A Bit of Texas History
Mill Hollow Christmas Tree Farm is located in Northwest San Jacinto County on the west side of Lake Livingston. The area is not only beautiful with its tree covered hills but is closely tied to the early history and lore of Texas. Growing Christmas trees in Texas and especially on this land would probably even gain the nod of Sam Houston who called this area home.
A walk from the geometrically laid out fields of cone shaped Christmas trees on the top of one of the areas highest hills and into the random growth of the lower adjacent forests brings one to wonder about the sweat and toil of others in taming this land. A dilapidated two room shack, waiting for the next strong wind to collapse it, concrete foundations, a washed out dam and road cuts into creek banks suggest this forest may have contained more than deer. This forest was the home of an early thriving Texas settlement.
A marker at an adjacent historic cemetery indicates the first settlers arrived in the early 1830's. The Texas war for independence was in 1836. The old timers talk about a town long abandoned in the woods nearby. They probably even note the irony of Christmas trees growing near the site of this ghost town.
This ghost town was called Snow Town. No, this town was not named for the very infrequent snows which may dust the area. The town was founded by T.H. Snow around 1852. This early settlement consisted of a general store and saloon and served the needs of the early settlers and travelers. On the other side of a nearby creek, a log cabin served as the community center for all religions. A cemetery was soon started with the first burial in 1839. This log cabin and adjacent cemetery were known as Union Center and later as Center Hill Church.
T.H. Snow died in a cotton gin mill accident in 1858 . He left a son who would make a memorable mark on the Texas newspaper business. In 1875, the son, Thomas Snow, Jr., is believed to have started, probably in Snow Town, the first area newspaper. For six months, Thomas Snow printed a newspaper called "The Rising Sun" and distributed it by horseback to the area settlements. The settlers wanted news, but were unwilling to pay for a newspaper. After six months with very little income to show for his publishing venture, Thomas Snow was broke. He decided to call it quits but would put out his last issue in style. He ordered red paper and, to reflect his profit and loss, the last issue was printed on this red paper. In addition, the newspaper banner or title was changed from "The Rising Sun" to appropriately "The Setting Sun". It would be another eleven years before a local paper was published in San Jacinto County.
History does not record the comings and goings at the Snow Town saloon in the 1850's. However, it is very likely that Sam Houston may have stopped by and tipped a brew or two or three over the discussion of politics.
Sam Houston's Raven Hill Plantation was located two miles away on the same high ridge as Snow Town. The path from Raven Hill to Huntsville followed this ridge and joined with another road at Snow Town. Sam Houston established Raven Hill around 1845. His intentions were to retire from politics, clear the forests and develop Raven Hill into an experimental farm. However, the building discontent over slavery which culminated into the Civil War brought him back into politics. Sam Houston's unpopular and futile efforts to preserve the Union caused him to be frequently away on trips. Margaret, Sam's wife, disliked being left alone with only the company of their children. The civilization of Huntsville looked more appealing to her than the isolation of an East Texas forest.
In 1848, Sam Houston bought a house and farm in Huntsville. The plantation continued operating under Sam Houston's supervision with him apparently spending much of his time there. His dream for Raven Hill still existed. As late as 1857, Sam Houston indicated a desire to retire and return to Raven Hill. In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, Raven Hill along with the Huntsville property was sold. Sam Houston died in Huntsville in 1863.
The "Mill Hollow" logo is derived from the lumbering industry which made Snow Town into a boom town after the Civil War. In the valley below the Christmas tree field, spring feed Palmetto Creek trickles through the forested hills on its way to the Trinity River (now Lake Livingston). During this lumbering period, the Oakhurst Saw Mill (use back key to return) was on a ridge over looking this valley near Snow Town. The railroad arrived in the 1880's. A post office was established in Snow Town in 1899. The post office was designated as "Oakhurst" presumably due to the dominating presence of the Oakhurst Mill. In 1908, the nearby Palmetto Mill burned to the ground. Its equipment and operations were merged into the Oakhurst Mill.
Snow Town was no longer just a fork in the road. It now contained a commissary, a pool hall, saloon, drugstore, barber shop, two churches and the "Oakhurst" post office. An unknown number of families called this and the Oakhust Mill home.
The sawmill closed in 1930. The railroad tore up its tracks soon after. Many of the mill families left and the others relocated to the newly constructed State Highway 190 a mile north of Snow Town. Eventually, the post office followed and this new community got the name of Oakhurst.
The fast growing forests of East Texas have now reclaimed Snow Town and the Oakhust mill settlements. Today, only concrete debris and broken bottles and pottery serve as a marker for this once thriving Texas settlement with the unique name of Snow Town.