The Volume 16 December 2011
History OUR HISTORY
Discovering the interesting connections between people, places, and
events across time is one of the most fascinating activities in the study of history. It is especially one of the most rewarding and enjoyable pursuits when research involves not only the libraries and archives but the great outdoors. Such was the case in preparing this issue’s feature article on Fort Terán, the 1831 Mexican
Jonathan K. Gerland Director/Archivist
garrison on the Neches River in what is now Tyler County.
The irony of today’s American immigration policies is evident when
compared with the struggles of Mexican officials protecting their borders from Americans nearly two centuries ago. Adding to the adventure, the relatively remote geographic area of Fort Terán remains one of the most interesting and scenic in Texas.
This issue also features an article on another intriguing place in East Texas
history and lore, the Blue Hole. This beloved rock quarry, which long ago filled with clear blue water, is vividly recalled by Helen Pettis Darden, who grew up there in the 1920s and 1930s. Her memories remind us that the area, once known as a popular swimming hole in the forest, was also a center of an often ignored African-American community in northern Jasper and southern Angelina counties.
I hope you enjoy this issue’s articles and other sections. May you find your
own interesting connections in history, as well as much joy and contentment, throughout the coming year. With warmest regards,
Jonathan K. Gerland Diboll, Texas
CONTENTS FEATURES Remembering Fort Terán: A Mexican Outpost in the East Texas Pineywoods by Jonathan Gerland Helen Darden’s Memories of the Blue Hole, the Vernon County Line School, and the Boykin Community by Emily Hyatt
20 PAGE 30 The History Center 102 N. Temple Diboll, TX 75941
SECTIONS n Scrapbook Pages Booker Family Signs of the Times Tug-of-War Warsaw Hee Haw Rotary and Lions Clubs Aldridge in El Paso Buzz Saw Digitization Temple Lumber Company Engine 17
26 28 30 32 34 35 36 38 39
News & Notices
THE PINE BOUGH Vol. 16
phone: (936) 829-3543 www.TheHistoryCenterOnline.com Staff: Jonathan K. Gerland, Director Emily E. Hyatt, Archivist Matt Gorzalski, Archivist Patsy Colbert, Assistant Archivist Louis Landers, Archival Assistant Martin Salas, Saturday Research Assistant Tony Rosales, Saturday Research Assistant The History Center Committee: Ellen Temple, Chair Jonathan Gerland, Executive Director Kathy Sample Pete Smart Mark Shepherd Dennis McDuffie Kathy Sample, Chair, Board of Directors, T. L. L. Temple Memorial Library & Archives
A history magazine published annually by The History Center, Diboll, Texas. Jonathan K. Gerland, Editor Emily E. Hyatt, Assistant Editor Unless otherwise noted, all images herein are from the holdings of The History Center. © Copyright 2011 by The History Center. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this issue or any portion of it is expressly prohibited without written permission of the publisher.
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About the cover: Front: The Neches River makes a distinctive turn at the scenic site of Fort Terán. June 2011 photo by Jonathan Gerland. Back: Morning mist rises from the waters at Rocky Shoals on the Neches River in the Upland Island Wilderness of the Angelina National Forest. October 2011 photo by Jonathan Gerland.
Fort Terán: A Mexican Outpost in the East Texas Pineywoods By Jonathan Gerland
he East Texas forests are full of interesting places hidden from all but the most knowledgeable adventurers and explorers. One of these places long hidden from memory is the site of the short-lived Mexican Fort Terán.
Most East Texans, if they have heard of the fort at all, know of it through the mysterious legends of lost Spanish and Mexican gold and sunken cannons or they have been confused by a defaced historical marker moved fifty years ago at the whim of modern convenience. While the steady march of time has ensured that the full story of the fort may never be completely known, the fact of its onetime existence and its place within the larger story of Texas history is as important as it is interesting. Located more than seven miles from a paved road, the physical place of Fort Terán is more isolated today than it was 180 years ago. A twentyfirst century visitor struggles to imagine the world of 1831, when government officials established the military post to check the increasing Americanization of Mexican Texas. The most interesting realization is that Fort Terán served as a border patrol not on the Rio Grande River, but on the Neches River. It was manned not by American
citizens trying to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico, but by Mexican citizens trying to keep out illegal immigrants from the United States. Remotely situated near the junction of Angelina, Jasper, and Tyler counties, the dominant feature of the place remains the Neches River, which flows here predominately from west to east, exposing numerous rock outcroppings. The river cuts through an area geographically known as the Kisatchie Wold, a ridge of sandstone pushed upward by underlying sands and shales, extending from the Mississippi River floodplain to the Rio Grande valley, roughly parallel to the Gulf of Mexico. The eastward deflection of the Neches River remains one of the most distinguishing influences of the formation in the state. At a distinctive spot where the river bed becomes mostly flat rock, at a sharp bend created by a fully exposed rock ridge less than half a mile below the mouth of Shawnee Creek, the remains of an old buffalo crossing can still be observed. Gradual sloping banks, especially on the river’s right bank (when facing downstream), in present Tyler County, indicate the crossing. Nearby, on the river’s left bank, in present Jasper County, is an area still referenced as an ancient salt lick or saline. As long as people can remember, mostly only
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palmetto and haw bushes have grown in the open flat there, surrounded on two sides by plantation pines. Migrating herds of animals benefitted from the salty floodplain (two nearby upriver streams are named Saline and Little Saline creeks), and the flat, hard rock riverbed provided sure footing at low water.1 Native Americans also used the crossing, followed later by Europeans, Mexicans, and Americans. By 1830 several roads, or traces, crossed here. The old Spanish Nacogdochesto-Orcoquisac Road connected Nacogdoches to Indian tribes, missions, and presidios along the east bank of the Trinity River and down to the coast. Residents of Indian villages along the Sabine River, as well as settlers at Bevil (present day Jasper), also used the crossing, traveling routes with names such as Alabama Trace and Coushatta Trace. Here, at this once strategic river crossing, Fort Terán was built by a government fearful of losing its territory not to an invading army, but to immigrants from America seeking a better life in Texas. Much of Texas’ history, especially East Texas, has been the story of people and spaces at the margins. For centuries Texas has been
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a borderland, a crossroads of cultures and empires. Along with a host of both native and immigrant Indian tribes, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Mexicans, and Americans have met here and at various times called the land theirs. Diverse frontiers came together in Texas, but they rarely merged.2 In 1821, following ten years of bloody revolution, Mexico won its independence from Spain. It was ill-equipped to govern a vast territory that stretched over much of what is now the western United States, including the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, much of Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. Spain’s three centuries of absolute colonial control had taken much from the New World, draining New Spain’s natural resources and depriving her colonies of the experience of self government. Mexico’s decade of revolution depleted what little finances remained, erased a large portion of its workforce, and instilled a military tradition characterized by continual political turmoil, coups and counter coups.
Site of Nacogdoches-Orcoquisac Road crossing of the Neches River, looking upriver in June 2011. Note the hard rock shallow stream bed which forms a shelf and, to the far left, a concrete boat ramp on the Tyler County side of the river, believed to be in the bed of the old road. When Nicolas De Lafora crossed here rather uneventfully in October 1767, traveling with the Marques de Rubí tour of inspection, he described the Neches as flowing “east in a very deep bed although there is little water.” Near this crossing the Mexican Army established Fort Terán in 1831. Photograph by Jonathan Gerland.
This map shows the Neches River crossing of the old Nacogdoches-Orcoquisac Road, along with the locations of Fort Terán, Belt’s Ferry, and the historical marker, or monument, that was first erected in 1936 at the site of Fort Terán, then moved in 1963 about half a mile due west to Money Hill, where it remains today. Also shown are the locations of the nearby natural rock outcrop ridge and the old salt lick, both situated along the Angelina-Jasper county line.
By contrast, Mexico’s northern neighbor, the United States, was prospering and advancing rapidly across the North American continent. While Spain had been reluctant to open its sparsely settled northern territories to foreigners, Mexico realized that Texas especially, if it was to be held, had to be populated quickly, and if not with its own citizens, then with legal immigrants and colonists from elsewhere. Already many Americans had drifted into East Texas and settled there, despite laws prohibiting them. Mexican officials seemed resigned to the hope that by giving these settlers legal status and titles to land they would be loyal to the Mexican government. Future settlement would be administered through an orderly immigration-colonization policy. Mexico’s colonization laws of the 1820’s were extremely generous to foreigners. They provided cheap land (31 times cheaper than in the U.S.) with few restrictions, payable over time, and exemption from most taxation for four years. Colonists only had to be willing to become Mexican citizens (implying a profession of Catholicism) and were expected to be industrious and help defend the frontier
against hostile Indians. With such liberal terms, Mexico had little trouble attracting Americans but great difficulty assimilating them. Within a few short years Mexico doubted the wisdom of its policies. Americans came in ever increasing numbers and showed little inclination to respect Mexican laws especially when they conflicted with their own interests and ideas of self government. In December 1826 an imprudent colonization agent, or empresario, Haden Edwards of Nacogdoches, disgruntled over conflicting land titles, declared the independence of Texas and established the Republic of Fredonia, stretching from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande. The ill-advised revolt fell apart before Mexican forces arrived, and Edwards and many of his followers fled to Louisiana in January 1827. Although many AngloAmericans in Texas, including Stephen F. Austin, stood against this act of reckless aggression, Mexican fears about American designs for Texas were stirred to alarm. In defensive reaction, Mexican officials sent a garrison of 200 troops to Nacogdoches in the summer of 1827. Their main duties were to see that immigrants bore passports, The Pine Bough
that they met the character requirements of colonization laws, and that they did not settle in unauthorized areas, specifically within 50 miles of the American border. To get an idea of the true state of affairs in Texas, the President of Mexico later that year sent a gifted young military officer and high state official, General Manuel De Mier y Terán, to East Texas, ostensibly to lead a scientific and boundary expedition, but practically to assess the security of the frontier and recommend ways to better defend it. Manuel De Mier y Terán, for whom Fort Terán is named, was born in Mexico City in 1789. A talented and highly respected man of keen intellect, he graduated from Mexico City’s prestigious College of Mines, where he excelled in mathematics and engineering. He fought with Mexico’s revolutionary forces beginning in 1811, commanding artillery forces with distinction, and held various positions in the new government during the 1820s. He was elected in 1822 to the first congress, serving on the committee on colonization of unsettled lands, and in 1824 became a brigadier general, serving as the minister of war and navy.3 Terán’s boundary commission included a mineralogist, a botanist and zoologist, and a cartographer and artist. Terán would
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General Manuel Mier y Terán (1789-1832), namesake of Fort Terán, was a talented, yet tragic Mexican patriot whose depression concerning the inevitable loss of Texas to the United States led to his suicide.
