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The Evolution of the
Montgomery Trading Post Myth

An Exposť
by: Kameron Searle
(Used with permission from the Texas History Page)

       I have been asked on several occasion why I have put so much time and effort into exposing the many errors in the Montgomery Trading Post myth.  There are three reasons why I have researched, studied and exposed the Montgomery Trading Post myth in so much detail.

  • First:  Almost every historian who has written a history of the town or county of Montgomery, Texas, has included the story of the Indian trading post that preceded the town of Montgomery.  Montgomery County historians have considered the story of the Indian trading post very important to the history of the town and the county since they began writing histories.
     

  • Second:  Since 1925, almost every historian has used the Indian trading post to try and explain the source of the name of the town and the county of Montgomery.  A so called Montgomery Trading Post has been offered by these writers since 1925 as the source of the name of the town and/or county.
     
  • Third and Most Importantly:  With the exception of the basic core truth (i.e. that there was an Indian trading post that preceded the town of Montgomery about a half mile north of the town below the hill on the creek), the Montgomery Trading Post Myth is not true!  There was never a Indian trading post anywhere in the vicinity of the present town of Montgomery, Texas known as the Montgomery Trading Post.  The dates that have been offered are wrong. The alleged founders of the so-called Montgomery Trading Post are all wrong.  In some versions of the Montgomery Trading Post myth, the location of the trading post is also wrong. Most versions of the Montgomery Trading Post myth also have many other details ascribed to them that have absolutely no basis in fact. 

   In this section we will look at the origin of the Montgomery Trading Post myth and its evolution over time.  First, we will look at a brief synopsis of the true details of the actual Indian trading post that preceded the founding of the town of Montgomery, Texas.  We will then look at the first documents that began to fictionalize the history of the trading post by substituting erroneous details for the true facts.  Beginning with the oldest documents that mention the trading post, we will watch the trading post's ownership, location, date of founding and other details evolve over about an eighty year period (1925-2008).  

   There was in fact an Indian trading post that preceded the town of Montgomery, Texas.  Founded in 1835, it was located about a half mile north of the present town of Montgomery under the hill on the creek that later became known as Town Creek.  Click here to read the detailed history of the Indian trading post that became the town of Montgomery, Texas.

   In reality the name I have given the Montgomery Trading Post myth is a misnomer. There is not just one Montgomery Trading Post myth.  There are as many different versions of the Montgomery Trading Post myth as there are authors who previously wrote histories about the Indian trading post that preceded the town of Montgomery, Texas.  As we will see, each historian changed the story a little.  Some of these historians changed the story a lot. 

   In reading their histories of the Indian trading post they call the Montgomery Trading Post, it becomes eminently clear that each of these historians either:

  • did not care to do any historical research,

  • assumed that the historical research had already been done,

  • assumed that there were no primary sources to be consulted or

  • had been told traditions and legends so convincingly that they assumed there was no reason to validate their accuracy. 

   As these historians did not look at primary sources with regard to the trading post, they were not confined by the actual facts and could freely speculate as creatively they pleased.

 The Montgomery Trading Post Myth

   Definition of myth (noun) - a fictitious narrative presented as historical but without any basis of fact.

   Over the last 80 years or so, numerous theories have been postulated regarding the early history of the Town and County of Montgomery, Texas.  Speculation as to the origin of the name of the Town and County of Montgomery, Texas has often been included in these theories.  These theories have evolved and culminated into what this author denominates the "Montgomery Trading Post Myth."

   According to the Montgomery Trading Post Myth, a trading post known as Montgomery Trading Post was owned and operated by one or more of the following people: Jacob Shannon, Owen Shannon and/or Margaret [Montgomery] Shannon or Andrew Montgomery.  According to the myth, the Montgomery Trading Post was located a half mile north or northeast of the present town of Montgomery on the Owen Shannon League near what is now known as Town Creek OR the Montgomery Trading Post was located a couple of miles west of the present town of Montgomery at the intersection of Loma del Toro and Lower Coushatti Trace.  [Note the various historians cannot even agree on details such as ownership, location and years of operation.]  The "Montgomery Trading Post Myth" further alleges that the lands around the Montgomery Trading Post were known as Montgomery Prairie or Montgomery Settlement and that the Town of Montgomery derived its name from this place and subsequently the County of Montgomery derived its name from the town.  Additionally, there are as many variations in the other details regarding the Montgomery Trading Post myth as there are historians who have written about it.

