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CHAPPELL HILL, TX

CHAPPELL HILL, TEXAS. Chappell (Chapel) Hill is located at the junction of Farm roads 1155 and 2447, fifty-seven miles northwest of Houston in southeastern Washington County. By 1847 the site was a trading locality, one mile from Cedar Creek settlement, an early Methodist center. Trader Jacob Haller's wife, Mary Hargrove Haller, bought 100 acres for the townsite; she named the town for her grandfather, Robert Wooding Chappell, an early settler. In 1849 she laid out and sold town lots. In the 1850s Chappell Hill grew rapidly as the center of large cotton plantations. Mary Haller established a post office in 1847, and missionary Robert Alexander organized the Chappell Hill Methodist Church the same year. In 1851 the Hubert Masonic Lodge (still functioning in 1988) was chartered. An academy was organized the previous year. The Methodist Texas Conference established Chappell Hill Male and Female Institute (1852) and Soule University (1856). Between 1854 and 1878 five Texas Methodist conferences were held at Chappell Hill. The town was incorporated on April 7, 1856. To obtain better transportation for their growing cotton harvests, Chappell Hill residents held a meeting in 1852 to encourage Houston businessmen to construct the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. In 1856 Chappell Hill planters William M. Sledgeqv and Col. W. W. Browning organized the Washington County Rail Road, which held stockholders' meetings in Chappell Hill. With extension of the Washington County Railroad to Chappell Hill in 1859, the town became a distribution center. During the Civil War Chappell Hill had a Confederate quartermaster depot and a military hospital; Camp Felder was in the vicinity. The Twenty-first Texas Lancers were raised at Chappell Hill. The Texas Ranger newspaper was published there from 1851 to 1853.

From 1868 to 1870 the town had a Freedmen's Bureau school. Emancipation severely disrupted Chappell Hill's economy. The high mortality of the 1867 yellow fever epidemic resulted in the exodus of many surviving residents. The arrival of industrious Polish immigrants, principally farmers, beginning in the early 1870s and increasing after 1884, helped Chappell Hill remain a supply point. The population increased from 318 to 800 by 1878. Between 1853 and 1909 the town furnished seven state representatives, including two African Americans. In the 1870s the Grange, black and white Greenback clubs, and the temperance movement flourished. In 1889 Polish immigrants organized St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, one of the earliest Polish parishes in Texas. Town residents organized the Chappell Hill Circulating Library Association in 1893. The library was restored in 1964 and is in use today. As Brenham developed, however, Chappell Hill declined. Soule University closed in 1888, and Chappell Hill Female College closed in 1912.

Mayor-council government ended in 1884. Despite the establishment of the Farmer's State Bank in 1907, commerce declined in volume and variety between 1880 and World War I. By 1914 Chappell Hill had a population of 600. Residents increased to 1,000 by 1930, but the depression and postwar decline in the importance of cotton cultivation resulted in a commercial decline. The population was 300 in 1960. Beginning in the 1960s an influx of Houstonians revived commerce and renewed interest in the restoration of historic homes. The Chappell Hill Chamber of Commerce organized in 1970. Property values soared, and deposits at the Farmers State Bank—$500,000 in 1970—climbed to $5 million within a few years. The Chappell Hill Historical Society, founded in 1964, promotes historical preservation and maintains a museum. The town has more than twenty-five Texas historical markers and ten sites on the National Register, including the Main Street Historic District. The population, predominantly Anglo-American before the Civil War, had become predominantly Polish-American by the early twentieth century. Residents in the 1980s numbered 600. Chappell Hill voters rejected reincorporation in 1984. Annual events include the Bluebonnet Festival in April, the Scarecrow Festival in October, and the Independence Day Parade, in which the Chappell Hill children's kazoo marching band participates. The recently restored Masonic Cemetery contains the graves of Republic of Texas settlers and Confederate veterans. In 1990 the population was 310 and in 2000 it ws 600.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

W. O. Dietrich, The Blazing Story of Washington County (Brenham, Texas: Banner Press, 1950; rev. ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1973). Ardita Berry Morgan, A Short History of Chappell Hill Female College (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 1953). Charles F. Schmidt, History of Washington County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1949). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Mr. and Mrs. Nate Winfield, All Our Yesterdays: A Brief History of Chappell Hill (Waco: Texian Press, 1969). Judy and Nath Winfield, Jr., Cemetery Records of Washington County, 1826–1960 (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 1974).

Carole E. Christian

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Carole E. Christian, "CHAPPELL HILL, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlc21), accessed September 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.