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Texas Historical Association Quarterly

The Old Town of Huntsville

April 1900

Excerpt regarding Huntsville’s origin and Founder’s Park


     “In the year 1836, soon after the battle of San Jacinto, two brothers, Pleasant and Ephraim Gray, came from the State of Alabama to make their home in the new-born republic of Texas. They had previously secured from the Mexican government a head-right league of land a few miles southwest of the Trinity river, in what was then the municipality of Washington. On this tract they pitched their camp, near a bold spring of pure water, a few yards distant from the edge of a small prairie that lay like an oasis in the vast forest around it. Attracted by the beauty of the spot and influenced by the fact that the spring was a favorite rendezvous of the peaceful Indians of the neighborhood, the Grays decided to establish here a trading post and build their home. Two cabins were soon erected from the logs of the forest, and a thriving trade sprang up with the neighboring Bedias and Coshatties and occasional passing immigrants. As white settlers began to occupy the surrounding country, the trading post developed into a store, the commodious log-cabin home into an inn, and when a new-comer, Thomas P. Carson by name, had set up a blacksmith shop, the beginning of the town of Huntsville was made.”


     “With the year 1880, the historic period of Huntsville may be said to have closed. Since that time, modern ways and city airs have gradually taken hold of and revolutionized the old town. A new graded school building, new churches, a new court house, new stores, handsome residences, an ice factory, electric light plant, telephone system, and other evidences of twentieth century civilization are now found where sixty-four years ago the wind sighed through the pine trees that surrounded the trading post of Pleasant Gray.


     Yet with what sadness may we imagine that the water-sprite who presides over the ancient and now deserted spring [Founders Park] which first attracted the founder of Huntsville to the site of the future town, must contemplate the past history of her beloved fountain. [Founders Park]  In the ages agone, when majestic forest trees shielded its limpid waters from the noonday heat, the wild deer loved here to slake his thirst. Upon its surface the night fires of the Indian hunter, year after year, cast their red and flickering gleam. Then one day the crack of a rifle disturbed its peaceful shades, and heralded the coming of the white man. Still the Genius of the spring found solace for the loss of its sylvan stillness in the thought of its increased importance, as tired horses and thirsty oxen thrust their panting jaws into the cool depths of the trough into which its crystal water rippled; hornyhanded [calloused] and brawny-muscled teamsters here bathed their hot and dusty faces; while bare-footed boys and girls carried buckets full of the precious liquid to their near-by homes. But there came a day when all this was changed. Within a few feet of the spring that once had supplied the infant village with water, an artesian well was sunk, which became the source of supply of the city waterworks system. The watering trough at the spring was no longer needed and fell into decay. The spring itself was planked over and hidden from view. The cold glare of a neighboring street electric light now everpowers the soft rays of the moon, as night after night they lovingly search for their friend of by-gone years; and the steady puff of the great engines of the waterworks system drowns the song of the mocking bird and whippoorwill, whose musical notes once mingled in exquisite melody with the ripple of the waters of the fountain. Thus is Beauty ever slain by Utility!”


*Read at the Midwinter Meeting of the Association at Huntsville, January 9, 1900.


The Old Town of Huntsville

Author(s): Harry F. Estill

Source: The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association , Apr., 1900, Vol. 3, No.

4 (Apr., 1900), pp. 265-278

Published by: Texas State Historical Association

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