Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989 Page: 14
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By Sam Angulo and David Wight
Shaded by catalpa, cypress, pecan
and bois d'arc trees, Sam Houston's
Woodland Home stands proudly in
the middle of fifteen acres in the East
Texas town of Huntsville. On the grounds
of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum
Complex stand eight structures including
two of the general's homes furnished in
the style of the 19th century, his law
office, plus replicas of a blacksmith shop,
kitchen, and gazebo. The main museum
tells the story of Sam Houston's life, his
travels, his glorious victories and crushing
defeats. An exhibit hall provides background
of 19th century life in Texas.
The complex's fifteen acres are all that
remain of the original 233 acre farm. The
Woodland Home and the Law Office, the
only two historic structures originally
located on the site, have survived the
ravages of time and men. The Steamboat
House, where General Houston died, was
moved onto the site in 1936.
Huntsville is one of the oldest Englishspeaking
settlements in Texas. It grew
from a trading post established in 1835 by
Pleasant Gray. No coincidence that Gray,
who wished to trade with the Indians,
built his trading post and home near a
spring at the edge of a natural clearing in
the midst of lushly forested hills and
valleys. The area was a gathering place for
the neighboring Bidai and Coushatta
Indians as well as several other tribes.
Gray's Trading Post became the center
of a lucrative trade in pottery, pelts, pine
knots, bear grease, bear and beaver
hides, pecans, hickory nuts, and other
products of the pine forest and the "Big
Thicket" which were brought by the
Bidai Indians, Alabama and Coushatta,
the Neches, the Nacogdoches and other
tribes, to be exchanged for buffalo, deer
and antelope robes, mustang ponies,
flint for arrowheads, prickly pear apples,
jerked beef, and other commodities
common to the Comanches, Lipan,
Tonkawa, Tawakoni and other tribes of
the central and western plains. To all of
these tribes, merchant Gray provided
guns and other gadgets of civilization.
(Joseph L. Clark, "General Houston's
Huntsville Home," Sam Houston State
University Alumnus, July 1953.)
Attracted by the abundance of game
and fish and by the fertile soil, more pioneers
came to settle in the area. As the
population grew and the settlement became
a town, Gray named it Huntsville,
in memory of his home in Alabama. As
he prospered, so did the settlement.
The community's location was one of
its greatest assets and the reason the Indians
used it as a gathering and probably a
trading place. It is on an old Indian trade
route which the white man has continued
to use and we now call U.S. Highway 75.
Huntsville had three taverns which
attracted stage coaches and made it a hub
for the land routes leading to the interior.
These taverns served as stopping places
and livery stables and were reputed to
have good service, good food, and comfortable
lodgings for road-weary travelers.
The year 1847 was important for
Huntsville. General Sam Houston, the
Father of the young Republic of Texas,
who had forged a new destiny for America
on the battlefield of San Jacinto, decided
to set up a homestead, Raven Hill, fourteen
miles east of the town.
The constant stream of influential
friends and political allies visiting him at
his new home made Houston's presence a
matter of significance to residents of
In 1847 the general was elected to the
U.S. Senate, and he decided to move his
14 HERITAGE * FALL 1989
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989, periodical, Autumn 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45433/m1/14/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.