Gunter, Texas: A Big Little Texas Prairie Town

Have you ever heard of Gunter, Texas? Gunter is a big little prairie town on the crossroads of SH 121 and SH 289, 10 miles east of Tioga, Texas, which is on US 377. If you go north on SH 289, you will end up at Preston Bend on Lake Texoma, and if you go north on US 377, you can reach the western end of Lake Texoma and the Willis Bridge. 

The most interesting thing about Gunter, Texas, today, is Crocodile Creek, a crocodile and alligator farm, plus chickens, cows, dogs, and goats. Ray and Kristi Caperton have lived in Gunter for 20 years, and they established their crocodile farm in 2018. It is quite an exciting place to tour.

Individuals and groups need to text or email Ray or Kristi in advance to schedule a tour. You can find their contact information on their website in the link above. The reason for scheduling in advance is so Ray and Kristi can give you their undivided attention when you visit their farm with over 40 reptiles. Crocodile Creek is also a 501(c)(3) charity and accepts donations. 

Ray and Kristi invited to visit Crocodile Creek. We will write up an article when the weather cools down. Their crocs and gators are not suffering like humans in this heat wave, so we are happy that something alive is comfortable. The reptiles enjoy the extremely hot weather, but not so much the winter weather. We will let you know more after our tour of Crocodile Creek. 


Texomaland and Peters Colony

Gunter is in an area originally settled by Peters Colony. William S. Peters was a British musician and businessman who immigrated to the United States in 1827 and settled in Blairsville, and then in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Peters secured an empresario grant from the Republic of Texas in 1841. 

An empresario was a land agent or contractor under the Mexican system of colonizing its territory, and the Republic of Texas continued to use that system. An empresario grant was an area of land that the agent could open up for settlement. Peters led a team of 20 investors to secure the Peters Colony grant. 

The original boundary of Peters Colony began at the Red River at the mouth of Big Mineral Creek in western Grayson County. From there, the boundary ran south for 60 miles, then west for 22 miles, then back north to the Red River, and then east along the Red River to the point of origin at Big Mineral Creek. This area also includes most of southern Lake Texoma. *

According to the grant, the empresarios were contractually obligated to recruit 200 families from outside the Republic in three years. A single man could obtain 320 acres and a family, 640 acres. This empresario grant changed hands many times. This led to a lot of issues between the settlers and the current empresario, the Hedgcoxe War, and legislation by the Congress of the Republic of Texas. 


What About Gunter, Texas?

John “Jot” Gunter and Roxanne, his wife, arrived in Sherman with $65 in 1869. Jot practiced law in Sherman and partnered with William “Ben” Munson, one of the founders of Denison. The two surveyed land in West Texas and earned certificates of land scrip. Land scrips were loan and sales scrips that were land certificates issued to provide for or to repay loans made to the government of the State of Texas. 

When people earned a land scrip, they could exchange it for property anywhere in Texas. Jot and Ben traded their scrip for 25,000 acres in today’s southwestern Grayson County and named it Gunter Ranch. It was also called the Seven-Mile Ranch and burned the T-Anchor brand onto the rear ends of its cattle. 

Jot and Ben terminated their partnership in 1883, leaving Jot as the sole owner of the ranch. In its heyday, Gunter Ranch supported 500 to 600 horses and 5,000 to 6,000 head of cattle. Jot deeded 328.5 acres of his ranch for a township in 1901 because of a deadly natural disaster.


Gunter, Texas, Because of a Tornado? 

Yep! A whole town grew up out of a deadly tornado. 1896 witnessed one of the deadliest tornado outbreak sequences between May 15 and May 28 that devastated much of the Central and Southern U.S. Meteorologists consider this outbreak one of the worst ever recorded. One of the 1896 tornados slammed the Gunter Ranch at F4 strength. 

The fatalities counted 484 people when 20 tornadoes struck Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas in 13 days. Jot’s tornado flattened some of his ranch’s acreage to nothing on May 15, 1896, which he donated to create a town. This tornado started its landfall in Denton, swept northeast up to Sherman, where it killed 73 people, and injured another estimated 300. **

Jot wanted to establish a rail line from Sherman to Carrollton and offered a right of way through his ranch in 1901. He proposed the name of Red River, Texas, and Southern Railway. By September 1901, the St. Louis, San Francisco, and Texas Railway was laying two miles of train tracks a day. Before it was the town of Gunter, the future town had received a post office in 1898. 

The railway company completed a railroad depot in Gunter in 1902, and Albert Earthman established the First National Bank. Jot and Roxanne planned to build a mansion in the Gunter area, but their daughter died five days before Jot deeded the land to the Gunter Townsite Company. The Gunters moved to San Antonio with their five grandchildren instead, where Jot continued making a huge commercial splash.

