• Humble ISD History

      Part 1: 1756-1883 


    ATASCOCITO DISTRICT -- Prior to 1756, the Spanish established a road running east-to-west for use as a major military and trade route across Texas, running through the Atascocito settlement.  The trail was known as the Old Spanish Trail, but was also called the Atascocito Road (pronounced "a-tusk-a-see-toe").  The road started in present-day El Paso and went to San Antonio, then through Houston, Liberty, Beaumont and on through Louisiana where it terminated in Opelousas, Louisiana.1  The eastern extension of the road from the Atascocito district to Opelousas was known as the Opelousas Trail or the La Bahia Road.2  A portion of the Atascocito Road passes through Humble.  The location where the Atasocito Road crossed the San Jacinto River was known as the Atascocito Crossing, and is considered one of the earliest named places in Harris County.


    AUSTIN'S COLONY -- The Humble area was originally part of Austin's Colony, established in the 1820s.  The earliest land grant in the area was given to David Harris on August 19, 1824, a member of Austin's colony.  Harris's land was on the east side of the district, where the McKay Bridge now crosses Lake Houston. Another early land grant in the area is also the largest single land-grant awarded in Harris County.  It is a large, five-league tract of land (approx. 22,142 acres!) given to Victor Blanco by Mexican Commissioner Juan Francisco Madero. Victor Blanco was at one time the acting Governor of Texas under Mexico, and was instrumental in securing Austin's colonization contract from the Mexican government.  The land is located on the west bank of the San Jacinto River (now Lake Houston).  This plot of land was surveyed and held in reserve for Blanco in 1833 by his personal and political friend, Stephen F. Austin.3  One of the earliest settlers in this area was Joseph Dunman (1793-1859), who migrated to the Atascocito District (next to Austin's Colony) in 1825 along with his wife and children.

    1833 Map of Coahuila and Texas   1833 Map of Coahuila and Texas, Texas State Archives Map Number 1607 
    (Courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission)


    TEXAS REVOLUTION -- In 1835, a conservative government took control of Mexico.  The laws imposed by the new government were unpopular throughout Mexico, and led to secession movements and violence in several Mexican states.  The new laws were also unpopular with the Texas colonists, and sought to limit the rights of the Anglo-Americans.  The colonists raised an army and fought several skirmishes with the Mexican forces.  In December of 1835, Ben Milam led Texas soldiers against Mexican troops quartered in San Antonio.  The Mexican Army had strengthened the defenses of an abandoned Spanish mission called the Alamo, which was being used as a fort.  After five days, the army of the colonists forced the Mexican troops to surrender and then occupied the Alamo.  On 23 February 1836, Mexican General Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio and laid siege to the Alamo.

    Under siege at the Alamo, Colonel William B. Travis wrote a letter asking for reinforcements and sent riders to carry copies of the letter to the colonies.  Joseph Dunman was the rider Travis sent to Liberty.  Dunman reached Liberty on horseback on March 1st with a copy of Travis' appeal for help.  After alerting the local citizens, Dunman rode on to Anahuac to spread the word.4  Only a small group of volunteers from Gonzales and Goliad managed to reach the Alamo before it was attacked.  After 13 days of siege, the Mexican Army of over 3,000 soldiers attacked the colonists' force of just under 200 defenders.  The Alamo fell on the morning of March 6, 1836.  News of the fall of the Alamo had a galvanizing effect on the population, now intent on defeating the Mexican army and extracting revenge for the loss of life at the Alamo.  On 21 April 1836, the Texas Army attacked camp of General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army near the Lynchberg Ferry, about 20 miles east of Houston.  The Texas Army defeated the Mexican Army at The Battle of San Jacinto in just over 18 minutes.  The Texas colonists had gained their independence from Mexico and established a republic.

    The Fall of the Alamo

    The Fall of the Alamo (1903) by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk


    REPUBLIC OF TEXAS -- After gaining independence from Mexico, the Texans elected leaders and worked to establish a statewide system of government across the Republic.  Twenty-three counties were established during this time.  One of these counties was Harrisburg County, established on 22 December 1836.  Harrisburg County was named in honor of John Richardson Harris, an early settler in the area and a member of Austin's original 300 colonists. Harrisburg County taxpayers in 1837 included Joseph Dunman, James Strange, Jacob Ryan and Lorenzo Zavala.5  The county name was shortened to Harris County in December 1839. 

    The Republic needed more settlers in order to increase economic development.  The solution was to award Headright land grants to settlers based on their arrival into Texas.  The lands were issued using the standard Spanish unit of measurements already employed in establishing land grants in Texas, including a league (about 4,428.4 acres) and a labor (about 177.1 acres). 

