Col. James Jackson Gathings, Sr.

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About Col. James Jackson Gathings, Sr.

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COVINGTON - A FACTORY TOWN OF PIONEER DAYS - It was founded by the Gathings of North Carolina

It's just a dreamy little town nestled away on a curving side road - Just a leisurely little country town with a single street, a filling station of so, a bank, and a handful of stores that close when the storekeeper wants to milk the cow or run an errand down the street.  Yet it used to be a manufacturing center that supplied all this portion of the country with shoes and furniture, clothing and bricks.

To the tourist passing through Covington, on the road from Fort Worth to Hillsboro, it's just another dusty little town sprawling on the prairie, but to the inhabitants there is still a touch of the grandeur that belonged to the youthful city when it far surpassed Fort Worth, both in population and significence. All of the people living in and around the town are related and all of them know the story of the time when great grandfather, great uncle or cousin James Gathings came from North Carolina, settled there and started Covington. Most of them, pointing out the old landmarks still standing, can tell a visitor of the days these houses were beyond the fringe of "civilization", of the experiences of an aristocratic family of the old South in pioneer Texas, and of the activities of Colonel Gathings in developing the country. Stories of the Civil War too, augment the atmosphere of past glory that lingers about the little town.

Covington was founded in 1852 by James J. Gathings. Gathings was born in 1807 in North Carolina. His mother was Jane Jackson Gathings, kinswoman of Andrew Jackson, and his father was James Gathings, one of the wealthiest planters and slave owners of Anson County, North Carolina. In 1827 he was married to Martha Wall Covington, daughter of William and Mary Covington of North Carolina.

In the 1840's, Janes Gathings and his wife and other children, moved from North Carolina to Aberdeen, Mississippi and a little later to Texas, leaving the girls in school in North Carolina. The trip to Texas was a long, tedious trip no doubt to the older people, but to the children it was the very essence of adventure. An Account of the journey as given by Will Gathings, now deceased, who was at that time a boy of 7 or 8 years old, has a sort of breathless eagerness about it that stirs the imagination and leaves one a little wistful over the vanished enthusiasms of youth. To the little boy the journey assumed all the significance of Columbus venture into an unknown sea in search of an unknown world. As the preparations for the departure contnued through weeks, the excitement grew. Twenty wagons to carry all the goods they expected to need for months were assembled and everything from farming tools to shingle nails were loaded on. Furniture, food, clothing, livestock were gathered for the long trek across the country. Lands and all possissions they could not carry along were sold and all business culminated. Finally they were ready.

All the neighbors and relatives gathered to bid the Gathings family farewell and little Will Gathings waited impatiently for the termination of the reams of advice and promises, cautions and frequently repeated farewells. Will could see no point in the whole procedure and was eager to be off. At last when the family had been warned three times by every member of the gathering to be careful of the indians, the caravan got under way and to the tune of fading farewells, creaking wheeels and the cries of the drivers, the wagons bearing the Gathings family, 100 slaves and all their material possessions moved off toward the far "black lands" of Texas.

The first part of the journey was through the pine forests and muck bottoms toward Jackson, Mississippi. At night, when the woods began to grow dim and shadowy, the caravan halted. The negroes built hugh fires around which the whole group would sit listening to the tales the father would tell of the boundless prairies, of deep rich soil, and an abundance of game - of vast herds of buffalo, deer and antelope, wild turkeys and a few bears thrown in. There were accounts too of indians and of bands of outlaws who feared neither God, man or the devil-all of which made the boys eyes grow round with awe and something else that might have been fear or fascination. Perhaps with the negroes there was less awe and more fear. Anyway, Will remembers that one evening after the camp fire session was over, one of the negroes said to him: "it may be a fine place, Buddy, but what you gwinter do when dem injuns done kill you?"

It was not a cheerful prospect even to "Buddy" for the time being, but when the sun was shining again and the drivers cracked their whips above the heads of the mules and horses, he forgot the terrors of marauding indians and thought only what a fine thing it was to be moving on and on. The wagons moved slowly over the rough roads and it was days before they even reached Jackson. When the travelers became weary of camp fare, "Milly", the old negro mammy, would cook a dish of "cush", and prospects of the delicacy were enough to brighten the longest day. Then there were the descriptions of the new country to mull over, out of which Will could build concrete pictures. One phrase particularly struck his fancy and gave him "food for thought" during those days on the road. Texas was a land, his father had said, "where grass and flowers wave and milk and honey flow". Will hoped that the cream would be left on the branches and creeks of sweet milk and spent many pleasent moments imagining himself bogged up in honey.

At Vicksburg they came to the biggest river that Will had ever seen. He was much impressed merely at the width of it, but when he learned that not one of his father's horses could wade it, he was overwhelmed. They crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry boat, worked by horses. The old boat only carried about three or four wagons and a few horse at one time and they were two days in getting across.

One incident of the crossing impressed Will particularly. The boat had been loaded with its full complement of wagons and horses and had reached midstream when one of the mares missed her colt and began neighing. The colt had been left behind tied to a tree with a web halter and small rope. He was a two year old stallion, black as jet with a small white star on his forehead. He was called "Flatterer" because he was a colt of the then celebrated Flatterer stock of horses noted in Mississippi. Colonel Gathings was taking him to head his stud in Texas and was particularly anxious that nothing should happen to the colt. When Flatterer heard old Liza's neighing come floating across the water, he began to plunge. He snapped the tie rope and plunged into the muddy Mississippi. The boat was a half mile away, but Flatterer swam gamely until he reached it, when someone caught the halter and held him until the landing was made. Later Will rode two of his colts through the Civil War.

There were numerous descendants of his in the war, and there are horses of his blood in Texas now.

Once they were across the Mississippi the travelers troubles began. With teams splashing, drivers yelling and wagon wheels going to the hubs in the Mississippi River bottom, they bogged across Louisiana. The negroes cut saplings and "corduroyed" every foot of the road. Several nights they camped in sight of the camp fire of the previous night.

Passing through Shreveport, they entered Texas at a place called Waskom. East Texas was the ony settled part of the State and it looked pretty good to the travelers. But Colonel Gathings had his heart set on the black land, so the weary trek was continued. In April, three months after they left Aberdeen, they reached Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas and stopped there for a year. During that ear the negroes made cedar shingles that were used later in improving the Hill County house and furniture to supplement the limited amount that had been brought from the old home. These homemade articles, Will Gathings explained, were as good as could be bought as they were made from fine wood by skilled labor, for Colonel Gathings had taught his slaves different trades, among them that of cabinet maker, wheelwright, blacksmith, shoemaker and skilled mechanics.

In the Spring of the following year the Gathings family moved to Hill County, where Janes Gathings became the owner of about 10,000 acres of land located on the east side of the cross timber belt and established his home about one mile notrht of the present site of Covington.

