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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Patroon’s Story

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

It’s a shame that Patroon didn’t last. But in a way, it may have been best. Its stern, no-nonsense college would have never survived in modern times.

Patroon’s Patroon College, remembered today only as a forest intersection in southeastern Shelby County, had one of the shortest academic careers in East Texas (less than four years), but it made a profound impression on its students.

College officials set down a stiff set of rules and expected their pupils to obey.

For example
Consider holidays: “We promise none of the following: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Arbor Day, San Jacinto Day. We shall continue our regular school work during Christmas Week, and we trust our patrons will not send for their children to go home during this time. A few days out of school, and especially during Christmas, will have the tendency to demoralize students and make them lose an interest in their studies.”

There was some consultation. Prices were cheap. Students could attend the college for as little as four dollars a month.

The college was founded in 1893 by the Disciples of Christ on a hill overlooking Patroon, a peaceful farming community. But it was gone by 1897, the victim of denominational friction and a lack of money.

Patroon TX - Patroon Baptist Church
Patroon Baptist Church
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, March 2010

The settlement of Patroon, located on the banks of Patroon Creek seventeen miles southeast of Center, reaches back to the 1820s when Dutch settlers from the West Indies settled in what is now New York State, calling the area the New Netherlands.

They supposedly gave the community its name, but another version is that the settlement was named for the Patroon Indians.

The Indians supposedly were known as the Nurschturbie tribe, but became known as the Nurschocogean Indians when they lived on the Mississippi River. There are believed to be at least ten different spellings of the name.

The Patroon community was likely founded just before the Civil War. One of the community’s earliest settlers was James Harrison, a native of New Jersey who came to Texas in 1823 and settled on Patroon Creek.

A post office was established in 1868 at Patroon with William Duffee as the postmaster. In 1884 Patroon had a population of twenty. During the 1890s, however, the farm population in the area increased, and sawmills were established to utilize the abundant timber of the area.

By 1896 the community had a hotel, a sawmill, a grist mill, a cotton gin, several stores, three churches, and Patroon College. At that time the town’s population was estimated at 150.

The establishment of Patroon College in the l890s by D.A. Leak and R.H. Bonham was considered one of the most ambitious efforts in Shelby County. The institution had 300 pupils at one time.

By 1914 Patroon’s population was around 250 but received a surge in its growth with the operation of Pickering Lumber Company at nearby Haslam in the l920s and 1930s.


Bob Bowman's East Texas
February 5, 2010 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
Bob Bowman's East Texas >
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By Bob and Doris Bowman
 
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