Since its foundation in April, 1846, Walker County, Texas, has been one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in the Lone Star state. Situated amongst the lakes and trees of the eastern piney woods, Walker County has been home to thousands of Anglo, African, and Hispanic Americans who have helped to shape the region and the country.

Before the Civil War, Walker County was a rural farming community based on cotton production and racial slavery. Hundreds of white farmers and their African American slaves toiled in the fields to turn out something profitable. In fact, cotton production was so demanding that slaves soon outnumbered the free people in the region. By 1860, 376 of Walker County's 646 white families owned slaves, and slaves accounted for 4,135 of the county's 8,191 people.

The most famous resident of this booming cotton community was General Sam Houston -- "The Raven." A powerful political and military figure, Houston was a personal friend and confidant of President Andrew Jackson. In 1836, he led the army that secured Texas' independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto, and shortly thereafter he was elected as the first President of the Republic of Texas. Houston's reputation rose even further after the United States annexed the Lone Star state in 1845. One year later, the old general was elected to serve as a U.S. Senator for Texas, and in 1859 he was selected as governor of the state.

As a prominent advocate for Texas and its place in the Union, Sam Houston was deeply concerned about the slavery debate that was then raging between the North and the South. In fact, Houston went to great lengths to warn his fellow Texans that a civil war would bring nothing but ruin and destruction for the South. Although Governor Houston ultimately acquiesced to the secessionists who demanded that Texas leave the United States in February 1861, his continuing support for the Union angered the fire-eating radicals who hated the North. When Houston refused to take an oath of loyalty to the new Confederate States of America in March 1861, the radicals drove the governor from office in a move that shaped the coming years of war.

When Sam Houston died in Huntsville, Texas, in July 1863, he was a beleaguered and broken man. The dream he had envisioned for Texas had collapsed around him, and two years later his state would surrender with the rest of the Confederacy to the Union forces of the North. In truth, however, the fire-eating radicals of Texas would be hard to defeat. Houston had not been able to best them, and it soon became clear that the white, slaveholding establishment would accept very little of the Reconstruction program proposed by northern Republicans.

This web project explores the history of Walker County in the hundred years following the Civil War. How did this land of secessionists and slaves become a functioning democracy? Who led the charge? And, what obstacles did they face? By examining local events between 1865 and 1965, we hope to develop a more inclusive and comprehensive history of the region that synthesizes the overlooked or ignored voices of the past with those that are more traditional and familiar.




welcome | introduction | modules | census data | historic maps | historic sites | personnel
for more information about this project contact Dr. Jeff Littlejohn at
Sam Houston State University | College of Humanities and Social Sciences | History Department