Texas History Page

 

Letter to the Editor —

 

What’s Your Opinion?  Indian Trading Post or Not?

 

Well of course there was an Indian trading post

below the hill on the creek!

 

It’s a Fact!

 

 "There were at that time a few of the descendants of the original settlers of this county who came with their parents to this section as colonists, but were altogether ignorant of the organization of the old 'principality' of Montgomery....W.W. Shepperd was the first to have a store at the old town of Montgomery under the hill….I am enclosing to you for your inspection the original draft of the flag of the Republic of Texas.  The work was without question the work of my father..."

Edmund B. Stewart (son of Charles Bellinger Stewart)

July 7, 1922 letter to Mrs. J. W. Brosig

     In the April 1, 2009 edition of the Montgomery County News, Col. Ramon Laughter wrote a letter to the editor regarding my articles: “News from Lake Creek Settlement – The Evolution of the Montgomery Trading Post Myth.” 

     First let me say, I hold Col. Laughter and all the members of the Montgomery Historical Society in the highest regard for all they do to preserve the history of the town of Montgomery, especially their years of hard work to preserve the historic buildings in and around Montgomery and for their successful preservation and operation of the Nat Hart Davis Pioneer Complex and Museum. I cannot think of another town in Texas that has such dedicated local historians. If you are reading this, and you are not a member, you should join and get involved with this great group. 

     Again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Col. Laughter for his very kind words in his letter to the editor regarding my research.

     Col. Laughter’s letter to the editor was titled, “What’s your opinion? Indian Trading Post or not?” In his letter Col. Laughter wrote, “I am often approached for a statement concerning the position of the Society as regards the constant and repetitious reference to the fact that there really was never an “Indian Trading Post” that preceded the Town of Montgomery.” 

     I apologize if I have given my readers this impression. It was not my intent. My goal has been to show that the true history of the Indian trading post was hijacked a long time ago and a myth was substituted in its place. Over the past several weeks, the goal of my series of articles titled “The Evolution of the Montgomery Trading Post Myth” has been to point out the many errors, inconsistencies and total lack of evidence in each of the histories reporting the so-called Montgomery Trading Post. There was an Indian trading post; however there was never a trading post called the Montgomery Trading Post.  

     I was going to save much of this evidence for the end of my series of articles about the Montgomery Trading Post myth; but I did not want to leave anyone with the misconception that there was not an Indian trading post below the hill about a half-mile north of town on the creek that would later became known as Town Creek. Montgomery County Clerk deed records and Lake Creek Settlement documents have provided the answers. This may be the most detailed letter to the editor in the history of the Montgomery County News, but what we will learn together is definitely worth it. Below, as Col. Laughter would say, is “the rest of the story.”

     The first settlers, in what would later become western Montgomery County, received their Mexican land grants in 1831. These settlers included John Corner, Mary Corner, William C. Clark, Owen Shannon, Zachariah Landrum, Jacob Shannon, William Atkins, William Landrum, Benjamin Rigby, Raleigh Rogers, etc. These settlers received their leagues of land from Empresario Stephen F. Austin. These Mexican land grants were located in Austin’s Second Colony.

     On January 1, 1831, William C. Clark purchased six hundred acres of land on the John Corner League from John Corner. The six hundred acres were contained within the following lines and boundaries, to wit, “commencing at the North West corner of the aforesaid [John Corner] League and running thence South half mile English measure. Thence due East a line parallel with the East and west line of the same League such a distance as will make Six hundred acres or will enclose that amount of land and the upper line of the Tract to commence at the North west corner of the League and run East the distance requisite." See Deed from John Corner to William C. Clark, Montgomery County Clerk, Deed Vol. B. pp. 317-320. It is very important to notice that this land description begins in the northwest corner of the John Corner League and runs south a half-mile.

     William C. Clark paid John Corner $250.00 on January 1, 1831 for these six hundred acres of the John Corner League before John Corner actually received the title to it. Given the fact that this purchase pre-dated Corner's receipt of his land grant, it appears that William C. Clark helped to pay John Corner's costs and fees to clear his title out of Stephen F. Austin's land office at San Felipe. 

     On May 10, 1831, John Corner finally received his Mexican land grant for one league of land [League No. 27] from Empresario Stephen F. Austin in Austin’s Second Colony. As shown above, John Corner had already sold six hundred acres of land out of the John Corner League to William C. Clark on January 1, 1831. See deed from John Corner to William C. Clark, Montgomery County Clerk, Deed Vol. B. pp. 317-320.

     Soon after the first settlers arrived, the lands between the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and the stream called Lake Creek became known as the Lake Creek Settlement, District of Lake Creek, Precinct of Lake Creek or simply Lake Creek. See 1833 Articles of Agreement, Jacob Shannon to Rutha Miller, Montgomery County Deeds, Vol. N, p. 254. Also see the “Lake Creek Settlement” link at www.TexasHistoryPage.com for many other documents that prove this point.

