Leon County History 1940
Fort Boggy had been erected by Texas Rangers to protect settlements between the Navasota and the Trinity. A blockhouse, two stories high, was built in such a manner that the upper story extended over beyond the walls of the lower story. The purpose of this type of construction was to enable the defenders to prevent entrance to the blockhouse. Located on the north bank of Boggy Creek, between Centerville and Leona, this block house became known as Fort Boggy. Nothing now remains of the fort, and it is commemorative as having removed the fear of Indian massacres, the last obstacle to settlement of Leon County.
Some of the names of the earliest settlers were the Greers. the Middletons, the Burnses, the Taylors, the Patricks, and the Stateys. Later, other settlers came and took up residence near the Fort, at Leona, the Lower Keechi Creek, on Leon Prairie, and along the old San Antonio Road. The first store in the county was opened by Moses Campbell; Riley Wallace built the first grist mill, near the fort, and was the first postmaster: Thomas H. Garner operated the first sawmill on a branch of the Beaver Dam Creek; and the first grist mill at Cairo, a steamboat landing on the Trinity River was erected by Elisha Whitton.
Cairo had been founded by Captain Chandler and the Rodgers family. It was here that Colonel Alexander Patrick landed in 1841 with his family. At about the same time Navarro, the river port in the northern part of the county, was established by Captain J. J. McBride, John H. Goodman, and William Little. Navarro and Cairo were successfully developed and became important river ports. Both did a large volume of business as shipping and distributing centers, but their prestige faded away soon after the advent of the railroad in the seventies.
On July 13, 1846, Leon County was organized from Robertson, and had come into existence March 17, at the instance of McKay Ball, a resident of Fort Boggy and member of the state legislature from Robertson County. This constituted the first session of the Texas state legislature as distinguished from the Congress of the Republic. Up to this time, the local affairs of the settlers had been administered from Franklin, the county seat of the huge Robertson County. The name Leon is believed to have been proposed by McKay Ball. In all probability, this name, in turn, is derived from Leon Prairie, so named because in the early days a Mexican lion had been killed there. For about five years, Leona enjoyed the distinction of being the county seat, but then an election was held in 1850 and the majority favored a place in the center of the county, known as Centerville. (Then spelled Centreville.) Since the annexation of Texas to the United States occurred during the same year that Leon was created, the settlers felt a greater degree of security under a stable government and also felt free to develop local institutions. During the next ten years there was a considerable increase in population and property values.
The first school in the county was located near Leona and the instructor was an Englishman by the name of Scott who was employed by the Durst and Pruitt families. A gentleman, William Keigan, conducted the first school in Leona ; H. A. McWhirter taught the first school in Centerville, in the rear of his store. An early county teacher was Captain J. E. Anderson, whose teaching career covered about fifty years. In 1875 he started a private academy in Jewett, which was later merged with the public schools of that city, but Captain Anderson remained in charge after the merger. In summer he conducted a normal school for the training of prospective teachers, and conferred certificates. By 1882, the state public school system was functioning efficiently, and in 1886 a County Teachers' Institute was organized.