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Huntsville (Walker County)

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Huntsville was founded in 1836 by Pleasant and Ephraim Gray from Huntsville, Alabama, as a trading post with friendly local Bidai, Alabama, and Coushatta tribes. Farmers from the Upper South were the principal settlers, attracted by the plentiful timber and alluvial bottomlands. Huntsville was named the county seat in 1846 when the county was organized. The following year the state legislature chose it as the site for the state penitentiary, but in 1850 the town lost its bid to become the state capital to Austin. In 1872 a branch line connected Huntsville to the Houston and Great Northern Railroad. Lumbering was an early economic cornerstone, followed by ranching and farming and supplemented today by the expanded prison system (see HL7), Sam Houston State University (HL8), and tourism and vacation attractions at nearby Lake Livingston State Park.

During World War II, Camp Huntsville housed 4,840 German prisoners of war in 400 wooden tar-papered barracks (demolished). It was one of more than 30 camps in Texas that held 79,000 mostly German prisoners who were leased out for labor to area farms and factories. In 1946, the camp area became a part of Sam Houston State University (HL8) property.

The approach to Huntsville from the south on I-45 is dominated for miles by a sixty-seven-foot-tall statue of Sam Houston by Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. Erected in 1994, the enormous white embodiment of Houston is seen striding out from the dark shadows of the East Texas pine forest.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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