Gose Trees

Gose Trees Planted in 1861
402 W Walnut St, Decatur, TX

Remnant of bois d’arc hedge which encircled the log cabin of Stephen M. Gose (1824-77), early justice of the peace, blacksmith, and leader of Methodist church, who came to Texas from Missouri in 1859. The spiny trees, planted 1861, served as a barrier against prowling Indians.

The tree was used in the hedge rows of cattle farmers prior to the advent of steel, barbed wire fencing. They would have been planted them a few feet apart, in straight rows and the limbs would have entangled themselves together making an impenetrable hedgerow, by cattle or man.

This usage of the tree led to one of its names; Hedge Apple. It primarily grows in the South Central States of the US. However, the Hedge Apple can still be found throughout the Farm lands all over, especially in old fence-rows where the seeds have resisted modern farming and planting and all efforts to eradicate the nasty tree.

The word “apple” is quite misleading. The tree yields a fruit unlike many; a bumpy, green, 4-5 inch ball that resembles a green brain. In Louisiana, the kids referred to the fruit as “monkey brains”. A very fitting description, actually; I am told they throw them at one another. This fruit is completely inedible, as it has, inside of it, a liquid that has the texture of latex paint, a rather unpleasant odor, that will irritate your skin if it gets on you.

The older generation would use the fruit, cut in half, laid around the foundation of their homes, to repel insects naturally. These would eventually break down into a soft, slimy mess and rot. Simply repulsive is the only description I can come up with for the entire affair.

By all standards of the outside world, the tree is useless. Repulsive. Completely un-inviting. With the advent of barbed wire and fence posts, modern day insecticide, the tree was rendered useless. The thorns are even laced with a sap that will leave a terribly painful sore if one is pricked by their needle sharp tip and the wood is so hard and dense and resistant to rot, the best use for it was to cut it down and saw it into fence posts, which was the end result for thousands of the trees around the end of the 1800’s. Some of those fence posts are still found and used today, as they have weathered the harsh conditions for more than a century.

The modern day arborist would advise you to stay away from the very idea of this tree when considering what you might plant on your property as its reputation is horrible. It drops its seedlings everywhere, which thrive in almost any condition, and are virtually impossible to kill out. It is the epitome of the nightmare tree.

The name Bois d’arc came from the French settlers when they realized the Osage and Comanche Indians used this tree, almost exclusively, for making their bows. The grains run very straight on short sections, and the wood is flexible and very hard and resistant to cracking. It is extremely strong and will last for years under the pressures of bending as a bow. In fact, the popularity of the wood for bows was so great that many Native American tribes would travel hundreds of miles to acquire the wood to make their bows. “Bois d’arc” means “bow wood” in French.

So, on the inside, behind all of that bad, nasty tree, there is a particular strength and heartiness to the wood that cannot be found in any other wood on this continent.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Trinity Street Coffee Bar

  • They roast their own coffee
  • They have a rewards program for coffee drinks – 10th one is on them!
  • In the evening they offer beautiful craft cocktails such as Moscow Mules, Irish Coffees, Whiskey Sours, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. Special touches such as the use of Toschi brandied cherries and locally made ginger beer set their cocktails apart.
  • They have wine by the glass, but the shop offers exceptional wines by the bottle that are truly elegant and delicious and they are all under $45 a bottle!
  • They use traditional Chinese and Japanese vessels that are unique to any other shop to brew their craft teas. The special attention to the tea allows for an exact temperature and no bitterness.
  • Their special holiday syrups include eggnog, barrel-aged peppermint and maple brown butter cortado
  • They have a fantastic black iced tea with free refills
  • They will soon offer Tiki drinks such as Mai Tais and Pina Coladas.
  • They do have some food! Most popular are their blueberry and avocado pound cake muffins as well as cookies, pies and biscotti. Have you heard of Primo’s Tacos? They are to die for and available here in the mornings!
  • They offer a discount for first responders, veterans and people who work on the square

Ten more reasons for you to make Trinity Street Coffee Bar your new obsession!

There is crispness in the air ~ a hint of fall ~ a hint of something new.

