Historical Landmarks in East Texas – Our Top 6
East Texas is rich with history. From the oil fields in Kilgore, to the beautiful roses that fill the Tyler Rose Garden. East Texans are proud of their heritage and it shows! It was difficult to choose from so many historical landmarks, so these are just a few of the highlights. Enjoy!
Camp Ford was the largest Confederate Prisoner of War camp west of the Mississippi River during the American Civil War. The camp was named for John Salmon “Rip” Ford, the lawyer-doctor-ranger who served briefly as state conscript commander charged with the responsibility for enlisting and training soldiers for the Confederacy. The camp was a ramshackle stockade where, during the last years of the Civil War, some 6000 Union prisoners, Confederate guards, and African-American slaves lived, worked, making their mark on history. The original site of the camp stockade is a public historic park managed by the Smith County Historical Society. The park has a kiosk, paved trail, interpretive signage, a cabin reconstruction, and a picnic area. Schools from the area enjoy tours of Camp Ford, educating young kids on the Civil War. It's a 'step back in time,' and well worth the visit.
The Goodman Museum known as Bonnie Castle by its original owner, Samuel Gallatin Smith, was originally built in 1859 as a one-story, four-room house. The young well-to-do bachelor was killed during the Civil War, but before he left, he sold the home in 1861 to Franklin N. Gary. In 1866, Dr. W. J. Goodman, a local doctor and Civil War surgeon, bought the house and moved in with his wife, Mary Priscilla Gaston Goodman. The family lived there for seventy-two years. Dr. Goodman's daughter, Sallie, married James H. LeGrand in 1893. They lived here throughout their lives and left the house to the City of Tyler upon her death in 1939. Sallie kept a diary and that is how we have learned of the home and it's past history. The diary recounts tales about guests who stayed at the house to escape the dangers of the Civil War, and describes elegant social parties and receptions held for politicians. This museum is beautiful and so full of history. Do yourself a favor and enjoy a tour today!
Before the United States entry into World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, ninety-five percent of the crude oil delivered to East Coast refineries was transported by tanker ships. Ninety percent of that oil originated from Texas oil fields. Beginning in February 1942, many U.S. oil tankers en route from the Gulf of Mexico to the East Coast were sunk by German submarines. The need to transport oil under safer circumstances became an issue. Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, developed a plan for a massive overland oil pipeline. Under the auspices of the War Emergency Pipelines, Inc., construction began on the largest pipeline in history up to that time. Measuring twenty-four inches in diameter, The Big Inch and its companion project, the Little Big Inch, are petroleum pipelines constructed during 1942 and 1943 as an emergency war measure from Texas to New Jersey. Until World War II, petroleum products had been transported from the oil fields of Texas to the northeastern United States by oil tanker. With the entry of the United States into the war, this vital link was attacked by U-boats, threatening both the supplies to the eastern United States and onward transshipment to Great Britain. The Inch pipelines were conceived as a way to transport increased quantities of petroleum by a secure, interior route, with the additional benefit of freeing tankers for other tasks. At the time of their construction, they were the longest petroleum pipelines ever built. The pipelines remain in use.
This beautiful Eastlake Braceted Victoria home was originally built for Harrison and Martha Bonner (Mattie), and was remarkably self-sufficient with its own gasification power plant. The original grounds were more than two hundred acres, which included a grass tennis court on the south lawn. In 1907, the home was bought by Mattie’s sister, Annie Bonner, and her husband, S.S. McClendon. The home remained in the McClendon family until 1981, when the property was deeded to the Bonner-Whitaker-McClendon House Society. Since then, extensive renovations have been to the house and lawn. The home is open to the public for weddings, tours and social and civic functions. It's the birthplace of Washington news correspondent Sarah McClendon, whose career spanned the terms of 12 presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush.
In 1849, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at Tyler became the first organized congregation of any denomination in Smith County. The Marvin United Methodist congregation can trace its origins to the first generation of Tyler. As early as 1848, the Methodists had formed their own church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South at Tyler. In 1891, the name Marvin Methodist was adopted in honor of Bishop Enoch Mather Marvin, a Confederate Army chaplain who had visited Tyler after the Civil War. The cornerstone for this gothic Revival structure was laid in 1890 and was a monumental project for its time. Constructed with elaborate brickwork, limestone trim, steeple and exquisite stained glass windows in the sanctuary, Marvin Methodist Church was known locally as the “Cathedral of the West”. When Tyler became the seat of Smith County in 1846, Methodists began meeting in the new frontier town. They joined other Protestant Christians in union church services held in one of the earliest courthouses, a log building twenty by twenty-six feet located on present-day West Ferguson Street across from the square. This building contained five rude benches, seating a maximum of twenty persons. Local and circuit-riding Methodist preachers, including Sam C. Box and William Craig, took turns preaching along with pastors of other denominations. In 1849, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at Tyler became the first organized congregation of any denomination in Smith County.
In the late 1800s, cotton and corn were main crops in the area, and fruit orchards were becoming increasingly popular as well. By 1900 there were more than one million fruit trees, mainly peach, in Smith County. When a peach blight wiped out much of the fruit industry, many farmers turned to growing roses, which proved ideally suited to the climate and soil of the Tyler area. By the 1920s the rose industry had developed into a major business, and by the 1940s more than half the U.S. supply of rose bushes was grown within ten miles of Tyler. Today major players in the national rose growing industry have significant facilities in the Tyler area, such as Chamblee's Rose Nursery, Tate Rose Nursery, Lone Star Rose Nursery, and many others. Half of the USA's rose plants are grown within 50 miles of Tyler, and 75% of the country's roses are processed in town. Located adjacent to the Rose Garden is the Tyler Rose Museum, which showcases and documents the history of the annual Texas Rose Festival. The 78th annual Rose Festival will take place on October 13-15, 2011. The queen's coronation will be at the Cowan Center on October 14, and the Rose Parade on Saturday, October 15, at 9:00am. Queen Morgan Elizabeth Rippy will reign over the 2011 Texas Rose Festival.