Naples History

The initial paragraph on this page contains comments by Mr. Heard. The rest of the text is left as written by the original author. Following the text are some of the wonderful old picures collected by Mr. Heard and others.

I hope y'all enjoy this information and pictures. They are absolutlely priceless!

I don't remember what was on this page. I guess Old Timer's is setting in. I will go through the process of elimination on my index and try to figure out what was on there and restore it as soon as possible. Thanks for being patient. The following is a history of Naples as written by Eva Heard Cassling dated September 14, 1928. Miss Eva Heard was reared in the Cornett community and taught school for a while in Rocky Branch before marrying and moving to the Dallas area. I have only made corrections to typographical errors.

"Early in the year 1850 a few pioneer families pushed into east Texas and settled, forming a village known as "Old Wheatville". Among these families was a man named Tim Wheat from whom the settlement took its name. Tim Wheat is now living two and one-half miles southwest of Naples. Dr. G.W.L. Hanes, Sam Morris, and W.B. Wright were other prominent names of the time. This little village was located about two miles north of the present site of Naples, land now owned by Senator Morris Sheppard. Morris Sheppard is US Senator from Texas. T.B. Whitecotton and wife moved to "Old Wheatville" from Bowie County in the year 1867. Whitecotton originally came from Jefferson County, Alabama. Mr. Whitecotton now resides in Naples, Mrs. Whitecotton having died a few months ago.

At this time there were plenty of wild deer, bears, panthers, wolves, turkeys, o'possum, mink and numerous fowl. Every person was allowed to kill as many as he wished, especially bears, panthers and wolves. Now all persons hunting for wild animals are required to secure a hunting license. This shows the gifts of nature are being diminished.

In the meantime, Dr. Meadow and a Mr. Sheppard were prominent citizens. Sheppard was the grandfather of Senator Morris Sheppard. Charlie D. Heard moved to "Old Wheatville" in 1875 and joined his brother John A Heard, in a general merchandise store. Charlie D. Heard is the grandfather of Eva Heard, author of this history. He moved to "Old Wheatville" from Cass County where he had settled a few years before, coming from Alabama. This part of the country was then known as Titus County and was not changed to Morris County until the Commissioner Court met at Daingerfield on April 11, 1875 and organized the new county. The village is now in Morris County. During the year 1879 "Old Wheatville" was moved to the present site of Naples, then Belden. With the coming of the Texas and St Louis Railroad the first depot agent in Belden was J.B. Baker. The current agent is W.C. Black. This railroad was a narrow crude road extending from Pine Bluff, Ark., to Gatesville, Texas. This road changed its name to St Louis Arkansas and Texas Railway in 1883, then again in 1891 its present name, St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company of Texas was given the road. Until 1892 the road had remained a narrow guage road, but by this time a standard guage road was needed, and a force of workmen was employed so great that this road was changed to a standard guage railroad from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Gatesville, Texas in twenty four hours, without stopping train service.

The land upon which the new town was located was patented, taken from the government, by F.J. Starr of Jefferson, Marion County, Texas and later known as "The Starr Survey". J.M. Ingram moved from Tennessee and bought one section of land from this survey. Ingram donated every odd lot to the railroad company and sold the others to individuals who settles. Ingram asked for the right to name the town and later decided to call it Belden. One of the first residences constructed in Belden was by Quitman Henderson now the Frances W. Bolin home. The first store was owned by A.J. Wright who moved to this place from Rocky Branch, a small inland village. Wright who moved to this place and erected the first brick building, now the Morris County National Bank (on the current site of where McLeckie Insurance built its new building in 2002). He (Wright) also operated a general merchandise store and a saloon, as all kinds of intoxicating liquious could be secured at public counters then. Wright died in Cleburne a few weeks ago.

J.H. (G.) Mathews moved from Cass County forming a partnership in business with S.A. Harwell. Both Mathews and Harwell are dead. Others who had stores were H.F. Mathews, Joe H. Turner, W.G. Gallaway and Quitman Henderson. The prominent citizens of Belden in June 1886 were; J.W. Lewis dentist; Dr. Thompson; Dr. M. Smith; Dr Bedford; W.C. Calloway, attorney at law; A.J. Wright, saloonist; I.L. Adams, blacksmith; W.C. Singletary, cotton ginner and grist mill owner; H.C. Fulcher, grocerman ; W.H. Ellington, druggist; B.R. Watts, postmaster; Gallaway and Bolin, hardware and groceries; Conley and Ledbetter, druggist; J.H.Mathews, general merchandise; and J.H. Warren, druggist.

John L Sheppard, district attorney, was also a prominent citizen of Belden at this time. He was the father of Senator Morris Sheppard. The Sheppard home is about two miles north of Belden, and Senator Sheppard still owns the farm consisting of several hundred acres. Senator Sheppard was born at this place.

Several years before, the first post office was Located at Red Springs about one-half mile northwest of Belden at which place W.C. Callaway had a cotton gin, grist mill and flour mill combined for years before Belden was established. The post office at this place went under the name of Wheatville with B.R. Watts postmaster. It was moved to Belden within a short time after the establishing of the town. Mrs. Sallie P. Lunday is the present postmistress. By this time the town realized the need of a newspaper. The first paper was known as "The Belden Herald" and was established Jun, 1886 with J.M. Connor publisher and M.J. Moseley, local editor. This paper suspended publication December, 1886. B.R. Watts bought the plant and issued the first "Belden Monitor" in January 1887. Belden's name was changed to Naples, however the editor of the Belden Monitor did not change the name of the paper to "Naples Monitor" until the paper was twenty-one years old, January 1907. B.R. Watts is the father of W.R. Watts, the editor of the present "Naples Monitor". B.R. Watts sold the Naples Monitor and it changed hands a number of times until suspension in 1921, and the town was without a paper until June 2, 1922, when W.R. Watts reestablished "The Naples Monitor", installing a new and modern plant.

