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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

Buena Vista

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
One of my favorite chores with the Texas Historical Commission is to travel around East Texas and help local historians dedicate historical markers to places that might otherwise be lost in time.

Buena Vista is one of my favorite places because it has such a colorful history, and a few weeks ago we helped dedicate a marker to its cemetery.

Buena Vista was once called “Buck Snort,” supposedly because a large buck snorted at “granny” Elizabeth Richards when she tried to chase him from he pea patch. The name Buck Snort was later applied to a political faction that controlled Shelby County’s political affairs for years. Although the name was used in derision, the “Buck Snort Clique” was respected for its ability to elect politicians.

Joseph Penn Burns, who received more than 4,000 acres for fighting with the U.S. Army in its war with Mexico in the 1840s, gave the community the name Buena Vista, which mans “beautiful view,” for a town where he fought a battle.

Burns set aside ten acres for a cemetery and, ironically, his wife was the first burial there.

Another early settler was John C. Morrison, whose wife was the niece of Texas Governor Oran M. Roberts. Before coming to Buena Vista, Morrison and his family had lived in places like Terrapin Neck and Lick Skillet.

Morrison opened one of the town’s first stores, and had his goods shipped all the way from New Orleans.

One of his shipments was a barrel of whiskey. Pestered by the town’s men for a drink, Morrison opened the barrel and scooped out a bucket and set it on the store’s steps for the men. They soon became drunk and began fighting among themselves.

Buena Vista was once a leading trade center in East Texas with a territory extending from Nacogdoches to Shreveport and from Carthage to Shelbyville and San Augustine.

By 1884, the town had a tanning yard, a school, a grist mill, cotton gin, bowling alley, stores, a church, post office, saloons and a racetrack.

In the 1880s the Houston, East and West Texas considered a route through Buena Vista, but the surveyor wanted a large sum of money to chart the line through the town.

Infuriated, a merchant who headed the town’s negotiating committee felt it was bribery, and rejected the surveyor’s office.

The railroad bypassed the town and towns like Timpson and Tenaha sprouted on the line and drew away Buena Vista’s merchants and economy.

In two years, Buena Vista was a ghost town.
All Things Historical
July 21, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers

(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 36 books on East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

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