On behalf of the African-American Historic Preservation Committee, I would like to invite you to attend the 150th anniversary celebration of The 1867 Settlement on Oct. 14. This event is designed to celebrate and preserve this rich history for future generations, as well as spread awareness to new audiences.

The 1867 Settlement is the oldest section of our community, which was founded by four formerly enslaved African-American cowboys 150 years ago. The founding families (Calvin Bell, Kneeland Britton, Thomas Caldwell, and David Hobgood) selected the name “Settlement” declaring the importance of freedom and land ownership. The community prospered throughout the late 1800s and became a thriving, self-sufficient community of African-Americans. The families were well-respected and close-knit.

The Settlement area still exists and is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. In August 2007, the Frank Sr. and Flavilla Bell family home was donated to the city of Texas City for a community museum. A Texas State Community Historical marker was unveiled and dedicated in 2008. Today, many descendants of the original black cowboy pioneers still reside within the historic community boundaries, and it is the only one in the Houston-Galveston area still intact that was settled by freed slaves.

The celebration will host a rich program of events and activities. A sesquicentennial ceremony and tour, beginning at noon, will be held at the Frank Sr. and Flavilla Bell Historical Home, which is located at 117 S. Bell Drive, in Texas City. Our featured guest speaker, Priscilla Graham will speak on “The Freedom Colonies 150 Years Later.”

A Georgia native and a Gulf War Veteran, Graham specializes in historical photo books of buildings, settlements, neighborhoods, and places that have been forgotten in history. Through the process of activities and awareness, Graham wanted to share with others what she learned about African-American settlements in and around the Houston area. This was the birth of her book series, “Hollowed Grounds,” which features over 18 African-American settlements, 102 100-year-old churches, and 74 Harris County historical marker locations. Graham is the archivist and social media manager for Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition.

Following the ceremony at the Bell House, the festivities will continue with lots of food, fun, door prizes, vendor booths, and live entertainment by Prime Time Band and soca singer T-Rock, and much more from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Carver Park, 6615 Park Ave., in Texas City. In appreciation to the community, free barbecue dinners will be served from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30p.m. There also will be tours of various historical sites within The Settlement.

We encourage all ethnicities to take your families, neighbors, and friends, along with chairs, tents, and umbrellas, and join us in celebrating the 150th anniversary beginning at noon Oct. 14. Please come join us! It’s sure to be a fantastic event!

Vera Bell Gary serves on the African-American Historic Preservation Committee executive board and lives in La Marque.

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