    Over the years, numerous other land-grant laws were put into place to encourage [1] settlement and improvement of the land (Preemption grants), [2] for service to the Texas Military (Military Land Grants), or [3] to help the government pay debts (Scrips).6 


    EARLY HUMBLE SETTLERS --  The first land grants after the war were given to men who had supported Texas in it's war for independence.  For his land, Dunman chose a place at the West Fork of the San Jacinto River; on the north side of present-day Humble. From 1838 to 1851, the early land grants in Humble were awarded to other men who had served Texas in it's war for independence, such as John Brown Jones, Wherry B. Adams, James Strange, as well as many others.7  The First Class Headright grant given to these men constituted a lague (4428.4 acres) and a labor (177.1) of land.  Joseph Dunman took his league of land in Galveston County, and the labor of land in Harris County in the Humble area.  Over the next few years, these men and their families cultivated their land and raised livestock.  The United States formally annexed The Republic of Texas as the 28th state on 29 December 1845.  The present-day border of Texas was established as part of the Compromise of 1850.  

    Land Map

    Early Land Grants in the Humble area
    (image provided by Dr. Robert Meaux)


    PUBLIC EDUCATION -- In 1854, Texas Governor Elisha M. Pease signed the Common School Law of 1854, which marked the beginning of the public school system in Texas.  The law provided that schools be made available to "all Texas children in common." (the origin of the term "common school).8  Little progress actually came from the 1854 school law.  Texans were ideologically divided on using taxes to pay for education.  Many felt that the cost and responsibility of educating children should be a burden for the parents, not the state. In 1854 and 1855, the State began work on a plan to educate all children, and conducted a census to determine the number of school-age children (ages 6-16) across the State.  The survey through Harris County shows that there were only two settlements in the Humble-area at that time: The Robert Dunman settlement, and the Joseph Dunman settlement (Robert was a nephew of Joseph).  The survey showed there were 16 families with school-age children in each of these two settlements. 


    THE CIVIL WAR -- Texas joined other southern states in withdrawing from the Union in 1861, marking the beginning of the Civil War.  One of the main reasons for the war was to preserve the state of slavery in the South, which was vital to the economy that had developed in Texas.  In the end, the northern States won the war and slavery was outlawed.  It took time for the slaves in Texas to be truly free.  For many years, the Texas Legislature fought the end of slavery, even going as far as to create laws that denied many rights to Black Texans.  Many African-Americans in Texas continued to live in poverty and were uneducated for many years after the end of the Civil War.  Texas was fortunate not to suffer the destruction that had affected many of the other southern states.  Still, it took time to restore financial stability and education in the state to where it was prior to the war.

    The end of the Civil War saw the arrival of another settler to this area: Pleasant Smith Humble.  He was a civil war veteran from Louisiana, that arrived in Harris County in 1866 and purchased part of the land originally owned by Joseph Dunman.  He settled near the banks of the San Jacinto River, where he took over the operation of a ferry that had been in service since the 1850s, and also ran a grocery store.


    JOE DUNMAN'S SCHOOLHOUSE -- In 1873, the earliest school in the Humble area was opened by Joseph W. Dunman (1824-1903), son of early Humble settler Joseph Dunman9 (1793-1860). The school was called Joe Dunman's Schoolhouse, and was used as a polling place by the local citizens. The school was located on the Atascocita Road, just north of the present-day location of River Pines Elementary School.  Joe Dunman's Schoolhouse was a privately owned school. Students at the school were children of wealthier families in the area who could afford to pay for their children to be taught reading, math and classic literature. At the time, Texas had an ineffective public education system, and most children in Texas did not receive an education.


    THE HOUSTON EAST & WEST TEXAS RAILWAY (HE&WT) -- In 1875, Paul Bremond secured a contract to build a railroad from Houston through East Texas and on into Louisiana.  As the tracks were built through the woods of East Texas, sawmills opened along the trains right-of-way. Many sawmill communities developed and thrived along the railroad...including some in the Humble area.  By April of 1877, 28 miles of track of the Houston East & West Texas Railway had been laid from Houston to New Caney. To cross the west fork of the San Jacinto River (just north of present-day Humble), Bremond purchased a massive steel bridge from the Cincinnati Bridge Company for $7,000.  By 1878, the railway had been built as far as Cleveland.  In that year, five sawmills operated along the railroad's right-of-way with a combined capacity of 100,000 feet of lumber per day.  Over the next few years, towns were created along the way (such as Burke and Lufkin) and joined other towns that had already been established (such as Nacogdoches).  The HE&WT Railway opened up the East Texas timberland to the world.  