One mile below where he settled he laid off 100 acres of land in a town plot. This was the nucleus of a town he named Covington for his wife, Martha Wall Covington. This land was subdivided into lots of from 2 to 10 acres and offered free of charge to anyone who would build, make it his home and lend his influence in building up the school. The only restriction being that no strong drink would be sold on the premises. Thus Covington became one of the first prohibition towns in Texas. Tne acres of ground in the embryo town were set aside for a burial ground and 12 for church purposes. Among the early settlers in this town were Rev. Thomas Stanford and his family and Dr. Church, who became the first president of the college Gathings later established.

On his own holdings Colonel Gathings erected about 20 house as homes for himself and slaves, a strong house and an office. They were built of logs and boards hewn from timbers. The first Gathings home was a double log house, large middle hall with eight side rooms and a gallelry. In a few years the original double log house was remodeled with brick made by the slaves from the soil. This house still stands with only a few repairs to alter the original appearance of the building.

It was a far cry from the elegance of a mansion in South Carolina to a home on the barren prairies of Texas. But Colonel Gathings did his best to make his family comfortable and happy. The furniture in the living room of the Texas home consisted of a Chickering grand piano, brought by ox wagon from New Orleans (now in the possession of a daughter, Mrs. A. B. Cogdell of Itasca), a walnut center table, a lamp table, a large library table, a settee, six softseated chairs and two large rockers. In the dining room were one large dining table of walnut, 20 chairs with machine turned posts and rawhide bottoms and two large walnut sideboards.

In each of the bedrooms were four beds of walnut with ash railings and slots and four trundle-beds. Each bed was equipped with a 40 pound feather mattress. In the kitchen were six large ovens and kitchen utensils that hung from wooden pegs, several chairs and a curving table. The floor coverings were of wild animal skins and the floors of sawed oak.

The country was wild enough to suit even little Will, who had to wear a cowbell to keep from getting lost in the tall prairie grass. There were the indians that the negroes had been so uneasy about, but they were friendly to the settlers. The indians made their home on an adjoining hill. Headed by Chief Jose Maria, they used to visit the Gathings home, often trading hides to Mrs. Gathings for a bit of red calico and making the children presents of hide string for whip crackers and buckskin bags. In spite of the fact that they believed the land rightfuly belonged to them, they never molested the family.

One year after James J. Gathings settled in Covington, his brother, Philip Gathings came to Texas with his family, livestock and slaves. He settled in an oak grove two miles south of Covington. His first home still stands and is occupied by his daughter, Mrs. John A. Stevens, who was Lizzie Gathings.

The two brothers improved two of the largest and best equipped stock farms in Texas. Philip Gathings made a specialty of stock raising and fine fowls. He was very fond of pets and had a variety of deer and antelope. They were allowed to run at large and brought home wild deer on coming in a night, so that there was always a supply of venison.

Colonel Gathings also owned one of the largest hog ranches in Texas. His hogs ranged the cross-timbers for miles around feeding on acorns. At two years old the hogs were fat but the fat was so oily that if the hog was killed in that condition 50% of the weight of the bacon was lost in curing. Consequently the hogs were top-fed for 30 days before killing with grain and corn. In the early winter Colonel Gathings would select from his large herds about 20 hogs and prepare them for his meat supply. There was a total supply of lard and bacon of about 50,000 pounds yearly.

In addition to the hogs he would slaughter weekly one beef, one goat, one kid and one mutton for frest meat. All kinds of fowls and a bountiful supply of wild animals from buffalo down to squirrels were available. Other items in the menu of the pioneer family were sorghum syrup and sugar made from sorghum, coffee made from parched rye, vegetable, butter, cheese, curd and bread made from fine flour from the mills.

James Gathings was a stock raiser and introduced Durham cattle into this part of the State. But he was interested primarily in machinery and during the fifties he established a steam mill, saw mill, tannery, shoe, boot, saddle and harness plant, machine and wood shops, improved cloth loom and brickyard ... all the first in Hill County and among the first in Texas. Considering that all the tools and machinery for these plants had to be hauled by ox team from New Orleans, 700 miles away, the magnitude of the achievement becomes apparent.

In the steam mill were manufactured three grades of flour, shorts, bran and also good corn meal and chops. In the machine shop, Colonel Gathings manufactured farming implements, wagons, coffins, knives and furniture. In the tannery all raw material was converted into leather which is turn was used in his shoe and saddle shops .... and in the mill lumber was made from oak, ash, hickory and walnut logs. Brick and lime were burnt for building material. All these establishments were run full time during the fifties and sixties.

All the activities of these two pioneers were not material. In the early sixties, James and Philip Gathings established Gathings College, which immediately became the largest and best school in Texas, having an enrollment of over 200 boys and girls from all over Texas. In connection with the college there was a military school established to prepare the young men for military duty.

At the time the Civil War had just begun and men were making the tremendous decision of whether they should fight for the Nation or for the cause of the South. As a leader pressure was placed upon Colonel Gathings from both sides. But he was first and last a Southerner and lent his services to the South. In September 1863, he received a letter from Henry E. McCulloch, Brigadier General, asking him to help force Texans to report for service. The letter is still in the possession of the Gathings Family and is as follows:

"North Sub Mil. Dist.- Bonham, Texas, September 20, 1863"

Sir:

As soon as I reached this section of the country and conversed with its true men, I saw that the kind of pacific spirit set forth in the President"s proclamation ought to apply to this people, and issued an address calling upon all to unite and stand together in defense of their homes. This seems to have met a hearty response among the people to whom I have access. But there are some in the brush that I have not been able to reach by this process. I can not go to them though those who are willing to work for their country and this I believe every true man will do if he is only shown how to do it.

At a council of our friends my attention was called to you as one of those who could aid me in this work and I now write to ask you to take hold of this matter and go to those men that are in the brush and urge them to come out and do their duty. I am satisfied that these men do not desire to do wrong. They cannot be opposed to our holy cause. They cannot be friendly to our enemies. But that they have simply come to wrong conclusions about their duty to the country ... the country in which they live, their friends and families live. I cannot believe that they are willing to destroy the happiness of their mothers, wives and daughters and the prospects of their sons by having such disgrace heaped upon them. They have diregarded the proclamation of the President and amnesty orders of General Smith. But I am unwilling to give them up without one more effort to get them to turn back to their true allegiance to their country and authorize you to go among them and in the name of my country offer them full pardon for the past if they will come in, report to me, and do their duty. Assure them of full pardon for all past offense against military law and let them know that they can come in with perfect safety now. And while I authorize you to do this, let me beg you to inform them frankly if they do not and will not listen to this last proposition ... a pardon and last appeal to their love of country, family, home, honor, good name, reputation and everthing dear to them ... that I will have to force them to come in by strong arm of miltiary power. And when driven to that every hope of pardon and reconciliation ceases and that I will hunt them down as the enemies of my country and her people. That I will send armed forces to take them dead or alive. That I will occupy for a time with an armed party the home of each of them, will cut off all communication between them and their families and if that should fail to bring them in will be under the painful necessity of holding them as hostages and if needs be rather than fail to reach them will confiscate and destroy their property. Tell them I offer them peace, pardon and friendship. And if they refuse warn them of the consequences. The best of the country join me in this last appeal and approve the means of force which I will use if all other means fail. Among there are B.H. Epperson; Thockmorton; R.H. Taylor; Saul A. Roberts; S. C. Robertson; John H. Brown and many others with whom I have consulted.

