One of the first settlers of ‘Paradise Valley’ was Oliver Henry Perry (O.H.P.) Read, who arrived in Texas from Missouri circa 1858 and settled near Rush Creek in the southern part of Wise County. This part of Texas was home to many buffalo, deer, wild turkey, and antelope. The river valley was abundant with colorful wildflowers of red, blue, and yellow. The valley rose to a beautiful prairie toward the West.
Before long, Read and his family were neighbors to clergyman John Toller, cabinet-maker John Wood, farmers John Gallington Stevens I, William Burress, William Mershon, Frank Holden, the Perkins, the Kincanons, and stock raiser Jonathon Youngblood.
In 1873, the town of El Dorado was established on land that OHP Read had purchased. Bill Anderson built the first store there, and soon the town began to grow. The town was laid out in a square, and on the SE corner, a water-well was dug for use by the citizens of El Dorado. The square was bordered by Anderson Street (N), Banks Street (E), Fannin Street (S), and Weaver Street (W). Anderson Street ran East-West and connected with present day Sunflower Road.
The stage line from Weatherford to Gainesville came through the little town, stopping for passengers on its way. Soon a blacksmith shop and wood shop were added to the growing town. On March 10, 1876, the town was awarded the right to have a post office, but since another town in Texas was already named Eldorado, the town had to change its name. One of the first settlers, William Burress, wanted to name the town Paradise Prairie because it reminded him of Paradise on Earth. Lundy B. Haitt became the result postmaster.
The “old town” of Paradise Prairie lasted almost 20 years until the Rock Island Railroad came within one mile northeast of the town in 1893. As a result, many businesses began to move nearer to the railroad to create the “new town”, now known as Paradise.
New Town Paradise
With the coming of the railroad in 1893, the town began to move near the tracks, creating the ‘New Town’ of Paradise. The Baptists built the first church in 1893. Mr. & Mrs. Bob Stutt were the first couple to be married there on April 21, 1893. The curtains were drawn to create a beautiful candlelight service.
The church house in ‘Old Town’ which held two congregations (Church of Christ & First Christian) was built sometime between 1875 and 1901. The two congregations split due to differences of opinion about the use of music in worship services. The Church of Christ congregation remained in ‘Old Town’ until the church house burned circa 1920. It had stood across the street from the current water tower. They later rebuilt the church in ‘New Town’.
After the churches split, the First Christian Church group had services in ‘Old Town’ in various homes and buildings until about 1905 when a new church was built in ‘New Town’.
There were several gins in town, but only two were operating at one time. One was located near the former home of Omar Cleveland and was operated by Lee Baker. He later sold it to Mr. Waggoner, who in time moved it away. B. B. Barton built a gin near the former home of Earl Harms, but it burned after four or five years of operation. Ben Ford built a new gin on the same site. The farmers organized a company and built a gin on the site of the present home of the Armstrong family. The Ford and farmers’ gins were the last in operation ceasing after the boll-weevil devastation in 1926-1927.
Mrs. S.L. Atkins owned a rooming house in ‘New Town’ called the Atkins Boarding House. It was located near the current Paradise Welcome Sign, on HWY 114. Mr. Atkins was hired at the Upper Arkansas School after he sold his hotel to Jasper Lynch. The building burned in 1904. Tom Brackett built a hotel nearby after the Atkins Boarding House burned, and that same building became the Wallace Hotel, the home of the Wallace family. The building was torn down when the HWY 114 bypass was built.
The first doctors to ‘New Town’ were Drs. T. B. Peek, Floyd, and Morton, who were all practicing at the same time. Later doctors included Peek, Riley, Spencer, and McElry. Dr. Floyd Cole was a dentist in the town.
There were two lumber yards, the Boone Lumber Company and the Cameron Lumber Yard. Boone’s was located near the Paradise Market Gas Station, and the Cameron Yard was West of Boone’s.
The post office was located near the present Veteran’s Park, with William M. Ward serving as postmaster from July 3, 1895 to August 11, 1906. North of the post office was a leather shop where saddles and other leather goods were made.