Without a doubt, it is a new season at the Center for Animal Research and Education in Bridgeport (C.A.R.E.). After experiencing several devastating deaths of beloved animals this past year, there is now much to celebrate – BABIES!! On a recent visit, a peek around a corner reveals a tiny four-month-old tiger. Baby Zara has recently found a forever home at C.A.R.E. Weighing only twenty-seven pounds, far smaller than typical for her age; this little one is fascinating to watch. Her big paws indicate how large she will one day be as she happily splashes water out of her pail. A nearby Clorox bottle with many small indentions proves how sharp her teeth are. She is spending time indoors while a green-stick fracture to her leg heals and what a set-up she has! At the time of our visit, she was watching Finding Nemo on her big screen TV. Finding a  type of bedding she cannot destroy is quite the feat.  She was already on her third bed of the day, but that one was holding up pretty well so far. She has completely destroyed others in a matter of seconds! Interestingly her enclosure is filled with stuffed animals that she loves on without ruining. She is genetically quite hyper and finds it hard to settle down.  Zara has been raised alone, but Heidi Krahn, director of the facility, thinks she might benefit from a friend and is actively looking for another tiger to fit the bill. This baby is lovingly watched over by caretakers that willingly stay all night with her. During our visit Bagheera the house cat came strolling through with no fear whatsoever only to show her great displeasure of the new resident. We also witnessed contented purrs during a bonding moment with Heidi’s son. She is not a pet, however. As soon as her injury heals, she will be outdoors in an enclosure.

Meanwhile, a fairytale is being played out in the lemur house. To understand how amazing this story is you have to understand how lemurs think. They are incredibly social primates that form a troop with an alpha female as the leader. The troop is very bonded with rules unique within their troop. Fast forward; a lady shows up with a three-month-old almost dead baby lemur weighing just 97 grams(approx. birth weight). Heidi was very hesitant to take the baby because a lemur raised by people is not a lemur. It does not know the rules. Knowing the little one would either die from malnutrition or be unaccepted and killed by the troop, she set about to save her. Little Momo was fed two drops of soy formula every thirty minutes around the clock eventually moving to a blended mixture of milk, cheerios, Activia yogurt, banana and aloe vera juice. She began to thrive, and slowly, slowly Heidi commenced to introduce the baby to the troop consisting of Rita, the alpha female, Mrs. Stewart, and Mort. The moment of truth was the scariest day Heidi had experienced. She knew the troop could very well kill little Momo, but luckily Rita’s motherly instincts were deep-seated. Momo jumped on Rita’s back, and she has been a part of the family ever since. As we rounded the corner to the lemur house, Heidi called out, “Rita show us your baby.” What happened next was nothing short of magical! Out dashed a lemur with an impossibly small baby clinging to her back. Momo now weighs 420 grams, but she is still so tiny. We watched in awe at the interaction and tricks of this baby, her lack of fear often leaving us nervous and even gasping! She has gone from near death to acrobat extraordinaire.  There are still hurdles to face. When she turns a year and a half to two years old, there could be problems, but for now, it is an unheard of happy ending. While an alpha female has been known to take a baby from within a troop, there has never been an instance of one accepting an unrelated baby from outside the troop as her own. The lemurs at C.A.R.E. are unusual to begin with because they love people and they love each other. Such happy news for some of the earth’s most endangered species.

Making our way down the hill, we come upon a staked section in a serene, secluded area with incredible views. This will be the home for two mountain lions coming from the Dallas Zoo. A campaign has already begun to raise the money for what will be the most costly venture that C.A.R.E. has undertaken to date. The beautiful enclosure will feature a glass room for visitors to observe and eat as well as suites to spend the night while offering these two lucky mountain lions a fantastic habitat to call home.

Here is the fundraising page for their incredible new home:


As Heidi ignores all road blocks and continues to work tirelessly to provide a meticulously maintained and loving environment for the beloved animals entrusted to her, we celebrate this new season with her and all those involved in making C.A.R.E. the remarkable facility that it is.

For tours or donations please visit:

Healthy Habits in Wise County

With the opening of the new Fit-n-Wise facility next to the hospital many different options for exercise are now available. Looking to mix up what has become boring? Maybe even try something a little unusual? How about PADDLE BOARD YOGA??!!