    As the railway neared completion, and to generate funds, Bremond ran daily entertainment excursions for the citizens of Houston.  In 1878, one popular excursion ran 19 miles from Houston to San Jacinto Springs, located on the north side of the San Jacinto River near present-day Hamblen Road.  The round trip fare was fifty cents for adults and twenty-five cents for children.  At San Jacinto Springs, Bremond's company provided dancing, fishing and swimming. These excursions introduced Houston residents to the natural beauty of this northeastern portion of Harris County.  

    1878 Ad for Sunday Excursions to San Jacinto Springs 1878 Ad for Sunday Excursions to San Jacinto Springs
    (image provided by the Humble Museum, Humble, Texas)


    SCHOOL LAW OF 1876 -- In 1876, the Texas legislature passed an updated constitution that increased the availability of schooling to more children across the state.  The School Law of 1876 resulted in the creation of school communities across Harris County.10  Each school community consited of a three-person school board, and at least one schoolhouse.  These school communities did not have attendance boundaries; a student could attend any school community.  The closest school community to the Humble area was established on the west side of the railroad tracks on December 22, 1876 as Harris County School Community No. 13, the Durdin School Community.  This district had only one school, called the Higgs School,11 located on present-day Lee Road near FM 1960.  Pleasant Humble (1834-1912) was on the school board for the Durdin School Community.   Local resident Pleasant Humble was elected as one of the four Harris County Commissioners.  A very influential county position, he served in that position from 1876 through 1878.


    LORD, TEXAS -- A community developed on the west side of the HE&WTtracks in the early 1880s, known as the Lord's Mill community. This community was centered around the Lord and Noble Sawmill, owned by former Houston Mayor Irvin C. Lord, and Cornelius M. Noble, the Sheriff of Harris County.  By 1882, the Lord's Mill community had a U. S. Post Office, cattle breeders and livestock businesses, and shipped produce to neighboring communities.  There were also three other sawmills in the Lord's Mill area.  The community had a population of 150.12  The Higgs School was the closest school to this community. 


    DUNMAN SCHOOL COMMUNITY -- Joe Dunman's Schoolhouse continued to operate from 1876 until 1883 as a private school. However, a school community was finally organized on the east side of the railroad tracks in 1883, called the Dunman School Community. It used Joe Dunman's Schoolhouse as their school building, and reported a student population of 15 in 1883.13

    -- Dr. Robert Meaux
    Last updated 04/10/2018 1:44 PM



    1. Philip Robert Caudill, Moss Bluff Rebel: a Texas Pioneer in the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009), 7-9.
    2. Miriam Partlow, Liberty, Liberty County, and the Atascocito District (Austin: Pemberton, 1974), 20.
    3. A letter to Hon. J. T. Robinson, Commissioner of the General Land Office from _____________ Office of Spanish Translator, Texas General Land Office Box 15 GSC, folder 
    4. Moore, Stephen L.  Eighteen Minutes: The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign.  Republic of Texas Press, 2004.
    5. Dorman, Beth and Dorman, Emily, compilers. Tax Payers of the Republic of Texas: Covering 30 Counties and the District of Panola. Grand Prairie, Texas: B. Dorman, 1988
    6. Categories of Land Grants in Texas. Texas General Land Office.  Austin, Texas. September 2010. 
    7. White, Gifford E.  The Lost Book of Harris County andEarly Land Records of Harrisburg.
    8. Calvert, Robert A., Arnoldo De Leon and Gregg Cantrell.  The History of Texas, 4th ed.  (Illinois: Harland Davidson, 2007), 130
    9. Joseph Dunman was listed on the 1826 census for Atascocito (now Liberty, Texas).  He was one of the riders from the Alamo who delivered Col. Travis plea for help to the citizens of Liberty, Whites and Anahuac (Valentine Bennett Scrapbook). Joseph Dunman was given one of the first land grants in the Humble area.
    10. Evans, C. E. The Story of Texas Schools. Austin: The Steck Company, 1955, page 97.
    11. Director's School Record for Harris County, State of Texas, 3 May 1877, Harris County Archives, Houston.
    12. Texas State Gazetteer, St. Louis, MO: R. L. Polk & Co., 1884 Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston.
    13. Texas School Journal, 1: 9, September 1883.  Houston:  Texas Educational Journal Publishing, Co., page 194