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PIONEER PERSONALITIES IN BRIDGEPORT

By the late Mrs. Virgil Montrief. Taken from the Centennial
Edition of the Wise County Messenger of 1956. Edited and
brought up to date by Dr. D.C. Sipes

WILLIAM HOWELL JOHN: Mr. W.H. John was born in Mr. Carmel, Pennsylvania, in 1868. His father moved to Virginia when William was eighteen. In 1900 he was brought to Bridgeport, Texas, by W.H. Aston to operate the recently formed Bridgeport Coal Company mines. At that time there were two mines, the Cocklebur, later abandoned, and the so-called No. 2. Mr. John's first task was to pump the water out of No. 2 and get the mine in operation. Later he opened a third mine, called No. 3. About 500 men were employed in various capacities. A good proportion of the miners were Mexican. Mr. John donated a small building for use as a school for the Mexican children when local prejudice debarred them from the regular schools. He also gave land for a Methodist Mexican church where his wife conducted a Sunday School for these people. Mr. John always had the admiration and loyal support of the men and with the aid of his mine superintendents, especially the late T.F. McAfee and the late Tom Byrnes, work went smoothly. At this same time the company also operated a general store, of which one of the managers for many years was Mr. E.T. Bingham. Mr. John was the manager and operator of the mines until the use of oil and gas as fuel forced the closing of the mines in 1931. Mr. John died in 1935 after a long illness.

THOMAS J. BUCKNER, M.D.: Dr. Thomas J. Buckner was born in Martinsville, Indiana, October 16, 1850. After studying medicine he began practice in Hileman, Indiana, where he married Miss Ella Long. She was a niece of James Proctor of Old Bridgeport. When her health failed, Dr. Buckner brought her and their two small sons to Old Town in 1860 hoping to benefit her health. He engaged in raising sheep to supplement his practice of medicine in the sparsely settled community. The calls in those days were made by horseback. After the death of his wife, he put his sons in the care of an aunt and uncle in Indiana. In March, 1888, he married Miss Laura Kirby of Indiana and returned to Bridgeport to continue his practice. With the coming of the Rock Island he moved to the new town. His home was the fourth residence built in Bridgeport and is still occupied. His son, Oscar, became a druggist. The young son, Kossie, a physician, opened the first hospital in Bridgeport. He was known as the "young doctor" and Dr. T.J. as "old Doc." Patients continued to come see what "old Doc" said after they had consulted the young Doc. Dr. Buckner died in 1904 at the age of fifty-four.

KAKER BROTHERS: On May 1, 1899, the brothers, J.A., W.J., and L.J., formed a partnership and purchased a small stock of hardware in a small plank building from L.H. Bomar-inventory $1,700. John Kaker was manager. When he died in 1914 he left his equipment to his only son, Clarence Kaker. The original business developed to such an event that it enabled them to erect five brick buildings on five lots in Block 52 of downtown Bridgeport. The hardware store was managed by L.H. Kaker after John Kaker's death. In 1931 an independent grocery store was added, called Economy Cash. The hardware department continued until 1946 and was sold to E.W. Jones. The grocery at that time doubled its capacity and became an ultra modern and beautiful store on what was known as "Kaker Corner." The store was completely destroyed by fire in October, 1962.

P.C. FUNK, M.D.: Dr. P.C. Funk was born near Springfield, Missouri, February 15, 1860, and in 1861 he was brought to Texas where he spent his life. In 1880 he began teaching as a vocation. The Wise County schools in which he taught included Decatur, Alvord, and Audubon. About the year 1891 he entered the University of Louisville Medical School at Louisville, Kentucky, and graduated from the institution March 13, 1894. Dr. Funk was married February 10, 1866, to Miss Martha C. Harting. Dr. Funk began the practice of medicine in Alvord, Texas. In October, 1894, he moved to Bridgeport, where he was in active practice until he retired in 1936. No other physician ministered to the community as long as Dr. Funk. During the active years of his practice of medicine he was a member of the Wise County Medical Society, State and American Medical Association, and Texas Railway Surgeons Association. He served as a local physician for the Rock Island Railroad from 1908 until 1942. Dr. Funk found time from his busy practice to serve as superintendent of the Baptist Sunday School for thirty-five years, taught the Men's Bible Class for twenty-five years, and was church treasurer for many years. He was also active in the State Baptist organizations as well as locally. When the First National Bank of Bridgeport was organized, Dr. Funk purchased some of the original stock. He was made a director, later vice-president, and for many years served as chairman of the board of directors. On May 14, 1942, Dr. Funk died in the Bridgeport Hospital. His wife preceded him in death January 8, 1933. They were the parents of four boys and one girl. The youngest son, Theron H. Funk, was a successful medical doctor in Fort Worth, Texas, until his death on February 1, 1962. A grandson, Dr. P.C. Funk, is a successful medical doctor in Dallas, Texas. Owen Funk, the only living son, is a successful and respected Bridgeport businessman.