Imagine floating weightlessly while staring at a crystal blue sky dipping fingers and toes in the pool as you stretch on what looks like a giant blow up mattress. You will be coaxed into various positions by the calming and patient voice of the instructor. Don’t be deceived, though! The workout is strenuous and balancing is hard!! Just as your muscles have serious feelings about being stretched any further and you have to dig deep to finish wispy clouds start to appear followed by a sliver of moon producing an immediate calming effect.

You may or may not be experiencing regret for not having worked out more, but at the end of the challenging routine you lay back practicing deep breathing surrounded by a perfect Texas sunset. What more can you ask from exercise?

Please call their front office for the latest class schedule. (940) 627-2708

Same Old Reunion?

“There are two special occasions each year in Decatur ~ Christmas and Reunion.” Sue Cocanougher

As temperatures inch toward 100 degrees one word enters Decaturites minds-REUNION! Most know Reunion as a county-wide tradition with a carnival atmosphere. Approximately 140 permanent cabins placed throughout a grove of trees come in all shapes, sizes, and vintages. There is even a castle! Many Texas towns have something similar to Reunion, but Wise County is one of the oldest. The ritual is a little hard to describe to outsiders. As Rosalie Gregg from the Wise County Historical Society says, “You have to see it for yourself.” Cabins lie dormant all year until the week before the anticipated event at which point observers hear the sounds of weed eaters, smell the scent of cleaning products and see the sight of old mattresses being flung out in a pile of trash. Most with just screens and no running water, the glorified shanties holding lifetimes of memories become home for a week. The week’s festivities kick off as the cabins are decked out in their finest to fit the chosen theme for the year. The observance of Reunion has been a part of many people’s lives for as long as they can remember and it’s the tradition that brings them back year after year. Multiple generations of families flock to the campground drawn by smells of barbecue and fair food and the flashy rides lighting the night sky. Children skip ahead of parents and grandparents with wide-eyed excitement. Some come for the live music and dancing while others come looking for major bragging rights from winning the giant “Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” washer tournament. On the hottest, dustiest week of the year, everyone knows that Reunion is here!
Joe Wheeler Park, named after the only general to serve during wartime in two different forces, has been home to the oldest recurring event in County history since 1896. In the 1860’s under the harvest moon Confederate veterans would occasionally gather in covered wagons around bonfires to reminisce with old comrades before the scramble of the fall harvest. They would talk unceasingly about the glory days of the South sometimes inviting the venerable pioneers to join them. The meeting was known as the Ex-Confederate Reunion and was held to aid the old and disabled soldiers. Gatherings were carried out in several different places such as Chico and Cold Springs before settling in Decatur. In 1883 the name was changed to Old Soldiers and Settlers Reunion. People would bring blankets and sleep out under the grove of trees. Many would stay up all night telling stories and children would wake up to the sound of hushed conversations and fiddle music. For some, this was the only time of the year that they left home. The Rock Island excursion train full of merry -makers would pull into the station where stagecoaches waited to shuttle them out to Reunion. The old rebel yell signaled the new arrivals to the grounds. Civil War battles were re-enacted, and fiery political speeches were given. Five thousand attended in 1881 in celebration of the anniversary of Captain George Stevens’ victory over hostile Indians in 1874. In the late 1890’s large crowds came to hear admired politicians such as Governor Charles Culberson and Congressman Silas Hare. Over 10,000 people came to hear one of Senator Joe Bailey’s famous speeches championing conservative causes. By 1900 Reunion, held the last full week in July, lasted for three days. The first day honored old settlers. The second day was devoted to remembering Confederate veterans. The third day honored the sons and daughters of Confederates. As many as 12,000 would gather at the Courthouse and parade to the campground. Men were decked out in top hats, linen dusters, checkered vests and high top button shoes while women wore long skirts with multiple petticoats, mutton sleeves, bustles and knee-length button and lace shoes all under the blazing July sun. It was a time of remembrance, to swap stories, share food and unite the community. By 1908 the re-enactments came to an untimely end when Grady Helm had to have his arm amputated after cannon backfired! In 1909 the park grounds were leased for 25 years. Later, campsites were leased and improved by participants. The Wise County Old Settlers Association was formed in 1904. Reunion was extended to one full week with visiting during the day and scheduled events in the evenings. Each generation has tucked away memories of past Reunion’s and added their touch to new ones. In the 1920’s Popcorn, peanuts, lemonade, and brass bands filled the campground as well as the “Flying Jenny” which was a homemade wooden merry-go-round which whirled in a horizontal circle while the feet were left dangling. The first permanent campsite was established in 1937 by Mr. and Mrs. T.G. Rogers. In 1943 the last Confederate soldier, Calvin Newton Workman, died. Hence the name was changed to Wise County Old Settlers Reunion. The present pavilion, the third to occupy the encampment, was built in 1948. A children’s playground was added in 1953.
The old settlers would find little today to remind them of the origins of Reunion. While much has changed over more than 150 years of its history, Reunion still unites the community as it did in the beginning by greeting friends and neighbors young and old alike.
Cliff D Cates, in his 1907 book about Wise County, makes the following dedication:
“Dedicated to the Old Settlers of Wise County whose memories and faces I am profoundly gratified to perpetuate.”
Reunion is about memories. Many more faces have made their mark on Wise County since 1907, and we continue to be profoundly grateful to all those who have gone before to make Wise County the great place that it is.

