Texas Heritage, Fall 1984

PRESERVATION
WALLISVILLE
HERITAGE PROJECT
by: Jim McElgunn
Wallisville, a once-prosperous community near the mouth
of the Trinity River, is today both a testament to the past
and a hope of the future. Wallisville was wiped off the
map in 1968, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
in cooperation with the City of Houston, the Trinity
River Authority, and the Chambers-Liberty Counties
Navigation District, condemned the townsite for a water
reservoir project.
V0 0 ;tf i XteX9 - *S 3 ;-gW f 0 ;: f t :Sixteen years later, the dam to impound the reservoir
remains incomplete and work has been indefinitely
postponed. Creation of the reservoir, intended to provide
water, aid navigation, and protect upstream rice farmers
from salt water backup from the Gulf of Mexico, was
halted in 1973 by an environmental lawsuit filed by the
Sierra Club and the Houston Audubon Society. The
Army Corps of Engineers is due back in court seeking
the U.S. District Court's approval to build a smaller lake
farther up the river that would spare nearly three thousand
acres of wetlands and cause less environmental
damage. But there remains the lingering problem of how
to preserve the remains of the town of Wallisville and its
place in Texas history. John Middleton, current Chairman
of the Board and past President of the Texas Historical
Foundation, is a key leader in the effort to save the
history of Wallisville and the significance of the area.
Middleton, an attorney and president of the Wallisville
Heritage Park Foundation, and his wife Susan, both descendents
of the town's founders, moved from Liberty to
Wallisville in 1975 and renovated the old A.D. Middleton
home built at the turn of the century.
Wallisville began to die many years before John Middleton
was born, but the history of the town and the area
was a part of his life. "I was born in Wallisville and lived
there until I was two. Then we moved to Liberty so I
could go to school," says Middleton. "But my grandmother
lived there and I felt it was home. That's where
my family is from. When I was real young (in the 1940s)
people still lived in Wallisville . . . the old courthouse
and a lot of the old homes were still standing. Everywhere
you looked there was history."
Wallisville was settled in 1825 by Elisha H. R. Wallis
and family as an agricultural community. Originally
called Wallis Hill, the community was one of the first
settlements in the Joseph Vehlein grant from Mexico.
Vehlein, a contractor working to place colonists, brought
people to Texas as the Mexican Constitution of 1824 encouraged
Anglo settlements.
Built in 1895 for $1,000, the Methodist church at Wallisville stood as a symbol to the city's future until it was destroyed by a hurricane in
1919. Photo courtesy of John Middleton. 1

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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45447/. Accessed July 14, 2014.