by John L. Baldwin
Huntsville the county seat and the largest town in Walker County, is older by about 11 years that the county itself, as it was established in 1835 by Pleasant Gray, who came here from Alabama while the area was still in the Washington County boundary.
Gray first arrived at the future town site in 1830 or 1831, and camped near a spring which was located just north of the present site  of the post office. Finding the neighboring Bedai Indians to be a friendly and desirous of trading, and because of the areas similarity of his native Alabama countryside, Gray decided to eventually settle here and make this his permanent home. With such a plan in his mind he returned to Alabama to get his family and make preparations for the move to Texas. (Huntsville, Our Historic Little City, Huntsville Item, 1926)
Gray returned 2 or 3 years later, accompanied by his family and his brother Ephriam. On the northwest corner of what is now the court house square near the spot presently  occupied by Walker County Hardware Company, Gray built his home. While living there, Pleasant Grays' wife Hannah, had a fourth child, David, who was the first baby to be born in Huntsville. Across the street from his house, near where the courthouse now stands, Gray built another log cabin which served as a trading post. Dabney, White, "Watch Walker County Grow", Houston Chronicle, April 16, 1927.
On November 20, 1834, Gray wrote the Mexican government of
Coahuila and Texas and presented the following petition:
" The Honorable Special Commission of the Enterprise of the Citizen Jose Vehlein: I, Pleasant Gray, a native of the U. S. of the North, present myself before you, with due respect, and say: That attracted by the generous provisions of the colonization laws of this state, I have come with my family, consisting of my wife and three children to settle myself therein, if, in view of the attached certificate, you should see fit to admit me in the class of colonist, conceding to me one league of land in the vacant tracts of said enterprise. Therefore, I supplicate to you to be pleased to grant me the favor which I implore, for which favor I shall live forever grateful." Deed Records of Walker County... Pleasant Gray
A decree ordering the land surveyed was issued a few days later, on November 24, but it was the following year on July 10, 1835, before Gray was granted possession of seven square miles of land.
Gray's trade with the Indians was very successful, and his profitable business soon attracted other settlers to the new town, which he named after his native city of Huntsville, Alabama. the settlement was laid off into blocks covering an area of one square mile. The streets were; from north to south, Milam, Fannin, Cedar, Spring, Lamar and Tyler; and from east to west: Travis, Burton, Main, Jackson, Bell and Farris. Huntsville Item, McFarland, March 6, 1941
An extensive campaign was carried on to attract settlers from the U. S. with advertisements for the new town being carried in Alabama and New Orleans newspapers and tacked upon the offices of Mississippi River steamboats. One traveler told Judge J. M. Smither, a former District Judge of the 12th Judicial District of Texas, of having seen in 1837, a handsomely gotten up platt of the "City of Huntsville, Texas", on the Steamboat River Byrne No. 2 on the Mississippi.
Huntsville was incorporated by act of Congress of the Republic of Texas on January 30, 1835, which reads in part as follows: Gammel, Laws of Texas, II The act also provides for the election of a mayor, 6 aldermen, collector or constable, and a treasurer and a secretary. Another act was passed January 1852, to re-incorporate the city.
Pleasant Gray sold his trading post in 1846, as he was no longer able to take care of it. Two years later he left Huntsville headed for California on a prospecting tour, but died before reaching Santa Fe.. Although newspaper accounts attributed his death to cholera, another version was circulated among Huntsville citizens. It seems that Gray admired a horse owned by an Indian Chief in this area, and offered to buy the animal, but the Indian refused to sell. A short time later the Chief was found murdered and the horse appeared in the possession of Gray, but no proof could be found that he actually had anything to do with the crime. The Indians had no doubt about the matter, however, and were reported to have followed him after he left for California and killed him in revenge. (L. B. Baldwin as told to Baldwin by J. Robert King, Sr)
Huntsville's first frame house was constructed in 1841. This was the Globe Tavern, which was located just north of the present  office of the Item and across the street from the Methodist Church on Avenue L, or Jackson Street as it was in 1841. The lumber for the building was sawed with a rip saw by Viser, who also sawed the lumber for the first frame house in Memphis, Tennessee. (Harriet Smith)
The Globe had an outstanding reputation in hostelry and was a favorite stopping place for many travelers passing through Huntsville especially in the early 1850's when the city was headquarters for the East Texas Stage Coach Lines, with some 10 or 12 coaches arriving daily. The inn provided some type of entertainment every day of the week for the enjoyment of its customers and citizens of the town. It also provided an ideal gathering place for politicians, who often stopped there seeking an opportunity to influence the crowd that frequented the place. (Item)
The first store building in Huntsville, other than the trading post was built by Gray close to the spring where he camped the first visit in the area in 1830, between the present jail and Aaronson Brothers Dry Goods store. The building was constructed of logs, and was rented to Thomas Gibbs and Gardner Coffin for $2.50 per month, for the operation of a mercantile company.
