By Taelor Smith
There is always a story behind the names on the many markers and street signs throughout our communities, but those stories tend to get lost over time. Precinct 4 has a rich history going back generations and that history can sometimes be revealed with just a peek at the people behind the names on our parks, buildings, and streets.
Many of these now-common names were chosen by county commissioners, who have the authority to name streets, parks, and community centers in the precincts they represent. They often name these amenities and locations after those who have shown dedication and service to the precinct.
Below are a few of the stories behind the names we come across daily without having the slightest inkling as to how they got there.
Dennis Johnston Park – This expansive space along the Spring Creek Greenway took years to develop but was worth the wait. Dennis Johnston was hired as an assistant caretaker at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center in 1983, after serving as a volunteer since its opening four months prior. From there, he worked his way up the ranks. After being promoted to Harris County Precinct 4 parks director under Commissioner Jerry Eversole in 2004, Johnston began negotiating property acquisitions to expand the Spring and Cypress Creek greenways. Most recently, he secured the pond and land behind the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA to incorporate into the Cypress Creek Greenway.
During a meeting with Johnston in 2009, Eversole expressed his intention to name a park after Johnston. Years later, after Eversole’s departure, Commissioner R. Jack Cagle met with Johnston at the future park and said, “Dennis, I’m going to name this park after you.”
“I was amazed, honored, and humbled by it,” Johnston says.
Dennis Johnston Park opened in 2013 and has been an escape to nature for the growing Spring community ever since. With 38 years under his belt at Precinct 4, Johnston still serves as parks director and shows no signs of stopping.
Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center – Jesse H. Jones was a powerful and respected entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist in the early 1900s. Beyond his lumberyard, real estate, and banking businesses, he helped build the Houston Ship Channel and worked for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation under presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help rebuild the economy during the Great Depression. As his wealth grew, he created the nonprofit Houston Endowment in 1937, which supported several causes across Harris County. He also served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce during World War II.
When Precinct 4 began developing plans for a new park in the early 1980s, the Jones family donated $250,000 toward the park’s development through the Houston Endowment. Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center opened in October 1982 and is now one of the region’s most popular parks, with many visitors exploring the trails and enjoying the wildlife each day.
Storey Lake – Art Storey is a longtime public servant and community leader who inspired the names of a Precinct 4 lake and a Precinct 3 park. From the 1990s to his retirement in 2015, Storey helped improve Harris County’s infrastructure, focusing on flood prevention and road maintenance. He was the first executive director of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department and served as executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District. He firmly believed in dual-use parks and detention basins and led the effort to open Flood Control land for recreational use. Eversole recognized Storey by naming a large lake at Mercer Botanic Gardens after Storey and his wife, Jo. Storey’s legacy lives on there and at Art Storey Park in Precinct 3.
Holderrieth Road – The late 1800s brought many German migrants to Texas and, more importantly, the rural areas of north Houston. In 1883, the Holderrieth family made their way to the Rose Hill community, now Tomball, where the family patriarch, Christoph Holderrieth, bought 50 acres and a small house. Christoph and Christine raised nine children, most of whom would go on to make their mark on the developing town of Tomball. One of their sons, Will Holderrieth, an entrepreneur and developer, served as mayor of Tomball once the city was incorporated and organized the first volunteer fire department. Holderrieth’s descendants still live in the Tomball area today.
Hufsmith-Kohrville Road – Frank Hufsmith first settled in Missouri when his family migrated from Germany to the United States when he was a young boy. He began working with International-Great Northern Railroad in Arkansas and by 1887 had become a general superintendent stationed in Palestine, Texas. The railroad built a line between Spring and Navasota in the early 1900s under Hufsmith’s direction. A depot and small town were eventually named in his honor. Hufsmith died in 1927 and, although there is no documented evidence of his family remaining in the area, his legacy and contributions to north Harris County live on. In present-day northwest Harris County, Kohrville was a small community created by freed slaves from Alabama in the 1870s. It was named for German immigrant Paul Kohrmann who was the first postmaster of the community. The town was a very close-knit community with schools, businesses, and churches, and is remembered by descendants who still live in the area today.