The history of Grapeland begins not in 1872, but also in the communities of north Houston County that had sprung up near established trails of the animals and Indians which
We can but hope that by reading of the great courage and effort our ancestors show in their lives that we can inspire our young to look inward and find that inherited pioneer spark to continue to develop and live a proud, free life. These people about whom we write did not have material
Many things happened in this area before Grapeland
Many of the early settlers of this area came here in the early
One man (Brad Davis) left Mississippi and came with his elder son and was killed by Indians near Austonio. Means of communications were very poor in those days and his family back in Mississippi did not know he was dead. Many years later his grandchildren returned to the old home to find that the kin had felt
One rather large group that came in covered wagons tells of their fear in 1833 while camped in Arkansas when a great meteor shower occurred.
The early settlers built their homes at easy river crossings and along the old established paths. The land was acquired in many ways. Many received land grants from Mexico. Others received land as awards from the State for various services rendered. Some acquired their land by squatter’s rights, while others bought their land from those who had come before them.
The pioneers came down old established trails which probably had their beginnings from the animals as they moved through the woods to watering places. Indians also used those same trails. Some roads were made by men walking ahead of groups finding an easy path and blowing a horn to signal for the
During the early days, Galveston, Texas was the chief port for shipping and receiving supplies. The Trinity and Neches rivers both had ferries and good fords for crossing.
Steamboats were also used on the rivers to carry passengers and goods. The 1893 Courier reported on the progress of a steamboat named Harvey as it made its way up the Trinity past Alabama Crossing on the way to Dallas. The Harvey was having to proceed cautiously because of overhanging trees and shrubs and was making only 8 miles an hour. The river was reported to be in good condition for boats and there were three boats in service.
According to old census records, most of the people who came to North Houston County were natives of the states of Georgia, Alabama
In 1895, the Crockett paper reported that a colony from Arkansas had settled between Augusta and Grapeland making the road almost a solid lane of residences. It also reported that fully a thousand people had settled in the northern part of the county in the past year. The square
Most of the early day settlers were farmers and farmed as they had in their native states. The main crop was cotton and according to records of that time, the fertile land along the Neches and Trinity Rivers yielded one bale to the acre. The cotton was carried to the closest cotton gin and then overland by ox-wagon to the nearest river. John McMullen Selkirk was one of the early settlers who ran a freight company that carried goods as far as Nacogdoches in ox-wagons.
One of the earliest gins in the Grapeland area was located at what is now sometimes called Convict Springs. It was so-called because convict labor was used to build the railroad bridge at this point. This gin was southwest of Grapeland toward Latexo and was powered by water from the springs. There was also a grist mill there to grind grain. Other gins of this early day were powered by horses and the cotton was compressed in a hole by men stepping on it to press it down.
The early day farmer found the farming possibilities here almost limitless. With a growing season of 248 days and an abundant rainfall, they found they could raise almost anything they needed. Crops that were produced in abundance were cotton, corn, potatoes, syrup cane, tomatoes, peas, beans, berries
Two items that
Matches were also a luxury that these early settlers did not have. It was the custom in those days t keep the fire banked year round. If, by accident, it went out someone would have to go to the neighbors for
The lone Indians (Tejas Tribe) were of some threat to these settlers as late as 1850 and several of the early families were almost wiped out by these Indians. Some of the earliest settlements to develop in North Houston County were Augusta, Antrim, Reynard (then called Trinity Chapel) and Dalys. The Grapeland area was probably located too far from the river crossings to develop as a community. All that existed here in those early days was the crossing of two roads, the road from Augusta to the Trinity River and the road from Palestine to Crockett. Thus it came to be called the crossroads. The stagecoach passed this way and the mail was carried by horseback. Antrim was one of the earliest mail drops for this area.
According to several of our older citizens, before Grapeland was a town, Randolph Yarborough lived near the crossroads and his home was a convenient location to pick up their mail. The settlers asked to have their mail left there, but an address was needed. Miss Kitty Yarborough is said to have suggested that they just call it ‘Grapevine’.
The business section of the town was divided into lots measuring 27′ x 125′ and 90′ x 125′. The corner business lots sold for $100 and the inside lots for $75. The original intent of this company was that Oak Street would be the main street and because of this it measures 100′ in width and the others were 80′ wide.
Even though the name of Grapevine had been suggested, according to Houston County deed records, the Houston and Great Northern called the
The railroad built a depot, cotton platforms, seed houses and a water tank along its right of way and very soon after
According to an article written by Judge John A. Davis, who was
With the coming of the
Grapeland then entered upon what has been called her ‘tough period’. The spirit of independence which brought pioneers to this country and the whiskey which flowed freely caused Grapeland to be a wild and woolly place. Shooting scrapes were very frequent. Often innocent men
One newspaper article pointed up the progress Grapeland was making in the fight against liquor. It stated that people were no longer receiving their whiskey shipments on the train and splitting them up on the street among their friends. They were at least taking them into backrooms to split up. One of our citizens who were strongly opposed to the consumption of alcohol even started his own telephone system so that he could monitor the calls to Palestine and disconnect those ordering ‘hard liquor.’
