13 Miles NE of Crockett
Population: 0027 (2000)
| History on a Pinhead|
Handbook of Texas allows that the community was “probably established before 1900.”
The 1930s seem to have been Refuge’s glory days when the town had as many as four
stores. How many residents were served by those stores is unknown. Increased mobility
drained the lifeblood from Refuge. In the 1960s only a sawmill,
cemetery and dispersed housing represented the former town. By the 1990s, Refuge
was assigned the dreaded term of being a “dispersed rural community.”
Brown: A refuge from Indian attacks
In early East
Texas, dozens of forts were built by settlers to provide a safe and sturdy
refuge from Indian attacks.
One such fort stood in north central Houston
County where Indian attacks were common. Known as Fort Brown, it was built near
Grapeland by Reuben Brown and his neighbors
in the mid-1830s.
Reuben and his wife Sarah settled on San Pedro Creek
in 1834. Sarah was the daughter of Elder Daniel
Parker, who came from Illinois around 1830, hoping to build a church, but
Mexican colonization laws prohibited the establishment on any church except those
of the Roman Catholic faith.
returned to Illinois, organized his church there, and brought his forty members
back to Texas in 1833 in a ox-drawn wagon train of
24 wagons laden with members of eight families and their possessions.
the route of the Mississippi River, the wagon train crossed Missouri, Arkansas,
Louisiana and entered Texas. Crossing the Sabine
River, they followed an old Indian trail, the Coushatta Trail, used by Indians
for trading and migration, and eventually crossed the Neches
River and made their way to the banks of San Pedro Creek in Anderson County.
the creek, the families built Fort Brown in what is today known as the Refuge
community. Several tribes of Indians lived in the Houston County area and,
while attacks were not consistent, they were enough to make settlers feel uncomfortable
without a place of safety.
From the Refuge community, the Parker family
went in different directions. Daniel
Parker took his children and went to a site near Elkhart
and reestablished the “Pilgrim Predestinarian Regular Baptist Church” in 1833.
It was the first Baptist church in Texas.
Other members of the Parker clan
traveled westward to Limestone County and built Fort
Parker near Groesbeck.
Fort Brown was built of post oak logs. Little is known about the fort,
but it was used from 1833 until 1860 when the Indian scares subsided. It stood
several hundred yards from Refuge Cemetery on land later owned by Huford Allen.
Some descendants of families who lived near the fort recall seeing the
decaying logs used in the fort’s construction. Others say the logs were moved
to other home sites for construction purposes. Pieces of pottery, glass and even
cooking utensils have been found in the area.
Today, little is left of
the Refuge community. Its principal landmarks are a rock store used for many years
and Refuge Cemetery, where Reuben Brown, his wife and several children are buried.
Browns’ oldest son, John, who died in 1921, lived his entire life within a mile
of Fort Brown, his birthplace in 1865.
In the mid-1930s the settlement
had four stores, two churches, and a number of houses. After World
War II, many of the residents moved away, and by the mid-1960s only a cemetery,
a sawmill, and a few scattered houses remained.
Bowman's East Texas