In 1890 in Orange, there was a weekly called the Southeast Texas Journal, which was published every Saturday by the Orange Publishing Co.
Its editor was J.S. Palmer and the paper’s mast head of tide water navigation, Latitude 30 degrees north, Longitude 95 degrees 50 minutes West.
The weekly described itself as a “journal devoted to the interests of Southeast Texas. The home circle, agriculture, science, art, and general news.”
From among its pages was found this story related by David Harman (the spelling listed on the signed article) about early days of his family here. At that time, the headline described David as the oldest inhabitant still living of this area.
David told how he and his family including his mother, father, a brother, and two sisters, came in December of 1827 to Orange from Louisiana and how they constructed a raft to cross the Sabine River.
The story says the raft was taken to a point near where the Bancroft shingle mill stood where David’s father, John hauled timber out of the water and “Built the first house that any white family lived in between Cow Bayou and the Sabine River.”
“With its mud chimney and floor our castle stood for year the solitary habitation within miles of this bluff,” David Harman related.
Another story which appeared August 4, 1896, in the Weekly Tribune tells of the John Harmon family’s arrival on December 18, 1827 with David, Joshua, and Susan (later Susan Bland) as well as the household effects, horse, one yoke of oxen, and cart aboard the raft.
David in his story mentions that his other sister, Hester (later Hester Patillo) also was aboard.
It was early “in the spring of 1830 (when) a friend of my father’s came to stay a few weeks with us and informed us that the Rev. Mr. Harper, a Baptist missionary, would visit our colony in about a month. No time was lost in heralding the good tidings and before the appointed time, the neighbors from the Neches on the west to Cow Creek on the north, began arriving in wagons, on horseback, on foot, and in pirogues until when the man of God had arrived, almost every white person and many slaves living within the limits described was upon the ground.”
The article says that on the “second Sabbath in March, 1830, the first sermon ever delivered in the territory now known as this county was preached…”
By the time 1836 arrived, there were quite a number of settlers between the sabine and Neches Rivers and “in the war of Independence 60 men volunteered and went to the front from this district now embraced in this county and the lower part of Newton Count,” according to David Harman.
The pioneer settler told how cotton ran up to 6 cents a pound and about the various local amusements including corn shucking, quilting bees, and sugar making.
“On a wedding occasion, it was customary to dance the first night through at the home of the bride and after breakfast on the following morning, one grand procession was formed and all went to the dinner, given by the parents of the groom, where dancing began in the afternoon and continued until after sunrise on the next day.”
Scrub races between local ponies and shooting contests also provided activities for the people of that day.
According to the 1890 story, a big sport was “shooting at a mark for prizes. Marksmen frequently traveled thirty or forty miles to attend the matches…”
Among the staples of that time was “Bacon and lard made from bears, which were not only abundant but were very annoying as they made constant war on young stock.”