Louisianians settled East Texas communities

By Bob Bowman
Special to the Journal

Encompassing an area of almost ten square miles in western Polk County, Texas, Louisiana Settlement was established in the 1840s by a band of migrants from Texas' neighboring state.

But instead of clustering in a single community, the Louisianans spread into the countryside, setting up plantations and a group of communities. Each evolved with distinct identities and, in most cases, separate post offices.

Some remnants can still be found from Bold Spring, Colita, Patonia, Canary and Pleasant Hill in Polk County, but the communities are quickly disappearing as descendants of the original Louisiana migrants pass away or move to other areas.

The most intriguing community was named for Colita, a Coushatta Indian chief whose tribe frequently camped at the community's site.

Born sometime in the mid-1700s near Montgomery, Alabama, Colita served first as chief of the lower village of the Coushatta Indians after they came to East Texas. Later, he succeeded Long King as the principal chief of all the Texas Coushattas when Long King died around 1838.

Colita was best known for his role in maintaining peaceful relations between his people and white settlers.

When white settlers fled eastward along the Coushatta Trace during the Runaway Scrape in 1836, Colita directed his people to help the settlers cross the Trinity River and provide them with food.

In a letter to General Sam Houston on August 17, 1838, Samuel C. Hiroms, who lived near Colita's village on the Trinity and acted as an interpreter for him, reported that Colita talked with the Coushatta Indians at Long King's Village and persuaded them to remain peaceful during the Texas revolution against Mexico.

While Colita did not make his home at Colita, he often camped on the site with his people.

Colita Academy, also named for the Indian chief, was founded at Colita around 1870 and had a two-story pine plank building. The academy was officially nonsectarian, although Baptists were its chief supporters.

Like Colita, Patonia had its own post office, which was named for Brantley M. Pate, who secured the government facility.

Canary also secured a post office in 1900 and housed the facility at Millard Hilton's store, where Alice Faircloth served as the postmistress. Canary's post office, however, was closed in 1914.

Little is known of Pleasant Hill. It was presumed to be a small settlement located on a rise of land in the forestlands. The name of Pleasant Hill is one of the most common found in East Texas.

Of the five Louisiana Settlement committees, Bold Springs was perhaps the most enduring.

The community still exists on Farm Road 350 and 942. It was established during the 1840s and named for springs in the area. A Baptist church was organized in 1849 and the community, like Patonia, had a turpentine distillery.

The Bold Springs post office was known as Nettie after the postmistress, Nettie Burgess, and operated from 1903 to 1923. The community still had a number of scattered homes in 2006 and a church and cemetery remained active in the community.

While the Bold Springs Cemetery is the largest in Louisiana Settlement, the most intriguing is the old Colita graveyard, which has less than two dozen marked graves, but the graves are among the oldest in Polk County, almost all of them dating back to the 1800s, including one with a burial date of 1855.

Thomas Jefferson Hood, a private in Hood's Brigade during the Civil War, was buried here in 1887 and another Civil War soldier, William S. Mainer, who fought with the Texas State Troopers, was interred in 1896.

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 30 books about East Texas, including "The Forgotten Towns of East Texas." He can be reached at bobb@consolidated.net )

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