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Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

GEORGE LOUIS CROCKET:
RELIGIOUS LEADER
AND EARLY HISTORIAN OF
EAST TEXAS

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Members of Christ Church Episcopal in San Augustine, Christ Church in Nacogdoches, and St. Cyprianís Church in Lufkin, all Episcopal congregations, remember George Louis Crocket as the leader or founder of their group. But even Baptists and Methodists know about Crocket. He wrote the first real history of East Texas and founded the East Texas Historical Association.

Crocket was born in San Augustine on June 3, 1861, and educated liberally and for the ministry at the University of the South and the Theological Seminary in Sewanee, Tennessee. Crocket was graduated in 1886 and returned to his home town to commence a ministry that continued formally until his retirement in 1929, but really did not end until his death on January 3, 1936. That ministry included refounding the Episcopal congregation in Nacogdoches and founding one in Lufkin.

The Rev. Crocket contributed more to his congregations than homilies and pastoral care. An artist with wood, he also sculpted ornate altars and other furnishings for his churches that are still in use. He also involved them in community improvement activities.

Anyone who knew Crocket understood his deep love for the history of East Texas, so they were not surprised when he accepted a position at Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College in Nacogdoches in 1929. Crocket was hired by President A.W. Birdwell, also a historian, who supported Crocketís interest in the history of the collegeís service region.

Crocket invited those with similar interest to attend an organizational meeting on the campus of the East Texas Historical Association. Papers were presented by Crocket and other distinguished historians such as Eugene C. Barker, history department chairman at the University of Texas. For a few years members met on the campuses of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and East Texas teachers colleges, and published a "bulletin," or journal, which included the papers they presented at meetings and other writings. The first East Texas Historical Association became a victim of the Depression. When a successor group was organized in 1962, only a few old bulletins and three $100 government bonds bore testimony of its predecessorís existence. Crocket also published Two Centuries in East Texas, a history of this region that focuses on San Augustine, in 1932. Crocket ended the book with the Civil War era. Evidently he judged that nothing of importance had happened in East Texas during his lifetime, so he left out one of the really important happenings of that era:

Crocket.

For the "rest of the story," the reader needs to see San Augustine: A Texas Treasure, by John and Betty Oglesbee, number five in the Ann and Lee Lawrence East Texas History Series. The publisher is the second East Texas Historical Association, still hosted by Stephen F. Austin State University and following the leadership of the Rev. George Louis Crocket.
© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
April 20-26, 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)

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