a scenic hilltop in southwestern Henderson
County, Science Hill lasted only a few decades, but its reputation
as a center of education is well-remembered by descendants of its
founders and builders.
So is its violence in the early days of the Civil War.
The earliest settlers arrived at the hill in 1846. D.M.Thompson
and J.D. Jaggers built the community’s first industry, a cotton
gin, and carried the cotton as
far away as Navasota
But the town’s greatest step forward was the establishment of the
Science Hill Academy in 1848 through the efforts of Andrew J. Fowler,
Robert Hodge, John Tanner and other members of the Science Hill
Located on the lodge’s ground floor, the academy was ahead of its
time for the 1850s with courses that included orthography, Latin,
Greek and natural sciences.
Four well-known ministers lived at Science Hill, using their leadership
skills and intellect to shape the community. They were Hezekiah
Mitchum, who organized the First Methodist Church of Henderson
County in 1852; Robert Hodge, who organized the First Presbyterian
of Henderson County
in 1855; Harrison Rushing, another Methodist minister; and Wes Jackson,
a Baptist preacher.
Science Hill Academy lasted only until 1872, the result of the Civil
War and its aftermath.
With the eruption of the war, the town found itself caught up in
issues such as slavery, which in the 1860s provided the labor on
cotton plantations. As the war
exploded, the plantation owners saw their prosperity facing extinction.
As fires erupted in a number of East
Texas cities and communities at the peak of the Texas
secession crisis, a violent mob rode into southwestern Henderson
County and killed three men suspected of being involved in a
conspiracy against Science Hill.
It was reported that a slave named Bob belonging to a slaveowner
was meeting with two men from Tennessee Colony, who had been harboring
escaped slaves and selling liquor to them.
During a community
“inquiry,” Bob supposedly said the two white men had supplied him
with poison and phosphorous matches and told him the time had come
for the blacks to “rise up against their masters.”
Bob was quickly found guilty in a hastily-arranged trial and hanged.
The two other men suffered the same fate.
Following the Civil War, Science Hill’s fortune skidded. Its post
office, established in 1859, was closed in 1866.
Science Hill’s families began moving away from the hilltop. By 1936,
there was nothing left to identify the site of Science Hill except
for Patterson Cemetery, which was organized in 1861 on a plot of
land owned by John Patterson.
Bob Bowman's East Texas
June 19, 2011 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers