East Texas landmark
celebrated its 150th birthday this year, and it still looks as good
as it did when it was built.
When Augustus Darby, 44, a frontier bookkeeper, decided to move
from Alabama to Texas in 1859, he and
his family loaded everything they owned, including twenty-five slaves,
in a caravan of wagons and made their way across the South to a
hilltop near Moscow
in Polk County.
With Darby and his wife Mary Ann and his family was a valued family
friend, Nathan “Uncle Duck” Turk, a former slave given to Mary Ann
by her grandmother Lucena.
Mary Ann, who loved flowers, took cuttings and seeds from her cape
jasmine bush and crepe myrtle trees to plant in Texas.
Augustus took his muzzleloader and double-barreled shotgun to protect
the family from wild animals and to have meat on the dinner table.
In East Texas, Darby
and his slaves cut down virgin pine trees to build a pegged double-log
The job took six months. Darby’s slaves drew square nails from old
lumber to seal the house with hand-sawed rough cypress. They also
built a stone chimney, a gabled roof and a gallery porch. Other
buildings were added later.
In Polk County,
Darby and his slaves established a large cotton
plantation and the community soon became known as Darby.
near an old Indian trail, the area was settled by Europeans before
the Civil War. Among them was an Irish couple named Criswell, who
arrived in 1835. Others came from Germany and the area became unique
among Polk County
settlements because many of its early settlers were Europeans.
The community soon had a Catholic church and became a leather-tanning
center for local hunters. A school was also established and residents
formed the Darby Farmers Alliance.
Today, Darby, his wife, several of their children and “Uncle Duck”
are buried in a small cemetery near the old house.
Alice Darby, who inherited the old log house after her mother and
father died, married Bob Holcomb in 1875.
The house, now known as the Darby-Holcomb House, remains a symbol
of early settlers and their efforts to establish new lives in Texas.
Bob Bowman's East Texas
7, 2009 Column
column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman