Just outside of Huntsville
lies a forgotten community tucked away down a winding dirt road under the pines.
Little remains of the early East Texas
community, with the exception of one of the oldest burial grounds in Walker County
and memories passed on from early settlers. |
courtesy Dana Goolsby,
is a church community located approximately seven miles southwest of Huntsville
in south central Walker County. The area has been known by many names throughout
its existence. It has been referred to as Johnson’s Chapel, Trinity
Church, as well as Robinson’s Settlement. The site is on an unimproved
road midway between Farm roads 1374 and 1791, also commonly referred to as Bowdens
Road and in more recent years, Demon's
Road. The Rev. Moses Speer came to Texas in about
1837, to participate in the “Texas Mission” of the Methodist Episcopal Church
South. The “mission”, of course, was to bring Methodism to the new Republic of
Texas. Until Texas won its independence at the Battle
of San Jacinto in April of 1836, the official religion of Mexican Texas was
Catholicism, and the preaching of other religions was strictly forbidden. Speer
rode a circuit that included the towns of Montgomery
and Huntsville, however, there
were towns in early Texas at that time. He preached
at gatherings in homes. He was revered as a good “soul-winner”.
Robinson was a devout Methodist, and gave 30-plus acres of land to the “Texas
Mission” to build a campground, church building, school, and it also contained
a cemetery. The William Robinson Settlement was home to any preacher, of any denomination,
especially circuit riding ministers. Robinson had two sons-in-law who were Methodist
circuit riding preachers.
Methodist church built on the land provided by Robinson is believed to have been
the first church constructed in Walker County. The church was initially built
in the 1830s and eventually became known as Robinson’s Settlement. The church
shared its building with other denominations as well.
Burial at Martha's Chapel|
Photo courtesy Dana
Goolsby, October 2010
In 1840, the Rev.
Moses Speer became seriously ill while staying at the Robinson Settlement and
died. Speer was the first person buried in the cemetery where the first campground
originally stood. Today his grave can still be found with ease in the cemetery.
In 1843, the fourth Texas Methodist Conference held its annual meeting there.
Sometime after the conference the local congregation adopted the name Trinity
Church. In 1855 John C. Black donated twenty acres to the original Robinson grant,
and a new building was erected near the old church. The original log structure
was then moved and turned into a barn.
Old tombstones of early settlers|
courtesy Dana Goolsby,
designation Martha’s Chapel was possibly derived from one of the names of the
first church members buried in the new church’s cemetery. Martha Palmer was the
wife of church trustee Anthony C. Palmer and many believe the cemetery is named
after her. During the Civil War attendance at Trinity Church declined. Rev. James
G. Johnson had recently returned to Martha’s Chapel in 1863, and constructed a
smaller building that was known for a while as Johnson’s Chapel. The surrounding
rural neighborhood also maintained a school, though the bell rang only sporadically
in the early years. In 1896 the Martha’s Chapel school employed two teachers,
Miss Ona Randolph and Miss Mary Sterne. The schoolhouse remained as late as 1936
but was closed soon thereafter. By the 1990s only the cemetery remained at the
that remains of this early pioneer settlement is Martha’s
Chapel Cemetery. The cemetery sits beneath the cluster of old pines and cedars,
where the East Texas sunshine can
only peer through from time to time. A stroll among the old tombstones tells the
story of the early settlers who left their mark on the area.
article was originally published on MYETX.com
The Pines With Dana Goolsby"
March 16, 2012 Column
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