PEACH TREE VILLAGE
PEACH TREE VILLAGE. Peach Tree Village, near the Neches River on a site now crossed by Farm Road 2097 two miles north of the present Chester in Tyler County, was the largest and most prominent of the villages established by the Alabama Indians. It was on a hill in the Kisatchie Wold, the ridge running through northern Tyler County. Members of the Alabama and Coushatta Indians had begun entering Texas in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and the Spanish Indian agent Samuel Davenport reported that the Alabamas established their principal village on the west bank of the Neches River eight leagues above its confluence with the Angelina. The Alabama Trace and the Coushatta Trace passed through this village. Also, it was the northern terminal of Long King's Trace, and the important north-south trail, the Liberty-Nacogdoches Road, was five miles east. Surveyors' field notes for fifteen original land grants in the counties of Polk and Tyler refer to this village. The Alabamas' claim to lands in Peach Tree Village and vicinity was contested for the first time when, in 1834 Col. Peter Ellis Bean, an American serving in a Mexican army detachment stationed at Nacogdoches, applied for and received a grant of eleven leagues of land from the Mexican government. Colonel Bean, who promoted this grant through Gavino Aranjo, one of his subordinates in the Mexican army, located part of his grant on land occupied by the Alabamas at Peach Tree Village. This land was later conveyed to Frost Thorne and his successors.
The Alabamas were on good terms with white settlers in the area, who included Peter Cauble and Valentine Ignatius Burch. Cauble settled at Peach Tree Village sometime around 1831, and Burch, who married Cauble's daughter, settled there about 1845. Peter Cauble's house was mentioned in the 1846 description of the boundaries of Polk County. At Gen. Sam Houston's request, the Alabamas remained neutral during the Texas Revolution. But they fed and cared for white settlers who passed through Peach Tree Village in the Runaway Scrape. To show that they were neutral the Alabamas displayed a large piece of white cloth every time a group of fleeing Texas approached Peach Tree Village. After Texas gained independence from Mexico, increasing numbers of settlers located in and near Peach Tree Village, and this village began a gradual transition from an Indian community to a prosperous frontier town with a store, a cotton gin, a saloon, a church, a school, and a post office that opened in 1853. During the years of the Republic of Texas the Alabamas began leaving Peach Tree Village and moving five miles southeastward to the Fenced-in Village.
In the 1850s Peach Tree Village was served by one of two mail routes across Tyler County, which connected with a route from Jasper to Swartout on the Trinity River in Polk County. Valentine Burch and other citizens of the community established a private academy, which served the area for a number of years. Dr. Stephen Pelham Willson, one of five doctors listed in the 1850 Tyler County census, located his store and office there and remained until his death. His son, Hiram A. Willson, a member of the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1876, also bought a farm and resided in this area. Peach Tree Village was the birthplace and boyhood home of one of East Texas's most outstanding industrialists-John Henry Kirbyqv, who was born here on November 16, 1860. Known and remembered chiefly as a lumberman, Kirby was an able lawyer, a business executive, a banker, and an oil operator. He was also president of the Southwestern Oil Company of Houston and organized the Kirby Petroleum Company in 1920.
In 1883 the Trinity and Sabine Railway was constructed into Tyler County, and Chester was built on the railroad two miles from Peach Tree Village. Soon the schools, commercial establishments, and postal service were moved to Chester, causing Peach Tree Village to die as a community. In 1912 Kirby erected a red brick chapel at Peach Tree Village in honor of his parents and hired a Russian artist to paint pictures on the walls. This memorial chapel and two acres of surrounding land are under the trusteeship of the Tyler County Commissioners Court. Approximately 22.4 acres of the Peach Tree Village site were donated by Temple-Eastex Incorporated for development of Camp Ta-Ku-La, a nondenominational camp that will be made available to any church or Christian group for activities, youth camps, and retreats for all ages.
Bob Bowman, The 35 Best Ghost Towns in East Texas and 220 Other Towns We Left Behind (Lufkin, Texas: Best of East Texas Publishers, 1988). Howard N. Martin, "Polk County Indians: Alabamas, Coushattas, Pakana Muskogees," East Texas Historical Journal 17 (1979). John R. Swanton, Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 73 (Washington: GPO, 1922). James E. and Josiah Wheat, "Tyler County under Mexico," It's Dogwood Time in Tyler County, March 1966.