Rita Ownby Holcomb Author

Bringing my ancestors to life.

Judge James Thompson was appointed the first Chief Justice of Grayson County and was the first Postmaster at Preston. His home was moved to the village in 1990.

Son of Jesse & Anna (McDonald) Thompson.

Before he was seven years old his family moved to Cherokee County on the Tennessee River in what is now Alabama. Thompson grew up among Cherokees, becoming affluent in their language and ways.

Married to:

1st. Margaret McNary (1818) A quarter blood Cherokee, of the Long Hair Clan. The Thompson family joined the Cherokee Migration to what is now known as Oklahoma. They opened a Trading Post on the Arkansas River. Margaret died in 1839.

2nd. Nancy Shuntally in 1843. Nancy died in childbirth 2 years later.

3rd. Martha Jane Gresham Caruthers (widow) in 1846.

He was a Cherokee Trader-Texian-Seccessionist.

He migrated Circa 1840 ,to Washita Bend, TX (Preston Bend, TX).

He owned a ranch with over 3,000 acres which provided horses for the Butterfield Stage Line whose route crossed his property. He also operated a ferry across the Red River.

The story of the house being saved from the flood waters of Lake Texoma is as interesting as the Judge’s life. Read about it for yourself!


Frontier Village is located in Grayson County Texas and contains some of the oldest buildings in the county.

Frontier Village – Stone Soup/History and Recipes is now available for direct purchase on Amazon.com.
Copies will be available at the museum April 20th. & Kindle will be available on April 12th.
All proceeds go to help us continue to preserve the history of Grayson County Texas. Celebrating our 50th year as a 501(c)3 non-profit.


Heaven’s Promise-The Final Twist…..excerpt page 130. May 15, 1896 Black Friday in Sherman, TX…..f5 tornado hits.

The steel girders of the bridge were twisted and thrown deep into the creek bed. Trees were stripped of their leaves and some were uprooted and lying every which way. Bodies, clothing, and household goods were scattered everywhere, all water-soaked and coated in mud.

Watt had not seen this type of devastation since he left the battlefield.

This scene was different. Instead of blue and gray clad soldiers, they saw brightly dressed women and children.

Ed spotted a bit of bright cloth high in a tree top. He sent Dave to climb and retrieve it, thinking it might be a little girl’s doll.

Dave descended the tree with tears in his eyes as he silently handed the bundle of fabric to his uncle, turned away, and vomited in the mud.

Ed looked at the wad of wet fabric in his arms and saw, not a doll, but a little girl. There was a pink ribbon tied in a neat bow around her bright blonde curls and one shoe was missing, but her stocking was intact. Her face had been obliterated by the wind and flying sand. Every bone in her tiny body had been shattered.

Watt stepped up to his brother, who seemed to be frozen in place, and gently took the child and laid her in the wagon alongside the other bodies.

“Tell me, big brother, how that meets God’s plans?” Ed said bitterly.

“I wish I could, Ed. But I don’t have an answer for you. Perhaps it is to remind us how fragile our bodies are and to remind us to value each other for the limited time we have in our earthly bodies.”

Camped atop a green mountain near Buffalo Springs on a cold Sunday morning in January, 1864, Watt took a few moments to read his bible. A particular passage seemed appropriate so he commenced to read aloud. A small group formed around him as he read Ephesians 6:10-16:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

A deep voice broke in: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of rightness;”

Startled, Watt looked up to see who was so eloquently quoting scripture and saw a cavalry lieutenant leaning against a tree. He nodded at the lieutenant and continued to read as the lieutenant recited the passage with him:

Watt rose and saluted smartly. The lieutenant returned the salute and held out his hand to shake. He said, “Lieutenant John Christopher, and who do I have the honor of addressing?”

Shaking the lieutenant’s hand, Watt laughed and said, “So you’re the infamous Lieutenant John my little sister keeps talking about.”

Photo of the valley below a hill near Buffalo Springs in eastern Tennessee. Taken in 2000.

