A History of Avinger-Connor Building(s)

The site, upon which the combined building that houses "THE FIVE D CATTLE CO." is located, has an interesting history. Up until 1835, this portion of East Texas was still reserved for the Caddo Indians, who had been here for untold centuries. This site's very first conversion from pure, primeval wilderness began as recently as February 6, 1849 when S. F. Anders first obtained a 320 acre survey from the state land office. On January 8, 1860, he sold his entire 320 acre patent to Dr. Hamilton J. Avinger, a recent arrival from Orangeburg County, N.C. It then became the doctor's farm, home place, and orchard.

With the coming of the East Line and Red River narrow gauge railroad in the early 1870's, Dr. Avinger came up with a scheme to get the depot located on his land and thereby pull the two nearby outlying communities of Hickory Hill and Young's Chapel to his place. Once this was accomplished, he platted a town site for the new village of Avinger (Station) and the rest is history.

At first, the railroad ran right through where these two buildings are now. The depot sat next door and Dr. Avinger's store and office sat directly across Main Street from the depot/ This is the way things were until the railroad was converted to standard gauge and moved to its present right-of-way. All of this took place in 1893.

In 1912-13, Dr. Avinger's half-brother D. K. Avinger, moved his wooden store building directly across the street and a major construction project began with the erection of a five unit, brick complex. This was the beginning of the two structures being written about. C. C. Nelson & Co. of Sulphur Springs was the general contractor, and a man by the name if Hyde was the architect. The undertaking was a joint effort on the part of D. R. Coulter, who was to have the first three units at the north end for his expanding Tucker, Coulter, Mitchell department store. L. H/ (Buck) Avinger, son of Dr. Avinger, now deceased, was to have site No. 4 as a rental unit, and Connor Bros. got No. 5 for their hardware business begun across the street in 1909. Carl and Harmon Connor operated this "Lum & Abner, Jot 'Em Down" type of hardware store through thick and thin, good times and bad for 52 years, until both died of old age in 1964. Over the years, they handled everything from the standard hardware items of nails, staples, barbed wire, tools, and sheet iron to garden see, fishing supplies, furniture, appliances, newspapers, rugs, needles, glassware, kitchen utensils, toys and harness. In the early days they stocked coffins and served as the local undertakers on certain occasions. They even had an auto dealership in the late 1920's, displaying at least one new Chevrolet at a time in the front of the crowded store.

After the fellows passed on, their heirs sold the building and remaining stock to H. G. (Boots) Early who auctioned off the remnants. He then sold the building to B. B. Waldrop who operated Waldrop's Grocery. Mr. Waldrop later sold to Dorothy Odell who opened it as Dorothy's Cafe. The next owner was the City of Avinger who used it as the Senior Citizens Center for the next few years until Doug and Demeris Jacobs bought it and the one next door in 1997 for their present restaurant operation.

Building No. 2, known as the "L. H. Avinger Building", has had a somewhat more varied history. Its first tenant was Thompson's Dry Goods Store. After operating there for several years, it went out of business. It then became a drugstore operated by Mr. Moore who had a pharmacist son-in-law by the name of Frank Whisenhunt. Mr. Whisenhunt took over the store and ran it until about 1925. It then became vacant for a year or so during which time it was used for plays and the showing of an occasional silent movie. In 1924, the Post Office was moved into it from across the street.

In about 1937, the Post Office was moved back across the street. After sitting vacant for awhile, the Avinger Building was converted to a full fledged movie house known as the TIMBERLAND THEATER. The theater owner was Mr. McNatt of Naples. It continued to serve in this capacity all during World War II, until about 1946. When no longer used as a theater, the building was being occupied by various short term renters. IT was finally sold to Boots Early by the Avinger heirs. Recent occupant's have been McEachern's Ceramic Shop and Skipper Transportation's Trucking Company. The Jacobs bought it in 1997 and began an extensive restoration of it and the former Connor building. These two historic buildings have been converted to the picturesque western style steakhouse it is today.

A Brief History of Avinger

The first settlers began to arrive in the mid 1840's. Prior to then, the only human occupants of the area had been roaming bands of Caddo Indians, their aboriginal predecessors back to the beginning of time, and occasional adventuresome explorers. Edward M. Kimbell, one of the first to take up land, was soon joined by other relatives and friends. In 1848, a post office was established with Thomas M. Kimbell the first postmaster. It was named Hickory Hill, Texas. L.A. Pattillo, his brother-in-law, arrived the same year from Caswell county, N.C. by way of Greene County, Missouri, and acquired the entire Jas. Spidell Survey from J.B. Bingham of Jefferson, plus additional acreage in adjoining surveys for a total of over 1,000 acres. He built a large, two-story, mansion known as the "Big White House" that had the first school in one of its rooms and the first post office in another. He became the new settlements second postmaster, serving until 1861 when the office was temporarily discontinued during the Civil War. A number of eligible young men of the community had marched off to the front with Captain W.E. (Bill) Duncan's Black Cypress Rangers. The post office reopened in 1867, in a small log structure said to have been located at the present highway entrance to the W.J. Salmon residence. Lewis A. Pattillo also established a tannery and built a two-story general store building with the space above for the newly organized Hickory Hill Lodge, No. 156. Later, he deeded five acres down the road a way for a Presbyterian Church and cemetery. These things, plus fathering eleven children, he accomplished by age 44, when he was brutally murdered by a man named Alfred A. Wilson who mistook him for his brother-in-law, William Currie. The murderer was never apprehended.

