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GRANT'S COLONY, TX

Map of Walker County (1889)
Map of Walker County (1889). Courtesy of the Texas General Land Office and the Portal to Texas History. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

GRANT'S COLONY, TEXAS. Grant's Colony was five miles east of Huntsville in central Walker County. It was named for its benefactor, George Washington Grant of Walker County, who planned a model farming community at the site. During the Civil War his wife, Mary, introduced him to the religious philosophy of the Church of Christ, which condemned slavery, a commitment to education, and a desire for racial harmony. He accumulated over 11,000 acres in Walker and Grimes County between 1856 and 1874. Grant’s Colony began in 1866 as freedmen moved to the area following the Civil War. A 6,000 acre parcel of land stretching across Harmon Creek become the site of Grant’s Colony, which he sometimes referred to as “Harmony Settlement.”

In 1867 Grant deeded two acres of land to a twelve-member board of trustees for Mount Moriah Methodist Church, Good Hope Baptist Church, and a school. Grant's Colony was predominantly a freedmen's village that provided a site of safety and opportunity during Reconstruction. Grant recruited Edward, Hannah, and Sarah Williams to teach at Grants’ Colony at an 1869 meeting of the Society of Friends in Jackson, Mississippi.  Over nine years the family helped build the “Colony Grove” schoolhouse where they taught primary school and music lessons to 120 students annually. Edward Williams became the first African American to obtain a teaching certificate in Walker County and taught at the Williams’ school.

Richard Williams
Richard Williams. Courtesy of the Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Grant's Colony and the Union Labor Party
Grant's Colony and the Union Labor Party. Courtesy of the Galveston Daily News, November 28, 1888. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Grant’s Colony grew into a center for African American politics and the Populist movement during the 1870s and 1880s.  Richard Williams was a social leader in the colony and served as the first African American legislator from Grimes, Madison, and Walker County in 1870. The majority of land in the colony remained owned by Grant with the residents existing as tenants. In 1876 Grant attended the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where he saw J. H. Hill demonstrate a knitting machine.  Grant convinced Hill to relocate from Indiana to the colony for a year to manage the machinery. Cotton and corn were the principal crops raised by the local farmers, who were largely tenants or sharecroppers, and Grant provided a mill and gin nearby. In the late 1880s the Union Labor Party organized a county convention of the Union Labor Party in the colony and the Walker County Farmer’s Alliance met there for regular sessions. Grant passed away in 1889 and the land was purchased the following year by his main creditor Sallie Mae Gibbs, who continued to lease the property. Two public schools in the area enrolled twenty-four black students in 1898. As a result, literacy rates in the district rose from 16 percent in 1870 to over 66 percent by 1900.

Grant's Colony Cemetery
Grant's Colony Cemetery. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In 1936 the National Forest Service purchased the property from the Gibbs, but the two churches, schoolhouse, bridge across Harmon Creek were damaged, destroyed, or relocated.  The only remains of the colony are a few pillars in the creek, the cemetery, and the fading ruts of Main and Church Street.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin Weekly Statesmen, October 10, 1889. Deed Records, Walker County Courthouse, Huntsville, Texas. Deed Book G, 333. Galveston Daily News, November 28, 1888. A. C. Greene, Sketches from the Five States of Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1998). Naomi Ledé, Samuel W. Houston and His Contemporaries – A Comprehensive History of the Origin, Growth, and Development of the Black Educational Movement in Huntsville and Walker County. (Houston, Texas: Pha Green Printing, Inc., 1981). Walker County Genealogical Society and Walker County Historical Commission, Walker County (Dallas, 1986). H. C. Wright, Disciples of Christ: A History of the First Christian Church of Huntsville, Texas, s.v., “Colonel George Washington Grant,” (Huntsville: Self Published 1936).

James L. Hailey, rev. by Zachary Doleshal

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, James L. Hailey, rev. by Zachary Doleshal, "Grant's Colony, TX," accessed October 17, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ueg01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 15, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.