An Official State of Texas Historical Marker stands beside state highway No. 63 about nine miles out of Burkeville in the direction of Jasper for the Farrsville Community, another one of the oldest communities of Newton County.
Farrsville is on Cow Creek in northwestern Newton County. It was named for Alfred Farr of Mississippi, who shortly after Texas “got free,” brought his family and slaves into Newton County and established the community. He operated a plantation on the site. Farr was preceded by James P. Hardy who came in about 1832 while the land was still under the impresario, Lorenzo dc Zavala, who started the Zavala Trail that ran a little south of the Old Beef Road, six miles north of Farrsville, Running cast the Zavala Trail forked in Newton County, one trail crossing the Sabine at Hadden’s Ferry and the other at the older ferry. Burr’s Ferry.
Farrsville Community played a far greater part in the early history of Newton County than one would suspect today at visiting the community.
The place was originally called Farr’s Mill. It was a water mill built by slave labor. The slaves were brought along with the settlers in the forties or early fifties. There were several large plantations about Farrsville. Farrsville lay on what for a time was known as the Military Road, used during the war by Confederate Troops. It was important as a stagecoach route which ran from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Burr’s Ferry in to Burkeville and Jasper, and thence south to Beaumont.
During its time, Farrsville has had a water mill, a gin, sawmills, and a gristmill. The sawmill cut lumber until the Wiergate mill opened in 1918, and the gristmill ran until 193?. The post office, which does not appear on ante-bellum lists, was discontinued in 1948, and the community gets mail on a rural route from the Wiergate post office. The school district became part of the Burkeville-Wiergate Independent School District by consolidation. There arc scattered residences over the community with a probable population of 100. Highway 63 runs through the community. Two stores arc in operation along the highway on Cow Creek.
The life of pioneer communities was far from easy and survival often meant that the people were strong, both in body and moral spirit.
Farrsville has been the home of many famous men of the day, among them Charles Hancock, who was for sixteen years sheriff and tax collector of Newton County. Once a year he would put what money was due the State of Texas in his saddlebags and ride his mule to the Capitol to settle Newton County’s account.
Farrsville Community was the home of Thomas C. Holmes, a Revolutionary War soldier. He is buried in what is called the Blackshear Fields on the southeastern part of the community. His grave bears a marker identifying him as a Revolutionary War Soldier. His name is listed in “TEXAS and the American Revolution” a publication of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Institute of Texan Cultures. He is one of the 46 mentioned in that list of Revolutionary War soldiers who came to Texas.
Some two or three miles distance from Farrsville itself lies Farr’s Chapel. The original Farr was a preacher, and he built the church. It served as a great camp meeting place. The faith, then and now, is Methodist.
Another church building stands close to the mill site. It was once used as a school house for the Farrsville Community. It was also a Methodist church.
An established date in Newton County for recalling “old times” is the Second Sunday in June when Farrsville has its annual homecoming. It is held at Farr’s Chapel which is steeped in history. One former resident described Farrsville: “One of the historic spots of East Texas is that of old Farrsville.” It is located in Newton County, between Jasper and Newton. A brief story of that community is told by Mrs. Emma Hilliard Teal, of Votaw.
She says, “I was born at Farrsville Dec. II, 1879. My parents, Wallace and Alice Hilliard, lived in the small community, with its store and post office. W.B. Powell, my grandfather, owned considerable property there.
“There was one grist mill, a lumber mill, a cotton gin, a general merchandise store and the post office. The mills were all operated by water power from Cow Creek. The community was on what was then known as ‘the big road’ that ran from Jasper to Newton and Burkeville. “The road forked, near Cow Creek, one branch going to Newton, and the other to Burkeville. A large pond supplied the mills, and the mills were operated by my father. The cotton gin had a press powered by a yoke of oxen. The gin stand was on the second floor, and the seed dropped to the first floor from the gin.
“The lint was placed in an adjoining room. Cotton farmers unloaded their seed cotton into stalls on the second floor and it was carried to the gin stand in a basket. The lint was carried to the press from the storage room in the same way.”
The Farrsville Community is one of the oldest in Newton County. It is noted for the water mill that was operated there. One of the scenic sights around a mill is the water pond. Mrs. E. H. Teal of Votaw, describes the mill site:
“Near the pond there was a vat where cowhides were cured and tanned. The grist mill was the old-fashioned rock type. The rocks were chiseled so as to make it possible to grind the corn into meal. The sawmill had a carriage operated by a lever, and the saw was like a crosscut saw. It moved up and down as the log advanced on it. Farr’s Chapel was down the Newton road, and the Farr cemetery is there.
‘ ‘Wallace Milliard served as ‘doctor’ for the community. He had a pair of tooth pullers, and looked after cases of toothache. His medicine chest consisted of a supply of calomel, podophyllyn, bismuth, baking soda, common syrup, castor oil, and Epsom salt. These were ‘sure cures’ for biliousness.
