; just my unsupported and wrong conjecture.  How I hate that it made it into print.

For years people have said that Mt. Vernon did not become Mt. Vernon until 1875.  No.  I think we were Mt. Vernon from the first.  At least from 1849 when the town is formally laid out.  The plat for the town is entitled “Mt. Vernon.”  It does exist.  There is no mention of any other name.

Soldiers marched off from the square; they marched off from Mt. Vernon.  Our diaries and letters from that period refer to Mt. Vernon, Lone Star Post Office.  Obviously, at some point another Lone Star did survive to receive the postal designation; what confusion.

There were three Texas communities named Mt. Vernon honoring George Washington’s home; three in the year 1848; and not until 1875 did the other two dissolve and disband and our community was allowed to use its name as a postal address.

Let me set this one record straight.  For my part, I apologize for contributing to the confusion over the use of the name.  I do think we’ve been Mt. Vernon all along.