Pilot Point, Texas History
Denton County History | Pilot Point History | Politics | Agriculture | Manufacturing
Pilot Point lies eighteen miles north of Denton in Northeast Denton County. Located along F.M. Road 377 Pilot Point is in the central plains region of Texas approximately 50 miles North of the Dallas Fort-Worth area. Pilot Point derived its name from its location on the top of a ridge used as a landmark by Indians, settlers, and Texas Rangers. The first settler to Pilot Point, James Pierson, arrived in Pilot Point on February 11, 1854, marking the town’s founding. By the late 1850s, the Butterfield Overland Mail stage route ran through the town connecting it to various points across its almost 3,000 mile route.
On July 8, 1860, Pilot Point was one of ten communities, including Denton and Austin, which had a fire blamed on a black uprising known as the Texas Troubles. The fires razed approximately half of the Denton Square and a store in Pilot Point. Quickly blamed on a group of slaves, the fires caused a slave panic that spread to the wider south. The fire in Pilot Point caused $10,000 in damage.
After the Civil War Pilot Point continued its progress that had been previously halted by the war. Pilot Point was incorporated on October 8, 1866, meaning it received a national charter and could now elect officials. In 1878, D. J. Moffitt and James Taliaferro Jones published Pilot Point’s first newspaper, the Pilot Point Post. A telegraph line, installed in 1867, connected Pilot Point to Sanger, Sherman, Bolivar, and Jacksboro. The road that ran beside the line became known as the Wire Road. Pilot Point became more accessible to the outside world in the 1870s. By the 1880s two railroads ran through the community, although Pilot Point had only one track. The Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in 1880, and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas leased its track. Prior to this, supplies were shipped by oxcart from Jefferson, over 350 miles away.
In 1890, Pilot Point became a thriving community with a population of 1,090. Many businesses served the community, including the Pilot Point Bank, chartered in 1884; a roller flourmill; several cotton gins; the Pilot Point Post-Mirror (a weekly newspaper); blacksmiths; gunsmiths; a saloon; a grocer; a hardware store; a meat market; a hotel; Waters-Pierce Oil Company; a jeweler; and a restaurant. With Pilot Point’s manufacturing improvements came infrastructural improvements. Pilot Point’s roads were improved in 1895 and the railroad shipped goods such as cotton, grain, and hides. By 1900, telephone and electricity lines reached Pilot Point making the city even more accessible.
The Flusche brothers brought a major influx of new residents to Pilot Point in 1891. Emil Flusche, a Catholic empresario, someone who settles new land and is responsible for recruiting new settlers to the territory he is responsible for, and his brother Joseph along with a local landowner, J. M. Sullivan, published promotional literature encouraging German Catholics to settle in Pilot Point. The German Community in Pilot Point developed due to the cheap and fertile land, and because many of the German settlers already had family living in the surrounding area. By 1910, Denton County had 650 German residents.
In 1872, two schools in the community consolidated into the Pilot Point Seminary – later renamed Franklin College for one of its founders, Dr. M. B. Franklin. Officially chartered in 1884, the school offered students an education from the elementary to the college level, with a Bachelor of Arts degree available. A public school opened in Pilot Point in 1894, and Franklin College closed in 1901 due to competition with North Texas Normal College in Denton. In 1901, the Holiness Church purchased the campus and a church and orphanage began to operate there.
In 1903, Reverend and Mrs. J. P. Roberts established Rest Cottage in Pilot Point as a compassion ministry associated with the Holiness movement and later the Church of the Nazarene. Rest Cottage served as a home for unmarried mothers and a child placement agency. Rest Cottage served thousands of "erring" girls through 1975, at which time it was closed and much of its land was deeded to Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University) in Bethany, Oklahoma.
Pilot Point continued its growth after the turn of the twentieth century, and the population reached 1,371 by 1914. By this point, Pilot Point had a creamery, an ice plant, three banks, and seven churches of three denominations.
By the 1950s, Pilot Point had 1,156 residents and sixty-five businesses, including two lingerie manufacturers and a manufacturer of church and school furniture. The population reached 2,538 in 1990. At this time, the community had a library; 3 public schools with an enrollment of 865 students and 62 teachers; 12 churches; and 2 municipal parks with baseball diamonds and soccer fields. It had three banks and ten manufacturers, including cabinet and counter manufacturers, irrigation equipment makers, equestrian supply, and clothing manufacturers. State historical markers honored the Pilot Point Church of Christ, the Pilot Point Post Signal, and the city of Pilot Point. The population reached 3,856 in 2010.
ED. F. Bates, History and Reminiscences of Denton County, (Denton: McNitzky Printing Company, 1918); Rest Cottage Records, 1901-1986, AR530, Box 1, Folder 24, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library.; Hollace Hervey, Historic Denton County (San Antonio: Historic Publishing Network, 2002).; E. Dale Odom and Bullitt Lowry, A Brief History of Denton County, Texas (Denton: Terrill Wheeler Printing, Inc, 1975); The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, “Pilot Point, TX,” "Butterfield Overland Mail," http://tshaonline.org/handbook.