early East Texas, dozens of forts
were built by settlers to provide a safe and sturdy refuge from Indian attacks.
such fort stood in north central Houston County where Indian attacks were common.
Known as Fort Brown, it was built near Grapeland
by Reuben Brown and his neighbors in the mid-1830s.
Reuben and his wife
Sarah settled on San Pedro Creek in 1834. Sarah was the daughter of Elder Daniel
Parker, who came from Illinois around 1830, hoping to build a church, but
Mexican colonization laws prohibited the establishment on any church except those
of the Roman Catholic faith.
Parker returned to Illinois, organized his
church there, and brought his forty members back to Texas
in 1833 in a ox-drawn wagon train of 24 wagons laden with members of eight families
and their possessions.
Following the route of the Mississippi River, the
wagon train crossed Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and entered Texas.
Crossing the Sabine
River, they followed an old Indian trail, the Coushatta Trail, used by Indians
for trading and migration, and eventually crossed the Neches
River and made their way to the banks of San Pedro Creek in Anderson County.
creek, the families built Fort Brown in what is today known as the Refuge
community. Several tribes of Indians lived in the Houston County area and, while
attacks were not consistent, they were enough to make settlers feel uncomfortable
without a place of safety.
From the Refuge community, the Parker family
went in different directions. Daniel Parker took his children and went to a site
near Elkhart and
reestablished the “Pilgrim Predestinarian Regular Baptist Church” in 1833. It
was the first Baptist church in Texas.
members of the Parker clan traveled westward to Limestone County and built Fort
Parker near Groesbeck.
Brown was built of post oak logs. Little is known about the fort, but it was used
from 1833 until 1860 when the Indian scares subsided. It stood several hundred
yards from Refuge Cemetery on land later owned by Huford Allen.
of families who lived near the fort recall seeing the decaying logs used in the
fort’s construction. Others say the logs were moved to other home sites for construction
purposes. Pieces of pottery, glass and even cooking utensils have been found in
Today, little is left of the Refuge
community. Its principal landmarks are a rock store used for many years and Refuge
Cemetery, where Reuben Brown, his wife and several children are buried.
Browns’ oldest son, John, who died in 1921, lived his entire life within a mile
of Fort Brown, his birthplace in 1865.
In the mid-1930s the settlement
had four stores, two churches, and a number of houses. After World
War II, many of the residents moved away, and by the mid-1960s only a cemetery,
a sawmill, and a few scattered houses remained.
Bowman's East Texas
April 11, 2010 Column, modified January 20, 2013
A weekly column syndicated
in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman