History of the Kohrville Community and the Kohrville School
By Diana Lynn Severance, Ph.D.
Former slaves who came to this area from Alabama and Mississippi after the Civil War settled the community that came to be known as Kohrville. At first they settled in an area west of Houston originally called Piney Points, located near the present intersection of Westheimer and Jeanetta (not the same as Piney Point Village). On March 10, 1865, the newly freed blacks, led by Rev. Mack Austin, established Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. The blacks worked for other people and earned money putting up fence posts and rail fences.
Ten families saved money from lumbering and making charcoal and bought land northwest of Houston along Cypress Creek, called “The Bottoms.” The Bottoms is now in Lakewood Subdivision, off Louetta Road and highway 249. The families purchasing land included the families of Jake Woods, Willis Woods, Mango Weeds, Phil Blackstock, Thomas Amos, Richard Patterson, Sam Williams, Livington Stewart, Kyle Williams, and Runch Carrs.
Willis Woods had 310 acres of land in The Bottoms. He gave land to the community for a church, cemetery, school, and the Farmers Improvements Hall. The Farmers Improvement Society was a Masonic organization. The Bottoms was right on Cypress Creek, which was frequently over its banks, so the black community moved. Mr. Pillot sold much of the land to the people, and they settled on land from present highway 249 to Boudreaux Road. All that remains of the early settlement at The Bottoms is a cemetery. Many of the graves are unmarked today, but some of the marked tombs are those for the following:
Jake Woods (May 30, 1851 – August 13, 1925)
Rozelia Woods (June 30, 1857 – September 11, 1922)
Jacob Woods (December 3, 1875 – April 14, 1937)
Ed Williams (March 29, 1879 – February 25, 1915)
Strong Blackstock (July 14, 1886 – November 30, 1920)
Zelma Woods (February 22, 1901 – May 9, 1925).
Even after the settlers had moved, the school and church remained in the Bottoms for some years. Sophia Woods Blackshear, born in 1882, remembered walking the three miles to school. The Mills children lived on Willow Creek, and they walked six miles to attend the school in The Bottoms. Since children often needed to help on the family farm, school was usually held only three to five months during the year.
In the 1870’s, German immigrants Paul and Agnes Tautenhahn Kohrmann opened a general store on the dusty road that later became highway 249. Soon the community became known as “Kohrville”, after the owners of the main place of business in the area. Sometimes the name was spelled “Korville.” In 1881, a post office was established at Kohrville. It operated out of the Kohrmann store, and Paul Kohrmann served as postmaster. Mail was delivered by rail to Cypress and by stagecoach to Kohrville. The post office remained in Kohrville until 1911, when it was discontinued and mail was delivered from Huffsmith. A one-room frame building was built in Kohrville for a school. This was Rural School District #1. A similar school was built in Neudorf or Neidorf, Rural School District #7. Because of its post office address, this school was also considered to be in Kohrville.
Paulin and Agnes Kohrman are buried in a small Kohrman family cemetery, now surrounded by the Lakewood Apartments park. The Kohrman’s daughter, Rosa, married William McDougle, descendant of one of the earliest settlers in northwest Harris County. She and her husband are also buried in the Kohrman Cemetery. Two cemeteries established by the black settlers of Kohrville were the Amos and Autry cemeteries. They both continue in use today. Funerals in the early 1900’s were handled by I.S. Lewis; later Philip and Daniel, Carl Barnes and Sheffield Mortuaries provided funeral services for the community.
Being a rural community, the people of Kohrville worked at farming, ranching, and lumbering. Besides working their own land, they often worked for the white farmers in the area. Men and women helped in the cotton fields and with the vegetable crops. The lumber mills, road building, and railroads provided work for the men. There were sawmills in Cypress, Louetta, Willow, and Klein where work could be found. Joe Williams remembered working on the railroad for $2.00 a day. Later he worked on the Baytown pipeline for $6.00 a day.
Some of the people had their own businesses. Willis Solomon had a store and service station on Cossey Road. Joe Williams had a pulpwood hauling enterprise. Mr. and Mrs. O’Neal Woods had a diner. Otis Williams, Lonnie Green, and David Cossey sold topsoil. George Tolson was a hog rancher, and Hoe Green sold fruits and vegetables. Albert Stewart was a concrete contractor. Willie Cossey had a lawn mower shop, and M. Blackshear had a body repair shop.
The blacks in the community continued to operate their own school and churches. They called the church Pilgrim Branch Baptist Church, since people from the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Piney Point established it. The two churches continue to have close ties today. Early preachers at the church included Rev. Phil Blackstock, Rev. T.J. Brown, Rev. Robert Carr, Rev. Sion Bryant, and Rev. M.S. Greene. In 1910, Rev. Greene began preaching in Willis Woods’ home, since the church building itself had burned. He remained pastor for 54 years, until his death on November 20, 1960. Rev. M.S. Green was the first in the community to have a car. Pastors Wheat, Cossy, and Eddie Thomas followed Rev. Green at Pilgrims rest Baptist Church. The grounds in front of the church were used for numerous church socials and activities. The Sunday School, Missions, Brotherhood, and Choir of the church were also vital to the life of the community. In 1949 a Pentecostal Church named Solomon’s Temple was organized by Rev. C.E. Solomon.
