Texas History: The case of the missing Texas high school

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Michael Barnes

“Think, Texas” newsletter readers responded graciously to the following bit of tiny-town historical detective work a few weeks back. We thought readers of the print and digital editions of the column would like it, too.

Recently, reader Sue Martin sent us on an historical quest that brought our research efforts full circle.

Sue Martin: Where was King’s Highway High School? My mother has a 1935 high school diploma from there, but I cannot find the place where the school was located. She would always say it was on OSR. However, I have come to a dead end. Perhaps you can give me a lead or two.

Think, Texas: At first, I misread the “OSR” as “OST.” The first is a Central Texas highway that goes by a common abbreviation for “Old Spanish Road,” while the second is a shortened version of “Old Spanish Trail,” a street in southeastern Houston. Both refer to the Spanish-era “Camino Real” or “King’s Highway.”

Once I reread the message correctly, I turned my search from urban schools to rural ones. To my surprise, I found nothing in the comprehensive and authoritative “The Handbook of Texas.” So I tempted Google to find “King’s Highway High School” instead. It turned up only one entry from Texas.

It was an obituary for Jimmie June Stroud Martin Richardson, who was born June 27, 1917, and died Jan. 13, 2008. She graduated from King’s Highway.

The article published in the Huntsville Item newspaper also mentions that Richardson had lived in the towns of Hearne and Franklin, which are located in Robertson County, roughly north of Bryan-College Station, which is in Brazos County.

In fact, OSR separates the two counties.

But where was the community of King’s Highway?

Digitized historical map collections provided by the Library of Congress and Texas General Land Office were no help. And, at first, neither were the historical maps in the collections of the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and UT-Arlington.

So I turned to Newspapers.com which, luckily, preserves the archives of the Bryan Eagle. There I found dozens of reports on “King’s Highway” from the 1920s through 1940s, including mentions of a rural county school that included high school classes.

It was tiny. The 1933 graduating class, for instance, consisted of three seniors. By the 1940s, with improved roads and transport, its high school students were bused to Bryan’s high schools.

No matter how small, the school, which included elementary-level classes, staged plays and regularly fielded at least three sports teams against other rural schools in places such as Edge, Tabor and Kurten. Its students also won prizes in declamation and 4-H competitions.

At this point, I was confident that King’s Highway was indeed somewhere on OSR on the Brazos County side. Still, no map I found showed its location. One column in the Eagle, however, announced that a new store was being built a convenient distance from the community of King’s Highway at the intersection of roads to Normangee, Franklin, Wheelock and Bryan.

Then it occurred to me that I had been searching through historical maps. Why not more recent ones? In the UT Perry-Castañeda Library’s cache, I came across a general highway map for Brazos County from 1988. There it was: King’s Highway, located in the far northeast corner of the county near the Navasota River, as well as other hamlets, such as Manning, Macey and Edge.

Back to Google maps: Satellite images show no substantial buildings or ruins at that spot. A&M journalism professor and dear friend Dale Rice tells me there’s a general store in Edge where one can grab a bite and sometimes hear live music. So the next time I visit him in College Station, I’ll explore that corner of Brazos County for any memories of King’s Highway.

Could all these references be connected? Now, what was your mother’s name?

Sue Martin: Jimmie June Stroud — my mother — ended up in Hearne and that is where I grew up. Perhaps her obit is the one you read — Jimmie June Stroud Martin Richardson.

Think, Texas: In fact, it was. Why didn’t I ask her name right at the beginning?


Reader Michael Smith sent us this note after the above story ran and included a map that shows King’s Highway, which is now also attached above.

Michael Smith: I read your article in today’s paper. Have you all tried using GNIS and Topoview for these searches?

I went to the USGS Geographic Names Information System and searched for “Kings Highway” in Texas. That gives three results, two in Brazos County.

Taking the GPS coordinates for the one labeled “Populated Place” I went to the USGS Topoview site and inserted them and got a list of historical topographic maps.

I opened the one for Edge, TX — it was the oldest higher resolution one. And, walla!