Old Three Hundred
Humphrey Jackson, Harris County pioneer, was a member of Stephen F. Austin‘s Old Three Hundred colonists. Unable to run his plantation in Louisiana because he chose not to own slaves, Jackson traveled to Texas in September 1823 and built a log cabin outside Austin‘s colony on the San Jacinto River, a half mile west of the site of present Crosby, immediately north of the settlement of Reuben White (another member of Austin‘s Old Three Hundred colonists). When it was discovered that Jackson had settled outside the colony, he petitioned the Baron de Bastrop, who on August 16, 1824, granted him title to a league and a labor of land, including the place where he had settled, in what is now Harris County.To become a legal colonist, Jackson next petitioned the Mexican government to form the San Jacinto District under control of the Austin colony; he was elected alcalde of the new district in 1824, 1825, and 1827, and served as ex officio militia captain of the San Jacinto area. Jackson was killed by a falling tree on January 18, 1833, and was buried near his homestead, what is now Hollingsworth Cemetery.
Abram M. Gentry
In 1845 Abram M. Gentry (A. M. Gentry) & Company ran a package express for Houston, Galveston, the United States and abroad via stagecoach lines and steamers. Regular agents, attended to the personal delivery of all valuable letters and packages.., forwarded by their house in New Orleans via fast running steamers to Galveston and Houston and all the intermediate landings. Once at Houston the mail was connected to stage coach lines which ran to the city of Austin via Washington, Brenham, Independence, Rutersville, LaGrange and Bastrop- to Huntsville via Montgomery; also to Columbus, Richmond and San Felipe. Outgoing mail was forwarded from New Orleans to agents in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington city; Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville- Madison, Ia; Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.; Natchez and Vicksburg, Miss.; Galena and Quincy, Ill.; Boonville and St. Louis, Mo; Charleston, SC; Savannah, Ga.; Richmond, VA; Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Mobile, Ala. and Great Britain or the Continent.
A. M. Gentry’s business interest in mail delivery led in 1856 to his plans to begin building the Sabine and Galveston Bay Railroad and Lumber Company to be Called “Texas and New Orleans Railroad, Texas Division” within the state of Texas. By August, 1860, A. M. Gentry, President of the Railroad, had completed 41 miles from Houston to Liberty, and by the first of the following year the road to Orange was built. From Houston plans were announced to extend the Opelousas and Houston Railroad to through Gonzales to San Antonio. The “Texas State Gazette” announced June, 30th, 1860 that “Gentry is the name of a new town established on the railroad at the crossing of the San Jacinto river. H. G. Runnels is running a steamer to the town. The railroad is in good running order between Beaumont and Liberty”.A. M. Gentry bought the charter for the Gas Company in Houston in 1860. As a citizen of Harris County he represented that district in the State Senate for several years and ran for Lt. Governor in 1863.List of Texas and New-Orleans Railroad Stations provided in the Texas Almanac:
|1867||Houston to Gentry, 20 miles; Houston to West-Liberty, 35 miles; Houston to Liberty, 41 miles; Houston to Dever’s Woods, 54 miles; Houston ton Congreve Station, 62 miles; Houston to Pine Island, 71 miles; Houston to Beaumont, 84 miles; Houston to Orange, 108 miles.|||
|1869||From Houston to Orange, on the Sabine River; distance, 108 miles. Stations: Greens Bayou, 9 miles; San Jacinto, 16; Gentry, 19; Cedar Bayou, 26; West-Liberty, 37; Liberty, 41; Deker’s Woods, 51; Congreve, 63; Pine Island, 74; Beaumont, 85; Stevenson’s, 92; Cow Bayou, 100; Orange, 108.|||
|1871||Principal Stations – Gentry, West-Liberty, Liberty, Sour Lake, Beaumont, and Orange. Officer: J.F. Crosby, Receiver.|||
By 1869 the Texas and New Orleans Railroad was bankrupt ultimately ending A. M. Gentry’s efforts to forge a quick mail and transportation network for Texas.
In 1896, Czechs became the second largest ethnic group to colonize Crosby. The Czech farmers came from Fayette County, finding the fertile lands of the Crosby quadrangle.