Building On

On a small, non-descript street just off the Decatur town square sits a little white house bearing a coveted historical marker paying homage to S.W. Tilghman. Who was Mr. Tilghman and what made him important to Decatur, Texas?

As Pioneers moved west, they made do with tools and materials indigenous to the area when building their homes. Log cabins and sod houses were the norms. By 1900 the typical American home was less than 1,000 square feet. While indoor plumbing and electricity were available, they were not common. Porches were a must for the hot Texas summers. Dog-trot houses were prevalent for their large breezeways in the center of the home. Americans, while borrowing from historical styles such as Greek and Roman, were at the same time fashioning a style that would become uniquely American with an emphasis on comfort. Most towns now had sawmills making gingerbread trim, columns and cornices available. Even simple frame houses made use of architectural elements. Neat and orderly homes portrayed a sign of progress and new wealth attracting newcomers to the community.  Rapid expansion was creating the need for housing in Decatur!

As far as it is known, S.W. Tilghman was the only carpenter inthe early days of Decatur. He was known for his quality workmanship hand carving all the woodwork in his homes. Tilghman was born in 1846 in Tennessee and arrived in Decatur like many settlers of this time by wagon train in 1870. Two years later he married a native of Decatur, Eliza Bland Miller. He purchased land from M.W. Shoemaker in 1882 for his family home. He built a story and a half farmhouse framed in oak with cypress weatherboarding. Floor joists were hand-hewn oak and installed with wooden pegs. All square nails were used in its construction. Lumber came by way of mule train from Jefferson, Texas. The railroad was still too expensive, and economics usually prevailed with the early settlers. The original estate, bordered entirely by a white picket fence, included the farmhouse, a stable and lot for horses and buggy, double outdoor toilets and a tank tower with servant’s room. The residence consisted of seven rooms, three large porches, two fireplaces, two parlors, a dining room and a kitchen. Tilghman incorporated elements from his native Tennessee such as dormered windows and large front porches. The home has remained, from the time of its construction to present, on the original lot thus qualifying it for historical recognition. No walls have been removed, rooms are still the same size, and ceilings are the same height despite additions of indoor bathrooms in the 1930’s and central heat and air in the 1950’s. A set of antique Dresden plates belonging to S.W. Tilghman was used for the inspiration for wallpaper and rugs during the period of remodeling. The home maintains some of the family’s original furniture.

Tilghman had several children who move away from the area, but his son, R.C. Tilghman (Bob) who was born in 1875 learned the skill of carpentry from his father and remained in Decatur to work in partnership with him. S.W. Tilghman passed away in 1913, but Bob continued to build houses until his death in 1948. As a tribute to the Tilghmans’ skill and the integrity, many of the homes they built are still standing.


In 1890 a two-story Victorian house was constructed at 301 South Hill for Judge Patterson who was a large landowner on the square and a much-honored citizen of Decatur. He served as District Judge for the 43rd District for 24 years. They also built a Victorian folk home located at 1005 N. Trinity for Dr. D.H. Payne who practiced dentistry on the square until his death around 1934. That same year they built homes for D.W. Frazer, furniture store owner and Tax Collector, at 300 E. Shoemaker,  and homes for Leon Starnes and R.H. Barney at 401 S. Miller and 302 S. Miller respectively.

