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San Augustine (San Augustine County)

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Before Anglo-Americans began to settle here from the 1820s, the area was home to the Hasinai (of the Caddo Confederacy), whose village was located on the banks of Ayish Bayou and then, in 1717, to a Spanish mission, now gone. By 1827 the residents formed the Ayish Bayou District, and a town was laid out in 1833 on a grid around a central courthouse square and supposedly named by Mexican officials in honor of St. Augustine of Hippo. Although Sam Houston is associated with many places in Texas, he settled first in San Augustine in late 1832, where he started a law practice and, after Texan independence, was twice elected to the state legislature representing San Augustine. Most of the downtown dates after 1890 following a disastrous fire. The Beaumont-Longview line of the Santa Fe Railroad built through the town in 1900, providing a boost to the local timber and cotton trade.

Two San Augustine architects have made significant contributions to the history of Texas architecture: Augustus Phelps (1813–1841), who built the first and finest Greek Revival houses in the state, and Raiford Stripling (1910–1990), who restored them, as well as restoring Spanish missions and many early Texas buildings, setting standards for preservation practice that still apply today.

Born in Vermont and trained in Philadelphia, Phelps arrived in Texas in 1838, bringing tools, carpenter’s guides, and two skilled workmen. He built five houses here, three of which survive. He died in Austin, where he had moved to work on a new capitol. Phelps frequently used a five-pointed star as ornament, perhaps its first symbolic use in Texas. Raiford Stripling attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A&M University). He returned to San Augustine in 1947, maintaining an office in the old jail next to the courthouse.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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