In 1886, the main residential area was in blocks 5, 6, 7, and 12. W.W. Lively owned a hotel where the J.W. Howard (now Horace Jones) home now stands. Mr. Lively also owned the first buggy in Grapeland. It was used to carry travelers from Grapeland to Augusta.
The oldest house in Grapeland is the home of Mrs. Ann Lois Lyles (521 Chestnut) and was originally the home of T.T. Beazley.
In the interest of the betterment of the community, the citizens of Grapeland voted to incorporate the town in 1899 and Dr. H.S. Robertson was elected mayor. The ordinances passed by this council reflected the needed reforms. The first ordinance required cleaning up and disposing of rubbish from around the business houses.
The second ordinance prohibited the railroad from obstructing public crossings for more than five minutes. Next, people were prohibited from unlawfully getting on or off moving trains. The council also ordained that all males between twenty-one and forty-five were required to pay the city three dollars annually or work on the roads five days. The fifth ordinance gave the Mayor the powers of the Justice of the Peace to enforce the ordinances. The 6th ordinance made it unlawful for any person to create or permit a nuisance. The last ordinance signed by Dr. H.S. Robertson as mayor and S.E. Howard as
The next mayor was Dr. F.C. Woodard. Some of his ordinances were: prohibiting ball games or other noisy games outside of private enclosures on Sunday; prohibiting abuse of livestock and birds or other harmless animals; prohibiting the shooting of a gun, toy gun, air gun, sling-shot or any other shooting or slinging thing; required the removal of fences from public roads; required the underpinning of homes so that hogs could not root under them; and prohibited the shooting of cannon crackers,
The editor of our paper called the old building a ‘livery stable.’
The school in Grapeland had begun somewhere along the way, but the exact date is unknown. It was first in an old log house at the site of theBaptist Church, then in a frame building on College Street.
Through these early years, the business sections had experienced
A familiar sound of this early day was the blowing of the whistle of the cotton gin. In the fall wagon loads of cotton were lined up for several blocks waiting to be ginned. Mr. Bill Lively had the first gin in Grapeland, located on what is now the Horace Jones property, shortly followed by J.J. Brooks in the block across from the Methodist Church. Mr. Mose Spence later built a gin across from the Baptist Church. Mr. Spence sold his gin to M.P. Herod and Fred Bridges. A.B. Spence went into the ginning business in 1908 behind the Christian Church. One would wonder if there was some relationship between churches and gins! Perhaps the owners felt the need for protection from the citizens when the mighty blast from the whistle woke them from their five o’clock slumber as the gin began its day’s work. The whistle was used as a clock as it was blown at the beginning of the day and at noon and the end of the day.
The cotton wagons furnished children an exciting and easy way of getting to town. They would hitch a ride on the wagons as they passed their homes on the way to the gin.
Dr. McCarty had the first local telephone system in Grapeland in about 1906. The switchboard was located in his home on Oak Street. Later another telephone system, the Grapeland Farm Telephone Co. began operating in Grapeland. Both of these systems were bought by J.S. Cook. Mrs. Edna Ellis and Mrs. Arie Newman served Grapeland for many years as telephone operators.
Where could you find better telephone service than this? They also watched for fires and other emergencies in the town.
The first clay road was built in 1906 on Maple St. It was built by private subscription. Dr. McCarty owned the first car, Eugene Walling the second, and Geo. E. Darsey the third. Dr. Mc- Carty is said to have called ‘Whoa’ to his car when learning to drive it. These early day cars caused a great deal of confusion. People that owned these ‘dangerous machines’ would recklessly drive down the street at 8 miles an hour and endanger the lives of people in buggies and wagons! Gasoline for these cars was stored in an open
The fairs were an annual early day entertainment in Grapeland. Much time and effort
On the morning of November 27,
Traveling shows also came to Grapeland at rather regular intervals. They would either have a show in a tent or rented building. They had medicine shows, circuses, sideshows, Wild West show, flying jennies, hobby horses, and exhibitions of music and dancing. But the citizens of Grapeland did not rely solely upon traveling shows for their cultural enrichment. As early as the building of our school in 1894, the citizens provided for a second story to be added to the building for use as a town hall and for community meetings and entertainment.
Bird hunts, fox hunts
The first movie house of Grapeland was an ‘open air’ theatre consisting of a high board fence with the screen framed like a picture. It was powered by electric generators. It was originally owned by R.S. Garland and called the ‘Airdome Theatre’. D.N. Leaverton bought it from him and called it ‘The Cozy Theatre’. Frank Leaverton then acquired it and called it ‘The Electric Theatre.’
