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What’s in a name? Cottondale, Texas

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, September 15, 2018
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Cottondale, Texas

Cottondale is named to honor the cotton crop of Mr. John Thomas Bridges.

As the story goes, Mr. Bridges migrated from Alabama sometime before 1875. He left behind a sweetheart, a widow named Fannie Woodruff.

Mrs. John Woodruff

Fannie, who had married John Woodruff in 1866, had a son, also named John Woodruff. She was married less than a year when her husband died. She gave birth to her son the following year. And at some point after that, one presumes, she met and was courted by Bridges.

Bridges, being alone in the area, and lonely, would make a 15-mile trek to Aurora on foot once a week to take letters to his sweetheart and pick up her letters, as well as any mail for his neighbors.

At some point, it occurred to him to plant some cotton. Having no plow, he cut up some oak limbs and planted two acres of cotton. It grew so magnificently that it was the talk of the town.

When it came time to name the town, John Bridges’ cotton patch came to mind and they suggested Cotton Valley. It was changed to Cottondale, as Cotton Valley was already taken.

In the meantime, Bridges used his cotton money to return to Alabama, marry his love and bring her and her son back to Wise County.

Bridges died in 1877, just a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday, leaving his pregnant wife a widow for the second time. Later that year, Fannie gave birth to still-born twins. It was a tough year for Fannie Bridges.

Bridges left behind one son, Henry, who became a prominent banker in the area and died in a car accident in 1937.

His stepson, John Woodruff, lived to be 92, and lived mostly in Wise County. He had 10 children, among them Willard B. Woodruff Sr., who in turn had two sons, one of whom was W. B. Woodruff Jr., a prominent attorney in Wise County and former mayor of Decatur. W.B. Woodruff Jr. was the father of Martin Woodruff, the current mayor of Decatur.

Bridges may have lived a short life, but he made two significant impacts on Wise County. He farmed cotton so fabulous that the town was named after it, and he brought the Woodruffs to Wise County. And all because he was in love with a young widow named Fannie.

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