PORTAL TO THE PAST
Clarksville was the first stop for many pioneers crossing the Red River into Texas, including the larger-than-life figures Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Stephen F. Austin. So it stands to reason that the town promotes its location and its heritage as the “Gateway to Texas.” Historical markers pop up on the town square, including one that commemorates the five men from Red River County who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. By the 1880s, the area economy was booming thanks to cotton and a rail line, and county officials wanted to reflect that prosperity with a grand new courthouse. Conceived by Dallas architect W.H. White in the Renaissance Revival and Second Empire styles, the design was so grand that it was too big for the town square. Instead, it was constructed in a residential neighborhood three blocks north of downtown and completed in 1885. With assistance from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, restoration was completed in 2002. The courthouse contains records from the beginning of the Republic through today, and is a useful resource for genealogists searching for their roots, including probate records that include listings of slaves living in the county prior to the Civil War.
Like the courthouse, downtown Clarksville is experiencing rebirth - as a Texas Main Street City, with restaurants, antiques stores, art galleries and a gathering place for events such as the June Fine Arts Festival. There are more heritage sites nearby. The 1833 home of newspaper editor and publisher Col. Charles DeMorse is the oldest residence in Clarksville. The Lennox House, a restored Queen Anne-style Victorian home, was built in 1897 for a prominent pioneer family. The 1887 Gothic-style “Miss Belle’s House” is home to the Red River County Lawmen and Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Farmer/Stockman Hall of Fame.