EastTexasNewsWebsite BannerAd

Log in

ETNbanner 01

  • Coldspring students excel at Black History Month projects

    003 COHS law enforcement studentsPHOTO BY CASSIE GREGORY Capt. Kim Webb's law enforcement students in front of their Black History Month project displays. Shown are (back row, from left) Adrienne Steede, I'Kra Bryd, Kynadee Benestante, Stephen Torres, Stormie Payne and Brandon Harris; and (front row, from left) Luckie Poppenhusen, Natalynn Ramirez and Webb.

    Special to the News-Times

    COLDSPRING — February's Black History Month offers the Coldspring-Shepherd CISD a special opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to the nation and the world.

    LJH students created bulletin boards featuring profiles of prominent African Americans throughout history in many different fields, including education and invention.

    Students in B.K. Harrison's education classes conducted research and created two displays; the Child Guidance students, including Ann Bennett, Abigail Casy, Triniti William and Ashlee Trujillo, created an African American Educators bulletin board; and the Education and Training Practicum students, including Paige Barton, Kandis Martinez, Lila Stevens and Brianna Warren, created an African American Inventors board.

    Students studying law enforcement under COCISD Police Capt. Kim Webb did a display on law enforcement professionals.

    "To celebrate Black History Month the students wanted to go back in time and research some pioneering and inspirational events of African American officers,” Webb said. “Our class found several who have held key criminal justice positions and influenced progressive law enforcement activities.”

    Student Stormie Payne said she enjoyed learning about Georgia Ann Robinson, the first Black female police officer to work for the Los Angeles Police Department, and may have been the first Black female LEO in the country.

    Robinson started out as a volunteer before becoming a full-fledged officer when she was hired as a jail matron in 1919. She also worked as an investigator in juvenile and homicide cases and set up a much-needed women’s shelter in the city during her time as a cop, Payne said.

    “These are individuals who paved the way during a difficult era for law enforcement and Black Americans,” Payne said. “These stories of unwavering dedication to policing serve as strong examples all LEOs can aspire to. (Robinson) had an obvious passion to help her fellow citizens.”

    Black History Month began as the brainchild of Dr. Carter G. Woodson after he participated in the national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves. While there, he witnessed thousands of African Americans gathered to view exhibits showcasing the accomplishments and progress their people had made since the abolishment of slavery.

    Woodson had the idea to create an organization specifically for the scientific study of Black life and history. He and four others formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or the ASALH) on Sept. 9, 1915. Eleven years later, Woodson announced "Negro History Week" in February of 1926.

    Eager for the movement to gain ground, Woodson chose the month of February for Negro History Week because it coincided with celebrations already held in many African American communities to celebrate the births of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. His aim wasn't just to include it in the traditional celebrations, but to encourage these communities to use the opportunity to extend their study of Black history in general.

    His goal was to change the focus of the celebrations from only two men to the greater view of the multitudes of African American men and women who had impacted history and humanity. His ultimate intention was for the study and celebration of Black history to continue not just for a week, but throughout the year.

    Beginning in the 1940s, African Americans in West Virginia began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. By the late 1960s, African American college students led the charge to replace the name "Negro History" with "Black History" and to extend it to a month-long event.

    In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued the first Black History Month proclamation. Since then, the celebration has grown to include similar observances in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands, though not always in February.

    The study of Black History should not be relegated to one specific month, but should be studied year-round. It helps to teach people about the African American experience beyond stereotypes. Learning more about Black History and the unique struggles faced and overcome by African Americans, both in the past and in the present, is the bridge to understanding. Understanding is the bridge to a better future.

  • Former SHSU player relishes alma mater’s national title

    IMG 0881EMILY BANKS WOOTEN | PCE Nancy and Joe Hollis, proud alumni of Sam Houston State University, show off an SH metal sign, a gift from a granddaughter, that hangs on one of the covered porches of their log home.

    By Emily Banks Wooten

    When the Sam Houston State University football team clinched the NCAA FCS National Championship with its 23-21 victory over South Dakota State University May 16 in Frisco, fond memories came flooding back for local residents Joe and Nancy Hollis.

    Joe played football for SHSU when the Bearkats squared off against Middle Tennessee State University in the Dec. 1, 1956 Jaycee Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Ind. in which the Bearkats won 27-13. In those days, the Refrigerator Bowl was the equivalent of the National Championship, Joe said.

    “After that, we played in the Christmas Bowl in Natchitoches, La. in 1958 but we lost,” he said.

