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HOUSTON COUNTY, TX HISTORY

 

 by:  Armistead Albert Aldrich - "The History of Houston County Texas" - 1943

 

 

                                                                                "A EARLY SKETCH OF CROCKETT"

 

"Unlike most historians, who depend upon preceding writers for their materials, the Oldest Inhabitant himself contemporary with Crockett, is enabled to note its rise and progress, free from the melancholy task of recording its decline and fall.

 

"Crockett was located at the county site of Houston County, in the winter of 1837, owing to its position to its being the only point within a reasonable distance of the San Antonio Road, and the center of the county, where running water could be found.

 

"It was emphatically a frontier village, but three hours ride from the buffalo range; for several years Indian outrages were committed in its vicinity. The Coshattas hunted on the South, the Cherokees joined the county on the East, while North and West the wild or Prairie Indians penetrated the sparse settlements almost unperceived, and too generally unpunished.

 

"A very narrow chain of settlements along the San Antonio road, formed the connection with the white population of Texas. This road, as is well known, passes through the poorest and worst watered portion of Houston County, giving no promise of a better country to the passing stranger.

 

"Distance from market (Trinity not being then navigated) danger from Indians and the usual inconvenience of a frontier country, long retarded the settlement of the county and the growth of the village.

 

"Although a log courthouse and jail were erected and the liberality of the legislature had granted a charter providing for the election of a mayor, eight aldermen, a town clerk, etc. yet for some months the solitary citizen, who kept a store in a 16-foot log cabin, was daily asked, 'How far to Crockett?'

 

       "'You are right in the public square of Crockett now, Stranger,' was the answer.

 

"In 1839 there were two resident families, and the danger from Indians was so urgent that the neighbors fortified the courthouse lot with pickets and took sheIter with their families until immediate danger had passed over.

 

"For two years the sittings of the district court were suspended, during which time cases of assault and battery were so multiplied that succeeding grand juries declined to notice them.

 

"Card playing (not then prohibited) and quarter racing, were the favorite amusements on public days. The eastern and western mails arrived on an average of twice a month. The northern mail for Fort Houston was sent whenever there was a chance, and then generally in the crown of a hat.  The Galveston mail was once suspended for five months, and at last arrived in coffee sacks on an ox wagon.

 

"Sassafras tea, rye coffe, milk and whiskey, were the only beverages that could be depended on, as coffee frequently could not be had at any price.  In the way of diet, steel mill bread and jerked beef were the great staples.

 

"The telegraph has entered our town, a substantial brick courthouse has just been completed, the Masonic Hall, Temple of Honor, and free church are well attended; six stores, two taverns, a boot and shoemaker and saddler's shop accommodate the public; professional gentlemen offer their services to clients and patients, our bricklayers are busy and all the usual means and appliances of civilized life may be found in our village."

 


More than a century after the abandonment of the old Spanish Mission, that part of Nacogdoches County which afterwards became Houston County, began to be settled by colonists in Vehlin's Colony.  Many of these obtained titles from the Mexican Government before the creation of Houston County, and quite a number of them fought in the Battle of San Jacinto and are entitled to be numbered with the heroes of that great decisive battle in the history of Texas.  Many of their names appear on the following document, which was a prelude to the creation of the county.  This is a historic document and deserves a place in the history of the county.  Many of the men whose names appear on this document were prominent citizens in the later development of the county.  It is as follows:

   Mustang Prairie, April 22nd, 1837              

     "To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives when in Congress Assembled:

     "We, the undersigned, your petitioners, citizens of said republic do most respectfully pray that your honorable body make for us a county on the East side of Trinity River, beginning at Robbins Ferry on said Trinity; Thence running fifteen miles each side of the old San Antonio Road and East far enough to make a constitutional county, and we do further pray that your honorable body appoint three disinterested commissioners out of the bounds of said county to locate the seat of justice for said county in granting the aforesaid petition, we, your petitioners as duty bound will ever pray, etc.