Should they agree to come in, a note from you to report to me is all they need to make the way open and easy. Those who belong to commands east of the Meiss River will be organized or placed in commands here for the present. All others will be kept here until they can go to their own commands or until I can get permission to organize them for service here, which I shall try to do. But they must understand that they will not be allowed to elect a new set of officers when there is such a supply now in the army. But that officers will be assigned to the command of them.

Respectfully,

Your Servant,

Henry E. McCulloch

GATHINGS refused these overtures.

During the Civil War, Governor Houston offered him a commission as Colonel and later as Brigadier General, but he refused both honors, saying that he was to old for military duty and could do more at home. And he did serve at home. There were two or three hundred women, children and aged people left in and about Covington that were without food, shoes and clothing. Colonel Gathings ran his shoe shop, machine shop, mill and looms free of charge for the benefit of the needy people. From all over Hill County and from different counties they came with their empty sacks and went away with flour, meat and shoes. In addition to this he mounted, equipped and clothed a large number of soldiers free of charge.

Colonel Gathings also experienced the days of reconstruction in Texas when reason went wild and ignorance and prejudice ruled the country. The following account taken from a history of Johnson and Hill Counties gives an incident, typical of the era, in which Colonel Gathings figured.

During the reconstruction period, General E.J. Davis was elected Governor of the State, under the "radical" regime, and during his administration came the odious militia bill, police bill, printing law, school law and all the leading "radical" measures of the Twelfth Legislature, which culminated in martial law for Hill, Walker, Limestone and Freestone Counties, and the murder of Godley, House, Mitchell, Applewhite and others by negro policemen.

In the Fall of 1870 one James Gathings and "Sol" Nicholson killed a negro man and woman in Bosque County and fled, it was supposed to this county. Soon afterward, one morning before sunrise, Lieutenant Pritchett and two other officers and four negroes, under the authority of Governor Davis, went to the residence of Colonel J. J. Gathings, a distant relative of one of the refugees, near Covington in this county and demanded opportunity to search the house for "Little Jim Gathings". The Colonel met them at the door and told them he was not there. They insisted and he asked them for their authority, and they said they had it in Waco and he then told them that they could not search his house except by force of arms. Two of the men then drew out their pistols and said that they intended to do that very thing. Next, Pritchett told the negros to go in and search.

Gathings then seized a shotgun and declared that he would shoot the first negro that came in ... a white man could go in but no "nigger". The search was made but no boy found. The officers and the negroes then started towards Covington. Gathings had them arrested before night, for searching his house without legal authority. They gave bond for their appearance at court, but sent word that they were going to mob Gathings and the citizens stood guard at his house for eight nights. The mob however did not appear. Nor did they appear at court, although Gathings and his friends were on hand.

In the meantime Governor Davis issued writs for the arrest of Gathings and his friends to be served by Sheriff Grace. But when the matter came up the authorities said they wanted only an amicable adjustment and proposed to release Gathings if he would pay the cost of the proceedings thus far, which amounted to nearly $3,000, a sum which was readily raised by Gathings and his friends. Afterward when Coke was elected Governor, the State reimbursed Gathings. James T. Ratcliff of Hillsboro was his attorney.

After the reconstruction days, Texas was developed more and more. New and more modern machinery was brought into the state and manufacturing concerns were established over the country. The various shops and plants were discontinued one by one until now there is little left to show that Covington was once a manufacturing center.

A few documents in the possession of the Gathings Family testify still to the incidents of the past. A number of occupation tax receipts are irrefutable records of the porportions of the manufacturing industry that Colonel Gathings carried on. One of them reads like this: "Received of James J. Gathings the sum of $200 which enables him to pursue the occupation of tanner in Covington, Hill County, for the year 1863 and further $21.81 being the tax on sales of 2 1/2 percent on $72 for the quarter ending 30 September 1863".

Numbers of land grants are still in the possession of the family. One of the oldest written on heavy parchment was given in 1855 by Governor Houston covering the land where Covington now stands. The grant was given during Houston's first term in office. It was during the second term that he was such a close friend of Colonel Gathings and it was during that time that he was so often a guest in the house, Mrs. A. B. Cogdell, his daughter, recalls. Another grant was given by Governor Wood in 1839.

The family also treasures a voluminous manuscript that was to have been a history of these early years in Texas. It was begun by David Gathings, a son of Colonel Gathings, who died last January, leaving his work unfinished. Other than these, there are but a few landmarks ... a couple of old houses, a school building with new brick veneer, to tell the story of the activity and prosperity that once belonged to Covington.

Extracted from the Magazine Section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Sunday Record, Sunday, May 19, 1929 by Gertrude Thornhill.

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CITY OF COVINGTON - From "The Heritage of Hill County, Texas" 2006

Covington, situated in northwestern Hill County, 14 miles north of Hillsboro and 15 miles south of Cleburn (Johnson County), was founded by James Jackson Gathings (see related article). In 1851, he and his wife Martha Wall Covington left Aberdeen, Mississippi on a migration of over 640 miles, ultimately leading to the fertile "black lands" of Texas.

With a wagon train consisting of twenty wagons loaded with all their worldly possessions, they crossed the mighty Mississippi river at Vicksburg, continued to Shreveport, Louisiana and entered Texas near Waskom. In April 1852, three months after they left Aberdeen, they arrived in Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas. After staying near Richland Creek for a year, the caravan arrived in what is now the Covington area in the spring of 1853. It was during this era that Navarro County was split in two (in May 1853) to create Hill County.

Colonel Gathings, as he came to be known, established his home about one mile north of the present site of Covington. A year after James came to Texas, his brother Philip, along with his wife Elizabeth White of North Carolina, and their two children at the time made the long journey to Texas and settled in an oak grove two miles south of Covington. The two brothers developed two of the largest and best stock farms in Texas. In addition to operating one of the largest hog farma in Texas, James owned well over 5,000 acres and along with T. M. Westbrook introduced Durham cattle to this state. At the nucleus of the town, which James named in honor of his wife's family, he laid off one hundred acres in a town plat. Ten acres of ground around the embryo town was set aside for a burial ground and twelve acres were designated for church purposes. The remainder of the land was subdivided into lots from one to ten acres and offered free to anyone who would build, make it his home and lend his influence in building up the school (see related article on Gathings College). The only restriction was that no strong drink would be sold on the premises. The burial ground is now known as the Covington Cemetery (see related article).