record many natural and cultural discoveries during his Texas travels, but his political and social observations in East Texas were most important to Mexico City. Writing from Nacogdoches in June 1828, Terán reported to President Victoria and other officials that Mexican influence diminished greatly beyond San Antonio “so much so that it becomes clear that in this town that influence is almost nonexistent.”4
Canoeing the middle portion of the Neches River near the site of Fort Terán in October 2011. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
Another view of the Neches River, looking downriver from the Tyler County side of the old road crossing, very near the site of Fort Terán in June 2011. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
Anglo-Americans were assimilating poorly, he reasoned, because they outnumbered ethnic Mexicans more than ten to one, and the Mexicans of Nacogdoches were lamentably of “the poorest and most ignorant” class. This resulted in a developed disdain by the Americans toward Mexicans, “judging that our republic consists only of ignorant mulattoes and Indians.” Terán was incensed that in some settlers’ homes he and his party, considered to be educated, were assumed to be French or Spanish, “and when we have insisted, with some annoyance, that we are Mexicans they take it as the greatest absurdity.”5
Terán was incensed that in some settlers’ homes he and his party, considered to be educated, were assumed to be French or Spanish Furthermore, Terán noticed that the AngloAmericans maintained an English school in town and sent their children north for higher education, while “the poor Mexicans neither have the resources to create schools, nor is there anyone to think about improving their institutions and their abject condition.” 6
Illegal settlers, or squatters, were everywhere, he discovered, and they were successful. They come in an “unceasing stream…the first news we have of them is through the discovery of an already cultivated property where they have been settled for months.” All the while the Anglo-Americans “grumble about the political disorganization of the frontier,” and the local Mexicans “complain of the superiority and better education of the colonists.” Unless drastic action was taken soon to diminish the Anglo-American influence and strengthen ties to the rest of Mexico, Terán warned, “Texas could throw the whole nation into revolution.”6 Terán was called away from Nacogdoches in early 1829, and he left in a melancholic state of mind. In the midst of the latest coup, anarchy had erupted in Mexico City, beckoning the military leader who had taken pleasure in the brief opportunity to be in the natural world away from the capital. Terán recorded that despite various hardships he endured in East Texas he lamented leaving “the solitude of the wilderness” and the “eternal forests of Tejas,” where he had enjoyed “that tranquility so pleasing to those who love the sciences.” In the end Terán’s inspection tour of Texas proved to be more a political exploration than a scientific expedition, and it would drastically influence Texas relations for the remaining days of Mexican Texas.7 The Pine Bough
Terán’s reports and recommendations on Texas led to sweeping reforms and a new law of April 6, 1830, which closed the borders of Texas to Americans, called for an increased military occupation, closer trade ties with Mexico, and encouragement of more Mexican and European settlers. Shortly before this, and after assisting Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in repulsing a Spanish invasion at Tampico, Terán was named commandant general of the Eastern Interior Provinces. This position gave him both military and civil authority over several provinces, including Texas, which he still feared was on the brink of falling into the hands of a rapidly expanding United States. To increase the military presence in Texas, Terán enlarged existing forces at Béxar (San Antonio), LaBahía (Goliad), and Nacogdoches and established six new garrisons, some with Aztec names: Tenoxtitlán on the middle Brazos River, Anáhuac in Galveston Bay at the mouth of the Trinity River, Lipantitlán on the Nueces River, Terán on the middle Neches River, Velasco at the mouth of the Brazos River, and Lavaca on the Lavaca River. The fortified outposts were intended to surround the existing settlements and guard all approaches to them.8 Terán hoped too that the safety offered by the fortified posts would facilitate the settlement of Mexican families into Texas, who in time would counterbalance the American population and influence.9 Terán actively oversaw much of the reforms, but interestingly, not necessarily the construction and operation of the fort named for him. Fort Terán’s builder and commander was the semi-famous Peter Ellis Bean, sort of a Forrest Gump character of early nineteenth century Mexico and Texas, who for most of his life brushed shoulders with nearly all the major public figures of both regions.10 Bean was born of hardy pioneer stock in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee in 1783. Seeking further adventure he left home on a flatboat at the age of seventeen, became wrecked, and found himself in Natchez, Mississippi, where he joined Phillip Nolan’s last filibustering expedition to Spanish Texas. In spring 1801 Bean and his companions were overwhelmed by a large Spanish force that killed Nolan and took Bean and several other Americans prisoners. This began a nine-year imprisonment, which Bean vividly recounted in his Memoirs, written about 1816 but later D e c e m b e r 2011
Terán recorded that despite various hardships he endured in East Texas he lamented leaving “the solitude of the wilderness” and the “eternal forests of Tejas,” where he had enjoyed “that tranquility so pleasing to those who love the sciences.”
Peter Ellis Bean (17831847), one of the most fascinating figures in Texas history during the first half of the nineteenth century, was the Mexican commander and builder of Fort Terán in 1831-1832.
“corrected” and “rewritten” by Henderson Yoakum, who published them in 1855.11 The account remains one of the most interesting and poignant prisoner narratives ever written, not unlike some of the adventure stories of Alexandre Dumas published in the 1840s.
Signature of Peter Ellis Bean, from a document in the East Texas Research Center, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches.
This photograph shows the old road and ferry crossing at Terán, looking toward the Neches River at a time of high water. Fort Terán was located left, or west, of this road. The image is reproduced from Lou Ella Moseley’s Pioneer Days of Tyler County (Bevil Oaks: Tyler County Historical Society and Whitmeyer Printing, 1985), p. 124.
Bean was taken deep into the interior of Mexico and was held at various towns, where he usually attempted escape. At Chihuahua, he was given relative freedom and run of the town, which he used to be gainfully employed as a hatter and had romantic relations with several Mexican women. In 1807 he met U.S. General Zebulon Pike, who was briefly detained by Spanish forces for trespassing along the upper Rio Grande River. Bean was eventually sent to a much harsher prison in Acapulco, where he was shackled, starved and beaten, his only comfort being a white lizard he tamed and called “friend Bill.” After repeated escape attempts, Spanish authorities released the troublesome Bean from jail to fight for the Royalists, then besieged at Acapulco by rebel forces at the beginning of the Mexican revolution. At the first opportunity Bean deserted to the Rebels, aided their cause, and quickly rose to the rank of colonel, serving under the revolutionary hero, General José María Morelos.
Bean was eventually sent to a much harsher prison in Acapulco, where he was shackled, starved and beaten, his only comfort being a white lizard he tamed and called “friend Bill.” In late 1814 Morelos sent the resourceful Bean to the United States to seek American support for the revolution. Bean arrived at New Orleans just in time to fight with
the pirate Jean Lafitte and General Andrew Jackson against the British at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. Victorious and with pledges of American support, Bean soon returned to Mexico, but was sent back to New Orleans later that year, this time to accompany other Mexican emissaries, including Juan N. Almonte, Morelos’ son. By the time Bean returned to Mexico, Morelos had been killed and the revolution stalled. Bean married a wealthy Mexican, Magdalena Falfan de los Godos, at Jalapa, Vera Cruz, but upon Royalist forces closing in, he left her and fled to the United States in 1816. He would, however, return to her more than once in later years. In 1817 Bean visited his old home in Tennessee and there married his second wife, Candace Midkiff, eventually having three children with her. The couple moved to Arkansas about 1820 and after Mexico won its independence in 1821 they journeyed to Texas, where Bean sought reward for his revolutionary services, including land. With his American family he settled near Nacogdoches, where he served as a colonel in the Mexican Army and as Indian Agent, keeping the Cherokee and other tribes neutral during the Fredonian Rebellion of 1826-1827. Bean accompanied General Terán during Terán’s inspection tour of East Texas in 1828, and he was selected to build and command Fort Terán in 1831. With orders to establish “Fuerte de Terán” on “the banks of the Nechas [sic.],” Colonel Bean, along with a detachment of twenty (continued on page 10)
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These topographic maps from 1958 and 1984 show the location of the Fort Terán historical marker at different times. The State of Texas and Tyler County erected the Fort Terán monument at the site of the fort in 1936 then moved it in 1963 to its present location on higher ground to protect it from the impounded waters of the proposed Lake Rockland, which remains only proposed today.
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An excerpt, showing the site of Teran, from Richard S. Hunt’s and Jesse F. Randel’s 1839 Map of Texas. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries online historical maps of Texas, http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/scherpf-texas-1841.jpg.
