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GAY HILL, TX (WASHINGTON COUNTY)

GAY HILL, TEXAS (Washington County). Gay Hill is on Farm Road 390 twelve miles northwest of Brenham in the rolling hills of northern Washington County. The town was an educational and religious center on the La Bahía Road in early Texas. Rev. Hugh Wilson established the second Presbyterian church in Texas there in 1839. Presbyterians from throughout the republic met in the community, then known as Chriesman Settlement, to organize the Brazos Presbytery in 1840. By 1840 the Republic of Texas established a post office in the new town under the name Gay Hill, after the owners of the town store, Thomas Gay and William Carroll Jackson Hill. The beautiful forested hills and healthy climate attracted prominent early Texans, including residents Horatio Chriesman, R. E. B. Baylor, John Sayles, and Dr. George C. Red. Horticulturist Thomas Affleck's Glenblythe Plantation was located in the Gay Hill vicinity. Old Gay Hill served as the supply point of a moderately prosperous agricultural area. In 1854 a Masonic lodge was founded there. Between 1853 and 1888 Rev. James W. Miller operated Live Oak Female Seminary in Gay Hill. By 1860 the town had flour and lumber mills and a population of 280. After the Civil War a cotton gin augmented the town's prosperity; retail establishments continued to thrive. The Masonic lodge and Presbyterian and Baptist churches were active. During the 1870s the town had a Grange and a Democratic Club. The Republican party remained strong among Gay Hill's black residents, despite Greenback party efforts. When the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway extended to the Gay Hill vicinity in 1881, residents moved the town to its present location, two miles west of the original site. The former location is sometimes called Old Gay Hill.

Gay Hill's population was 120 in 1890. By 1900 Germans were the dominant ethnic group. The town became a distribution center by the early twentieth century. Cotton buying and ginning sustained this station on the Santa Fe through the Great Depression. By 1936 Gay Hill had an estimated population of 250 and ten businesses. The nearby Sun oilfield, which opened in 1928, and its pipeline enabled the town to maintain a variety of retail and commercial establishments through the early post-World War II era. The decline of cotton and rise of ranching in the area hastened the town's demise as a distribution center and supply point. The population declined to 200 by 1958, and businesses decreased to five. The last store closed in 1971, when many residents had moved to Brenham. In 1993 the estimated population was 145, and the community had no businesses; its economy depended on ranching. It had two churches, a cemetery, and lodge hall. The population remained the same in 2000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Mrs. R. E. Pennington, History of Brenham and Washington County (Houston, 1915). Charles F. Schmidt, History of Washington County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1949). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Washington County Scrapbook, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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, "GAY HILL, TX (WASHINGTON COUNTY)," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlg11), accessed August 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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