Every Thursday on the Buena Vista Facebook page, we publish "Throwback Thursday," providing the history and photos of Evant, the origins of Buena Vista, and more. We collect those stories here...
Mr. Evan T. Brooks is the founder of the eponymous "EVANT." The Brooks family arrived in the area in 1876. In 1881, Brooks platted a townsite that was filed in Hamilton County as Brooksville. The same plat appeared in Coryell County records in 1884 as Evant, and so the town was born.
To provide the history of Evant, you have to include Asa and Elizabeth Langford. Evant didn’t become a town until 1884, but the Langford family arrived in the area nearly 30 years before that. Theirs was the first Anglo child born in the area. They donated land for the first school and the first post office. They sold 160 acres to Evan T. Brooks when came to the area in 1876, of which he set apart 60 acres for the settlement of the town of Evant.
Pompy Burney, the great-great grandfather of Buena Vista’s owner, knew Asa. “Old Asa” used to stay at Pompy’s house. Family history records that: “Asa would come and visit with my grandfather and they'd be sitting in a chair talking. Old Asa would have his gun beside him. If he moved to another chair he'd take his gun with him, and if he went to the table eating [he’d take it]. He'd tell my grandfather, 'Now, Pompy, you hear any commotion out there in the night, don't you interfere, cause ol' Asa can take care of himself.' So he (my grandfather) made it a point to remain neutral. It was the wise thing to do.”
For more fascinating snippets about that time and place, you can read here:
Another early settler in Evant was Benjamin Franklin Gholson and his wife Adeline (daughter of Asa Langford). “Frank” served as a Texas Ranger, and was a member of the company that recaptured Cynthia Ann Parker. During the Civil War, he participated in the retaking of Galveston. After the war, the Gholsons built a rock house in the valley just a mile south of Buena Vista, in an area now known as Gholson’s Gap. They raised nine children, with Frank passing away in 1932 at the age of 89 (just a few months before he and Adeline would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary). Adeline lived for eight more years. (Frank and Adeline, second seated couple from right, with other Texas Rangers and wives, 1921.)
To learn more about the preservation of the Gholson house, read here:
https://rockandvinemag.com/2019/03/the-gholson-house/. Want more history on the Gholson family? Read this book by his great-granddaughter, Donna Gholson Cook: https://www.amazon.com/Gholson-Brothers-Tdonna%20hick-Stories-Early/dp/1631320734/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=donna+gholson+cook&qid=1591845347&s=books&sr=1-1
Evant has had a school nearly as long as there has been a town. In 1875, Asa Langford donated four acres of land “solely for literary purposes.” By 1892, the community had erected a two-story, native stone, 30x60’ building, with a one-story, 30x40’ annex. The school district consisted of a four-mile area. In 1936, Evant built the rock gym that still stands today.
By 1909, Evant had a thriving commercial center, including: a corn mill, a gin, a livery stable and hotel, two blacksmith shops, two physicians, a drug store, a grocery store, a hardware store, and a meat processing facility. This photo shows the west side of the square in 1909. For a fascinating article (one that reads more like an advertisement for Evant than a journalistic piece), check out this excerpt from the Special Edition of the Gatesville Messenger and Star Forum, dated June of 1909.
If your teenagers think it's tough to date in this day and age, how about this alternative?! Ronnie Smith shared this photo with us from her Grandmother Smith's family photo album. Grandmother Smith thought the couple in the buggy on the right were a brother and future sister-in-law to Grandfather Smith. What she did know for certain, though, is that this is how young people "courted" at the turn of the 20th century. Look at those HATS!
Buena Vista's owners have been invested in Evant for a long time! The owner's great-great grandparents, Pompey and Ellen Callie Lee Burney, moved to Evant in 1884. Their son, John W. Burney, purchased the local hardware store in 1907. Despite burning to the ground at least once, the Burney Hardware Store operated on the west side of the square until around 1950.
Evant had two telephone companies. Which sounds great, except they were wired separately. For example, the drug store had two phones. You had to know which company an individual was on, then use the correct company's phone to make a call. More complicated, if your home was on one company, you couldn't call a friend who was on the other company!