Gunter incorporated in 1924 with a population of over 500. Gunter served as a commercial center and community center for ranchers and farmers with 50 businesses that year. The Great Depression slowed Gunter’s growth. Today, Gunter is bigger than 328.5 acres because the town has annexed outlying property. As of 2021, Gunter’s population was 2,255.


Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Holding Back from Gunter

Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) announced its plans to build a logistics center in Gunter over the next two years in June 2023 on 900 acres, or possibly over 900 acres. Community opposition has led BNSF to put a hold on their development. 

Gunter residents heavily opposed the BNSF plans to annex land into the city and rezone that property for heavy industrial use. Gunter residents jam-packed into a special joint Gunter City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in July 2023 in extreme opposition to BNSF’s logistics center development.

In a report to KXAS-TV in July 2023, a BNSF official said, “BNSF has decided to take time to further consider how we will orient and construct this facility,...We appreciate the City of Gunter for their continued efforts to work with our company, and look forward to further developing this site in a way that is mutually beneficial to the community and our customers.”

The BNSF website describes its logistics centers as, “Logistics centers offer direct-rail service in multi-customer, multi-commodity business parks. BNSF differs from private business parks by investing directly in the development of the facility to create sites in under-served, strategic, and primarily end-user markets.”

Gunter residents cited numerous reasons for not accepting the BNSF development, such as the center would be too close to schools and neighborhoods, there is not enough road infrastructure, a decline in real estate value, loss of small town values, and homeowner’s rights. BNSF is withdrawing their application to rezone and annex their property in Gunter. 

The big little prairie town of Gunter began with a railway depot and a regional railway line, but BNSF proved a tad too much. Gunter residents vehemently do not want to live next door to a monstrous train yard. BNSF runs on 32,500 miles of tracks in 28 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. BNSF is one of North America’s largest transportation railways.


Product Facts from the BNSF Railway Website:

  Agricultural Products 

  • In 2022, BNSF hauled 1.2 million carloads of agricultural commodities. 
  • BNSF moves enough grain to supply 730 million people with a year’s supply of bread. 
  • BNSF transports enough sugar in a year to bake more than 12 billion dozen cookies. 

Consumer Products 

  • In 2022, 5.04 million intermodal shipments (truck trailers or containers) were transported on BNSF’s rail lines instead of on the nation’s congested highways. 
  • BNSF moves 2.5M [million] new cars and trucks per year, or 5 per minute. 
  • BNSF and our carrier partners move up to 2 million pounds of fresh produce in a single day. 

Industrial Products 

  • In 2022, BNSF hauled 3.1 million carloads of industrial products. 
  • BNSF moves enough lumber each year to frame 320K houses .
  • In 2022, BNSF hauled 1.5 million coal shipments. 
  • One shipment of coal can power 19 homes for an entire year.

* Pilot Point, Texas, 17 miles from Gunter, was named Pilot Point because there was a landmark hill with a majestic cottonwood tree surrounded by oak trees thriving on it near today’s town of Pilot Point. The new arrivals could see that cottonwood tree from far away, and this cottonwood tree let arriving settlers know they had finally made it to Peters Colony. The settlers called the tree Pilot Point. 

** If you are interested in learning more about the May 1896 Tornado Outbreak Sequence, that is the title of a book by Jesse Russell and Ronald Cohn, published by Book on Demand, 2012. 

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Fishing Report from TPWD (May 15)

GOOD. Water normal stain; 67 degrees; 4.91 feet above pool. Striped bass fish are great using live shad on deep flats 50-60 feet of water and on humps along river ledges in 30-50 feet of water. Small schools of post spawn stripers with a lot of over 20 inch fish. Topwaters early along the rocks where shad are spawning as well. Bass fishing is good using live shad and top waters along the bluffs and dam wall in the clear water. Mudline is north and west of Washita Point with clear water on the southern end of the lake. Catfish are good on live shad and cut shad along the bluffs in 20-30 feet of water. Channel catfish are on the rocks in 5-10 feet of water, prepared baits and live shad are working. Crappie fishing is good on brush piles in 12-18 feet of water using jigs and live minnows catching them suspended around the structure and boat docks. Report by Jacob Orr, Guaranteed Guide Service Lake Texoma. Lake is flooded with floating debris so navigate with caution. Stripers can be caught along the mudlines, where the clear water and muddy water converge, with swimbaits and topwaters. Fish are moving around a lot but limits daily can be caught. Bait anglers are reeling in larger sized fish catches in deeper water. As the water starts to drop back down fish should return to the banks. There is sporadic bird action. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors.

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