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HAWLEY, TX (MATAGORDA COUNTY)

HAWLEY, TEXAS (Matagorda County). Hawley, known earlier as Deming's Bridge, was on the Tres Palacios River a mile east of what is now State Highway 71 and three miles northeast of Blessing in western Matagorda County. At one time the Tres Palacios may have been navigable as far north as Deming's Bridge. The area, used as a meeting place by local settlers as early as 1850, had a log church by 1852. Sometime after land was deeded for a cemetery and church in 1854, a frame building for the Tres Palacios Baptist Church was established. In 1857 Edwin A. Deming, a friend of Abel Head Pierce, had a bridge built nearby over the Tres Palacios. The next year Deming's Bridge, as the community was then known, received a post office, with Edwin Deming as first postmaster. In 1861, during the Civil War, the Confederate reserve infantry unit known as the Trespalacios Coast Guard, captained by one John Moore, had its headquarters at Deming's Bridge. Pierce and his brother Jonathan Edwards Pierce for a time based the headquarters of their cattle company just south of Deming's Bridge. The Deming's Bridge post office closed in 1866 and reopened in 1872. After an 1875 hurricane destroyed the frame Tres Palacios Baptist Church, a new two-story building hosted Baptist and Methodist congregations on the ground floor and Masonic lodge meetings on the second. By 1876 Jonathan Pierce was serving as postmaster at Deming's Bridge. The community reported a population of 300 in 1884 and 500 by 1892, when it had seventeen businesses, including five carpenters, one wagonmaker, and two general stores (one with a flour mill). After Jonathan Pierce donated land in 1893, a new multidenominational church building was built; it stood until the mid-1930s. In 1899 Jonathan Pierce successfully pushed to have the post office and cemetery names changed to Hawley, in gratitude to Robert Bradley Hawley for securing Pierce's son, Abel, an appointment in the United States Navy. A one-teacher school called Deming's Bridge, however, still served thirty pupils in 1904. In 1903 Jonathan Pierce was among those donating land to encourage the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway to build through the area. That year the town of Blessing was established on the tracks; it received Hawley's post office and its Masonic hall, which was given a Texas Historical Commission marker in 1965 and still stood at Blessing in the 1980s. Also extant in the 1980s was the Hawley Cemetery Association, chartered in 1940 by Adelaide Hall Pierce. Among the graves under the association's care at the otherwise abandoned Hawley townsite were those of Abel Head Pierce, who had a life-size marble statue of himself erected there before his death in 1900, and William Walter Heffelfinger, All-American guard on Yale University's football team during the late 1800s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. Matagorda County Historical Commission, Historic Matagorda County (3 vols., Houston: Armstrong, 1986). Adelaide Hall Pierce, comp., Deming's Bridge Cemetery, Tres Palacios Baptist Church . . . Hawley Cemetery (Palacios, Texas: Palacios Beacon, 1960).

Rachel Jenkins

Citation

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

Rachel Jenkins, "HAWLEY, TX (MATAGORDA COUNTY)," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrh96), accessed September 15, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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