What’s in a name? Allison, Texas

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, November 24, 2018
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Allison was the community that never was. It was created by a bunch of businessmen from Waxahachie and Dallas, who were banking on a railroad being built between Decatur and Denton.

In 1910, Electra Waggoner sold her inheritance of land east of Decatur to J.L. Gamman and his syndicate. They laid out 46 lots and constructed buildings, including a school. The community grew quickly and took the name Allison, in honor of E.M. Allison, the county judge of Wise County. The railroad never came, and the town died away. It never had a post office.

Elisha Mitchell Allison was born in May 1859 in Transylvania County, North Carolina, which is on the border of North and South Carolina in the Smoky Mountains. He was the 10th and final child of Alexander Doughty Bird and Evaline Phoebe Lister Allison.

He studied law and obtained a license in North Carolina. He moved to Wise County in 1886 and married Mary Frances “Mammie” Sensibaugh Oct. 29, 1886.

The Sensibaugh family were one of the early settlers of Wise County, having arrived in 1854. There is no record that any of the Allison family accompanied E.M. on his move to Wise County.

Allison listed his occupation as a farmer in the 1910 census.

He had nine children, eight of whom lived to adulthood.

In August 1888, he served as a juror in the murder trial of John Glass. John Glass had shot his neighbor three times when the neighbor confronted him about treatment of his hogs, which Glass had run off his property with dogs. The trial ended in a hung jury, with nine men for acquittal and three for conviction. There is no indication which way Allison was leaning on that hung jury. Glass was retried the following year and aquitted, after more contentious deliberations.

On July 23, 1910, Allison beat his opponent, J.W. Walker, in the race for county judge by 89 votes. He received 1,881 while Walker got 1,792. Although this was the primary election, no significant opposition ran in the general election; and Allison easily secured the position.

Allison served as county judge until 1915. Before that, he was a justice of the peace.

Here is an excerpt from the Aug. 5, 1910, Messenger: “To the selection of E.M. Allison to preside over the county court, the people have made no mistake. He knows the law, is just in his decisions and at all times a high-tone gentleman. He came to Wise County in 1886, hailing from Transylvania County, N.C., where he read law and was licensed to practice the profession. Since coming to this county he has devoted his time to farming and other business interests. He served two terms as justice of the peace of this precinct, and his record in this office stands out bright and bold as one of which we are proud. Judge Allison’s friends are legion in this county; they know him to be ‘pure gold’ in honor and integrity, possessing a brilliant brain and in his everyday life he stands for all those things that tend toward a prosperous and happy condition of the people.”

Allison was a prohibitionist, just like almost everyone else.

He and his family moved to Amarillo in 1917, where he took up work for the Santa Fe Railroad. He was a stationary engineer, which is a job that handles the safe operation and maintenance of equipment.

He was found dead in the boiler room of the Santa Fe general office building in Amarillo at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 22, 1926. He had a heart attack.

Allison was an interesting character. He made three major shifts in his career, from lawyer, to farmer, to politician, to railroad engineer. His motives for these shifts are not known. And he almost had a town named after him, if the railroad had lived up to its promises.

This once again shows that timing is everything when it comes to having a namesake. If we were to form a new town in Wise County today, I would propose it be called J.D. Clarkton, Wise County, Texas.

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