The Keenan House was built in 1848 on the corner of Spring and Jackson, where Goolsby Drug is now  located. The main building with its stables to the rear occupied one quarter of the entire area with a reputation for ids delightful Southern cooking and excellent service, usually rendered by well trained Negro slaves. The food and service, along with the wide, cool verandas and spacious rooms, made the Keenan House extremely popular with the traveling public. the hotel burned in 1859 and was never rebuilt. (Cox, S.H.N.I.)
Another hotel, the Eutaw House, was constructed in 1850 on the corner of Jackson and Spring, at the present location  of Wood Tire and Supply Company. It was owned and operated by B. S. Wilson, who named it for his former home town in Alabama. For 50 years this building provided Huntsville with another well kept and popular hotel and house of entertainment. (Smither, Reminisces, S.H.N.I., 59)
Huntsville's first brick store was built 1846-1847, and belonged to A. McDonald. the next brick store was built in 1850 by Robert Smither and Brothers on Jackson Street. this building burned in 1854, but was rebuilt the following year. Robinson, Singletary and Company erected the next store on Cedar Street, followed by stores belonging to J. M. and L. C. Rountree, on the corner of Cedar and Jackson. T. and S. Gibbs, on Cedar, Randolph and Son: and J. C. and S. R. Smith and Company. Other brick stores were built after the Civil War, replacing many of the wooden structures which burned from time to time.
The first record of a scheduled mail service for Huntsville was that of a Star Route operated out of Houston via Huntsville to Cincinnati on the Trinity in 1839. This route was served by stage coach, except in inclement weather, when several weeks sometimes elapsed before the coach could get through.
Neither envelope or postage stamp was used at this time; the paper was folded and sealed with wax, while the amount of postage was written on the letter by the postmaster and collected from the addressee when the letter was delivered. The postage rate for letters was 25 cents per sheet. (Baldwin, former Post Master of Huntsville)
The only lighting in early day Huntsville was by lamps and candles and when citizens went out after dark many of them carried lanterns. Street lights were not installed until sometime in the late 1870's when lamps were put on the 4 corners of the public square. the water supply for the town came from shallow wells, cisterns, and springs found in the area. There was no fire department in the town, and in the event of fire, a bucket brigade had to be formed to extinguish it. A fire cart was purchased and a volunteer fire department was finally formed with the following articles appearing in the Item, February 9, 1856, to announce it's first meeting; "FIRE ! We are requested to say the Huntsville Fire Company will hold their first meeting on Monday, the 11th instant, at two o'clock p. m. in the court house for the purpose of electing officers, and transacting other related thereto. All who feel interested are invited to attend..." the ringing of the church bells and the fire pistols provided the fire alarms for the community, calling out the citizens, who always turned out in force regardless of the time of night or the condition of the weather. (W. H. Woodall, "Memoirs", March 6, 1941)
Huntsville early streets ere so muddy in the winter that there were very little other than foot travel over them. the stores had broad plank galleries in front to make it easier for the customers to get inside. At one time after the advent of the railroad, the streets were so muddy that freight coming in on the train had to be carried to the stores in wheelbarrows. Country people who came into town for previsions or to sell wood drove so many as 10 oxen to a wagon, in order to pull through he mud. (Woodall)
Pleasant Gray was responsible for the town's first cemetery. In 1847 he deeded to the town, in consideration of one dollar, and his "...regard for the health, prosperity, and success of the people of Huntsville and its vicinity..." land for "... the purpose of a place of burial free to all persons and for no other purpose." The plot fronted on Milam (now 9th) Street and reached as far as Travis (Avenue I) one one side and Houston Street (Avenue H) on the other. Deed Records A, 209
The eastern section of the cemetery was reserved for colored people and most of the slaves brought the early settlers were laid to rest there. Additional acreage was acquired to the east of the colored section, and the cemetery was extended until it finally reached the Steamboat House where Sam Houston died. Mrs. W. Addickes willed funds for the purchase of more land, and the Steamboat House was purchased and removed from that spot, the sire becoming the Addickes addition of the Oakwood Cemetery. (McFarland, Item , March 6, 1941)
Huntsville had many prominent men in it's early history whose graves are to be found in Oakwood. Among them were General Sam Houston, Col. Henderson Yoakum, who wrote on e of the first histories of Texas, L. A. Abercrombie, a legislator who along with Col. W. G. Grant and others, helped locate Austin College in Huntsville, Mrs. Daniel Baker, wife of Dr. Daniel Baker, who secured money for the building of Austin College in Huntsville, and for whom Daniel Baker College at Brownwood was named; E. E. Thom, acting President of Austin College 1857-1858; Dr. R. M. Ball, first President of Andrew Female College; Capt Tom J. Goree, a member of General Longstreets staff in the Civil War; Dr. J. A. Thompson, a prominent Huntsville physician and planter; William Barrett, who fought in the War of 1812, the Blackhawk War, the Mexican War and who was the architect of the old Austin College building; Rev. Weyman Adair, the first Cumberland Presbyterian minister in this section of the state; Erasmus, Robert and Williamson Wynn, early planters and slave owners; Dr. Charles Keenan, who was appointed by the U. S. Government to remove the Indians from Alabama and Florida to the Indian Territory; Dr. Rawlings, an outstanding physician in early Texas history; Dr. Samuel McKinney, President of Austin College 1852-1853 and 1862-1871; George Fitzhugh of Virginia, a noted sociologist and eco. of the Old South; James A Baker, lawyer and Judge; Rufus Heflin, well known educator; and many other pioneer citizens of Huntsville and Walker County who played important roles in the development of this area (S.H.S.T. C.)
