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Replacement historical marker dedicated at site of county’s first hotel

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Howard Davis unveils the new replacement Texas Historical Marker at the site of the old Andress Inn, Polk County’s first hotel, while Gary Davis and Joyce Johnston watch and applaud. Howard is a descendant of James Andress, owner of the hotel. Gary is a cousin of Howrd’s and a member of the Polk County Historical Commission. Also a member of the Polk County Historical Commission, Joyce serves as the marker chairperson. Photo by Emily Banks WootenHoward Davis unveils the new replacement Texas Historical Marker at the site of the old Andress Inn, Polk County’s first hotel, while Gary Davis and Joyce Johnston watch and applaud. Howard is a descendant of James Andress, owner of the hotel. Gary is a cousin of Howrd’s and a member of the Polk County Historical Commission. Also a member of the Polk County Historical Commission, Joyce serves as the marker chairperson. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Saturday was a special day in the history of Polk County. A replacement Texas Historical Marker was unveiled and dedicated at the site of the old Andress Inn, the county’s first hotel. Located at what is now 101 W. Mill St. and the site of the Polk County Judicial Center, a marker was erected in 1967 and dedicated in 1968. However, when the demolition occurred prior to the construction of the judicial center, the marker was lost. Howard Davis, a descendant of James Andress, took it upon himself, with the assistance of the Polk County Historical Commission, to see that a replacement marker was erected at the site. A large group of people witnessed the dedication of the new marker during a ceremony Saturday.

Gary Davis, a member of the Polk County Historical Commission and a cousin of Howard Davis, spoke on behalf of Howard, who was unable to due to a bout with laryngitis.

“Thank you for attending the Andress Inn historical marker rededication ceremony. I would like to thank the county officials for consenting to the placement of this marker in their flower bed. And a big thanks to Sherry Baker for keeping these beds looking so nice. Also, I’d like to thank my fellow members of the Polk County Historical Commission and our museum curator, Betsy Deiterman. Particularly, I want to thank Mr. J.D. Coogler who provided much of the information about the Andress family. Mr. Coogler was raised only a few blocks from here and as a child, knew every bend in Choates Creek. He has written an account of these and many other places and all of his most interesting days, including his time in World War II flying 35 missions in a bomber over Europe. He is quite a man, a hero and soon to be 100 years old this summer. He is an inspiration to all of us and we really appreciate him on this day.

“I would also like to thank our recently retired marker chairperson, Joanne Westmoreland, who for over 20 years handled this most tedious of tasks, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. After three years of waiting, we finally have the marker. Thank you Joanne. And of course, thanks to our fearless leader, Patricia Snook.

“But most of all, we owe Howard Davis an enormous thanks for his desire to have this marker replaced, after the original, dedicated in 1968, was lost during the demolition and construction of the beautiful new Polk County Judicial Center in 2011. Contrary to popular belief, the historical commission does not purchase these markers. They must be sponsored by an individual or a group. Howard footed the bill for this marker. We would like to encourage folks with historic properties, cemeteries included, to apply for these markers which will provide education for many generations to come. Our current chair, Joyce Johnston, will be more than happy to assist you with this process. Howard, on behalf of our community, we would like to say a huge thank you.

“Howard is an Andress through his paternal grandmother Carrie Andress Davis. He has roots in Polk County from both sides of his family. His grandmother was married to Thomas B. Davis, who was a co-owner of the Davis Brothers store on Washington Avenue with his brother, my great grandfather H.B. Davis, in the early 1900s.”

Gary recognized the Andress and Davis family members in attendance – Carolyn Davis, Beverley Hill Smith, Patsy Davis Freeman and her son, Brian Freeman, and Gary’s mother, Sara Davis Poston.

“So, now about the famous East Texas hostelry, the old Andress Inn. The inn, built by James Andress around 1847, was many things – a community center, a hotel, a tavern, a restaurant, a bank, a post office, a stagecoach station, a judge’s office, a general store and a recreation hall. It even had a 10-pin bowling alley. General Sam Houston visited the Andress Inn and folklore has it that Ol’ Sam once led a cotillion here.

“James Andress was born in South Carolina in 1805 and moved as a child to Monroe County Alabama in 1818. He married Jerusha Haynes in 1829 and in 1840 they migrated to Livingston. There were many families from the south central part of Alabama who migrated to Livingston in the mid-1800s, some of which were the Nettles and the Peebles, as well as the Andress families. The Davis side of the family also moved from Alabama to Texas in 1877, but they moved to Walker County. H.B. and Tom Davis then moved here in 1903.

“But the Andress Inn is a special place for our family as it was documented by H.B. that when he arrived here by train on Feb. 4, 1903, the town, due to the huge downtown fire in 1902, was desolate. There was nothing in the way of transportation so he walked from the depot, at the head of Jackson Avenue, down the railroad tracks with his small family to this place and arranged to have his meals taken here at the Andress Inn. He then arranged for their full time lodging at Mrs. Mattie Scarborough’s home which was where the fire station is now located.

“Howard’s second great grandfather,Evant Francis Andress, was James Andress’ brother and he came to Polk County in the 1860s. Evant’s son, Stephen James Andress, was Howard’s great grandfather. Some of you may remember his great aunts, Fannie and May Andress, who were school teachers in Livingston for many years and lived in the neighborhood over by the old school. May was the longest serving board member of the First State Bank of Livingston until her death in 1966. Another of his aunts, Lydia, was married to Jerome Muller, who was president of the First State Bank of Livingston for many years. Howard’s grandmother, Carrie, returned to Livingston from Huntsville to visit her sisters often enough that both his father and uncle were both born in the Jerome L. Muller home which still stands up on North Street.

“James Andress was extremely instrumental in developing Polk County and Livingston. The first Texas Legislature in 1845 authorized the creation of Polk County and created a Board of Commissioners responsible for choosing the county seat. Livingston was chosen over Swartout and the Board of Commissioners appointed a  ‘jury of view’ to manage the sales of city lots. James was chosen for this responsibility and for surveying the town and naming the streets.

“The City of Livingston was laid out in May 1849, with 45 blocks of one acre each. Andress had the foresight to create 80-foot-wide streets. In 1846 he was commissioned to build the second Polk County Courthouse. When the third courthouse was built in 1854, the old building was moved next to the Andress Inn to serve as a dining hall. In 1856, Andress was appointed postmaster of Livingston and was a state senator in 1863 during the ninth Texas Legislature. He was a justice of the peace in Polk County until his death in 1872 and he held court in this inn.

“He owned many lots in town, as well as hundreds of acres on the Trinity River, in the Jack Camp and Tigerville communities, both now under the lake, where he and his family were farmers. He died in 1872 and is buried in the Old City Cemetery. The Andress Inn continued to be operated by his daughter, Harriet Carolyn Keys, and was renamed the Keys Hotel in later years. She died in 1907 and the hotel was torn down in July 1911 to make way for The Greer Mercantile Company building behind us, which was built in 1912. We are thankful that the county had the foresight to spare this old building and incorporate it into the judicial center. Preserving history is very important. Thanks for your attendance and thanks again Howard for making this day possible.”

Patricia Snook, chairman of the Polk County Historical Commission, welcomed everyone and introduced guests. County Judge Sydney Murphy led the pledge to the American flag and the pledge to the Texas flag. Londa Haynes sang America the Beautiful and Rev. Lynn Sasser gave the invocation. A reception followed at Miss Effie’s Cottage.

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