Holland Young Price, Jr. was the son of the founder of one of the Evant companies, and went on to become a pioneer in the telephone industry. To read more about him, or hear his oral history, click here.
The first post office in Evant was established on February 23, 1876, under the name of “Cove.” (Shortened from Langford Cove, which was named after Asa Langford, who also served as the first postmaster.) In 1885, the post office changed its name from “Cove” to “Evant.” This is an undated photo of Acenith Wilson, who carried mail from Evant to Hamilton.
On October 12, 1918, Otto Burney landed a plane beside his brother’s house in Evant, Texas. (Incidentally, the house is still standing today - located on Brooks' Drive!) Judging from the crowd, it must have been quite the event!
The first drugstore in Evant was owned by Dr. H McNeill, as early as the 1890s. While we don’t have pictures of it, we do have photos of the drugstore owned by Robert Campbell beginning in the 1920s. The men pictured on the left are Robert Campbell and the pharmacist Doc Barnett.
The West Side of the Square looked like this in 1909. From left to right: J.M. Dixon's Drug Store, H.A. Flach's Grocery store, Dan Hartman's blacksmith shop, J.W. Burney's warehouse and hardware store (great-grandfather of Buena Vista's owner), R.M Hill's dry goods and groceries on the first floor and the Masonic Lodge on the second floor. Shown in this photo are some of the first autos owned in Evant (left to right: J.M. Dixon, H.Y. Price, and Henry Flach).
The "White Hotel" was located on the north side of the square. It was also known as the Phil Stevens Hotel and (we've heard, but can't verify) had a cafe located inside.
The Evant Gym was built by the Works Progress Administration ("WPA") in time for the 1935-36 school year. J.Y. Hamilton was the foreman (above). This gym is visible from Highway 281 today, and is still used by the Evant ISD.
A.O. Arnold's garage is still standing on the northwest corner of the square. In addition to operating a garage, "Yank" installed a "light plant" (i.e., a generator for the downtown merchants) in the late 1920s or early 1930s.
This photo, taken around 1898, was shared with us by Ronnie J. Smith. His grandfather, Charlie Smith (third from the left) and his friends are about to go hunting near Evant. Hunting provided a vital source of meat at the turn of the century in rural Texas.
Evant once had a movie theater, located on the north side of the square!
Here's a photo of Letha Manning Sheldon, longtime Evant native, in front of the theater when she was a girl.
Evant has always been a hub for agriculture - whether Angora Goat farmers, or kids and their livestock, or the preserve at Buena Vista. This photo is from the 1946 Livestock Show on the Evant Square.
Floyd Smith stands beside his barber chair in Evant. Even though we don't know who the recipient was, the back of the photo says, "That long face is because you are away, that empty chair needs you in it."
Ronnie Smith shared this photo of his ancestor, James Eli Townsend, one of the early settlers of Langford Cove. Ronnie wrote, "Unfortunately no date on it, or the identity of the little boy (and no name for the ram either). My great-grandfather owned the Townsend ranch west of Evant and Mom told me he had hundreds of sheep. Perhaps this is a new ram he'd recently purchased or one that he raised and was proud of it. Difficult to date, but my guess would be maybe circa 1910-1920. Sheep and their wool became very important in that era. There were no synthetic fibers and military uniforms were largely woolen. During World War I a critical shortage of wool for uniforms led Congress to create the Wool Act as wool was deemed to be a strategic product for national defense."
Featured is the Evant Band, circa 1939-40. The top photo is the band headed toward the school past the Masonic Lodge; the bottom photo is the band headed east on Brooks Drive toward Highway 281, led by J.Y. Hamilton on horseback.
In the 1970s and 80s, Evant held "Evant Events," complete with armadillo races (below). Channel 6 newsman Andy Shaw, with Leroy Yarbrough in the background, covered the event. (Check out the vintage "Evant Events" shirt!)
In 1980 and again in 1986, over 50 volunteers came together in Evant to present the Wagon Wheels Pageant, written and directed by Letha Sheldon. In the Safari office, we have a photo album of this magnificent community event!