The cemetery also contains the graves of 7 Union soldiers, Capt Stewart and 6 unknown who died while being prisoners of war in the State pen at Huntsville. A few of the slaves buried in the colored section are: Aunt Jane Ward, slave of Col . Grant; Josh Houston, bodyguard of Gen. Sam Houston; and Hiram Jones, a slave who became a prominent politician after the Civil War.
A great many of the monuments in the cemetery have on them the date of 1867, bearing witness to the terrible extent of the yellow fever epidemic which swept through Huntsville in the late summer and early fall of that year. An account by George Robinson in the Item provided a vivid description of the epidemic..... " A gentleman named Mynatt came up from below about the 4th of August with well marked symptoms of the disease, and on the 9th day died at one of the taverns. Some of our citizens who had been residing below with several who had gone down for a few days, and some new comers came up about the same time as Mr. M. Soon after, Mr. Wanekeey, who was of the number but had not been further than Houston - where the disease was not the epidemic - took fever and in about 4 days died. His was a clear case of "black vomit" according to the writers information. then Mr. Francher, a young lawyer, died on the following day as a cleat a case as Waneskeey's but he had not been below. he had been exposed to the sun however a great deal, as he told the writer, had overheated himself by a ride of ____ miles, then dressed a lot of lumber for the schoolroom. _____ That night he went to bed sick. ____ After death his skin turned yellow like a pumpkin. There was a rumor of him having visited Mr. Mynatt during that gentleman's illness but this the writer cannot verify nor does he know what effect it would have on the case as Drs. say the only contagion is spread by sleeping in the same atmosphere with patients. Per contract, Col J. C. Rawl and Capt B. F. Wright, who both came to town early in the epidemic, but saw no cases, went to their homes and died in a few days of the disease, as I have understood, and now Fancher died the next day after Wanekeey with black vomit... " Item, February 5, 1898, Reprinted by Robinson Oct. 1867
the fever spread rapidly and few homes were left uninvaded. as in the earlier epidemic at Cincinnati in 1853, panic spread among the people in the town, and many families resorted to flight to neighboring communities, hoping to avoid the terrible disease. Others, however, fearlessly stood their ground and helped fight the sickness. The doctors in Huntsville seemed to have worked tirelessly to administer to the sick and bring the disease to a halt. Dr. Markham, _____, Oliphant and Prince of Huntsville, along with Doctors Haslea and Williams from Galveston, all had the fever themselves but recovered. Doctors Kittrrell, Moore and Baker, however, died of the disease. Dr. Keenan was the only physician who did not contact the fever as he had perhaps built up an immunity to it in the Cincinnati epidemic. In addition to the doctors, credit was due to many individuals from Cincinnati and New Orleans who had the fever and survived, for their invaluable assistance in caring for the sick. Frank Creagner owned a steam sash factory in Huntsville, but the factory was used for another purpose during the epidemic. According to Robinson, "The bulk of the last houses of the dead have been made when ordered has added much in stopping the spread of the dread contagion". Terrible as was the epidemic in Huntsville, there were fewer deaths in proportion to the population than in most other places struck by the disease that summer. the greatest number of internments any one day was 10, out of a population of about 1500 persons in that city.
Times in Huntsville were difficult in the late 1860's and in the early 1870's. the Civil War had just ended when the yellow fever epidemic struck. Such a combination was enough to deal any town a hazard blow, but Huntsville has been a prosperous little community, and although greatly staggered, it began a slow period of recovery. the city and the county government were, following the war in the hands of the carpet bagger rule. Voters all over the county had come into Huntsville to cast their ballots on election day. They stood in line at the polls which were guarded by Negro soldiers. No one was allowed to hold office who had not signed the "Iron Clad Oath" of the carpetbagger. In 1872, although Huntsville had a white mayor, C. E. Chambers, the entire city council was made up of Negroes, as well as the county commissioners court. (Woodall, "Memoirs, March 6, 1941) Church records of this period showed that Negroes had membership in various denominations along with the whites. the Methodist Church listed over 100 colored persons as members of the congregation.
More prosperous times, however, soon began to dawn on
Huntsville. the branch railroad came to the city in 1872, and Huntsville
became a rather important trade center for the surrounding area, as well as a
busy cotton market. A cotton wharf was established in 1872, and by the
year 1899 Huntsville was shipping out about 20,000 bales of cotton annually.
The establishment of S. H. N. I. [Sam Houston Normal Institute] in 1879 greatly
added to the importance and prosperity of the city. By the turn of the
century, Huntsville could boast of having over 40 business establishments and a
population of approximately 2,500 (Cox, S.H.N.I.)