TRAN LEE RAY: Mr. T.L. Ray was born October 1, 1869, in Prentice County, Missouri. His father moved to Texas when Tran was five years old, and settled near the old town of Bridgeport. In 1879 they moved into the township of Old Bridgeport. As a boy in his early teens, he delivered mail twice a week over the old Toll Bridge to the community of Kingsville, sometimes swimming the river to save the twenty-five cent toll fee. He worked at farming and in the gins. He was a partner in the Poindexter Drug Store when it re-located in West Bridgeport a year before the Rock Island was completed. On the East side he later ran a general merchandise store for Hatcher and Tinsley. He was elected constable and served nine year, then City Marshal and Tax Collector, retiring in 1933 because of a heart ailment. He died on November 25, 1957. He was the father of Wilson Ray, president of the First National Bank.

CHARLES H. HARDCASTLE: The Rock Island Railroad sent Charles Hardcastle of Marion, Kansas, to Bridgeport May 1, 1893, as a townsite agent. He assisted in surverying the town, and erected the first building in Bridgeport-a two-room structure for a town lot office. The sale of town lots was held on June 3, (or 13th.), 1893. A few years later the School Board elected him superintendent of the first grade school when the man contracted for the position resigned at the last moment. Mr. Hardcastle served two terms in that capacity. He was postmaster of Bridgeport under the Democratic administration. He was followed by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Hardcastle, under the McKinley administration. Later he became claim agent for the Rock Island and held that position for twenty-five years. Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle and children moved to Oklahoma in 1906 and remained there about thirty years. In later life he and his wife returned to Bridgeport. He died March 1, 1942.

HARRY HARDY: Mr. Harry Hardy was born in England, November 21, 1861, and was brought to this country as a small boy. He and his older brother, Sam, were vitally connected with the early history of Bridgeport. The Wise County Coal Company, represented by Sam Hardy, superintendent, began the opening of the coal mines at the same time the town lots went on sale (1893). Mr. Hardy and his brother, Harry, opened No. 1 mine in East Bridgeport. Harry was mine foreman, and then superintendent for a short while before the mine closed, about 1906. His brother and family moved to Newcastle in 1908. Harry was elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1929 and served almost seven years at a trying time when Bridgeport was being built, a water system installed in the city, and the high school gymnasium erected. It was during his administration in 1934 that the catastrophe at the filtration plant took place and Dr. Bruckner's hospital burned. Mayor Hardy was the man for the hour. He died at the home of his son, Luke Hardy, in Bridgeport on March 9, 1944, a short time after his wife's death, and not long after their Golden Wedding anniversary.

HENRY G. LEONARD: Mr. H.G. Leonard was born in Coffeeville on October 22, 1873. His parents died when he was a child and he was reared by his aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Stevens, of Gainesville, Texas. Mr Stevens owned land in and near Bridgeport and was active in the organization and development of the new town. His nephew, Henry, came at its inception, about 1892. At first he was bookeeper for the Wise County Coal Company. Then he had charge of the dry goods and grocery store for Leonard and Stevens. He worked in the first bank, "The Coal City," owned by his uncle. In 1897 he married Miss Natalie Edgar of Weatherford, the first music teacher in Bridgeport. Pre-eminently, Mr. Leonard's name in Bridgeport is connected with banking. He organized the First National Bank of Bridgeport in 1907 and was connected with it for twenty years. During that time he trained two successful bankers, Frank Turner and D.A. Campbell. In 1927 Mr. and Mrs. Leonard and their three children moved to Vernon, Texas, where he established the H.G. Leonard Lumber Company. Mr. Leonard died in Vernon, September 15, 1955.

J.A. PROCTOR (By Mary Cates Moore; from The Messenger of 1956): J.A. Proctor was born in 1829 in Kentucky. He and his wife, the former Mary Hunt, were both from Rock Castle County, Kentucky. Both came to Texas the same year and to Wise County the following year, 1854. They were the first couple to be married in Wise County. His original land pre-emption was the 160 acres on which most of Decatur now stands, which he donated for the location of the County seat. The Proctors then moved to Sweetwater Creek and several years later to Old Bridgeport, which became their permanent home. And so it was because of the generosity of a Bridgeport citizen that Decatur grew atop its hill.

WILLIAM MONTFORD: William Montford, Sr., and wife, Jane, came to this country from Northern Ireland. They bought a place five miles southwest of Bridgeport and made their home there until their death. They were charter members of the First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport. Mr. Montford was an elder, and he and his family traveled regularly to services by horse and buggy.

