By Taelor Smith
A drive through Precinct 4 may reveal the same types of subdivisions, businesses, construction pockets, and vast areas of farmland found in any other area of Texas. What isn’t so obvious is the centuries of history hidden in northwest Harris County.
Precinct 4 is home to nearly 50 historical markers that recognize buildings, cemeteries, and spaces that have played a significant role in the communities in which they’re nestled. Tomball is known for its German founders, and Humble for its oil fields.
A lesser-known but valuable historical site is Amos Cemetery on Hufsmith-Kohrville Road in northwest Harris County. Like other historic structures in the area, the cemetery dates to the 1880s, a time when newly freed slaves sought new lives and land to build homes and communities. Monte Parks, a Precinct 4 parks administrator, says these families only wanted to make an honest living for themselves and their families.
“These were freed slaves,” he says. “They didn’t have money to buy land, so they had to come out and work manual labor to save up enough money to buy their own land. After the Civil War, they took up the jobs that people didn’t want to do, hard back-breaking labor, and saved up their money, banded together, and bought land.”
Amos Cemetery was founded by a small community of freed slaves from Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. After migrating to Kohrville, Thomas Amos and his son-in-law, Duncan Kosse (now spelled Cossey), bought the property. About 200 people are buried in the historic plot.
Not too far away, the Woods Cemetery was part of a community begun by approximately 10 families who first lived in Piney Point, just west of Houston, after leaving Georgia and Mississippi. When the group decided to migrate further north, it settled on land donated by Willis Woods. The families built a school, general store, church, and eventually a gravesite, Woods Cemetery, just behind today’s Lakewood Forest subdivision near Faulkey Gulley.
It didn’t take long for the group to learn that the property they were sold was a terrible place for a community, as the gulley flooded frequently throughout the year. Within a few years, residents of the small area began to move. Willis Woods moved his family to the east side of what is now Texas 249, to Tomball. After the move, Woods married Sarah Amos and helped build the Kohrville community. They left behind the settlement near the gulley, including Woods Cemetery. Though most of the stones identifying the gravesites are now weathered or broken, the neighborhood that encompasses the grounds has helped ensure the cemetery is maintained and not forgotten. The Amos, Cossey, Williams, and Woods families still live on part of the property that was purchased in the 1800s by their ancestors.
The Kohrville Community Association (KCA) is dedicated to honoring and maintaining the historical grounds of the Amos and Woods cemeteries. Since 2007, its members have rallied the community and family members of those interred to keep their memory alive. As president of the KCA, Stewart takes this work to heart, as her parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members are buried in Amos Cemetery. By organizing fundraisers, hosting community events, and staying involved in the community, KCA members have managed to bring awareness to the cemeteries and other historical sites in the area. Many of the volunteers that assist in maintaining the grounds include neighbors like Joe Beatty, and students from Klein ISD, Prairie View A&M University, and Texas Southern University.
Stewart loves when students come to help because of their eagerness to learn.
“We really see the value that it adds by them doing this,” she says. “It makes you proud to see young people who want to keep the community clean. The cemetery is like your life history. Even though we have so many family members who have passed on, it’s the story behind those pioneers that came here and bought land, started businesses, and worked to maintain the land around the area for all these years.”
After the Lakewood Forest subdivision and the MUD drainage system running alongside the cemetery were built, Woods Cemetery was landlocked, which limited accessibility to the property. To get assistance with this issue, KCA members set out to build a relationship with Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle. It has proven to be beneficial for both sides.
“We started working with Precinct 4 about two years ago after attending the Black History Luncheon at that time,” she says. “Mr. Cagle was there, and initially I had been in contact about there being no easement to the cemetery, and he assigned someone to help. After seeing him at another luncheon, I updated him on the situation, and he stepped in immediately to assist and has continued to be a great help with the organization.”
The partnership inspired Cagle to task Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project to plant five Battle Oaks near the entrance of the Willis Woods Cemetery in March 2020. KCA members also became more involved at monthly Precinct 4 events. Building such relationships with area historical organizations creates an incredible, tight-knit community that Cagle says he strives to maintain.
Recognition by the Texas Historical Commission often takes several years to complete. KCA historian Joanne Green began the process to recognize Amos Cemetery in 2012.
Unfortunately, most of Amos Cemetery’s history has been passed down orally. That lack of documentation slowed the process, but in the end, Green was successful. Knowing the background of German-born Paul Kohrmann – who established Kohrville – and the nearby historical Kohrville Family Cemetery contributed to the wealth of information needed to prove the cemetery’s historical value. Despite the odds, the cemetery succeeded and hosted its dedication ceremony in 2016.
There are many other historical sites in Precinct 4 that offer such history. The Fallen Warriors Memorial near the Champions Forest neighborhood is a beautiful space honoring Texans who gave their lives fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom. Moonshine Hill near Humble commemorates the small tent town that developed after the first successful oil well was drilled, in turn creating one of the earliest economies in the area. Like Parks, visitors may find something unique about a historical site.
“There are several sites in the Humble area that represent the architecture of the early days of Humble and a lot of the oil field history that is pretty neat as well,” he says.
The historical sites throughout Precinct 4 are all opportunities to learn more about the forgotten history of rural northwest Harris County. Area founders did their best to provide a solid foundation for future communities and ample opportunities for growth.