“A Methodist preacher served the little church there, and at Farr’s Chapel, Newton, and Magnolia. He traveled by buggy and was there 23 years.
“Mail was carried horseback, in saddlebags, and the mail route originated in Jasper. The old store kept supplies of green coffee in barrels, flour, sugar, and all kinds of dry goods and hardware. Coffee and sugar were measured with a scoop. Pecans sold for 5 cents a cup.”
Farrsville Community has been the birthplace of many people who are now scattered all over Texas and beyond. A Mr. Charles McKim had the following to say about Farrsville.
“My grandfather, Charles McKim, married Daily’s daughter about 1840 and lived on one of his labors’ before coming to Polk County in 1843. Now Spring Creek is called Hunter’s Creek and its waters run into Cow Creek just below Jamestown.
“I was born in 1890 and went to Farrsville in 1894. There were four houses there then, I considered them mansions. On the other side of the road was Grandpa Harper and a house lived in at the time by my mother’s sister and Uncle Jim Hancock.
“A hundred yards or so east lived Gary Womack and about a fourth mile farther on was Uncle Sim Horger, B. Z. Horger had a general store and with the mill that was all of Farrsville’s industry at that time.
“Aunt Viney Ford, a Farr slave, said Farr’s Mill was built by the Farrs and she carried water to the workers, being too small for work.
“When I went there in 1894 they had a circular saw with patented teeth which could be replaced when worn out. One thing that impressed me was the way a bale of cotton was pressed. Oxen were trained to turn the press on the cotton bales.
“When a bale was pressed they were turned loose and ran of their own accord down the steep hill to two sweet gum trees and stood there in the shade until another bale was ready to press. Grandpa Harper ginned over 300 bales one season.”
Some of the history of Farrsville has been written in a letter from Judge Belk who resided in Kirbyville until his death. The letter was written in 1934, a copy of which is owned by Ward P. Westbrook, a public accountant of Jasper, Texas. The letter shows that Farrsville was located in a strategic spot. It says:
“The breastworks at Burr’s Ferry was built by the Confederates during the Civil War at a time when we were expecting a federal invasion from toward Alexandria. I remember distinctly when they came around, over Newton and Jasper counties and took Negroes over there to do the work. I can not remember the year, but think it was about 1863.
“This was on a direct route and might have been called a military route from the lower Red River section of Texas.
“I remember distinctly the passing of companies, regiments and brigades along the routes going both east and west. A favorite camping place at that time was Farr’s Mill, now known as Farrsville. I remember well the stage route across the country, that it began at Alexandria on the Red River and crossed the Sabine at Burr’s Ferry. Then on to Burkeville and Jasper.
“From Jasper it turned south to Beaumont and from there to Houston, I remember to have ridden on this line several times, and I know that the route you mention was a regular stage line. I know that Burkeville was the first county seat of Newton County and that it was moved to Newton, but I don’t know when.
“I remember nothing about who commanded the soldiers who passed that route, except that I do remember that Gen. Tom Green passed Farrsville going east and that they camped near our home. Tom Green’s body, after he was killed, was brought back over this route and the escort camped overnight at our home at Farr’s Mill.
Judge Belk wrote in 1934 that:
“My father, as old timers know, was a leather worker. He not only tanned the leather but manufactured it after it was tanned. He selected Farr’s Mill as the most favorable place to put in a tannery. He did this during the early part of the Civil War and maintained it as a tannery and shoe and boot making establishment, principally for the Confederate government.
“His name was A.S. Belk. I do not know when Alfred Farr built the mill. It was built, however, shortly before the Civil War. Mr. Farr was a wealthy slave owner and had a large farm one mile south of the mill. I do not know when the Farrs came to Texas but I know that it was not many years before the Civil War. The Farrs and the Wingates came here about the same time. They were related.”
Another person has said about the founder of Farrsville:
Mr. Alfred Farr came to this place about 1833, and established the community of Farrsville, which was named for him. However, the first name given the community was Farr’s Mill. He not only opened a large plantation about two miles down Cow Creek, but he also built a large water mill, which operated a cotton gin, grist mill and saw mill. This was not the extent of his activities. He found time to administer to the spiritual needs of the settlers in the surrounding area. The church is also named for him, in fact I believe it is said that he built the original church building.
Mrs. Emma Teal, a daughter of Wallace Hilliard, who was born in Farrsville in 1870, said that at this time there was, in addition to the mill, a general merchandising store and the Post Office. She further states that her father served as doctor of the community. He had a pair of tooth pullers and looked after cases of tooth ache. His medicine contained a supply of calomel, a supply of may apple extract. If you don’t know what this is, it is a bitter purgative, made from the rootstock of the May apple.