The social. life in Huntsville revolved to a great extent around the educational institutions of the town. Commencement exercises of such schools as Austin College and Andrew Female College were great occasions as were their other activities Picnics and church festivals also did their part in adding to the recreation for citizens of the town. Another popular source of entertainment was provided by occasional troops of players who gave performances in the court house, and the later years of the Henry Opera House...., located over the department store of Major John Henry where the Cafe Raven is presently located. It was used by traveling entertainers, as Huntsville was the main stop on the railroad between between Houston and Palestine. They usually played to a full house. M. M. Rather. "The Old Henry Opera House", Item, March 6, 1941
Huntsville had its own dramatic club for a time, which staged such presentations as "Everybody's Friend", "Loan of a Lover", "Lend Me Five Shillings", Robert McClaire", and "To Oblige Benson". (Rather)
Weddings were also great occasions for feasts and general
merry-making, particularly in the earliest frontier days. A description of
one wedding which took place near Huntsville back in the days of the Republic
tells of singing and dancing to numbers such as "Rosin the Bow", "Jin Along
Josey", "Zip Coon". and "Roaring River". he wedding celebration lasted all
night for the younger folks, who continued their singing and festivities were
brought to a halt by breakfast the next morning. The older folks and the
mothers with babies departed about midnight, however, the Negroes going ahead of
them with fires in pans to light the road. (William R. Hogan,
The Republic of Texas, 117-118)
The Texas Prison System
The Texas legislature passed on May 11, 1846, and act directing the appointment of 3 commissioners "...whose duty it shall be to select a proper site whereon to erect a State penitentiary, having regard to health, materials for building,, the importation of machinery tools, materials to be wrought or manufactured, and for the transportation of articles made or manufactured by the convicts, to a market for the same." Huntsville was the site selected, and records reveal that this land was purchased as authorized by the act from Grace McGary, Robert Smither, and Pleasant Gray, all for the sum of $493. Upon this land most of the buildings of the present Huntsville prison now stand. The permanent record of the operation of the pen began in 1849, when the log prison only had three prisoners. "The Walls - Texas Pen at Huntsville." C of C Publication, Mt Vernon of Texas.
The first inmate of the prison was a man named William G. Sansom, a Fayettte County man who was convicted and sentenced to 3 years for cattle theft. The second convict was Stephen P. Terry, sentenced to 10 years for a murder committed in Jefferson County: and the third was Thomas Short, a youth of 19, sentenced to a term of 2 years for stealing a horse in Washington County. The fortunes of these first three prisoners are worthy of note: Sansom was pardoned by Governor Bell on September 4, 1850; Terry, the murderer, died of gun shot wounds while still a prisoner, on September 28, 1851; and Short served his full term, being discharged on November 7, 1850.
The log building was soon replaced by a more permanent brick structure, and the state prisoners were transferred from jails in different counties to Huntsville prison. An $18,000 appropriation was made in 1849 for purchase of new machinery for the manufacturing of wool and cotton goods at the pen, and $104,526 was appropriated for maintenance, to come from the proceeds of the sale of goods and articles manufactured there rather than from the State Treasury. (McFarland)
The prison contained inmates of all ages and both sexes. The most common form of punishment used, when some of the prisoners misbehaved was confinement in stocks. The prisoners were given various types of work to do; many were hired out for domestic and farm work, railroad construction, mining and manufacturing. the prison had a furniture plant, textile mills, iron foundry, brick kilns, and buggy and wagon works. The institution contained a library, and classes in various subjects have been conducted since 1871, when they were started through the efforts of Col. G. W. Grant.
Within a period of about 10 years, after it's establishment, the pen seems to have reached the peak of its production, with wool and cotton goods becoming the principal products. The superintendent of the prison, James Gillaspie, reported in 1859 that 5,632 spindles and 200 looms, with other necessary tools capable of producing 12,000 yards of cotton goods daily, using 15 bales of raw cotton. the average production required 120 bales of cotton and 6,000 pounds of wool per month, from which could be made approximately 92,000 yards of finished cloth. During the Civil War the prison was called upon to supply the materials for the Confederate Army, but could not completely fill the tremendous orders placed by the government.
A legislative enactment of 1871 required that the government of Texas lease out the operation and control of the pen to private concerns, through means of published advertisements. the lease plan was to last for a period of not less than 10 years, nor more than 15, with the State giving full and complete control to the lessee, retaining, however, the right to make use of inspectors to check the operations of the system. The introduction of this method brought about many undesirable results; the death rate among the inmates doubled in only two years time; many abuses of the prisoners appeared; medical attention for the convicts was sadly lacking; and the number of escapes greatly increased from 50 in 1871 to 382 in 1876. the other leases followed, greater care was taken in each case to prevent inhuman treatment of the prisoners.
In later years the legislature adopted a plan whereby the Huntsville plant was to be the central unit of Texas Prison System, to which would be added a series of prison farms operating in nearby counties. The first of these was the Harlem Farm; followed by the Imperial (now known as Central); the Clemens; the Wynn and the Goree Farms (for women), both located in Walker County just outside of Huntsville; the Ramsy; the Darlington; the Blue Ridge; the Eastham; and the Furgeson Farm.
