Compiled by Jean Ann Marshall, Mary Lou Mowery, Robert Sterling Long and Lillie Bush Reves
Our driving tour highlights public buildings, historical sites and homes. Signs list name of builder or early owners, name of current owners and year of construction. There are over 20 official state historic markers in Franklin County and over 70 signs maintained by the historical association designating historic structures.
Just for fun we have included some stories of Mt. Vernon's haunted houses, shown in italics.
Start your tour 1/4thmile W of the intersectionofW. Main and Hwy 37, on County Road NW 1010, at the Thruston House.
(Thruston Home) The Bankhead Highway opened in 1919 and was the second transcontinental highway across the U.S. from Washington, D.C. to San Diego, California.
Henry Clay Thruston' s home is a 2-story "dogtrot" house; common in the 19th century. Thruston, at 7 feet 7 . inches tall, tallest soldier of the Confederate Army. Schedule a tour (903-537-4760).
If time permits, park and visit Dupree Park, 57-acre nature preserve with hiking trails adjacent to the Thruston House. The trail offers a shortcut or full 1-1/2 mile trail. Free trail guides at entry kiosk. Open dawn to dusk year-round.
Travel Eon CR NW 1010, cross Hwy 37 and follow Main Street. On the N side of the street:
First brick house in town; built by John and Birdie Rutherford. Continue E; the next house is
Built by one of several Tittle Brothers; prairie style home of David and Deborah Tom Norman.
Keep E; pass Hill Street named for John Payne Hill; organized volunteer infantry on Mt. Vernon Square in 1861. Note Church of Christ; third structure for this congregation dating from 1850's.
Immediately past the church building is the:
Still owned and occupied by members of the Huckeba family .
Keep E, on the N side of the street are:
Built by another Tittle brother; then long-time owner T. Ashley Knox. Continue E, and on the N is:
Built by Dupree family; title later passed to Ron and Sue Barker.
Keep E and at the intersection of Main and English on the N is:
Wilbur Jabez Galt married Letitia English.
Turn N on English Street and pause.
Travel N along English and note cottages dating from early decades of the 20th Century; note signs marking these homes. This was all in the Campbell English Farm, dating from 1854 and later developed for housing.
Keep N. At the comer with Lake Street, look to the house at the comer:
G.E. Cowan was the strong-willed attorney who came up with a plan to build our present courthouse even though the one in the middle of the square was only 32 years old He got the commissioners court to approve funding through a specific tax. Disgruntled citizens filed suit and took the case to the Texas Supreme Court. Cowan won, and the Supreme Court approved a new type of funding for the courthouse construction. Judge Cowan died in the house on April 7, 1935, at the age of 79. Judge Cowan still slams doors, makes dishes fall and causes all the normal haunts these many years after his death. On the S side of Lake Street is the Sid and Elizabeth Ivey Galt Home.
Keep N on English Street. At the intersection, beyond the hedges on the W is the site of the
From 1900 through the 1930's, Mt. Vernon hosted baseball games. Farm league teams played on Saturdays. There were bleachers, admission was a dime, and the town turned out.
Tum to the Eon Virginia and drive to Kaufman. Turn Son Kaufman. To the Wis Little Creek Park with walking trails and a children's playground. Stretch your legs. Then, keep N -to the Eis:
The former jail houses Agricultural Service offices in the first floor and a couple of escape rooms (upstairs); contact the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce to schedule sessions. This is the third jail in town. It has cage cells from the 1878 jail into the present building to save expenses. Next to the Franklin County Jail is:
(State Historic Marker and National Register of Historic Places)
If you stop during business hours, park and walk inside. The district courtroom on the second floor looks like a movie set. Look W on Dallas Street to an old garage transformed to a cultural arts center with courtyard and art gallery. And you see the town square, and a rail to tie up horses, installed in 1913. The entire downtown is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Check out the public library (former bank building erected in 1912 with beautiful interior furnishings) and the M.L. Edwards Store built in 1915.Continue Son Kaufman; cross Main Street and continue S for a block. On the W side of Kaufman you see:
Closed for commercial use in 1970; now a museum with a model train exhibit; working telegraphy exhibit; and a covered wagon. On the grounds are an 1880 log cabin, syrup press and mill, and a blacksmith shop. Open by appointment; 903-537-4760. Admission is free.
