Before the Civil War there were not many families in the western part of Collin County. A few families had settled in the area but most of the settlement began after the Civil War. Nathan Chris (Chris) and John Settle were born in Kentucky. Chris was born May 14, 1857 and John was born January 31, 1855. Both of their parents died in 1870. A man by the name of John Allen then purchased the farm in Kentucky and had a brother named Billy Allen who had moved to Frisco, Texas. John and Chris wanted to come to Texas to live but had to convince their brother and sisters (there were a total of seven children in the family) to let them come to Texas at such an early age. They had an aunt and uncle that were coming to Texas from Kentucky and wanted to come with them. The couple’s name was Wesley Goodnight, who was kin to Charles Goodnight. Charles had settled in the panhandle of Texas and became well known for his ranches and cattle. The Wesley Goodnight’s were coming to Texas to settle in the Rock Hill area.
The family decided to let the two young teenagers travel to Texas via covered wagon. John wrote in one of his letters that is was a sad day when he left his three sisters, brother, grandmother and an aunt and uncle that he would never see again. They left Bowling Green, Kentucky and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee. From there they got on a steamboat and went five miles up the Mississippi River to land in Arkansas. They had two covered wagons and an extra horse. They travelled over very rough and muddy roads, forged many creeks and crossed on many ferryboats. They survived on fish and squirrel.
They arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas and then the corner of Oklahoma, crossing the Red River into Texas near Dekalb. John saw his first Indian in Oklahoma just before he crossed the Red River. They came through Paris, Bonham, Honey Grove and then to McKinney. They came through McKinney and finally to the flats of Western Collin County. The prairie chickens were plentiful, and they would sit in their wagons and kill all they needed to eat.
John and Chris stayed with their Uncle Offie Button who had come to Denton County earlier. They left Kentucky on September 23, 1871 and arrived in Collin County on November 15, 1871. John and Chris stayed with the Button family for a couple of years and worked for them on the farm. Chris said he made $160 the first year and $175 the second. With the money they had saved they purchased a Yolk of Oxen and then decided to purchase some land northwest of the current town of Prosper. Prosper hadn’t been settled yet, so here were these two young kids that were buying land without a house on it, or even roads leading to it. The Lakes of Prosper development is currently located on some of the Settle Land.
John and Chris travelled 40 miles to Dallas in a wagon to get the lumber to build their house. They built only one room and lived in it for over a year. The stove was a small box. Chris said he had a pan and lid and put it inside the stove to bake bread. They sat on homemade stools and slept on straw mattresses and bedsteads that Chris made.
In 1879, John married Fina (Viney) Cline, so they had to add a 2nd room to the house. They received all their supplies from Jefferson, Texas and used oxen teams to pull the wagons. Jefferson was close to the Louisiana border and probably took at least a week to get there. They would take their cotton to Jefferson and bring back groceries and supplies. Jefferson was a port and boats would come up the river and deliver needed supplies. Chris said that some families had five or six yolk of oxen and drove them to Jefferson and back all through the spring and summer.
Mr. Howe had built a house near Chris and John Settle. They had no church so Mr. Howe let them use one room at his house to worship. This house is still standing today, just south of Prosper Trail on the west side of Coleman. It is known as the McElhannon House. The McElhannon’s had a mercantile store and a grocery store in Prosper. Before there was a Richland School, Mr. Howe also let them use this room for a school. L.L. Naugle, who was living in Rock Hill at the time, preached his first sermon in this room. L.L. became a pastor in Rock Hill and when the Methodist Church moved to Prosper in 1902, he became the pastor. His brother, Benjamin Naugle, became postmaster of Prosper in 1896, while the Post Office was in Richland, and continued until 1942, for a total of 46 years. Chris became the superintendent of the Sunday School and continued for years.
This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of PROSPER Magazine and written by the late Bill Hays. As we focus on the growth of our Prosper community, it is imperative that we remember the past and pay homage to our roots. Therefore, while our Town Historian has passed, we will be chronicling his works and sharing the stories from his books – Prosper, Texas: Its History and Families, Volumes I and II.