 

Iredell Reding

John B. Reding

Geo. W. Reding

James L. Gossett

Wm. L. Gossett

Elisha Clapp

John Wortham

John Hallmark

William Dillard

John V. D. Gossett

Jacob Masters

John Box

Stephen Crist

Reason Crist

William Anglin

Robin Brown

Richard Eaton

Thomas Denson

Nelson Box

P.O. Lumpkin

John C. Moore

John Allbright

Jacob Allbright

Barton Clark

James L. Gossett

E. Gossett

John L. Hall

Stephen White

Alfred Buge

Leon Pritchard

Thomas G. Box

Samuel C. Collison

R.A. Walker

Henry Masters

John Erwin

Chas. Erwin

H. C. Johnson

Williard Standley

William Cheairs

W. C. Standley

John Cheairs

John F. Cheairs

Elijah Cheairs

Frances Cheairs

John Denson

Joseph M. Masters

William Leagon

John H. Holder

Enaske Lapus

Albert Allbright

Ira C. Shute

Jas. Barns

William Johnson

Ballin Snelles

R. O. Lusk

Joseph Masterson

G.E. Dwight

Samuel Clerlosky

Stephen Bennett

Elish Anglin

Miles Bennett

Joseph Jorden

Stephen Box

Collin Aldrich

Henry P. Crowson

Isaac Parker

Thos. Garner

Dickerson Parker

J. Haley

Benjamin Parker

H. Barrett

Peterson Tate

J. D. Parker

Geo. W. Robinson

A. E. Gossett

Geo. Hallmark

Daniel Parker, Jr.

H. P. Walker

Wm. H. Pate

Peter Gallahery

John C. Hayne

John B. (illegible)

James Neville

Stephen Dunston

Swanson Yarbrough

Frances Bettit

Shedrick Denson

Wm. Riley

John Allbright

Solomon Allbright

Joseph Lapus

W. M. White

Martin Murchison

   

 

                                     "APPROVED: June 12, 1837  - "SAM HOUSTON"

 

A careful examination of the Act of Congress of the Republic of Texas creating Houston County will show that it was, at the beginning, a very large county, and covered all of the territory now embraced within the bounds together with all of Trinity County and all of Anderson County and a large portion of Henderson County. The reader should refer to a map of the State of Texas as it existed in 1836, for a clearer understanding of the territory embraced within the original limits of the county.  It might be a matter of interest to the people of Houston County to think of the extent of the jurisdiction exercised by the first officers of Houston County. The chief justices of the county courts of Houston County from 1838 when they were first chosen, to the creation of Anderson County in 1846, exercised jurisdiction over all that territory now em­braced in Anderson County and the Southern part of Henderson County and in Trinity County. On March 24, 1846, Anderson County was created out of Houston County and it will be interesting to observe the boundaries as set out in the Acts of Con­gress creating that county which are as follows:

"Beginning at a place in the County of Houston, known as Houston Mound, about one mile North of Murchison's Prairie; Thence Westwardly by a direct line running through the old Ionie village, on the North Elkhart Creek to the Trinity River; Thence, beginning again at Houston's Mound, continuing said direct line Eastwardly to the Neches River; Thence, up said river with the meanders thereof to the Northeast corner of John Ferguson's League of land; Thence, by direct line parallel to the first above-named line, to the Trinity River; Thence down said river with the meanders thereof, to the intersection of said first named line with the Trinity River."

     It will be noticed that one of the landmarks which must have been well known in that early day, was known as Houston's Mound, and is located about a mile North of Murchison's Prairie. Both of these localities must have been well known in the very early stages of Texas History. Recently an oil well was drilled very near Houston's Mound, just across the line in Anderson County, and in reaching it the roadway led across the historic elevation known as Houston's Mound. Evidently Houston's Mound was so-called and named in honor of Sam Houston.

