Germany is a farming community off State Highway 21, which runs along the route of the Old San Antonio Road, ten miles northeast of Crockett in east central Houston County. Around 1828 Jacob Masters, Sr., one of the earliest settlers in the vicinity, brought his family and slaves to this area by way of North Carolina, Kentucky, and Alabama. On October 30, 1834, Masters and his son, Jacob, Jr., petitioned for land under the Mexican colonization laws through empresario David G. Burnet, and on February 14, 1835, each received a league of land from the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas.
On December 30, 1841, Masters's son-in-law, Joseph Rice, obtained land in the county and built his home near the Old San Antonio Road. Joseph and Willie (Masters) Rice's home became known as the Rice Stagecoach Inn. In the late 1830s or early 1840s, Thomas Jesse Duren settled in the vicinity with his family and slaves. Legend has it that in 1865 the slaves from this area assembled at the old Cermark homestead site, a quarter mile from what is now the Germany Road, to hear the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. The community name of Germany apparently originated from freedmen's references to a German family named Grounds (also spelled Grunt, Gront, Grount, Grundt, or Groundt), who had settled in the area between 1829 and 1833. The Grounds Cemetery is still in the area.
John Burt apparently was the first freedman to settle in Germany (December 21, 1871). On June 15, 1876, he filed on a 160-acre preemption tract on San Pedro Bayou, about ten miles northeast of Crockett, and on January 3, 1877, he received a patent for the land. Two freedman proved their occupancies in 1872: George Smith on January 25 (patent received on May 29, 1876) and Lewis Hall on June 7 (patent received on May 28, 1883). Another freedman, Van Benton, proved his occupancy on January 1, 1875, but died before his patent was granted. His widow, Jane Benton, married John Burt in 1882, and they became pillars of this black community. They donated land around 1883 for a combination church and school building, along with a cemetery. The church, called the New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, later was moved several times. The old Germany Cemetery lies directly in front of the first church site. The first black school at Germany was held in the church building. A rural white school called variously Energy, Enterprise, and Glover also operated in the area; the black school used a modification of the same name (for example, Glover Colored School). On October 21, 1921, Alonzo and Jennie Berryman sold land to Houston County Common School District No. 22 for the first regular black school in the Germany community. The Julius Rosenwald Fund apparently granted money for the building; Rosenwald aid helped build twenty or more schools in Houston County. In the early 1950s the Germany School was closed and its building sold.
Germany had no post office or regular businesses, though in the early 1930s George W. Allen built a two-story wooden building behind the church and ran a confectionery store. Oil discoveries in Houston County in the 1930s had no economic impact on the community. By the 1940s oil had been discovered on some of the local properties, but the wells were capped. In the 1950s some property owners began negotiating oil, gas, and mineral leases with oil companies. From the beginning, agriculture was the principal economic activity in the Germany community. The families raised cotton for market, and corn and garden crops for family needs. The Germany community consisted of fifteen or more close-knit black families, who for the most part intermarried. During World War IIqv it began to decline, as young men went to war and children graduating from Crockett High School left for large cities. By the early 1990s fewer than six families lived in Germany. Some descendants of community members drive out from Houston and elsewhere to worship at the Baptist church. Each year the families attend the Community Reunion (June), the Berryman Reunion (July), and the Church Homecoming (September).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Houston County Cemeteries (Crockett, Texas: Houston County Historical Commission, 1977; 3d ed. 1987). Houston County Historical Commission, History of Houston County, Texas, 1687-1979 (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Heritage, 1979). Thomas Clarence Richardson, East Texas: Its History and Its Makers (4 vols., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1940).
Willie Lee Gay