Stephen F. Austin State University

Texas' Oldest County Celebrates 175th Birthday in Grand Style (July 2012)

Texas' Oldest County Celebrates 175th Birthday in Grand Style
By Lynda Jones
Publicity Coordinator, Houston County 175
Managing Editor, Houston County Courier

Houston County, the oldest county in Texas, celebrated its humble beginnings and its 175th birthday with a series of events from May 30 - June 12.

After about 65 Patriot Guards and a van carrying Houston County's Gold Star Mothers escorted the American Veterans Traveling Tribute (80% size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall) from Grapeland to Crockett on May 30, about 1,000 citizens visited the Wall between May 31 and June 3.

Twice a day, memorial services were held at the Wall and area veterans were recognized.

On Saturday, June 2, the 1st Cavalry Division, Horse Cavalry Detachment from Fort Hood performed a series of drills from the 1874 Drill and Tactics Manual. Hosted by American Legion Post 134, the Horse Soldiers pleased a crowd of about 200 at the Porth Ag Arena in Crockett.

The following Saturday, June 9, was the 76th Annual Fiddlers' Festival hosted by the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce. About 470 attended the steak dinner and Dennis Ivey's Texas Opry at the Crockett Civic Center that night. The steaks were prepared by teams entered in the annual Steak Cook-Off, also hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
Throughout the day, Houston County's 175th birthday was acknowledged. While contestants fiddled inside the Civic Center, vendors were set up outside.

One of the county's favorite events was the Antique Tractor Show and Parade, which included, for the first time, classic cars.

Mission Tejas State Park, on SH 21 between Crockett and Alto, hosted a "Walk in David Crockett's Shoes" four times on Saturday, also. Visitors enjoyed the 75-minute walking tours through the oldest mission in Texas.

Sunday, June 10, was a day of prayer in Houston County's churches, many which began in the 1800s.

The county's founding families were honored during the Founders' Dinner and "Houston County No. One", a dramatic presentation of the county's history, Monday, June 11 at the Crockett Civic Center. The sell-out crowd of 527 enjoyed the entertainment provided by local performers.

The production was written, produced and directed by J. Bryan Lake, executive director of the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association.Complete with David Crockett wearing his coonskin cap and General Sam Houston, the cast illustrated hardships faced by the early settlers, the sadness when some townsmen did not return from the Battle of San Jacinto, and the signing of the petition to create Houston County.

At noon on Tuesday, June 12, a memorial to the late Eliza Bishop, Houston County's foremost historian, was unveiled at the David Crockett-Brewer Springs Park in Crockett. The marker, bearing a silhouette likeness of Miss Eliza as Houston County folks fondly call her, was created by Michael Brenner of Houston County Monument Co. in Crockett.

After the unveiling, the historic Strode-Pritchett Cabin, recently repaired and furnished by Juanita Brenner, was open for tours.

The Big Birthday Bash scheduled for the Crockett Downtown Square on Tuesday night was moved inside to the Crockett Civic Center due to heavy thunderstorms. County Judge Chris von Doenhoff reported he received a call from former President George H. Bush that day, wishing the county a "Happy Birthday". Bush was celebrating his 88th birthday the same day Houston County celebrated its 175th.

Brookshire Bros. and HEB furnished free cupcakes (about 1,000) and ice cream for all who attended, and music was provided by Brad Ward and the Hwy. 69 South Band.

Dorothy Harrison, president of the Houston County Museum, and other volunteers polished and cleaned the museum and kept it open daily from May 30 - June 16. During the birthday celebration, the public became aware the museum lacks a regular source of income, and community members banded together to make enough donations for the utility bills that would be incurred with daily operation this two-week period.

If you haven't been to the museum, put it on your "Must Do" list. It is a stronghold of amazing artifacts of Houston County and East Texas history!

Donations can be sent to Houston County Museum, P. O. Box 1113, Crockett, TX 75835. It is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The Houston County Historical Commission contributed maps for self-guided tours of a few of the county's historic sites, including the Fodice Community, Camp St., Augusta Community and others. The maps are available at the museum and at the HCHC office in the courthouse annex on East Goliad Ave., on the Crockett Square.

The entire celebration was a success, and the county looks forward to an even bigger celebration in 25 years!

Houston County celebrates 175th Birthday!