History in Hamilton
The City and County of Hamilton were named after James Hamilton Jr., an American lawyer and politician. Hamilton Jr. served as the 53rd Governor of South Carolina and personally loaned $216,000 to the Republic of Texas-thus making him an important member of Texas history. Hamilton drowned when his steamboat sunk in 1857 off the coast of Galveston, after yielding his seat in a lifeboat to a women and child. In 1854, Robert Carter and family became the first permanent white settlers of Hamilton County. Other settlers followed in the next year. In 1856 the Sixth Legislature formed Hamilton County from parts of Comanche, Bosque and Lampasas counties. In 1858, the City of Hamilton was named the county seat. Though white settlements in Texas were ever growing, Indian tribal presence was still known. One Comanche raid lead to the harrowing death of Hamilton school teacher, Ann Whitney. By the early 1900s, cotton fields covered 47,500 acres of county land, North and South Texas Railway connected Hamilton with Stephenville and St. Louis Southwestern Railway connected Hamilton with Comanche. Today, agriculture still plays a major role in the economy as well as retail businesses, professional offices and manufacturing. The motto for the city is “Hamilton, what a hometown should be.”
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The Hamilton County Historical Museum is housed in the former Hamilton County Jail. The two story structure was constructed in 1938 and served as the counties correctional facility until 1996. It now serves as home to the Museum’s main collection. The adjacent fire station houses one of two fire trucks from the past. Currently the museum is working to renovate the old candle factory next door to their main collection and developing the Museum Annex. A collection that was formerly housed at the County Courthouse is now found at the Annex. The Historical Museum is open from 1pm-4pm on Saturdays or by appointment and closed during winter months.
Ann Whitney, Hamilton’s Elementary School namesake, was Hamilton’s very own heroine. Elizabeth Ann Whitney had been employed to teach a private school on the banks of the Leon River. This school was the first to be taught in Hamilton County following the Civil War. In 1867 the small log cabin school was invaded by Comanche Indians and Miss Whitney was massacred while protecting her students. Miss Whitney’s memorial monument is located 5 blocks north of town at Graves-Gentry Cemetery.
North of town, on the east side of 281 N. Grave is visible from the road and marked with a granite arch inscribed “Billy the Kid”
The Hamilton, Texas grave belongs to William “Brushy Bill” Roberts, who waited until 1949 (at nearly 90 years old) to confess that he was the Kid. Brushy Bill’s distinctive eye color and multiple scars were reportedly perfect matches for Billy the Kid. Looking to pursue a pardon he was promised in 1879, Brushy Bill traveled to New Mexico in 1950 to meet in a private hearing with the current governor. The pardon was denied. Less than a month later he collapsed and died while walking to the post office in Hico, Texas (just 20 miles north of Hamilton). Some say that Brushy Bill, who was remarkably fit for his age, died of disappointment.
Hamilton County– US 281 N one mile from courthouse, west side of 281 at city limits
Hamilton County, C.S.A– US 281 N 6.6 miles from city limits, east side of 281 at roadside park
Hamilton County Courthouse– Courthouse lawn at junction of US 281 and SH 36
Hamilton National Bank– 101 E. Henry St
Francis Marion Graves Home– Built 1872; early Texas ranch style; 2-story, hewn rock.
J.J. (Jack) Durham House– This 2-story residence was built by Alabama-born John Jefferson (Jack) Durham (1835-1921), who settled in Hamilton County about 1860. He lived on his large ranch before erecting this town home in 1884. The stone for the structure came from his land. Durham, a teacher, rancher and merchant, served as a director of Hamilton College, 1884-89. He donated $5,000 to help bring a railroad here in 1907. This house was purchased in 1973 by Rusty Burkett, who restored it. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1976
Manning-Gordon-Henderson House-121 S. Rice Avenue Local contractor Louis V. Manning built this house between 1880 and 1885 on land inherited from his father, pioneer Exekiel Manning, and lived here until 1904. The John H. and Abbie Gordon family owned the house from 1907 to 1936 and the Oliver Dow and Minta Henderson family took up residence here in 1936. A simple example of a cross-gabled roof Queen Anne house, its distinguishing details include fish-scale textured gables, cutaway bay windows, and a front entry porch with ornamental posts and brackets and a jigsawn frieze. Also of interest is the unusual siding flanking the entry door. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1999
Rock House Masonic Lodge-Built in 1874 of hewn rock.
“Texas Rangers in Camp” Mural– Mural by Ward Lockwood (1894-1963) in 1942 is located in the Hamilton Post Office one block south of the square.
Gallery Wall– Located at the corner of Henry and Rice St (Hwy 281), the gallery is installed on the north wall of the last building on the west side of the square. This was a community project led by the Hamilton Economic Development Corporation in 2008. Community members and natives were asked to submit original artwork and photography related to Hamilton. After much interest in the project and many entries, these were the pieces selected for display.