Colorado River and Alabama Road have had the greatest impact on history of the county and city of Wharton; impact continues today. Name given to present-day Colorado River changed from Rio de los Brazos de Dios [river of God’s arms] to Colorado [Red] due to map maker mistake. Riverbank of Brazos is red, Colorado has numerous tributaries flowing into it; names reflect what explorers saw when mapping Texas. Mistake never corrected.
When Texas was opened, thousands of families from eastern U.S. moved here to take advantage of either free land or more fertile land. If they came via ship they would land at the mouth of Brazos or mouth of Colorado to travel upstream or take a trail leading inland. Inland trail from Matagorda to Wharton became “Alabama Road” due to someone observing many new neighbors came from Alabama with S.F. Austin’s third contingent of colonists. Someone commented “This road must be a direct route to Alabama.” It stuck and continues to be a major road and street in Wharton. Among those who came from or born in Alabama were members of the Heard, Horton, Kincheloe, Mercer, and Northington families per 1850 Texas census.
Wharton County designated Alabama Road as Road #8 via “Messers to Stith’s gin” and connect to Matagorda. *Early recorded plats for subdivisions along present Alabama St. listed as continuation of Alabama Road.
Colorado River proved not to be the “highway” to the coast due to a log jam below Wharton preventing boat passage. When Texas joined Confederacy, major improvements made to Alabama Rd. to get cotton crop to Galveston via Matagorda; fastest route to get cash return. 1845 cotton sold for 6 cents lb., 1860 13 cents, 1862 67 cents, 1863 $1.89 [gold only accepted], 1870 6 cents lb.
With growth within town of Wharton and need for good road to ship crops, Alabama Road underwent many route changes. Today Alabama Road exists along eastern border of Kincheloe Lg and western borders of Martin Allen and Randall Jones leagues. To trace remnant of old route, begin at HEB where it crosses FM 1301 as WCJC Blvd, deviates E at “chicken foot” intersection with Ahldag St, continues as Cemetery Road to behind Dinsmore community, crossing FM 1301 to Sugar Mill Rd to Caney Creek then east on CR 155, crossing Caney Creek to Preston where it traverses Bay Prairie to Matagorda. This winding path due to Caney Creek too often looping back on itself.
February 1860 Term Commissioners Court: Petition from Joseph S. Anderson [elected County Commissioner 1848] to create a private road for his property - corners of McWillie, Horton, Quinan lands to point opposite graveyard, thence straight line to graveyard across McWillie land, thence straight line of graveyard to Kern and Riggle lots to Residence St.
November 1860 Term: Petition to change Alabama beginning at northwest corner ACH plantation fence along 5 acres owned by Geo Quinan 598 yards in direction to northeast corner Franks plantation, thence to Alabama Road which runs in front of J.S. Anderson residence that lies east of graveyard.
November 1861 Term: Petition from McWillie to change Alabama to run from shared corner of McWillie/Horton lands to Rail Road along Rail Road line to Wharton. Old road from graveyard to entrance of land at McW/ACH corner be discontinued and Anderson private road blocked that was to run from graveyard to lane. McWillie and Horton to share responsibility of clearing and maintaining new route for Alabama Road. [landowners having road on or bordering their property were responsible for clearing and maintaining road]
County to pay $50 for materials for fence to enclose graveyard; said funds payable by C.S. Betts Precinct 1 County Commissioner. [No rail line existed in county; rail bed created for Houston Tap RR from Brazoria to connect Wharton - construction ended due to Civil War. A.C. Horton’s taxes based on length of rail bed running through his land; his son Robert lost his land inheritance for back taxes due on land per Reconstruction Court via Sheriff Sale.
Land sales slump during Civil War years. 1882, Mary Kincheloe Lipscomb releases Vendor Lien for 175-acre tract to Isaac Newton Dennis, part of 300 acres McWillie Plantation. Description: beginning on east bank of Colorado River northeast to Alabama Road, north to northeast corner graveyard, south to southeast corner graveyard, thence north to northeast corner of 5-acre tract sold by George Q. Rust to I.N. Dennis, thence south with line of 300-acre tract to Colorado River back to place of beginning along river bank as it meanders.
November 1886, W.W. Lipscomb, widowed husband of Mary Kincheloe Lipscomb, sells 125 acres [Block 66 per City of Wharton Plat Book] to George Q. Rust bounded by Alabama Road on East, Alabama St. on South, current Olive St on West, and South property line of Sivells Elementary School on North. Current corner of Abell/Alabama streets site of McWillie home per 1902 city map. Oct. 26, 1929, GQR family sells 4.48 acres out of the 125 acres to Wharton Independent School District to build a school [S.F. Austin Elementary initiated construction 1930, with additions 1935 and 1939]. 1929 deed and survey notes mention school property is located on portion of McWillie Plantation.
I’m often asked where I find these “hidden” history stories of our town and county. The answer: libraries and courthouses, where they hold volumes of recorded documents. Throughout human history, when a conqueror would invade another city or country their first act was to order all government archives and libraries be destroyed and replaced with their version of events. I consider my position as county historian to research and provide history that has been forgotten and to foster insight to the development of our area and why.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The fourth and final part of “Stories Cemeteries Tell” will appear in the Saturday, June 27 edition of the Journal-Spectator.