Like so many artifacts that increase in importance and value over time, the Tyler County Courthouse Bell lacks a well maintained and documented history. J. B. Coffman, Tyler County Courthouse researcher, wrote that the bell is not mentioned in any of the records concerning the building of the courthouse, but that it was undoubtedly placed there when the courthouse was built in the 1890s. Coffman also wrote that a Woodville citizen spoke of the bell being rung for a funeral procession in 1905, and that it was rung regularly at 8:00 A.M., 12:00, 1:00 P.M., and 5:00 P.M. Records from the McShane Bell Foundry, Baltimore, MD, reveal that the bell was ordered on February 17, 1892 by the Seth Thomas Co. and purchased for J. Dallas Collier at a purchase price of $18.00. It was shipped by boat to Collier, Woodville, Texas, FOB New York, on February 29, 1892. The bell remained in the bell/clock tower of the courthouse when it was renovated in the 1930s. Tower construction deteriorated to such an unsafe condition that it was feared that the bell could fall through the floors below. Thus it was removed in 2017 in order that repairs could be made to the courthouse tower and roof. The goal at that time was to return the bell to the tower restored to its appearance in the 1890s. Minutes of Tyler County Commissioners Court dated December 17, 1891 1891 include a report that the Court ordered a suitable clock to be placed in the Court House Building. In February of 1892, the Court also ordered J. Dallas Collier to purchase a Seth Thomas Clock No. 16 Town Clock. On June 15th, 1892 the Court ordered that Collier be paid the sum of $35 for installation of the clock. Because of the bell and clock’s importance to the history of Tyler County, the Tyler County Historical Commission respectfully requests that they be safely stored and properly maintained under the supervision of the Commissioners Court until they can be returned to a reconstructed bell tower or other significant position associated with the Tyler County Courthouse. The Bell at the Tyler County Courthouse The following is an excerpt from an article that “seems to be a part of an article written by J.B. Coffman”. There is no title on the first page just a note to the above reference and a note that it was “written by June Maxey” and the date “1890”. “The most exasperating and frustrating thing about doing research in the Court House records is the paucity of information they contain---In the smaller cube above the Court House there is a large bell. The diameter at the bottom is 36 inches. In all the records concerning the building of the Court House there is not one word concerning the bell! From whom was it bought? What did it cost? What was its purpose? It was, undoubtedly, placed there when the Court House was built. Pitt Sims states he remembers when a Woodville citizen named Tom Bridgewater died in Beaumont and his body was brought home on the train. When the funeral procession left the railroad station the bell began to toll and continued until the procession reached the cemetery Mr. Bridgewater is buried in Woodville Cemetery and the date of his death, as given on his tombstone, is 1905. Was this a regular custom, if so, how long did it continue? Others say the bell was rung at 8:00 A.M., 12:00 o’clock, 1:00 P.M., and 5:00 P.M. Johnny Hickman says that, when he was a small boy, he sometimes helped Henry Franks, the janitor for many years, pull the rope that rang the bell. The clock, originally, was operated by a system of weights and theses weights are still stacked in the corner of the lower cube. In this cube, which is on the roof level, is the Rube Goldberg looking gadget that now operates the clock and bell. There are two motors, a lot of gears, cans and ratchets. A small rod goes up to the clock and, rotating slowly, turns the clock hands.”
In the Spring of 1929, the Neches River flooded out of its banks... isolating several small communities such as Woodville and Colmesneil. Residents in those towns began calling for bread but there was no means of transportation.
S. H. Reid offered a complete stock of household and farming supplies on West Bluff Street in Woodville. Ready-made clothing items hung in the display windows, while rolls of wire rested on the sidewalk.
Shivers and his wife, Marialice, acquired the historic R. A. Cruse home which was slated for demolition. They arranged for it to be moved, restored, and furnished as a museum holding papers and artifacts from his years of public service.
Originally called by some (including Judge James E. Wheat who described the project in a 1952 Dogwood Festival publication) the Town Bluff Dam, the working name for the project caught on with locals.
Turpentine Jim” McFarley Brown migrated from Florida to Alabama, and finally, in 1914, to Spurger, Texas. The area’s long leaf pine provided the pine sap Brown distilled into marketable turpentine.
Rev. Sam Mann baptized John T. Kirby whose son, John Henry Kirby, commissioned Russian artist, Boris Bernhard Gordon to record the event with a painting to be hung in Peach Tree Village Hall when it was built in 1912.