Late 19th-Early 20th Century
The railroad was eventually taken over by the Southern Pacific and rebuilt. The platform which had been built with a sign showing the name “Gentry” was located and a depot built. The name of the settlement was later changed from Gentry to Crosby after an official that worked for the railroad, Josiah Frazier Crosby. Rail transportation continued to be a key factor in the growth and development of Crosby, even contributing to the name that is still used today.
Josiah Frazier Crosby was a judge, legislator, and secessionist leader, born on January 3, 1829, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the son of William (a merchant) and Mary Ann (Frazier) Crosby. The family moved to Alabama a few years after Josiah’s birth, and after the death of his father in 1837, he was adopted by his uncle Josiah J. Crosby, a lawyer, who brought him to Texas. Crosby was educated by private tutors, including Joel Ankrim, and in 1844 began reading law with another uncle, William Crosby, and James Willie, the former attorney general of Texas, in Brenham. On January 10, 1848, an act of the legislature admitted Crosby to the state bar despite his minority, and he was appointed district attorney of the Third Judicial District. His former tutor, Ankrim, who had become district judge in El Paso County, convinced Crosby to move west to recover his health, and in the spring of 1852, Crosby, Ankrim, and several others bought an ambulance and mule team in San Antonio and attached themselves to one of William T. Smith’s wagon trains for the two-month journey to San Elizario.
In July 1852 he was appointed, along with James Wiley Magoffin and Hugh Stephenson, to a committee investigating Indian attacks. In 1853 Crosby was appointed to the Texas House of Representatives, where he advocated the passage of laws designed to curb Indian depredations. He also sponsored railroad legislation and campaigned for a rail link between Central Texas and the El Paso area. In 1854 he was elected district attorney of the Eleventh Judicial District, but shortly thereafter was elected to the legislature and resigned the office of district attorney. Crosby was reelected to the legislature in 1856, but that same year his friend and mentor Ankrim resigned and left El Paso County. A year later Crosby was elected district judge to replace him. In the late 1850s he became a forceful advocate of secession. He was a delegate from Texas to the Charleston convention that met on April 23, 1860, to select the Democratic presidential candidate, and on July 28, 1860, he denounced the Northern Democrats at a mass meeting in San Antonio. At the time Crosby was suffering from lung disease, so he returned to El Paso to recover and resumed the district judgeship. He ruled that a Fort Bliss deserter had been within his rights in leaving the army, since the United States was no longer recognized as a legitimate government. Shortly thereafter, when the Civil War broke out, Crosby left to join the Confederate Army.
Crosby was acting quartermaster general on Henry H. Sibley’s feckless invasion of New Mexico and later adjutant general on the staff of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. On Smith’s orders he spent nine months in Europe buying arms and munitions. He returned to Texas in early 1865 and spent the remaining months of the war serving under Governor Pendleton Murrah. In December 1865 a Union judge in New Mexico began ordering the seizure of property belonging to Confederate sympathizers, including Crosby. He argued successfully before the New Mexico Supreme Court that the jurisdiction of the New Mexico courts did not extend to El Paso, and on March 28, 1868, in United States vs. Hart, the United States Supreme Court upheld the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling. A companion case, United States vs. Josiah F. Crosby, Henry S. Gillett, and James S. Gillett, confirmed the decision. In October 1865, the war over, Crosby settled in Houston, where he practiced law and became vice president and general manager of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad and president of the Street Railroad Company of Houston.
At the turn of the 20th century, Crosby began to claim substantial growth, and by 1905 the school reported four teachers and 122 students. By 1913, the Crosby community had once again expanded and now included a small community of Czech immigrants. Due in part to the success of the railroad, Crosby had an established bank, Crosby State Bank, as well as multiple cotton gins and a general store, amongst other businesses.For a brief 19 days in 1953 (from December 19th to December 31st), the town of Crosby briefly changed the name to Hope, Texas in order to partake in a contest conducted by comedian Bob Hope. From a news transcript from WBAP-TV in Fort Worth, Texas:
Hope recently announced that he would like to have a pretty girl from every city in the nation named Hope to appear on his television show next Tuesday. Maine, Rhode Island, Michigan, Kansas and Indiana are sending representatives, so the folks in Crosby decided they’de [sic] get into the act. The result: they changed the town’s name to Hope and set about naming a queen. The town will keep its new name until New Years Day, then it will become Crosby, Texas, again.
