Red River County is old. Prior to settlers moving west to Texas, Caddo Indians passed often over the gentle hills and even stayed a while in villages. The Spaniards didn’t pay much attention but early settlers crossed the Red River on their way to all that free land in Texas. Five signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence represented the Red River District at the Washington on the Brazos conference. William Becknell (1788-1856), father of the Santa Fe Trail and first to take a wagon trail across the country’s interior, is buried west of town in the middle of a pasture. Over 200 cemeteries are listed on the Historic Texas Cemetery website. It is no surprise then to find that much of what Clarksville and Red River County has to offer the traveler is history. There are some nice restaurants interspersed.
1. First Presbyterian Church, Clarksville, is the oldest, continuously operating Protestant church in Texas. Considering how many protestant churches there are in Texas, that’s quite an honor. The church is well maintained and has the side Corley Family Chapel with stain glass windows made by the Jacoby glass company. Check with Jim Clark 903.427.2266 to gain entry. 106 S. Pecan Street
2. The Red River County Courthouse. What I can say? This beautiful structure is as close to the Italian Renaissance as you’ll find in these parts. Built in 1884 from yellow stone cut from a quarry 45 miles away, it was beautiful for its time and beautiful now. Thanks to a renovation in 2003, the courthouse shines. Inside, the hallways creak with original wood and that winding staircase leads you to one of the most authentic, historical district courtrooms in Texas. And just down the street is the museum at the Old Jail built in 1887 which provides a glimpse into penal conditions of the 1800s. Courthouse – open 9:00 to 5 – Monday to Thursday. Contact Jim Clark to see Old Jail.
3. Coleman’s BBQ is not on the main drag. You’ll find it by the pick-ups parked outside at noon. Begun in 1972 by the Coleman Family, it’s been serving great Texas Bar-B-Q to locals of all colors and classes. But the inside secret is they also make wonderful tamales which my family has enjoyed on Christmas Eve for years. 604 North Donoho Street. 903-427-3131
4. Built in 1833, three years before Texas Independence, the DeMorse House is the oldest building in this old town. It is a two room log cabin and housed Colonel Charles DeMorse, the father of Texas journalism. Writers of Texas history in the 1800s refer often to the Clarksville Standard, which DeMorse founded as the Northern Standard in 1842. It was one of Texas’ most influential newspapers. A drive-by tour is all that is available at this time. Located at 115 East Comanche Street.
5. Even the country club is old here. The Clarksville Country Club was built in 1920 and hosts a beautiful nine hole golf course. There are no reviews of this golf course on the PGA web site but Northeast Texans consider it a hidden gem. Green fees vary from $26 to $39 and the course is open to the public. Four miles north of Clarksville on Highway 37
6. Wildcat Creek Quail Hunting Lodge. Opened just two years ago, this lodge is attracting much attention. Whether you want to hunt quail, pheasant, deer or turkey, or simply enjoy a generous four course, fixed price evening meal, the staff is eager to serve you. Chef David will visit at your table and even describe the thrill of getting a turkey with a seven inch beard. You don’t have to be a hunter to enjoy the drive in the country, the high quality meal, or the chef.Wildcat Creek Quail Hunting Lodge
7. Lennox House The Lennox family were the Rothschilds of Clarksville and Red River County, having extensive land and bank holdings. The three siblings of Bagby, David, and Martha Lennox lived in the same house for most of their lives. At their death, the home was given to the Red River Historical Society. It is beautifully restored and used for special events. Jim Clark can arrange a tour. 601 West Broadway.
8. Located on the recently renovated downtown square, the Italian Bistro is a welcome food option in these parts. The menu is authentic and the price reasonable. You’ll also meet many locals if you dine here. The owners, Alek and Aurora Lleshi, are friendly and available and will make any accommodations possible. Drop in after shopping the great antique stores on the square. 106 North Walnut Street.
9. If you enjoy nature, north of town is the Martha Lennox Memorial Nature Trail, located on a pristine old-growth forest and donated to The Nature Conservancy by the Lennox family. The Trail is a mile and a half loop that takes you under trees and over logs and from low, wetlands to highlands. You don’t have to be able to recognize a Lady Slipper Orchid or a white oak to enjoy the woods. Local Master Naturalists have provided markers naming various plants and trees. For visual learners, there’s even a picture of the identified plant. Call John Nichols for a tour – 903.427.5279. Lennox Woods
10. Trees. I mean it. Red River County has seven state champion trees on the Big Tree Registry maintained by the Texas Forestry Service, all on the Sulphur River. These include the Mimosa (silk) tree, the Nutmeg Hickory, and the Eastern Redbud. While I can’t give you directions to these particular trees, the countryside of Red River County is a hidden gem. Try driving north of Detroit on FM 410 and 195 or wander around FM 909, 44 or 1487, in the south of the county. The ranches are massive and the trees large. It’s well worth an outing.