The people realized that schools and churches were essential to improve their community. In the 1890’s, Mr. Tom Amos donated an acre of land at the corner of current Spring-Cypress and Kohrville-Hufsmith roads for the building of a school. Since the ground was slightly elevated, residents fondly called the school “the little school on a hill.” Church meetings were also sometimes held in the school. Sophia Blackshear remembered a revival was held in the school about 1904, when she confessed Christ. The earliest teachers in the school were Tom and Isaac Amos and Professor Lee. Both the earliest school and church buildings in Kohrville burned down and had to be rebuilt. Until a new school was built, school was held in the Lodge Hall and the Canning Building.
The Canning Building was near the Pilgrims Branch Church. The Canning Building was a government-furnished building with cookers and cans so the people could can their own vegetables, fruits, and meats. In the downstairs hall, people could make their mattresses, stuffing them with cotton after the cotton had been properly fluffed. On the other side of the building was a room for quilting, and 4-5 quilts were often made there each week.
In 1928 Kohrville was consolidated with other area common schools to form Rural High #1, which became Klein I.S.D. in 1938. Early in the new consolidated school’s history, the Kohrville school became the center of controversy. The school board assigned the Louetta School, located several miles north of Kohrville, to the “colored population of Rural High #1.” Though the building was a better facility than they had, the black population of Kohrville did not want their school so far removed from their community. While the blacks objected to moving their school, the whites were upset that their former school building should be given to the blacks. With neither side happy about the move, the school board left the Kohrville Colored School near the Pilgrim Branch Baptist Church. Four years later, however, in 1932, the old Louetta School was moved to the Kohrville colored school site. A partition was placed in the school in 1938 so two rooms could be used for instruction. Teachers during this period included Florence Strait, Beulah Smith, and Louise Gaines Livings. In 1936, Florence Strait made $75 a month while Beulah Smith earned $40 a month. In 1943, trees were cut down and sold from the Kohrville School property to help pay for repairs on the school and the sinking of a new water well.
In April 1948, when the Harris County School superintendent and deputy visited Klein to assess the accrediting needs of the Kohrville School, they found the building in dire need of repairs and equipment. The Klein I.S.D. school board then decided to build a new school building for the people of Kohrville. July 24, 1948, school bond elections were held. Money raised would be “to erect a colored school and to make repairs to the present white school, and also football construction of Klein Independent School District.” In August 1948, Mr. Winship was contacted about building a school approximately 24′ x 60′. In September 1948 the plans of the architect, Mr. Finn, were sent to Austin for approval. Exactly when the new building was erected is not clear from the board minutes. However, in 1949, L.B. Hargrave bid $275 for the old Kohrville School building.
In the early 1950’s, teachers hired in the Klein colored schools included Louise Livings, Gladys Grice, Helen Dawsey and Mary Mattens. In December 13, 1954, a request for a lunchroom at Kohrville was discussed by the School Board and tabled for further study. The Klein I.S.D. moved cautiously on Civil Rights issues. On August 29, 1955, a motion carried “that the Klein School delay integration until after the Texas Supreme Court has ruled in the suit being appealed from the District Court in Big Springs and until Houston and other schools in Harris County integrate.” The next fall, the school board discussed possible locations for a new colored school building. A site on Mr. Fuchs’ land was favorably considered. The School Board was willing to build an elementary school in Garden City Park, but the blacks would have to support the school.
In 1956 a covered walk was added to the Kohrville School and in 1957, Mr. D.W. Thomas and his wife Gladys, or “Gussie”, were hired as teachers for the school. They would continue to be the main teachers in the school until integration closed down the school. They were employed at the state salary schedule plus $100 per month. Most white teachers were employed at the state salary schedule plus $400 per month.
In March 1962, a special meeting of the school board was held “to hear a group of colored people from Kohrville. The Kohrville P.T.A. requested a new 8 room brick elementary school and gym if they supported the Bond Issue. Their request was filed.”
At the School Board meeting of August 26, 1964, a motion was made by Earl Krahn and seconded by H.D. Martin “to authorize Mr. Lyon to enroll negro students if they attempt to enroll in the Klein School. Motion carried.” In the January 11, 1965 meeting, the school board carried a motion made by Earl Krahn and seconded by Earl Hildebrandt “to continue to comply with the Federal Governmnet requirements on Civil Rights. Klein District will come under #3 Type of Compliance.” In September 1965, a telephone was installed at the Kohrville Elementary School.
A separate colored elementary school continued at Kohrville for two more years, but by the spring of 1966, grades 9-12 were totally integrated: “All other grades are given freedom of choice to transfer across geographic boundary lines.” In 1966, for the first time, The Bearkat, the Klein High School yearbook, included both black and white students. When Mr. W.D. and Gladys Richardson’s contracts for 1967-1968 were issued, they received the state salary plus $400. For the first time their salary was commensurate with white teachers.
When Kohrville Elementary School was closed, the Klein I.S.D. School Board authorized “the Kohrville Community Enterprise Organization the use of buildings of the closed Kohrville Schools to hold meetings in, until such time the Klein I.S.D. needs the buildings for other purposes. Furthermore, the maintenance, upkeep, utilities to be maintained by the Kohrville Community Enterprise Organization, effective November 6, 1967.”
In the 1980’s, the Kohrville School building was moved next to the Klein High School and used as a storage building. In the spring of 2000, the building was moved to the Klein Museum complex to be restored to its earlier appearance.