A 1916 ad in the newspaper states ‘Tonight at the Electric Theatre, 4 reels of pictures; ‘Trick of Fate’, 2 reel drama; ‘Monkeyshines of Bootblacks’ 1 reel comedy; 1 educational reel all for 10 cents.
Later the movie house was moved to the east side of town and was operated inside a building. It was owned by J.W. Howard. His wife ‘Miss Maude’ played the piano as the drama unfolded on the screen. She adapted the tempo of her music to the tempo of the plot. The story is told that as a
Mr. Parks later owned the movie house and in 1936, Dawson Shoultz built the ‘Tejas Theatre’. The first talkie shown in this theatre was ‘The X-Mrs. Bradford’ starring William Powell and Myrna
On the night of March 4, 1913, fifteen business concerns including the Goodson Hotel in Grapeland burned. Men, Women
In 1915, a new industry appeared in Grapeland. Mr. A.B.Spence opened the Grapeland Bottling Works. They made all flavors of soda water—sour lemon, lemon, celery, vanilla, grape, pineapple, banana, strawberry, and orange. Clarence McCarty and Nesbit Lively worked in the bottling works for Mr. Spence. The business was located on the gin lot and later moved next door to the Woodman Hall. They delivered soda water to the stores in Grapeland and the surrounding rural communities. Business boomed one day when Clarence and Nesbitt got hold of some 100% alcohol and made a new drink they called ‘hop ale’. Early that morning, they sold W.R. Wherry, a local business which called itself ‘The Poor Man’s Store’ one case of ‘hop ale’.
By the end of the
World War I came in 1917 and caused many changes in the lives of the people. Boys who had never been out of the
The war brought about a change in scope and broadened the outlook of people. ‘How You Gonna Keep
Mechanization that developed in World War I also led to many changes. Automobiles came within the reach of many people and travel became more common.
In 1924, the need for Grapeland to again incorporate as a city became apparent. Livestock was still running loose in the streets; chicken coops were on the sidewalks of the stores in town and streets needed to be improved. An election was held April 11, 1924, and Grapeland officially became a city forth
In the late
Governmental programs came into being to help the country make an economic recovery. Attempts were made to help
Many of us can remember the sight and odor of the cattle as they were piled on logs and burned. Many other agricultural experiments were tried for this same reason. Governmental work programs came into being to furnish wages for those who could not find jobs. WPA, (Work Progress Administration), was the
At about its lowest point, the discovery of oil and gas in this area gave Grapeland a greatly needed
The first real industry developed with a new oil industrial process called recycling. ‘Wet’ gas was extracted from the ground and the liquid hydrocarbons were stripped from it and the dry gas pumped back into the ground to maintain field pressure. These plants in Grapeland were some of the first of their type and at one time several were in operation in the area. Many new families came to town. This was the first gas distillate field developed. Everyone remembers the ‘lights’ in the night sky from the recycling flares.
The Kraft Cheese Plant had opened here in 1937. It
World War II came and the recycling plants became a war industry. Thousands of cars of aviation gas were shipped from Grapeland during this time. In 1944, 3,559 carloads of different products were shipped from Grapeland.
After World War II, peanuts became King and the industry of the day was Alexander Mfg. Co. Big, fluffy petticoats made of nylon net were the fad of the day and Alexander’s produced them in abundance. They also made a very good line of children’s underwear. The annual fairs that were common in the early
Another milestone in Grapeland’s history was the building of a hospital. Within a period of two
Our history would not be complete without mentioning the other doctors who have served our community in the past. Many times this service was rendered in spite of the hardships involved. They traveled from
Among those who have practiced here were Dr. Lewis Merriwether, Dr. F.C. Woodard, Dr. H.S. Robertson, Dr. P.N. Stafford, Dr. C.M. McCarty, Dr. Sam Kennedy, Dr. C.C. Hill, Dr. W.R. (Buss) Taylor, Dr. R.A. Farmer, Walter R. Jordan, George Beeler, Sr., and Paul Molina. Dr. Sam Kennedy stands out among these as having served this community for over fifty years.
The Houston County Lake was built on the Little Elkhart Creek to provide more water for Houston County and to attract industry into this county. It has also become the site of many vacation homes and permanent residences. It is a source of recreation for the whole areas.
In 1967, through the efforts of the Houston County Development Foundation, the
In the last fifteen years, Grapeland has seen many changes. Three Federal Housing Developments have been built. A new
Grapeland has had many ups and downs during the past 100 years. What it is now, is the result of those who have gone before us. What it becomes will be the responsibility of us today.
Today 2019 Grapeland Texas still a thriving community with new factories and businesses, Grapeland is still home. As we loose the people we love we gain so many new faces to our community.
Lets keep Grapeland Texas GREAT!