Harris County Marker Narratives

The Harris County Marker Program is administered by the Harris County Historical Commission with all research vetted and approval determined locally.   The following is a list of the Harris County markers that have been approved and dedicated.

The Founding of Harris County - Marker Dedicated May 24, 2012

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In December 1835 near the beginning of the Texas Revolution, the new Provisional Government of Texas defined the boundary of the Municipality of Harrisburg, similar to the extent of Harris County today.  Its largest town and seat of government was then Harrisburg, founded by John Richardson Harris in 1826.  The municipalities became counties in the 1836 Texas Constitution.

Texas won its independence from Mexico after the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.  The first Texas Congress established the structure of county government and designated the county seat the new town of Houston December 1836.  Local residents David G. Burnet and Lorenzo de Zavala served as the first President and Vice President of the Republic of Texas until October 1836.  While Houston was the capital of Texas from 1837 to 1839, City Council designated Houston as a port of call and Buffalo Bayou as a National Highway of the Republic.

Much like today’s Commissioners Court, the 1837 Harrisburg County Board of Commissioners was entrusted with control and supervision of roads, ferries, and bridges, in addition to providing for support of the indigent, blind and lame citizens.  The first chief justice (county executive) Andrew Briscoe, organized an initial board meeting in March 1837 with DeWitt Clinton Harris serving as county clerk.  The first sheriff, John W. Moore, also handled tax collection along with his usual duties.  Harrisburg County became Harris County by action of the Third Congress in December 1839.

Today the county is administered by a county Judge and four Precinct Commissioners, elected by the public.  Home to over four million people, Harris County is Texas’ most populous county, boasting a thriving port, world renowned medical center, NASA, and headquarters for oil, chemical and export/import companies.

Marker Text with Citations                  Dedication Program

Phillis Wheatley High School - Marker Dedicated 2012

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Phillis Wheatley High School, Houston’s third oldest high school for blacks, is named for Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), renowned African-American poet and author.  The first campus, located at 3415 Lyons Avenue in the Fifth Ward, was the former McGowan Elementary School building for white students.  It opened on January 31, 1927 with 490 students and 20 teachers, led by Principal E. O. Smith. In 1929, a new building designed by Harry D. Payne was constructed on the Lyons Avenue Campus.

By 1940, the school was so overcrowded that classes were held in three shifts.  In 1950, a $2.5 million 14 acre campus opened at 4900 Market Street.  Designed by architects MacKie and Kamrath in a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced modernist style, this facility was the most expensive high school in Houston at the time.  In 2004 Wheatley alumnus Willie Jordan designed a facility on the 4900 Market Street site.  All of the 1949-1950 buildings, except the auditorium, were razed and the new facility, which faces 4801 Providence Street, opened in Fall 2006.

Rich sports traditions include the annual Turkey Day Classic football game with cross-town rival jack Yates High School, held from 1946 to 1966, and the legendary basketball teams with 17 state championships between 1942 and 1978.  Wheatley high School has produced several distinguished politicians, doctors, lawyers, judges, ministers, community leaders, educators, scientists, engineers, athletes, musicians, entertainers, and other proud graduates.  Some notable alumni include Barbara Jordan, George Thomas “Mickey” Leland, Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, and Frank C. Mann.  Long-time faculty members E. O. Smith, Dr. John E. Codwell, William Moore, James M. Thomas and many others instilled “Scholarship, Character, and Service” in their students for over 85 years.

Marker Narrative

West End Park - Marker Dedicated February 20, 2014

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West End Park was the second baseball park for the Buffaloes, Houston’s professional Texas League ball club.  Opened in April 1905 with the home plate entrance at Andrews and Heiner on the San Felipe street car line, this was the most significant sports venue in the city for over two decades.  Many of Baseball’s Hall of Fame players, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson, played exhibition games on the West End Park diamond.  All-time great Tris Speaker played a full minor league season here in 1907 as a member of the Houston Buffs.

Houston’s African-American professional baseball team, the Black Buffaloes, also played their home games at West End Park, continuing for several years after their white counterparts moved.  Two famous events billed as the Colored World Series took place here as the Black Buffs faced the Kansas City Monarchs (1929) and the Chicago American Giants (1930).  West End Park welcomed many of the Negro League starts of the day including Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Williams, and Rube Foster.

From its earliest days, West End Park was a multi-sport venue.  The YMCA hosted a statewide track and field meet here and religious revivals.  High school and college football teams played here for many years; highlights included the annual University of Texas and Texas A&M football game as part of the No-Tsu-Oh festival from 1908 through 1911, and Rice vs. Notre Dame in 1915.  When the Texas League Buffaloes moved to a new stadium across town in 1928, the Houston School board bought this property, and it served as the primary high school football venue for the city until World War II.

Marker Narrative                                Invitation

Spring Creek Park Cemetery
West Chapel Methodist Episcopal Cemetery

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This cemetery, appropriately named “Spring Creek Cemetery” since the majority of its northern and western boundaries follows the meanders of Spring Creek, had its beginning February 23, 1884.  On that date, Henry Scherer sold 6.6 acres of his farm homestead to the local West Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church of Spring Creek, an African American organization.  The deed noted that it was Scherer’s desire to promote public morality and religion and it was common knowledge that the land was to be used to house a Church building and cemetery.  The erection of the Church never came to pass, but a number of burials, just how many is not known, did take place over the years.  The cemetery is located on a high hill adjoining the northeast corner of the county’s Spring Creek Park, in far north Harris County.  On July 6, 1969, Harris County and West Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church reached an agreement for Harris County to acquire the property. Memories of the church congregation, community neighbors, and descendants have faded through the years.  Few, if any, realize that this property was utilized as a cemetery for 85 years.  Preservation of this site provides an opportunity to enlighten local cultural heritage with untold community stories.

