Historical markers coming for West Orange, Prairie View, Orange
Last updated 7/25/2023 at 10:39pm
Three new Texas Historical Markers are in Orange County's future, including the first one in West Orange and the first for the community of Prairie View, which evolved into Bridge City.
The other marker will be to feature a 132-year-old house in the Old Orange Historic District currently owned by Kenneth and Beth Wheeler.
Last week the Texas Historical Commission sent word to the Orange County Historical Commission that marker applications for the three submitted for the county were approved. This year, the state allocated only 170 markers for the 254 counties in the state.
The markers will take more than a year to be cast in bronze and sent to the sites. The Orange County Historical Commission will hold dedication ceremonies for the markers in the future.
A marker will be going to the First Baptist Church of West Orange and will be the first one within the city's limits. West Orange City Councilor Meritta Kennedy researched the marker and wrote the application.
The church was founded in 1901 when West Orange was opened as a place across Adams Bayou where the workers in the lumber mills and shipyards could afford a plot of land to build a house. The church was the first establishment in the community, which became an incorporated city in 1954.
The marker in what is now Bridge City will be for the Prairie View Teacherage, which now serves as offices for the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce, along with a museum of the town. The house now sits at 150 West Roundbunch Road.
The research and application for the marker were by Charlotte Chaisson, a writer whose credits include a history book of Bridge City. Chaisson is also a former director of the Bridge City Chamber and helped preserve the old teacherage. Her work included the perverbial "elbow grease" of working hot hours to fix and refurbish the house.
The teacherage was built for the old Prairie View school district in 1930 to serve as a residence for the single teachers hired by the district. The house was built in the Craftsman-Acadian style by school board members and men living in the district. It was used until 1993, even after the community became known as Bridge City in 1941.
Through the years, the teacherage was continually occupied by teachers, principals, bus mechanics, and maintenance personnel. When the Bridge City ISD decided it did not need the house, the Bridge City Chamber acquired it and it was moved to its current site.
The house is the only teacherage left in Orange County from the days when a small community school district provided a teacher or principal with a place to live.
Now-retired Judge Jerry Pennington used his lawyer skills to research the deed records and history of the house at 1008 Pine Avenue. The lots were part of the city of Orange's first "subdivision" area as the town moved away from the crescent of the river.
Pennington's history includes how the town grew as the giant Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company located here and brought in an influx of workers for cutting timber and running the lumber mill.
Pennington found an 1879 edition of the Orange Tribune, which printed "Mr. J.C. Bradbery and Mr. N. Bissey of Longview arrived in Orange this week. They propose to locate in Orange provided they can obtain housing, which, of late, owing to the influx of people, has become a difficult matter. New buildings are going up all through town but not fast enough to supply the demand. We believe there is not a vacant house in Orange."
He follows the ownership of the house, with the Stephens family as the longest residents of the home. The Wheelers bought the house from First Christian Church, which is across an alley from the house, in 2003. Since then they did major renovations to the main house and a second building on the site.