On the 17th day of April, 1846, the County of Henderson was created out of portions of Counties of Houston, and Nacogdoches and in the Act creating it is defined as follows:

"Commencing at the Northeast corner of Anderson County, on the Neches River; THENCE North with the Western Bound­ary lines of the counties of Cherokee and Smith, to the Sabine River; Thence down said river to the Southwest corner of Upshur County; Thence North with the Western Boundary line of said Upshur County to the Southern boundary line of Titus County; Thence, West with the Southern boundary of said county, to the county of Hopkins; and Thence, continuing West with the Southern boundary line of said Hopkins and Hunt counties, to the Northeast corner of said Dallas County; Thence South with the Eastern boundary line of said Dallas County, to its Southeast corner; Thence West with the Southern boundary line of said county to the Trinity River; Thence down said Trinity River to the Northwest corner of said Anderson County, and Thence East with the Northern boundary line of Anderson County, to the place of beginning."

After the creation of both Anderson and Henderson Counties in 1846, Houston County continued to exist, embracing all the territory known as Houston and Trinity Counties until February 11, 1850, when the County of Trinity was created including the following boundaries:

Beginning in the East bank of Trinity River, at the lower corner of Henry Golmon's survey of 980 acres; Thence North 21Y2 degrees East to the Neches River; Thence down said river with its meanders to the present Southeast corner of Houston County; Thence Westwardly with the South boundary line of said county to the Trinity River; Thence up said river with its meanders to the place of beginning.

On January 26, 1850, by an Act of the Legislature of the State of Texas, the boundary line between Houston and Anderson Counties was more definitely defined as follows:

Beginning at a place in the County of Houston, known as. Houston's Mound, about one mile North of Murchison's Prairie; Thence Westwardly, by direct line running through the old Ionie Village on the North Elkhart Creek, to the East Boundary line of Samuel C. Boxe's Headright League; Thence South with said line to the South boundary line of said league to the Trinity River.

A curious freak of legislation should prove of interest to the people of Houston County. On the 6th day of December, 1841 the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed an act which proved to be an abortive effort to create a county known as Burnet out of Houston County, which Act in part is as follows:

Sec. I. Be it enacted by the senate and house of representa­tives of the Republic of Texas in Congress assembled, That the boundary of Burnet be, and is hereby established within the following boundaries, to-wit:

Beginning at a place known by the name of Houston's Mound, North of Murchison's Prairie; Thence Westwardly, to the Iron-Eye village, on Elkhart Creek; Thence to the Trinity River; and from Houston's Mound (the place of beginning) to the Neches River, so as to make a straight line from the Trinity River to the Neches River; Thence up the main West form of the Neches River to Clarence A. Lovejoy's Survey, No. 177, on the West boundary line of the Cherokee lands; Thence due North to the Sabine River; Thence up the Sabine to the fork; Thence up the North fork, to E. W. Shultz Survey, continuing up the same to the Fannin County line; Thence West with said line to the Trinity River; Thence down said Trinity River to the above-named line running direct from the Neches to the Trinity.

Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That Fort Houston is hereby permanently established as the seat of justice for said county.

So far as. the record shows no effort was made to organize the county of Burnet under the foregoing Act, and later another county was created in Western Texas that is now known as the County of Burnet. The singular feature of the above Act of Congress is the fact that it designated Fort Houston as the county seat of the county, without giving the people residing in the county the opportunity to locate and designate the county seat. It is also a matter of interest to the people of Houston County that the Fort Houston mentioned in the foregoing Act is located at the home of Judge John H. Reagan, a few miles Southwest of Palestine, and was originally located in the County of Houston. 

After the County of Houston was duly organized by the selection of county officers and the selection of Crockett as the county seat, the town was incorporated by an Act of the Republic of Texas, December 29, 1837.

Even before Houston County was created as a county and Crockett designated as its county seat, there was some postoffices and a mail service in the territory that is now known as Houston County. The first of these was known as Aldrich in 1836, before the organization of the county and the post-office records show that Collin Aldrich was postmaster. This postoffice later became known as Mustang Prairie, for we find from the records that in 1840 Mustang Prairie was named as a postoffice, but no name of the postmaster was given. However, in 1843, Mustang Prairie named as a post-office and George Hallmark as postmaster. This George Hallmark was the ancestor of all the Hallmarks in Houston County.

In 1843 Alabama is listed as a postoffice in Houston County and James M. Caldwell was postmaster.  In 1840 Crockett is named as a postoffice but no one is named postmaster. In 1843 Thomas P. Collins appears on the record to have been the postmaster. In 1838 Randolph, in Houston County, is named as a postoffice with Nathan as postmaster. If there were other postoffices in that early day the author is unable to find any record of them.