    “Joe’s 1956 team and this year’s team were the only football teams at Sam Houston that were undefeated,” Nancy said. “Other teams won championships but those two were the only undefeated teams.”

    “The ’56 group was a very unique group,” Joe said. “We were a close group of guys and after graduation we kept in touch and also kept in touch with the coaches even though there were some we didn’t think we liked at the time they were coaching us, but they were our friends after we graduated. It was a very enjoyable experience.”

    “It was more like a family, not a football team,” Nancy said.

    “Back then, you played both ways. You played offense and defense,” Joe said. “If you started a quarter you could come out one time and go back in, but if you came out after the quarter began, you could not go back in during that quarter.

    IMG 0878EMILY BANKS WOOTEN | PCE This treasured keepsake belonging to Joe and Nancy Hollis is the football program from the Dec. 1, 1956 Jaycee Refrigerator Bowl in which Sam Houston State University played Middle Tennessee State University in the Reitz Bowl in Evansville, Ind. Joe, a sophomore at the time, played guard for SHSU in this game in which the Bearkats won 27-13.

    “So consequently, you had to have two complete teams. The best team would play the first half, then the second unit would go in,” he said. “At that time we were fortunate enough that our starting unit was big, but maybe a little bit slower, then they’d send in the second unit. Consequently, the second unit scored more than the first unit that year.”

    Joe and Nancy met at SHSU and married in 1958.

    “The first year we were married we lived in the gym in a one-room efficiency apartment with a tiny little refrigerator and a couch that made out into a bed. They furnished light bulbs and toilet paper and gave you $28 a month,” Nancy said, as they both laughed at the thought.

    She began teaching at Aldine and left Huntsville every morning at 5 a.m. with her five-person carpool crew. Nancy said the reason she took the Aldine job was because it paid $3,604 a year and Huntsville and other schools around there only paid $3,204 a year.

    “I graduated in three years but it took him five,” Nancy said, in some good-natured ribbing. “But I learned so much more,” Joe said, giving it right back.

    A 1954 graduate of Groveton High School, Joe played football at SHSU for five years, having red-shirted his first year.

    “He already had half a master’s degree when he graduated with his bachelor’s in ‘59,” Nancy said. Having played fullback in high school, Joe said in the middle of his first year at Sam they decided he needed to be a guard, hence the fifth-year eligibility.

    Holding a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education with a minor in P.E., Joe taught horticulture for a number of years at both LaPorte High School and J. Frank Dobie High School. He coached football for 15 years, starting at Pasadena Junior High School and finishing up at Pasadena High School.

    The Hollises moved to Livingston in 1996. Their three sons – Keith, Mark and Glenn – all graduated from SHSU. They also have seven grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

    Joe spoke fondly about one of his teammates who was also his roommate. Known to all of his buddies as “D’Boy,” his actual name is Franklin Williams. “He’s been the one that’s kept everybody together. He calls each of us almost every week. He keeps up with who passes and when somebody passes he sends an arrangement and on the card always puts, ‘From the team.’ He’s just been really a Godsend to the group.”

    IMG 0879EMILY BANKS WOOTEN | PCE This is the 1956 SHSU Bearkat Football Squad. Joe Hollis, No. 64, is the third person from the left on the second row from the bottom.

    Joe said the group used to meet yearly at Crystal Beach where one of the guys had a house. “Some would come in on Thursday and some on Friday. We’d have a big fish fry and shrimp on Saturday. We’d tell all the old lies.”

    Unfortunately, the beach house was lost in one of the hurricanes and never rebuilt. Failing health has kept the group from meeting in recent years and sadly, the group is dwindling. “Three or four have passed this year,” Joe said.

  • Polk County celebrates 175 years

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE A pair of photo exhibits commemorating Polk County’s 175th birthday will be on display at the Polk County Historical Museum until April 10. Polk County celebrated its 175th year on Tuesday.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County turned a year older on Tuesday.

    The county celebrated its 175th year of existence, and the Polk County Historical Museum hosted a celebration Tuesday. The birthday celebration took six weeks to plan, according to museum curator Betsy Deiterman.

    “We had to be sure of the date, research the founding of the county and how the division was made, the legislature, then go through the archives and pick interesting pictures,” she said. “This was a come-and-go acknowledgement of the birthday for Polk County. We gave away a limited supply of gift bags. Patrons saw lots of photographs from many decades. The oldest photographs are framed and the oldest was in the 1880s.”

    A pair of photo exhibits are on display at the museum until April 10. These displays are in commemoration with the county’s 175th birthday.