James Gathings was interested in macinery and prior to 1860 established a steam mill, saw mill, tannery, machine and wood shop, cloth loom and brick yards, as well as a shoe, boot and saddle plant - all a first in Hill County and among the first in Texas. Covington became a manufacturing center, supplying all this portion of the country with shoes, clothing, furniture and bricks. It far surpassed Ft. Worth in population and significance. Considering that all the tool and macinery for the plants had to be hauled by ox team from New Orleans, 700 miles away, the magniturde of the achievement becomes apparent. All these establishments were run full time during the 1850's and 1860's.

Besides the home and school, the other institution sacred in the hearts of these pioneer founders was the church. The Crhirstian heritage was perhaps originally established here in the early 1850's when a small group of women met under the shade of a tree for prayer service. As a result of that meeting, the Medtodist Church of Covington was organized under the auspices of Martha Wall Gathings. In 1854 this organization was known as the Clearfork Circuit and Mission. B. F. Kemp was presiding elder. In 1855, the Circuit was supplied by Reverend Walker, and in 1856 Lewis J. Wright was the Circuit Rider.

In 1857, the Methodist Church, south of Covington was organized with thirty-seven members. Reverend Fountain P. Ray was the Pastor in charge. Then in 1897, a building was started by Rev. C. L. Ballard and completed during the pastorate of Rev. Charles Davis. It was in 1929 that a new church building was erected during the pastorate of Rev. Hayden Edwards. Rev. J. F. Renfro was District Superintendent. The present location was deeded to the church by Nettie Gathings in 1915.

The Church of Christ, organized about 100 years ago, was originally located near the school house. Mr. & Mrs. Burks and family were early members of the church. Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Thames and the Nix family and many more have served the church devotedly for many years. There have been three buildings that have served as church homes.

Th Cowley family was instrumental in the organization of the Baptist Church. The members of the family came to Texas by wagon train in 1872. They were mostly of the Baptist faith. Cowley's Chapel was first built and later the church was constructed in the town of Covington.

In 1922, a new high school building was built using part of the old Gathings College, but this was replaced with a modern bulding in 1965. Superintendent in the early 1980's was Mr. David Wood, a great-great grandson of James J. Gathings.

The first Covington post office was established on July 11, 1855 with Colonel Gathings as the first postmaster. Mrs. Wilie Gathings, widow of grandson of Mr. Gathings served as postmaster from Feburay 5, 1941 until 1942. Other postmasters include Ben Sanford, Andy Campbell, and Mrs. Bertie Marbut.

After the dismal civil war "reconstruction" period, development of Texas started again. New and more modern machinery was brought into the state and manufacturing concerns were also established elsewhere in the state. Afterwards the various shops and plants in Covington ere discontinued one by one.

A renewed vigor occurred when the Texas and Brazos Valley Railroad came to Covington about 1904. One of the social events of the day was meeting the train in the afternoon. When Covington was at its peak during the early 20th century, some of the businesses were the Covington Garage (T. E. Love, Owner); Cowan Brothers Grocery; Bradshaw and Co. (Hardware and Farm implements); Marvin McCall Lumberyard; C. H. Cartwright Cotton yard and Building Materials; J. D. Jones General Merchandise; First Guaranty State Bank, (M. T. Davis, President; J. W. Harper & R. C. Smith, Cashiers); Cecil and Company (Dry Goods); Fuller Drug Store (L. E. Fuller, Owner); Martin and Gathings Blacksmith shop; J. W. Rivers Grocery; E. C. Henderson Barber and Tailor Shop; R. A. Norton Meat Market; W. M. Harris's Mill; M. T. Sprouse's Restarurant; Jim Gathings Livery Stable; S. C. Thames Drug Store and Ice Cream Parlor; Hotel (run by a Mr. Green); Gathings Gin; The Sanford Gin; and the Wiseman and Paschal Grocery, (later became Wiseman Bros.). Dr. Joseph Patterson Wier (son of Capt. Wier, grandson of James J. Gathings) was the only doctor in town at that time. He had his office in the S. C. Thames building and continued the legacy of his step-father Dr. Astyanax Mills Douglass who was formerly the only doctor in town between 1868 and 1908.

The railroad ceased operating along the track to Covington in the early 1930's. After this time there was another gradual decline in the town. The bank closed in 1966 and this added to the decaying infrastructure.

In November, 1974 the town was incorporated. Mr. John H. Milburn was elected the first Mayor followed by Mayor J. B. Carutheres. The members of the council over that early period were W. J. Gathings, Myrna Thurston, J. B. Carutheres, Jim Jutson, Jack Hargis, Monte T. Richardson, Nancy Kiblinger, and Wileta Gee Gathings McCall, City Secretary (a great grand-daughter of James J. Gathings).

Today few businesss are left to remind one of the busy place Covington once was. But redevelopment in rapidly urbanizing north centeral Texas is likely to create renewed growth and opportunitues in Covington, where an atmosphere of past glory and a pioneer spirit continues today.

Submitted by: Mrs. Wileta Gee Gathings McCall, P.O. Box 132, Covington, TX 76636. Edited, compiled and typed by: John P. Wier, P.O. Box 850, Grandview, TX 76050 based on an August 24, 2004 interview with Wileta. Sources: Family records, letters, traditions; Hill County HIstorical Commission. A History of Hill County, TX 1853 -1980, Library of Congress 80-53547, printed by Texian Press, Waco, Tx, 1980 (article on page 118); Bailey, Ellis, A History of Hill County, TX 1838-1965, Itasca, TX; Texian Press, Waco, TX 1968; A Memorial and Biographical History of Johnson & Hill Counties, TX, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1892.

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HISTORY OF COVINGTON By Wileta G. McCall, Great Grandaughter of James J. Gathings

Covington is situated in the northwestern part of Hll County and about five miles from the Johnson County line.

Covington was funded in 1852 by Colonel James J. Gathings. Mr. Gathings was born in Anson County, North Carolina in 1817. He was married to Martha Wall Covington in 1838. The family left North Crolina in the late 1840's. Its members had twent wagons loaded with merchandise they expected to need for months ahead. With all their wordly possissions and about one hndred slaves, they traveled off toward the far "black lands of Texas:. It was sprintime when the caravan reached Hill county. (note: Actually the family went to Aberdeen, Mississippi for several years, before traveling on to Texas).

The Gathings family became the owner of about ten thousand acres of land located on the east side of the timber belt. He established his home about one mile north of the present site of Covington. This land was subdivided into lots from one to ten acres and offered free to anyone who would build, make it his home and lend his influence in building up the school. This consisted of one hundred acres and was the nucleus ofthe town he named for his wife, Martha Wall Covington. Th ony restrictions put on the land offered free were that no strong drink be sold on the premises. Thus Covington was one of the first prohibition towns in Texas. Ten acres of ground around the embryo town were set aside for a burial ground and twelve acres were designated for chuch purposes.


COVINGTON - A FACTORY TOWN OF PIONEER DAYS - It was founded by the Gathings of North Carolina

It's just a dreamy little town nestled away on a curving side road - Just a leisurely little country town with a single street, a filling station of so, a bank, and a handful of stores that close when the storekeeper wants to milk the cow or run an errand down the street.  Yet it used to be a manufacturing center that supplied all this portion of the country with shoes and furniture, clothing and bricks.

