Yoakum homestead to be recognized with marker

An impactful historical Texas figure is set to be honored in Huntsville this weekend. 

Members of the Walker County Historical Commission will host a historical marker dedication Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Henderson King Yoakum homesite.

“Henderson Yoakum is best known for writing the first comprehensive two-volume history of Texas,” said Walker County Historical marker chair Donna Coffen. “The history he recorded is not only important for the state, but also made a historical mark on Walker County and Huntsville.”

Yoakum was born in 1810 in Tennessee, and went on to attend West Point before studying law and establishing a law practice in Murfreesboro. He would go on to become the mayor of Murfreesboro in 1837 before serving in the Tennessee legislature as a senator from Rutherford County.

“He became involved in law and politics before he moved to Texas. He was friends with Sam Houston, who was also from Tennessee and saw many people move here during that time,” said Mac Woodward, former Huntsville mayor and great-great-great grandson of Yoakum. “I think he was looking for a new opportunity and wanted a fresh start.”

Yoakum moved to the Republic of Texas in 1845 and established a law practice in Huntsville. The next year, he would serve as a first lieutenant at the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War.

“His service in the war and working alongside those who established the republic gave him a great opportunity to record what was developing around him,” Woodward added. “His contribution to Huntsville, Texas and US history cannot be overstated.”

After returning from the war, Yoakum served on the first board of the Texas State Penitentiary. He was also instrumental in establishing Austin College, drafting the first charter and serving on the Board of Trustees. While working at the college, Yoakum began to research and write the history of Texas.

“Yoakum was a close friend of the Houston family and served as Sam’s personal attorney and defended Martha Houston on domestic assault charges. ” Woodward said. “He and Sam also worked alongside each other on the board at Austin College.”

The History of Texas was published by Yoakum in 1855, while he served as a secretary and assistant law professor at Austin College. The text is still considered a significant piece of historical writing. The next year, Yoakum died of tubercular consumption at the Old Capitol Hotel in Houston and was buried next to Sam Houston at Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville.

“It is clear that he had a real love for this community,” Coffen added. “I think he is often overlooked in our local history. He made a major impact and few are aware of it.”

Texas legislators honored Yoakum in 1876, naming Yoakum County – near the New Mexico border – in his honor. A Texas Centennial Historical marker was also placed at the Yoakum homesite in 1936.

Members of the Yoakum and Woodward families will be attendance and speak at the dedication. A reception will follow the dedication at the Gibbs-Powell home. The dedication and reception are free and open to the public. 

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