    “I pulled 75 pictures that people normally don’t get to see,” Deiterman said. “I think we need to acknowledge that Polk County has been here 175 years and it’s a notable number.”

    Some of the photos on display are in need of identification, according to Deiterman.

    “Many of our pictures don’t have identification or dates,” she said. “We’re asking people that if they recognize anyone in the pictures to please let us know. We have a form for people to fill out if they recognize people or dates.”

    A decade and exactly four weeks after Texas became a state – March 2, 1836 – Polk County was formed on March 30, 1846. The county was formed out of neighboring Liberty County.

    The county was named after then-President James Polk. The 11th President of the United States was an advocate for Texas statehood.

  • Polk County hero receives historical marker (VIDEO)

    20210417 110050BRIAN BESCH | PCE The Polk County Historical Commission held a Texas Historical Marker dedication for Lt. Col. James M. Parker. The Polk Countian was part of the Doolittle Raid, the United States’ first attack on the Japanese mainland in World War II. The dedication was Saturday morning at Restland Memorial Cemetery off Highway 59. Saturday coincided with the 79th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. The Polk County Museum, located at 514 Mill Street in Livingston, has an exhibit honoring Parker that will continue until May 22.

    Historical marker video

  • Remnants of Rockland (GALLERY)

    Remnants of Rockland 10CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Rockland, Texas Abandoned Railroad Trestle, completed in 1899.

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    Sawmill towns drove the economy of Southeast Texas in the 1800s. From topographical to abstracts, many of these forgotten towns can be referenced in early 20th century maps. One of the most notable towns that was forgotten and left to fall into ruin was the Aldridge Mill in Jasper County, just north of the Neches River and East of Zavalla. This is one of the only mill structures left standing in the area and for an unusual reason. Owner of Aldridge Mill, Hal Aldridge, had a fire occur on his mill in 1911 when it was fashioned out of wood. To avoid insurance rates increasing, he made the structures more fire retardant. He constructed the buildings out of concrete in 1912. With the buildings being made in this fashion, the structures are still standing to this day, and is a spectacular sight to see in the Angelina National Forest. Aldridge did not only operate just this larger mill. He actually started on a smaller scale in Rockland on the south side of the Neches nestled at the northern end of Tyler County.

    Remnants of Rockland 2 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Aldridge Saw Mill in Jasper County, Texas.

    Rockland is known for its stone, and various quarries that helped make the Galveston Sea Wall. Unknown to many, it also was full of longleaf yellow pines at one point and a mill was situated West, right next to the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. Many mills, such as the Rockland Mill, were placed near railroads for quick transportation to other towns, rather than letting the logs float down a river, which was not only time consuming, but problematic. Trams were built to bring logs back to mill ponds, which preserved them while they awaited to be sawn.

    Cary Ard with shovelCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS Cary Ard and his shovel in the rock pits near Rockland.

    Education coordinator for the Texas Forestry Museum, Kaitlin Wieseman clarifies, “they would build little short lines out into the forest so then they could cut the trees and have the train bring them back to their sawmill. So, basing their sawmill next to actual prominent rail lines that were main lines, like the Houston East and West, was probably a better idea to do than building out in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. They did have capabilities to build a line but usually they would have teams of men that would build that short line out just into the forest, not necessarily out to their own sawmill, but they could have if they needed to.”

    Remnants of Rockland 28CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB One of the only remaining track railings along the track bed.

    The Rockland Mill, also known as the Rockland Plant, was first owned by one of Rockland’s postmasters, John Delaney and others. Delaney, interestingly enough, worked with Aldridge at the post office. In 1890, Aldridge bought the mill and vast amounts of land tracts in the area. He operated the mill until 1898, when he sold the business to William Cameron & Co., one of the first forestry millionaires. It was burned down November 4, 1898, only a few short months after Cameron bought the sawmill.

    Remnants of Rockland 18CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Remains of the Rockland Sawmill. Steam wheel foundation, located West of most residents in Rockland and East of Highway 69.

    “If you can just imagine, we’re working with steam, which you have to have fire to be able to produce steam, to heat up the water, but also your working with wood around everywhere. So, some sawmill towns would build their sawmill only of wood. They wouldn’t build them, usually, out of stone just because that costs more,” said Wieseman, “most of the smaller ones, if it burned down, and they didn’t have enough money or area to cut down trees, then rebuilding wasn’t really in their thoughts of doing that because it would cost too much.”

    Woods Crew Near TrainCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS A woods crew, possibly connected to the Aldridge Sawmill, stops for a photo.

