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A little kid with a big personality’

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DJ Daniel and Randy HargroveHouston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove shakes DJ Daniel’s hand. Photo courtesy of Marsha Cook

Young man is deputized by HCSO

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – “A little kid with a big personality” – that’s how one onlooker described 10-year-old Devarjaye “DJ” Daniel, as the young man was deputized by Houston County Law Enforcement officials.

Daniel, who was diagnosed with terminal brain and spinal cancer, had a dream to be sworn in by a hundred law enforcement agencies as a way to bring awareness to childhood cancer. On Tuesday, February 15, Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove, his officers, and Grapeland Police Chief Thomas Shafer did their part to make DJ’s dream come true. Wearing a smaller version of an HCSD uniform, DJ was honored with badges and certificates from both departments. 

While Daniel understands the severity of his disease, it hasn’t slowed him down. Since meeting his 100-mark goal, Daniel now has his sights set on over 400 more law enforcement agencies outside the state of Texas, hoping to become deputized by them as well. One look at his broad grin and exuberant spirit should convince you that Daniel will achieve that goal, too.

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Mary Allen College - A fading treasure

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MaryAllenCollege

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – It would be difficult not to notice the crumbling brick building atop the hill on Highway 19, north of downtown Crockett. Architects might recognize the structure as a four-story, French Second Empire-style building. Long-time residents see it as a reminder of early efforts to provide a quality academic and religious education for the black community. But for those who don’t know its history, the second installment of our Black History Month tribute tells the story of Mary Allen College.

Mary Allen College opened its doors in Crockett, in 1886, thanks to the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church and the efforts of Reverand Samual Fisher Tenny. Tenney, a former First Lieutenant in the Confederate Army, began preaching in Crockett at the First Presbyterian Church in 1871. 

A year later, dismayed by the lack of education provided to freedmen, Tenney formed the Crockett Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School to help educate black children in the area. But Tenney wanted to expand his educational reach. With money donated by members and solicitations of Tenney, a separate church with an academic wing was built, and the school was renamed Moffatt Academy. The program was slow to develop due to indifference, opposition, and the depressed economic circumstances of the times. So when Reverand Tenny saw an advertisement from a northern Presbyterian Church expressing an interest in opening a school in Texas, he contacted Richard H. Allen, Secretary of the Board of Freedman, and invited him to visit Crockett.

Allen, well received by prominent businessmen in the community, was offered a ten-acre plot of land north of the city. Allen’s wife, Mary Esther, was also an advocate of the endeavor and raised awareness and funds for the project. The Women’s Executive Committee of the Board of Missions for Freedman, created in 1884, was led by Mary Allen. It was her belief that “the most permanent progress of a race depended, to a large degree, upon the elevation of its women.” Construction began on the project in early 1886, but Mary passed away before the school could open. Upon her death, the Board agreed that the official name for the school should be Mary Allen Seminary. 

The Seminary opened on January 15, 1886, and Mary Allen Hall was completed on October 1, 1887. It began as a girls-only day and boarding school offering primary, elementary, high school, and teacher-level training. By the end of its first year, the school had 46 students. That same year, a four-story, brick building was erected to house students and faculty. Enrollment subsequently increased, and with donations of land and money from Crockett citizens and other benefactors, so did the campus. Only two years after opening, the Seminary had enrolled 152 pupils, with 102 of those students as boarders. By 1889, the school had acquired an additional 300 acres of land and completed Grace McMillan Hall. In 1890, the school listed eight teachers, its President, Reverand J.B. Smith, his wife, and 211 students. 

Even though the students were black, the faculty was initially composed of white women. The Seminary’s first three Presidents were also white. It wasn’t until 1924 that the Texas school board appointed the school’s first black administrator, Reverand Burt Randall Smith. At the time, the Seminary had suffered several setbacks. In 1912, its principal dormitory, Grace McMillan Hall, was destroyed by fire. Although a replacement structure was erected shortly after, enrollment declined to thirty-five students. The Seminary’s future looked doubtful. But with Smith’s appointment came a major change to the administration. 

Over the next eight years, Smith overhauled the curriculum, developed an all-black faculty, and expanded the library and science facilities. In 1925-26, the high school was accredited by the State Department of Education. Gradually, the lower grades were eliminated. In 1932, the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools certified the institution, and it was renamed Mary Allen Junior College. Enrollment rose to 134 students. In 1933, the administration, observing a severe shortage of education for black men, began allowing male students to enroll. 