Huntsville Early Newspapers
The first newspaper ever published in Huntsville was the Montgomery Patriot, Huntsville being in Montgomery County at that time. The first issue appeared in May, 1845, but the paper was suspended the following year. The Huntsville Banner, begun in 1846 by General Francis L. Hatch, took its place. The Banner was published every Saturday morning and subscription rates were $2 per year. the office of the paper was located on Jackson Street, now Avenue L. Isaac Tousey and T. Gibbs were the Walker County agents for the paper and James W. Moore was the traveling agent. The last issue of the Banner was in 1849. (McFarland)
A religious weekly, the Texas Presbyterian, an organ of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the next paper to make an appearance in the city. It was first established in Houston, in 1846, by Reverend A. J. McGowan, but was moved to Huntsville after about one year of operation, and continued there for 10 years. Rev. Weyman Adair was the editor. (Boyce Smith, Andrew F.)
The Union Advocate was published during the 1856 campaign of the "Know Nothing Party", a violent anti-Catholic group; but the paper lasted less than a year, as the "Know Nothing" movement failed after its defeat in the campaign for the presidency. (McFarland)
George Robinson founded the Huntsville Item in 1850, after having come to Texas from Liverpool, England. The first office of the paper was located on Spring Street, over what is now  Felder Dry Goods Company which in those days was occupied by J. H. Morgan, a dentist. Several changes in location had to be made, because of fires. Publishing of the Item has not ceased since that time. (except for a few weeks after each of several fires), which makes the paper the oldest weekly newspaper in Texas with continuous publication. Fires in 1892 and 1902 destroyed the files kept by the Item office up to that time; thus it is difficult to find copies prior to this other than a few intermittent issues in various state libraries and in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Editor Robinson was considered the ablest newspaper man in Texas and at one time the Item was voted as the outstanding newspaper in the state at a meeting of over 15,000 citizens of Texas, whose purpose was that of ascertaining what paper in Texas was the most ably conducted and printed, in order that the patronage of the citizens might be properly devoted to the building up of at least one great paper. Item, March 12, 1853. declared to have been chosen by a large majority of those present.
It is interesting to note some of the news items and advertisements published in the Item during it's first few years of publishing. A few of these have been selected at random and quoted.
October 4, 1851. the Eastern Stage whilst coming on Wednesday evening last, about a mile from Huntville was run away with horses, causing it to be upset, and severely injuring Miss McCleuny, a passenger from Houston County.
Dec 6, 1851: Escape of Convicts. On Thursday afternoon the officials of our State Pen were aroused to activity by the attempted escape of convicts. Dr Jesse Kirby had made several attempts to escape. A short time ago he ran off with a ball and a chain attached to him, but was soon caught. On last Thursday evening, he cut his chain by the use of his pocket knife, and was about to leave but was discovered before he was able to run off very far. The guards fired at him and wounded him severely.... now he lies in the pen in a very precarious condition, supposed to be insane. On the same day, another convict names Richard Bennett, affected his escape. he was sent from Shelby County for having perpetrated murder in the second degree. A reward of $100 has been offered for his apprehension.
January 8, 1853. Our latest advice's from the Trinity are that it is again falling and three boats detailed in the river, on the up trip.
January 22, 1853. On the 13 instant, the legislature saw fit among other matters to go into the election of U. S. Senator, General Sam Houston was the only candidate in nomination, yet the vote was not unanimous, It stood. Houston 65; Hemphill 4; Smythe 1.
The Southern Mail came in on Tuesday, very bulky. It is the first one we have had in about 18 days. the creeks have been so high, it has been impossible to get through. We hear, however, from Mr. Viser, who returned from the Bedias on Wednesday, that the creek is nearly forbade, and the Trinity is falling fast. We cannot have everything to suit, or the Trinity would stay up and let the creeks down.
List of Advertisers, issue of February 5, 1853
W. B. Clark, Teacher of Music, Dancing, and Etiquette
P. Finch - Huntsville Male Academy
Binford and Company - Merchants
J. A. Cabiness and F. Mersfielder Merchants
J. H. Morgan - Dentist
Wiley and Baker - Attorneys
Richard Rawls - Saddle and Harness Factory
Kittrell and Myers - Druggist
W. A. Leigh - Attorney
Wright - Edmondson - Land Buyers
P. J. Simons - Huntsville Exchange Grocery
H. N. Compton - Carriage and Wagon Shop
Groves and Mayo - Wagon and Carriage Makers
Rogers and Berkins and Company Hardware
John McCreary - Land Agency
February 5, 1853 Dancing, waltzing, and etiquette W. B. Clark has the honor of presenting his compliments to the ladies and gentlemen of Huntsville and vicinity, and would inform them that he had engaged the room over Mr. Walker's store on the northeast corner of the square, where he will be pleased to impart the science to all interested in his care. For terms and particulars, please call Mr. Clark at the Keenan House.
The Item remained in the possession of the Robinson family for more than 50 years, being operated after the death of George Robinson by his son, Fred. The paper sold in 1902 to J. A. Palmer, who continues publication under the same name.
