Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lake Creek Settlement High School - Montgomery Independent School District

Recently, the Montgomery Independent School District Board of Trustees began seeking input from the general public with regard to nominations for school names for the 2nd High School, 2nd Junior High School, 5th Elementary School, and the renaming of Montgomery Intermediate School. The MISD Board policy for the naming schools provides that “High Schools shall be named after geographical areas.” The first high school is of course named Montgomery. Local historians, community leaders and students are hopeful that the new high school will be named for the geographical area in which the Town of Montgomery was originally founded in 1837 – the Lake Creek Settlement.

Over the last decade, new historical research has uncovered many significant and previously forgotten facts regarding the town and the county’s earliest history. Most notable among these was the rediscovery of the Lake Creek Settlement. The Lake Creek Settlement was a settlement of Anglo-American settlers in Austin’s Colony located between the west fork of the San Jacinto River (now dammed to form Lake Conroe) and the stream known as Lake Creek. These settlers from the United States received land from Empresario Stephen F. Austin in 1831 as an incentive to leave the United States and settle in his colony which was then located in the Mexican State of Coahuila y Tejas.  Heads of households in Austin’s Colony at this time each received a League of land (4,428.4 acres). By 1833, the area these colonists had settled had become known as the Lake Creek Settlement.

In 1835, W. W. Shepperd established a store in center of the Lake Creek settlement near the intersection of three important roads or traces.  During the Texas Revolution, a number of the men from the Lake Creek Settlement volunteered to fight for Texas’ independence from Mexico (1835-1836). One of these men, John Marshall Wade, manned the famous Twin Sisters canons during the Battle of San Jacinto when Texas won her independence on April 21, 1836. Wade would later publish the first newspaper in Montgomery appropriately named the Montgomery Patriot.

In the year following Texas independence, W. W. Shepperd founded the town of Montgomery at the site of his store in the center of the Lake Creek Settlement.  Five months later, Republic of Texas President Sam Houston signed the act creating Montgomery County on December 14, 1837. On March 1, 1838, the county government was organized in the town of Montgomery and the town of Montgomery was selected to be the first county seat of Montgomery County.

It is important to note that the Lake Creek Settlement comprised almost exactly the same geographic area as the Montgomery Independent School District does today.

Historians and many others believe naming the new high school after the Lake Creek Settlement would be a wonderful way to remember the area’s history and honor the memory of the those brave colonists and settlers who left the comfort and security of their homes in the United States to seek an uncertain but potentially better future in Austin’s Colony in Mexico and later the Republic of Texas.  Their efforts, struggles, and battles laid the very foundation upon which Texas is built today.  Billy Ray Duncan, President of the Montgomery Historical Society supports the idea to name the new high school after the Lake Creek Settlement, “Before there was a school district, before there was a county, before there was a town; there was the Lake Creek Settlement - a truly unique naming opportunity for MISD.” The school’s mascot would be easy enough – “Patriots.”

On January 29, 2016, the Texas Historical Commission approved a Texas Historical marker for the Lake Creek Settlement which will be dedicated in late 2016 or early 2017. 

For more information about the Lake Creek Settlement, see or visit the Lake Creek Settlement page on Wikipedia. Also see The Early History of Montgomery, Texas.  Or click here to read the Historical Narrative in support of the Texas Historical Commission marker for the Lake Creek Settlement which was approved on January 29, 2016.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Confederate Memorial & Ben Thompson Book - Saturday, April 16, 2016

On April 16, 2016, at 10:00 am at Oakwood Cemetery, in Austin, Texas, SCV Camp Littlefield #59, will unveil a Memorial for all Confederates buried at Oakwood Cemetery. Following the cemetery light refreshments will be served at the Austin History Center. At the Austin History Center, there will also be a book launch for Austin’s Confederate, gambler, gunfighter, and City Marshal Ben Thompson - Life and Adventures of Ben Thompson: The Famous Texan. There will be a book panel with author Major Buck Walton’s great-granddaughter and Ben Thompson’s great-granddaughter and authors Chuck Parsons and Lisa Lach.

Files for all the Confederate Veterans including Civil War Records are being donated to the Austin History Center.

Hope everyone can make it.

See for more information.

Monday, April 11, 2016

2016 Confederate Memorial Day Ceremony - Montgomery, Texas

Frank Johnson has forwarded an invitation to the 2016 Confederate Memorial Day  ceremony being conducted by the Capt. Thomas J. Peel Camp #2268, Sons of Confederate Veterans, being held in conjunction with Maj. General Patrick Cleburne's 7th Texas Infantry Camp #2182, Sons of Confederate Veterans; Montgomery Rose 47, Texas Society Order of Confederate Rose; and The Woodlands Rose 53, Texas Society Order of Confederate Rose.

