Walker County History

Tour curated by: Jeffrey L. Littlejohn

Walker County is a scenic, sprawling territory of 801 square miles located in the southeastern region of Texas. Situated along the edge of the Coastal Plain, the county lies roughly 100 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico and midway between the Louisiana state line and the Texas capital at Austin. The local landscape is beautiful and rustic, with rolling hills, piney woods, and sprawling rivers. This tour highlights all the entries on East Texas History that deal with historic sites from Walker County. Additional thematic tours are also available on specific topics.

Locations for Tour

Samuel Walker Houston (1871?-1945) was the son of Joshua Houston and Sylvester Baker, two former African American slaves who worked for General Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. During the 1880s and 1890s, he attended the nation's leading black…

Huntsville's First United Methodist Church, located at 1016 Sam Houston Avenue, has served as a key institution in Walker County for over 150 years. Throughout its long history, First United Methodist has provided its parishioners with spiritual…

During the summer months of 2001, representatives from Huntsville’s Main Street Program worked with faculty members and students from Sam Houston State University to move the historic Roberts-Farris cabin from its location in West Sandy to a…

In 1843, a local merchant and postmaster, Alexander McDonald, constructed Huntsville’s first brick building, which had a "simple rectangle[r] shape with three dormer windows at the attic level." Located at what is now the southeast corner…

Born in 1822, Joshua Houston was raised as a slave on the Lea plantation near Marion, Alabama. When his master, Temple Lea, died in 1834, ownership of Joshua was transferred to Temple's daughter, Margaret Lea. There seems to have been little…

Folklorist John Avery Lomax toured prisons in the South to record the voices and music of those who were incarcerated there, particularly African American inmates or as his records indicate, "Negro convicts." Lomax and his son Alan, a…

Following the Civil War, African Americans in Huntsville established their own "Union Church" for worship services and community events. Local black leaders Joshua Houston Sr., William Baines, and Strother Green purchased a desirable…

As part of their Southern States Recording Trip in 1939, John A. Lomax and his wife Ruby Terrill Lomax attempted to expand their catalog of folk music by incorporating a wider variety of genres, and the contributions of Huntsville resident Grace…

During the twentieth century, Minnie Fisher Cunningham (1882-1964) worked as a leading reformer on women’s issues, including voting rights and equal pay. Born near New Waverly, Texas in southern Walker County, Minnie was raised by her parents,…

Huntsville’s Andrew Female College was founded in 1852 and chartered by the Texas Conference of Methodist Churches on February 7, 1853. Its creation mirrored that of Austin College, a men’s institution in Huntsville that had admitted its first…

On September 16, 1844, the First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Texas was organized in the Brick Academy building by Rev. Z.N. Morrell, Thomas Horsely, and Rev. Benjamin Fry. In 1851, the church's early congregation met at the Dean School House,…

In 1866, a group of East Texas plantation owners working with the Polish merchant, Meyer Levy, formed the Waverly Emigration Society. This enterprising new group hoped to bring European farmers to the Waverly area in order to replace the…

To collect authentic, undocumented folk music, John A. Lomax and his son Alan specifically sought out "made up" songs, ones that had been created and developed by everyday people. In 1934, while searching for the local and secular music of…

In his pursuit of folk music, John A. Lomax visited penitentiaries throughout the South specifically to document the music of African Americans that, because of racial segregation and the isolation of prison life, remained pure or relativity free of…

Gibbs Brothers and Company is reputedly the oldest continuously operating family business in Texas that still resides on its original site. The business was established by Thomas Gibbs and Gardner Coffin in 1841 on the Huntsville town square. The…

Shortly after the town of Huntsville was incorporated, founder Pleasant Gray donated five acres of land for the creation of a school. The new institution began operations as early as 1845 and received a charter on April 11, 1846. Originally, the…

Best known as the author of the first "History of Texas," Henderson Yoakum was an accomplished soldier, attorney, and politician. Born in 1810 in Claiborne County, Tennessee, Yoakum graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He…