The college thrived until early 1941, when President Smith’s death and the outbreak of World War II caused a significant loss in enrollment. By 1943, the doors to Mary Allen Junior College had closed. Student records were sent to Harbison Institute and later transferred to Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Caroline, a Presbyterian junior college for black women. 

In 1944, the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas bought Mary Allen College, and the school returned to operations under the Baptist Church. The first Baptist President to serve was Dr. G. L. Prince. Prince purchased additional library holdings, hired new faculty, organized academics into eight basic departments, and added extra-curricular activities that included a concert choir, social clubs, sports teams, sororities, and honor societies. Mary Allen College became a four-year liberal arts institution. 

During the 1950s, several new buildings were constructed, including a men’s dormitory and the first black hospital/clinic in Texas. But the College again suffered a devastating blow. In 1953, Dr. Prince resigned from his duties as President, and soon thereafter, the College lost its accreditation. In 1959, Reverand Jodie C. Sanford attempted to regain certification but failed. The school continued to struggle throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. After years of declining enrollment and insufficient funds to maintain the campus buildings, the Missionary General Baptist Convention chose to permanently close the school’s doors at the end of the 1976-77 academic year, thus ending Mary Allen College’s 91-year history. 

In 1978 the Mary Allen Seminary was entered into the National Registry of Landmarks, primarily due to the efforts of local historian Eliza Bishop. A Historical Marker was placed on the grounds of the College, where the administration building of the College remained. In that same year, Mrs. Callie Wynne Bragg stepped onto the scene and began her crusade to save what remained of the campus. 

Callie Wynne Bragg was one of Steve and Hattie Wynne’s ten children. Mrs. Bragg attended Crockett Colored High School and graduated from Mary Allen College in 1943. She once reported that out of the forty-three graduates in her class, ninety percent of the students had attended Mary Allen College, primarily “because it was just right there.”  Mrs. Bragg founded and was the first President of the Mary Allen Museum. Her goal was to preserve the administration building as a multiethnic arts center and museum that would pay tribute to Mary Allen College’s history. 

Although her plan to restore the administration building as a museum has so far gone unrealized, Callie Wynne Bragg’s dream to pay tribute to Mary Allen College remains in the hearts of preservationists and alumni. Currently, headquarters for the Mary Allen Museum of African American Art and History, Inc. are located at 1503 South Fourth Street and houses artifacts that contribute to the legacy and history of Mary Allen College.

On Saturday, February 12, the Mary Allen Museum of African American Art and History will host its Fourth Annual Founder’s Day Celebration. The event will take place at the First Presbyterian Church in Crockett. A free meal will be provided by the Moosehead Café and the Chuck Wagon Restaurant.

Hilliard McKnight is the Event Chair and Community Leader, David Beaulieu is the Master of Ceremonies. The Guest Speaker for the event will be Crockett Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher. The Musical Guest is Jaqueline Calhoun, who appeared on the inspiration singing competition, Sunday Best, and recently released her debut EP, Take Control. Reverend Jim Tom Ainsworth will give a historical perspective on Mary Allen College. 

For more information about the celebration, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Editor’s Note: The Courier would like to thank Dr. Thelma J. Douglass, Mary Allen Museum President, for providing information and photos used in this article. 

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Crockett family welcomes identical triplets

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Natalie

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – Psalms 127:3 says, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” And no family understands this more than Crockett residents, Stephen and Megan Easley.

Almost five years ago, the Easleys were blessed with a son, Matthew, whom they quickly learned had been born with a heart defect that could only be resolved by a transplant. Miraculously, Matthew was able to have the transplant, and with rehab and treatments, he is now a thriving Pre-K student.

On Wednesday, January 26, the Easleys received their second blessing. Or maybe we should say their second, third, and fourth blessing. Megan gave birth to naturally conceived identical triplets, Natalie Grace, Michelle Elizabeth, and Lavinia Maria. Identical triplets are rare. Estimates range from one out of every 76,000 births to as high as one in a million. But no matter what the statistics say, Stephen and Megan agree that the girls are their second miracle.

