Stephen F. Austin State University

Fond memories of early Longview (January 2018)

Fond memories of early Longview

By Van Craddock

Estelle Wright Honea had arrived in Longview in 1887. A half-century later, the pioneer resident shared her early memories of the town with readers of the Longview Daily News.

The Gregg County village of 1887 was "a sleepy little Southern town of about 2,000 people," she told readers in April 1937. "Then, Longview had no paved streets, just plank sidewalks." There was a recently organized volunteer fire department "composed of the finest young men of the town."

Also new to the railroad town was "one mule car (street car) which ran from Longview Junction to the uptown depot," she recalled. "Hitching racks adorned the uptown streets; and a city well, with pump and watering trough for the horses and mules, graced the public square, which was in front of the old city fire station."

Estelle Wright was nineteen when she arrived in Longview from Virginia. A native of Washington, D.C., her parents were Samuel H. and Ada Byron Wright.

She eventually married Floyd Reed Honea and the couple made their home on South Green Street.

In the Longview of 1887, "there were few really palatial homes, most houses being small frame cottages … There was scarcely such a thing as a rent house in town."

Mrs. Honea noted that in her half-century here, she had seen "three schools built on the school grounds at College and Green streets" as well as a "large frame boarding school put up on the same land years ago by a young visionary as a proper place for a girls' boarding school."

The resulting "rambling" two-story building "was never occupied, and after years of standing deserted was sold for old lumber. It was called, in derision, 'Cole's Folly,' in memory of the man who was the cause of it being built."

The discovery of oil in East Texas in the early 1930s dramatically altered life in Longview.

"Lumber and cotton were the chief products of long ago, now superseded by the gigantic oil fields which have brought our town into the limelight," Mrs. Honea wrote in 1937.

"As I look down the years I see the changing conditions and the coming of a greater and more prosperous era for the well-loved town of my adoption, and am content to look on quietly from the little place I have called home … never fearing that the years to come will bring about the up-building and progression we all so ardently wish for Longview."

Mrs. Honea's husband, Floyd, died on Sept. 4, 1929, at age 50. His obituary noted he had lived in Longview "practically all his life." Mr. Honea was a military veteran, having served as a corporal of Company H, 38th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, during the Spanish-American War.

He also had served in the Longview Rifles, a local militia unit that was part of the Texas Volunteer Guard. During the Spanish-American War, the Guard was nationalized and organized into infantry and cavalry units.

It was no surprise that Estelle had married someone with a military background. After all, her brother-in-law was Richard B. Levy, who had been captain of the Longview Rifles. The Levy family had a long history of serving in the U.S. military. Richard B. Levy Jr. later became a Texas appeals court judge.

Mrs. Honea died Dec. 28, 1946, at age 79. She had lived sixty-one years at her South Green home and her death was front-page news. After all, noted the Daily News, she was an "East Texas pioneer" who had been active in "educational, social, church and civic organizations."

"Always foremost in her life" was Trinity Episcopal Church, where she served in various capacities and sang in the choir for many years.

The paper said: "Mrs. Honea possessed an indelible mind and she was a brilliant scholar and devout church woman. She knew much about the early history of Longview and delighted in relating happenings in the city's early days."