Rio Vista, Texas

Located in an area of Johnson County‘s earliest settlement, Rio Vista was founded on the railroad in 1885. The townsite, which affords views of both Nolan River and Mustang Creek, was given the spanish name for “River View”. The post office that was established in Rio Vista in 1885 was discontinued in 1889, but was reinstated in 1890. By 1896, the community boasted 175 residents, eight stores, a lumber yard, steam gin, and a steam corn sheller. Rio Vista’s public school system also began that year. Telephone lines were installed during the early years of the 20th century, when three passenger trains were arriving daily at the depot. The thriving economy was shattered, however, by a fire in 1914 that destroyed 24 buildings. Many of the businesses were hurt, and the rebuilding process was slow. Cotton sustained the economy during that time, and dairy farming later became important. Just as the coming of the railroad had initiated growth in Rio Vista during the 1880s, the building of State Highway 174 through town in the 1950s brought a boost to the economy. From its beginnings as a railroad community, Rio Vista has been an important part of Johnson County history.

  • Grange Hall Cemetery
  • Early Cattle Trade
  • Henry Biden Cabin
  • Nolands River was an early Johnson County community, established in the late 1850s. A local club of the Grange, a farmers’ fraternal organization, organized her in 1874, and built a two-story meeting hall called “Grange Hall” that also housed a local school, church and Masonic lodge. In 1878, W.P. and S.M. Kizziar donated land to the Masonic lodge for use as a cemetery. Of the hundreds of marked graves in Grange Hall Cemetery, more than half date from before 1900. Several early unknown burials are marked by rocks or Bois D’Arc posts. The Menefee family reunion has been held here or nearby annually since 1891. Grange Hall declined after the nearby railroad town of Rio Vista was established in the 1880s
  • Famed for its beef since era of the Republic, Texas fed a great part of the Confederacy– both civilians and army– in the Civil War years, 1861-1865. Routes for beef supplying were many: Shreveport Trail to Vicksburg, Miss.; Alexandria Trail to Natchez, Miss.; Opelousas Trail to Woodville, Miss., and on to Mobile, Ala.; Old Government Road to Little Rock, Ark.; Oliver Loving’s 1859 trail north, to Indian Territory; trails to all army depots and even to Mexico. Cowboys had to swim cattle across rivers– even the Mississippi. After undergoing such hardships, one outfit was mistakenly arrested by Confederates. Lt. Col. J. F. Scurlock and son, from Johnson County, on a Texas beef drive into southern Louisiana, were arrested by Federals and died in prison, of fever. Meredith Hart (1811-1864), a leading beef supplier, came to Johnson County in 1855, after fighting for the in 1836. In the 1850s, he sold beef to the U.S. Army. During the Civil War, he was one of the ranchers victimized by beef contractors using counterfeit money, but accepted losses in the faith that beef was feeding his sons and others on Confederate fighting fronts.
  • Henry Briden (1825-1908) came to Texas from his native Germany in 1845 and served for two years as a Texas Ranger. In 1849, he and his wife, Lucinda Sevier (1831-75), became first permanent european settlers in what is now Johnson County, when they built this cabin on the east bank of Nolan’s River (2.5 mil. northwest). The one-room log structure was later used as a barn when Briden erected a larger home nearby. In 1974, it was restored and moved to this site.