                                                                                     OFFICERS

The first county officers of Houston County, probably elected or chosen in September, 1837, were Collin Aldrich, Chief Justice; James Madden, sheriff; Stephen White, clerk of the district court; Jacob Allbright, county clerk; John Grigsby, John Gregg, Elijah Gossett and John Box were chosen as justices of the peace, but it is probable that they did not serve.

 

Later officers selected January 1, 1839, were S. E. Kennedy, William Dillard and R. W. Box, justices of the peace. Martin A. Walker was chosen as sheriff; John H. Kirchoffer was presi­dent of the Board of Land Commissioners of Houston County, and Elijah Gossett and John Wortham were associate land commissioners for the county. Samuel G. Wells was clerk of the Board of Land Commissioners and George Aldrich, County Surveyor. On January 23, 1839 P. O. Lumpkin was chosen chief justice for Houston County, and was commissioned on January 25, 1839, but promptly resigned. After his resignation, on March 12, 1839, John H. Kirchoffer was chosen and commis­sioned as chief justice of Houston County and resigned in June 1839. On February 4, 1839, G. W. Browning, C. T. McKenzie and R. R. Russell were chosen as justices of the peace. On June 28, 1839, John Collins was chosen and commissioned as chief justice of Houston County. On June 22, Mobley Rhone and Stephen White were chosen as justices of the peace on Beat No. 4, and were Commissioned on July 4, 1839. On June 22, 1839, A. T. Hallmark was constable for some unnamed precinct in Houston County.

 

On February 3, 1840, John Collins was chosen Chief Justice and resigned on January 24, 1841. On February 4, 1840, Andrew E. Gossett was commissioned as sheriff of Houston County, hav­ing been elected on September 14, 1839. On February 4, 1840, Waller Dickerson was commissioned as district clerk of Houston County, having been elected September 14, 1839. On February 4, 1839 Edley T. Powell and John Pettitt were chosen justices ot the peace for Beat No.9, and held the same until January 8, 1842. On February 12, 1842, Elijah Gossett was again elected chief justice of Houston County. On February 4, 1840 Stillwell Box was elected justice of the peace for the Crockett district. On February 3, 1840, Barton Clark and Leonard Williams were appointed commissioners to inspect the land office in Houston County. On April 18, 1840, John S. Martin was elected sheriff of Houston County, and Eli Meade at the same time was elected clerk of the district court. At the same election William S. Mc­Donald was elected justice of the peace for the first precinct. On February 19, 1841, Jowell Clapp and W. D. Longstreet were commissioned justices of the peace for beat No.3, having been elected on October 24, 1840. On February 13, 1841, T. D. Tompkins and G. G. Alford were commissioned justices of the peace for Beat No.5, having been elected November 7, 1840. On February 13, 1841 Y. G. Dollahite and W. M. Johnson were commissioned justices of the peace of Beat No.4 of Houston County, having been elected Nov. 7, 1840. On February 13, 1841, George Hallmark and W. Hallmark were commissioned justices of the peace for beat No.2 of Houston County having been elected on November 14, 1840. On February 13, 1841, Cyrus H. Randolph was commissioned as justice of the peace of Beat No.1, having been elected December 21, 1840. On April 26, 1841, George Aldrich was commissioned as county surveyor, having been elected on September 7, 1840.

