Walker County History

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.

Samuel Walker Houston School

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…

First United Methodist Church of Huntsville

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…

The Roberts-Farris Cabin

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…

Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19

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…

Joshua Houston

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…

Huntsville Prison Recordings

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…

St. James Methodist Episcopal Church

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…

Grace Longino Recordings

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…

Minnie Fisher Cunningham

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,…

Andrew Female College

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…

First Baptist Church of Huntsville

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,…

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

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…

Smithers Plantation Recordings

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…

Goree Recordings

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

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…

Huntsville Academy

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…

Henderson King Yoakum

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…