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African American History Preservation

History of La Marque Texas "the Settlement"

History of La Marque Texas "the Settlement"
First Black Families of La Marque
Frank Bell Jr.
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Remembering Texas City's black cowboys


The Houston area is well-known for forgetting about its past, so it's especially interesting to hear about something like "the Settlement," a community founded by black cowboys who settled in Galveson County in the 1870s. Though most traces of the community are gone, locals hope to revive interest by converting the one remaining historic house into a museum.

Four ex-cowboys — Calvin Bell, David Hobgood, Thomas Britton and Thomas Caldwell — earned money herding cattle on the Chisholm Trail for the Butler Ranch, which was on the site of today's League City. After they quit herding, the cowboys moved south and bought the land that became the Settlement. The community centered on Bell Drive, just off FM 1765 and Highway 3 in Texas City. The unincorporated area was pretty isolated until the early 20th century, when the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway built a station nearby.

Over the years, all but one of the Settlement's homes have been torn down — the one that remains, a former Bell family home at 117 Bell Drive, is tabbed for a museum about the Settlement, though plans and funding haven't been finalized. For now, La Marque school officials plan to involve students in cleaning the home out this spring and gathering oral histories from people who grew up in the area with help from a $10,000 History Channel grant. Part of the grant will also be used to establish a community historical archive at the former Lincoln High School auditorium (Lincoln was the black high school where many descendants of the Settlement's founders went until the 1960s).

On this page we'll display the Complete History

LA MARQUE, TEXAS. La Marque, also known as Highlands and as Buttermilk Station, is an incorporated residential community on Interstate Highway 45, State Highway 3, and Farm roads 519, 1765, and 2004, some twelve miles northwest of Galveston in northwestern Galveston County. The community was originally known as Highlands, probably for its location near Highland Creek, and was renamed in the 1890s when residents learned of another mainland community of the same name. Madam St. Ambrose, postmistress, chose the new name, which in French means "the mark." The community's post office operated from 1887 until the 1930s. During the Civil Warqv the town was known as Buttermilk Station after the soldiers' practice of purchasing buttermilk there on the trip between Galveston and Houston. In 1867 the town had six families, including two black families, and its residents raised cattle or rice. The local population rose from 100 in 1890 to 175 in 1896, when the community had a Baptist church and several fruit growers. A school with fourteen students existed before 1895, when Amos Stewart gave land for a larger facility. By 1909 two teachers served an enrollment of fifty-five students, and in 1913 further construction began. By 1914 the community had been reached by four railroads: the International and Great Northern; the Galveston, Houston and Henderson; the Missouri, Kansas and Texas; and the Interurban. At that time La Marque had both a railroad station and general store located in a private home. The town's population reached 500 in 1914 and 1,500 by 1952, when it had ninety businesses. As it grew together with nearby Texas City, La Marque served as a residential community for employees at a nearby Union Carbide plant and other plants in the La Marque-Texas City area, as well as the Galveston Island Medical Center. The town had a population of 17,000 and 130 businesses in 1977. In 1988 it had 15,697 residents and 158 businesses, and in 1991, some 14,258 residents and 272 businesses.

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