Several early twentieth-century accounts say that cedar trees, “planted by the Mexicans,” are an indication where the fort once stood at Terán. These cedars grow just west of the modern concrete boat ramp at the site today, very near the Neches River.
dragoons and ten infantry previously under the command of Colonel José de las Piedras, marched from Nacogdoches in September 1831. In addition to enforcing the Law of April 6, 1830, the small detachment was to serve as a command and communications point between the larger garrisons at Nacogdoches and Anáhuac.12 Considering Bean’s experience as Indian Agent, Terán hoped the Neches River outpost would also help curtail the illegal entry of Indians from the United States, another increasing concern he noted during his inspection tour.13 Many details concerning Fort Terán, including information regarding its construction and operation, have yet to be discovered in the Mexican archives. It is curious that, while General Terán oversaw the careful planning of other detachments, such as Anáhuac, he seems to have had very little involvement with the one military installation named for him.14 Most of the primary documentation concerning Fort Terán exists in the form of a few letters written The Pine Bough
Palmetto is the dominant plant growing in this large open flat believed to be the remnant of a natural salt lick northeast of and across the river from Fort Terán. Also growing are haw bushes and persimmons, with pines on the eastern perimeter and hardwoods on the north and west. To the immediate south is a mowed field, then the river. The old Nacogdoches-Orcoquisac Road passed through here. Photograph by Jonathan Gerland, June 2011.
by Colonel Piedras of Nacogdoches, not from the pens of Terán or Bean. The dominant material used in the construction of the fort and other buildings was most likely wood. Timber resources were abundant, and their use may help to explain why no remains of the structures exist today. Also Bean, always the entrepreneur, owned a couple of sawmills in and around Nacogdoches, and it is probable that lumber from one of Bean’s mills was utilized.15 Some stone and brick may also have been used, for Colonel Piedras wrote a letter in April 1832 indicating that a bricklayer or stone mason was needed to complete some type of construction at the installation.16 Besides overseeing construction, Peter Ellis Bean’s exact activities at the post also remain a mystery. Bean did host a certain AngloAmerican visitor for several weeks in the spring of 1832, George W. Smyth, who was a newly arrived land surveyor and would later sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. Writing in 1857, Smyth recorded: “Early in the year 1832 I went to Fort Terán, situated on the Neches in what is now Tyler County. Here Colonel Peter Ellis Bean was stationed with a few Mexican soldiers. I remained a few weeks under the hospitable roof of the Colonel and was invited to Nacogdoches to do some surveying. Here I remained until probably about the last of May or first of June.”17 One can only imagine how Smyth occupied “a few weeks” at the remote outpost, still under construction. Given Bean’s D e c e m b e r 2011
preoccupation with acquiring land (he at times claimed more than 80,000 acres and sought to be himself an empressario), surveyor Smyth and the “hospitable” Bean undoubtedly discussed land affairs extensively. Bean had just recently talked one of his soldiers, Lieutenant Gavino Aranjo, into selling his own eleven-league grant, part of which Bean later located several miles west of Fort Terán.18 Another Anglo-American with Bean at Fort Terán was Samuel T. Belt, a native of Maryland who came to Texas in 1830, possibly as a surveyor, in the company of land agent Benjamin Milam.19 Belt and Bean apparently knew each other as early as June 1831, when they served together as arbitrators in a court case at Nacogdoches, just prior to Bean marching to establish the frontier post.20 Sam Belt settled near the garrison, where he operated a river ferry and a trading post. The trading post surely benefitted from the business provided by the soldiers as well as by the Indian tribes in the area. During his inspection tour, General Terán identified Alabama villages within two miles of the Neches crossing. The Coushattas and Cherokees were also relatively near, with Billiams Creek, just downriver from Fort Terán, named for a Cherokee chief. The names of other nearby creeks, such as Shawnee and Biloxi, indicate these tribes’ presence as well. Wild game, a staple of Indian trade, was surely abundant. In 1828 General Terán reported more than 40,000 deerskins had been traded at Nacogdoches in only a year’s time.21 11
Out of these outcroppings of rocks and “caves” grow oaks (willow, water, red, and white), sweet gums, pine, elm, youpon, beauty berry, and switch cane. This is the upper portion of the north end of the outcropping ridge, which rises about 30 feet above the hardwood flat below, east of the mouth of Shawnee Creek, on the left bank of the Neches, facing downstream. A county rock crusher was stationed near the middle of the ridge for many years during the middle twentieth century. Among surnames carved into the sandstone rocks are Oliver and Havard. This area is just west of the salt lick, or saline. Photograph by Jonathan Gerland, June 2011.
Signature of Pedro Ellis Bean, from a document in the General Land Office, Austin.
Just how much Americanization was curtailed by the existence of Fort Terán remains questionable. Except for the few soldiers stationed there (probably never more than 50), there is no evidence of native Mexicans being nearby; certainly none settled their families. The Anglo influence seems to have actually increased. Sam Belt’s business ventures did not fair badly, and Bean’s notorious opportunism leads to suspicions he may have engaged in contraband trading practices while at the post. He may have also tried to commercialize to his own benefit the nearby salt lick or saline.22 Bean, a man of several loyalties, seems to have bided his time at the fort, doing his duty while pursuing various personal interests, waiting for the next better prospect.23 That opportunity came soon enough, in the summer of 1832, when the latest national political revolt spread from central Mexico to Texas, effectively ending the occupation of Fort Terán. The trouble began at Anáhuac, when violence erupted between the Anglo colonists and Mexican soldiers under the command of Colonel Juan Davis Bradburn. The soldiers were enforcing the various aspects of the Law of April 6, 1830, principally
the collection of new national customs. Complicating matters, the Anglo rebels were declaring in favor of the latest challenger to the Mexican presidency, General Santa Anna.
“The Indian proposed to follow the fresh tracks and overtake what they properly conceived to be American spies, but Bean feeling uneasy in his situation, immediately left the swamp and returned to camp.” In June, Colonel Piedras, the commandant of the Nacogdoches garrison, marched south with a relatively small detached force to reinforce Colonel Bradburn. Piedras ordered Colonel Bean to assemble the Shawnees, Alabamas, and Coushattas and they along with Bean and his few cavalrymen would ride together from Fort Terán.24 Peter Ellis Bean’s relationship with Colonel Piedras was already strained. As a ranking officer to Bean, Piedras knew the details of a longstanding bigamy case against Bean The Pine Bough
A portion of José de las Piedras’ September 25, 1831 letter to Antonio Eloúza concerning “Fuerte de Terán.” From microfilm roll 144, frame 757, of The Bexar Archives at the University of Texas, courtesy of the East Texas Research Center, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches.
and he and Bean harbored resentment over disagreements about payments to Bean, or lack thereof, for lumber from Bean’s Nacogdoches sawmill. Like it or not, the two men were thrust together in the latest civil war to defend the status quo regime, the same served by General Terán.25 The most thorough account concerning Bean’s activities during the infamous ride to Anáhuac comes from Mirabeau B. Lamar, who gathered his information from two individuals in 1837, one of whom was Sam Belt of Fort Terán. About 70 miles south of Terán, Piedras received news of American spies nearby in the Trinity River bottoms. Piedras sent Bean with a small party including an Indian to scour the swamp. While doing this, a tremendous rain shower developed that lasted only a few minutes. As soon as the rain ceased Bean discovered fresh horse tracks within a few steps of him. “To be so near a foe of whom he was in search and yet not see
The author (right) with Richard Donovan at the Fort Terán Monument in May 2011.
him, being himself all the time observed and narrowly watched, had rather a tendency in conjunction with the shower to cool the ardor of the valiant Colonel,” wrote Lamar.26 “The Indian proposed to follow the fresh tracks and overtake what they properly conceived to be American spies, but Bean feeling uneasy in his situation, immediately left the swamp and returned to camp. His report satisfied Piedras that the American forces were between him and Bradburn and that he could not advance without encountering them or retreat without being pursued.”27 In this dilemma, fearing a rebel force superior in numbers was at hand, Piedras sent out officers with a flag of truce inviting the Americans to a conference to amicably mend the difficulties. “Afterwards,” continued Lamar, “when it was ascertained that two or (continued on page 14)
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Conveniently, Bean could claim he did not raise arms against the sitting government, in case the rebellion was unsuccessful.
This open tunnel is the remains of what used to be the front portion of the cave at Money Hill, in Tyler County, also known as Fort Terán County Park. Buried treasure seekers long ago blasted and dug away the face of the bluff above the cave. Today only about 30 feet of the back end of the cave remains passable by crawling. The Fort Terán historical monument of 1936 was relocated to the bluff above this location in 1963. Photo May 2011 by Jonathan Gerland.
three Americans only were in the swamp at the time Bean left it, the Indian reproached Bean openly before his face of cowardice, and Piedras had him under arrest. This created hostilities between them, so that when Piedras was afterward besieged at Nacogdoches, Bean refused to assist him.”28 Disgraced, Piedras quickly made peace with the rebels, essentially granting them all their demands, including the removal of Bradburn, and on July 8 began his hasty return to Nacogdoches, where he feared a similar revolt. He was too late. Rebel forces were already organizing, and Bean, although unauthorized to leave his post at Terán, positioned himself to be in the middle of the turmoil among the rebels. The rebel victory in the Battle of Nacogdoches (August 2 and 3) resulted in Piedras’ capture and the expulsion of the Mexican Army from East Texas. Piedras was sent back to central Mexico, Fort Terán was abandoned, and Bean found a way to oppose Piedras without actually fighting (he was supposedly ill in San Augustine at
the time of the battle). Conveniently, Bean could claim he did not raise arms against the sitting government, in case the rebellion was unsuccessful. For his tacit support of Santa Anna’s regime, Bean was given Piedras’ old job, replacing him as commandant of Nacogdoches, but now with no soldiers to command. Meanwhile, far away in Padilla, Tamaulipas, General Terán, who had become increasingly despondent over Santa Anna’s developing coup and dreading the inevitable loss of Texas to the Anglo-American colonists, committed suicide on July 3.29 The Mexican occupation of Fort Terán ended shortly after it began. Soldiers occupied the garrison only ten months, and it is questionable if construction of the post was ever fully completed. Abandoned early in August 1832, at the time of Piedras’ retreat, Fort Terán is rarely mentioned in Mexican records past this time, and then only to say it was “completely destroyed,” along with several of the other posts, by 1834. As to how and by whom it was “destroyed” remains unknown.30 The Mexican diplomat Juan N. Almonte, whom Peter Ellis Bean had escorted to the United States in 1815, noted in his statistical report on Texas in 1835 that Terán (no inclusion of the title “fort”) was then only a “small town,” having “eight or ten houses and most of them have been abandoned since the removal of the troops at that point.”31 Almonte further noted that only ten persons resided in and around Terán. He of course did not include in this number the many immigrant Indian tribes who remained in the region. The Anglo settlers always feared the loyalty of these tribes, although the tribes were mostly peaceful. They, like the Anglos, were seeking new homes in Texas and petitioning Mexican officials for titles to the lands they were occupying, something officials considered but continually delayed. Mexico, through Indian Agent Peter Ellis Bean, kept the tribes neutral during the Fredonian The Pine Bough
In East Texas the Indians were especially feared, and reckless rumors fueled panic and hysteria. Robert A. Irion, a member of the Nacogdoches Committee on Safety and Vigilance, certainly experienced these fears and no doubt contributed to the hysteria, as nearly the entire town of Nacogdoches evacuated. Rebellion, but Colonel Piedras sought to incite savage warfare against the Anglos during the 1832 revolt, something the Anglos did not forget.32 One accusation of Indian “treachery” in East Texas concerns purported activities at Fort Terán in 1836. During the spring of that year, news of the Mexican massacres of Texian forces at the Alamo and Goliad led to the exodus known as the Runaway Scrape, as Anglo settlers fled in haste to the safety of Louisiana, outrunning the advancing army of General Santa Anna. In East D e c e m b e r 2011
Texas the Indians were especially feared, and reckless rumors fueled panic and hysteria. Robert A. Irion, a member of the Nacogdoches Committee on Safety and Vigilance, certainly experienced these fears and no doubt contributed to the hysteria, as nearly the entire town of Nacogdoches evacuated. A year later, as the Secretary of State for the Republic of Texas, Irion still feared the Indians might unite with the Mexicans whenever a favorable opportunity presented itself. He said as much in a September 1837 letter to Texas’ minister to the United States, Memecan Hunt, explaining that “Many of them [Indians in Texas] were embodied and already [early in 1836] in the service of Santa Anna. A relic of that service still exists at Terán on the Naches [sic.], where, at the time of the battle of San Jacinto, they were employed in constructing rafts to facilitate the crossing of the Mexican Army, which was but a few days march therefrom.”33 The claim is puzzling because no other records mention the incident and Irion provides no further information.34 What was the “relic” that still existed at Terán? Was it rafts, or something else?
