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BROWNTOWN, TX

BROWNTOWN, TEXAS. Browntown was between White Oak Creek and the Sulphur River nine miles northwest of Omaha in northwestern Morris County. In 1900 the Sullivan Sanford Lumber Company bought 20,000 acres in northwestern Morris and northeastern Titus counties. The company built a railroad from Naples north across White Oak Creek and then northwest through the timberland. By 1917 they had cut most of the usable timber and torn up the railroad. They then sold the land to Clayton D. Browne, a Dallas real estate developer who planned to build a community there. Browne divided the land into tracts of eighty to 100 acres and had twelve three-room box houses built along the abandoned railroad grade. He was willing to sell the land on easy terms, making it possible for poor sharecroppers to obtain land of their own. The residents were to have use of the entire 20,000 acres for raising stock and cutting timber.

Many families moved into the area. Some bought the land, some entered into contracts to buy the land, and some simply occupied the land without making any such arrangement with Browne. The small community along the road was named Browntown. By 1921 there were enough families in the area to begin a school, and in 1922 the residents floated a bond and built a white clapboard building with two classrooms. The Great Depression, however, ruined most of the settlers' hopes of paying off their debts and becoming landowners. In financial difficulty himself, Browne sold the land to Columbus Marion (Dad) Joinerqv in 1932. Although Joiner was able to sell leases on the land to individuals throughout the nation, all of the wells he drilled on the land were dry.

In 1942 Joiner sold the land to Paul Pewitt, who wished to use it as a cattle ranch. As Pewitt began to fence and clear the land, those settlers who had depended on the open range for their subsistence faced difficult choices. Some resorted to violence, cutting miles of fence, burning barns, and killing stock. Pewitt retaliated by driving off those who did not have clear title. He rounded up horses and cattle that roamed his land and sold or killed them. The few settlers who had actually obtained clear title to their land gradually sold their holdings to Pewitt and moved away. By the 1970s only one small farm remained, sitting in the middle of the vast modern ranch as a reminder of Browntown and of the hopes and dreams of its founder and residents.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Deborah Brown and Katharine Gust, Between the Creeks: Recollections of Northeast Texas (Austin: Encino, 1976).

Cecil Harper, Jr.

Citation

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

Cecil Harper, Jr., "BROWNTOWN, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvbbw), accessed August 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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