Churches in Huntsville
The First Baptist Church of Huntsville ws organized on September 16, 2844, at the Dean School House, by Z. N. Morrell, its first pastor and by Elder Thomas Horsely. the school house was located at the northwest corner of the present wall of the pen. the first book of minutes begins thus...(omitted). At the end of the proceedings "Elder S. N. Morrell then closed the organization by prayer and declared the same duly organized in accordance with the usage and customs of the Baptist Church.
Other points in the vicinity of the school house also served as meeting places until the first church building was dedicated in 1851, by D. ___. Rufus C. Burleson, President of Baylor University, also dedicated the second church building, 40 years later, in 1871. General Sam Houston and Margaret Houston were among the early members of the church, placing their membership in 1855.
The First Methodist Church
The congregation of the First Methodist Church came into being in the early 1850's, but the first church building was not erected until 1857, with the Rev. B. Davis as pastor at that time, and Thomas and Sanford Gibbs, Robert and Williamson Wynne, and Dr. J. A. Thompson serving on the Board of Stewards. the dedication sermon was given by Rev. Robert Alexander. A second building was erected in 1888, and a third following a fire in 1911 which damaged the old building. This third church also burned in 1918, and the present building was constructed the next year.
The First Presbyterian Church
Church was organized by the President of Brazos, with Dr. Daniel Baker as Moderator and Dr. S. A. Moore, Elder in 1848. Prior to the building of the church, services were held in the court house; in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church building, which was the first church ever erected in Huntsville in 1849. A lot purchased in 1855 and the first building was erected in 1856. In that year a new church was constructed which lasted until 1956, when a third church building was begun.
The episcopal congregation came into being prior to the Civil War, but no building was erected until after the war. Services were held at various times in the old Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Huntsville Oddfellows Hall, and in the court house. Some of the more prominent early members of the congregation were: Judge and Mrs. James Smither; The George Robinson family; Mrs. Thornton and family; Mr. and Mrs. Rome; and Professor W. A. Hooks.
The first Episcopal Church building was dedicated in 168, and was called Saint Stephen's Church. Reverend W. R. Richardson, Rector of the Parish at that time, was instrumental in raising funds for its erection. ( Cox, S. H. N. I., 97-98)
First Christian Church
Reverend Joseph Addison Clark organized the First Christian congregation in Huntsville on January 1, 1854. It was for a time served by several different preachers, the first regular pastor being Reverend Benton Sweeny, who was a teacher as well as a minister. Later preachers were John T. Poe and Judge Joab H. Banton. Prominent members of the congregation were Dr. Joseph Baldwin, President of Sam Houston Normal Institute; J. Lyle Smith; and H. C. Wright. ( Boynton, "Data on Churches", The Huntsville Item, March 6, 1941)
Milton Estill, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister and later
Chief Justice of Walker County, constructed the earliest known school in
Huntsville, holding classes on weekdays and religious services on Sunday.
(McFarland, "A History of Huntsville", Item, March 6, 1941)
The first real educational institution in Huntsville was names the "Huntsville Academy", but was known to the citizens of the town as "Old Brick Academy". It was built by voluntary contributions of the townsfolk in the year 1845 upon a 5 acre tract of land deeded by Pleasant Gray, for a one cent consideration, to William Viser, Thomas Gibbs, M. Barrett, F. L. Hatch, and M. C. Rogers, trustees of the school", for the purpose of education in general. ( Deed Records of Walker County II, 433.)
The academy was incorporated the next year. the site of the Huntsville Academy is now within the walls of the Texas Penitentiary. Some of the early members of the faculty at the academy were: Dr. Sam McKinney; Mrs., M. L. Branch; Mrs. James A. Baker; and Miss Melinda Rankin. ( H. F. Estill, "Huntsville: Historic City", Texas State Historical Association, III, 265.)
For a time the school admitted only boys, but later took in girls, changing its name to the "Huntsville Male and Female Academy." Under this name and advertisement appeared in The Texas Banner, which declared: "The next session of this institution commences May 31, 1847, under the charge of G. H. B. Grigsby, (late of Virginia), assisted in the female department by Miss Melinda Rankin, (of New Hampshire)." The tuition fees, ranging from $7.50 to $20.00, were also stated. A final charge created the "Huntsville Female Academy", and boys ere no longer admitted. (McFarland, Item , March 6, 1941)
A legislative act dated March 16, 1848, provided for the incorporation of the "Huntsville Male Institute", and names Thomas G. Birdwell, Benjamin S. Wilson, George W. Rogers, James T. Sims, and Thomas King as its trustees. (Gammel, Laws of Texas, III, 404)
McCormack, Anson Jones, Abner Lipscomb and Joseph W. Hamptom the trustees of the college, which was "...to be established in or neat the town of Huntsville in Walker County and to be incorporated by the name of Austin College." The first meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in Huntsville on April 5, 1850. Daniel Baker was chosen as President pro-tem, and served until Rev. Samuel McKinney was elected President of the college, and ex-officio president of the Board. Baker in telling of the selection of the site for the school said: "...At this meeting of the Board the site for the college building was fixed upon. Two places had been offered -- Capitol Hill, on the south, and Cotton Gin Hill on the north of the town. I had in my own mind settled on the latter place, and supposing there might be a few votes against it, and wishing the vote to be in favor to be recorded as unanimous, I rose up and made a speech, stating how important was unanimity in this case before us, and expressing a desire that when the will of the majority was ascertained, the minority would yield with good grace... Well, the vote was taken, and lo and behold, Capitol Hill carried the day by an overwhelming majority!...I complied with my own prescription and swallowed it down."