To the tourist passing through Covington, on the road from Fort Worth to Hillsboro, it's just another dusty little town sprawling on the prairie, but to the inhabitants there is still a touch of the grandeur that belonged to the youthful city when it far surpassed Fort Worth, both in population and significence. All of the people living in and around the town are related and all of them know the story of the time when great grandfather, great uncle or cousin James Gathings came from North Carolina, settled there and started Covington. Most of them, pointing out the old landmarks still standing, can tell a visitor of the days these houses were beyond the fringe of "civilization", of the experiences of an aristocratic family of the old South in pioneer Texas, and of the activities of Colonel Gathings in developing the country. Stories of the Civil War too, augment the atmosphere of past glory that lingers about the little town.

Covington was founded in 1852 by James J. Gathings. Gathings was born in 1807 in North Carolina. His mother was Jane Jackson Gathings, kinswoman of Andrew Jackson, and his father was James Gathings, one of the wealthiest planters and slave owners of Anson County, North Carolina. In 1827 he was married to Martha Wall Covington, daughter of William and Mary Covington of North Carolina.

In the 1840's, Janes Gathings and his wife and other children, moved from North Carolina to Aberdeen, Mississippi and a little later to Texas, leaving the girls in school in North Carolina. The trip to Texas was a long, tedious trip no doubt to the older people, but to the children it was the very essence of adventure. An Account of the journey as given by Will Gathings, now deceased, who was at that time a boy of 7 or 8 years old, has a sort of breathless eagerness about it that stirs the imagination and leaves one a little wistful over the vanished enthusiasms of youth. To the little boy the journey assumed all the significance of Columbus venture into an unknown sea in search of an unknown world. As the preparations for the departure contnued through weeks, the excitement grew. Twenty wagons to carry all the goods they expected to need for months were assembled and everything from farming tools to shingle nails were loaded on. Furniture, food, clothing, livestock were gathered for the long trek across the country. Lands and all possissions they could not carry along were sold and all business culminated. Finally they were ready.

All the neighbors and relatives gathered to bid the Gathings family farewell and little Will Gathings waited impatiently for the termination of the reams of advice and promises, cautions and frequently repeated farewells. Will could see no point in the whole procedure and was eager to be off. At last when the family had been warned three times by every member of the gathering to be careful of the indians, the caravan got under way and to the tune of fading farewells, creaking wheeels and the cries of the drivers, the wagons bearing the Gathings family, 100 slaves and all their material possessions moved off toward the far "black lands" of Texas.

The first part of the journey was through the pine forests and muck bottoms toward Jackson, Mississippi. At night, when the woods began to grow dim and shadowy, the caravan halted. The negroes built hugh fires around which the whole group would sit listening to the tales the father would tell of the boundless prairies, of deep rich soil, and an abundance of game - of vast herds of buffalo, deer and antelope, wild turkeys and a few bears thrown in. There were accounts too of indians and of bands of outlaws who feared neither God, man or the devil-all of which made the boys eyes grow round with awe and something else that might have been fear or fascination. Perhaps with the negroes there was less awe and more fear. Anyway, Will remembers that one evening after the camp fire session was over, one of the negroes said to him: "it may be a fine place, Buddy, but what you gwinter do when dem injuns done kill you?"

It was not a cheerful prospect even to "Buddy" for the time being, but when the sun was shining again and the drivers cracked their whips above the heads of the mules and horses, he forgot the terrors of marauding indians and thought only what a fine thing it was to be moving on and on. The wagons moved slowly over the rough roads and it was days before they even reached Jackson. When the travelers became weary of camp fare, "Milly", the old negro mammy, would cook a dish of "cush", and prospects of the delicacy were enough to brighten the longest day. Then there were the descriptions of the new country to mull over, out of which Will could build concrete pictures. One phrase particularly struck his fancy and gave him "food for thought" during those days on the road. Texas was a land, his father had said, "where grass and flowers wave and milk and honey flow". Will hoped that the cream would be left on the branches and creeks of sweet milk and spent many pleasent moments imagining himself bogged up in honey.

At Vicksburg they came to the biggest river that Will had ever seen. He was much impressed merely at the width of it, but when he learned that not one of his father's horses could wade it, he was overwhelmed. They crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry boat, worked by horses. The old boat only carried about three or four wagons and a few horse at one time and they were two days in getting across.

One incident of the crossing impressed Will particularly. The boat had been loaded with its full complement of wagons and horses and had reached midstream when one of the mares missed her colt and began neighing. The colt had been left behind tied to a tree with a web halter and small rope. He was a two year old stallion, black as jet with a small white star on his forehead. He was called "Flatterer" because he was a colt of the then celebrated Flatterer stock of horses noted in Mississippi. Colonel Gathings was taking him to head his stud in Texas and was particularly anxious that nothing should happen to the colt. When Flatterer heard old Liza's neighing come floating across the water, he began to plunge. He snapped the tie rope and plunged into the muddy Mississippi. The boat was a half mile away, but Flatterer swam gamely until he reached it, when someone caught the halter and held him until the landing was made. Later Will rode two of his colts through the Civil War.

There were numerous descendants of his in the war, and there are horses of his blood in Texas now.

Once they were across the Mississippi the travelers troubles began. With teams splashing, drivers yelling and wagon wheels going to the hubs in the Mississippi River bottom, they bogged across Louisiana. The negroes cut saplings and "corduroyed" every foot of the road. Several nights they camped in sight of the camp fire of the previous night.

Passing through Shreveport, they entered Texas at a place called Waskom. East Texas was the ony settled part of the State and it looked pretty good to the travelers. But Colonel Gathings had his heart set on the black land, so the weary trek was continued. In April, three months after they left Aberdeen, they reached Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas and stopped there for a year. During that ear the negroes made cedar shingles that were used later in improving the Hill County house and furniture to supplement the limited amount that had been brought from the old home. These homemade articles, Will Gathings explained, were as good as could be bought as they were made from fine wood by skilled labor, for Colonel Gathings had taught his slaves different trades, among them that of cabinet maker, wheelwright, blacksmith, shoemaker and skilled mechanics.

In the Spring of the following year the Gathings family moved to Hill County, where Janes Gathings became the owner of about 10,000 acres of land located on the east side of the cross timber belt and established his home about one mile notrht of the present site of Covington.

One mile below where he settled he laid off 100 acres of land in a town plot. This was the nucleus of a town he named Covington for his wife, Martha Wall Covington. This land was subdivided into lots of from 2 to 10 acres and offered free of charge to anyone who would build, make it his home and lend his influence in building up the school. The only restriction being that no strong drink would be sold on the premises. Thus Covington became one of the first prohibition towns in Texas. Tne acres of ground in the embryo town were set aside for a burial ground and 12 for church purposes. Among the early settlers in this town were Rev. Thomas Stanford and his family and Dr. Church, who became the first president of the college Gathings later established.

