Friday, February 17, 2017

Covering Covington

Many little towns in Texas sprang up because of rail lines crossing the state. This part of the state was short-grass prairie. This means that it’s a good place to raise cattle and that the
Cattle country
land will support crops. Farming, ranching, and the ability to get produce to larger distribution centers let towns such as Covington thrive. Covington, in the north central Hill County, began its life through the efforts of James J. Gathings. This Mississippian came to Texas in 1852, buying thousands of acres of land, then building a large and successful farming and ranching concern. He set aside 100 acres of his ranch for the town of Covington, which he had named for his wife. Any family who agreed to make a home in the area and to help build a school was offered a lot in town. They were also offered jobs in Gatherings’s other businesses. Quickly the town, and the businesses, grew generating a factory that produced boots, clothes, flour, saddles, wagons, and pretty much any other items the settlers needed. A steam mill and gin made Covington an attractive place to do business and made Gathings wealthy.

By 1855 Covington had a post office and Gathings was the postmaster. Shortly thereafter he
Cemetery entrance
and his brother, Philip, created Gathings College in hopes of attracting more families to the little town. Classes in languages, literature, music and art were offered. This curriculum was fairly typically of schools that prepared young ladies to ‘marry well’ and young men to go on to universities. The school was successful until the after the Civil War when attendance decreased to a very few students. It continues to operate, in some form and in the same building, until it was taken over by the Covington Independent School District. There is now an elementary school on the original site of the college.

Covington’s population grew to about 500 and remained stabled until about 1870; the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad bypassed town effectively putting a hold on further
Architecture of City Hall
growth. A railroad did come to Covington, but it wasn’t for about 30 years. The Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway re-established the town as a shipping and retail center; this lasted until the Great Depression. World War II, and the growth of the state and federal highway systems that bypassed the community, rang the death knell for the little town. Now the population of the town is about 282 and those same highway systems are making it possible for folks living in this pretty area to commute to surrounding towns for work. We visited Covington on a pretty day Texas winter day. The architecture of the town center reflects the typical structures in the late 1800s, particularly in the use of patterened brick. There is a town government in these buildings, but not much else. The other interesting part of town is the cemetery. The grave markers have dates as early as the mid-1800s; the markers, themselves, reflect the graveyard art of the time. It’s an interesting place to poke around.

Forester grave marker and other headstones 

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