     On September 15, 1835, William W. Shepperd (hereinafter W. W. Shepperd) purchased two hundred acres of land from William C. Clark in the northwestern-most corner of the John Corner League. These were the two hundred western-most acres of the six hundred acres that William C. Clark purchased from John Corner on January 1, 1831. See Deed from William C. Clark to Wm. W. Shepperd, Montgomery County Clerk, Deed Vol. A, pp. 29-32. 

     It is here in the middle of the Lake Creek Settlement on the two hundred northwestern-most acres of the John Corner League that W. W. Shepperd founded the first trading post. Here, he traded with the Indians and the early settlers. Known as “the store of W. W. Shepperd on Lake Creek,” this is the Indian trading post that preceded the town of Montgomery. And it is exactly where historians said it was supposed to be—about a half mile north of the town under the hill on the creek that would later be known as Town Creek. See the numerous deeds and other records executed at “the store of W. W. Shepperd on Lake Creek" at the “Lake Creek Settlement” link on the TexasHistoryPage.com.

     C. B. Stewart married Julia Shepperd on these two hundred acres of land at “the house of W. W. Shepperd on Lake Creek” on March 11, 1836 while serving as delegate to the Convention at Washington. See marriage record of Charles B. Stewart and Julia Shepperd in Deed Book A-1, Washington County Clerk, pp. 240-243.

     On July 8, 1837, “Montgomery” and the “town of Montgomery” appeared in print for the first time in the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper. The town of Montgomery was founded in Washington County by W. W. Shepperd in partnership with J. W. Moody, the First Auditor of the Republic of Texas. The town was founded on the 200 acres of land W. W. Shepperd purchased from William C. Clark on September 15, 1835.  Shepperd had previously founded his trading post or store here. Later historians will refer to this town as “the old town under the hill” or “old Montgomery.”

     It is important to note that by July 1837, the town had a store, a gin, a stockyard and a blacksmith shop. W. W. Shepperd and his wife Mary Steptoe Shepperd lived there in a house with their minor children. Their adult children, including Jacob Shepperd, also lived there. By July 1837, Charles B. Stewart was living there with his wife Julia as well.  The blacksmith was named Thomas Adams and he had built a house. W. W. Shepperd owned a number of slaves. His wife, Mary Steptoe Shepperd, owned at least eight slaves that she had inherited from her father. Of course all of these slaves would have lived in houses there as well.

     Following the July 8, 1837 advertisement in the Telegraph and Texas Register, W. W. Shepperd would begin selling lots on these 200 acres. As an example, Charles Garrett, the son-in-law of Owen Shannon and Margaret Montgomery Shannon, purchased a lot from Shepperd here in 1837. See Deed of William W. Shepperd to Charles Garrett, Montgomery County Clerk, Deed Vol. B, p. 304.

     W. W. Shepperd and his partner, J. W. Moody, named the town Montgomery after Montgomery, Alabama where J. W. Moody had been the Clerk of the County Court of Montgomery County, Alabama, for many years before coming to Texas. Montgomery, Alabama was named for Brigadier General Richard Montgomery of the American Revolution.

     Five months after the town of Montgomery was founded, the Congress of the Republic of Texas created Montgomery County out of the territory of Washington County. President Sam Houston signed this act into law on December 14, 1837. The county is named after the town.

     On February 26, 1838, just three days before the first Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting on March 1, 1838, W. W. Shepperd purchased four tracts of land from John Corner containing a total of 2,426 acres.  One of these tracts was Tract No. 4 which contained 212 acres of land. These 212 acres are located immediately south of the two hundred acres Shepperd had purchased from William C. Clark on September 15, 1835. See Deed of John Corner to Wm. W. Shepperd, Montgomery County Clerk, Deed Volume A, pp. 21-28.

The tract described as Tract No. 4 in this deed is important. On March 1, 1838, W. W. Shepperd will donate a one-half undivided interest in 200 of these 212 acres of land to Montgomery County. Tract No. 4 will later be known in future deeds and documents as the “Town Tract” or the “Montgomery Town Tract.” 

     At the first meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on March 1, 1838, through his agent C. B. Stewart, W. W. Shepperd donated an equal half undivided interest in the Town of Montgomery and sixty acres of pine land adjoining the town to the county. "[I]t being put to question whether said donation should be accepted it was unanimously received— and the question being also whether the place of the Town presented by C. B. Stewart as agent for W. W. Shepperd should be received the same was also unanimously received and adopted.”

     The site selected as the county seat is the same land purchased by W. W. Shepperd from John Corner three days before on February 26, 1838. Later historians will describe this as “the new town of Montgomery” or “the town on the hill.”