On his own holdings Colonel Gathings erected about 20 house as homes for himself and slaves, a strong house and an office. They were built of logs and boards hewn from timbers. The first Gathings home was a double log house, large middle hall with eight side rooms and a gallelry. In a few years the original double log house was remodeled with brick made by the slaves from the soil. This house still stands with only a few repairs to alter the original appearance of the building.

It was a far cry from the elegance of a mansion in South Carolina to a home on the barren prairies of Texas. But Colonel Gathings did his best to make his family comfortable and happy. The furniture in the living room of the Texas home consisted of a Chickering grand piano, brought by ox wagon from New Orleans (now in the possession of a daughter, Mrs. A. B. Cogdell of Itasca), a walnut center table, a lamp table, a large library table, a settee, six softseated chairs and two large rockers. In the dining room were one large dining table of walnut, 20 chairs with machine turned posts and rawhide bottoms and two large walnut sideboards.

In each of the bedrooms were four beds of walnut with ash railings and slots and four trundle-beds. Each bed was equipped with a 40 pound feather mattress. In the kitchen were six large ovens and kitchen utensils that hung from wooden pegs, several chairs and a curving table. The floor coverings were of wild animal skins and the floors of sawed oak.

The country was wild enough to suit even little Will, who had to wear a cowbell to keep from getting lost in the tall prairie grass. There were the indians that the negroes had been so uneasy about, but they were friendly to the settlers. The indians made their home on an adjoining hill. Headed by Chief Jose Maria, they used to visit the Gathings home, often trading hides to Mrs. Gathings for a bit of red calico and making the children presents of hide string for whip crackers and buckskin bags. In spite of the fact that they believed the land rightfuly belonged to them, they never molested the family.

One year after James J. Gathings settled in Covington, his brother, Philip Gathings came to Texas with his family, livestock and slaves. He settled in an oak grove two miles south of Covington. His first home still stands and is occupied by his daughter, Mrs. John A. Stevens, who was Lizzie Gathings.

The two brothers improved two of the largest and best equipped stock farms in Texas. Philip Gathings made a specialty of stock raising and fine fowls. He was very fond of pets and had a variety of deer and antelope. They were allowed to run at large and brought home wild deer on coming in a night, so that there was always a supply of venison.

Colonel Gathings also owned one of the largest hog ranches in Texas. His hogs ranged the cross-timbers for miles around feeding on acorns. At two years old the hogs were fat but the fat was so oily that if the hog was killed in that condition 50% of the weight of the bacon was lost in curing. Consequently the hogs were top-fed for 30 days before killing with grain and corn. In the early winter Colonel Gathings would select from his large herds about 20 hogs and prepare them for his meat supply. There was a total supply of lard and bacon of about 50,000 pounds yearly.

In addition to the hogs he would slaughter weekly one beef, one goat, one kid and one mutton for frest meat. All kinds of fowls and a bountiful supply of wild animals from buffalo down to squirrels were available. Other items in the menu of the pioneer family were sorghum syrup and sugar made from sorghum, coffee made from parched rye, vegetable, butter, cheese, curd and bread made from fine flour from the mills.

James Gathings was a stock raiser and introduced Durham cattle into this part of the State. But he was interested primarily in machinery and during the fifties he established a steam mill, saw mill, tannery, shoe, boot, saddle and harness plant, machine and wood shops, improved cloth loom and brickyard ... all the first in Hill County and among the first in Texas. Considering that all the tools and machinery for these plants had to be hauled by ox team from New Orleans, 700 miles away, the magnitude of the achievement becomes apparent.

In the steam mill were manufactured three grades of flour, shorts, bran and also good corn meal and chops. In the machine shop, Colonel Gathings manufactured farming implements, wagons, coffins, knives and furniture. In the tannery all raw material was converted into leather which is turn was used in his shoe and saddle shops .... and in the mill lumber was made from oak, ash, hickory and walnut logs. Brick and lime were burnt for building material. All these establishments were run full time during the fifties and sixties.

All the activities of these two pioneers were not material. In the early sixties, James and Philip Gathings established Gathings College, which immediately became the largest and best school in Texas, having an enrollment of over 200 boys and girls from all over Texas. In connection with the college there was a military school established to prepare the young men for military duty.

At the time the Civil War had just begun and men were making the tremendous decision of whether they should fight for the Nation or for the cause of the South. As a leader pressure was placed upon Colonel Gathings from both sides. But he was first and last a Southerner and lent his services to the South. In September 1863, he received a letter from Henry E. McCulloch, Brigadier General, asking him to help force Texans to report for service. The letter is still in the possession of the Gathings Family and is as follows:

"North Sub Mil. Dist.- Bonham, Texas, September 20, 1863"

Sir:

As soon as I reached this section of the country and conversed with its true men, I saw that the kind of pacific spirit set forth in the President"s proclamation ought to apply to this people, and issued an address calling upon all to unite and stand together in defense of their homes. This seems to have met a hearty response among the people to whom I have access. But there are some in the brush that I have not been able to reach by this process. I can not go to them though those who are willing to work for their country and this I believe every true man will do if he is only shown how to do it.

At a council of our friends my attention was called to you as one of those who could aid me in this work and I now write to ask you to take hold of this matter and go to those men that are in the brush and urge them to come out and do their duty. I am satisfied that these men do not desire to do wrong. They cannot be opposed to our holy cause. They cannot be friendly to our enemies. But that they have simply come to wrong conclusions about their duty to the country ... the country in which they live, their friends and families live. I cannot believe that they are willing to destroy the happiness of their mothers, wives and daughters and the prospects of their sons by having such disgrace heaped upon them. They have diregarded the proclamation of the President and amnesty orders of General Smith. But I am unwilling to give them up without one more effort to get them to turn back to their true allegiance to their country and authorize you to go among them and in the name of my country offer them full pardon for the past if they will come in, report to me, and do their duty. Assure them of full pardon for all past offense against military law and let them know that they can come in with perfect safety now. And while I authorize you to do this, let me beg you to inform them frankly if they do not and will not listen to this last proposition ... a pardon and last appeal to their love of country, family, home, honor, good name, reputation and everthing dear to them ... that I will have to force them to come in by strong arm of miltiary power. And when driven to that every hope of pardon and reconciliation ceases and that I will hunt them down as the enemies of my country and her people. That I will send armed forces to take them dead or alive. That I will occupy for a time with an armed party the home of each of them, will cut off all communication between them and their families and if that should fail to bring them in will be under the painful necessity of holding them as hostages and if needs be rather than fail to reach them will confiscate and destroy their property. Tell them I offer them peace, pardon and friendship. And if they refuse warn them of the consequences. The best of the country join me in this last appeal and approve the means of force which I will use if all other means fail. Among there are B.H. Epperson; Thockmorton; R.H. Taylor; Saul A. Roberts; S. C. Robertson; John H. Brown and many others with whom I have consulted.