Other pioneer families were continuing to move in along about this time. Among them were the Hendricks, Skinners, Duncans, Cottons, Pruitts, Orrs, Platts, Sturdivants, Bruces and the M.D. Avingers. The latter opened one of the first stores in the Hickory Hill business section and built a large, dogtrot style home across the road, which later became the Fowler place. Dr. James E. Sturdivant put up an office building next to M.D. Avinger's store.

Davis Hendricks was appointed postmaster when the office was reopened in 1867. His home was located on hill back of present Simpson's pond. In the spring, Davis's mother, Mrs. George Hendricks, died. There had been an abundance of rainfall making it virtually impossible to dig a grave outside, so a section of the floor of the Presbyterian Church was taken up and she was buried underneath. Davis Hendricks lived alone until quiet old, becoming somewhat of a recluse and town character toward the last.

The Reverend Thomas R. Young, a Methodist minister, had arrived in the area in about 1843 and established a community known as Young's Chapel three miles north of present Avinger, near the old Hearne place and cemetery. He founded the Methodist church that was later moved to its present site in Avinger, adjacent to the cemetery.

Dr. H.J. Avinger, an older brother of M.D. Avinger and a half-brother of L.K. (Kit) Avinger, had also settled at Young's Chapel first, arriving there from Orangeburg, S.C. in the spring of 1855 accompanied by his new bride, the former Mattie Hooker. A short time later, he built a home, with an apothecary shop nearby, on the northern edge of the present town of Avinger. In 1877, the East Line & Red River railroad, a narrow gauge operation was under construction from Jefferson to points west. When the newly laid, three foot wide tract reached Hickory Hill, the enterprising Dr. Avinger enticed them to come a mile farther by offering to donate the station site and depot to them along with free access across the rest of his property which consisted then of the entire James Anders Survey. His only provision was the new station be named AVINGER, thereby relegation his family name to posterity.

Because of the importance of a railroad to a new settlement, the newly established Hickory Hill business section was soon transferred to the present site of downtown Avinger. M.D. Avinger moved his store into a newly constructed wooden building on site of present Simpson & Co. office building. This same building housed A.M. Rhyne & Co.'s large mercantile operation in later years until it burned to the ground in 1926. The Masonic Lodge building, a two story, wooden structure until replaced by present concrete block hall, was moved to its present site, still bearing the name "HICKORY HILL LODGE."

The former Pattillo School was transferred to a small; one room building across from Dr. Avinger's home and the Baptist Church was reconstructed on the site of their present parsonage, except that in those days it too, faced the railroad tracks.

Dr. Avinger was stabbed to death along about this time (June 27, 1881), allegedly by Hicks Ross, a local Negro fugitive from justice from
Georgia. The latter, instead of being lynched on the spot, as was the custom in those days, received a fair(?) trial and a twenty year sentence
to the state penitentiary, at hard labor: Incredible! Perhaps, perhaps not.

In 1881, Jay Gould, the (in)famous railroad magnate, acquired the bankrupt East Line & Red River railroad for $100,000 plus its debts of $800,000 and promptly unloaded it on the M.K. & T. (Katy) system for over two million. They farmed it out to the S.S. & S. (Sherman, Shreveport, & Southern) for a while, then took it back, under pressure from Gov. Jim Hogg's railroad reform program, and began converting it to standard gauge in 1893. This involved moving a portion of it from Avinger's Main St. to its present location, depot and all. From this point on, the town's business district became very much as it is to this day, with old, original wooden buildings being replaced occasionally by more permanent brick ones.

The First State Bank transferred operation from its small, 1909 building, to modern, spacious quarters at the intersection of state highways 49 and 155 during the mid-seventies.

The white school was moved again to a wooden building next to the Methodist church and then, in 1912, to a new, two-story brick structure on present site. This building was added on to in 1935 and then ultimately torn down in 1981 after being replaced by modern buildings on the same campus.

The townspeople voted to incorporate in an election held in the building, Connor Bros. Hardware Store, on Sept 11, 1948.