   This article will prove the Montgomery Trading Post myth is not true.  All the recent histories of Montgomery County, Texas are wrong. The Town of Montgomery and Montgomery County, Texas were NOT named after Jacob Shannon, Owen Shannon, Margaret [Montgomery] Shannon, William Montgomery or Andrew Montgomery!  Furthermore, the town and county of Montgomery were not named after any place known as Montgomery Trading Post, Montgomery Settlement or Montgomery Prairie.  Those places never existed. 

   The evidence will also show that no one named Montgomery or Shannon had anything to do with the founding of the Indian trading post or the town of Montgomery, Texas. The evidence will also show the founder of the town of Montgomery had no reason to name the town after anyone named Shannon or Montgomery.  

    In the Timeline below we will start with the true story of the Indian trading post and work our way forward.

Timeline

The Truth

January 1, 1831 - William C. Clark Purchased
600 Acres from John Corner 

September 15, 1835 - W. W. Shepperd Bought
200 acres from William C. Clark

W. W. Shepperd Founds Indian Trading Post
Shepperd founds Indian Trading Post.

July 8, 1837 - Town of Montgomery Founded
by W. W. Shepperd

"Old Town" of Montgomery
W. W. Shepperd and his partner J. W. Moody found the town of Montgomery of Montgomery on the 200 acres W. W. Shepperd purchased from William C. Clark in 1835.

1837 - Citizens of Washington County Petition
for the Creation of a New County

 December 14, 1837 - Montgomery County is Created

   County Created. Commissioners appointed to select county seat of Montgomery County.  Commissioners select the "old town" of Montgomery as the first county seat of Montgomery County. county business is conducted by county officials including Chief Justice Jesse Grimes and Clerk and Recorder Gwynn Morrison in the "old town" of Montgomery in February of 1838.

February 26, 1837 - Shepperd Buys 212 Acres
from John Corner

200 of 212 acres. Tract No. 4 = "Town Tract" 
3 days before first Commissioners court meeting

March 1, 1838 - First Montgomery County
Commissioners Court Meeting

The "New Town" of Montgomery

   On March 1, 1836.  Donation.

1839 - Major John Wyatt Moody Dies in Houston
Telegraph and Texas Register.

1849 - W. W. Shepperd Dies in Montgomery 

1885 - C. B. Stewart Dies in Montgomery 

July 7, 1922 - E. B. Stewart Writes Mrs. Brosig
"...entirely ignorant of the organization of
the 'principality' of Montgomery..."

Conclusion

   W. W. Shepperd founded the Indian trading post.  W. W. Shepperd in partnership with J. W. Moody founded the "old town of Montgomery.  W. W. Shepperd in partnership with J. W. Moody and through his agent, C. B. Stewart founded the "new town" of Montgomery.  These three men who were the only three men intimate with the details of the founding of the trading post and the town all died by 1885. Those who did not know the details of the genesis of the trading post, the town and its name, began to speculate and guess.  Erroneous details began to slip into the history as people began to make up details to fill in the blanks.  And the Montgomery Trading Post myth was born.

 The Myth

The Montgomery Trading Post Myth is Born

 1925 - Anna Landrum Davis Essay
"Old Montgomery"

   In 1925, Anna Landrum Davis wrote an essay, Old Montgomery, for a Statewide local history contest called the Caldwell Prize.   Influenced by her aunt, Mary Davis, and another woman named Lulu Shannon, Anna Landrum Davis, a senior high school student, would be the first to write a version of the Montgomery Trading Post Myth.

 Document - Old Montgomery Essay written for Caldwell Prize - Won 5th place. (To read more about it,  do a Google book search: "Anna Landrum Davis Montgomery County Texas". See University of Texas Bulletin, No 2546, Dec 8, 1925 - The Texas History Teachers Bulletin, Volume XIII, Number 1, pp 42-47.)

Contentions regarding the Trading Post

Changes in Montgomery Trading Post myth:

  • Davis substitutes Jacob Shannon for W. W. Shepperd and establishes the Montgomery Trading Post myth.
     
  • Maintained that the trading post or town receive its name from someone named jams Montgomery and his wife, Margaret Montgomery.

May 1, 1938 - Mary Davis History Paper
Written for the Senior History Class
(See
Early History of Montgomery, written by Mary Davis at the request of the Senior History Class.)
See,
Amongst Oldest - Mary Davis )

   There is a "book" (its really a ring binder) of materials transcribed by Lloyd A. Biskamp in 1998.  The Montgomery Historical Society sold these books as a fund raiser back in 1998.  Biskamp had gotten together with Bessie Price Owen and Anna Landrum Davis Weisinger and they let him transcribe many of their "histories" and other documents they had collected over the years regarding Montgomery County history.  These documents included papers and articles written by Mary Davis.

