History of Pool Park
First County Election
The county’s first election was held under a live oak tree, known as the Election Oak, near the park located about four miles from east of Clifton on Hwy. 6. On Aug. 7, 1854, one of the three boxes held the ballots of the 20 citizens voting in the first election. All but five cast their ballots there. J. K. Helton presided of this ballot center.
The following officials were elected: Lowry H. Scrutchfield, county judge, Jasper Mabray, county clerk; P. Bryant, sheriff; Issac Gary, tax collector; Archabal Kell, treasurer; A.C. Pearce, district clerk; J.K. Helton, justice of the peace; and J.H. Mabray, Sam Barnes, O. Dennis, and Israwl Standefer, county commissioners.
Old Settlers' Association
About 50 years after this election, Tom M. Pool, owner of the land on which the Election Oak stood, moved his family from east of the Bosque River to a small house under the branches of the tree. For about a year, 1904-05, the Pool Family lived there while a new home was being built on a flat-topped hill just to the southwest. Members of the Pool family lived in this house, known later as Highview, until 1968. In 1926, Tom M. Pool deeded five acres of land surrounding the live oak tree to the Old Settlers’ Association of Bosque County. A monument honoring the men who voted in the first election in 1854 and other early citizens of Bosque County was erected to the east of the tree.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, picnics were held at Pool Park ever Fourth of July. Both old and young enjoyed visiting with friends and neighbors at these celebrations.
Lunches were spread under the branches of the tree. There were old fiddler contests and political speeches. However as time passed, many of the old settlers died; and during the war years of the early 1940s, the picnics were discontinued.
The last celebration at Pool Park was held during the Bosque County Centennial in 1954. People from far and wide attended the Old Settlers’ Reunion at the park on May 8, 1954. The main address of the day was given by Dr. W.C. Pool, grandson of the park’s namesake, Tom M. Pool. A pink granite marker that was placed there in 1926 by the Pioneers of Bosque County to honor those early Bosque pioneers is located at the park.
In 1970, a historical marker was placed near Hwy. 6 to mark the location of the first election ballot box under the old tree.
The Texas Forest Service included the Bosque County Oak in its book, Famous Trees of Texas, published in 1970.
Due to its death from oak wilt in 1980, the majority of the oak was chopped down. A cross section of its trunk is housed at the Bosque Collection as an exhibit with the tree rings serving as a historical timeline. According to experts, the Election Oak began its existence in the same year as the United States, 1776.
Redevelopment of Pool Park
Various youth organizations participated in the beautification process of historic Pool Park near Clifton over the summer of 2004 in celebration of the Sesquicentennial. Included in the park’s beautification was the planting of a live oak representing the original Election Oak, which had died in 1980 of oak wilt and was later chopped down. The park consists of xeriscaped, native flora that will survive in Bosque County’s arid climate with each type of tree, bush, vine, or flower identified with the Latin name, its common name, and use. A kiosk was built depicting Bosque County history. From there, one can follow the path (Hwys. 6, 22, and 56) through a miniature representation (about 100’ x 150’) of the county.
The Students Boy Scouts from Valley Mills Troop #326, as well as families with the First United Methodist Preschool in Clifton worked at the park by planting gardens representing Bosque County communities.
Travis and J.R. Power, boy scouts, helped with the labor as a part of their Eagle Projects. Travis was responsible for sanding, priming, and painting the 185 foot pipe fence on the west border of Pool Park, and J.R. was in charge of the 5x5 garden plot that
represents the City of Valley Mills. J.R. researched his project with help from the Heritage Society in Valley Mills and decided to build a replica of the Old Mill. The garden
shows the Bosque River and the Chisholm Trail. First United Methodist Preschool worked in a section of the garden on Thursday, May 27. All 50 of the students brought a plant and a stone with which about 20 parents and students created the garden after school.
A birdbath and the hardiest, drought resistant greenery were among the gifts the Preschool gave Pool Park.
Rededication of Pool Park
The following is a reprint of an article by David Anderson appearing in The Clifton Record on Friday, August 13, 2004:
BOSQUE COUNTY — An estimated 200-plus persons were
on hand last Saturday morning for the dedication of a new Pool Park, some four
miles south of Clifton on Highway 6. The park is adjacent to the property that
contains the remnants of the Election Oak, the historic tree where Bosque
pioneers gathered 150 years ago to organize the new county.