Directly across the street is:
Early city hall and fire station. The lower floor features memorabilia of NFL Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith, native son of Mt. Vernon. Rotating exhibits feature bird eggs, art work, butterflies, wood carvings, Indian artifacts, and hand-carved violins.
Keep Non Kaufman, cross the railroad tracks. On the Eis:
(State Historic Marker)
Established in 1849; present building was completed in 1998.
Continue N on Kaufman; on the E:
(State Historic Marker)
Now occupied as a private home; third Methodist church on this site.
Keep S on Kaufman and note houses on the W side of the Street, including the Goswick-Majors Home, and
Jeff and Hazel Meredith's home; boyhood home of Don Meredith.
And on the E side of Kaufman:
Original barn with stalls for a cow to provide milk and for a horse to allow travel; a smoke house for preserving meats; an outhouse and a chicken house. Operated as a house museum with a large collection of artwork from late 1800's to early 1900's. Call 903-537-4760 to schedule a free tour.
Keep Son Kaufman. On the Eis home of Mt. Vernon merchant, L.D. Lowry.
Keep S to Rutherford Street; turn W and go one block to Leftwich Street. On the N is:
This was the home of J. D. Templeton, first sheriff of Franklin County. Later occupied by John and Cora Campbell.
Proceed N on Leftwich; on the E is:
This small Greek Revival House was built by the Wilkins family about 1870 and then passed to Miss Belle Mitchell, long time teacher.
Keep N on Leftwich to Yates. At the comer is:
Church building erected in 1907. Congregation disbanded in 1991 and the building passed to a nonprofit group -Mount Vernon Music. Now a performing arts hall.
Keep Non Leftwich to Turner Street. Turn Won Turner; to the N is:
The Haynes family built this house. Ada Solomon Rodkey added the brick exterior about 1970.
Proceed Won Turner; to the N is:
Built by attorney Lloyd Davidson. Davidson became a prominent Texas judge and is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas
Keep W on Turner and take the first right to the:
Romulus Talbott built his first home in 1883. When his family grew larger, the home was rolled on logs a few feet north, and this more imposing structure was built.
Next door to the N is:
Romulus Talbott sold the house and a tiny lot to the Davenport family about 1895. C. K. Davenport served as county judge before 1900.
Three houses down on the Wis:
This is a Sears Roebuck mail-order home shipped by rail in a "do it yourself' kit and erected in 1912. Home of Tom and Byrd Holley McDonough.
At the next street, W, cross the railroad tracks to Oak Street. On the Wis:
One of the earlier homes standing in the town; typical frame house from the turn of the century.
Across Oak Street is:
One of the numerous Tittle Houses; passed to Uni ta Tittle Banks, beloved shopkeeper.
Turn W on Oak and the large house on the N is a house with two resident ghosts; one on each floor:
A true Victorian with a third floor widow's walk. In 1920 the house was thoroughly modernized so that today you see the classic 1920 home with Victorian interior details. Sheriff Henry Dutton purchased the house in 1902. He moved in with his wife, baby and mother; the baby had the colic, and Granny volunteered to stay up and rock the baby. The sheriff and his wife awoke the next morning to find the grandmother in the rocking chair in.front of the fireplace holding the baby-both dead. By 19 20, the story had taken on local significance, and the house was deemed haunted. Granny Dutton was "seen" rocking the baby through the 19 3 0 's.