The first session of the Belden school opened June 28, 1886, with four departments, primary, intermediate, highschool and bookkeeping. This was a pay school and those entering the primary department paid two dollars and fifty cents; those in the highschool, three dollars, and those in bookkeeping, four dollars. Complete board could be secured for only ten dollars per month. The principal of this school was Professor B.C. Crisman who came to Belden from Daingerfield where he had taught for several years. There had been several private schools taught in homes, but this was the first building prepared for the purpose and it stood on the same hill where the present ward and high school has been standing for several years, while the new high school was completed in the summer of 1926. The ward school has been remodeled making both buildings very modern, being steam heated, lighted and running water throughout, schools any little city should be proud of. At present there are five hundred pupils enrolled. The present faculty consists of -High School- H.T. Morris, Superintendent; O.M. Rogers, Principal; J.N. Shepherd, Miss Willie Terrell, H.D. Roberts, Vocational agriculture. In grade - M. Steger, principal; Mrs. H.T. Morris, Mrs. Buck Burns, Mrs. M. Steger, Mrs. J.W. Martin Music-Mrs Ermadine Walls.

The town went by the name of Belden for only thirteen years as the name was so near like Belton; mail, freight and express was continuously going to the other place. This caused a great deal more confusion than one could expect, because Belton is so far away by the time a car of perishable commodity went there and was returned to Belden the loss was too much, so the citizens began to work on this, submitting new names for the town to the Post Office Department. Several names were submitted before any were accepted, and Naples was finally chosen in 1893, being taken from Naples, Italy, one of the most beautiful cities of the Mediterranean world. Mathews suggested the name Naples.

Among the first house built in villages or towns then were houses of worship and this was no exception. This first church of Belden was Methodist and was erected in 1885, with Reverend W.G. Callaway pastor, with the building near where the Harwell Hotel now stands. The lot, where the church was placed was donated by the late B.R. Watts. This house of worship stood until 1905 when it was wrecked and a new wood structure was erected where the elegant brick church now stands. The present membership is near two hundred fifty. Reverend W.S. Easterling is pastor of this church now, and has been for the past three years. At a later date the Baptist built a church with Reverend J.M. Archer pastor, on the lot where the new twenty thousand dollar brick building has just been completed. There has been a wood structure here for twenty-two years which has recently been wrecked for the more modern church. Reverend John A. Williams is pastor of this church, and its present membership is two hundred thirty-nine.

In June 1886 a Mr. Mack Adams owned and operated a blacksmith shop, later a Mr. Laney took it over calling it "The Hard Up Shop". Laney had taught school in Cass County for a number of years in what was then known as Laney's School. He came to Naples for this business as it was then known as an enterprise.

In 1886 Belden had only two physicians, Dr. Bedford and Thompson. Dr Bedford came to this area from Tennessee. Dr. Thompson moved from Old Wheatville where he practiced before Belden was organized. Dr. J.B. Meadow practiced medicine here also, although he never lived in Belden. He formerly owned and operated with his partner, Mr. Morris, of Stephenson's Ferry.

This ferry was not in North East Texas as all the farmers crossed here enroute to Jefferson, Texas, with cotton and other farm products. During the rush of cotton season offtimes farmers were known to wait three days to cross as the rush was so great.

The first bank was established August 15, 1893, with J.H. Mathews president and J.C. Martin, Cashier. This bank was known as Morris County Bank afterwards being changed to Morris County National Bank in 1904. This bank is now the strongest in Naples. The Naples National Bank was organized in 1906 and later taken over by the Morris County National Bank. The First State Bank was organized in 1920. It then liquidated in January 1927 and was reorganized as Farmers State one month later.

The first lighting system was owned and operated by G. F. Floyd who later sold to H.B. Stevens of Omaha. G.F. Floyd is now Assistant Cashier of Morris County National Bank. Stevens established an ice plant in connection with this lighting plant. The cost was approximately $70,000. He sold the plant to East Texas Public Service Company in 1924 and now it is own by Southwester Gas and Electric Company who took it over in 1927.

During 1906 there were Sullivan of New Orleans and Baxter of Nashville, Tennessee, who came to Naples and installed a hardwood mill. This mill was in operation for approximately six years with Sanford as manager. At this time Naples was by far at its best in regard to the number of inhabitants.

Naples was incorporated in 1909. This first council meeting was held January 7, 1910. B.R. Watts was mayor and the councilmen or aldermen were C.H. Pope, S.G. Ledbetter, J.C. Walker, H.B. Moore, and M.H. Sullivan. It had a city government. The present aldermen are: H.D. Moore, Z.Z. Smith, M.J. Mathews, W.A. Giles, J.F. Davis with W.F. Smith, Mayor. Naples has a Justice Court which meets once a month.

At present Naples has five physicians, a hospital, a modern theatre, tourist park, two good hotels and a telephone system owned and operated by the Texas Associated Telephone Company. There are four factories, their products being handles from native hardwood, lumber mill, confectionary and ice. There is a wholesale grocery and feed business. The town has about seventy-five general business establishments. No matter how well a lady or gentlemen wishes to dress he or she can be fitted in Naples. The pavement light surface in 2.5 miles. The town is located on the Bankhead Highway, State Highway No. 1, State Highway and the Broadway of America. The city tax is 65c, excepting one dollar school tax. The city assessed evaluation is $600,000. The water and sewerage systems are municipally owned.

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