Magazine to feature county’s colonies
Houston County Courier
Texas Highway Magazine will do an article on Freedom Colonies: Cedar Branch, Hall’s Bluff and Wheeler Springs in the February 2011 issue. The Houston County Historical Commission would like to know about the families mentioned on the historical markers from that area. If any members of the community has information about these areas today and/or have pictures of the people mentioned, they are asked to contact the Houston County Historical Commission at 401 E. Goliad, Suite #201, Crockett, 75835. The phone number for the HCHC is 936-544-3255 ext. 238. The HCHC would also like to know what cemeteries the people on the markers are buried in so they can be added to the findagrave.com database. Also, if anyone knows of any historical markers that need re-painting, the HCHC would like to know. Cedar Branch. Marker Location: 12 miles west of Grapeland on FM 227, then 2.5 miles on CR 2210 Marker Text: Cedar Branch began in the 1860s as a settlement of freedmen. John Smith (1809-1890) and Anna Jane Pouncy Smith (1811-1874) deeded a parcel of their cotton plantation to each of their former slaves. The freedmen organized a church in 1862 and built a sanctuary in 1864. Levi Leonard chose the name Cedar Branch for the community. He and Alonzo Campbell selected a cemetery site. By 1888 a school was established, and classes were held in the church building. In 1952 it became part of the Grapeland School District. The church continues to serve as the focus of this community. Cedar Branch Community School Marker. Community School Address: 14.6 mi. W of Grapeland on FM 227 City: Grapeland County: Houston Marker Text: Cedar Branch Community School. The first written record of a school for the children of Cedar Branch appears in the Houston County Judge's Report of 1888. When the members of Cedar Branch Church constructed a new sanctuary in 1895, they donated the previous church building for use as a schoolhouse. By 1911, Cedar Branch had been designated as Common School District No. 8, and a two-room schoolhouse was later built on this site with support from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. In 1952, along with other nearby schools, Cedar Branch Community School District consolidated with Grapeland Independent School District. Long a focal point of the community, Cedar Branch School remains important to the area’s heritage. Hall’s Bluff. Marker Text: Maryland native Joshua James Hall migrated to Texas and purchased a land grant in 1839 on the east side of the Trinity River. Hall and his son, James Madison Hall, established a port and ferry on the Trinity River as a shipping point for Houston County settlers. The Community of Hall's Bluff developed around the ferry in the mid-19th century, and included a general store, post office, churches and a school. Unreliable shipping due to weather-related problems and the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s caused the port to decline and eventually most residents moved away. Hall Cemetery Marker. Location: FM 229, 10.9 mi. NW of Crockett Marker Text: Joshua James Hall (1790-1871) gave a portion of his land on this site about a mile from his homestead to be used as a burial ground. Hall Cemetery was already in use when freedmen French Taylor (1842-1937), Bob Denby, and Alf Warfield petitioned Hall for permission to bury their dead in the graveyard. Hall agreed, and the cemetery was used by both Anglo and African American settlers. The earliest marked grave is that of Mary A. Sharp (1843-1876). Hall Cemetery had several owners during the 20th century. A 1997 count revealed 29 marked and more than 105 unmarked graves. Descendants of early settlers continue to care for and maintain the land. (1998) Hall, Joshua James Marker. Location: from Loop 304 in Crockett take FM 2076 west .1 mile Marker Size: 18” x 28” Marker Text: Maryland native Joshua James Hall migrated to Texas and purchased a land grant in 1839 on the east side of the Trinity River. Hall and his son, James Madison Hall, established a port and ferry on the Trinity River as a shipping point for Houston County settlers. The Community of Hall's Bluff developed around the ferry in the mid-19th century, and included a general store, post office, churches and a school. Unreliable shipping due to weather-related problems and the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s caused the port to decline and eventually most residents moved away. Wheeler Springs Marker Text: Settlement in this area began in 1835, when Joshua J. Hall (1790-1871) established a community south of here along the Trinity River. After the Civil War, Hall family slaves and other freed African Americans settled here. In 1885 the community was named for springs located on land donated by French Taylor (1842-1937) for church purposes. A Baptist sanctuary and schoolhouse (1905) were built near the springs. In the 1920's a new school building was erected and a cannery began operations. The school closed in 1959 but the church and various civic organizations remain active. Wheeler Springs School. Marker Location: 13.6 mi. NNW of courthouse in Crockett, via US 287/SH 219, FM 229, and CR 2080 Text: Site of Wheeler Springs School the Wheeler Springs community was shaped in part by its school, which began on land donated in 1905 by French Taylor. The Houston County school board designated it Common School District No. 76 in 1906. Millie Denby and Lula (Denby) Dailey were the first teachers. A house moved to the site in 1930 served as a canning kitchen and cafeteria, and a 1932 log cabin provided space for meetings and quilting groups. In 1948, students began attending an area high school; Mose Dailey was their first bus driver. The county razed the 1925 schoolhouse in 1959, following consolidation, but the other buildings served the community for many years.