The ghost on the second floor caused more problems. In 1926, Maurice Wilkinson and his new bride (Eula Carter) rented the upstairs of the house. Their bedroom was in the northeast corner room. He took pneumonia and died. From that time forward, although the room was beautifully furnished, no one ever had a good night's sleep in that room. In 1992 the house was operated as Miss lkie 's Bed & Breakfast. A visiting evangelist was holding services at the First Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon. He checked out in the middle of the night and went to a local motel. He refased the free accommodations. Keep on Oak, curving back to Main, and turn W. Drive to Hwy. 37.
NOTE: You can end your tour now and drive back across 37 to our beginning point. Or, Turn S and continue touring the rest of the town. If you opt to continue, go Son Hwy 37; go under the railroad overpass and turn Eat the next street (Yates Street). Opting to continue, then from Hwy 37, turning Eon Yates. On the N is:
Home of Tom (Thomas Jefferson) Oliver, and his wife, Jennie Glass.
Keep on Yates; pass Olive Street -on the S is:
Home of Forrest and Vertna Johnson. Johnson was longtime teacher of vocational trades in local school. The house, restored by Richard and Teresia Wims, has original bead board ceilings, cabinetry and transoms.
Keep Eon Yates to Miller Street. Tum Non Miller. At the comer is:
Dr. James Fleming home. Deceptively spacious; dining room with 16 foot ceiling graced with the original elaborate carved woodwork.
Continue on Miller; take the first street to the W. Go to the next street and tum R; Continue to a stop sign and turn R. Two houses down on your L is:
Wiley B. Rountree married a Holbrook; among the first families to settle in Mt. Vernon in 1840's. Next on the N is:
Robert Rountree purchased two newspapers, the Franklin Herald and the Mt. Vernon Optic. In 1909 he combined the papers into the Optic-Herald still published. At the intersection of Keith & Leftwich , look S. Two doors down:
Owned by Kathy Shelton. Only two families have owned this house over the past century. Turn North onto Leftwich and continue to:
Beautifully restored; the only house in town with the original well and well house still operating and connected to the main house.
The Clinton Hotel. Called a hotel, but it was more of a "boarding house" arrangement for railroad workers; used as a hotel/boarding house through the 1920's. Follow the street to Kaufman Street. Turn S. You'll pass the Eula Carter House (remember, she was married to Maurice Wilkinson who died in 1926 in the Dutton-Teague House and haunts that house to this day. She later married J.W. Carter. And then you see a Victorian gem on your right:
The Petty family are early (pre-Civil War) settlers in Mt. Vernon; members of that family built the house. It then passed to the Solomon family.
Keep S on Kaufman to Yates, -turn West. On the N side, the first house facing onto Yates is:
One of the first residences in town with electric service. Roy Smith and Ivey Hicks were married after his first wife (Lou Harrell Smith) died Roy died in 1966 and Ivey lived alone until the last few weeks of her life. She fell, broke her hip and never got to return home. During that time she was tellingfamily members to go and claim certain items from the house. Items disappeared and got into hands never intended by Ivey. Maybe she paid a visit after her death and her anger causes the hauntings. Her home was sold and purchasers have encountered real problems with the home, such as doors banging and things moving. All very unnerving.
Turn around and go back to Kaufman, turn S and on the W side of the street:
The home of Jim and Lula Long. After Jim's death Lula married Arthur Majors. You'll pass that Don Meredith home again, and then you see:
The original barn stands behind this house. A section of the barn was first used as the town jail. Inspection reveals heavy boards nailed two and three deep to hold criminals. When the 1878 jail was built, the old wooden jail was used by the Teague blacksmith shop on the NW corner of the square and was moved here in 1912 and incorporated into the barn.
Keep S on Kaufman to Parchman Street; turn W to:
House is sold to County Judge J.E. Mattinson in 1900. Judge Mattinson passed the house to his son Clyde Mattinson and Clyde's wife, Margaret Adams Mattinson. Return to Kaufman. Turn S; go to Rutherford Street.
