HISTORY OF SEBESTA'S CORNER, SNOOK, TEXAS
By Leonard Kubiak, author and Texas Historian of Rockdale, texas
EARLY HISTORY OF BURLESON COUNTY
The first European to set foot within what would become Burleson County was French explorer and trader Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, who traveled through the area in 1713 en route from Natchitoches, Louisiana, to the Rio Grande. The trail that he established between the Trinity River and San Antonio became the Upper Road of one of the caminos reales (Old San Antonio Road). This road became the most important route from San Antonio to the eastern border of Spanish Texas.
In 1718, shortly after founding the Villa de Béxar at the site of present San Antonio, Martín de Alarcón, governor of Texas, traveled the Upper Road through what is now Burleson County to the Spanish missions among the Texas Indians in East Texas. The first American to visit the area of the future Burleson County may have been the explorer Zebulon M. Pike, who travelled down the Old San Antonio Road to Natchitoches upon his release from imprisonment in Chihuahua in 1807. It is likely that Moses Austin journeyed through the territory of present Burleson County as he traveled the Upper Road from Arkansas to San Antonio de Béxar seeking an empresario contract in the fall of 1820.
Burleson County Region Settled in 1820's
Anglo-American settlement within what would become Burleson County began in the early 1820s. By the mid-1830s, only a few dozen settlers had settled the territory south of the San Antonio road and north of Yegua Creek. The Mexican law that went into effect on April 6, 1830, prohibited further Anglo-American settlement in Texas.
Fort Tenoxtitlán Established in Burleson County Region (1830)
In October of 1830, Fort Tenoxtitlán was established by Lt. Col. José Francisco Ruiz on a high bluff on the west bank of the Brazos, about twelve miles above the crossing of the Old San Antonio Road in what is now northeastern Burleson County.
In defiance of Mexican Government instructions, the Texas-born Ruiz permitted a group of more than fifty Tennesseans led by Sterling C. Robertson to take up residence in the vicinity of the fort in November 1830, while Robertson attempted to validate the settlement contract that his Nashville Company had negotiated with the Mexican government some years earlier. Some of these newcomers took up residence in the settlement that had arisen near the fort; by July 1831 Francis Smith had established a general store in the community. Other settlers, however, scattered through the countryside; many migrated into the Austin colony south of the Old San Antonio Road and awaited confirmation of Robertson's contract.
In August 1832 the garrison was withdrawn from Fort Tenoxtitlán, and the site was abandoned to the nearby American and Mexican settlers. Although the village of Tenoxtitlán in its turn disappeared during the Civil War, it remained the only settlement and trading post within the bounds of the future Burleson County until 1840.
Settlement of Nashville Established on Banks of Brazos
In 1834, when Robertson at last made good his right to direct settlement in what was called Robertson's colony, he opened a land office in Tenoxtitlán–which served as the capital of the colony until the founding of Nashville in what is now Milam County–and began issuing patents to land above the Old San Antonio Road. Among the prominent early settlers in what is now Burleson County were William Oldham, Alexander Thomson, Jr., Joseph B. Chance, John Teal, Isaac Addison, and John W. Porter. Most of these early settlers and their families, like those brought to Texas by Robertson's Nashville Company, came from the Old South, particularly Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. Once in Texas, they set about perpetuating Southern culture and institutions–including slavery. Many brought with them considerable investments in slave property. Gabriel Jackson of Kentucky, for example, who arrived in Robertson's colony in December 1833 and soon established a large plantation in the Brazos bottoms of the future Burleson County, was the owner of 100 slaves.
After the fall of the Alamo in 1836, the residents of the area joined the mass flight from the advancing Mexican army known as the Runaway Scrape. As news of the battle of San Jacinto spread, however, the settlers quickly returned to find their homes untouched. Growth of the area accelerated after the establishment of the Republic of Texas. But as white inhabitants became more numerous in the sparsely populated territory, Indian raids became more frequent. The settlers often responded to rumors of impending hostilities by taking refuge at Tenoxtitlán or within the fortifications at the home of William Oldham, in what is now southern Burleson County. But Tenoxtitlán itself became a favorite target of Indian attacks. The last fatal raid within the bounds of the present county occurred in May 1841, the final occasion on which the white population repaired to the forts for defense. With settlement expanding westward and northward, Tenoxtitlán became increasingly inaccessible, and its protection grew less important as the Indian menace diminished rapidly during the 1840s.