In 1903 the Tilghmans began a two-story Victorian home at 305 E. Shoemaker for D.J. Penniger, owner of Penniger General Merchandise on the square.

1904 saw the completion of an Arts and Crafts home for wealthy banker and First National Bank board member, Tom Yarborough at 1004 E. Main.

Because of S.W. Tilghman’s master carpentry, we still have a small glimpse into the lives of the people who first madeDecatur into a thriving community. His homes stand as time capsules of a way of life that has disappeared for neither the tradesmen nor the materials are available today to recreate these one-of-a-kind abodes. We are grateful for the expertise and vision of our early settlers and feel reassured that the stories these homes hold will continue to be told to future generations.


Real, Untold Stories of the Decatur Courthouse

There is so much more to the Wise County Courthouse than “just a pretty face.” Any building that was erected in 1896 and still in operation today must harbor some secrets. A recent tour through covert doors and up winding staircases turned up these little known facts:

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  • County Court Law #1 has only had three Judges – EVER
  • A trustee from Mineral Wells served his eight year sentence performing carpentry work in the Courthouse. He matched all the woodwork in County Court Law #1 to the original 1896 window frames. What he was able to achieve is simply amazing. The Trustee built everything in the room except the chairs around the table. He even constructed a wall clock.
  • The original second floor steel doors that fended off attacks from marauding Indians are still housed in the attic.
  • Three people have died in the building.
  • The original crank that wound the tower clock remains in a safe within the building.
  • The steel beams are still labeled and numbered. The beams are bolted as no welding equipment existed in 1896.
  • The original lightning rod survives in the attic.
  • The doors in the basement are all rounded so as to provide more protection. For this reason, the basement is used as a shelter. Pamphlets regarding survival from a nuclear fallout were found in one of the closets.
  • The Courthouse leaks like the Titanic when it rains.
  • A tunnel once existed from the Courthouse to the jail.
  • Up until twenty years ago, all former records were stored in the attic of the Courthouse. A firm was hired to go through all the documents and determine what needed to be kept. Ultimately almost everything was sent down a chute from a window on the second floor to a shredder below.
  • Pigeons love our Courthouse, and they poop – A LOT

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As I made my way on uncertain paths weaving between past and present, I came across history and intrigue. What I found most enjoyable, however, was listening to the passion of the tour guide as he lovingly tells the stories of this beautiful, old building. I am reminded that without a caretaker, the treasures will not survive. Wise County owes a debt of gratitude to those that care deeply for and make every effort to preserve our magnificent courthouse.

The Greathouse Hotel

Old places have a soul. ~Sarah Anderson


Only when you see the peeling paint, thread-bare carpet runners, scuff marks and stained tin ceilings can you truly get a sense of a building’s history. How can you not appreciate all that has gone on inside the limestone walls? Each scar has a story to tell.

The Greathouse Hotel came into being in 1922 during a period when train travel and horseback were the mode of transportation. Decatur had the unique geographical position that made it an excellent stopping place. The hotel mainly catered to traveling salesmen. As large manufacturing companies grew, more men left their families for extended
periods of time in order to achieve the American dream. They would travel about the country creating desire and demand for many new products. The men would stay in well located hotels where they could reach the maximum number of contacts. The Greathouse Hotel offered spacious rooms to weary travelers.


Today, entering through a door that seemingly leads nowhere, a time capsule emerges. Guest rooms line both sides of the hall. Original screen doors (some with a dish towel hung for privacy) and large transom windows speak of a time before central air.

Tin ceilings added a touch of style. A closet full of original heaters occupies one end of the hall. An exhausted salesman can be imagined huddled in front of one after a long day of chasing sales. The original claw foot tubs are in each bathroom.

