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WILLS POINT, TX

WILLS POINT, TEXAS. Wills Point is on U.S. Highway 80 and the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, fourteen miles northwest of Canton in northwestern Van Zandt County. According to some accounts it was first named Iola but was renamed when it was discovered that another Texas town had already chosen the name; however, some documents indicate that a postmaster had been appointed for Wills Point before the 1873 completion of the railroad nearly a year before the Iola post office in Grimes County was established. Other sources indicate the community was laid out in 1873 by an engineer for the California Construction Company and named Iola by Maj. William H. Abrams, land commissioner for the Texas and Pacific Railway. The name Wills Point or Wills Place is from the family of tax assessor William Wills and from the shape of the timberline that jutted out onto the prairie near Wills's home. The Wills Point post office was established on September 23, 1870, with Thomas White as postmaster, replacing mail delivery from Canton via Bradfield's stage line. Wills had arrived in the vicinity around 1846 and began building his double log cabin, now considered the oldest house in the territory. In July 1856 Wills purchased from the state 320 acres on the Dallas-Shreveport Road, built corrals, kept supplies, and furnished his log cabin as a resting place for travelers at the site. Another old home, belonging to Thomas J. McKain, who settled at Wills Point in 1873 and became the town's first mayor, express and freight agent, and an employee at its first store, was also still standing in 1990. Citizens of the prosperous town held a county election on May 16, 1877, to move the county seat from Canton to Wills Point. A vote of 705 for the change and 523 against failed to obtain a two-thirds majority required to transfer the county seat. Wills Point claimed election fraud, and the violence that followed required the assistance of the state militia. On July 2l, 1884, Wills Point became the first Van Zandt community to incorporate. Wills donated land for the White Rose Cemetery, and by 1896 the town had five white and two black churches, three public schools, the Wills Point Institute, hotels, cotton gins, a large public hall and opera house, the Chronicle, and the headquarters of the North Texas Land Company. Local farmers shipped cotton, hides, grain, hay, livestock, and fruit. A population of 1,000 in 1892 rose to 2,500 by 1928 and declined to 1,976 in 1941, when the community had 120 businesses. In 1988 Wills Point had a population of 3,125 and eighty-eight businesses. The population was 3,496 in 2000. By the middle of the twentieth century the town was known for its wild roses, elms, and pecan trees. It is also known as the "Gateway to Tawakoni" for its access to the Lake Tawakoni recreation area. Wills Point's historic district has brick streets, a railroad depot museum, and the original Wills log cabin, kept by the Business and Professional Women's Club.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Margaret Elizabeth Hall, A History of Van Zandt County (Austin: Jenkins, 1976). Wentworth Manning, Some History of Van Zandt County (Des Moines, Iowa: Homestead, 1919; rpt., Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1977). William Samuel Mills, History of Van Zandt County (Canton, Texas, 1950). Van Zandt County History Book Committee, History of Van Zandt County (Dallas, 1984). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Dorothy Bateman Barnes

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Dorothy Bateman Barnes, "WILLS POINT, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgw10), accessed July 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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