     On October 6, 1841, George H. Prewitt, was commissioned as justice of the peace, Beat No.3, having been elected September 6,1841. On October 27, 1841, Stephen H. Hatten and Nathaniel D. Acock were commissioned justices of the peace for Beat No. 10, having been elected September 18, 1841. On December 25, 1841 Lodovik E. Downs was elected district clerk of Houston County. On September 5, 1842, George Aldrich was elected County Surveyor of Houston County and was commissioned on April II, 1843. On September 24, 1842, Samuel G. Wells was elected justice of the peace of Precinct No.6, Houston County; He was commissioned April II, 1843 and resigned March 18, 1844. On December 24, 1842 George W. Grant was elected jus­tice of the peace of Precinct No.3 of Houston County and was commissioned April II, 1843. On December 24, 1842, David Barrett and G. G. Alford were elected justices of the peace, Pre­cinct No.5 of Houston County and were commissioned on April II, 1843. On February 6, 1843, Joseph P. Burnett was elected sheriff of Houston County and was commissioned April II, 1843. On February 6, 1843, Cyrus H. Randolph was elected coroner of Houston County and was commissioned April II, 1843. On February 4, 1843 Turner S. Parker was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No. 7 of Houston County and was commissioned on April II, 1843.

On February 18, 1843 George Luster was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No. I, Houston County, and was commis­sioned April II, 1843, and resigned February 7, 1844. On March 4, 1843 William M. Johnson was elected Justice of the Peace for Precinct No. 4 of Houston County; was commissioned on April 26, 1843 and resigned on January 13, 1844. On March 4, 1843 William Z. McLane was elected justice of the peace of Precinct No.4, and was commissioned April 26, 1843. On March 18, 1943 Christopher Ellis was elected justice of the peace of Precinct No. 10, and "was commissioned April 16, 1843. On April 8, 1843 S. E. Kennedy and James J. Thomas were elected justices of the peace, Precinct No.8, Houston County, and were commissioned April 26, 1843. On April 8, 1843 James R. Brack­en was elected justice of the peace for Precinct No.9, and was commissioned April 26, 1843. On May 20, 1843, Jacob Allbright was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No.3, and commis­sioned July 31, 1843. On November 13, 1843, Waller Dickerson was elected county surveyor of Houston County and commis­sioned on December 4, 1843.

     On November 13, 1843, Cyrus H. Randolph was elected chief justice of Houston County and commissioned December 4, 1843. On December 23, 1843, William Lane was elected justice of the peace Precinct No. I, commissioned December 29, 1843. His term expired and he was re-elected. On December 23, 1843, F. D. Bodenhamer was elected justice of the peace, Precin'ct No. 8, and commissioned on December 29, 1843. On January 1, 1844, George W. Grant and George G. Alford were elected as associate justices for Houston County. On January 20, 1844, H. W. Neville and Alexander C. Thornberg were elected justices of the peace, Precinct No. 10 and commissioned February 1, 1844. On February 17, 1844, Horatio Nelson was elected justice of the peace Precinct No.1, and commissioned March 8, 1844. On March 18, 1844, Clinton A. Rice was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No. 4 and commissioned April 6, 1844. On March 30, 1844, Richard R. Powers was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No.6, and commissioned April 6, 1844. On May 16, 1844, John Blair was commissioned as assessor of taxes and on May 14, was appointed county treasurer. On September 21, 1844, Samuel G. Well was appointed justice of the peace and commissioned October 31, 1844. On December 24, 1844, Albert G. Barnett and Henry W. Ward were elected justice of the peace for Precinct No.5 and were commissioned February 17, 1845. On December 24, 1844, Robert W. Caldwell was elected justice of the peace for Precinct No.3, and commissioned Feb- ruary 17, 1845. On December 30, 1844, R. G. Green was elected justice of the peace Precinct No. 1 and commissioned February 17, 1845. On January 6, 1845, Thomas P. Collins was elected county treasurer and commissioned on January 21, 1845. On February 3, 1845 Joseph P. Burnett was elected Sheriff and com­missioned November 22, 1845. On February 3, 1845, James R. Bracken was elected coroner and commissioned on November 22, 1845. On February 3, 1845, George Hallmark, Sr. was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No.2, and commissioned February 27, 1845. On June 4, 1845, John Blair was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No. 10, and commissioned July 4, 1845. On June 4, 1845 George H. Prewitt was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No.3 and commissioned July 4, 1845. On October 4, 1845, James H. Gillespie was elected County Clerk of Houston County and commissioned December 17, 1845. On November 13, 1845, Waller Dickerson was elected county surveyor of Houston County. On January 7, 1846, William Lane was elected justice of the peace, Precinct No. 1 and commissioned February 4, 1846.