    The plant was rebuilt with newer equipment and a water tower that measured 125 feet above the ground and able to hold thousands of gallons to transport water throughout the mill. Cameron operated the mill producing roughly 3,000,000 linear feet of lumber per year, until he sold it to John Henry Kirby in 1905.

    Remnants of Rockland 20CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Foundations at the Rockland Mill.

    One of the interesting details learned about mill towns of that time is that they had a form of currency for each company. In this particular mill, it could have had at least three different forms of coin being used for trade at the company general store and commissary. Aldridge, Cameron, and Kirby used these coins for the workers to make various purchases from the mill’s stores.

    Remnants of Rockland 1 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Bricks found adjacent to the Rockland mill pond and saw mill.

    One of the reasons Rockland became so popular, was not just the sawmill, but the fact that the railroad did not cross the Neches. It stopped in Rockland. That is, until 1899 when the rail road trestle was completed. Similar to the remains of the Rockland Plant, the bridge over the Neches still remains intact and unharmed by human vandalism, more than likely due to the inconvenience of getting to it. It is still a spectacular view if you can get to the bank near it. The engineering and man power that went into building it is perplexing.

    Rockland rail yard locomotive facing BeaumontCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS A locomotive heads toward Beaumont, passing through the Rockland railyard.

    Remnants of Rockland 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Rail Road on the Jasper County side of the Neches leading to the Rockland Trestle.

    The main way to cross the river without taking the train was Dunkin’s ferry, which has been speculated that country singer, George Jones, once helped operate. Mac Dunkin’s well, barn and chimney are all that remain of the crossing. The old Lufkin – Beaumont Highway led to the ferry situated just Northwest of the mill. It operated until the 1930s when the US Highway 69 bridge joining Jasper and Tyler counties was completed. This left the town of Rockland off to the wayside and the mill eventually shut down. It wasn’t until rock quarries began to produce in higher volumes, that the town was revived for a period.

    Ferry Boat Neches RiverCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS A group of well-dressed travelers cross the Neches River using a ferry near Rockland.

    Remnants of Rockland 6CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Mac Dunkin's well, located Northeast of the Rockland Mill site.

    The Rockland Mill site is on private property and unfortunately there is no public access to it. Because of this factor, it has remained in a healthier condition than the other structures such as the Aldridge mill, which has been defaced with spray paint graffiti for years. After being granted permission to locate different parts of the mill, many older bottles were discovered near where the general store or commissary would have been placed. What would have been trash, paints a picture of what life could have looked like back then. The concrete structure that held the steam engine still stands erect, but the steam engine itself is no longer on the site. Various concrete foundations lay in the dense underbrush. There are numerous possibilities of what they could have been used for, but it is safe to assume the boilers would have been located nearby and there is a good chance they would have been placed on foundations, such as the ones found. Trams that ran from the railroad are still built up around the mill pond. The pond is still holding water, but many trees have grown in it and around it, so it is not easily accessible nor noticeable.

     Remnants of Rockland 24CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB The Rockland Mill pond's levee broke at some point, but still holds water and has traces of the tram surrounding it.

    According to Texas State Historical Association, Rockland has had a population of about 100 people since 1990. From 1900 to 1940 the population was roughly 300 and thought to have close to 500. The town included 150 to 200 dwellings for sawmill workers, a school and church building, three doctors' offices, two drugstores, a livery stable, a dance hall, and a railroad station. Now, only residential structures, rock quarries, and lumber tracts remain. Although, not much resides in the once bustling town, the remnants of Rockland are still there, underneath the earth being preserved in its once trampled grounds.

    Aldridge Home in RocklandCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS The Aldridge family home in Rockland. Hal Aldridge built this house at the time of his marriage. The home was later turned into a hotel. The home was still standing in 2020.

  • The Tolar Cabin: the other half of the story

    4EDDIE BOX The Tolar Cabin Kitchen on display at the Heritage Village Museum in Woodville.

    By Col Eddie Boxx

    The Tolar Cabin “dog trot” kitchen remains one of the more popular venues at the Heritage Village museum. Built in 1866 and originally located with the “main house” of the Tolar Cabin near Hillister, it was moved to the museum in 1965.

    The “squared-and-notch” log structure with its “mudcat” chimney represents an affluence not usually found in frontier buildings. However, after viewing, many inquisitive visitors (out of town and local) will ask the understandable follow-up question: “Where is the main cabin?”

    Thanks to the preservation efforts of Ray Hensarling and his family – we can tell you the Paul Harvey-like “rest of the story.”