Classes were first held in the Huntsville Academy building, but on St. John's Day, Tuesday, June 24, 1851, in conjunction with a program by the Masonic Grand Chapter of the State, then in session at Huntsville, the cornerstone was laid for the Austin College building. Adolphus Sterne, appointed by the Masons as Marshall of the Day for the occasion, described in his diary the activities of the day, which included a large scale public dinner and a ball at the court house that night. Sterne formed the procession at the Public Square, and marched up to the Capitol Hill and the building site. The day being extremely hot, with little or no shade, General Houston held an umbrella over Dr. McKinney, who made a speech of dedication.
In addition to the other academic courses offered at the Austin College was a Law Department under the supervision of Royal T. Wheeler, of the Supreme Court of Texas, and Henderson Yoakum. Distinguished lawyers of Texas frequently gave lectures at the college; among these was Abner S. Lipscomb, a trustee of the college who had previously been a member of both the Alabama and the Texas Supreme Courts.
The War between the States took a great many of both students and faculty away from the college to serve in the Confederate Army, but the school managed to stay open, with the smaller boys attending and the older students conducting the classes. In 1876, however, the college ended its existence in Huntsville, and wa moved to Sherman, where it still operates. Presidents who served the college while it was located in Huntsville were: Dr. Sam McKinney, 1850-1853 and 1862-1870; Rev. Daniel Baker, 1853 until his death in 1857; Rev J. W. Miller, 1857-1858; Rev R. W. Bailey, 1858-1862; and Fr. S. M. Luckett, 1870-1877.
Andrew Female College
Andrew Female College was incorporated by act of the Texas Legislature on February 7, 1853, which names Andrew J. Wiley, Francis A. McShan, Robert Wynne, J. Carroll Smith, C. H. Keenan, Henderson Yoakum, Daniel Baker, Williamson Wynne, Anthony C. Parmer, D. J. Ransome, Andrew J. McGowan, Pleasant W. Kitterell, and Micajah C. Rogers as a Board of Trustees.
The college was named for James Osgood Andrew, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The doors of the institution were opened May 16, 1853, with Dr. James Follensbec as the first President. Arrangements had been made by the Board of Trustees to use the Huntsville Academy building until suitable college buildings could be constructed. A three-story building to house the college wa soon completed, having been financed through funds donated by citizens of Huntsville. It was located on Cotton -Gin Hill, on the present site od the Huntsville Elementary School .
In n1855, a new, two-story building was erected, situated in the center of a densely shaded campus and enclosed by a four foot wall. Entrance to the school grounds was by means of stiles.
The college was organized into preparatory and collegiate departments. The preparatory department consisted of Elementary, Juvenile, and First Class, while the Collegiate Department hd the usual Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior and Senior departments.
Classes were conducted in such subjects as English, Mathematics, the classics, natural sciences, modern languages, drawing, penmanship and religion. The diploma, signed by the President of the college, the members of the Board of Trustees, conferred upon the graduate the "Title and Degree of Mistress of Polite Literature."
A gradual decline brought about the end of Andrew Female College, in 1879. Public schools in Texas had been ever on the increase, and there was no longer a great need for the denominational colleges which played such an important part in early Texas education. the year 1879 also marked the beginning of S. H. N. I., which attracted many of the students who might otherwise have attended Andrew Female College. the property of the school acquired by the City of Huntsville, and was used for public school purposes.
Taking the place of Austin College, following it removal to Sherman was Mitchell College for boys, held in the old Austin College building , which was purchased by the Methodist Church for that purpose, in 1877. The School was named for Rev. Mitchell of the Huntsville Methodist Church, who made numerous trips to secure funds for the operation of the college. Professor R. O. Rounsaval, a former member of the faculty of Andrew Female College was in charge of the institution, which only lasted for a very short period.
Bishop Ward Normal and Collegiate Institute
Presiding Elder C. Porter of the Methodist Church established the Bishop Normal and Collegiate Institute for Negroes in Huntsville, in 1883. the Board of Trustees consisted of 30 Negroes, among them being Memphis Allen, Alex Wynne, Will Mills, Strother Green and William Kitterell. The faculty ws composed of well-informed conscientious Southern Negroes, such as C. W. Luckie, who was later principal of the Huntsville Negro School and also a professor of English at Prairie View College. the school was forced to close after a time because of lack of funds.
Sam Houston Normal Institute
Col. G. W. Grant, S. R. Smith, and Judge Benton Randolph were members of a committee sent to Austin by the citizens of Huntsville to tender the state the site and building of the old Austin College, which had been purchased by the town, for the erection of a state college, to be called Sam Houston. Col L. A. Abercrombie of Huntsville was at that time a member of the Texas Senate, and with the help of Judge J. R. Burnett and the Col Charles Stewart, he was able to put out a bill through the legislature providing for the erection of the college, which was then approved by Governor O. M. Roberts, on April 21, 1879.
