By Perry A. Nichols
This is the first of four articles reprinted from the Timpson Daily Times
Timpson, Texas, Monday August 14, 1933
(Editor's note: This is a copy of an historical essay used February 1, 1933, as a term theme in history class at the college in Marshall. The author gives credit to the following as sources for material: Mrs. J. H. Cruger, Mrs. R.H. Garrett, Mrs. Joe McClellan, Stroud Kelly, B.J. Hawthorn, J.R. Nichols, F.T. Cook, H.R. Forey, Timpson School Catalogue of 1892-93 and some early issued of the Timpson Times. This story, if preserved, will supply some historian, in later years with a starting point for a real history of Timpson. This interesting history of Timpson, due to its length, will be published in installments to appear during the next four or five days. Save each copy that you may have the complete history of Timpson.)
Timpson is located in the northwest corner of Shelby County, six miles east of Nacogdoches county and six miles South of Panola County. Timpson is twenty-five miles west of the Sabine River, which is the State Line, and thirty-one miles north of Nacogdoches, the oldest town in east Texas.
Timpson is a very young town. When the county was first organized, Shelbyville, the county seat, in the southern portion, and Buena Vista, in the western portion, were the only towns in the county. The next town to be established was about 1866, a new county seat named Center, because it was located in the center of the county. Still Shelby County was without a railroad. In 1884 outside capital, mostly in New York, decided to build a railroad from Shreveport, Louisiana to Houston, Texas. They made their survey along the northern edge of Shelby County and this accounts for three new towns in the county: Timpson, Tenaha, and Joaquin. When the survey for the railroad was first made they ran it through the old town of Buena Vista, but some of the leading citizens of that community did not want to accept the prices which the surveyors offered them, so rather than pay such high prices for the right-of-way, a second survey was made, which missed Buena Vista some three miles to the North, and a new townsite was laid out in the midst of the woods.
How Timpson Got Its Name
They named the new town Timpson in honor of one of the stockholders, a Mr. Timpson, who lived in New York. They made a practice of naming the new towns along the railroad after stockholders, hence Lufkin, Appleby, and others.
The railroad surveyor for this section was named Charlie Noblet. After laying out the railroad, he surveyed the town. They made it one mile square; then subdivided it into ordinary lots and blocks; then named the streets. Again the names of stockholders came in for honors. Thus we find the streets, Jacob, Bremmond, and others. They also used the names of nearby residents for streets as Todd and McLaughlin. The town site was located in an old slavery-time field and our present modern paved streets cover an old corn field.
Streets at An Angle of 43 Degrees
Like all "railroad" towns Timpson was laid out with the railroad, and not north and south as most towns are. Therefore the streets run at an angle of 43 degrees "off". When the town was incorporated, Charlie Noblet's map was adopted and is now on record at the county seat, and is the official map of the city today.
The early survey included two farm residences: one known as the old Booth home, located where the cemetery now is. Mr. J.M. Booth, an older brother of our present city marshal, is said to be buried on the exact same spot where he was born, his grave being located on ground that was under the bedroom of his birthplace. The other residence was known as the Cal Bryan home. It was built in slavery days and is still well kept, and is better known in recent years as the old Langhorne home, north of the compress. This is the only house in Timpson built many years before the town was ever thought of, and is sitting "square with the world".
There was only one other farm home near the new town. Mr. Blankenship owned a large log house which still exists only a few miles north of the city limits. This was the childhood home our present eminent citizens, J.E. Blankenship and Mrs. J. H. Cruger. This home became very prominent in the early days of Timpson because it was here that Charlie Noblet and his surveying crew and other laborers as well as the town promoters went to eat the country ham and fat chickens of Mark Blankenship before hotel accommodations were to be had in the new town.
While Mr. Noblet and his crew were busily laying out the town, the construction crew was also busy opening the right-of-way and laying the track from garrison, the last station south of Timpson.
The First Passenger Train
While the steel had been laid and a few freight hauls had been made beforehand, it was in May, 1885, that the first passenger train came to Timpson. This was a red letter day for the town, which as yet did not exist on paper. The railroad officials and town promoters had announced and supplied a big barbecue for the occasion. The barbecue was held in front of the Cal Bryan home which was then occupied by Pat McLaughlin. There was no depot, so the train stopped beside the picnic rounds. This first train was what is now called a "dinky". It was small, being adapted to a narrow-gauge track for that was the type of track being used here at that time. Three were three passenger coaches loaded to overflowing; in addition, there were several flat cars which were also crowded. This load made it quite hard for the small engine to pull, as it was using cordwood for fuel. People came from far and near. The railroad officials from both Houston and Shreveport and from most intervening towns came also. The country people had been invited and came driving in from every direction to attend the barbecue. Especially prominent were some of the neighboring merchants who were contemplating moving to the new town. The day was spent listening to addresses concerning the railroad and the advantages and possibilities of the new town. Maps were displayed and lots were bought and sold. This lot selling project was the beginning of Timpson. Captain Todd bought the lot where the Guaranty State Bank now stands. Pat McLaughlin bought the other corner lot where W.M. Ramsey's store is now located. T.C. Whiteside, T.S. Garrison and many others bought desirable locations.