History of Anderson, Texas
Anderson is situated on the Coshattee Trace and the later Old La Bahia Road. The Coshattee Trace was a section of the old "Contraband Road" which ran through Grimes County and which was used by smugglers of contraband goods in their illicit traffic between Alexandria, Louisiana, and the Rio Grande. This section of the road got its name from the Coshattee Indians who used it in their hunting expeditions.
The area was first settled in 1821, when Andrew Millican constructed a double log house one and a half miles west of the present community and raised one crop of corn. In 1822, Francis Holland conducted a large group of relatives from Louisiana. They came upon the log houses belonging to Millican and purchased all the improvements, locating his league on both banks of Ten Mile Creek (Holland Creek). One of Francis Holland's sons was Tapley Holland, hero of the Alamo. Tapley, according to the Moses Rose story, was the first to volunteer his life when Colonel Travis drew the line at the Alamo. For the years 1822 to 1830, Frances Holland was the only settler in the Anderson area. But, by the end of the 1830s there were no Hollands anymore. Francis, his wife, and the four Holland sons all died from disease, Indians, or war.
In 1832, Francis Holland sold the east 1,107 acres of his headright land to an Englishman, Henry Fanthorp, for 25 cents an acre. This land was known to the Spanish as Alta Mira (High View) and when, in 1833 and 1834, Henry Fanthorp began to build his home, warehouses, and inn, the name remained in use. Fanthorp first constructed a double log house quickly in 1833 for his wife. In the following year he began the famous "Fanthorp Inn." The 1833 house became a home for traveling merchants and then a grocery store after the inn had begun operation. The inn slowly grew until it reached it's largest size in 1851 upon completion of the second floor and residence wing, giving the structure a total of thirty rooms.
A mercantile settlement developed around the inn and was named Alta Mira. Many stores and warehouses were built along with several houses. The importance of the settlement was intensified by the crossing of stage lines which went from Washington to Nacogdoches and from Houston to Cincinnati, Texas.
In 1846, Grimes County was formed which began a search for a seat of the county government. Several landowners offered land as possible townsites including Henry Fanthorp who proposed a site 1/2 mile north of the town of Alta Mira. Henry Fanthorp's offer won over the others and the new town was laid out the same year. It seems as if Mr. Fanthorp had a hand in the laying out of the townsite as the town square is Welsh in design and is the only such laid out courthouse square in the State of Texas. The concept of the design is to have the streets intersect at the courthouse itself. As a person travels toward the square, he is aiming directly at the courthouse structure which places much greater emphasis on the building than the common English style which is meant to give an angular view of the courthouse which (in most cases) gives the appearance of a larger structure than what is actually there as the viewer is seeing two sides at once.
In the same year that Grimes County was formed K.L. Anderson, last vice president of the Republic of Texas, died at Fanthorp Inn. The new town, which was to have been named Fanthorp, was named Anderson in honor of K.L. Anderson who was buried in the Fanthorp family cemetery, across from Fanthorp Inn.
The new town of Anderson quickly gained importance over the old town of Alta Mira. By the early 1850's, most of the businesses and homes had been moved to the new town. In some cases the structures were physically moved up Main Street to new sites. Anderson continued to grow rapidly throughout the 1850s and early 60s, maintaining its importance as a mercantile plus a governmental center. By 1852, an Episcopal College was begun which was quickly followed by a Baptist College and both operated successfully for several years.
In November 1853, A.S. Beardsley, whose letters and maps area a major archival resource on Anderson described the community as follows:
"...there is about 500 or 600 population in out city as it truly is incorporated and governed by Mayor, Aldermen and Co. it is more fashionable to incorporate small towns in the South than it is in the North. There is at this time about 50 families living in the limits of this corporation which is 1/2 mile square also 8 stores (dry goods), 14 groceries, 3 wagon makers shops, 3 black-smith shops, 1 gun smith, 2 tailors, 3 hotels, 2 ten pin alleys, and about 20 carpenters in constant employment."
The 1840s and `50s were a time of development of the plantation system in Texas and the growth of the town encouraged the construction of plantation homes close to Anderson, on the surrounding hills.
Anderson continued to prosper until the late 1850s when the railroad reached Navasota and put an end to Anderson's control of the mercantile industry. By the time the railroad did reach Anderson it had lot all but the county seat and would never regain the trade that once took place there.
Anderson's history spans the entire period of Anglo settlement in Texas. Heroes of the Texas Revolution lived here; i.e., Tapley Holland, Benjamin Goodrich who was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, lived here. Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, General Grant, plus countless others visited here. This was the outpost of culture and civilization during the Republic years with fully stocked stores, one of the earlier newspapers in the state, and well designed homes built for comfort and style. Anderson was an important mercantile center even before the Republic of Texas existed and was a major cross-road for stage lines. Anderson does have the historic significance to become a major historic center in Texas and there is a growing awareness to preserve this community from unsympathetic development. An Anderson historical foundation has been established and significant planning steps are being taken to preserve the community intact.
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON FILE IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER.