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TIOGA, TEXAS

Would you have heard of it
if it were renamed "Autry Springs"?

Grayson County,
Central Texas North
US 377 and FM 121
Approximately 70 miles N of Dallas
Population: 809(2010) 754(2000) 625(1990)

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Gene Autry Festival Park Tioga Texas
Gene Autry Festival Park
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2007
Tucked away in the SE corner of Grayson County is the tiny hamlet of Tioga. We may not have learned about Tioga, had it not been for Hal, a viewer self-described as new to the Internet, but wise enough to recognize what Texas Escapes is about. Hal was wondering if we could say a few words about Tioga and Saint Joe, places where he grew up that are special to him.
We came across a small book in the Burnet Public Library (no relation to Autry's sidekick, Smiley Burnette) titled: I Remember Things: An Informal History of Tioga Texas. Written by Ross Estes and Compiled and Edited by Robert J. Duncan. Published by Nortex Press, Quanah, Texas in 1977.

Most of the book deals with the mineral water that was bottled there and once promised to make Tioga a household word. What caught our eye, though, was the part where Tioga was almost renamed Autry Springs, Texas in honor of Cowboy Gene.
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It seems as though there was quite a ruckus about the proposed name change. Gene himself thought "it was a gag" and critics said it was a plot by Autry promoters and well owners to sell more mineral water with a famous cowboy's name. The promoters (probably with pencil-thin mustaches) offered to shoot a movie in Tioga if the town would change its name. Pretty tempting. But suddenly skeletons starting coming out of closets, and while they were innocent skeletons, they did bring up a question that has been asked many times since. Namely, is a town entitled to a cut of a hometown boy's fame? If yes, how much?

Gene, as you know, died only a few years ago and maybe it was drinking that Tioga water that aided his longevity. But even after becoming fabulously rich, there never was a scandal attached to Gene's name. Palominos, not Palimony was Gene's credo.

Gene Autry  street sign
Gene Autry Street in Tioga
TE photo

But in the early thirties, even Texas' national pastime of exaggeration was frowned upon in some circles. His biography stated Gene graduated from Tioga High in 1925, but this was disputed by a former teacher, who said Gene was long gone by '25 and never graduated there. Then Dr. E. E. Ledbetter dropped a bomb by announcing that Gene was not only not born in Tioga, but six miles west in neighboring Cooke County! Dr. Ledbetter's word carried some weight, since he delivered Gene and indeed, it was Dr. Eu(gene) Ledbetter that Autrey was named after. Gene stayed out of the fight, because after all, that's The Cowboy Way.

It was also brought up that Autry was "The Yodeling Cowboy from Oklahoma" early in his career. State Lines can be bent if County Lines can.

Anyway, it never happened, which is just as well, since there is an Aubrey, Texas about 20 miles down the road (Hwy 377). Gene's career never suffered, and Tioga is still on the map.

Tioaga Methodist Church, Tioga Texas
Tioga Methodist Church
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2007
Church of Christ, Tioga Texas

Church Of Christ
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2007
More Texas Churches

Coca-Cola ghost sign in Tioga, Texas
Coca-Cola ghost sign in Tioga
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2007

More about Gene Autry:

  • Cowboy Gene by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
    Born to a farming family in 1907 in the East Texas town of Tioga, Autry learned to walk and ride a horse at about the same time. His grandfather was a Baptist preacher, and the youngster became a mainstay in the church choir. When he was a little older, he also got to be a good hand with a $5 mail order guitar. ... more

  • Torn Between Two Cowboys in Moulton, Texas
  • Two other incidents that occurred in Tioga:

    The Postmaster commited suicide in 1930, but it had nothing to do with the proposed name change. It occurred during a surprise visit by the Postal Inspector, and since tall buildings were scarce in Tioga, the man drank carbolic acid! Today, of course, he would've shot the postal inspector and everyone else in Tioga. Times have changed.

    In 1956, Sam Rayburn was baptized at Tioga's Primitive Baptist Church by Pastor Henry Ball. Five years later, Pastor Ball went to Bonham (in neighboring Fannin County) to preside at Mr. Sam's funeral.

    Tioaga Texas water tower
    The Tin Man of Tioga
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2007
    More Texas water Towers
    Tioga Website:
    http://www.tiogatexas.org/

    Getting There From Dallas -
    Junction of Hwy 377 and FM121

    I - 75 North 49 miles, then take FM121 west for 21 miles, or
    I - 35 North about 58 miles to FM922 east to junction of Hwy377
    Tioga, Texas
    Area Destinations:

    Dallas
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    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.

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