View of the Neches River, looking upriver, from below the entrance to the Money Hill cave, May 2011. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
The 1936 Texas Centennial marker for Candace Midkiff Bean, the American wife of Peter Ellis Bean, at the Selman-Roark Cemetery in Linwood, Cherokee County, on the El Camino Real, Texas Highway 21. Photo by Jonathan Gerland, August 2011.
Someone who might have known more about the supposed rafts was one of the ten residents living at Terán when Almonte wrote his statistical report in 1835, ferryman and trading post proprietor Samuel T. Belt. Belt married Helen Taylor of Bevil’s Settlement sometime before May 1835, and they had six children born to them between 1837 and 1852. They lived at Terán until the 1840s, when Belt quit his commercial businesses and turned to farming. In 1845 Belt sold his interest in the land containing the site of Fort Terán (described in the deed as “the old camp station or fort known and called by the name Terán”) to well-known land speculator Frost Thorn of Nacogdoches.35 Thorn apparently had speculative designs for the area, for as early as 1837 he and surgeon and surveyor John Allen Veatch of Bevil’s Settlement pledged $5,000 each in binding themselves “to buy out a town on the Neches River at the place known as Fort Terán . . . and to share equally in the profits and embellishments arising from the sale of said town.” Buying out “the entire interest of S. T. Belt” was included in the agreement, although it seems nothing substantial resulted from the plans to develop and sell a town.36 After Sam Belt and his family moved away from the river about 1845, the ferry continued 16
operations under different ferrymen, at least intermittently, and was known as Boone’s Ferry during the 1870s. The Boone’s Ferry Post Office operated from 1871 to 1885, when service was transferred to Rockland, a new railroad town several miles to the east.37 The railroad effectively ended the ferry business at Terán primarily because the rail line from Beaumont to Rockland, constructed in the early 1880s, did not cross the Neches River until 1900, which necessitated a new ferry operation at Rockland.
The few arrivals of steamboats at Terán before 1883 are perhaps remembered simply because they were so rare, usually accompanied by an allnight dance. The railroad similarly further diminished the importance of Terán by ending the river boat traffic that had occasionally visited waters that far upriver. Most riverboat navigation of the Neches River diverted northward upon The Pine Bough
View looking out from inside the Money Hill cave, May 2011. At the back of the cave, about 30 feet from the present entrance, are indications the cave passageway once forked to both the left and right, although these passageways are now filled in. Early accounts tell of these forked passageways opening into two rooms, one of which had a brick paved floor. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
Richard Donovan crawls out of the Money Hill cave in May 2011. The cave was possibly dug out from a dried up spring many years ago. Legends abound concerning possible purposes of the cave. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
reaching the mouth of the Angelina River, far below Terán. As early as 1835 Juan Almonte noted that the Neches was generally not navigable for steamboats past the Angelina, “except only for small boats.”38 The various rock outcroppings of the Neches around Terán and many miles below prevented boat traffic during all but the wettest of the rainy seasons. The few arrivals of steamboats at Terán before 1883 are perhaps remembered simply because they were so rare, usually accompanied by an all-night dance.39 By the end of the nineteenth century, with the passage of time and the movement of people and communities, Fort Terán was only a distant memory. Even the place had become difficult to find. A traveling correspondent for the Dallas Morning News noted in 1899 that “it is almost
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impossible now to locate this place, inasmuch as it was long ago abandoned and all the buildings have rotted down.”40 With the decay of the physical structures, Fort Terán became known more to legend than to history, as the Americanization that General Terán once feared was complete. Legends of Mexican buried treasure and a gold-rammed cannon lost in the Neches came to dominate the identity of Fort Terán. Once known mostly to a few backwoodsmen of the area, these legends were popularized in the 1920s by folklorist J. Frank Dobie, who considered stories of buried treasure and lost mines to be “the typical legend of Texas.”41
View of Money Hill from the Neches River in June 2011. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
The Fort Terán legends tell of gold treasure so great it had to be left behind by Mexican soldiers fleeing East Texas either during the 1832 revolts or after Santa Anna’s defeat at San Jacinto. Strange markings on rocks and trees, such as a cow’s head, a turkey track, and a scorpion, marked the triangular locations that would reveal the treasure caches.42 The legends are unconcerned that history shows very little gold ever existed in Mexican Texas. The native Mexicans in East Texas were much poorer than their Anglo fellow citizens, and the Mexican soldiers, even Colonel Bean, were notoriously poorly paid. Yet so immense was the treasure Spain had found in the New World, treasure of mythical proportions, the legend of gold seemed to follow wherever a Spaniard or a Mexican trod. Even Dobie sarcastically asked: “Did Santa Anna’s armies mark their trail with gold?”43 Treasure hunters descended on Fort Terán, as well as a nearby cave (in a bluff known as Money Hill), where they bore numerous holes
in the ground, blasted rock, and dredged the river. At least one death resulted from these mostly twentieth century efforts. Even the rock outcroppings across the river along the Jasper-Angelina county line were reportedly blasted. If any treasure was ever found, no one is saying.44 Yet, if lost gold ever really did exist at or near Fort Terán, one would think the resourceful and opportunistic Colonel Peter Ellis Bean, who lived until 1847, would have claimed it long ago.45 Today Fort Terán remains a relatively little known Mexican garrison deep in the pineywoods of East Texas. It reminds us of our rich and diverse past that is more connected to our present than we might at first realize. Concern for immigration policies, cultural identity, and political confusion is ever with us. Nearly two centuries ago General Manuel Mier y Terán, as well as many others, saw bounty in the fertile soils, abundant waters, and “eternal forests of Tejas.” Perhaps Fort Terán’s history, more than its legends, is the treasure to be found “on the banks of the Nechas [sic.].”46
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ENDNOTES 1 An on-the-ground study by Don C. Marler, Fort Terán on the Neches River (Hemphill, Texas: Dogwood Press, 2000), discusses the location and interesting features of Fort Terán and the surrounding area. In addition, Richard Donovan of Lufkin provided insightful information during site visits by canoe during spring and summer 2011. Donovan writes about Fort Terán in his book, Paddling the Wild Neches (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006), pp. 142-144. 2 One of the best studies of Mexico and Texas during this time remains David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico, (University of New Mexico Press, 1982). Other important sources are Eugene C. Barker, Mexico and Texas, 1821-1835, (New York: Russell and Russell, 1928; reprinted 1965) and Gregg Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). For the Spanish period, see Herbert E. Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century: Studies in Spanish Colonial History and Administration (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970), Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519-1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992), and Lawrence Kinnaird, The Frontiers of New Spain: Nicolas De Lafora’s Description, 1766-1768 (Berkeley, California: The Quivira Society, 1958). 3 The standard biography of General Terán is Ohland Morton, Terán and Texas: A Chapter in Texas-Mexican Relations, (Austin: Texas State Historical Association: 1948). Also important is Jack Jackson, editor, and John Wheat, translator, Texas by Terán: The Diary Kept by General Manuel De Mier y Terán on His 1828 Inspection of Texas, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000). 4 Terán to President Guadalupe Victoria, June 30, 1828, in Jackson and Wheat, Texas by Terán, p. 97. 5 Quotes are from letters to the Governor of Coahuila y Tejas and to the President of Mexico, in Jackson and Wheat, Texas by Terán, pp. 95-101. 6 Terán to President Guadalupe Victoria, June 30, 1828, in Jackson and Wheat, Texas by Terán, pp. 97-98. See also Weber, The Mexican Frontier, pp. 166-167. 7 Jackson and Wheat, Texas by Terán, p. 139; Morton, Terán and Texas, pp. 78, 80. 8 Morton, Terán and Texas, pp. 133-134. 9 Ibid., pp. 131-132. 10 The Forrest Gump analogy is attributed to Emily Hyatt, archivist at The History Center, Diboll. The biographies of Bean are Jack Jackson, Indian Agent: Peter Ellis Bean in Mexican Texas, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005) and Bennett Lay, The Lives of Ellis P. Bean, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960). Some of Bean’s original papers can be found at the East Texas Research Center at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, and in several small collections at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, Austin, all of which were reviewed in the course of this study. 11 Bean’s memoirs were published as the second appendix to Henderson Yoakum’s first volume of History of Texas From Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846, (New York: Redfield, 1855), pp. 403-452. 12 José de las Piedras to Antonio Elozúa, September 25, 1831, in The Béxar Archives, microfilm roll 144, frames 756-757, copies used at Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches. See also Victor Treat, “A Documents Search for the Mexican Fort Terán, 18301832,” A Report Submitted to The Center for Historic Resources at Texas A&M University, College Station, August 1990, pp. 28-31, copy in Arthur Temple Collection (2009:30), Box 309, Correspondence 1990, October-December, T.L.L. Temple Foundation folder, at The History Center, Diboll, Texas. 13 Treat, “A Documents Search,” p. 28 cites a Terán letter of October 18, 1830 expressing a desire to establish a post somewhere on the Neches River to check the advance of the immigrant Indians from the U.S.. 14 Terán’s direct involvement with Fort Anáhuac is found in Margaret Swett Henson, Juan Davis Bradburn: A Reappraisal of the Mexican Commander of Anáhuac (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982), pp. 48-61. See also Treat, “Documents Search,” p. 28, and Jackson, Indian Agent, p. 157. 15 Jackson, Indian Agent, p. 157, and Marler, Fort Terán, p. 28. Jackson says Bean built Fort Terán “no doubt with lumber from his own sawmill.” 16 Piedras to Elozúa, April 9, 1832, Béxar Archives, microfilm reel 149, frames 308-309. See also Jackson, Indian Agent, p. 157. 17 George W. Smyth, “Autobiography of George W. Smyth,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 36, no. 3 (January 1933), p. 206. 18 Jackson, Indian Agent, pp. 155-157. 19 Biographical information on Samuel T. Belt is found in Adriaan C. van Oss and Ines M. van Oss, “Sam Belt and Fort Terán,” unpublished manuscript, ca. 1982, in Small Collections, box 8, folder 17, at Sam Houston Regional Library & Research Center, Liberty, Texas. 20 R.B. Blake, R.B. Blake Papers, Volume 12, pp. 251-252, at Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches. 21 Jackson and Wheat, Texas by Terán, pp. 75-76. 22 Jackson, Indian Agent, p. 158; van Oss, “Sam Belt and Fort Terán,” p. 4.