William Morton Savage

William Morton Savage was born in 1891 and shows on no census. The only accountings we have of him are a few photos, newspaper clippings and his Tombstone.

I first heard Uncle Bill’s story as a very small girl. My grandmother Jessie Savage Ownby would tell me stories and her eyes would get teary as she talked. She would tell about how he was drowned aboard ship when it caught on fire and they flooded the room he was in to put the fire out. (His story can be read in Heaven’s Promise)

Long after she died I found the San Francisco Chronicle article detailing the incident. One thing struck me in the article. Bill’s shipmates thought he had recently married while on leave in San Diego. There was no record of it aboard ship and no one knew her name. I often think about her and hope she received word somehow that her new husband was a hero. He survived WWI then died tragically, in port during peacetime.

Frontier Village and Museum

Located at Loy Park in Denison, Texas (the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower,) it is in close proximity to Lake Texoma.

The Village has a self guided tour of the historic frontier homes of Grayson County and the Museum contains many local artifacts and changes continuously.

An extensive genealogy research center is available including Grayson County record book.

In 2021; Frontier Village is celebrating its 50th year with several planned events.

First is a book which is a combination of history of the structures in the village, and various recipes compiled through the centuries from Colonial times to yesterday.


Sam Rayburn House Museum

Step into the warm and welcoming world of one of Texas’ best known statesmen, Sam Rayburn. One of the most powerful and influential politicians in the 20th century, Rayburn served in the U.S. Congress for 48 years, holding the position of speaker for 17 years.

His 1916 home, now the Sam Rayburn House State Historic Site, preserves his real stories with original furnishings, candid photographs, and personal belongings, remaining as they were when he lived here.

Visitors explore Rayburn’s personal life and political achievements and their impact on mid-20th-century history. The home is a National Historic Landmark, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Log Cabin Village is a living history museum owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth. The Village is dedicated to the preservation of  19th c. folk architecture and frontier lifeways.

The purpose of Log Cabin Village is to educate the public through the collection, preservation and interpretation of artifacts, representative structures, and other items of social and cultural significance to Texas’ pioneer era (1840-1890).


Conner Prairie, Fishers, Indiana

Mission Statement: A unique historic place that inspires curiosity and fosters learning by providing engaging and individualized experiences for everyone.

Several sections offer something for every interest. A Lenape Indian Camp; 1836 Prairie Town; 1859 Balloon Voyage and an 1863 Civil War Journey.

This one is on my bucket list. I love their mission statement and their photos appear to be appropriate.

Fenimore Farmers Museum

This was my first experience with a living history museum. Back in the early 80s we took a trip to Cooperstown, New York for the express purpose of visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame and stumbled over this place.

While the highlight of the trip for my husband and son was the Hall of Fame, I was enthralled with the entire experience of stepping back in time and living history.

I was hooked and planned future trips around the same type of museums in general.

The site of The Farmers’ Museum has deep roots in New York State’s rural past. The land has been part of a working farm since 1813, when it was owned by James Fenimore Cooper. Judge Samuel Nelson, whose office is part of The Farmers’ Museum Village, bought the farm in 1829 and raised sheep. Fenimore Farm, as it came to be known, changed hands again in the 1870s, when it was acquired by the Clark family.

In 1918, Edward Severin Clark built a showcase complex at Fenimore Farm for his prize herd of cattle. The barn, creamery, and herdsman’s cottage designed by architect Frank Whiting in the Colonial Revival style and constructed of local stone still stand today and are an integral part of the museum. Today, they house museum offices, exhibition spaces, and public areas. The structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Farmers’ Museum opened its doors to the public in 1944. At that time, the museum had 5,000 tools and objects, including important collections amassed by the Otsego County Historical Society; William B. Sprague, founder of the Early American Industries Association; and the Wyckoff family, one of Brooklyn’s oldest farming families. Today the museum’s collections number more than 23,000 artifacts.

The Farmers’ Museum is a private, non-governmental educational organization. It is closely affiliated with its sister organization, Fenimore Art Museum.