Turn E and continue to Holbrook. Turn Son Holbrook. On the E is:
Continue on Holbrook; to the E is:
The church building is new, but the church congregation dates from the end of the Civil War.
Turn around, go back N on Holbrook to Grady Street, turn E and continue for 2 . blocks to parking lot of:
The Rosenwald School program was termed the "largest school building program for African.Americans in the South since Reconstruction." Almost 5,000 schools were built in 15 states, funded through Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The school was intact when Bookman Temple took over the facility and the front facade was added to the original building at that time. After integration in 1965, African-American students joined other students in the public schools and this building was sold. You see the original schoolhouse with the altered facade.
Go back to Holbrook; turn N. Immediately past the electrical sub station on the Eis the waterworks plant.
Dr. Will Godwin and Steve Moore are restoring the facility .
N of the Waterworks, on the Eis:
A major stopping point for travelers as early as 1840. The ground here is spongy from the water near the surface. The original town of Mt. Vernon developed at this water source. In 1849 the Keith family gave 24 acres for the town of Mt. Vernon and the public square was laid out at its present location; by 1905, the town had moved up to the present site.
Just to the N of the Springs on the E:
Built by W.C. Holbrook. Horne to four generations of the Stringer family. Originally a gingerbread Victorian cottage; remodeled in 1905 and again in the 1950's
Across the street is:
In 1991, owners Robert and Linda Smith gave the house to the historical association for its headquarters where it remained until the move to the Majors-Parchman House in 1996.
On the NW comer of Holbrook and Tolbert is:
Built by the Harp family; passed to Virgil and Agnes Kirk Hughes in the 1920' sand was sold to the Tom Scott family in the 1930's. Next door is the:
A lively spirit resides in this home. "Miss" Vera Williamson Mitchell was a 5th grade teacher in the Mt. Vernon Schools for 25 years. An only child, she married Oscar Mitchell. After Miss Vera's father died, her mother lived in this house with Miss Vera and Mr. Oscar. Miss Vera's mother brought her large, colorful red and green parrot into the home. The parrot talked and was spoiled. Polly drank only Coca-Cola. The parrot outlived Miss Vera's mother by 40 years and was of extremely old age when it died about 197 5. Miss Vera died in 1982, and Mr. Oscar died in 1985 at the age of 89.
Doris and Kenneth Meek, purchased the house from the Mitchell Estate. Doors to the house would slam, dishes would fall off shelves, and mysterious footsteps could be heard. The Meeks sold the house in 1996 without ever having any cessation of the disturbances.
Three doors down Holbrook on the W is:
Built by Hayden Majors; then sold to Harmon and Elizabeth Killingsworth Hughes; and then to Austin Brakebill.
Across the street on the SE corner is the:
Built by Thomas A. Holder; remained in the Holder family for more than 100 years. Now owned and operated by Paul Macias as The Holbrook Bed and Breakfast.
Keep N on Holbrook; on the W is the:
Vacated in 1967; now a warehouse. If you get the chance, drive to the new school on Hwy 37 S. Check out the musical art park and the memorial to victims of the 1959 school bus wreck tragedy.
Proceed N to the intersection of Holbrook and Cottonbelt and turn E; on your right is:
A typical southern architectural style of the early 1900's with a wide front porch.
Continue on Cottonbelt to Live Oak. Tum S onto Live Oak. Go one block and on the W is:
Architecture is typical of houses built in the early l 900's.
Continue on Live Oak to Majors Street -on the NE corner is:
Another example of southern architecture, with its wide front porch.
At this intersection, at the top of the hill and to the Eis:
Another ghostly area. This hill always associated with "spooks"; perhaps because it was the hill that wound around to the cemetery. At the top of the hill, there was a tragic accident with a car hitting a tree. The driver survived, but his teen-aged girlfriend was killed She could be seen during the full moon walking the road at the hilltop. Very similar to the stories of Dallas' Lady of the Lake with reports in the l 960's of people stopping to offer her a ride and then she disappears.
