By Dr. V.M. Holland
Location: On US No.79 in West-Central Panola Co.
In 1836, Elijah Allred, after coming from Randolph County, N.C., to fight in the Texas Revolution, arrived in Nacogdoches to find the Revolution to be over. He decided to remain in Texas and was advised that there was land to be had for a reasonable price to the north of Nacogdoches off of Trammel’s Trace. In 1836 he built his simple log cabin about ¼ mile north of where the store now stands. His nearest neighbors were the Daniel Martin family near Tatum and Isaak Reed’s settlement near Clayton.
Within a short time this section of Panola County was rapidly filled with settlers. In 1838, Purviance Willaims and his brother John H. Williams arrived from Tennessee. Both had large families. In the same year, Abner Herrin, from Camden, Tennessee, Edward Sweat from Tennessee, and the Elijah Wyatt family, consisting of two sons and three daughters all with families, settled in the community. Stephen Allred with his son-in-law James Robinson arrived from North Carolina in 1841. He was a brother of Elijah Allred. Samuel Gentry, with a large family, came from Alabama in 1847. John M. Tompkins and Chris Barbee came from Georgia in the same year. In 1848 Spencer and Alford Harri, brothers, came from Tennessee with their families. John Allison with his son Thomas G. Allison, both with families, moved into the community from the North East side of Panola County in 1849. Leonard B. Murray with his family came from South Carolina in the same year. Wesley C. Sealy came from Mississippi in 1853, and Daniel Shaw came from Alabama in 1858. These are most of the families who remained several years in the community and who settled there before 1860.
It is of some interest to note, that of these first settlers in the community of Fairplay, although most came to Texas from Tennessee, the following were born in North Carolina:
Elijah Allred, Purviance Williams, Stephen Allred, Edward Sweat, Spencer Harris, Alford Harris, John Allison, Daniel Shaw. This patter of migration is repeated in most section of East Texas. North Carolina has been called the cradle of the southern and western states, because it was to a large extent the intrepid and at times irascible Scots from North Ireland who settled most of the North Carolina back country, that continued their westward march to play a major role in settling the whole tier of southern states and many of the western states as well.
Bethesda, later Allison’s Chapel, the Methodist church was organized between 1837 and 1839, at a log building near the Williams cemetery. It was moved to approximately its present site in 1868. Although most of the early settlers appeared to have been Baptist, a Baptist church was nor organized until 1869.
Fairplay Post Office was started in 1851 with J. F. Gill being appointed the first postmaster. Except for the Civil War Period, a post office remained until 1904 with the advent of rural free delivery. Mordicai G. Harris was the last Postmaster.
Fairplay has had some form of school since the early 1840’s. Until 1868, when the building burned, the school was taught in the church near the William’s Cemetery. Since 1868 at least three school buildings have stood on a site about ¼ mile north of the store.
Fairplay’s first store was located about a mile north of the present store, and was run by James Heifner who came from Kentucky in 1853. Alter John Allison arrived in the community he dug wells for a camping site, and established a blacksmith shop and a tan yard near the site of the present store. Later he built a store also which he, and later his sons, continued to operate until it was sold to Spencer Harris in 1882.