First Anglo settlers successfully lived off the land

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, October 20, 2016

John and Melinda Sparks and their two children traveled from Tennessee to the western shoreline of Lake Sabine in 1838 in a ox-drawn wagon, according to Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society.

“I must had been a really tough journey. They were pretty tough people,” he said.

Other children were born on Lake Sabine and other family members later joined them. They called their settlement Aurora Village, the first Anglo settlers in Port Arthur.

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Monroe believes there were American Indians there though they weren’t mentioned because the American Indians were in the area through the centuries.

“Sam Houston and Jean Lafitte spoke of the Atakapas here when they came through,” he said.

John made a living chopping cypress trees and making them into shingles and selling them. The wood was cut at Ravell Brothers Mill.

“It’s a durable wood and very valuable,” Monroe said. “They would fish and hunt.”

Texas had just become an independent nation in 1838. A family burial ground was laid. The property was sold in 1895.

“They lived there successfully all that time. That was the time before air conditioning and insecticides,” he said.

The text from the 1998 historical marker read:

John and Melinda Sparks and their family came to southeast Texas from Tennessee in 1838. They settled on the Jeremiah Mixon headright on Lake Sabine and later set aside land for a family burial ground.

The land was acquired by the Port Arthur Land Company in 1896. Although Melinda and John Sparks, along with family members and neighbors, were buried in the cemetery, all that remains to mark the site is a monument erected in 1948 in memory of a ten-day-old child, Arthur Stilwell Smith, who was born and died in May 1896.

David Ball: 409-721-2427