North Texas Daily

Old Quakertown community receives historical marker

Old Quakertown community receives historical marker

February 15
00:38 2013

Trent Johnson

Senior Staff Writer

@NTDailyTrent 

More than 100 years ago, Denton was comprised of multiple communities. There was the City of Denton and a bustling neighborhood within it, where a park now dons its old name — Quakertown.

This Saturday, the Texas Historical Commission and Denton Historical Commission will present Quakertown with an official Texas Historical Marker at the Denton Civic Center. The presentation will feature speeches by Denton County Judge Mary Horn and Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs.

The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the Denton Civic Center at 321 East McKinney and Quakertown Park, where the marker will be placed.

For about 40 years in the late 19th century, Quakertown’s African American community thrived in the area next to what is now Texas Women’s University. Eventually the group of citizens was forced to leave, as the land they had once occupied was transformed from homes, businesses and schools into a local park.

Not until the late 1980s did Denton historians rediscover the story of the community within a community, unveiling its success and eventual demise.

The success of Quakertown 

The successful community of Quakertown was established in the 1880s and encompassed the areas surrounded by Withers Street on the north, Oakland Avenue on the west, Bell Avenue on the east and Cottonwood and Pecan Creeks on the south, said Laura Douglas, public services librarian at the Emily Fowler Central Library.

African Americans from other areas in Texas were drawn to Quakertown due to the schools it contained, said Kim Cupit, Denton County Museum’s curator of collections. Education was spearheaded by Fred Moore, principal of the Fred Douglass School founded in 1915.

Most of the citizens living there were considered lower- to middle-class and found work doing various jobs.

“A lot of the residents worked for the two universities,” Cupit said. “They also had their own grocery stores, cafés, barbershops and they even had their own funeral home that was all in this little area.”

The community was home to about 60 families, creating a real sense of community, Cupit said. All the citizens contributed to Quakertown’s success, as they worked to make their collective something to be proud of.

“Residents had a sense of pride in the community,” Douglas said. “Residents worked to keep the community a clean, healthy place to live.”

Reasons for Quakertown’s success were equated to the superb leadership, Cupit said. They had numerous organizations that forced people to bond together as they recruited skilled people in multiple fields.

“The gentleman that ran the boarding house recruited Dr. Morton to come to Denton,” Cupit said. “H.C. Bell, who was the principle of the school after Fred Moore, was also a pharmacist. They had so many strong leaders that banded the community together.”

Quakertown’s end

As Quakertown thrived, the College of Industrial Arts, now known as Texas Woman’s University, was established in 1901. Geographically the college and community were extremely close, inevitably leading to some conflict, Cupit said.

“It existed until about 1920,” Cupit said. “The city held a vote and a bond election to create a park, and they chose Quakertown to be that area.”

The vote was overwhelming for the area becoming a park, Douglas said. The result was not a surprise, as during Douglas’ research she discovered that city officials had a plan to get rid of Quakertown years before the vote.

“When the search party for the park site for the University officials agreed using that area as the site in 1903, they said something like ‘promises were made and it’s time to make good on these promises,’” Douglas said.

After Quakertown dissolved, many of the residents were hurt by the decision and were left with few options, Cupit said.

“They lost some of that sense of community when they were displaced,” Cupit said. “They were stumbled and hurt because they lost their voice. I cannot imagine what that felt like.”

Most of the residents were relocated to the area now known as Southeast Denton, but some decided to move North to places such as Kansas City, Cupit said.

Losing and rediscovering the history

After becoming Civic City Park in 1923, which is now Quakertown Park, the close-knit community started to disappear from both Denton and the memory of citizens. It took more than 60 years for historians to rediscover this lost piece of Denton, Cupit said.

“There were a couple of historians in Denton that started to first research Quakertown in the early 1990s,” Cupit said. “When you have a sad part in your history, not a lot of people want to talk about it.”

Chairman of the Denton Historical Commission Beth Stribling shared the sentiment of Cupid, claiming that people of Denton may not have wanted to remember this history.

“It became such an under told story because of what happened,” Stribling said. “I don’t know why this hasn’t happened sooner.”

One of the reasons it took so long was because people had to regain an open mind, Cupit said. Though it took awhile to recognize Quakertown, Denton officials have tried making citizens aware of the history.

In 1991, the DHC placed a Denton historical marker in what was the Civic City Park. 15 years later, the name of the park was changed to Quakertown Park, giving the area its original name again.

An original restored Quakertown house was moved in 2008 to the Denton County historical park, which now serves as the current Denton County African American Museum. The house also received a DHC historical marker in 2009.

Getting the state historical marker

In 2010, the DHC embarked on their application process to receive the Texas Historical Marker for Quakertown. The process not only encompassed proving why this area needed one, but also required a narrative written by Douglas, Stribling said.

After three years of waiting, Quakertown will receive $1,600 to pay for the marker from the THC through their Under-told Story project.

“They have been working on this marker for several years,” Cupid said. “A lot of people will say it’s about time but it’s never too late to recognize something like this. This really deserved the marker.”

Some UNT students have also learned of the story recently, learning something new about the community where they spend their everyday lives.

“I just read about Quakertown,” pre-construction engineering sophomore Brandon Anderson said. “I think they are doing the right thing, because the community was a big part of the African American history of Denton.”

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1 Comment

  1. Cheryl
    Cheryl November 09, 20:50

    I found this on Facebook thanks for posting it was very informative and much-needed.

    Reply to this comment

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