A Native American trail, sometimes referred to as the Kickapoo Trace, and early Anglo-American roads traversed this area prior to the settlement of the pioneer families of Isaac Briscoe and Jacob Sheltman in the mid-1840s. By 1871 a village called Brooklyn, which included a combined school, church, and lodge building, general store, saloon, and blacksmith shop, was established about one mile south of here. Brooklyn’s business and housing activity shifted here after the Texas & Pacific Railroad extended its line through this area in 1873. A post office opened in 1873 and the town was renamed Forney for noted railroad official John W. Forney. By 1891 Forney had become a bustling town with more than 50 business establishments including a bank, opera house, and two hotels. Ranch and farm produce, including cotton, Bois d’Arc wood products, and the area’s nationally recognized blackland prairie hay were shipped by rail at Forney and the town prospered. In the 1920s U.S. Highway 80 (The Dixie Highway) and an interurban railroad came through the town. Beginning with the Great Depression Forney’s agricultural economy declined for several decades. Eventually Forney experienced a revival of growth as a bedroom community of Dallas, Texas.
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Adams Drugstore/Walter Dickson Adams
A native of Kaufman County, Walter Dickson Adams (1872-1961) came to Forney in 1887. In 1893 he purchased the F. M. Adams Drugstore, a successor of the R. C. Dansby Drugstore established in 1878. He was the town’s most prominent druggist for the next sixty-eight years. Originally on S. Bois D’Arc Street, the store was relocated to Main Street in 1901. A respected community leader, Adams was elected mayor in 1912 and held offices in state and national professional organizations. Still a thriving local business, the Adams Drugstore was moved to this site in 1976.
Automobile Trip, 1899
On October 5, 1899, Edward H. R. Green drove his newly-acquired “St. Louis automobile from Terrell to Dallas. Accompanied by the car’s manufacturer, George B. Dorris, Green passed through Forney on his historic journey. The five-and-one-half-hour, thirty-mile trip was marked by an accident in Forney, necessitating repairs to the automobile by a local blacksmith. Upon their arrival in Dallas, Green and Dorris were met by a cheering crowd. Hailed as a first in Texas, the automobile trip caused a sensation in area newspapers and among local citizens.
Brooklyn Lodge No. 386, A.F. & A.M.
Following the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railroad in the village of Brooklyn in 1873, the town name was changed to Forney in honor of John Wein Forney, a director of the railroad. The local Masonic Lodge was organized the same year, using the original town name. The lodge first met in a building shared with the local school and Union church. Over the years, lodge members have contributed to the community with projects such as laying the cornerstone of Lewis High School in 1922. A new lodge was completed in 1966.
William and Blanche Brooks House – Designed by Dallas Architect Charles Alexander Gill and built on a lot received as a wedding gift from Yancy McKellar, this was the home of local business and civic leaders William A. and Blanche Brooks and their family. Built in the Queen Anne style in 1898, the home was remodeled and updated with colonial revival style elements in 1915. Prominent features include a round turret, intricately detailed chimneys, and a wraparound porch. Typical of the homes built in this area at the turn of the 20th century, the Brooks House is a significant part of Forney’s architectural heritage. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1997
Dixie Overland Highway
In the early 20th century, soon after the development of the automobile, travelers, city officials and others began planning for a network of paved overland routes. In the era before the advent of the interstate highway system, road associations provided the vision and the promotion, and states and municipalities provided necessary capital. Early results were piecemeal and inconsistent, but the Good Roads Movement, the National Highway Association and similar organizations continued efforts to improve routes on a national scale. In 1914, the Automobile Club of Savannah, Georgia, proposed an “all-seasons” route stretching from its home base to Los Angeles. Interested towns and parties formed the Dixie Overland Highway Association (DOHA), with offices in Columbus, Georgia. The route, which passed through 75 U.S. counties, including Kaufman, was partially opened by the 1920s, with the western terminus later changed to San Diego. Along the route, travelers met significant obstacles, including what was known as the Forney Gap. Forney’s portion of the road entered the city east of Mustang Creek and crossed through town, past the service stations and other businesses that opened to serve travelers. On the west side of town, as the landscape slopes downward to the floodplain of the East Fork of the Trinity River, the paved road stopped, leaving a slippery, muddy hill and a frequently flooded roadway. Despite such obstacles, DOHA’s president, in a publicity stunt, made the length of the highway in record time in October 1926, traveling from San Diego to Savannah in just over 71 hours. Two months later, much of the highway became U.S. Highway 80. Its role as a primary interstate route was later superseded by Interstate 20. (2005)
First Presbyterian Church of Forney
This church was created by the merger of two congregations. Before the town of Brooklyn was renamed Forney, the Brooklyn Church of the Presbytery of Bacon of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1872. A second congregation, the Forney Presbyterian Church U.S. (Southern), began in 1883, and built a sanctuary on this site. Following the merger in 1919, the name was changed to First Presbyterian Church of Forney. A new red brick structure was dedicated in October, 1925, and the church continues to be a vital part of the Forney community.