   On page 1 of the book is the Early History of Montgomery "written by Mary Davis at the request of the Senior History Class," May 1, 1938.  On page 5, the copy of the Mary Davis paper that was given to Lloyd A. Biskamp had a note written by Mary Davis to Bessie Price Owen that is incredible. 

   Now keep in mind the 1938 Mary Davis history paper will be quoted and relied upon by just about every historian that follows Mary Davis for almost 80 years including W. N. Martin, William Harley Gandy, Robin Montgomery, Harry G. Daves, Jr., Bessie Price Owen,  etc. as well as a number of compiled county histories.  Most of her statements about the trading post will be accepted as fact and later evolve into the of Montgomery Trading Post myths we have today.

   At the end of the Mary Davis paper, Early History of Montgomery, transcribed by Lloyd A. Biskamp in his 1998 book, Old Montgomery we find this very amazing note from Mary Davis to Bessie Price Owen on page 5:

"Bessie: I am sending you this to read.  It is not a history, and I don't think you will care to copy it. I didn't pretend to write a history, and I don't know who changed this title, when copying it.  I just strung along my memories of what my mother and others had told me, interspersed with "scraps" that I thought 16-year-old boys and girls might like.

I learned later from Matilda Rankin that the Charles Jones Academy was chartered before 1850.  And Old Dan Tucker was not written until sometime after this period.  I knew that at the time, and I meant to substitute another tune later when I could find one that was popular then.

Mrs. Dewey Dikeman has a copy of this, but I am sure you will not lose it.  Keep it until you have read it and copied anything you like.

M D"

___________________

Note:  This is extremely important!!! 

   The author of one of the single most influential histories in Montgomery County history wrote Bessie Price Owen a note and specifically told her that "it is not a history" and that she "didn't pretend to write a history."  Mary Davis then goes on to make it very clear to Bessie Price Owen that she just "strung along my memories of what my mother and others had told me."  Combined with the references to the Charles Jones Academy and Old Dan Tucker, it is obvious that she did no primary research.  The whole thing is based on pure hearsay. 

   And in my research on the Indian trading post, the "old town" of Montgomery and the "new town" of Montgomery, I never ran across Mary Davis' mother, Melissa Landrum, as one of those having anything to do with the organization of the trading post or the town.  In fact it appears that Melissa Landrum was born in 1834.  She was 1 when the trading post was founded by W. W. Shepperd in 1835. Melissa Landrum was 3 when the "old town" of Montgomery was founded in 1837 and she was 4 when the "new town of Montgomery was founded in 1838. When W. W. Shepperd sold his interest in the town to James McCown in 1839, Melissa Landrum was 5. 

   The most influential historian of her time (Mary Davis), just admitted to one of the most influential historians of her time (Bessie Price Owen) that her history paper was not a history. She admitted it had errors, was based entirely on hearsay. She put together a bunch of stories that she thought would interest a class of teenagers. Instead, she influenced every historian and history that came after her. Mary Davis died in 1944. The pen is mightier than the sword. Look at all the trouble Early History of Montgomery has caused. In 1938, Mary Davis did not have a clue as to the effect her paper would have. She just thought she was trying to get some teenagers excited about the town's early history.

   Anna Landrum Davis had relied on her aunt, Mary Davis, when she wrote her paper in 1925. In 1949, the Montgomery County Historicade will rely on this 1938 Mary Davis paper almost word for word. In 1950, W. N. Martin will rely on this 1938 Mary Davis paper. In 1952, William Harley Gandy will rely on this 1938 Mary Davis paper. Following the founding of the Montgomery Historical Society in 1955, The Choir Invisible will be published and will not only rely on the 1938 Mary Davis paper, but will quote it word for word in many places throughout the booklet. 

   And we see here in this note from Mary Davis to Bessie Price Owen that Mary Davis herself did not even consider the 1938 paper a history: "It is not a history." "I didn't pretend it was a history..." "I just strung along my memories of what my mother and others told me."

 1950 - W. N. Martin Master's Thesis
Sam Houston State Teachers College
Master's Thesis

1952 - William Harley Gandy Master's Thesis
University of Houston
Master's Thesis

Mid to Late 1950's - Montgomery Historical Society
Published The Choir Invisible

 1975 - Robin Montgomery Book
The History of Montgomery County

   Published in 1975, The History of Montgomery County by Robin Montgomery was the first history of Montgomery County published in book form.

 

 

| Home | Top  | Town of Montgomery, Montgomery County, Texas |
| History of Montgomery County by Harley Gandy |
| Amongst Oldest - Mary Davis |Texas History Page by Kameron Searle |


 

 

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Page Modified: 18 October 2016