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23 Bean’s divided loyalties are suggested in Jackson, Indian Agent, p. 157. 24 The “Anáhuac Disturbances” are covered in Henson, Juan Davis Bradburn. See also Jackson, Indian Agent, pp. 162-169. 25 Jackson, Indian Agent, pp. 123, 125, 131. 26 Charles Adams Gulick, Jr. et al, editors, The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968), Volume 1, p. 547. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Piedras’ defeat, and Bean’s role in it, is detailed in Jackson, Indian Agent, pp. 162-169. 30 The quote comes from University of Leiden history professor Adriaan C. van Oss (19471984) in his unpublished manuscript, Sam Belt and Fort Terán (fully cited above), pp. 21 and 29. Van Oss cites transcripts of original documents from Mexico’s Archivo General de la Nacion, Secretaria de Fomento, Seccion Archivo Colonizacion, Legajo 2, Expediente 5, and Lagajo 9, Expeniente 68, located in Austin at the Texas State Archives, Box 2-22/638 and Box 2-22/640. According to e-mail correspondence and telephone conversations between Jonathan Gerland and State Archives staff in September and October 2011, the records are extensive and are in Spanish, untranslated. 31 Juan N. Almonte, “Statistical Report on Texas, 1835,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 28 (January 1925), pp. 206, 210. 32 Jackson, Indian Agent, pp. 65-66. 33 Republic of Texas Secretary of State R. A. Irion to Memecan Hunt, Minister of Republic of Texas to the United States, September 20, 1837, Secretary of State Records, RG 307, folder 6, Texas State Archives, Austin. 34 Multi-volume works such as John H. Jenkins, editor, The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 18351836 (Austin: Presidial Press, 1973) and Dorman Winfrey and James Day, editors, The Indian Papers of Texas, 1825-1916 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1995) do not contain any mention of raft building activities at Terán. 35 Van Oss, Sam Belt and Fort Terán, pp. 8-12; Marler, Fort Terán, pp. 43-49. 36 Articles of Agreement between Frost Thorn and John A. Veatch, November 7, 1837, in the Henry Raguet Family Papers, Box 2F381, Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin. 37 Marler, Fort Teran, p. 49. Howard N. Martin, “Fort Terán,” in The New Handbook of Texas (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), Volume 2, pp. 112-1121 seems to interpret the existence of a Fort Terán or Fort Turan post office between 1856 and 1866 to have been located in Tyler County, although some sources cite the location as Angelina County across the river from Terán, the site of the early garrison in Tyler County. 38 Almonte, “Statistical Report on Texas,” p. 214. 39 James E. Wheat, “The Story of Fort Terán,” in James E. and Josiah Wheat, Sketches of Tyler County History (Bevil Oaks: Tyler County Sesquicentennial Commission, 1986), p. 37; Lou Ella Pioneer Days of Tyler County (Bevil Oaks: Tyler County Heritage Society, 1985), pp 49-50. 40 “Observations From The Saddle: Snapshots at Anderson, Houston, Angelina, Polk, Tyler, and Hardin Counties,” in Dallas Morning News, August 15, 1899, p. 5. 41 J. Frank Dobie, ed., Legends of Texas, Volume 1, Lost Mines and Buried Treasure (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Company, reprint 1975; originally published in 1924 by Texas Folklore Society), p. 11. 42 Roscoe Martin tells the legend of “The Treasure Cannon on the Neches” in Dobie, ed., Legends of Texas, Volume 1, Lost Mines and Buried Treasure., pp. 92-97. See also William Edward Syers, Off The Beaten Trail (Fort Worth, Texas: F.L. Motheral Company, 1963), Volume 1, p. 201; Wheat, Pioneer Days of Tyler County, pp. 47, 133; and Wheat, Sketches of Tyler County History, p. 35. 43 Dobie, “An Inquiry Into The Sources of Treasure Legends of Texas,” in Legends of Texas, Volume 1, Lost Mines and Buried Treasure, pp. 11-12. For a more modern consideration, see W. C. Jameson, “Hunting the Elusive Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of Texas,” in Kenneth L. Untiedt, ed., Hide, Horn, Fish, and Fowl: Texas Hunting and Fishing Lores (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2011), pp. 267-273. 44 Syers, Off The Beaten Trail, pp. 202-204; “The Fort Teran Legend: Gold In East Texas Hills,” Lufkin Daily News, pp. 1-2; Marler, Fort Teran, pp. 78-104; Donovan, Paddling the Wild Neches, p. 143; Wayne Lease, Texas Forts (Garland: Texas Forts Distributors, 2001), p. 82. 45 Mexican Colonel Peter Ellis Bean handled the Texas Revolution similar to the way he managed the rebellion of 1832 that led to establishing Santa Anna’s regime. He straddled the fence, opportunistically positioning himself to survive whatever the outcome. In 1843 he returned to his first wife in Jalapa, Mexico, where he lived out his last days, often romanticized by twentieth century writers. For early romanticized biographies, see especially Mattie Austin Hatcher, “Postscript,” in W.P. Yoakum, ed., Memoir of Col. Ellis P. Bean (Houston: Book Club of Texas, 1930), pp. 105-110, and E. G. Littlejohn, “Ellis P. Bean,” in Texas History Stories (Richmond: B.F. Johnson Publishing Company, 1901), pp. 5-26. 46 Quotes are from Jackson and Wheat, Texas by Terán, p. 139 and Piedras to Elozúa, September 25, 1831, in The Bexar Archives, microfilm roll 144, frame 756.
Helen Darden’s Memories of the
Vernon County Line School, and the
Boykin Community By Emily Hyatt
One of the most revered and least understood landmarks in the Neches river valley in deep East Texas, the Blue Hole has long held sway over the imaginations of those who have seen its unique blue water. 20
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In May 2011, Jonathan Gerland and Richard Donovan interviewed Helen Darden at her home in Camden, Texas. She recounted stories from her childhood growing up in the Boykin Community in Southern Angelina and Northern Jasper County, attending the Vernon County Line School, and swimming in the Blue Hole. Though the history of the Blue Hole’s creation and place in the industrial history of the area was detailed in a previous Pine Bough article, there is still much to learn about the social history of the area. 1 In May of 2011, Mrs. Helen Darden sat for an interview about her memories of growing up near the Blue Hole and attending the local school, known as Vernon County Line.2 Mrs. Darden spent her childhood deep in the pineywoods of Jasper County in a community of African Americans whose lives centered around their local school. This community, known as the Boykin community, straddled the line between Angelina and Jasper counties, and its school, located in Jasper County near the Blue Hole, accepted children from both counties. Her cousins, the Fraziers, lived several miles away and also attended Vernon, but they lived in Angelina County.3 It seems that deep in the woods, several
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The forest and its resources provided a livelihood for several generations of timber workers, sawyers, and farmers, as well as those who found employment in the turpentine and mining industries. African American families had carved out homes for themselves and established a legacy of large families that placed an emphasis on education, church, and hard work. It is believed that some of these families were of mixed African American and Native American heritage and their unique backgrounds would have helped them form a cohesive community even though it was spread throughout a wide and sparsely populated area. The forest and its resources provided a livelihood for several generations (continued on page 22)
The Blue Hole, located in Jasper County, was formed by sandstone rock mining. The quarry provided jobs for members of the Boykin community and the waters of the Blue Hole became a place for recreation and one of Deep East Texas’ most unique natural features.