    Originally constructed by Robert Jackson Tolar for his bride Mary Versailles “Versie” Durham, the cabin and kitchen were adjacent to each other but not connected (see painting). Understandably, the threat from wood-fueled kitchen fires along with the desire to keep the heat away from the rest of the house (especially in summer) made sense. Today, the main cabin remains in the same location – a few miles west of Hillister and situated on a ridge.

    Although ownership has changed over the last two centuries, Al Pritchard ultimately saved the building in 1975. Twenty years later, Ray Hensarling (current owner and steward) and Pat Foster fully restored the cabin in 1995. Nowadays, the building is meticulously maintained and decorated and serves as a unique architectural heritage to a bygone era. Additionally, the cabin (and kitchen) represents a connection to two important Tyler county families – the Tolars and Shivers.

    Robert Jackson Tolar was a nephew to Nancy (Tolar) Shivers (1813-1890), a fearless widow who moved her family via wagon to Texas in 1858 and settled 600 acres west of Woodville. According to the 1850 census, the westward move to Texas was a joint family undertaking as the Tolars lived next door to the Shivers in Simpson County, Mississippi. Located today near the Tyler County airport, the Magnolia Hills estate remains in the Shivers family. Nancy ultimately became the great-grandmother to one of the most influential politicians in Texas history – Gov. Allan Shivers. The quintessential log cabin remains identifiable to American, Texas and Tyler County history.

    When Woodville’s own Gov. Allan Shivers (the ever-astute politician) was running for office (and his family’s Magnolia Hills cabin had long ago cease to exist) jokingly quipped, “I wasn’t born in a log cabin, so I built one.”

    To learn more about the Tolar Cabin or to see for yourself a wonderfully preserved 1866 pioneer kitchen, please visit the Heritage Village Museum or call (409) 283-2272 / (800) 323-0389 or visit our website at: https://www.heritage-village.org.

    Col. Eddie Boxx (Ret., USAF) teaches at Baylor University and writes for the Heritage Village Museum – an organization dedicated to the education and preservation of Tyler County history.

  • Trinity Historical society dedicates markers to Rep. Charlie Wilson and 'Wobbly Bobbly'

    111220 plaque 2TONY FARKAS | TCNS Sharon Wilson Allison, sister to Charlie Wilson, reads the text of a Texas Historical Marker that was dedicated to the U.S. Representative on Saturday November 7, 2020 in Trinity, Texas.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — Millions of Google returns on a search, as well as a movie, might give some folks a passing familiarity for Rep. Charlie Wilson, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years.

    For the residents of Trinity, though, Little Charles, as he was known, was the definition of the hometown boy who done good. Because of that, on Saturday an official Texas Historical Marker was dedicated at his boyhood home.

    The Trinity Historical Society also dedicated a marker to the “Wobbly Bobbly,” the Waco, Beaumont, Trinity and Sabine Railroad on Saturday.

    Wilson was born in Trinity on June 1, 1933, and served in both the Texas Legislature and the U.S. House, representing the districts around his home town. He died Feb. 10, 2010, in Lufkin, Texas.

    Susan Madeley of the Trinity County Historical Commission said that there were many accomplishments made by the congressman, particularly with funding for Afghan rebels during that country’s war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the subject of the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

    Wilson also was a champion in business and environmental arenas as well, and was known as a consummate dealmaker.

    Sharon Wilson Allison, Charlie’s sister, said she cherished the memories of her time in Trinity and her brother.

    “(My family) would be so honored that you were here,” she said. “Thank you for doing this.”

    Earlier on Saturday, on the southwest corner of Main and Maple streets, the commission dedicated and unveiled a marker commemorating the Waco, Beaumont, Trinity and Sabine Railroad, which was known affectionately by the people of the time as the Wobbly Bobbly Turnover and Stop.

    111220 plaque 1 TONY FARKAS | TCNS Historians Jason Rose (left) and Everett Lueck unveil a Texas Historical Marker that was dedicated to the WBT&S Railroad on Saturday in Trinity, near the site of the now-defunct railroad’s home offices.

    The railroad was chartered in September 1881, and was used primarily as a logging tram, as the area to this day is a large producer of timber. Over the 115.2 miles of track, passengers, mail, pulpwood, tomatoes, vehicles and oil, among other freight, was transported, according to the marker request application compiled by Jason Rose and Madeley.

    It stopped operation in 1959, and the remaining engine was restored and is on display at the Galveston Railroad Museum.