In 1903, Thompson and Carter built and operated a bank on the West side of the street. It was the last county bank. Since then, the building has housed many businesses such as cafe’s, beauty shops, and an office for a construction company.
The First National Bank and the People’s Bank both stood on the West side of Main Street near the present City Hall.
South of the People’s Bank, Mr. M.D. Cansler had a dry goods and grocery store, which was moved from ‘Old Town’. It was later changed to a drug store, operated by Earl Frost’s father. Mr. Frost also was postmaster from March 27, 1915 to March 3, 1925.
South of the drugstore was a barber shop. the telephone office was located on the present site of Main Street Salon. A studio was North of the telephone office.
A newspaper, called the Paradise Echo, was printed in part of the Collins building, just North of the current post office, and an ice cream parlor and ice house occupied the other part. The Collins building has since been torn down.
South of the Collins building was a barber shop run by Allen Cobb and others. Next to that was a building used for hardware and horseshoeing, followed by four brick buildings to the South which were used by various people for grocery and dry goods.
A blacksmith shop occupied the site of the current Veteran’s Park. The blacksmith’s shop became the old fire station, which was eventually destroyed by a tornado. Mr. Williamson was the last blacksmith in Paradise.
At one time, there was a wood yard and stock pens across the railroad between the former homes of George Sizemore and Omar Cleveland.
There was also a livery stable and wagon yard located near Elm Street.
A moving picture show occupied the Cansler building during the late 1910’s and 1920’s. A cotton warehouse, located across the railroad West of the current home of George Sizemore, was destroyed by a tornado around 1920. The tornado also destroyed several other buildings, including the Baptist Church.
Old Town Paradise
Tradition says that Paradise got its name from the beautiful flowers that were growing wild when it was first settled. ‘Old Paradise’ or ‘Old Town’ as it is called today, was South of the present elementary school. The town was built in a square, with a well just off the SE corner.
On the North side of the square was a dry goods and grocery store, owned and operated by M.D. Cansler. Also on the North side was the Wise County Messenger, which was established around 1881.
The West side housed a meat market operated by Jim Davis and a grocery and dry goods store owned by Mr. Lowery. South of Lowery, was a dry goods store belonging to Bill Ramsdale and Peter Hamilton. The post office was in the back of the store, and Mr. Ramsdale served as postmaster from 1879-1881.
There were two saloons in ‘Old Town’, one on the West side, and one on the South.
Major Jones had a blacksmith shop on the East side of the square. South of this was Captain Rhodes’ Drug Store, where he was the operating pharmacist.
There were two gins in ‘Old Town’. The first one was owned by Dan Sheen and sat North of the former home of Joe Potts. the cotton was carried in baskets to the gin. There was only one stand, and the cotton ran out onto the floor, where it was picked up by hand and put into a press powered by a team of oxen. The other gin was located at the site of the Elmer Cobb home. It was a steam press and had three stands. Major Jones was the owner and operator of this gin.
There was one hotel in ‘Old Town’, located at the site of Mrs. Koeniger’s home. It had two rather large front rooms and two shed rooms, one of which was used as a kitchen. Major Jones also owned and operated the hotel. He and his large family took up residence in this hotel.
Mr. Plymell had a rooming-house in ‘Old Town’. People were only housed overnight, and they had to eat breakfasts at the Jones Hotel.
Doctors in ‘Old Town’ included Brown, Yeater, Raimer, and Gibson-who were all practicing at one time.
There was a stagecoach route from Gainesville to Weatherford, which stopped in Paradise for passengers and mail.
The first church in Paradise was the Methodist Church. It was located on Sunflower Road. It is thought that they had services once a month. This church was organized in 1875, on land donated by O.H.P. Read. The lumber was hauled from Fort Worth and Sherman by wagon, and the church was known as Read Chapel. the church and parsonage were later moved to ‘New Town’ on July 2, 1901, when Rev. Seab Crutchfield was the pastor.
The Baptist church organized in 1893 with a few members meeting under trees in front of the cemetery for services. Later they moved to the Methodist church which had Sunday School in the morning, allowing the Baptists to have Sunday School in the afternoon. Each church had worship services once a month.