Note: Parallel Development is a new column by contributing writer Brandon Cooper about Lewisville’s rich (yet often untold) history and how it relates to the issues we’re facing today. This entry is the first in a four part series in honor of African American History Month.
Friendship is friendship; history is history.
-Hēi tài yáng 731 (1988)
Scattered throughout Lewisville’s history are bits of a narrative, either forgotten or ignored, that give us a better understanding of how this town started, but you have to look hard. Walk to the back of the Lewisville Public Library and go inside the Baird reading room. Find one of the various histories of Lewisville and read about the early days of this town. A common theme runs through every account: the myth of the frontier.
No, I don’t mean the one about cowboys and Indians; rather, it’s the idea that early pioneers created the foundation of our community with a few wagons full of relatives and supplies, a little ingenuity, and a lot of hard work. It’s the concept that they endured every hardship to ensure a better life for their children. In other words, it’s the idea that they did it on their own. It’s a tale we as Americans love to tell and strive to emulate.
From reading those easily digestible books, essays, and pamphlets, you wouldn’t know that the first two families to settle here, the King and the Holford families, brought slaves with them to settle the land in the 1840s. By 1850, there were 11 slaves in Denton County, none older than 25. By 1860, there were approximately 72 slaves in Lewisville.
That’s not to say Lewisville wasn’t divided on the issue. For the 1860 presidential election, as it was in the rest of the South, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t on the ballot in Lewisville. If voters didn’t want to cast their de facto vote for Breckinridge, they had the option of voting for the fusionists, a kind of “none of the above” option supported by Sam Houston that indicated support for keeping the Union without endorsing Lincoln specifically.
But before the election, a series of fires in North Texas incited paranoia among residents against abolitionists and slaves, leading to numerous hangings and lynchings across the state. Denton County as a whole voted overwhelmingly for Breckinridge, and Lewisville (listed as “Hallforts” on returns) voted for him 44 to 31.
We’re fond of repeating the phrase “No man is an island.” But we must remember that this phrase applies just as much to the figures of the past as it does to us. By ascribing these settlers or anybody else with almost superhuman qualities, we inadvertently ignore the subjugation - and contribution - of an entire group of people. The group that was forced to start this community deserves at least as much credit as the people who forced them.
Visit this site next week for the second part of this series.