Burleson County Established in 1846
In 1840 the area of the present county south of the Old San Antonio Road was transferred from Washington to Milam County. A small settlement and trading post established by Lewis L. Chiles by 1840 at the place where the Old San Antonio Road crossed Davidson Creek in what is now Burleson County was chosen to become the seat of the newly constituted Milam County. A new townsite, soon known as Caldwell, was platted in 1840 by George B. Erath. Finally, on March 24, 1846, the state's First Legislature established Burleson County, named for Gen. Edward Burleson, and designated Caldwell the county seat. The county acquired its present boundaries in 1874, when its western reaches beyond East Yegua Creek were given to the new Lee County, thus reducing Burleson County by some 31 percent.
Caldwell Becomes Transportation Hub in the 1850's
By 1856 post offices had been established in the communities of Caldwell, Brazos Bottom, Chance's Prairie, Lexington (now in Lee County) and Prospect. Caldwell became a transportation hub and by 1856 had attained a population of 300; until the early 1850s all county roads ran through the town, which was the site of one of the region's finest hotels, the Caldwell House. Census returns at the end of the final antebellum decade describe three county residents as holders of property worth at least $100,000 each; a fourth, Judge A. S. Broaddus, immigrated from Virginia in 1854 with 120 slaves.
Caldwell was designated county seat in 1840 when the Texas Congress annexed all of Washington County north of Yegua Creek to Milam County. The proposed town, surveyed by George B. Erath and named for Mathew Caldwell, was laid out parallel to the Old San Antonio Road. Caldwell served as the county seat of Milam County until Burleson County came into being in 1846.
Czech Migration into Burleson County
Attracted by a strip of blackland prarie soil that extends though much of Burleson County, Czech families began settling after the civil war. Czechs are a slavic people that came from Moravia and Bohemia. They left their homelands mainly because of frustration with constantly being overrun by maruding groups.
The first Czech settlement was established in Cat Spring in 1847. By the 1880's, Czech families worked their way about 30 miles northward to settle in New Tabor, Caldwell, Sebesta's Corner and Snook. Others migrated westward into Lee County to found Hranice.
Founding of Sebesta (1880's)
In the early 1880's, a small Czech farming community developed in Burleson County east of Caldwell. Among the influx of Czech settlers was a Czech businessman named Frank Sebesta who settled at the intersection of two roads. The Czechs referred to the spot as Sebesta's Corner, a name later shortened to Sebesta.
The Moravia school that served this new Czech settlement was a one-room school built in about 1888. Sebesta soon included a saloon and a Czechoslovak Benevolent Society lodge hall in the vacinity of the cooperative store.
A post office was established at Sebesta in 1896 which operated until 1912.
A Czech Moravian Brethren church also was built there in 1913.
Founding of Snook (1895)
As the area population grew during the early 1890s a saloon, two general merchandise stores, and a cotton gin were constructed a mile and a half northeast of Sebesta. This was a more central location for a majority of the Czechs living in the area. In 1895, John S. Snook, the postmaster at Caldwell, arranged for the post office at the nearby community of Dabney Hill to be moved to a site halfway between Dabney Hill and Sebesta. The new post office was named Snook in his honor, and Sebesta residents gradually built their homes around this new community center.
Telephone service reached Snook about 1901, and in 1910 a lodge hall was erected for the Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas. By 1914 there were an estimated eighty residents at Snook, which at that time had two general stores, a grocer, and a blacksmith. That year a new school, called Moravia School, was built.
During the 1920s, when the community had some seventy-five residents, artesian wells were dug for the town water supply. Several smaller schools consolidated with that of Snook in 1935, and in 1937 a new school building opened at the community. It became the nucleus of the Snook Independent School District in 1949. During the 1950s improved local roads provided better transportation for the community, and with the employment opportunities provided by the growth of the nearby Bryan-College Station area, Snook's population increased to 140 in 1950 and 384 in 1970.
The Snook Lions Club was organized in 1967. During the 1960s the Snook school was integrated with the nearby Jones School for black students. A fire department was organized at Snook about 1970. The community was incorporated in 1972, and a city hall was completed in 1975.
In the 1930s, Snook had a number of businesses that served area farmers, mostly of Czech and German descent.
Scenes from the June 2009 Snook Festival
Large vendor turnout brought a variety of products to shoppers basking in the aroma of the nearby BBQ cookoff
Great display of painted tractor seats, nowhere but Snook, Texas
Fantastic display of vintage tractors and autos
Start of the Watermellon roll at the Snook festival. To your left is the covered pavillion where some great Polka music was played!
This is a work in progress. Bookmark this page and come back often. If you have old photographs of Hranice, Dime Box or other nearby settlements or families, please email me a copy and I'll include your photos on this webpage.
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