JOHN MONTFORD: John Montford was the son of William Montford and father of local jewelryman Ross Montford, to whom we are indebted for this information on the Montford history. The John Montfords had a farm on the Bridgeport-Boonesville road, and they lived there until their deaths. Ross can remember his father speaking of Crittendon's General Store (see map of Old Bridgeport - very large file) and other places of business such as the blacksmith's shop, the hotel, and rooming house. Tom Jeter, Ross's grandfather on his mother's side, owned the hotel. Ross states that he can recall a cotton gin and saw mill on the Trinity River in old town Bridgeport. He remembers his father saying since there was no market for cottonseed at that time, the farmers kept what they needed to plant and dumped the rest in the river. He also remembers his father speaking of the steel bridge built over the Trinity. Tran Ray, the father of Wilson Ray, told Ross that one day while checking his cattle, grazing where the hospital now stands, he came upon a man surveying and asked what he was doing. It turned out to be Charles Hardcastle who worked for the railroad and was surveying the townsite of Bridgeport. You will find more information on Mr. Hardcastle elsewhere in this section on Bridgeport pioneers.

JIM NED: Jim Ned was chief of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, one of the few tribes that were considered friendly to the white pioneers. According to the book "Pioneering North Texas," he was such an adept horse thief that he left his victims feeling that he had done them a favor by stealing their horses. If horse feed had cost then what it does now, I could easily understand this. It didn't however. His little con game consisted mainly of stealing horses, hiding them, and then recovering them for the victims at a reasonable fee. Why shouldn't everyone be happy with such an arrangement? They were lucky to get them back at all. He must have been a well-respected thief, for many things have been named for him in this part of the country. There is Jim Ned Mountain in Jack County, Jim Ned Creek in Coleman County, and there was once a Jim Ned School in Western Wise County which operated until the early thirties. I guess it might be said that Jim was a pretty nice old reprobate.

M.P. (MACK) MASK: Mack Mask was a pioneer merchant that many will fondly remember. He was owner of a dry goods store called Mack's Shoe Store. The reason for it being called a shoe store was the fact that Mack had peddled shoes for a living many years ago in Bridgeport. When you chanced to meet someone carrying a package from Mack's, there was no doubt from whence it came. His wrapping paper was quite unique. "A WOMAN HUNG" was blaringly stated in bold, large letters. In smaller letters the paper read ... "her arms around her husband's neck and said ... let's go to Mack's Shoe Store, the place to save a dollar." In the last years of the store's existence, Mack's going-out-of-business sale became an annual affair. The final going out of business sale was held in January, 1970. Mister Mack passed away later the same year.

B.B. POORE: B.B. Poore was a pioneer merchant of Bridgeport until his death on February 6, 1954. His widow, Callie, still lives at 1405 Halsell Street in Bridgeport.

COLONEL W.H. HUNT: Colonel Hunt was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1815 and came to Texas in 1836, fought in the Mexican War and became a government surveyor. He was a member of the commission which selected the location for the State's Capitol Building, and started the first mail route between the State Capitol and North Texas. He acquired huge land holdings in western Wise County. His Cactus Hill Ranch headquarters were located on a hill facing Hunt's Creek, a tributery of the Trinity River. This was near the crossing of the old Jacksboro and Decatur road and one could see for many miles in all directions. Most of the lower land is now covered by Lake Bridgeport. Colonel Hunt was a truly colorful pioneer of Wise County and exercised a considerable influence over the affairs of the area. Reverses beset him, however, during the Civil War. His lovely wife died, and his children, along with their governess, were sent to Decatur for protection from the Indians. Colonel Hunt was killed in a runaway accident between Bridgeport and Decatur, and his ranch holdings passed to other parties.

Poore's Drug Store

SOME PIONEER PERSONALITIES-Left to right: R.B.Robb, Gene Hoover, Barney Williams, and Oscar Poore

Some early pioneers

MAN IN SECOND row center is Marion Green. Young lad second from left first row is Jimmy Carrol's father.

Marion Green came to Texas from Conecuh County, Alabama, in 1874. He married Margaret Reddell, daughter of Charles Reddell in Grayson County, in 1876. He and his family moved to Wise County and settled two miles northeast of Bridgeport in the Thomas Community in 1890.

They purchased 240 acres and farmed there until his death in March, 1922. Marion and Elizabeth were the parents of twelve children, all of them are now deceased.

Direct descendants living in the Bridgeport area are: Gladys Mae Hudson, Donnie Green, Charles Wendell Green, Sheila Green, Mae Hawkins, Raymond Hawkins, Glenn (Buster) Green, Fannie (wife of Robert), J.D. Green, Annie Green (wife of Monroe), and Evelyn Johnson.

Grandsons that followed their grandfather as farmers are: Rupert, Marion (Shorty), Robert Lee (Bo), Jimmy Carrol, Sam, and J.M. (Geat).

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