Stanley Jessee

Cuthand, Texas is a special place. The town of Cuthand was established in 1867 and got its name from a Delaware Indian scout. It is, at present, a thriving, stable old-fashioned community, where people take care of each other in good times and bad. Stanley Jessee, who recently retired as the Superintendent of the local school district, cherishes this about Cuthand, and realizes the serious, life-altering threat Marvin Nichols poses to his community in Northeast Texas.

Retired Superintendent Stanley Jessee stands in front of Rivercrest Junior High School. The tax base in the area and the support it provides the school system, will be negatively impacted if the Marvin Nichols Reservoir is allowed to be built. 

“Church is the hub of our community, and it’s where we go to celebrate,” said Stanley. “It’s hard to explain in words just how unique and connected this community is. We depend on each other, and Marvin Nichols would disintegrate the community. The church meets the needs of folks within our community not only spiritually, but also financially. When my wife and I were a young married couple, one of our children had to have surgery at six months old, and our church family made sure that we had money to go to Dallas and get the surgery our baby needed. Our church is there for people when they need help.”

Like many in the community, Stanley is a lifelong resident. “I am 56 years old, and I have lived here my whole life,” he said. “My parents moved here in 1965, and I was born in ’66 in the old Clarksville Hospital in Red River County. They bought this land, and we had a hog farm growing up—a successful swine operation.”

The northern border of the Jessee’s 1,100-acre family property lies on Cuthand Creek, which is in the footprint of the proposed Marvin Nichols reservoir. This means his family would lose a portion of their land to the reservoir and potentially the remainder of their property to environmental mitigation required by the federal government. “All the bottomlands on our property would be submerged,” he said. “Which is a lot of the area for raising cattle and grazing, and these hardwood bottoms can’t be replaced. Also, there are the archaeological sites—native American archaeological sites all along the creek bed there—that will all be covered up forever and will never be discovered.”

Mr. Jessee pictured in front of Cuthand Cemetery, where some graves date back to the Civil War. It is also where Robert Kennedy’s in-laws are buried. If water planning officials for DFW have their way, the Marvin Nichols Reservoir will one day flood Cuthand Cemetery, placing the graves under water forever.  

Stanley Jessee knows exactly how Marvin Nichols would affect his family. “I would lose my ‘community family’, he said. “This community is a close-knit and inclusive one, and we just love each other. We take care of each other. That is something I would like for everyone to understand.”

If Marvin Nichols is built, it would essentially mean starting completely over, not only for Stanley, but also his parents who live a short drive down the same property, and his married adult children with grandchildren on the way who live just down the road.

Stanley fears how Marvin Nichols would severely harm the area’s tax base and school system with long-lasting negative effects. In 1965 two small towns, Talco and Bogata, consolidated to form Rivercrest ISD. In 2021, the Commissioners of Red River County, where Rivercrest ISD is located, passed a resolution strongly opposing the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir. In 2022, the Rivercrest Board of Trustees also passed a resolution opposing the Marvin Nichols reservoir and asking it to be taken off the state water plan, because it would be tremendously destructive to the area and school system.

If the reservoir moves forward, it would “physically cut our school district in half,” he explained. “We’re going to lose students because of the reservoir. When you cover up peoples’ properties and possibly their livelihoods, they will have to leave. So, we’ll lose kids at school because of that.”

Stanley Jessee stands on his family’s lush 1100-acre property where they raise and sell cattle as a means of income in Northeast Texas. If Marvin Nichols is built, his family will be forced to start all over.

And, because state funding is based on the number of students in school, a reduction in enrolled students will devastate the school’s budget, forcing them to cut education programs for remaining students. “The Marvin Nichols Reservoir would cut our funding, which would result in not being able to provide the rich, vibrant school setting that we have right now for our kids. We’re trying to do what’s right and best for our kids, and the Marvin Nichols Reservoir is going to be harmful to our school,” Stanley continued.

The nearly 200,000 acres of private property that will be taken via eminent domain will be removed from the local base. Rivercrest ISD will lose at least 20% of its tax base under water, probably more due to mitigation, further impacting the school district and other vital services in this rural community.

“Our county is not rich, but it is a great community. We’re giving our kids successes that they may not get anywhere else,” said Stanley. “Rivercrest Independent School District is academically strong, a shining star in northeast Texas and the state. We are great at getting our kids college and career ready,” he said, explaining programs in health sciences, agriculture and metal fabrication that prepare students for the workforce. “We also have a fine arts program that has really taken off. Our band has been the state marching contest the last two years. Our One-Act Play recently competed at regional and has advanced to compete at the state One-Act Play contest in Austin this May.”

“Let’s put this on the balance… there is not much of a win for the people that live here when it comes to the reservoir… our side is having to sacrifice a lot. Some folks will lose everything, and there isn’t really any sacrifice being made on the other side,” he said referring to the DFW area.

Stanley hopes Texas legislators, the Texas Water Development Board, and the DFW water developers will all consider what it would be like to be in his shoes and have the prospect of losing everything and starting over in life looming over them. “We were all taught the Golden Rule when we were young, treat other people the way that you would like to be treated.”