Welcome to Saint Jo, the oldest town in Montague County, Texas. Situated in the lush, rolling hills of the Red River Valley, Saint Jo boasts some of the most dramatic scenery in north Texas. Founded in 1849, it was also called Head of Elm for a time, in regards to its close proximity to the headwaters of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.
Just like most tales of the Old West, there is debate amongst local legend about the founder Joseph Howell, and the motives behind naming the town after him. One account is that the promoters laying out the town were so impressed by his abstinence from alcohol that they named the town “Saint Jo.” A more scandalous version is that Joseph’s frequent favoring of alcohol inspired the namesake out of jest. Just one of many chapters in the colorful history of this town.
In the late 1800’s, during a time of frequent Comanche raids and a rapidly settling frontier, Saint Jo was a hub for commerce, supply, and even libation. Cowboys and trail drivers pushing their cattle north up the famed Chisholm Trail could make their last stop in Texas before the Red River to re-supply, or have a drink at the Old Saloon (which still stands today in the form of a museum).
It is estimated that between 6 and 10 million cattle came up this well traveled route, trailed by some 35,000 cowboys over the years. As the greatest migration of livestock in world history, it made famous the image of the American cowboy, life on the wide-open range, and is an integral part of Saint Jo’s historic makeup.
Today, this history is kept alive in the ongoing preservation of the unique buildings in our town square, the diverse collection at the Stonewall Saloon, as well as the educational efforts of community members. A well-known descendant of Joseph S. Howell, Donna Howell-Sickles, a cowgirl hall of fame inducted painter, also continues to highlight some of this western history in her vibrant paintings produced here in Saint Jo, which are eagerly sought by museums and collectors all over America.
There are six historic markers inside the city: The First State Bank, Boggess City Park, the Stonewall Saloon Museum, The Phillips House, The Weger House and the Head of Elm Cemetery. There are three historic cemeteries including Pioneer, Head of Elm, and Mountain Park.
We hope that you will come visit soon, as we would love to show you around, and share some of the rich history that Saint Jo has to offer.
For those interested, you can view more detailed information on Saint Jo’s history here.