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Jerry Wilson Park

PARK Central: 979-337-7250 | Rainout Line: 979-337-7233 | Office: 1800 E. Tom Green St., Brenham, TX 77833

Jerry Wilson Park - 900 E. Alamo

Park Features:

 
 

Special thanks to the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County staff for the photos below

 

 

Park Location

Park History

Freedom Colonies

A Brief History of the Camptown Community in Brenham, Texas
(Information obtained from Mount Rose MBC History Book, other documents, and oral histories.)

In the 1850’s Freedmen and runaway slaves from plantations in Chappell Hill, Independence, Navasota, and Washington-On-The-Brazos began to gravitate to the area surrounding what was known as Higgins Branch (Hog Branch). The branch provided plenty of water for the slaves and freedmen to grow crops and raise livestock. It was nicknamed Hog Branch because of the large number of hog farmers in that area.

An area selected on the banks of Hog Branch was designated as a cemetery, later known as Camptown Cemetery. This historic cemetery has been cleaned up and is in the process of restoration today. Camptown Cemetery is deeply rooted in the development of the Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church which is the oldest African-American congregation in Brenham. The development of the church closely parallels the history of the cemetery. Church services were held from tent to tent and under “brush arbors”.

After the Civil War, Brenham was occupied by the U.S. Army 17th Infantry Division. The soldiers were tasked with keeping the peace between freed slaves and former slave owners, as well as to ensure the right for religious expression for the emancipated Blacks. This Army camp was located near Hog Branch in the area called Camptown. Soldiers who died while serving in the area were buried in the Camptown Cemetery. Former slaves were allowed to worship in the soldiers’ dining hall located across from current day Independent Baptist Church, which is on Alamo Street not far from Hog Branch. When the Army troops were withdrawn, the Army-occupied land was sold and the proceeds were divided between Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church and St. John A.M.E. church. Both congregations built structures and both remain pillars of the Camptown Community and Brenham at-large.

In addition to federal troops an office of the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in the Camptown area. Its mission was to provide food, housing and medical aid, and to establish schools and offer legal assistance to the former slaves. It also attempted to settle former slaves on land confiscated or abandoned during the war. Ultimately, the Bureau was prevented from fully carrying out its programs due to a shortage of funds and personnel, along with the politics of race and Reconstruction.

In 1875 the Brenham Public School system established Pickard High School in the Camptown Community. Pickard High School was organized to educate Black pupils from elementary through high school. It was the first high school for Blacks in the state of Texas and was originally named the Brenham High School for Coloreds. It was later called Camp Town School and then East End High School. The name changed to Pickard High School on June 9, 1936. It was renamed in honor of A.R. Pickard, Sr., who served as the school principal for more than forty years. Pickard High School had a storied sports legacy winning a State Football Championship (1951), three State Baseball Championships (1962, 1963, 1966) and seven consecutive district championships (1961-1967). An elementary school was erected directly across the street from the high school. It was later renamed Alton Elementary in honor of W.I. Alton who served as the principal of Pickard High School for more than twenty years.

Jerry Wilson

Through the years a number of small businesses were established in the Camptown Community. Wilson Food Market was a well-known establishment patronized by Black and White citizens. The owner, Mr. Jerry Wilson, was a well-known figure in the community. Other businesses included Nathan’s Store, Porter’s Dental Office, a teen snack bar owned by Mrs. Nanie Mae Waits, a small café, a Press & Tailor Shop, a beauty shop, a Masonic Lodge, Scott’s Dance Hall and the Dennis Print Shop. Black-owned businesses served the needs of African-American citizens from Reconstruction until the end of segregation and were vital economically, for growth, and for basic sustenance. Later Blue Bell Creameries and the Brenham Cotton Mill established nearby businesses which would employ a number of Camptown residents.

 

Significant People and Objects from Camptown

  • Pickard HS
  • Pickard HS Hornet (mascot)
  • Pickard HS Championship Teams
  • A.R. Pickard Sr.
  • Alton Elementary
  • W.I. Alton
  • Mount Rose (MBC) Missionary Baptist Church
  • St. John (AME) African Methodist Episcopal
  • Independent Baptist Church
  • Main Street Baptist Church
  • Wilson Food Market/ Jerry Wilson
  • Nathan’s Store
  • Camptown Cemetery
  • Dennis Print Shop