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Home / Community / 150 Years of Texas History

150 Years of Texas History

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Our little neck of the woods is known for many things – the Texas City Explosion of 1947, numerous hurricanes; most significant historically was the Great Storm of 1900, the Texas City Dike, completed in 1915 and added on to in 1935, And in the 1870’ s the Chisolm Trail was ridden by a large contingent of Black Cowboys who were instrumental in the creation of The Settlement, an independent community of African Americans established after the end of the Civil War. The community was located on three hundred and twenty acres in Galveston County, Texas, near the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson (GH&H) railroad. Many of the initial settlers worked as cowboys on the Chisholm Trail.
The roots of the Settlement date back to an 1864 labor containment camp, on Clear Creek in north Galveston County, for impressed slaves and free blacks during the Civil War. By 1867 Judge William J. Jones began selling parcels of his land to freedmen he considered to be of particularly industrious character, in what would become the Settlement community. Many of the initial settlers had worked for George Washington Butler as cowboys. Two founding settler families of the Settlement, the Britton and Phillips families, were related by marriage. They shortened the name to “Our Settlement.
By 1880 the community consisted of 42 permanent residents, many of them families headed by cowboys. By the mid-1880s, however, they began abandoning this lifestyle in favor of more regular, sedentary work in agriculture or the railroad industry. By 1900 most of its 83 residents were still relatives and descendants of the initial founding families, including the Brittons, Bells, and Phillipses. The Settlement boasted an 88% adult literacy rate, and the majority of its residents were landowners.
In 1911 the electric Interurban train track between Houston and Galveston was constructed through the middle of the Settlement, dividing its approximately 120 residents in half. A train stop called Highland Station was built where the Settlement met the border of nearby La Marque, Texas and, as a result, many local residents began referring to the Settlement as Highlands. By 1920 the community featured a Masonic lodge, a hotel, and a restaurant.
In the 1920s its population more than doubled and expanded into nearby La Marque, thus losing some of the community’s distinctive identity. Many of its workers abandoned farming jobs in favor of industrial work at nearby plants in Texas City. In 1929, nearly a decade before many of the surrounding communities, the Settlement’s population of around 400 obtained access to electricity.
On September 9, 1953 Texas City annexed the land once called the Settlement.
The community continues to host an annual Black Cowboy Rodeo, however, and in 2010 some of the original territory of the Settlement became listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On Saturday, The Texas History Museum and The African American Historic Preservation Committee hosted a gala event at The Bell House and Carver Park to honor 150 years of the county’s only Reconstruction-era Black community and to foster awareness of the contribution of the members of this historic community.
According to the Handbook of Texas, Black cowboys have been a part of Lone Star State history since the early nineteenth century. Many were born into slavery, and brought to cattle country by white landowners. They continued to work in ranching after emancipation, and thousands eventually rode the cattle trails headed north.
The 1867 Settlement This historic African American community pioneered by Chisholm Trail
Black Cowboys, located in west Texas City has been listed on the National Register of Historical Places and has also been recognized with a Texas Historical Marker. This unique community has the distinction of being the only Reconstruction Era community in Galveston County.
Today, Black cowboys – and cowgirls – continue the western tradition as ranch owners and workers, preserving a way of life that helped make Texas great.

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