- Feb 28, 2009
Mr and Mrs Skinner on Bell Avenue- 1913
The Quakertown Story :
The removal of an African-American community and the creation of Civic Center Park in Denton, Texas.
by Michele Powers Glaze
While early twentieth-century histories of Denton, Texas, chronicle the strides made by the young College of Industrial Arts, an all-white women's college on the hill, few mention Quakertown, a thriving black community nestled at its foot along the banks of the Pecan Creek. By 1920, nearly sixty middle- and working-class black families occupied land in the flood plain of the creek below the college. Small, mostly unpainted houses and businesses dotted the area bordered by Bell Avenue on the east, Withers Street on the north, Oakland Avenue on the west, and south of Pecan Creek on the south.
Former Quakertown residents remember the sense of pride and desire for a better life their families felt. Many families had arrived in groups in the years following Reconstruction. They had travelled to the small, agricultural community in north central Texas to escape former owners who pressured them to return to the plantations. Like many Southern blacks, Quakertown residents subscribed to Booker T. Washington's philosophy of self-help and coexisted peacefully with their white neighbors. Most worked for white employers and frequented the white businesses around the nearby square. Yet, they were surrounded by reminders of their second-class status.
A handful of the settlers managed to overcome some of the limitations faced by blacks in the South and established businesses. Ford Crawford ran a grocery; his son, Bert, the black mortuary. Across from Crawford's Store, Dr. E. D. Moten practiced medicine, while down the street, Anthony Goodall operated the Buffalo Bayou Cafe. These were the exception, however. Most residents worked in low-paying service jobs, buying their small homesteads on time. Women took in laundry or worked in white homes to supplement the meager wages of their menfolk. Together, the black men and women sought to build a new life in the tightly-knit community affectionately known as "Quaker".