Helen Darden’s grandparents, Jim and Emmer Runnels. The Runnels family lived in Angelina County in the Boykin community. Jim Runnels was a freed slave who settled in the area after the Civil War. His wife, Emmer, was a Native American woman.
of timber workers, sawyers, and farmers, as well as those who found employment in the turpentine and mining industries. Helen Darden grew up in a home located between the Blue Hole and the school, and thus in the epicenter of this community. Mrs. Darden was born in Jasper County in March of 1918, the daughter of Walter and Della Runnels Pettis. Though her father was an “outsider” from Harrisburg, near Houston, brought in by steady work in the quarry that would one day become the Blue Hole, her mother was from a long-established local family. Her mother’s father, Jim S. Runnels was a freed slave who settled in the area.
According to his granddaughter, he was a “powder monkey” working in the quarry and handling the explosives. His wife Emmer, was a Native American. They are both listed as “mulatto” on the 1920 Angelina County census. According to his 22
granddaughter, he was a “powder monkey” working in the quarry and handling the explosives. Her father was later employed at this same quarry, driving a mule wagon full of unwanted dirt and rocks, known as overburden, and depositing them around the area. Only certain kinds of rocks were valuable for the building projects that utilized the quarry’s products and there was an unavoidable amount of waste rock and dirt as a result of the blast mining techniques. Mr. Pettis, Mrs. Darden’s father, disposed of this waste rock and dirt, and mounds of it are still visible throughout the surrounding forest. He was also an excellent swimmer, a skill he utilized at the quarry and also passed on to his family. During the mining process, water would begin to fill parts of the quarry and the miners used a steam powered pump to keep their work area dry. Mrs. Darden tells of a time when her father saved the expensive pump after the quarry began filling unexpectedly fast. She says the water “came in all at once. My father dived and put a chain on their pump so they wouldn’t lose it and they drug it out.”4 Though mining operations at the quarry continued off and on until the 1950’s, much of it had filled with water by the time Mrs. The Pine Bough
Darden was a child old enough to swim in the 1920’s. Living so close to this unique feature, her entire family learned to swim and did regularly, both for recreation and for health. She says, “My mother swam, my father swam, my whole family swam.” Local families would swim on Sunday afternoons after church services, which were held in the nearby school building. Although it was a family affair and everyone in Mrs. Darden’s immediate family could swim, there were certain things discouraged by the adults.
“We ran out on the board and I was standing up there and my brother grabbed me and dove off in there and my mother hollered, ‘you better not’ and by that time I was gone down in the water.” Her mother did not want her to jump off the diving board, although her brothers were allowed. One Sunday, Mrs. Darden decided to experience the diving board anyway, and came up with a way to do it that would hopefully shield her from getting into trouble. She had her youngest brother pretend to throw her off the diving board. She describes the scene, “We ran out on the board and I was standing up there and my brother grabbed me and dove off in there and my mother hollered, ‘you better not’ and by that time I was gone down in the water.” In addition to the fun it provided, Mrs. Darden’s mother and others in the community believed the water in the Blue Hole had healing properties, probably due to its unique mineral content. She tells about taking her younger sister, then a baby, to the Blue Hole daily when ointment from a Lufkin doctor couldn’t cure a severe skin condition. According to Mrs. Darden, “If you had some kind of sore on you or something, that Blue Hole water was good for it.”5 Mrs. Darden loved to swim even after her marriage; she would return to her mother’s
home to visit and always tried to swim in the Blue Hole while there. In her interview, she recalls one visit when her mother did not want to accompany her to the Blue Hole, but she went anyway. While she swam, she noticed a man wearing some kind of county uniform drive up in a car. He sat and watched her swim; when she got out and approached him, he expressed admiration for her swimming skills, telling her he thought people only swam that well on television6. Mrs. Darden may have learned to swim at the Blue Hole, but it was a skill she kept her whole life, even swimming in Galveston as an adult.7 Like many rural communities in Deep East Texas, black and white, the local school united the far-flung residents. According to Mrs. Darden, the school that would later be known as the Vernon County Line School began meeting in a building used by the Masons. Supplies were hard to come by and the children used cans with planks on them for seats. Her mother attended this school and her brothers started school in this building. About the time Mrs. Darden began her schooling, the community received a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to build a new school building.8
Supplies were hard to come by and the children used cans with planks on them for seats. This building had two school rooms and the school complex eventually contained a shop and a teacher’s home as well.9 It was at this time when the school received the name Vernon. The community had been known as the Boykin Community as far back as anyone could remember, named after one of the founding families that settled there after the Civil War. Community members referred to the school by the name “County Line” because of its proximity to the AngelinaJasper County line and its acceptance of students from both counties, but the Vernon name was new. According to Mrs. Darden, the community chose to name the school after one of two Boykin family grandsons. Community members were to choose between (continued on page 24)
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Walter Pettis, Mrs. Darden’s father, worked for the quarry at what is now known as the Blue Hole. His job was to drive a wagon filled with the quarry’s overburden material and dispose of it in the surrounding forest. This photo shows a mound of dirt probably made from quarry overburden in the forest near the Blue Hole. Mrs. Darden remembers that her father was proud of his job and his wagon and mules, named Net and Till. Photo by Jonathan Gerland
Douglas Boykin and Vernon Smith. They voted for Vernon, and thus the school became Vernon County Line School.10 Its scholastics came from Angelina and Jasper counties, but it was administered by the Jasper school district. There is some evidence that Angelina County acknowledged the existence of Vernon, but even the earliest school census records do not mention a school in that area, much less one for African American students.11 By 1970, though, Jasper County had given up its control of the school and allowed Colmesneil Independent School District in Tyler County to annex the Vernon County Line School area into its district. Since part of the district was located in Angelina County, the County School Board had to agree to this move. Angelina County had not administered Vernon in decades (if ever) and had in fact ceded control of that part of the county’s schools (at least for black children, and it appears either no white children would have been in this area or they went to other schools) to Jasper, the Angelina County school board offered no objections to the move to Colmesneil.12 The inconsistent nature of Vernon’s administration 24
can probably be seen as a symptom of both the isolated nature of the area and of the racial attitudes at the time. Southern Angelina County was sparsely populated, so children not living in a town or settlement of some size would have had to travel long distances to school no matter their race, but especially black children because there were no schools for African American children in that part of the county – Zavalla, the largest town of any size in the southern part of the county did not have a school for African American children. Mrs. Darden remembers her years at the Vernon County Line School with fondness. Although it was a small rural school and most of its students came from poorer families, both the school administration and their parents emphasized the importance of education. Vernon only offered eleven grades, so Mrs. Darden moved to Houston to live with her brother. She attended Phillis Wheatley High School for her senior year, graduating in a class of 219 students. This was quite a change from her 4 member class at Vernon! The schools were, of course, very different. Her sister-in-law tried to prepare her for the differences, warning her on her The Pine Bough
The sizeable Boykin community, small in number but united in spirit, is even more sparsely populated today. The large timber operations and quarries don’t need as many workers as they used to and they don’t settle families in the forests anymore. School children ride buses to towns for school and leave the area for jobs elsewhere. The Blue Hole is privately owned and gated. All that is left of this unique community of African Americans is the memories of its former residents. Hopefully, Mrs. Darden’s interview will preserve these memories for future generations.
ENDNOTES Helen Darden poses in her swimsuit after a swim at Galveston, Texas. She learned to swim in the Blue Hole and kept swimming throughout her life whenever she got the chance.
first day, “Now you go down there – if they find out you are from the country they will run over you.” Mrs. Darden was able to hold her own, but the city students’ behavior was shocking to this country girl from a small school where teachers were authority figures to be respected. She says, “It was a lot different. Children, teachers at the school, the children to me they were just sassing them. If they said something, they had a big word to give them back and all that.” The African American community that had formed from the descendants of former slaves was a community in spite of county lines, so it made sense for the children of the community, who viewed themselves as neighbors in spite of their official county of residence, to all attend the same school. Although the outside world came calling in the form of turpentine camps, rock quarries, and timber operations (Aldridge was not far away), the residents of the Boykin community seemed to be left on their own. The 1920 census stands testament to the mixed racial heritage of the area, with many families classified as mulatto. Mrs. Darden’s own heritage was mixed through her Runnels grandparents. The Runnels descendants were prolific, with the Frazier family, in particular, consisting of 13 children.13 D e c e m b e r 2011
1 Jonathan Gerland, “A Sense of Place in the Angelina National Forest: Aldridge, Blue Hole, Bouton Lake, Boykin Springs, and Turpentine.” The Pine Bough 14 (2009): 2-27. 2 Helen Darden. Interview by Jonathan Gerland and Richard Donovan. Digital Recording. Camden, TX., May 13, 2011. Read the entire interview at: http://www.thehistorycenteronline.com/documents/ transcripts/223a_Helen_Darden.pdf 3 Frazier Sisters. Interview by Jonathan Gerland and Richard Donovan. Digital Recording. Lufkin, TX., November 30, 2010. Read the entire interview at: http://www.thehistorycenteronline.com/ documents/transcripts/215a_Frazier_Sisters.pdf 4
Helen Darden Interview, p 8.
For more information about Rosenwald schools in East Texas, visit www.thelongblackline.org
9 Fisk University maintains an online database of Rosenwald schools. The database can be searched and includes some photographs. http://rosenwald.fisk.edu/ According to the database records, the 3-teacher Vernon County Line School building was funded during the 1922-1923 budget year, the teacher’s home was funded during the 1923-1924 budget year, and the two-room shop was funded during the 1929-1930 budget year. 10 Helen Darden Interview, 6. 11 See Emily Hyatt, “Angelina County Schools: Preserving the Heart of the Community.” The Pine Bough 15 (2010): 2-17 for a discussion of Angelina County schools and the administration of African American schools in some East Texas counties before integration. The maps on page 6 and 7 show how Vernon County Line’s boundaries reached into Angelina County in 1924 and still do in the present day. 12 Minutes of the County School Board, 1965-1971, County School Records, 2005:008, The History Center, Diboll, Texas. p.77. 13 For more information about the Frazier family, please see the Frazier Sister’s interview. All 13 children became successful in their various fields and the three remaining sisters shared many memories with the interviewers.