     Note: As these records clearly prove, no one named Jacob Shannon, Owen Shannon, Margaret Montgomery Shannon, James Montgomery, William Montgomery or Andrew Montgomery had anything to do with the founding of the trading post, the "old town of Montgomery" or the “new town of Montgomery.” 

     On July 7, 1922, Edmund B. Stewart of Montgomery, Texas, wrote a letter to Mrs. J. W. Brosig of Navasota, Texas. Historians in the town of Montgomery and in Montgomery County have cited this letter for decades to prove the provenance (history of ownership) and authenticity of Charles Bellinger Stewart’s original drawing of the Lone Star flag of Texas. Edmund B. Stewart was the son of Charles B. Stewart and his second wife. This letter originally appeared in a newspaper article, “Original Flag of Texas Shown Here Tomorrow,” in the August 11, 1922, Daily Examiner in Navasota, Texas.  This July 7, 1922 letter was the letter in which Edmund B. Stewart transferred the original drawing of the Lone Star flag drawn by Charles B. Stewart to Mrs. Brosig to display in her hardware store in Navasota.

     Edmund B. Stewart wrote,

     "There were at that time a few of the descendents of the original settlers of this county who came with their parents to this section as colonists, but were altogether ignorant of the organization of the old 'principality' of Montgomery. My father came to Texas in 1829 and joined Austin's colony at San Felipe. Came to Montgomery and settled near the town in 1837. W. W. Shepperd was the first to have a store at the old town of Montgomery under the hill. It was later moved to its present situation. My father, through his father-in-law, W. W. Shepperd, donated 100 acres of land for the purpose of building a court house and jail (log house)....I am enclosing to you for your inspection the original draft of the flag of the Republic of Texas. The work was without question the work of my father ..."      

     See the Dr. Charles B. Stewart Family Papers, MSS 0150, Houston Metropolitan Research Center (Texas Room, Julia Ideson Building), Houston Public Library, Houston, Texas. Also see 1997 House Resolution No. 1123 in which the Texas House of Representatives of the 75th Texas Legislature officially commemorated Montgomery County, Texas as the birthplace of the Lone Star Flag of Texas.

     I recently discovered that the Anna Landrum Davis history essay, "Old Montgomery" was actually written in 1925. The Edmund B. Stewart letter to Mrs. J. W. Brosig pre-dates the Anna Landrum Davis history paper by three years making his letter the earliest account. It is the family history of a member of the C. B. Stewart household. There were only three men that had an active role in the founding of the trading post and the town of Montgomery: W. W. Shepperd, J. W. Moody and C. B. Stewart. Though this family history is a secondary source, it is reliable in that it is the family history of a member of the household of one of those intimate with the actual details of the earlier trading post and the founding of the town (C. B. Stewart was married on the two hundred acres where the trading post was located and he lived in the “old town” of Montgomery). Edmund B. Stewart’s letter is also well corroborated by a large number of primary historical documents. I know what some of you are going to say, “Kameron is relying on a secondary source.” Yes, but it is a very reliable secondary source in that it is very well corroborated by so many primary sources unlike the Montgomery Trading Post myths which are corroborated by nothing. 

      Where many Montgomery County historians seem to have made their mistake is in assuming that the two hundred acres of land on which the present town of Montgomery was founded was the northwestern most corner of the John Corner League. Under this assumption, the land north of town would be the Owen Shannon League. But, as we have seen, this is not the case. The two hundred acres due north of the “Montgomery Town Tract” is actually on the John Corner League.

     It is extremely important to note here that Town Creek is located on the John Corner League and not on the Owen Shannon League. It is another detail repeated in almost every version of the Montgomery Trading Post myth that is completely wrong. See Montgomery County maps 83 and 86 by Hodge Mason Maps, Inc. in the Montgomery County Appraisal District Office in Conroe, Texas. These maps show the City of Montgomery as well as the boundary lines of the John Corner League and the Owen Shannon League. These two maps show that, after leaving the Benjamin Rigby League, Town Creek is on the John Corner League for its entire length. 

     The history of the Lake Creek Settlement, the Indian trading post and the town of Montgomery are no longer a matter of opinion or “what we like to believe.” The early history is now based on real primary historical documentation dating from the time period, written and executed by the earliest settlers and residents. 

     Just as the Montgomery Historical Society endeavors to preserve actual historic buildings, I am endeavoring to preserve actual history. Toward this end, I will be glad to work with anyone to preserve the true history of the Lake Creek Settlement, the Indian trading post, the “old town” of Montgomery and the “new town” of Montgomery. This generation of historians truly has the opportunity to do something the so-called “old timers” did not. We can get it right! Are you with me? 

 

Kameron Searle

 

P.S.  All of the deeds mention in this article can be found online at the “Indian Trading Post and Town of Montgomery” link at www.TexasHistoryPage.com.

This article originally appeared in the April 29, 2009 edition of the Montgomery County News.

 

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