Wise County was established in 1856 and plans were made for a county seat near its centre. The town was initially named Taylorsville, after President Zachary Taylor, but political opponents of the ex-President brought about a name change in 1858 and the town was renamed after Stephen Decatur, a naval officer who had fought in the War of 1812.
Decatur lay on the western frontier in its early days and Indian raids meant that its initial growth was slow. The town was close to a section of the Chisholm Trail and acted as a service centre to ranchers.
With the arrival of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway in 1882 Decatur grew steadily as a shipping point and market for farmers and the population trebled between 1880 and 1890.
A major landmark in Decatur is the Wise County Courthouse, built in 1896 and one of the finest buildings of its type. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Another architectural highlight is the restored Petrified Wood Gas Station, originally part of a complex which included a cafe and lodging rooms. It is said that the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde stayed here a few weeks before their bloody demise.
Today’s song, our second from Mark David Manders in just over a week (see day 767), is a tale of betrayal amongst outlaws in the Old West.
“I was sound asleep at my daddy’s in Decatur when those rangers busted in
They put us both in chains and they hauled us off to Tyler,
And when that district court commenced, no-one came to speak in our defense
After six months in prison I asked to see Judge Evans,
I told the judge about my plan
He agreed to set me free and reduce my daddy’s sentence
If I could lead the rangers to their man
They were desperate to catch my old friend, Sam”