Carl Goolsbee, together with his wife the former Ella Pedigo and his brother Tom, operated the Goolsbee Store in Warren from the time he bought Warren Lumber Company until he sold the stock to Archie Spurlock in 1954.
Wade Best served as a cook for the Civilian Conservation Corps unit stationed in Woodville, until he went to work at Levingston Shipbuilding Company in Orange and finally joined the U.S. Navy to serve in Japan during World War II.
Captain James G. Collier conducted the survey laying out the new road between Town Bluff and the chosen location. That road became the main east-west thoroughfare in the new town, Woodville, and was called “Bluff” Street.
John Henry Kirby, local attorney, oil baron, and capitalist, endeared himself to his friends with his annual Christmas letters and frequent gifts of Bibles, which he personally inscribed.
In Book ‘E’ of the Tyler County Commissioner’s Court for the year 1892 (in February), J. Dallas Collier is instructed by the court to purchase a ‘Seth Thomas Clock No. 16 Town Clock’.
Henry T. Scott High School in Woodville celebrated its 1947 Homecoming with a parade on Saturday and a spirited football game played on the shared Kirby High School field.
Brian Shivers, the Governor's son, followed the family tradition of providing visionary leadership. He broke ground on February 20, 2010, for an expansion to the Allan Shivers Library-Museum.
Before the age of aerial surveillance and satellite GPS maps, fire towers gave a vantage point for protecting the county's greatest natural resource - pine and hardwood forests.
In 1936 Harold David hauled 300-year-old logs in an open-cab truck called a "muley." Twenty-first century logs go to the mills at twenty-two to twenty-eight inches in diameter.
In 1882 commercial railroads stretched across Texas and privately owned steam locomotives rolled through piney woods in Tyler County on “portable” logging tram roads.
Dr. John Gardner, Dr. D.A. Mann, and two nurses, traveled 80 miles by any convenience available to make a house call when the Neches was 14 feet above normal, in order to save a patient.
Tyler County Historical Commission created a non-profit corporation, Tyler County Heritage Society, so that charitable contributions might be received and acknowledged.
Former Governor Allan Shivers purchased the chapel and Kirby home property and presented it as a gift to Tyler County. Today, a Christian encampment, Camp Ta-Ku-La surrounds the chapel and the Kirby home and provides maintenance for those structures. The camp’s name is taken for the Indian phrase meaning peach tree – ta-ku-la.
The original Tyler County Highschool burned in 1924 causing students to hold classes in churches and the courthouse, until taxpayers provided the second building.
Through the years East Texas paper mills have generated a continual demand for pulpwood chips. At the same time, timber growers needed to manage their forests by thinning out the smaller trees so that larger trees would grow faster.
A few miles south of the confluence of Angelina and Neches Rivers, near the original site of Town Bluff, Dam B regulates the flow of water to the Lower Neches Valley.
Oscar Branch Colquitt – 25th governor of Texas, Mrs. Bessie Kirby Stewart (JHK’s daughter) and Mrs. Douglas Burnett of Houston at the dedication of Peach Tree Hall
In 1866 Robert Tolar built this log home which was later converted to a "cook house." Here family meals were prepared over an open fireplace with a "mud cat" chimney until 1960. In 1964 the Heritage Society accepted the Tolar Kitchen as an exhibit for Heritage Village.
Beginning in 1920, Scott worked with P. I. Hunter to plan for a real school building. He solicited financial support from community members and his own earnings, which resulted in the Henry T. Scott School being built in the early 1930’s
As an attorney, oil baron and capitalist, he owned thousands of acres and dozens of sawmill camps in Texas and Louisiana. His enterprises provided jobs for over 16,000 men and women.
Zachariah Cowart Collier built a general merchandise store as part of the Town Bluff complex in 1863. He and his family served the needs of overland and river travelers until the late 1920’s.
Steel gangs performed the hardest work at logging sites. Workers knew as they laid the cross ties and rails at one location that it was just a matter of time before they would undo their work and relocate the whole scene to a new site.
For centuries Caddoan, Alabama, and Coushatta Indians called the Tyler County area home and then settlers, predominantly from the southern United States, arrived before even the Texas Revolution. The people of Tyler County have endured through much, and their stories and the stories about places of historical importance have been catalogued in our online museum.