Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When Was the Town of Danville, Texas Founded?

Over the years, I have been amazed to meet so many 5th , 6th and 7th generation Texans whose ancestors originally settled in the area in and around the town of Danville, Texas in Montgomery County.  Don't waste your time looking for Danville, Texas on a modern map however, you won't find it.  Danville has been a ghost town for a long time.  The road sign for Old Danville Road and the cemetery on Shepard Hill Road are about all that remain of a town and surrounding area that produced so many descendants in Texas.

A number of histories report dates for the town of Danville as early as the 1830's.  However, there do not seem to be any primary historical sources to support those histories.  So, when was the town of Danville, Texas actually founded?  Let us to look at some primary source documents and reason together. The earliest newspaper reference to a place called Danville that I have located was in the March 21, 1846 edition of The Texas Democrat published in Austin, Texas.  See Volume 1, No. 12, page 2.
The article above is in regard to an attempt to establish a postal route through a place called Danville. A couple of weeks later a second newspaper mentioned a place called Danville in a list of polling places in Montgomery County.  See the April 8, 1846 edition of the Democratic Telegraph and Texas Register, Vol. 11, No. 14, page 2.

These newspapers prove that the name Danville had come into usage by March and April of 1846 to describe a place in Montgomery County. The first newspaper article references the attempt to get a postal route to go through a place called Danville.  The second article refers to a polling place called Danville in Montgomery County. But did the town of Danville actually exist in early 1846.  From 1845 to mid 1847 several land transactions occurred within the area that would eventually comprise the town of Danville, but the deeds do not make any mention of a town or place called Danville. 

But what other primary sources can we consult to determine if the town of Danville had an earlier origin.  The cemetery does not provide an earlier date.  The earliest marked grave in the Shepard Hill cemetery is that of Mary Susan Spiller which reports her date of death as August 6, 1850.

My wife and I have been transcribing the Montgomery County Commissioners' Court Minutes for a couple of years now.  So far we have transcribed the minutes for the years 1838-1845.  When published, the Montgomery County Commissioners' Court Minutes, 1838 to 1845, will be an excellent primary historical source for historians researching the early history of Montgomery County, Texas.

During this process, we have seen references by the Commissioners' Court to the town of Montgomery, the town of Huntsville, the town of Cincinnati, the town of Carolina, etc.  But in the years between the first Commissioners' Court Meeting in 1838 through the last meeting in 1845, no mention whatsoever was made of any town, community or place called Danville.  This absence of a place named Danville strongly suggests that no such place existed between 1838 and 1845 within the territory of Montgomery County.

When the town finally came into being, the town would be located on the Joseph Lindley League. Though no mention is made of a town, community or place called Danville in the 1838-1845 minutes, Joseph Lindley and his property are mentioned many times throughout the 1838-1845 Montgomery County Commissioners' Court Minutes. For instance, on page 187, at the January 1844 Commissioners' Court meeting, the minutes provide the following:

Ordered by the Court that A Gallitin  J C Smith  - McDanil - J W Barrett  F Cotton  Jno Hume - J Spillers - J B Chesire - be appointed Commissioners to Review & mark out a road from Jos Lindleys to Huntsville  & report at the next term of this Court

From the January 1845 Commissioners' Court meeting we find the following minutes on page 204:

Ordered by the Court that John Park  Jonathan H Ridgeway - A H White - Richard Williams and Joseph Lindley be and they are hereby appointed to mark and lay out a road commencing near Joseph Lindleys - running to Burches ferry on San Jacinto and make report of their actings and doings at the next term of this Court-

On August 19, 1847, Daniel Robinson became the first postmaster of Danville, Texas.  [See Postmasters and Post Offices of Texas 1846-1930, Volume 2, D-H, compiled by Jim Wheat].  Daniel Robinson did not file the plat of the town of Danville ["Original Plan of the Town of Danville"] until July 10, 1848 [Montgomery County Deed Vol. O, page 231].This plat was prepared more than two years after the March 21, 1846 and the April 8, 1846 newspaper articles above.

Based on these primary sources, it would seem that a tentative thesis can be made that efforts were underway to develop a town called Danville in early 1846.  However the total lack of references to the town or town lots in deeds dating from 1845 and 1846 strongly suggests that Danville may have been more of an idea or wishful thinking by land speculators than an actual town in 1845 or 1846. For more information about the early history of Danville, Texas see the excellent article Journey to Danville by Karen "Candy" Lawless.

If you have a primary source that proves Danville, Texas was established in either 1845 or 1846, please send me an email or add your comments to this page. I would also like to hear from you if you have primary sources that prove the town of Danville was actually founded in 1847 or 1848.


Ann Sloan Jones said...

I have a copy of what appears to be an oral history by Ann Wood Peel b.1813 in KY. Came to Montgomery County in 1837 with parents, Dr. John Wood & Lucy Henderson Wood. In 1981, T.J.Peel wrote for the History Book Committee of Montgomery County Genealogical Society, "Dr. John Wood & Lucy Henderson Wood settled at old Danville, 6 miles NW of what is now Willis."
Ann Sloan Jones 5/28/2013

K K Searle said...


I would love to see a copy of this oral history by Ann Wood Peel. If you would, please scan it and forward a copy as an attachment to my email: ksearle1@pdq.net or mail a copy to my office at Kameron Searle, 908 Town & Country Blvd., Suite 120, Houston, Texas 77024.

Thanks, Kameron