The new park features a garden area in the shape of Bosque County, with the eight major communities included as well as the Bosque River. Historic time-lines highlight many of the events in those communities over the past century and a half, leading to this year’s observance of the county’s sesquicentennial.
Bosque County Historical Commission Chairman Elizabeth Torrence called the site “hallowed land,” recalling her family’s contributions to the county’s beginnings. In February 1854, a petition was signed to have the area designated a county, and her ancestors were among those signing the document.
The new park is the fruition of a dream of Torrence, whom Doug Stockton, curator of the Bosque County Collection, called the “matriarch of Bosque County history” during last Saturday’s ceremony. Torrence has long been a driving force in restoring and preserving the history of the area and its pioneers.
County Judge Cole Word also praised Torrence for her “vision, tenacity, and perseverance to see this thing through. God Bless her,” Word said.
Stockton said work began on the park about two years ago, but that things “really got serious about three to four months ago.”
“Everything you see here has been given,” he said, referring to a long list of donors of time, materials, money, and labor. Stockton have a brief history of the county, including the Election Oak, which historians have dated to 1776. The tree died of oak wilt in 1980.
Stockton also gave a rendition of Pool Park’s history. The area was a popular gathering site for many years, but eventually fell out of use. The last known use of the old park site was a county-wide picnic held there in 1954, celebrating the county’s centennial.
“It is our wish that Pool Park will again become a place where people can gather to learn about Bosque County’s history,” Stockton told the gathering.
“This is a pretty important day in the history of a lot of people,” Word said. “A lot of people have a lot of family here.
“Are we blessed? You better believe it,” the judge exclaimed.
Word also honored former Meridian High School English teacher, the late Rebecca Radde, who he called a great historian, and said he knew she would have been proud to see where the county is today in efforts to preserve its history.
Special guest Congressman Chet Edwards said he was proud to be a part of a gathering that celebrated the family values shown through the project, and the attempts to teach those values to the coming generations, showing the “goodness of that past to make and shape a better future.”
“While the country’s founding fathers were putting their lives on the line to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Election Oak was taking root,” Edwards said, noting the historical connection of the county and the country.
Edwards said that as the Statue of Liberty recently re-opened to tourists in New York, Bosque County reflected the same spirit the statue represents.
“The statue stands for a land of immigrants, and we’re a better nation because of it,” Edwards said.
Edwards said he stood in awe when thinking back to 150 years past, then realizing the advances made in the past 150 years.
“We’ve gone from an election under the Election Oak to man-made machines exploring Mars,” he explained. “But,” he continued, “the important things really haven’t changed that much.” He said the values apparent in the county’s founding fathers — faith, family values, friends, and love of country — are still very apparent, keeping Bosque County a “very special place.”
“God blessed Bosque County then and now with a natural beauty — hills, canyons, prairies, rivers, endless horizons and sunsets. Bosque County reminds us of the Good Lord’s Masterpiece,” he said.
Edwards challenged those present to carry on and appreciate the everyday values of those who brought the county to the present.
Torrence presented a reading of the founding settlers of the county, many of whom had ancestors present for the special ceremony.
Torrence noted that much of the property surrounding Pool Park belonged to her family in the beginning, and that her father had lived under the historic Election Oak while building their new home, “Highview,” which is now the home of artist George Boutwell. Torrence recounted a handful of family highlights, including, as a young girl growing up in the area, climbing the limbs of the tree with her cousins.
Returning the praise directed to her from Stockton, Torrence said there would be no park without his hard work.
In closing the ceremony, Stockton noted that Bosque County lies on the 98th meridian, widely recognized as the spot where the American West begins.
The ceremony opened with the posting of the colors by members of the United States Marine Corps, the Pledges of Allegiance to the American and Texas flags, and solos — “America the Beautiful” and “Texas, Our Texas” — by Gailyn Seljos Volcansek.
Following the ceremony, Jimmy Schmidt and the Unknowns (Marvin Christy and Jerry Benfer) played a selection of old favorites while visitors were invited to enjoyed cold drinks and cookies while touring the park.
|County Judge Cole Word welcomed guests.||Congressman Chet Edwards brought the keynote address||Elizabeth Torrence recognized Bosque founders||Doug Stockton emceed the ceremonies.|
|Gailyn Seljos Volcansek sang "America the Beautiful" and "Texas, Our Texas".||Jimmy Schmidt and the Unknowns provided musical entertainment.|