|1823||Humphrey Jackson built a log cabin outside Austin‘s colony on the San Jacinto River, a half mile west of the site of present Crosby.|
|1845-1860||A railroad was laid through the settlement that is now present day Crosby, and a platform was erected with a sign that read “GENTRY” (after Abram M. Gentry). The settlement around the platform quickly took on the name.|
|1865-1870||Charlie Karcher opened the first store, and the town quickly became a retail and shipping center for lumber and agricultural products between the San Jacinto River and Cedar Bayou. The settlement known as Gentry was renamed Crosby, after a local railroad official and engineer, G.J. Crosby.|
|1875||The first railroad depot agent took office.|
|1877||The Crosby post office opened.|
|1884||Crosby reported a population of fifty, a school, a Baptist church and a general store.|
|1889||After the emancipation of the slaves in 1865, Harrison Barrett purchased land east of the San Jacinto River in Harris County, Texas, for fifty cents an acre, and named the area Barrett Settlement. It was one of the largest holdings in Harris County to be acquired by a former slave.|
|1891||Crosby reported a population of fifty, a school, a Baptist church and a general store, as well as a Methodist church, and two livestock stables.|
|1898||According to local legend, Crosby had received the nickname Lick Skillet.|
|1905||The Crosby school reported four teachers and 122 students.|
|1912||Crosby had an established Czech community when I. P. Krenek moved there from Fayette County and found Josef Volcik, F.J. Moravek, Josef Sirocka, Karel Machala, Josef Franta, Jan Kristlnik, a certain Stasny, and a man named Clawson who spoke Czech and apparently considered himself Czech.|
|1914||Czech’s in the Catholic parish number 15 or 16. Rev. Barton organizes Brethren church.|
|1925||Crosby reported a population of 300 people.|
|1929||Crosby became a banking center and reported a population of 600 people.|
|1931-1932||During the Great Depression, Crosby’s population dropped to 300.|
|1939-1945||During World War II, Crosby’s population grew to 750 and then rose to 900.|
|1976||Crosby reported fifty businesses and a population of 2,500.|
|1990’s||Crosby reported 238 businesses and a population estimated at 1,888, though considerably more people lived in the area at that time.|
|2000||Crosby reported a population of 1,714 with 455 businesses.|
In an excerpt from A History of the Czech-Moravian Catholic Communities of Texas, V.A. Svrcek wronte: “Crosby, Texas Some 24 miles east of the city of Houston, in Harris County, is the small but prosperous town of Crosby, with some 20 Czech families. The Czech people began to move here around 1910. In 1912, I. P. Krenek moved here, and there were already the families of Joseph Volcik, F. J. Moravek, Joseph Sirocka, Karel Machala, Joseph Franta, John Kristinik, Stasny and Clawson.“The following families (and individuals) have been identified based on 1910 Census data. Census images indicate that there were no specific roads named, and otherwise called the Bohemian Settlement.
Texas State Historical Markers
The Texas State Historical Marker for Humphrey Jackson is located on Business US Highway (BU) 90U, near the intersection of Farm to Market Road 2100 (FM 2100) and U.S. Route 90.