Despite being a few weeks early, the triplets are very healthy. Natalie was born first and is the smallest, weighing 3.3 oz. Michelle weighed in at 3.8 oz., and Lavina closely followed at 3.9 oz. The triplets are currently in their own NICU suite, which allows Stephen and Megan to stay with them whenever possible. Asked how they tell the girls apart, Stephen said that for now, the NICU has their names posted on each of their beds. When they come home, they will have tiny bracelets engraved with their names to identify them. But according to those who spend the most time with them, the triplets are beginning to develop their own individual personalities.   

The Easleys expect it will be 4-6 weeks before they can bring the triplets home, where they will face the challenge of providing for three infants. One family of triplets estimated that their babies would go through at least 10,000 diapers in a single year, not to mention the number of baby wipes, jars of baby food, and all the other items needed for thriving babies. Although the family is hesitant to ask for help, many people in the community have expressed a desire to assist. The family is registered online a www.babylist.com/easley-triplets, where donors can choose from several baby registries such as Amazon, Target, and Walmart as well as contribute to cash funds or diaper funds. Of course, any form of support is welcomed. For information on how you can help, feel free to contact Stephen Easley at (903) 573-3025. You can also follow Natalie, Michelle, and Lavinia’s progress on Facebook @Easleytriplets.

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Wanted Crockett man captured

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MUGSHOT BeasleyBy Chris Edwards
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FORT WORTH – The Crockett Police Department announced last week that a wanted man was taken into custody in Fort Worth.

Tyrell Deshawn Beasley, a 31-year-old Crockett man, was taken into custody on Tuesday, Jan. 25. He was wanted since late December of last year on several charges by multiple agencies. He was taken into custody by the Fort Worth Police Department with the assistance of U.S. Marshals.

In addition to the numerous felony and misdemeanor warrants had had out for his arrest, Beasley was also charged with multiple felony drug offenses in Tarrant County, according to Crockett Chief of Police Clayton Smith.

The search for Beasley began in Crockett when Crockett police responded to an incident on the morning of Dec. 27. The officers were responding to an assault call, and the victim identified Beasley as the suspect.

Beasley has pending charges for unlawful possession of firearm by felon (a third-degree felony) and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (second-degree felony) as a result of the incident in December.

Beasley was also wanted by other law enforcement agencies in the region for the following charges: Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by Felon; Deadly Conduct- Firing Weapon; Assault Family Member/ Impede Breath/Circulation; Injury to a Child; TDCJ Parole Warrant (Injury to a Child – two counts); Theft of Firearm; Possession of Marijuana and Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon. 

He remains in custody at the Tarrant County Corrections Center on three felony drug charges for manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, with bonds totaling $40,000.

“We appreciate all assisting agencies and the numerous tips provided about his whereabouts,” Smith said.

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Acclaimed artist Duhon to make Camp Street debut

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Duhon Promo BW

By Chris Edwards
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CROCKETT – Camp Street Café is kicking off its February schedule of shows with acclaimed singer/songwriter Andrew Duhon.

Duhon, a New Orleans native, has earned comparisons to such legends as John Prine and Jim Croce for his songwriting ability, while his vocal stylings have been likened to “a youthful Van Morrison,” according to a bio sketch.

Duhon will appear as part of the Andrew Duhon Trio on Friday, Feb. 4 at the legendary venue. The show begins at 8 p.m.

Duhon and his crew begin a short tour this Saturday, which begins in New Orleans and concludes in Mobile, AL., on Sunday, Feb. 6. Along with Camp Street, they are playing a few other legendary listening room-type venues, like the Saxon Pub in Austin and McGonigel’s Mucky Duck in Houston.

Duhon’s new single “Slow Down” is coming out on Friday to all streaming services. He has released four records, including the critically acclaimed The Moorings, from 2014, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.

A recent single “Comin’ Around” earned rave reviews from publications like the country music arm of Rolling Stone, which stated that Duhon’s “soulful croon takes centerstage.”

On his website, Duhon states that during the downtime caused by the pandemic, he has been “reasonably productive” with songwriting, and sharing songs through videos as part of a series he calls “Quarantine Songs.”

According to the Camp Street Café Facebook page, the venue has been trying to book Duhon for quite some time, and they are excited to host him.

Tickets to Duhon’s show are $27.50.

Other shows on the Camp Street agenda for February include regional favorite Country Willie Edwards, who will play on Saturday, Feb. 12 and Arkansas bluesman Chris Cameron, on Saturday, Feb. 26.

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