young man called, asking if I knew what a “dog trot house” was. He had heard the
phrase from one of his grandparents and had conjured up visions of dogs trotting
through a house day and night.
He wasn’t far from the mark.
trot houses were built and occupied by East
Texas’ earliest settlers. Many of them migrated here in the early l800s from
the Old South and brought southern customs, including the way buildings were constructed.with
A dog trot house (also called a dog run house) was simple in construction.
Made either of logs or rough-sawn lumber, it consisted of two separate living
areas under one roof, but separated by a wide gallery that divided the two family
areas. One of the living areas consisted of sleeping accommodations; the other
was where the family cooked, ate and entertained visitors.
no bathrooms or toilets in the building. Outhouses,
well separated from the house, met the family’s hygiene needs. Large washtubs,
filled with water from wells or springs, were used for baths.
dogs slept on the gallery and instead of running around the house, they trotted
from front to back by using the gallery.
dog trot also served as a porch of sorts, but most houses had a separate porch
on the front of the house.
Few of the old-time dog trot homes are left
in East Texas.
Anderson of Angelina County called our attention to a well-preserved dog trot
house near Ratcliff in Houston
County. It was a beauty to behold, framed by crepe myrtles and cedar trees.
It was built by a pioneer family in the Mount
Vernon community, where Henry Warren Payne and W.M. Conner gave land for a
church and a cemetery.
In 1871 a church house used as a school was erected.
The custom of fencing cemetery plots began in 1872 with the burial in the first
marked grave of the son of James E. and Ann Payne Ashby.
After a fire,
Payne rode door-to-door raising money for a new church house built in 1884. The
Mt. Vernon Baptist Church was officially organized in 1888. Land from the Louisiana
and Texas Lumber Co. enlarged the cemetery and in 1960 the church’s present building
our family, my great-great grandfather, Joel Harrison Bowman, built a dog trot
house near Sardis in Cherokee County, but the building rotted away after he died
Doris’ grandparents, the Robert L. Davis family, also lived in
a dog trot house on Virgil Street in Lufkin,
but it, too, vanished as progress overtook Lufkin.
Other dog trot houses, fortunately, still stand elsewhere throughout East