On the SE comer is:
Built diagonal to the street by the Hayden family; owners of a lumber mill in Mt. Vernon. Sold to the Thomas family and owned by Thomas descendants today.
Return to Holbrook; proceed N and cross the railroad tracks, and immediately to the W is:
Built by Dr. Robert Jefferson Holbrook,· sold in 1900 to Reuben Jackson Stephenson and his wife, Mary Jane Arrington Stephenson.
A Stephenson son went into the Navy in World War I and never returned home. His mother burned a candle in the front south window of his upstairs bedroom every night until her death in 19 2 8. The two daughters, Lallah and Mary, took possession of the home after their parents died and were bothered by strange and mysterious happenings in the house, all associated with their lost brother. They remodeled the house and took off the entire upstairs of the house.
Lall ah Stephenson was intimately associated with death and mourning in Mt. Vernon. She was the town "draper" for the first half of the 20th century. Men would dress the body of a deceased male. But families of deceased women deferred to Miss Lallah who went to the homes taking pins and yards of black taffeta and "draped" the bodies of her female customers. Although some bodies were brought to this home for "draping," Miss Lallah's efforts were generally carried out in private homes. This all took place in a day and age before funeral homes were constructed A body was laid out for viewing in the family home, placed in a wooden coffin, often built by the family. The coffin was generally laid out on the dining table. Burial would follow in a day or two with ice supplied, when available, to prevent decay. ML. Edwards store started stocking caskets and undertaker's supplies but not until 1946 would Mt. Vernon have an actual funeral home.
Directly across the street is:
Built by J. Mal Moore and his wife, Laura Newsom Moore.
Turn E onto Carthel Street and continue to Main Street. Immediately to the Eis:
This house was built by Joe Arrington from the timbers of a much earlier Arrington house. Mr. Arrington was Franklin County Clerk for more than 40 years.
Turn W onto Main Street; to the N is:
Second brick house built in the town; continuously occupied by Hughes descendants.
Continue west on Main toward the square; on the N side is the:
Oldest home standing in the town. Dr. W. C. Wright built this house and it remained in his family for a century. Sold to Ruth Newsom Elliott and now belongs to her son, Dave Elliott.
Across the street is:
The first home of Maude Harvey Edwards and her husband, M.L. Edwards. The home was restored by Richard and Ginny Hamrick in 1990. Keep Won Main to the square. Note the Dr. Fleming building on the S side of the square next to Genealogy Society headquarters. If you have time, park and visit the genealogy offices and pose an inquiry; the staff are always glad to help.
Keep W on Main; pass the former Ed Galt livery stable site. The Alliance Bank parking lot was used as a livery stable from about 1890 through the 1920's. You checked horses and mules for a night's rest and care.
Keep W on Main Street and check the S side of the street for:
Built by Norman and Bess Dupree; sold to Cecil and Maud Harvey and today new owners continue to enjoy the house and acreage. Keep W on Main Street to:
Home built by school superintendent Richard Moss and wife, Lynnie Moss.
Keep W to Oak Street. On opposing comers, sister houses, built by best friends in 1904.
Another Tittle house; built by Louis Tittle; then sold to Judge R. T. Wilkinson and wife, Lela Nelson Wilkinson. Remained in Wilkinson family for almost a century.
Built by Griff Rutherford for his bride, Lillian Rouse. The Rutherfords sold the home to J.B. Heywood, a Welsh immigrant, who was longtime station agent at the Mt. Vernon Railroad Depot.
Next door is:
Honeymoon home built by Frank Burns for his bride Agnes Wilkinson. Extensive restoration and the addition of an attic living area have changed the roof line in this Craftsman-style house.
Next door is the:
major renovation in 1916. This was the home of Dan Burns and wife, Martha Parchman Burns.
Proceed back to State Highway 37. We hope you enjoyed your driving tour of Mt. Vernon. Please come again!