IN 1850, settlers began settling the area around Sunday Creek, about one and one half miles northeast of the present town of Santo. Grand Ranch, as it was known appeared an excellent place to settle. It was a stop for the stage coach, and J.D.T. Bearden owned a general store which served as the stage stop and post office as well. His establishment also served as a hotel and restaurant for the area and had cattle pens. The only real problem at this time were attacks by Amerindians. By 1860, Palo Pinto County was up to 1524, and there was a fort nearby to protect settlers and provide refuge from Indians.
About 1870 the village moved to a new location and its name changed to Calgonado, about a mile from the present town of Santo. A mill and cotton gin soon followed. In 1872, the First Baptist Church was established. In 1880, the village moved to the present site. In 1880 the Texas and Pacific Railroad was extended through Calgonado, and the T&P renamed the town Cresco. Because the T&P also served Cisco, it was decided to rename the town Sparta, as name similarities between Cresco and Cisco almost caused a wreck. Sadly, there was already a Sparta, Texas and the name Santo was decided on (named for John Santo Santorini, who was the telegraph operator. It should also be noted that Santorini was Nelly Blithe Thannisch's first husband. Her half brother, James Joseph Thannisch is buried in the Thannisch section. (Their father after a brief stint with a hotel in Santo, went to Ft. Worth and established the Stockyards hotel, and helped get the stockyards going). It is also possible that Santo was named for John Adam Santo who is buried in Palo Pinto.
In 1888, the Goodnight Loving trail began at Santo, with about 2000 head of cattle. By 1903 there was a school. By 1904 there were three saloons, one with a restaurant, and by 1914 one more saloon by Rick Taylor. The Santo Herald served the town in the early 1900's and later the Santo Sun took its place between 1909 and 1915. Two doctors served in the early years, and later three more came. Land for the Methodist church was purchased in 1893. the Church of Christ began with services under a bush arbour, during a summer revival in 1896.
The First National Bank of Santo was founded the 25th of April 1906. It continued to serve the people of Santo until August the 11th, 2006 when it merged with the Comanche National Bank and continues to serve the area to this day. Stores in Santo were numerous and included hotels, general stores, butchers, livers stables, pharmacies, grocery stores, dry good stores, a cotton gin, a grist mill and a blacksmith shop, a candy store and a millinery shop.
By 1913 there was a local telephone exchange linked to the local telegraph. Before WWII an airstrip was built in Santo. (These airstrips stretched across the USA so that pilots would always have a place to make emergency landings). Many of Santo's citizens worked for the T&P Rail-road, and by 1918 the town was struck hard by the Spanish flue epidemic. Santo's maximum population of 500 was reached in 1920. Today the population is around 450.
Cattle and cotton were predominant, until sometime between the Great Depression and World War II. Cattle have continued to be important to the area, but cotton has all but disappeared. Pecans have become an important part of the economy today, as (with the construction of some reservoirs)has tourism. Many people who live full time elsewhere still have vacation homes in Santo, and many people living in Santo and its environs work is some of the other communities near by and as far away as Ft. Worth.
(Thanks to Susie Chestnut and Evelyn King.
One acre for the cemetery was donated shortly after founding Calgando in the 1870's by Mr. J. L. Daves. The oldest marked grave is dated 1875. The first person born there was Alice Johnson, who was buried in 1877. Her grave was left unmarked until the 1920s, when a wooden marker was placed. She now has a granite marker placed by the Santo East Cemetery Association about 2002. After the rail-road formed the town of Santo, the businesses of Calgando followed, but the cemetery remained. It was later called the Santo East Cemetery, and continues to be in use today. Exploration will show signs of the Spanish Flue (Swine Flue) epidemic of 1918, and period marble monuments, as well as the distinctive Woodmen of the World monuments.