Wills Point’s village proper was formed in 1873. It was laid out at the highest elevation point between Ft. Worth and New Orleans by General Greenville M. Dodge from Iowa, then construction engineer for California Construction Company. Reportedly, it was first named Iola. According to legend, when early settlers petitioned Uncle Same for ti’s own postal service, the name had to be changed because there was already postal service to a place called Iola. William Wills was the initial settler so Wills Point was submitted and accepted. Wills Point was also known as “The Queen City of the Praire”.
The Texas and Pacific Railroad has been located in Wills Point since 1873. The town was built around the railroad. Many businesses relocated here from the Cedar Grove Community when they heard the railroad would run through here.
The Majestic Theater
Karl C. Lybrand launched his long and colorful career in the entertainment business in Wills Point in 1907 as manager of the Wednesday Book Club Opera House. In 1926, the theatre building was built to show the silent movies that wer all the rage. Probably the most memorable thing during the silent pictures days was the orchestra that won fame in our area providing musical accompaniment to the films. The orchestra included Karl C. Lybrand on trumpet and his wife, Ms. Eva Lybrand on piano. The orchestra played until talking pictures took over the screen in 1928. The first talking picture shown here was “The Girl From Woolworths” starring Alice White. Karl C. Lybrand III carries on the tradition of his father and grandfather operating the Majestic Theatre today. It is the longest continously operated movie house in Texas.
Rose Dry Goods Store
Rose Dry Goods was established in 1873. It was originally in the Cedar Grove Community before it was relocated to the present site when the railroad came through Wills Point. B. W. Rose, the founder of the business, was a Jewish immigrant who came to America from his native Germany when he was 16 years old. The original building was a wood structure, but was bricked using bricks made south of Wills Point. There is no true record of the date of the building, but it is well over 100 years old. B. W. Rose died in 1922
In 1848, a man named William Wills, the namesake of our city, came to Texas from Tennessee three years after it was annexed into the United States. He settled on what was then titled “Government Vacant Land” owned by the state and obtainable by settlers living on a tract for 3 successive years. He was the first settler to come here and built his home, a wood cabin, at the point of timber between the Sabine and Trinity rivers.
Bruce & Human Drug
Bruce & Human Drug Company is the oldest family owned drug store in the state of Texas. Established by the late B. W. Bruce, it still remains in the hands of his family. It has been located on the corner of James and 4th Street since 1879.
The Green House
On the northwest corner of James and 4th Street is the original First National Bank building. The building was built and commissioned to the board of trustees of the First National Bank by the Howell family in 1895. The building is outlined by railroad tracks that the walls are built on top of. This was to deter any would be burglars from tunneling under the walls and into the bank. After the bank moved to another location, the building served as a city office, and then the post office. Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Mayberry bought the building in 1955, where they continued to operate the Greenhouse for over 40 years. The business is still family owned today.
The sight of two cotton gins was locate on W. North St. at Hwy 47. At one time, there were eight cotton gins locally, and 26 county wide. The Floyd Weeks Gin was the last working gin in Van Zandt County. The early ginners, cotton buyers and warehousemen played a vital role in Wills Point’s history, especially its economy.
The Rowden Gin was the other gin. Mr. W. O. Rowden came to live in Wills Point in the winter of 1898 to live with Mr. H.H. Carmack. Mr. Carmack gave him a boll of cotton that was brought her from Florida. Mr. Rowden planted that cotton, and from year to year improved the quality of his cotton. Around 1900, he formed a partnership with his brother, W. A. Rowden, to sell his cottonseed which produced more cotton per seed and grew taller than any other cotton. It became nationally known as “Famous Rowden Cotton”. Unfortunately, at the same time the first cotton picking machines were being invented that preferred the shorter variety, so Rowden Cotton’s fame was short lived.
Century 21 Heskew Realty
The W. H. Wingo building was built in 1917 by Mr. Wingo. He was a merchant dealing in grains and oils and the old scales are still visible at the right side of the building. The building was used as a freight warehouse in earlier years, but housed Lonnie Roe Realty from 1976 until Century 21 Hesskew Realty purchased in 2003.
The brick streets were laid in the 1920’s by local laborers. The bricks were laid in a particular way on packed sand to last forever.
The only ripples to this day are those made when the utility lines were installed. The bricks were taken up and re-laid, but it was difficult getting them back to the way they were laid originally.
The Rose Monument
The structure in the center of N. 4th is the Rose Monument. I.E. Rose, the younger brother of B.W. Rose, followed his brother here. He stayed in Wills Point before going to Dallas where his ventures in real estate and other businesses proved profitable.
Mr. Rose remembered Wills Point fondly for what it had done for him and his family, and expressed the desire to give something to the town that would be a source of civic pride. He first had the idea that a park for children to play in would be the best project, but after careful consideration by the mayor, city council and Mr. Rose, the monument was selected. The monument has tiers of basins for plants, a center projection that extends to a height of about 12-15 feet and attached to the projection are four light posts.
The Cartwright School
The Cartwright School was the first school for blacks. The provision for the school was made over 100 years ago. Originally, the unnamed school was located on N. Wills Street. Professor Needham Wright was the first teacher, teaching children during the day and adults at night. Cedar Grove students and teachers were moved to the school when their building was destroyed by fire and the school was moved to the south side of town. In 1927, the students in grades 1-8 were moved to the public school due to overcrowding, then in 1966, the entire school was de-segregated, and Cartwright was closed.