Denton's Quakertown Named a Historic Place

Site of city's first African-American community receives stone marker

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The State of Texas is recognizing Quakertown, a long lost part of Denton s history as a historic place.

    The state of Texas is finally recognizing a long lost part of Denton's history as a historic place.

    On Feb. 16, the Texas Historical Commission placed a stone marker in Denton's Quakertown Park to honor the community that once stood there.

    Few are still around who were alive to see Quakertown. Ask around Denton and many will tell you there are only two left, including 92 year-old Norvell Reed.

    Reed was only a baby when the town disappeared, but the legacy it left shaped her life through stories from her parents and elders.

    "My mother told me the story," she said. "They had the doctors and churches and school and everything."

    Denton librarian Laura Douglas, who has extensively researched Quakertown, said it was established as one of five or so thriving black communities during the 1800s. By the 1880s, it was the largest and had basically transformed into a town of its own.

    "It was the only place in Denton County for African-American children to get an education," Douglas said. "It was a whole self-supporting community."

    But when Denton had the opportunity to take on the college that is today called Texas Woman's University, it decided to remove Quakertown, according to a 1903 newspaper at the library.

    "When Denton was chosen as the site, they (the city) made a promise that they would have the black community moved," Douglas said.

    Many of the houses and buildings were picked up and removed from the land.

    "One lady, she stayed in her house," said Betty Kimble, longtime Southeast resident Betty Kimble and American Legion Senior Center director. "She stayed in her rocking chair while they were moving that house."

    Most were placed in Denton's Southeast neighborhood, where many of Quakertown's residents, such as Norvell, stayed their whole lives. However, many residents simply left Denton and never looked back.

    "It did create quite a feeling of mistrust for the African-American community in Denton," Douglas said.

    For a long time, the name Quakertown simply disappeared from the area as the city turned the land into a park and named it Civic Center Park.

    But the city began to do its part to restore the lost history in the late 1980s or so, Douglas said.

    Civic Center Park was renamed Quakertown Park, and a house from the lost community was restored and reopened as a museum. The Denton County African American Museum tells the stories of the city's first African-Americans, who worked on the railroads, along with the legacy of Quakertown.

    With the state historic status, Douglas said she hopes more people will look into the lost community and everything its people brought to Denton.

    "It's a reminder that underneath it all, there's people," she said.

    Kimble said it's very welcome to see the history embraced, but added that it was not forgotten in the Southeast community.

    "There's still a little resentment in there, but it is good to know they are recognizing it after all these years," she said.

    Norvell agreed. While reminiscing about Quakertown and her long history in Denton, she said the stories would live on. She said she is glad to see what the community has become.

    "Denton's a great place as far as I'm concerned," she said. "I've had a nice home, a nice life."