Graham, Texas was founded in 1872 by two brothers from Kentucky, Colonel Edwin Smith Graham and Gustavous Adolphus Graham. These two men purchased land in North Central Texas through the Texas Emigration and Land Company, also known as the Peters’ Colony. When they came to this area in 1869, they purchased a salt plant on nearby Salt Creek from Judge Bower. Col. E.S. Graham and G.A. Graham drilled the first gas well in the state of Texas in 1871 while searching for additional sources of salt water. There were only 12 men and G.A. Graham’s family in those early years of the settlement of the area, but the population began to grow. People were drawn to this land of promise and wonderful opportunities for those willing to catch hold of the brothers’ dream. In 1874, Young County was re-organized and the newly formed town of Graham became the county seat.
G.A. Graham and Absalom B. Gant surveyed the town and provided for the downtown square, naming it Commerce Park. It was their intention to create streets wide enough to turn a wagon and spacious lots for even the largest homes. Graham has the largest square in the United States measuring just over one mile in circumference.
On February 17, 1877, the Texas Cattle Raisers Association was conceived and organized by cattlemen in the area. The Young County Brand Book reflects many of those famous cattle brands that were the foundation for this early-day meeting. Through the efforts of Col. E.S. Graham, in 1879 the town was designated a Federal District Court, with Judge Andrew P. McCormick.
Farming, mercantile, land sales and ranching seemed to be the mainstays of the area until producing oil was discovered in 1917. By the 1920s, Young County became the third-richest producing oil reserve in the state of Texas, with Graham in the center of the exploration.
Graham continues to develop its opportunities and grow as the vision of the Graham Brothers over 130 years ago. The community has remained true to its historical heritage and desire to meet the needs of all its citizens. The Graham Brothers’ great desire was to have a good and safe place to live, to work and to do business.
Fort Belknap: Fort Belknap was established on June 24, 1851 as the second line of frontier forts connecting the Red River and the Rio Grande in the government’s attempt to protect settlers. Captain Randolph Marcy helped General William Goldsmith Belknap choose a suitable location, since Marcy had been in the area in 1849 searching for a quicker route to the western gold fields. The first buildings were built in a “jacal” method and then by 1852, the fort buildings were replaced by sandstone, using local craftsmen. In 1854, the mission of Fort Belknap was expanded when the federal government decided to combine all of the Indians in Texas on two reservations in the area. The Upper Brazos River Indian Reservation is located in present day Throckmorton County and the Lower Brazos River Indian Reservation is located in Graham. When the experiment failed in 1859, Fort Belknap was decommissioned. The fort continued to be used from 1859-1866 by the Frontier Battalion and later the Frontier Regiment which later became the Texas Rangers by 1901. Old Fort Belknap was re-commissioned for six months in 1867, but lack of water closed the fort for good and the troops were moved down the road to the new Fort Griffin.
In 1936, to celebrate the Texas Centennial, the fort was reconstructed using state, federal and local monies. The fort is owned by the citizens of Young County and is the only Texas fort owned by a county. Fort Belknap is open Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday from 9-5. The fort is also open on Sunday from 1:30-5:00 p.m. For additional information, contact Fort Belknap at 940-846-3222.
Young County Courthouse: On December 20, 1930, the county contracted to have a modern courthouse built and bonds were issued for $314,000. The exterior base of the building is marble from Marble Falls, with Indiana limestone used on the upper facing. The development of the county can be seen on the panels of the courthouse walls carved from Indiana limestone by the Texas Quarry Company in Austin. This is the fourth courthouse built in Young County.
Courthouse Arch: The third courthouse in Young County was built in 1884 to replace a wooden building that was located on the west side of the square. Bonds were issued and the native sandstone building cost $29,907 on completion in 1885. The area was surrounded by an iron fence, and hitching posts for the animals were located in the courtyard. The two-story courthouse was torn down on the completion of the new courthouse. City alderman and Fire Chief, Adger A. Morrison, led efforts to preserve the arch for history.
Old Post Office Museum and Art Center: OPOMAC is a general museum of history and fine arts located in the first permanent post office in Graham. The building was built in 1935 by architect Louis A. Simon. Local merchant Spencer Boyd Street was the first postmaster for this building. The building houses an intact mural by regional painter Alexandre Hogue, titled “Oilfields of Graham.”
The History of Young County and the influences that shaped the fabric of the area are among the attractions. The facility also houses a gift shop and permanent art collection. For information on exhibits, go to www.opomac.org.
Young County Veteran’s Memorial: In September 1999, it was decided to have a memorial dedicated on the Square to honor the men and women from Young County who served in the military from 1900-1999. On Memorial Day 2000, the center section was dedicated for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the name of freedom. On Veteran’s Day 2000, the outside wings were dedicated, honoring the men and women who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and peacetime enlistments from Young County. Young County is a proud supporter of all of our veterans who have served and are truly our heroes.
Interested in more concerning the history, sites and sounds of Young County’s history? Stop by the Visitor Center at the Graham Chamber of Commerce and pick up a brochure that will lead you on a self-guided tour of 44 historic properties on and around Graham’s downtown square.