Marker Narrative

Morse-Bragg Cemetery - Marker Dedicated May 23, 2017

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The permanent settlement of this vicinity began with the construction of the San Felipe to Harrisburg wagon road in 1830, which lay half a mile south of here. Connecticut-born Agur Tomlinson Morse (1801 – 1865) and his wife Grace Baldwin Morse (1814 – 1890) left their cotton plantation in Mississippi and founded the Pleasant Bend plantation in 1851.  Their house lay about five hundred feet to the south.  Agur built a grist mill and a cotton gin, and two sons built a steam sawmill.  Their land holdings grew to nearly eight square miles, including much of modern Tanglewood, Post Oak-Galleria, River Oaks, West University Place and Southside Place.  Agur’s brother Rev. John Kell Morse and his wife Caroline A. Jones Morse held Methodist church services on the plantation.  Agur served as a volunteer head of Houston’s Home Guard during the Civil War, and three sons were Confederate soldiers.  Thomas McGowen started a small nearby farm in 1847, which was old to James McFee and his wife Cassandra Hough McFee in 1852.

The cemetery was used from the early 1850s by the Morse family and the Pleasant Bend community, and it contains the remains of many early citizens of rural Harris County.  Pioneer settler Thaddeus Bell (1822 – 1871), the first male child born in Stephen F. Austin’s colony, is buried here, as are at least four members of the African-American Banks family, and at least seven Confederate veterans.  Deaths from yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid fever reflect the dangers of the pioneer era.  Grace Morse deeded the cemetery in 1874 for its continued use by the Morse family and surrounding neighbors, with an additional part sold to Benjamin A. Bragg.  All but two of the headstones were destroyed in the late twentieth century.

Marker Narrative                             Marker Program

Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist - Marker Dedication June 23, 2017

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Houston’s first African-American Christian Science congregation was organized in 1914 when founding members Wesley and Patsy Gales, Aurelia and John Snell, Florence Frazier, Alice Jackson, Minerva Thomas, and W. E. Bartlett met in the Gales’ home, 1419 Grove Street, in the Fifth Ward.  The group was enlightened by the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science and author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.  In 1927, as attendance grew, a cottage was built at 1417 Grove Street.  The church was formally recognized by The Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 23, 1940, as the “Christian Science Society (Colored), of Houston, Texas.”

The group incorporated under the same name early in 1941, and later that year a new modernistic structure designed by architect Henry D. Frankfurt was constructed on donated property located at 2202 Elgin Street, across from historic Emancipation Park, in the heart of the Greater Third Ward community.  The building’s architecture, while characteristic of the 1930s and 1940s was unique for religious buildings in Houston.  On July 11, 1963, the group’s name was officially changed to “Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist.”

Early Sixth Church members who founded educational, social, and civic organizations that are still vital to the Houston community include teacher Ilma Lawrence Smith, historian and author Pearl C. Suel, musician and teacher “Prof” Conrad O. Johnson, Sr., and professor of music Charles P.l Rhinehart.

The congregation dwindled by 2005, when members disbanded to attend other Christian Science congregations in the city.  The Sixth Church worship facility, believed to be the oldest Christian Science church in Texas built for African Americans is an important architectural historic landmark.

Marker Narrative                                           Marker Program              Program Photographs

Site of Katy’s First Schoolhouse - Marker Dedicated November 10, 2017

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The first public schoolhouse in the new town of Katy was built on this site in 1898 to serve the children of local farmers, ranchers, and railroad workers.  That wooden one-room school building was destroyed in the 1900 hurricane, and rebuilt.  As the town grew, a permanent two-story red brick schoolhouse was constructed in 1909, complete with a bell.  The Katy Independent School District was established in 1918, incorporating several of the one-room schools in the area.  Grades 1 – 10 were taught at the 1909 building, and an 11th grade was added in 1920.  Heat, indoor plumbing and electricity were added in 1927, and an additional elementary school building was added, replacing the original wooden schoolhouse.  A gymnasium was added in 1934, followed by a football field and cafeteria in 1939.  A 12th grade was added in 1940.  The first Katy rodeo was held behind the school on the football field in 1943, and Katy High School FFA members maintained farm animals here.

In 1947, junior and senior high school students moved to a new Katy High School located on Highway 90 at FM 1463, and in 1951 a new elementary school was built on that campus and the 1909 and 1927 buildings were razed.  The 1934 gymnasium remained standing and was used for community events including Halloween carnivals, banquets, local civil defense activities, and roller skating before it was replaced during renovations in 1988.  Part of the 1960 Hollywood film “Tomboy and the Champ” was filmed in the gymnasium.  A new Katy Elementary School was built on this site in 1965, and the bell from the 1909 school house was placed above its entrance.

Marker Narrative                                      Program Photographs