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A House History, Part II: The Cloud-Stark Mansion in Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas

A 1981 photograph of the Cloud-Stark house by the THC.

I wrote about Gainesville's Killgore Mansion previously and called it a "house genealogy." The reason why I called it that is the subject of this post: Killgore Mansion is tied to the Cloud- Stark Mansion of Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas... and it's not just based on the time period. Lots of regional history can be learned from the people who inhabited these homes.

It starts with the Cloud brothers from Alabama who came to Gainesville before 1860 after growing up in Lamar County, Texas. They were already wealthy, as the census shows that William Cloud held over $10,000 in assets and operated a store in town. According to a biographical article written for the Oklahoma Historical Society, William had married a Chickasaw woman from Indian Territory at one point, which afforded him access to the lands in the Chickasaw Nation north of the Red River in Indian Territory (I have not found a marriage certificate for this union).

Marriage into the Chickasaw tribe was often transactional so that white men could gain access to communal grazing lands; I've seen a marriage in which a Choctaw father sold off his daughter to a white man, who then became a rancher in Indian Territory. However, it's not like the women had no say in these relationships. Some women with tribal status, especially those who were the product of previous intermarriages, preferred marrying whites due to social and political advantages.

William's brother, Isaac, took advantage of this dubious claim to tribal status. By the 1870s, Isaac, aka Ike, began running cattle into the Chickasaw Nation. His connections with the U.S. army allowed him to sell the beef he raised on land that really wasn't his to the Kiowa and Apache reservation, which, in essence, he helped to form. During the Civil War, he served in the "frontier guard" under General Bourland, the largest land owner in Cooke County, and Major Roff, who would later also take advantage of a Chickasaw marriage to grow his own cattle ranch. After the war, he acted as a frontier guard that sought to kill and/or place Comanches and Kiowas onto reservations.

Ike Cloud made out like a bandit. The beef contracts and the use of free grazing land were so brazen that the Chickasaw nation charged him with trespass as he took the trail he blazed, noted on a U.S. government map as "Cloud Road," into the territory. Then, with the introduction of the Dawes Rolls in 1889, he lost his ranch as he had no connection to the Chickasaw tribe.

During the time he maintained his ranching empire, Ike Cloud's main residence was in Gainesville in the midst of the town's finest neighborhood. He, his wife, and their numerous children built one of the largest mansions in town at 327 South Dixon Street around 1885. It was considered the finest home in all of Gainesville.

Ike Cloud and his family sold the house a few years later and eventually settled near Chickasha (Grady County, Oklahoma). The next owners, the Lewins, had a daughter, Rose, who would become a prominent author and playwright. By 1906, the mansion came into possession of Harlen and Katie Stark, the richest couple in town. Harlen Stark developed a large part of Gainesville's downtown, operated a drug stores, and at one point owned a White Steamer automobile dealership. He was also good friends with William Killgore, the city merchant who owned the Killgore Mansion as well as the Brown and Sacra ferry sites on the south bank of the Red River. Together with other investors, the friends formed the Gainesville Red River Bridge Company that ran the toll bridge between Cooke County (Texas) and Love County (Oklahoma).

William Killgore died in 1923. His second marriage had been to Lucille Spires, who within a few months after WIlliam's death married Harlen Stark, at this point himself a widower. They set up their new household inside the Cloud mansion and raised several children there. They maintained the Italianate features, stained glass windows, and the entrance portico of the home that was added around 1900.

The home remained with Lucille Spires Killgore Stark for decades. And, for a year or so, it was the home of the last Confederate widow in Texas: as Lucille was married to William, who was with a Tennessee brigade during the Civil War, she could claim a pension through the state. Her son helped her apply and she received the pension until her death in the late 1970s.

And this is how inter-related houses tell stories, warts and all.

View more photos of the Cloud-Stark House by the Texas Historical Commission

View the map of the Chickasaw Nation, 1872 at the LOC Map

Learn about the many historical connections in the book by Red River Historian Press, "The Stark Ranch in Cooke County, Texas: History that Spans the Red River."

The Chickasaw Nation was mapped in 1872, and it's the only map I've found that shows the trail that Ike Cloud forged into Indian Territory (LOC).


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