The Howards: Gone to Texas

In the 1800s many families in the South and Midwest sought escape from poverty and debt by getting a fresh start in Texas.  Back in those days when one would ride up to an abandoned house, odds are “Gone to Texas” or “GTT” would be written in chalk across the front door or posted on a sign nailed to a fence. 

This phrase may have been written on the door of the Howard family residence in Arkansas in 1888 when they left for greener pastures in Texas. That year the Howards moved from Arkansas to Limestone County after William Benjamin Howard died. The whole family settled near Prairie Hill and remained there.

My late stepfather’s family was from Limestone County, specifically a sleepy little former railroad town named Kosse that went from boom to bust as did many Texas towns during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The main street area today appears as pretty much as it did in January 1870 when John Wesley Hardin killed a man he said tried to rob him; more than likely it was the other way around.  While I’ve never been to Prairie Hill, I imagine it pretty much the same way and even smaller than Kosse.

Shortly after the Howards arrived in Prairie Hill, Isaac Howard’s brother Bill died. He was buried in Mt Antioch cemetery under a cedar tree the Howards brought with them from Arkansas. In the years that followed, a large number of Howards would also be interred at Mt Antioch.

Jim Howard’s Gravestone

Isaac was 16, 17 or 18, depending on which document you rely on, when the family came to Texas. He was with the family until 1899, at which time he “officially” began working as a doctor, first in Limestone County, then in adjacent Freestone County. He may have left the place for good around 1901 (when he is found in Montague County), however, it appears the places he is listed in as a doctor until 1902 correspond to localities where he had kin, so perhaps he wasn’t there the whole year and still lived on and off in Limestone County.