Scrapbook Pages The Booker family has been leaving its mark on East Texas for many years. In January, Judith Booker donated a collection of family photographs to The History Center. Most were taken by her grandfather. John Olin Booker, Sr. came to Diboll in 1908 and worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until 1920. He built roads, railroads, and other infrastructure for Southern Pine Lumber Company before becoming a city engineer in Lufkin and then working as an independent engineer and surveyor well into his 80’s. These photos, from around 1915-1917, show Diboll in its early years. Some of the most interesting photos depict the Sunday outings, where young people would walk around town or down the railroad tracks, dressed in their Sunday best, for recreation.
John Booker and Dave Kenley entertain some friends in a dry pond.
J.O. Booker, Dave Kenley, unknown, Ila Woods, Estelle Woods, Grandfather Woods, unknown, and Laura Woods pose on the railroad tracks in either Diboll or the nearby town of Manning.
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Six unidentified bathing beauties pose in the Diboll millpond.
Mr. Booker poses here with his crew during the construction of a railroad water tower near Diboll.
The next generation of Bookers continues to leave a mark on East Texas. John Olin Booker, Jr. (pictured at left) is well known throughout the area as a longtime Temple employee and the 30 year mayor of Pineland. He followed his father’s footsteps into engineering, attending Texas A&M University until the outbreak of World War II. He joined the Army Air Corps soon after the beginning of the war and eventually made his way to Europe as a pilot. He spent nearly two years as a prisoner of war after his B-17 was shot down over Holland. This June, Jonathan Gerland interviewed Mr. Booker. The interview covers his life from growing up in East Texas, through World War II, to his many years working for Temple and as mayor of Pineland. In the interview, he tells the story of his questioning by German interrogators just after his capture in Holland. Apparently, the Germans had what he called “resumes” on each of their prisoners containing information gleaned from hometown newspapers, mostly from accounts written when each serviceman graduated from training. They knew his date and place of birth, his hometown, where he went to high school, and other personal information and used it to try to get him to talk about a new radar system being tested by American forces. He wasn’t involved in that project – even if his interrogators didn’t believe him. After the war, he returned home, finished his degrees and came back to East Texas where he began work for Temple Lumber Company in 1949. He worked in operations until 1988, managing mills, building roads and developing Scrappin’ Valley. D e c e m b e r 2011
Scrapbook Pages 1
Signs of the Times. 2
After Time Inc. acquired Temple Industries in 1973, it merged the Diboll based company with its subsidiary Eastex Pulp and Paper Company to form Temple-Eastex Incorporated. Temple Industries’ corporate logo, the T-Wheel, adopted a decade earlier in late 1963, followed the Temple company’s evolution to Temple-Inland in 1984 and continued as the official corporate logo until 2004, although Temple-Inland’s building products division resurrected its limited use a few years later.
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Scrapbook Pages In photo 1 a worker in June 1979 installs a Temple-Eastex sign at the US Highway 59 entrance to the new Diboll corporate office building. In photo 2 the Temple-Inland sign at the same location is shown in September 2004, just prior to the corporate T-Wheel’s removal and transfer to The History Center, where it is now displayed in our courtyard (photo 3). Photo 4 shows the “new look” TempleInland sign at the same highway 59 entrance in September 2011, just days after public announcement of International Paper’s planned acquisition of Temple-Inland. Photos 2, 3, and 4 by Jonathan Gerland.
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This year, organizers of the Diboll Tamale Festival resurrected an old favorite Diboll tradition – the Tugof-War competition, held in years past during Diboll Day festivities. The following photos from The Free Press Photo Collection show some of the past teams that made this tradition so memorable.
1970 Plywood Plant Diboll Day Tug-Of-War Team - Sherrel Fears and Gary Hurley on the rope, Ben Bast (white shirt) captain of team, Buddy Temple Judge.
1978 Diboll Day TugOf-War contest, Texas Foundry team loses.
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Members of the 1978 Katherine Sage Temple Day Care Center team for this year’s Diboll Day International Tug-O-War championship team are (front row, left to right) Thelma Scott, Verna Hamilton, Nelda McDuffie, Dorothy Hambrick and Carolyn Stover. Also (top row) Carolyn Ellison, Regina Proter, Janice Seekings, Nettie Mann and Sue Chandler.
Ladies of Diboll State Bank are dipped into the Tug-A-War mud pit by the ladies of the Temple Plywood Crew after their 1978 contest.
1986 Diboll Day Women’s Tug-Of-War Champs, Temple Tugettes - Back Row, left to right: Stacy Russell, Sue Johnson, Sue Chandler, Lisa McClesky. Front Row, left to right: Mavana Cook, Rozanne Capps, Martha Grissom.
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Scrapbook Pages Warsaw, Texas: With the water level of Lake Sam Rayburn more than 12 feet below full pool by September of this year, the site of I.D. Fairchild’s sawmill town of Warsaw, in San Augustine County (usually underwater since the 1960’s), was high and dry. The arrow in the 1958 USGS map (figure 1) shows Warsaw just prior to the lake’s impoundment. A 1920 Cotton Belt railroad timetable, a portion shown here (figure 2), shows Warsaw with railroad sidings of 24 cars and 5 cars in length. Two Cotton Belt mixed passenger and freight trains then traveled the 42 miles between Lufkin and White City daily except for Sunday. Also passing through Warsaw at this time daily, except Sundays, were two Texas Southeastern Railroad log trains and two Lufkin Land & Lumber Company log trains. They delivered logs from San Augustine County to mills at Diboll and Lufkin, respectively. The news clipping from 1909 (figure 3) tells about the mill at Warsaw, and figure 4 shows part of Warsaw’s exposed banks in September 2011.
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5 Figures 5 and 6 show abandoned railroad spikes and a piece of machinery drive chain at the site, also in September this year. Figure 7 shows a sonar reading indicating the Cotton Belt railroad hump west of Warsaw still underwater. Photos by Jonathan Gerland.
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One of the Pilot Club of Lufkin’s popular fundraising activities was the performance of “Hee-Haw Lufkin Style.” Club members and community volunteers practiced and performed in the parody of the popular television show that ran from 1969 to 1997. The 1977 performance (image 1) featured Lufkinites Si Morrison, Price Allen, and Charles Brannen (front row). Also Gus Roesch, Charlie Hamilton, Jim Salles, and Jack Harris (back row). That year’s proceeds helped the Pilot Club finance new antelopes for the Ellen Trout Zoo.
Cast members Linda Dorsett as Lulu, Howard Daniel as Howie, Veta Rowin as Minnie Pearl, Charlie Hamilton as Doc, Judge and Barber, and Genie Flournoy as Rich Girl pose during rehearsal for their September 1981 performance.
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In 1981, Diboll had several active community service organizations. Diboll Rotary Club Officers for 1981: seated were newly elected officers Dib Robbins, president; Jerry Springfield, vice president; Pete Smart, secretary; and John Minsinger, treasurer. Standing were outgoing president Richard Hendrick; committee chairmen Don McManus, vocational service; Jim Love, international service; Jack Beene, club service; and Louis Wagner, community service; and installing officer John Ross Kay, immediate past president of the Lufkin Rotary Club.
Diboll Lions Club officers for 1981-1982: From left, Earl Carr, second vice president; Don Hendrick, secretary; Jim Dunlap, president; James Porter, first vice president; and Sam Glass, tail-twister. Lions Club members had recently completed renovation of the concession stands at Lumberjack Stadium and would continue to serve refreshments at all home football games.
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Scrapbook Pages Hal Aldridge in El Paso
In March we traveled to El Paso to attend the annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association. We were especially excited because it was our first visit and El Paso is the burial place of William Hal Aldridge, whom we featured in the 2009 issue of the Pine Bough, in the article, “A Sense of Place in the Angelina National Forest: Aldridge, Blue Hole, Bouton Lake, Boykin Springs, and Turpentine (pp. 2-27).” A century ago Hal Aldridge was a business partner of John Henry Kirby and together they owned and operated the large sawmill at Aldridge, on the Neches River, in northern Jasper County, the concrete remains of which still partially stand today in the national forest. Aldridge moved from the town bearing his own name to El Paso in 1916, primarily for health reasons. Suffering from what he described as pleurisy and influenza, Aldridge died in 1921 and was buried in El Paso’s Evergreen Cemetery. We visited Aldridge’s grave one afternoon and were amazed by the seemingly desolate landscape. In the flat, rocky expanse beneath the peaks of the Franklin Mountains, with modern concrete highways all around, we seemed a long way from the East Texas pineywoods. There was hardly anything green in the Evergreen Cemetery.
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On another afternoon we walked to the nearby El Paso Public Library and researched city directories, finding Aldridge’s house at 221 West Rio Grande, which surprisingly was just 6 blocks away. So we walked there and took the photo presented here. The home, located in the once lavish Sunset Heights neighborhood, appears to be a duplex now. As at the cemetery, we seemed far away from the towering pines of Jasper County.
Photos 1 and 2 show Aldridge’s tombstone and plot marker. Buried with him are his wife Frances Wooten Aldridge (1879-1961), his mother-in-law Elizabeth Barclay Wooten (1858-1932), sister-in-law Josephine Wooten (1887-1915), son William Hal Aldridge Jr. (1899-1990), and Lucille Bordages Aldridge (1900-1987), perhaps Hal Jr.’s wife. Photo 3 shows Aldridge’s former house at 221 West Rio Grande, and photo 4 shows a photograph from Aldridge’s obituary.
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As part of our ongoing efforts to make Diboll’s history available to the widest audience, The History Center has recently scanned every extant issue of the Buzz Saw and uploaded them to our website. The Buzz Saw was a monthly newspaper published “by and for the employees of Southern Pine Lumber Company” from 1947-1952. Each issue contained columns from notable townspeople like “Rat” Johnson, Paul Durham, Freddie Lewis, and Eddie Mae Bradley as well as articles containing company news, school news, and community news, all accompanied by at least 2 dozen photographs. In 1964, Diboll native Beatrice Jones Sanders donated a complete run of the Buzz Saw to the Free Press. Those issues are now housed at The History Center and are available for use on our website in the Digital Resources section. Visit http://www.thehistorycenteronline.com/ digresources.php to browse and download each of the 55 text-searchable issues.
