Allow me to introduce you to the stories behind many of our attractions and historic areas here in Irving, Texas. This week we'll look at the small towns that were “swallowed up” and became a part of Irving. In other words, you may be living in an area that used to be called a different name. After the story, you can have fun with the crossword puzzle activity page. Simply click on the puzzle below to print it out. Now let's get started!
You may have learned about the Mexican American War (1846 – 1848) in school. After this war, the U.S. gained New Mexico and California from the Mexicans. Now, just a year before the war began (in 1845), the U.S. welcomed the Republic of Texas as one of its states. Even though Texas was just a new baby state, it was the closest state to Mexico. So in 1846 President Polk asked the Texans to fight in this new war for one year. One of those fighters was a man named John B. Gorbett. It’s believed that the town of Gorbett, Texas was named after him. Gorbett (sometimes called Gorbit or Corbitt – they didn’t much care for getting the spelling right back then) was a small farming town with a post office. People farmed cotton, sweet potatoes, onions, wheat, oats and other crops.
Some of the businessmen in Gorbett learned the railroad might be built near where Irving Blvd. and Loop 12 intersect, only those roads didn’t exist back then. So they built a town in that area and called it Gorbett also. Can you see where that might be confusing, having two towns with the same name? In 1894, they changed the name to Kit, Texas. Kit also had its own Post Office, a General Store, a school and a Constable (police officer). There’s a cemetery called the Kit Cemetery where many of the early settlers of Irving are buried.
Edmund D. Sowers owned a grocery store near where Pioneer Dr. and Belt Line Rd. is now. He was also the Postmaster there. The small farming community of Sowers, Texas was named after him, and it had a blacksmith, a church, a doctor, a druggist, a school, and two steam gristmill-cotton gins. Isaac Sylvester Tompkins was a neighbor of Mr. Sowers, and Isaac is buried in the small Tompkins Cemetery – you know, the small cemetery that lies between eastbound Hwy. 183 and the service road, near Esters Rd. Also, many years later, in 1933, it was here in Sowers where some lawmen tried to ambush two famous bank robbers named Bonnie and Clyde. But they got away.
There was a small town called Union Bower that grew up near the old Texas Stadium site. The people who lived there wanted to build a school for their children and use the school building for a church where people from different religions could meet. It was a “union” of different people coming together. And can you guess what the teacher’s name was? It was Mr. Bower. That’s where the name Union Bower came from. There are several homes in this area that are still standing today.
Another small town was located near Estelle Creek that runs behind the Irving Animal Care campus on Valley View Ln. The community was named Estill in honor of an architect from Grapevine; but remember what I said earlier about spelling not being very important back then. The town recorder in Washington D.C. called it Estelle, Texas instead of Estill, and the name stuck. A local post office operated there from 1881 until 1904. By 1885 the town had a population of seventy-five, a steam cotton gin, two churches, a school, a blacksmith, two doctors, a teacher, and a reverend. The community was a shipping point for cotton and grain on a stagecoach route to Grapevine and Dallas. The stage ran three times a week.
There were other towns that joined Irving like Hackberry, Finley and Elm School, but the very last town to be incorporated into (or become a part of) Irving was Bear Creek, Texas, one of the oldest African American communities in Dallas County. During the late 1850s, a mix of free blacks, whites and their slaves began settling along the upper reaches of Bear Creek. After emancipation (that’s when the slaves were freed by President Abraham Lincoln), former slaves began moving into the area, which developed into a rural African American town during a time of racial segregation. Segregation means that one group of people live in one area and another group lives in a separate area, and there can be many reasons why. After the Civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s, everyone got to mix together and live wherever they wanted.
There are three museums that make up the Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center. These museums tell the history of the Bear Creek community and of the African American experience from the time of emancipation through the Civil Rights movement.
When Julius Schulze and Otis Brown sold small lots of land where our downtown Heritage District is, it started the new town of Irving. Because Irving was near the new railroad that traveled from Dallas to Ft. Worth and back, many people from the surrounding smaller towns moved to Irving so they could ride the train. The town of Irving grew and grew and eventually combined all these smaller towns into one large city we know today as Irving, Texas.
Now that you know a little more about how the town of Irving came to be, try to remember all these facts and work the crossword puzzle below. It’s okay to look back into the story if you get stuck.
Click here to download the crossword puzzle for printing.
|1||cemetery on Hwy. 183|
|2||a small town near Irving Blvd. & Loop 12|
|3||people moved to the Irving area a long time _______|
|4||a small body of water that ran through Estelle, also named Estelle _______|
|6||please choose one ____ the other|
|7||the misspelling of an architect from Grapevine named Estill|
|8||Irving is in the county of ___________|
|10||a small dog-like animal that lives in the woods. Sly as a ______|
|12||one of the crops that people farmed in Gorbett, TX in the 1800's|
|13||Elliot's friend who kept trying to phone home|
|14||someone who was born in Texas is called a ______________|
|15||abbreviation for the state of Washington|
|16||abbreviation for the Las Colinas Association|
|22||today, most families in Irving don't grow crops, they just _____ to the grocery store|
|23||vegetables grown in Gorbett that are delicious when sliced into rings, battered and fried|
|24||a soft, spongy ball you can shoot from a gun|
|25||the teacher's name in Union Bower was Mr. __________|
|29||when people bought land at the Irving Lot Sale, they wanted to be _________ the railroad|
|31||abbreviation for Facebook|
|32||abbreviation for Regarding|
|33||abbreviation for Each|
|1||a means of transportation faster than a wagon or stagecoach|
|5||another way to spell Gorbett|
|9||Irving has grown more and ___________|
|11||a past City Council member and community activist after whom the Bear Creek Heritage Center is named|
|17||Irving is in the state of __________|
|18||abbreviation for the Las Colinas Association|
|19||abbreviation for Gone To Texas. People wrote these initials on their door when they moved to Texas.|
|20||the Toyota Music Factory is on _____ Colinas Blvd.|
|21||a means of transportation that farmers used to take their crops to sell at the local market|
|26||if you bought two tacos, ate one and gave your friend one, how many tacos would you have left?|
|27||when different people from different religions come together|
|28||the name of our town now|
|30||we live in the great state _____ Texas|
|31||when slaves were emancipated, that meant they were set _______|
|34||a small town when combined with "Creek" is where freed slaves lived|
|35||a small farming town where E.D. Sowers owned a grocery store|
Answers to last week's puzzle
Previous activity pages
- The Story of Irving - Who lived here before the settlers?
- Irving's Train Story - How the railroad ties into the story of Irving
- Land For Sale - The story of the original 'Lot Sale'
- Irving's Clock Tower - Commemorating the Lot Sale