It’s Sunday night and a cold wind out of the north sends shivers to your little five year old body as you slip into a night gown. Your live-in nanny tucks you in, as your mother reads from the family Bible. Your hard working dad goes out to the barn to secure it for the night and that is when you hear your fathers cry of alarm.
Violent and savage men viciously kill your dad, mom, and older brother and kidnap you and your nanny and carry you bound down into old Mexico where you are sold for little of nothing. When the massacre of your family is discovered, a blood stained family bible is a grim reminder of the perils of living on the plain.
Sounds horrifying doesn’t it? It is and it is Texas history. This story took place in 1836 in Robertson County to the John Harvey family. Their daughter Ann and their servant girl lived as slaves for four years before her Alabama uncle James Talbot recovered her. There is no mention of the fate of the servant girl. The price the Mexicans paid the Indians for young Ann was “a few blankets”.
It is known as the Harvey Massacre and the event took place one mile west of a historic marker on Highway 6. I stood by the marker after returning from Dinosaur Valley State Park the other day and felt real compassion for this pioneer family. I mean it really hit me how difficult and dangerous the early settlers had it, but there is more and this shows the amazing fiber of these people.
In 1848, Ann Harvey married a man named Sanders Briggs and in 1853, they moved back to Texas – and built a home near the massacre site. This marker is a link with our past and the Baytown area has many such markers. In fact, there are 3 at Bayland Park alone. I often stop when I see a marker and read every word. I make time to do it.
Its probably no secret I own and operate ourbaytown.com, which is a historic resource for the area. On numerous occasions, I’ve worked with Trevia Wooster Beverly, who is a direct descendant of Quincy Wooster and her list of affiliates and positions involving history in the area is too exhaustive to list here.
Our current project, along with Mayor DonCarlos is examining the historic marker dedicated to the Sage of Cedar Bayou, John Peter Sjolander, yes, the guy Sjolander Road is named after. This marker is at 6330 Sjolander Road and I really wonder how many people have stopped and read the marker, as it is next to a telephone pole and almost invisible.
On top of that, for parking, there is a grass-covered culvert which until recently was covered with a four foot high pile of tree trimmings for the last year. The marker may need to be moved to a better location and I do believe that would be preferable to adding better parking. I will ask a couple simple questions now. Is this how we are going to honor this man? Are we proud enough of our history to do better than this?
On September 20th, I’ve been invited to be the speaker at the local chapter meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I think this group of ladies would agree that our history is very important and the moment we forget it, we will be doomed to repeat it, bad, more than good and as it turns out; I am a direct descendant of , second governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, second signer of the Mayflower Compact and a passenger of the Mayflower.
Baytown in a lot of ways is just 3 oil towns and a number of smaller communities who have been randomly shuffled like a deck of cards to homogenize us and as we grow, we may need to restructure our way of looking at things and this marker is just one of many, but its like I’ve always heard about eating an entire elephant. You do it one bite at a time.
In my opinion the new detention Pond parking area/park on Blue Heron Parkway would be a good place to move the marker. It is close enough to the old community of Cedar Bayou, which incidentally is listed on the old maps to be about where the Bark Park, in Jenkins Park is. In our fast paced existence, history may not seem like a big deal to some, but to others, it is a lesson worth studying.