All members of the public interested in Texas and Confederate history are welcomed to attend the 2016 Confederate Veterans Memorial Day Ceremony to be held at the Old Baptist Church Building (currently the Church of Christ), at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 16th, 2016, located at 301 Pond Street, Montgomery, Texas (corner of Caroline and Pond Streets).  The ceremony will be followed by the chartering ceremony for the new Capt. Thomas J. Peel Camp #2268, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Monday, February 29, 2016

For Want of a Texas Education

When I was a kid growing up in Texas in the 1960’s and 70’s, every Texas school student was taken on one or two “field trips” to historical sites around Texas.  Throughout the school year, buses loaded with children from all over Texas headed for these sites sacred to the history of Texas. We went to the Alamo, we went to the San Jacinto Battlefield, and we went to Washington-on-the-Brazos.  Schools don’t seem to do that anymore.  I guess it’s not on the STAAR test, so it must not be deemed important enough to teach. Not one of my four children was ever taken to visit any of these historic sites by their schools in order to learn those aspects of their history and their culture which are so distinctly Texan.

As my children’s education was found lacking, I made sure that they visited all of these sites and knew who James Bowie, William Barret Travis, David Crockett, Sam Houston, and the 59 signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence were and how they laid down the foundation upon which the Texas of today was built.

Texas Independence Day, March 2, used to be a holiday in Texas and every school child in Texas was given the day off to visit these sites revered in Texas history. Texas Independence Day marks the anniversary of the day that Texas declared its independence, ceased to be part of Mexico and became an independent nation – The Republic of Texas.  Alas, Texas Independence Day has not been celebrated as a school holiday for many decades.

If you are a brand new Texan or a 7th generation Texan and would like to further your education of what it means to be a Texan, then you, your children, and your grandchildren should go out to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site on Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6, 2016, for the Texas Independence Day Celebration.  Learn your history at The Star of the Republic Museum, the only museum in Texas dedicated exclusively to the study of the Texas Revolutionary and Republic of Texas periods (1830’s-1840’s).  Visit Barrington Living History Farm and walk through the original plantation home of Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas and the man most responsible for the annexation of Texas by the United States of America. Then, go to Independence Hall and stand on the exact spot where the founding fathers of Texas bravely and unanimously adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836 while the battle of the Alamo was still raging. 

Independence Hall, the Star of the Republic Museum and Barrington Living History Farm are all free on March 5 and 6, 2016 during the Texas Independence Day Celebration.  There will be plenty of music, food, historical re-enactors, artisans, vendors, etc. Located between Brenham and Navasota, it’s a short day trip. Don’t wait for a bus. Go and stand on the exact spot where Texas became Texas and be proud that you are a Texan!

Kameron K. Searle

Friday, January 29, 2016

Second Annual Frontier Families of Texas Symposium

The Republic of Texas Museum presents Second Annual Frontier Families of Texas Symposium on February 25, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. at the Austin Club 110 E. 9th Street Austin, Texas. Buffet Luncheon is $75.00. Presenters will be Dr. Carolina Crimm speaking about “DeLeon, A Tejano Family History;”  Mary M. McAllen  speaking about  “I Would Rather Sleep in Texas - McAllen Family;” and James Haley  speaking on the “Texas Hill Country.” Reservations can be made by PayPal on or send a $75 check to: Republic of Texas Museum, 510 East Anderson Lane, Austin, Texas 78752.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Clearing on the Halves - The Discovery of a Forgotten Real Estate Practice in Austin's Colony Pertaining to Mexican Land Grants

For several years I have been researching the early history of Montgomery County, Texas. The earliest Anglo-American settlement in what is today Montgomery County, Texas was the Lake Creek Settlement. The Lake Creek Settlement was located in Austin's Second Colony. While doing my research, I discovered a long forgotten real estate practice in Austin' Colony that was quite common in colonial Texas known as "clearing on the halves" or "clearing land."

First, it is important to know that Mexican land grants were not actually free.  There were a number of costs and fees associated with "clearing land" out of Stephen F. Austin's office in the town of San Felipe de Austin. To demonstrate this, we will use Owen Shannon's League which is located today in western Montgomery County.  Using Owen Shannon's League as an example, the costs and fees of obtaining a league of land in Austin's Second Colony in 1831 have been detailed by Galen Greaser, Translator with the Spanish Collection in the Archives and Records Division of the Texas General Land Office:

"In 1829, preparatory to the arrival of Commissioner General Juan Antonio Padilla in the colony, Austin put out a "Notice" advising settlers of the process for obtaining a land grant.  The first step was to obtain a certificate of admission showing that the settler had Austin's consent to locate in the colony.  The cost of the certificate was two dollars (pesos and dollars were on par at this time). As the Empresario, Austin also collected a fee of $50.00 for his services, $10 upon receipt of the title and the balance due one year later.  The Secretary (Samuel M. Williams) was due $10.00, $5.00 on presenting the petition to the commissioner and $5.00 one year later. The title was written on stamped or revenue paper of the third stamp, for which the interested party paid two reales (two bits). Two pages were required , making the total for paper 50 cents.  These are what we might label "office fees." They totaled $62.50.

