Hillary Mercer Crabb (1804-1876) served as one of the first judges in Walker County. He was born in Columbia County, Georgia. At 18, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Georgia militia, and in 1830 he moved his family to Mexico, where they settled in the Sabine District. Crabb later joined the Texas militia and fought in the Battle of Nacogdoches in 1832.
Crabb served as the first probate judge when Walker County was incorporated in 1846. He would later serve as chief justice from 1848 to 1852. In 1852, Crabb was elected to fill the term of Rep. F.L. Hatch in the Texas legislature. Like many other early Huntsvillians, Crabb was a member of Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19.
On February 11, 1835, Hillary Crabb was awarded a land grant for his service in the Texas War for Independence. He built Rex Hill, named after his home in Georgia, along the "Big Road" that connected Huntsville and Madisonville. A small community, known as Crabb's Prairie, grew up around the homestead, which was located about seven miles northwest of Huntsville. At its height in 1936, the community boasted three businesses, two schools, and a church.
Like Sam Houston, Crabb opposed the secession movement in Texas. After the outbreak of the Civil War, he moved to Lavaca County and later to Madison County, where he served as sheriff from November 1871 to November 1872. His influence as a prominent landowner, church leader, Mason, and public servant had a dramatic impact on the early growth of the area. He died on September 8, 1876, and is buried in the Madisonville Cemetery.