In September, Champ McAlister donated two photos to The History Center. In this photo, his great uncle Louis Cox poses with his mule team, ca. 1928, possibly at White City, San Augustine County.
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In our 2004 issue (page 33) we included a photograph of Temple Lumber Company Engine 17, saying we believed the locomotive was scrapped between 1957 and 1963. We recently discovered a letter and accompanying photograph in our Texas Southeastern Railroad collections that bears on the subject. The letter was written by R.W. Keeling of Houston in 1962, addressed to George Honea of TSE Railroad. Keeling reports Engine 17 was then at Temco, and he enclosed a photo he took, reproduced here, showing No. 17 peering from behind tall grass and pine saplings. The unidentified smokestack to the right was not mentioned. Temco was a railroad siding on the Santa Fe lines at Evadale and was also the connection with the Temple Lumber Company logging railroad. The other photo here of Engine 17 shows the 44-inch-drivered, 72-ton Mikado in better days, about 1950, possibly at Pineland. George Werner of Katy helped us identify the location of Temco.
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RESEARCHERS and OTHER VISITORS We directly served 563 researchers this year (202 on-site and another 361 by email, mail, and phone), which does not include our website visitors, detailed below. In-person visitors numbered more than 4,500, including some from as far away as California, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, New York, the Philippines, Germany, United Kingdom, and Iraq.
WEBSITE Website visitors numbered more than 18,000, who viewed more than 63,000 web pages and downloaded numerous additional pages of PDF content. In April we began to have the ability to upload new digital content, being text-searchable PDF versions of historical records. By late July we had uploaded more than 80 digital resources, including Diboll, Lufkin, and Homer newspapers, World War II documents and publications, documents from Temple Lumber Company and Southern Pine Lumber Company, and a couple railroad company records. In addition, there are now 57 finding guides available online as well as 284 oral history transcripts, and full Google searching within our site is possible. OTHER WEB-BASED PROJECTS In April a London based organization partnering with Google contacted us and invited us to participate in a beta version of an exciting internet project that formally launched worldwide in July at Google’s headquarters in California. Similar to the way photographs can be linked to specific locations using Google Earth, this new project allows the linking of historical photos to specific sites using Google Maps and Street Views, showing how places have changed over time and allowing users to interact with the photos through the sharing of memories and “stories” across the web. So far we have uploaded and “pinned” more than a hundred images and stories to the site. The images can be found at www.HistoryPin.com, then click “Explore the Map” and enter locations such as Diboll and Lufkin.
Best-selling authors Tracie Peterson (left) and Cathy Marie Hake (right) with T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library’s Librarian Brenda Elliot after their book signing event in February.
Patsy Colbert smiles on her 20th Employment Anniversary. Way to go Patsy!
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We have also begun to add digital content to the University of North Texas’ Portal to Texas History at http://texashistory.unt.edu/.
Diboll Historical Society President Becky Donahoe cuts the Texas birthday cake at the April 20th meeting of the Society. Members and guests celebrated Texas’ 175th birthday with refreshments after the quarterly meeting.
Archivist Matt Gorzalski shows students from Lufkin’s Garrett Primary School the different kinds of historical records kept by The History Center and explains how and why they are preserved.
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COLLECTIONS There were 45 accessions of new archival material this year. New collections include John Booker Family photographs from the early 1900s, World War II medals of Walter Broker, the green Gypsum Division T-Wheel sport jacket of Avery Bradley, 60 bound volumes of Lufkin Daily News, and a collection of a couple of dozen oral history taped interviews by R.L. Kuykendahl with members of the African American community in Angelina County during the 1990s. In recent months more than three dozen collections have been processed and their finding guides been made available through our website. Subject indexing the Diboll and Lufkin newspapers, as well as other resources, continues; the local data base now contains more than 88,000 records.
Billy Royle of Lufkin placed this Republic of Texas fifty dollar promissory note from 1840 on loan at The History Center to commemorate Texas’ 175th birthday. This note was used as legal tender in Texas and is signed by President Mirabeau B. Lamar. This form of currency was similar to a 12-month savings bond that was traded for goods and services, but was redeemable only after maturity. By 1841, the fledgling Republic of Texas’s currency had devalued to only two cents on the dollar.
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TOURS So far we have provided a number of staff-guided tours to various groups and organizations, including multiple classes from Diboll ISD’s primary and elementary campuses, Lufkin ISD’s Garrett primary students, Timpson ISD’s high school students, Hudson ISD’s primary and elementary students, St. Cyprians’ elementary students, Diboll Housing Authority, Lufkin State School, home school groups from Tyler County, several area Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups, Polk County Heritage Society, senior citizen groups from Houston and Bellaire, the Lufkin Historical & Literary Club, area churches, and the Houston Forum. OFF-SITE PRESENTATIONS Emily made a Lufkin Kiwanis Club presentation in April, focusing on county school history and our school exhibit. Jonathan addressed the annual meeting of the Tyler County Heritage Society in Woodville in January, focusing on the archival mission of the Center as well as the native plant landscaping; he gave a lecture on the sawmill town of Manning at the Texas Forest Country Retreat in Manning in June and assisted in an earlier sawmill town site tour at the Manning Reunion in May. Jonathan also gave the program, “Mainlines and Sidetracks: East Texas Railroads and Other Interesting Stories” at Nacogdoches Public Library’s September installment of the Evening Speakers’ Series. Patsy installed a Diboll Days Tug-of-War offsite exhibit at Diboll’s Tamale Festival in May, in connection with the Festival’s revival of the former Diboll Day tradition. In November Emily installed a World War II Veterans’ Day exhibit at the Library in commemoration of Veteras’ Day.
There are usually lots of smiles when children tour our vault of archival collections. Here students from Hudson’s Peavy Primary enjoyed a look inside with archivist Emily Hyatt in April.
In April, Jonathan Gerland and Louis Landers (left and center) accepted a donation to the History Center from Fran McClain of the Diboll High School Alumni Association (right). The donation was in recognition of Louis’ many years of research assistance to the alumni organization.
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WORKSHOPS / PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Matt attended the annual meeting of Texas Heritage Online in San Antonio in February; the initiative brings together the online heritage communities from across the state. This spring Matt was published in Archival Issues, the journal of the Midwest Archives Conference. His article, “More Access, Less Backlog: How the Kansas Historical Society Got Its Groove Back,” detailed some of his work while he was in Topeka. Jonathan and Emily attended two Texas Historical Commission workshops in Lufkin in late February that dealt with historical districts and structure preservation. In March Jonathan attended the annual meeting of Texas State Historical Association in El Paso and a Heritage Development Summit in Nacogdoches; in April he attended the Big Thicket Science Conference in Nacogdoches.
Former Texas Gypsum salesman Avery Bradley poses proudly in his green sales jacket after donating it to The History Center in May. In August, Rosa Haywood, Lewis Mitchell, and Vera King Hodges (from the left), visited The History Center during an H. G. Temple High School Reunion.
left: In May, Jeannette Woodard (right) visited with archivist Emily Hyatt and donated several items including a shadow box containing memorabilia from her brother, Walter Broker, an airman killed in World War II. The items were displayed as a loan during the 2005 World War II exhibit, but with this donation, Mrs. Woodard ensured that the items, as well as her brother’s memory would be preserved for future generations in The History Center’s collections.
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In May, Matt and Emily attended the annual meeting of Society of Southwest Archivists in Little Rock. In June Emily attended the Women’s Forum in Lufkin and Jonathan attended the summer meeting of the Angelina County Native Plant Roundtable. In August Jonathan attended the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Chicago and the fall meeting of the East Texas Historical Association in Nacogdoches in September. In May Jonathan was elected to the board of directors of the Texas Oral History Association; in August he was appointed to serve on the Texas State Library & Archives Commission’s Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) and agreed to serve on the editorial board of Lone Star, an upcoming popular history magazine of the Texas State Historical Association. OTHER NEWS In April we celebrated Patsy’s 20th anniversary of employment by the T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library & Archives. The term of service includes her combined years at the Library, Archives, and History Center. Patsy continues work on an oral history project that focuses on racial integration of Diboll Independent School District in the 1960s, including former students, teachers, school board members, and other community participants. We have interviewed three dozen persons so far, and most of the interviews are transcribed and available through our website.
In September, Jeanetta Stewart of the Lufkin Literary and Historical Society presented Jonathan Gerland with a $500 donation to The History Center and the 2011 Angelina Award the organization received.
Staff and members of the Diboll Historical Society enjoyed Halloween sweets after the October quarterly meeting.
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Diboll Historical Society member and History Center volunteer B.J. Capps and Diboll Independent School District Superintendent Gary Martel listen as DHS member and volunteer Charlie Havard tells a story at the Center’s Christmas Open House in December.
In recognition of Louis’ help to the Diboll High School Alumni Association’s annual reunions, the organization donated $670 to The History Center in April. In September the Lufkin Historical & Literary Club, whose collections we house, donated $500 and their Angelina Award, which they received in January. Matt has prepared and submitted a grant application to the National Endowment for the Humanities, seeking funding to convert our analog audio cassette oral history collection (about 250 tapes) to digital archival file format (just under a terabyte of .wav files). Hopefully we should hear from NEH early next year. In early February, The History Center and the T. L. L. Temple Memorial Library hosted a book author event at the library for best selling inspirational historical fiction authors Tracie Peterson and Cathy Marie Hake, from Montana and California, respectively. Both authors recently set a series of books in Texas, and Peterson’s series is set in East Texas, Angelina County specifically, during the 1880s. Peterson did some of her research here at the Center in 2009.
Fifth graders from Lufkin’s Brandon Elementary pose after their tour of The History Center in October.
Members of the 2011 Leadership Lufkin class smile in front of Engine 13 after their tour of the Center in December.
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