Dr. Barnas Sears, General Agent of the Peabody Education Fund, was instrumental in getting the new college underway. His visit to Texas and the resulting promise of aid from the Peabody Fund for the establishment of such an institution helped to spur the legislature into action. Sears made the nomination of H. H. Smith of Houston and Benard Mallon of Atlanta, Georgia, the position of first principal of the college, with the State Board of Education making the final decision, choosing Mallon.
On October 10, 1879, President Mallon opened the first term of S. H. N. I. in the former Austin College building. the faculty at that time consisted of President Mallon, O. H. Cooper, Mrs. Isabella Mallon, Mrs., A. A. Reynolds. Mallon entered upon his new duties with enthusiasm and expressions of hope for the future, but on October 21, the first president of the institution dies. He was succeeded by H. H. Smith, Superintendent of Public Schools in Houston, whose daughter, Mrs. Fannie Whitesides, was also elected to the faculty as assistant.
The first few terms of the new school were marked by a rapid turnover of the faculty. Mrs. Mallon, widow of the late President, resigned at the close of the first term. Mrs. M. I. Allen and Miss L. W. Elliot were elected to the faculty in 1880, while at the end of the second term, the resignation of President Smith, Professor Cooper, Mrs. Whitesides and Mrs. Allen were tendered. In the fall of 1882, Dr. Joseph Baldwin was chosen to fill the vacant President's position, and Professors C. P. Estill, I. R. Dean, Henry Carr Pritchett, and Miss Olivia Baldwin were chosen as assistants. Also in that year, Judge Benton Randolph was made treasurer of the local Board of Directors of the college, which consisted of L. A. Abercrombie, Dr. T. W. Markham, and Col. G. W. Grant, H. F. Estill was chosen, in 1882. to fill the vacancy created by the death of his father, C. P. Estill, as teacher of English, Literature, and Latin. Many other changes took place in the next few years, bringing to the faculty such outstanding teachers as Miss Bertha Kirkly, beginning in 1891,, Miss Augusta Lawrence, 1894, and others who put in many long years of faithful service to the school.
The growth of the school was rapid, causing a demand for greater facilities. the 21st Texas Legislature appropriated, largely as a result of the efforts of Col. AL. A. Abercrombie, $40,000 for the erection of an additional building, the cornerstone of which was laid on September 23, 1888. the new building, now known as "Old Main", was completed and dedicated at the opening of the 12th session o the school, on September 23, 1890/
By 1899 the number of graduates of S. H. N. I. was 117, as compared with 77 in 1884, and 37 for the first graduating class. Total enrollment for 1899 was 479 students. the faculty at this time included: Henry Carr Prichett, President; H. F. Estill, teacher of Language and destined to be 5th President of S. H.; Miss L. W. Elliot, Literature; Miss Lulu McCoy, Reading, Drawing and Methods; J. L. Prichett, Math; Robert B. Bailey, Physics and Chemistry.
This Huntsville Male Academy, as it came to be called,
occupied a frame building east of the avenue of Cedars on the O. B. Gallaspie
property near Oakwood Cemetery, and was presided over by Rev. Milton Estill, Dr.
Samuel McKinney, J. M. Follansbec, and others.
At a called meeting of the Presbytery of the Brazos, at Washington, in June 1849m Rev. Daniel Baker, Rev. J. W. Miller, and W. C. Blair were appointed as a committee to examine the territory between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers for the purpose of deciding on the location of a Presbyterian college. The report on this committee recommended Huntsville as the most desirable site for the school. Daniel Baker wa appointed financial agent, to arrange the raising of funds to build the college.
While in Huntsville for the holding of a religious meeting, Baker broached the subject of the proposed college to some of the prominent citizens of the town, inquiring if they desired the establishment of a school there. A town meeting was called, and great enthusiasm was expressed for the idea. General Houston was even reported to have voiced the opinion that it would be a great advantage to Huntsville to have a Presbyterian college located there than to have the city made the seat of government for the state, for which it had been previously considered. Subscription papers "...for the erection and support of a college by the Presbyterian Church, at or within a mile of Huntsville, Texas, to be called Baker College", were circulated in the city and soon $8,000 worth had been subscribed. Baker respectfully declined the honor of having the college named for himself; instead it came to be called Austin College, in honor of Stephen F. Austin. (Daniel Baker, Life and Labours of Daniel Baker, 388-390)
Walter M. Coleman, Physics and Natural History; Miss Annie Estill, Gym; Miss Bertha Kirkley, Assistant in Latin and History; Miss Sue Smither, Math; Miss Rosa Buchanan, Grammar,; Miss Ida Lawrence, History and Geography; Miss Mary Abercrombie Finch, Music; Miss Anna G. Loring, Miss Augusta Lawrence, Miss Ellas Smither, Assistant in Texas History and Librarian.
This work written and researched by John W. Baldwin in 1954.
copyright 2000 - 2003 Charlotte Sandel Beck