Should they agree to come in, a note from you to report to me is all they need to make the way open and easy. Those who belong to commands east of the Meiss River will be organized or placed in commands here for the present. All others will be kept here until they can go to their own commands or until I can get permission to organize them for service here, which I shall try to do. But they must understand that they will not be allowed to elect a new set of officers when there is such a supply now in the army. But that officers will be assigned to the command of them.

Respectfully,

Your Servant,

Henry E. McCulloch

GATHINGS refused these overtures.

During the Civil War, Governor Houston offered him a commission as Colonel and later as Brigadier General, but he refused both honors, saying that he was to old for military duty and could do more at home. And he did serve at home. There were two or three hundred women, children and aged people left in and about Covington that were without food, shoes and clothing. Colonel Gathings ran his shoe shop, machine shop, mill and looms free of charge for the benefit of the needy people. From all over Hill County and from different counties they came with their empty sacks and went away with flour, meat and shoes. In addition to this he mounted, equipped and clothed a large number of soldiers free of charge.

Colonel Gathings also experienced the days of reconstruction in Texas when reason went wild and ignorance and prejudice ruled the country. The following account taken from a history of Johnson and Hill Counties gives an incident, typical of the era, in which Colonel Gathings figured.

During the reconstruction period, General E.J. Davis was elected Governor of the State, under the "radical" regime, and during his administration came the odious militia bill, police bill, printing law, school law and all the leading "radical" measures of the Twelfth Legislature, which culminated in martial law for Hill, Walker, Limestone and Freestone Counties, and the murder of Godley, House, Mitchell, Applewhite and others by negro policemen.

In the Fall of 1870 one James Gathings and "Sol" Nicholson killed a negro man and woman in Bosque County and fled, it was supposed to this county. Soon afterward, one morning before sunrise, Lieutenant Pritchett and two other officers and four negroes, under the authority of Governor Davis, went to the residence of Colonel J. J. Gathings, a distant relative of one of the refugees, near Covington in this county and demanded opportunity to search the house for "Little Jim Gathings". The Colonel met them at the door and told them he was not there. They insisted and he asked them for their authority, and they said they had it in Waco and he then told them that they could not search his house except by force of arms. Two of the men then drew out their pistols and said that they intended to do that very thing. Next, Pritchett told the negros to go in and search.

Gathings then seized a shotgun and declared that he would shoot the first negro that came in ... a white man could go in but no "nigger". The search was made but no boy found. The officers and the negroes then started towards Covington. Gathings had them arrested before night, for searching his house without legal authority. They gave bond for their appearance at court, but sent word that they were going to mob Gathings and the citizens stood guard at his house for eight nights. The mob however did not appear. Nor did they appear at court, although Gathings and his friends were on hand.

In the meantime Governor Davis issued writs for the arrest of Gathings and his friends to be served by Sheriff Grace. But when the matter came up the authorities said they wanted only an amicable adjustment and proposed to release Gathings if he would pay the cost of the proceedings thus far, which amounted to nearly $3,000, a sum which was readily raised by Gathings and his friends. Afterward when Coke was elected Governor, the State reimbursed Gathings. James T. Ratcliff of Hillsboro was his attorney.

After the reconstruction days, Texas was developed more and more. New and more modern machinery was brought into the state and manufacturing concerns were established over the country. The various shops and plants were discontinued one by one until now there is little left to show that Covington was once a manufacturing center.

A few documents in the possession of the Gathings Family testify still to the incidents of the past. A number of occupation tax receipts are irrefutable records of the porportions of the manufacturing industry that Colonel Gathings carried on. One of them reads like this: "Received of James J. Gathings the sum of $200 which enables him to pursue the occupation of tanner in Covington, Hill County, for the year 1863 and further $21.81 being the tax on sales of 2 1/2 percent on $72 for the quarter ending 30 September 1863".

Numbers of land grants are still in the possession of the family. One of the oldest written on heavy parchment was given in 1855 by Governor Houston covering the land where Covington now stands. The grant was given during Houston's first term in office. It was during the second term that he was such a close friend of Colonel Gathings and it was during that time that he was so often a guest in the house, Mrs. A. B. Cogdell, his daughter, recalls. Another grant was given by Governor Wood in 1839.

The family also treasures a voluminous manuscript that was to have been a history of these early years in Texas. It was begun by David Gathings, a son of Colonel Gathings, who died last January, leaving his work unfinished. Other than these, there are but a few landmarks ... a couple of old houses, a school building with new brick veneer, to tell the story of the activity and prosperity that once belonged to Covington.

Extracted from the Magazine Section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Sunday Record, Sunday, May 19, 1929 by Gertrude Thornhill.

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CITY OF COVINGTON - From "The Heritage of Hill County, Texas" 2006

Covington, situated in northwestern Hill County, 14 miles north of Hillsboro and 15 miles south of Cleburn (Johnson County), was founded by James Jackson Gathings (see related article). In 1851, he and his wife Martha Wall Covington left Aberdeen, Mississippi on a migration of over 640 miles, ultimately leading to the fertile "black lands" of Texas.

With a wagon train consisting of twenty wagons loaded with all their worldly possessions, they crossed the mighty Mississippi river at Vicksburg, continued to Shreveport, Louisiana and entered Texas near Waskom. In April 1852, three months after they left Aberdeen, they arrived in Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas. After staying near Richland Creek for a year, the caravan arrived in what is now the Covington area in the spring of 1853. It was during this era that Navarro County was split in two (in May 1853) to create Hill County.

Colonel Gathings, as he came to be known, established his home about one mile north of the present site of Covington. A year after James came to Texas, his brother Philip, along with his wife Elizabeth White of North Carolina, and their two children at the time made the long journey to Texas and settled in an oak grove two miles south of Covington. The two brothers developed two of the largest and best stock farms in Texas. In addition to operating one of the largest hog farma in Texas, James owned well over 5,000 acres and along with T. M. Westbrook introduced Durham cattle to this state. At the nucleus of the town, which James named in honor of his wife's family, he laid off one hundred acres in a town plat. Ten acres of ground around the embryo town was set aside for a burial ground and twelve acres were designated for church purposes. The remainder of the land was subdivided into lots from one to ten acres and offered free to anyone who would build, make it his home and lend his influence in building up the school (see related article on Gathings College). The only restriction was that no strong drink would be sold on the premises. The burial ground is now known as the Covington Cemetery (see related article).

James Gathings was interested in macinery and prior to 1860 established a steam mill, saw mill, tannery, machine and wood shop, cloth loom and brick yards, as well as a shoe, boot and saddle plant - all a first in Hill County and among the first in Texas. Covington became a manufacturing center, supplying all this portion of the country with shoes, clothing, furniture and bricks. It far surpassed Ft. Worth in population and significance. Considering that all the tool and macinery for the plants had to be hauled by ox team from New Orleans, 700 miles away, the magniturde of the achievement becomes apparent. All these establishments were run full time during the 1850's and 1860's.