The settler also had to pay a surveyor for surveying his land. Decree No. 128 of the Congress of Coahuila y Texas, dated April 1, 1830, set the fee at $8.00 for surveying a league of land.  You can find this decree in Gammel's, The Laws of Texas, Vol. 1. Previously, on May 15, 1828, the same Congress passed a decree, No. 62, setting the commissioner's fee at $15.00 for a league of grazing land and $2.00 for each labor of temporal land.  Finally, Article 22 of the 1825 Colonization Law fixed the government dues required from each settler.  The land was classified when it was surveyed. The two main classifications were grazing or pastureland and arable or temporal land. Each league of land contains 25 labors.

As an example, in Owen Shannon's title, 20 labors were classified as grazing land and 5 labors were deemed arable.  The fee for grazing land was $1.20 per labor, making $24.00, and arable land brought $2.50 per labor, or $12.50 in this case.  The total government dues were, thus, $36.50. Settlers were given six years in which to pay the government, the first payment being due in the fourth year.  If the commissioner charged $15 and the surveyor collected $8.00, added to the $36.50, the total would be $59.50 for this part, which added to the "office fees" make a total of $122.00. There may have been a few other incidentals, such as the cost of preparing the certified copy of the title that was given to the grantee, but I would be comfortable with stating that the cost of obtaining a title for one league of land in Austin's Colony in 1831 was in the neighborhood of $125 dollars."

$125 was a lot of money in 1831. Often, early settlers did not have enough money to pay these costs and fees to clear their land out of Stephen F. Austin's office at San Felipe.

"Clearing on the halves" or "clearing land" had nothing whatsoever to do with clearing trees or brush from land, as the name would initially suggest.  Many settlers that came to Texas had waited for years to get their land grants in Austin's Colony.  By the time the Empresario (Austin) had the deed papers ready, the settlers were often out of cash money when it came time to pay the costs and fees described above. Enterprising businessmen with ready cash would offer to pay these closing costs on behalf of the settlers in return for a portion of the league of land the settler was to receive. Typically the person "clearing land on the halves" got, as the name suggests, half of the settler's league of land.

The practice was a win-win-win situation.  The Empresario and the Mexican government won because they got all their costs and fees paid.  The settler won because he received clear title to his league of land without paying any money out of his own pocket.  And the business man "clearing on the halves" immediately got half of the league of land the settler received (about 2,214 acres) for an investment of about $125.00 (or just over 5 and a half cents per acre).

For instance, in the example in the section above, Thomas Taylor paid Owen Shannon's costs and fees on his behalf.  In return for paying these expenses on behalf of Owen Shannon, Owen Shannon deeded half of his league to Thomas Taylor.  This practice was known as "clearing on the halves."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Montgomery County History Road Rally. Historic Willis and Danville, Texas, January 23, 2016

The Montgomery County Historical Commission will be holding its 3rd annual History Road Rally on Saturday, January 23, 2016.  Each year the Montgomery County Historical Commission picks a different part of historic Montgomery County, Texas to make the focus of the History Road Rally. Two years ago, the History Road Rally focused on Montgomery, Texas and the historic sites around Montgomery.  Last year, the History Road Rally focused on Conroe, Texas and the historic sites around Conroe.  This years History Road Rally will focus on historic sites in and around Willis, Texas and Danville, Texas.

There will be trophies and prizes for the winning teams.  Teams of 2-5 participants per vehicle will be given clues to historic sites such as cemeteries, historic homes and churches, 1936 Centennial markers, Texas State Historical markers, etc. Those wishing to participate in the History Road Rally will meet at the North Montgomery County Community Center located at 600 Gerald at Lincoln Ridge in Willis, Texas beginning at noon.  The Rally will be held rain or shine.  Check-in is from Noon-1:00 p.m.  Road rally will start at 1:30 p.m. Each team will follow the clues given at the beginning of the rally.  Historical sites will be located by the teams and photographs of team members will be taken in front of the historic sites, markers etc.  So be sure and bring your cell phones and make sure your batteries are charged.  Each team will have two hours to complete the History Road Rally.  There will be free meals and team recognition beginning at 4:00 p.m. including trophies and prizes.

There is a pre-registration fee of $30 per vehicle and the registration fee will be $40 on the day of the event. This event is sponsored by Gullo Ford of Conroe, Gullo Mazda of Conroe and Gullo Toyota of Conroe. For more information or to register, call 936-525-7311 or 936-537-9070.