Simple iron beds and a wooden wardrobe were the only embellishments. A communal lounge with windows opening over the rooftop occupies a large corner at the far end of the building. Pictures of guests gathering to listen to the radio or for companionship while away from families unfold.

greathouse-3With a turn to the left a separate, smaller section of the hotel comes into view. Who stayed here?  Cattle-ranching was big business, and the cowboy was integral to the operation. The trail ride was long and hard with constant threat from weather and Indians. The end of the ride was the time the cowboy got paid and could let down and be rowdy. Such activity mostly entailed drinking and practical jokes. As a result, they were considered the “lower class” citizens of the hotel and housed in a discrete area…hence the “Cowboy Hotel”. If you squint down the impossibly long hallway with light streaming in from floor to ceiling windows you can see shadows of cowboys collapsing from a night of hard drinking. There is not much of a bathroom, because they really did not deserve it. They were dirty and gamey. Was it noisy in this section of the hotel or just the rumbling snores of those sleeping off a hard ride? If only these walls could talk. Single, naked light bulbs hang from original knob and tube wiring. A few scuff marks from spurs are still visible.

Today’s Legacy

greathouse9Time has passed the beautiful hotel by. It has been decades since its most famous visitor, Amelia Earhart stayed. It is hard to believe the hotel operated past 1940. However, the doors stayed open until 1974. The building is still owned by the third generation of a family that purchased it in the 1930’s.

When all is new and modern, the nondescript building proudly and staunchly holds on to its original character and intent giving a glimpse of an era that exists for many only in novels.


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Ghosts on Decatur Town Square?


It is the time of year of misty mornings. The wind picks up tugging leaves from trees. A nip is in the air, or…is it the feeling of something nearby? The Fall season conjures up ideas of ghostly apparitions. One wonders…could there possibly be ethereal beings who inhabit the old buildings on the Decatur Town Square?

A trip downtown is in order.

What experiences have the locals had?

Legend has it that a person either jumped or was pushed out of the tower on the Wise County Courthouse. Could this person perhaps be the one that causes the elevator to spontaneously go up and down in the wee hours of the morning? How do courtroom doors slam when no one is in the room and there is no way in or out? An unfortunate district attorney died in the basement. Some wondered if his death was by natural causes or was it murder? Maybe he has come back to avenge his death.

Does anyone know the identity of the face that randomly appears in the beautiful 1917 Victorian mirror housed at 113 N State Street? A former proprietor?

People who work on the square have reported sounds of doors slamming, boxes being moved, footsteps and murmured conversations. Some have even experienced chills. Hmmmm….a “visitor” coming or going?

Guests staying at the Courthouse Suites B&B describe hearing the sound of boots with spurs walking the hallway as well as children running and playing. You might think it was other lodgers, but no one else was staying at the time.

One shop has affectionately named their ghost “Ada”. She is not fond of one style of Brighton shoe that is carried in the store. Many mornings employees have opened to find this particular shoe thrown across the room. Other times, Ada does not seem to mind the shoe if it is placed in an area which she approves.

An employee once heard gunshots and even smelled gunpowder. The back door to the store was open prompting her to call the police. Strangely, upon investigation, the back door was found shut and dead-bolted from the inside. No evidence of anyone or anything was found on the premises. A renegade cowboy from the old cowboy hotel?

Three neat, well-dressed spirits have been detected in the old First National Bank Building. The description of 2 men and a woman perfectly match the 3 children of pioneer Decatur banker, Henry Greathouse.

Rogers Hospital, which once housed a morgue as well as an insane asylum on the second floor, has its share of unease. A few are afraid to be in their offices after dark. Others just feel the building is eerie.

You might be relieved to know the search for paranormal activity in Decatur revealed nothing to keep you up at night. The town ghosts are fairly peaceful. We are reminded through the occasional unexplained incidents that many have occupied these spaces. Might they still be keeping watch over their legacies? I have a feeling many stories are yet to be told.

Trinity Street Coffee Bar


Decatur Town Square is happy to announce we are getting a new coffee shop!

Put your nose in the air. Inhale deeply and you might be able to smell the sweet aroma of fresh brewed coffee coming all the way from Denton. Very soon Decatur will be lucky to have her own branch of West Oak Coffee bar! www.westoakcoffeebar.com

The whiff is inviting you to find a soothing corner, the perfect table or a comfy chair at Trinity Street Coffee Bar.

Imagine a cozy place to gather for lively conversation right on the Square. Uniquely paced to the slower Decatur lifestyle, it will be a place for community and connection.

You will be able to start your day, end your day or anything in between. You can chill out or get your creative juices flowing.

Anticipation and excitement are growing!