Englishman's Move to Postmaster Gave Humble Its Name
History of Humble
This is the second segment in a series of stories that will run over the next couple of months describing the history of Humble. The writer, Jerry Moore, lived in the Humble area since 1963 and has seen the area evolve from small rural town to what it is today. For more on Moore's project, see page 4C. Look out next week for the history of Humble as a sawmill town.
By Jerry Moore // Contributing Writer
As anyone who has taken a course in Texas history has learned, Texas won its independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, when Texans found Gen. Santa Anna disguised as a peasant and hiding in a well. He was taken to Sam Houston who was wounded and resting under a tree. Santa Anna signed an instrument of surrender for both the Mexican army and the claim to Texas.
This led to the Mexican ? American War as the Mexican government claimed that Santa Anna signed the document under duress and it was therefore not a binding agreement. President Polk did not see things the same way as the Mexican government and the rest is history.
Five men from the Humble area that fought during the war for Texas independence received bounty land grants from the Republic of Texas. According to the book ?A History of the Humble, Texas Area? by the Daughters of the American Revolution, these five men were John Ashbury, William T. Charles, Robert Dunman, James Strange and John Schlobohn, whose name is misspelled on the honor roll at the San Jacinto Monument as John Slayton.
The Republic of Texas came to an end on December 29, 1845, when it joined the United States as the 28th state. In the following census taken in 1850, the Humble area was known as Hunter's Paradise and consisted of nine families. All of the land owners were listed as farmers, and although Texas joined the Union as a slave state, no slaves were listed in Hunter's Paradise during that time. Slaves did come to the area later, however.
As a slave state, Texas seceded from the United States on February 1, 1861 to join the other six sates that had broken ties with the Union. Three days later those seven states formed the Confederate States of America.
The Hunter's Paradise community contributed as much as possible to the war effort by offering men, cattle, lumber and war tools. The South suffered greatly during the war. What $1 bought in January 1861 took $1,200 to buy in May 1865. The area was experiencing a shortage of plows, wagons, and staples such as sugar, flour, salt, and tobacco. Clothes were wearing out, and cloth to make clothes was high in demand and short on supply. Getting shoes was nearly impossible.
Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865. Reconstruction of the South began in earnest at that time and ended 12 years later in 1877. Growth began again in this area with an influx of new residents.
Pleasant Smith Humble
At some point between the time Texas joined the Union and the time that the state seceded, and Englishman named Pleasant Smith Humble brought his family to settle on the banks of the San Jacinto River. Humble operated a ferry near the point where the U.S. Highway 59 Bridge now spans the river. As a man born and brought up in England, Humble pronounced his last name with an English accent dropping the ?H? and pronouncing it ?um-bull?.
Humble also served in the Confederate Army. After the war, he took his loyalty oath and went back to work along the river, and as anyone knows that lives near the San Jacinto River, its waters are prone to come out of its banks during heavy continuous rain and will flood land and houses. No one knew that better than Humble, who moved his family farther south from the river, settling at a spot known at that time as Uncle Boog Isaack's place.
At that time, the nearest post office to Hunter's Paradise was in Rose Hill near Tomball, a 30 mile trip to the northwest. As it has been passed down, Tom F. Shelton was the first person to petition Washington, D.C. for a post office for the Hunter's Paradise area. Shelton died before the post office was granted. Pleasant Humble took up the cause and set up the first post office in the area, getting permission from Washington in 1886.
Humble set up the post office in his home and instructed the mail carriers of surrounding towns to ?bring your mail to Humble.? The mail increased over time, and Humble moved his post office to an old box car and then to the Bender Commissary. Soon, all the surrounding communities referred to this town as Humble, pronouncing it the same way as the new postmaster pronounced his last name.
Humble's Sawmill Success Depended on Bridge Across the River
History of Humble
This is the third segment in a series of stories that will run over the next couple of months describing the history of Humble. The writer, Jerry Moore, has lived in the Humble area since 1963. Check back next week to read about the history of Humble's schools.
By Jerry Moore // Contributing Writer
According to ?A history of the Humble, Texas Area,? a history book compiled in 1976 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, people in and around the Humble area had been making a living since the early 19th century cutting down timber and transporting it to one of the two steam-powered sawmills in Harris County that were erected in Austin's Colony.
One of the sawmills was owned by John R. Harris, for whom the county is named, and was built in Harrisburg in 1829.
Sometimes timber came from points north of Humble, and they had to be floated across the San Jacinto River by people like postmaster and town namesake Pleasant Humble, who ran a ferry across the river at the present location of the U.S. 59 bridge. The river was very deep before the deforesting of the banks began. After that, the erosion of the bank soil into the river caused it to become shallow.
Bridge to Humble
The Humble area could not have survived in the lumber business without the construction of a narrow gauge railroad in 1877 built by the HE&WT Railroad Company. The railway transported timber, lumber and passengers to and from Houston to New Caney and eventually Shepherd.
When HE&WT began to build the railroad over the river, it called for a center pier and iron or steel construction. A bridge was purchased from the Cincinnati Bridge Company and floated down the Mississippi River by barge and then on to Houston by ship. The cost of the bridge was $7,000 an impressive amount in 1877.
Tom Sheldon established one of the first lumber mills in Humble, which he sold in 1886 to Millridge and Calhoun, who later sold out to Charles Bender and Son in 1889. When Bender recognized the potential for excellent growth in the area, he bought land from Humble to Cleveland at 25 cents an acre.
The lumber made in Bender's sawmill was used to build houses in and around Humble, but the majority of the lumber went to supply builders in the small town of Houston. In those days Houston was situated on a prairie along Buffalo Bayou and the demand for building material was high and relatively cheap. A man was able to build a nice sized house for about $50.
Bender went on to build two more sawmills which operated from the 1890's until the 1920's.
Operating three sawmills in the area, Bender opened his own commissary where workers could get what they needed for their families. The list included shoes, material for clothing, food, tools, etc. In lieu of U.S. currency, bender paid his employees in tokens bearing his cattle brand that could be exchanged at the commissary for goods. Company checks were emblazoned with a picture of Bender.
Birth of Bordersville
When the last Bender sawmill closed in 1927, Edgar Border built a sawmill west of Humble. Many of the Bender's former black employees went to work in the new sawmill and began to settle in the area in the houses that Border would build for them. As a community, the residents began to call the settlement Bordersville.
?When Border's sawmill shut down (1941), the nursery (now Turkey Creek Nursery on FM 1960) began to employ the people who used to work the sawmill,? said Deacon Alfred Stewart of St. Luke's Missionary Baptist Church, a longtime resident of the area. ?It was the backbone of Bordersville.?
In the early 1960s, residents drilled a water well for the community from which they had to draw water to wash clothes, have baths, and to cook and drink.
Bordersville is currently experiencing a growth in business along Humble ? Westfield Road that runs through the community and along FM 1960 West Bypass. Stewart said however, that ?the young people are moving away to other places to live. Bordersville is getting smaller, but we are still here.?
St. Luke's Missionary Baptist Church celebrated its 107th year this past September.