Alto History Written in 1934
Alto History Written in 1934
Alto. In 1849 the original town site of Alto (a form of the Latin word for high), so named by Captain Henry Berryman because of its location on the dividing ridge between the Angelina and the Neches rivers, was a magnificent prairie surrounded by forest," part of an extensive acreage on the old Barr and Davenport grant which had just been purchased by Colonel Robert F. Mitchell. About 1851 Colonel Mitchell hauled goods from Shreveport by ox-wagon and opened a store on the southeast corner formed by the intersection of Marcus Street and the King's Highway, afterward successively owned by G. S. Doty and Doctor J. M. Noell. Such was the beginning of Alto.
The business section soon extended eastward with the Masonic building and Koher's grocery and saloon on the southwest and the southeast corners of the intersection of Ochiltree Street and the King's Highway, the Odd Fellow's hall east of Koher's and Lippman's, afterwards Cooper's, store on the southeast corner of the intersection of the King's Highway with Mill Street North of the highway, just west of the present Baptist Church, were the Mitchell Hotel and the Isaac (Cooney) Allen store. Jim Muckleroy was the first village blacksmith. Colonel Mitchell soon built a gin in the present Ahearn Addition.
One of the most popular centers was the two-story stage-house on the northeast corner of the intersection of Marcus Street and the highway. Here the stage line from Waco to Nacogdoches made connection with the Nacogdoches-Crockett line. Always a news center, it was at least once "spot news" itself. The stage stopped with a dead driver, that gentleman having just succumbed to a heart attack.
Colonel Mitchell, emigrating to Nacogdoches County with ten slaves in 1837, soon became a partner of Colonel John Durst in an extensive mercantile establishment at Mount Sterling on the Angelina River. Prior to 1849, however, settlement of his business affairs in Natchez and New Orleans, followed by enlistment in the United States Army during the Mexican War, kept him out of Texas the greater part of the time. In 1851 he brought his bride, formerly Mrs. T. M. Matthews of Douglas, to Alto. He died in 1878.
The first Alto schools were taught in the lodge buildings. A schoolgirl's composition, entitled, "There's a Time for All Things," started the campaign for the first school building. In it the author, now Mrs. M. W. Armstrong, declared Alto had never been known to draw the purse strings in public affairs. Stirred by her faith, Doctor W. L. Kirksey immediately started a subscription for a new school. The resulting structure, a rough, frame building, located at the convergence of Marcus and Ochiltree streets, also housed goat kids at night and served as a union church on Sunday. In the earliest years, however, children were frequently sent to school in the older communities near by.