(NOVEMBER 24, 1784 – JANUARY 18, 1833)
EDUCATED IN LAW, HUMPHREY JACKSON LEFT HIS NATIVE IRELAND IN 1808, DURING A PERIOD OF POLITICAL CONFLICT. HE MIGRATED TO THE UNITED STATES AND SETTLED ON A SUGAR PLANTATION IN LOUISIANA. WHILE THERE HE SERVED IN THE 1815 BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS. UNABLE TO MANAGE HIS PLANTATION WITHOUT THE USE OF SLAVERY, WHICH HE OPPOSED, JACKSON SOLD HIS LAND AND CAME TO TEXAS IN 1823 TO JOIN STEPHEN F. AUSTIN’S COLONY. NOT REALIZING HE WAS LOCATING OUTSIDE THE COLONY’S BOUNDARIES, HE SETTLED ON LAND AT THIS SITE. WHEN THE ERROR WAS DISCOVERED, HE JOINED OTHER AREA SETTLERS IN SUCCESSFULLY PETITIONING THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT TO FORM THE SAN JACINTO DISTRICT UNDER CONTROL OF THE AUSTIN COLONY. JACKSON WAS ELECTED TO SERVE AS ALCALDE OF THE NEW DISTRICT. ONE OF THE PIONEER SETTLERS IN PRESENT HARRIS COUNTY, JACKSON WAS ACTIVE IN THE EARLY LOCAL GOVERNMENT. HIS EFFORTS ON BEHALF OF THE SURROUNDING SETTLEMENT AND HIS ABILITY TO MEDIATE DISPUTES IMPARTIALLY LED TO FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE AREA. IN 1833 JACKSON WAS KILLED BY A FALLING TREE WHILE CLEARING HIS LAND. TWICE MARRIED, HE WAS THE FATHER OF FOUR CHILDREN. HIS DESCENDANTS INCLUDE PROMINENT BUSINESS, PROFESSIONAL AND POLITICAL LEADERS.
Humphrey and Sarah Merriman Jackson
The Texas State Historical Marker for Humphrey and Sarah Merriman Jackson is located at the east intersection of 4th Street and Avenue C, near the location of the burial in Hollingsworth Cemetery.
HUMPHREY AND SARAH MERRIMAN JACKSON
HUMPHREY (1784-1833), SARAH MERRIMAN JACKSON (1796-1823), AND THEIR FAMILY CAME TO TEXAS AS MEMBERS OF STEPHEN F. AUSTIN’S OLD 300 COLONY IN 1823 AND SETTLED EAST OF THE SAN JACINTO RIVER. JACKSON’S LAND GRANT OPENED UP THE SAN JACINTO DISTRICT AND EXPANDED THE PERIMETER OF AUSTIN’S GRANT, PROVIDING AN ADDITIONAL AREA FOR ANGLO SETTLEMENT. SARAH WAS MOTHER TO FOUR CHILDREN AND DIED ONE YEAR AFTER SETTLING IN TEXAS. HUMPHREY AND SARAH JACKSON ARE BURIED NEARBY. THE ZINC MARKER AT THEIR GRAVE SITE WAS BUILT BY THE MONUMENTAL BRONZE WORKS OF BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT.
According to local legend, the name “Lick Skillet” came from the phrase “The East Texas oxen team drivers sipped the spring sweet water and licked their skillets clean.”
Black Hope Cemetery
Popularized by the book The Black Hope Horror: The True Story of a Haunting (and later the movie Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive starring Patty Duke), the Newport Subdivision in Crosby, Texas gained quite a bit of controversy when an African-American slave cemetery was discovered beneath the homes.
Ben and Jean Williams loved their quiet little subdivision just outside Houston. They were thrilled with their brand-new dream house, shaded by a tall, majestic oak. They never noticed the cryptic symbols etched on the tree’s trunk. But as the months went by, eerie things kept happening.
First came the plagues of stinging ants blackening the floors and of deadly snakes devouring the birds in the yard. Strange sinkholes opened up on the lawn, emitting clammy chills. Appliances went haywire, switching on and off, spooking the workmen who could never seem to fix them. Then anxiety turned to horror as weird illnesses-mental and physical-swept the neighborhood, yielding divorces and, worse, five surprising deaths. Finally, desperate neighbors dropped their fears of seeming crazy and confided in one another, discovering that at least eight families had experienced bizarre phenomena or shockingly real “visions”.
Nothing could explain the neighborhood’s afflictions until one couple tried to build a swimming pool. The bulldozer broke ground and unearthed a grisly cache of undeniably human remains. The Williamses’ scarred oak had marked the site of the abandoned Black Hope Cemetery; and the subdivision, ultimately driving eight families from their homes-a story that is all the more horrific because it is true.