Note: The current Presbyterian Church meets in a new building on 1641. The old building is still on S. Bois d’Arc, but the marker has been removed to to the new location.
Forney High School Building
Forney’s first schoolhouse was built here about 1868, and its first general store was built nearby by pioneer settler John C. McKellar in 1871. This building was erected by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1938-39. Designed by WPA architect Hoke Smith, the Spanish Colonial revival style structure features a tile roof, multi-light windows, buff brick, and wrought iron and cast stone details. A high school was housed here until 1974 and a middle school until 1993.
Forney Independent School District
Public education began in Forney (then named Brooklyn) about 1868 when a 16′ x 16′ room was built, serving as both a schoolhouse and Union church. Forney School District No. 9, formed in 1876, was part of a county-wide school system. In 1889 the first structure was replaced by a 2-story wooden school building. In 1899 the Forney Independent School District was formed. An imposing brick and stone building superseded the wooden structure in 1903. The present edifice was erected in 1938 by a WPA grant. Recent activities included the restoration of the 1938 Forney High School building.
The Forney Messenger is the oldest newspaper in continuous operation in Forney. Founded in 1896 by M. J. Cox, the first issue was printed on April 16 and contained a personal column, school news, a local church directory, and news from surrounding communities. In 1919 the Messenger was merged with the Forney News and was known as the Forney News and Messenger until 1921, when it again became the Forney Messenger. For many years the Messenger has provided residents of Forney and the surrounding area with news of local interest. Texas Sesquicentennial, 1836 – 1986
After the community of Brooklyn was relocated and renamed Forney when the Texas and Pacific Railroad was built through here in 1873, its early burial ground was no longer convenient to the town. In 1878, a committee of civic leaders organized the Forney Graveyard Company and purchased a 5-acre tract of land. The earliest documented burials are those of Blanch Ivey and Isaac Sorey, both of whom died in 1879. The problem of irregular maintenance was first addressed in 1911, about the same time it became known as “Hill Crest Cemetery. A perpetual care endowment was established in 1976. Many veterans of U.S. and foreign wars are interred here, including more than 46 veterans of the Civil War. The cemetery continues to be a chronicle of Forney settlers. (1998) (Photo)
William Madison McDonald
McDonald was born in 1866 near Johnson Point, a small community southeast of Terrell. His parents, former slaves, were George McDonald, born in Tennessee, and Flora Scott McDonald, born in Alabama. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried to Belle Crouch. McDonald started school at age seven and graduated from high school in 1884. He had the reputation of being the smartest boy in all the area schools. During his youth, he worked for attorney and rancher Capt. Z.T. Adams, who took an interest in McDonald, lecturing him on business and law while he worked. After graduating, McDonald was principal of the African American high school in Forney. His first wife, Alice Gibson McDonald, was a teacher there. He remained principal for several years. McDonald was an early leader in Texas’ Republican party as part of the “Black and Tan faction, a group of whites and blacks who shared leadership roles. His political partnership with powerful businessman E.H.R. Green provided him a strong voice in state politics. In 1899, he became the right worshipful grand secretary of Texas’ African American Masons, a position he held for almost 50 years. McDonald moved in 1906 to Fort Worth, where he was a civic leader and businessman. He died in 1950 and is buried in Old Trinity Cemetery, part of Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. Throughout his life, McDonald was a leader in the struggle for social justice, advocating persistence and civic and moral responsibility as the steps to equality. (2002)
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John A. McKellar House
McKellar House – Originally built in 1873 by landowner and merchant John Alexander McKellar (1813-1875), this house was remodeled to its current appearance by his son, B. Yancy McKellar (1859-1916) about 1902. Features of the colonial revival structure include two-story giant order columns with modified Ionic capitals on the north and west facades, stained glass windows, and a wraparound porch. The home remained in the McKellar family until 1977. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1989
Dick P. Moore House
Dick P. Moore House – Built in 1910, this home dates from a period of economic boom enjoyed by the town of Forney from 1873 until 1929. It was constructed for Georgia native Dick Parmenas Moore (1869-1943), a merchant who owned a large amount of cotton acreage in the area. His wife, Nancy (Pinkard), resided here until her death in 1958. The American four-square style house features Classical Revival influences in the porch details. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1985
Emma Daugherty Banister
Santa Anna, Coleman County, Texas
(Oct. 20, 1871-June 4, 1956) The Daugherty family moved west in the late 1870s to Coleman County from present Forney in Kaufman County, where Emma was born. At age 14 she left home to finish school and obtain a teaching certificate in Goldthwaite. She married lawman and widower John R. Banister in 1894, and they raised nine children. Banister was Coleman County sheriff when he died in mid-1918, and Emma was chosen to complete his term of office to the end of 1918. Recorded – 1986
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