Besides the home and school, the other institution sacred in the hearts of these pioneer founders was the church. The Crhirstian heritage was perhaps originally established here in the early 1850's when a small group of women met under the shade of a tree for prayer service. As a result of that meeting, the Medtodist Church of Covington was organized under the auspices of Martha Wall Gathings. In 1854 this organization was known as the Clearfork Circuit and Mission. B. F. Kemp was presiding elder. In 1855, the Circuit was supplied by Reverend Walker, and in 1856 Lewis J. Wright was the Circuit Rider.

In 1857, the Methodist Church, south of Covington was organized with thirty-seven members. Reverend Fountain P. Ray was the Pastor in charge. Then in 1897, a building was started by Rev. C. L. Ballard and completed during the pastorate of Rev. Charles Davis. It was in 1929 that a new church building was erected during the pastorate of Rev. Hayden Edwards. Rev. J. F. Renfro was District Superintendent. The present location was deeded to the church by Nettie Gathings in 1915.

The Church of Christ, organized about 100 years ago, was originally located near the school house. Mr. & Mrs. Burks and family were early members of the church. Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Thames and the Nix family and many more have served the church devotedly for many years. There have been three buildings that have served as church homes.

Th Cowley family was instrumental in the organization of the Baptist Church. The members of the family came to Texas by wagon train in 1872. They were mostly of the Baptist faith. Cowley's Chapel was first built and later the church was constructed in the town of Covington.

In 1922, a new high school building was built using part of the old Gathings College, but this was replaced with a modern bulding in 1965. Superintendent in the early 1980's was Mr. David Wood, a great-great grandson of James J. Gathings.

The first Covington post office was established on July 11, 1855 with Colonel Gathings as the first postmaster. Mrs. Wilie Gathings, widow of grandson of Mr. Gathings served as postmaster from Feburay 5, 1941 until 1942. Other postmasters include Ben Sanford, Andy Campbell, and Mrs. Bertie Marbut.

After the dismal civil war "reconstruction" period, development of Texas started again. New and more modern machinery was brought into the state and manufacturing concerns were also established elsewhere in the state. Afterwards the various shops and plants in Covington ere discontinued one by one.

A renewed vigor occurred when the Texas and Brazos Valley Railroad came to Covington about 1904. One of the social events of the day was meeting the train in the afternoon. When Covington was at its peak during the early 20th century, some of the businesses were the Covington Garage (T. E. Love, Owner); Cowan Brothers Grocery; Bradshaw and Co. (Hardware and Farm implements); Marvin McCall Lumberyard; C. H. Cartwright Cotton yard and Building Materials; J. D. Jones General Merchandise; First Guaranty State Bank, (M. T. Davis, President; J. W. Harper & R. C. Smith, Cashiers); Cecil and Company (Dry Goods); Fuller Drug Store (L. E. Fuller, Owner); Martin and Gathings Blacksmith shop; J. W. Rivers Grocery; E. C. Henderson Barber and Tailor Shop; R. A. Norton Meat Market; W. M. Harris's Mill; M. T. Sprouse's Restarurant; Jim Gathings Livery Stable; S. C. Thames Drug Store and Ice Cream Parlor; Hotel (run by a Mr. Green); Gathings Gin; The Sanford Gin; and the Wiseman and Paschal Grocery, (later became Wiseman Bros.). Dr. Joseph Patterson Wier (son of Capt. Wier, grandson of James J. Gathings) was the only doctor in town at that time. He had his office in the S. C. Thames building and continued the legacy of his step-father Dr. Astyanax Mills Douglass who was formerly the only doctor in town between 1868 and 1908.

The railroad ceased operating along the track to Covington in the early 1930's. After this time there was another gradual decline in the town. The bank closed in 1966 and this added to the decaying infrastructure.

In November, 1974 the town was incorporated. Mr. John H. Milburn was elected the first Mayor followed by Mayor J. B. Carutheres. The members of the council over that early period were W. J. Gathings, Myrna Thurston, J. B. Carutheres, Jim Jutson, Jack Hargis, Monte T. Richardson, Nancy Kiblinger, and Wileta Gee Gathings McCall, City Secretary (a great grand-daughter of James J. Gathings).

Today few businesss are left to remind one of the busy place Covington once was. But redevelopment in rapidly urbanizing north centeral Texas is likely to create renewed growth and opportunitues in Covington, where an atmosphere of past glory and a pioneer spirit continues today.

Submitted by: Mrs. Wileta Gee Gathings McCall, P.O. Box 132, Covington, TX 76636. Edited, compiled and typed by: John P. Wier, P.O. Box 850, Grandview, TX 76050 based on an August 24, 2004 interview with Wileta. Sources: Family records, letters, traditions; Hill County HIstorical Commission. A History of Hill County, TX 1853 -1980, Library of Congress 80-53547, printed by Texian Press, Waco, Tx, 1980 (article on page 118); Bailey, Ellis, A History of Hill County, TX 1838-1965, Itasca, TX; Texian Press, Waco, TX 1968; A Memorial and Biographical History of Johnson & Hill Counties, TX, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1892.

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HISTORY OF COVINGTON By Wileta G. McCall, Great Grandaughter of James J. Gathings

Covington is situated in the northwestern part of Hll County and about five miles from the Johnson County line.

Covington was funded in 1852 by Colonel James J. Gathings. Mr. Gathings was born in Anson County, North Carolina in 1817. He was married to Martha Wall Covington in 1838. The family left North Crolina in the late 1840's. Its members had twent wagons loaded with merchandise they expected to need for months ahead. With all their wordly possissions and about one hndred slaves, they traveled off toward the far "black lands of Texas:. It was sprintime when the caravan reached Hill county. (note: Actually the family went to Aberdeen, Mississippi for several years, before traveling on to Texas).

The Gathings family became the owner of about ten thousand acres of land located on the east side of the timber belt. He established his home about one mile north of the present site of Covington. This land was subdivided into lots from one to ten acres and offered free to anyone who would build, make it his home and lend his influence in building up the school. This consisted of one hundred acres and was the nucleus ofthe town he named for his wife, Martha Wall Covington. Th ony restrictions put on the land offered free were that no strong drink be sold on the premises. Thus Covington was one of the first prohibition towns in Texas. Ten acres of ground around the embryo town were set aside for a burial ground and twelve acres were designated for chuch purposes.

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Col. James Jackson Gathings, Sr.'s Timeline

1817
December 1, 1817
Anson County, North Carolina
1838
December 27, 1838
Age 21
Richmond, NC, United States
1840
September 7, 1840
Age 22
Richmond, North Carolina, United States
1842
March 31, 1842
Age 24
Richmond, North Carolina, United States
1843
June 19, 1843
Age 25
Richmond, North Carolina, United States
1844
September 20, 1844
Age 26
Richmond, Virginia, United States
1846
November 18, 1846
Age 28
Richmond, North Carolina, United States
1849
January 11, 1849
Age 31
Aberdeen, Monroe, Mississippi, United States
1850
December 6, 1850
Age 33
Monroe, Mississippi, United States