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DARBY, TEXAS

Polk County, East Texas

The Darby-Holcomb Home
Darby, Texas

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

An East Texas landmark celebrated its 150th birthday this year, and it still looks as good as it did when it was built.

When Augustus Darby, 44, a frontier bookkeeper, decided to move from Alabama to Texas in 1859, he and his family loaded everything they owned, including twenty-five slaves, in a caravan of wagons and made their way across the South to a hilltop near Moscow in Polk County.

With Darby and his wife Mary Ann and his family was a valued family friend, Nathan “Uncle Duck” Turk, a former slave given to Mary Ann by her grandmother Lucena.

Mary Ann, who loved flowers, took cuttings and seeds from her cape jasmine bush and crepe myrtle trees to plant in Texas. Augustus took his muzzleloader and double-barreled shotgun to protect the family from wild animals and to have meat on the dinner table.

In East Texas, Darby and his slaves cut down virgin pine trees to build a pegged double-log house.

The job took six months. Darby’s slaves drew square nails from old lumber to seal the house with hand-sawed rough cypress. They also built a stone chimney, a gabled roof and a gallery porch. Other buildings were added later.

In Polk County, Darby and his slaves established a large cotton plantation and the community soon became known as Darby.

Located near an old Indian trail, the area was settled by Europeans before the Civil War. Among them was an Irish couple named Criswell, who arrived in 1835. Others came from Germany and the area became unique among Polk County settlements because many of its early settlers were Europeans.

The community soon had a Catholic church and became a leather-tanning center for local hunters. A school was also established and residents formed the Darby Farmers Alliance.

Today, Darby, his wife, several of their children and “Uncle Duck” are buried in a small cemetery near the old house.

Alice Darby, who inherited the old log house after her mother and father died, married Bob Holcomb in 1875.

The house, now known as the Darby-Holcomb House, remains a symbol of early settlers and their efforts to establish new lives in Texas.


Bob Bowman's East Texas
June 7, 2009 Column

Related Topics: East Texas | Texas Town List | Texas Ghost Towns |
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