Marking History

Marking History

Collin County resident awarded Yellow Rose of Texas for efforts

By Sonia Duggan & Norishka Pachot

Farmersville resident Linda Hess has made her mark on Collin County by documenting its history for over two decades. 

Hess’ dedication as a Collin County Historical Commission (CCHC) member and volunteer earned her a Yellow Rose of Texas award last month, the highest honor that can be bestowed to women by the Texas Governor. The award is only given to those who have presented exceptional community service through volunteerism, charitable contributions, achievements related to the preservation of history or achievements toward improving the present and future.

“Getting the Yellow Rose of Texas was icing on the cake,” Hess said. “It was such a wonderful gift. I’m very thrilled about that.”

The former teacher/language therapist has logged years of volunteer hours researching, writing, and applying for historical markers in Collin County — and a few in Hunt County — starting in 2003 when she became a CCHC member. 

“I would think of all the places I could do,” Hess said. “The [grant] money was there, so I could write … that’s how it all started out.”

Hess began with the “orphan” cemeteries that didn’t have an association, including the Prairie Grove Cemetery in Farmersville where Audie Murphy’s mother and grandparents, as well as her own great grandparents, are buried. 

“Once they [orphan cemeteries] are registered with the state, they will forever be cemeteries,” she said.

As a commission member for the last 20 years, Hess said her “main focus” was on Texas Historical Markers, Collin County Markers, and grants.

Hess has researched and submitted over 30 applications for Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks (RTHL) and Collin County Historical Markers. 

According to the Texas Historical Commission, the historical marker process in Texas begins at the county level. It is a yearlong process that, in Collin County, starts with CCHC Historical Marker Chairperson Joy Gough’s approval of the project. Hess has worked with Gough on many projects and said she “is always helpful in planning and preparing the applications.”

Depending on the type of marker proposal; RTHL, Subject Marker or Historic Texas Cemetery (HTC), applications require a 5–10-page historical narrative, photos, proof of [property] ownership and/or owner’s permission, and more, that is sent to CCHC for review, then forwarded to the THC by the deadline (March 1- May 16) for approval. 

After THC approval and payment, the process continues as the inscription is written and approved and the marker is cast and shipped. Hess then coordinates the installment of the marker and the program for the unveiling ceremony. She said she always selects a key person or property owner to assist her with the unveiling.

Of the submissions, Hess said all were approved “except one which was the one that the Texas Historical Commission approved, but we weren’t allowed to get a marker because it was the federal government.” 

Some of the places Hess helped get markers for include Empire College, Central National Road of the Republic of Texas, the Snow Hill Community, First Baptist Church of Lavon, Bankhead Highway and Farmersville IOOF Cemetery. 

She has even written an application for a cemetery in Tennessee for a Tennessee Historical Marker.

“Linda has always been passionate about preserving the history of eastern Collin County,” Gough said. “All of the State and County Historical Markers on the east side of Lake Lavon were Linda’s projects. She is a joy to work with and has such a bright outlook on life.”

Newly approved markers to be unveiled soon include Sugar Hill, Gussie Nell Davis and the Glass-Chapman Cemetery. 

“I can’t wait to plan the one for Gussie Nell,” she said, adding that the Rangerettes will be invited.

Because Hess knew her work on historical markers was winding down, she decided the historical narratives she had compiled throughout the years needed to be shared. 

“So, what I did was that I took all my narratives and pictures and compiled them together and then I wrote a little intro,” she said. “That’s how the book came about.”

In August, Hess released 75 hardcover copies of “Preserving Collin County History,” all of which have already sold or been donated.

“It took about 30 years to compile when you think about all of the narratives through the years,” Hess said. 

And although the book is no longer for sale, Community High School, Farmersville High School, Collin County Museum, the Farmersville Library and the McKinney Library all have copies.

To Hess, the book is a contribution to the community. 

“I wanted our history preserved. I want it where it can be here for a period of time and people can have it and be able to reflect back on,” she said. 

Additionally, Hess has co-written five books on family history with her sister and she is an active member of 17 organizations, including CCHC and the Farmersville Historical Society.

The longtime FHS member chaired and helped the committee write the “Historical Society Sesquicentennial Cookbook.” 

“As a society, we decided we needed to do something special,” she said. “The book contains around 570 recipes separated by different categories,” all submitted by members. 

The cookbook is expected to come out in time for Thanksgiving, and according to Hess, 700 copies have been ordered. Funds raised from the sale of the cookbook will go toward the maintenance of the Bain-Honaker House.

“We value Linda as a member of the Farmersville Historical Society and her commitment to preserving the history of Collin County,” said Bertie Neu, president of the Farmersville Historical Society.

As for the future, the Yellow Rose of Texas recipient said, “Who knows? There’s no telling what I’ll do.” 

She does, however, have one last marker to complete. 

“It’s going to be my finale,” she said. “Then I will have done everything in Eastern Collin County.”