Speegleville

Two years after Texas became a republic in 1836, Israel Washington Speegle formed a wagon train in Tennessee with several of his brothers and his wife’s family members and moved to Texas. When Texas was admitted to the union in 1845, McLennan County became a much more inviting place to settle.

In 1849, Speegle, a blacksmith and farmer known by many as “Wash,” became the fifth settler west of the Brazos River in McLennan County. He purchased 320 acres from Lee R. Davis for a dollar per acre on land located near Davis Creek, originally called Duck Creek.

Speegle held church services in his home made of logs. In 1850, he donated land for the construction of a church building, a small log structure that was also used as a school. A cemetery plot in which the first person buried was an African American slave who belonged to Speegle was also on site. When the mail routes were established, the community—now named for the man who first settled the area—appointed Speegle to serve as the first postmaster for Speegleville on May 27, 1879.

A two-room frame structure replaced the log cabin used for church and school in 1860. A Baptist congregation constructed a new church building in the area in 1891 after Louannah Speegle—Wash’s wife—and their son sold an acre of land for one hundred dollars. In 1918, the Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Greenwood Methodist Episcopal Church South arrived in the area and combined to form the Speegleville Methodist Church. A tabernacle constructed by the men of the church near the east bank of Speegleville Branch served as their first church structure. Church members completed construction of a frame building around 1920. The construction of Lake Waco in 1930 caused the church to be relocated and a new structure was built.

By 1938, the Speegleville community consisted of about thirty-nine homes, three grocery stores, a cotton gin, a blacksmith shop, a Methodist church and a Baptist church, and possessed its own primary physician to serve the community—Dr. A. L. Armstrong. The community constructed a two-story school in 1912 and replaced it in 1948.

Frequent flooding of the Bosque River besought the city of Waco, prompting the construction of a new earthen dam structure on the river. In 1962, the dam enlarged Lake Waco, displacing several communities, including Speegleville. The original village now lies beneath the lake’s waters. The Methodist church was moved to its present location on Willow Grove Road. A new, relocated structure replaced the Baptist church, and Speegleville cemetery is now located on Interstate Highway 35 south of Waco. A new brick structure with a gymnasium replaced the old Speegleville School.

Many community members felt the village closeness and intimacy seemed to be lost in the move. However, in recent years, Speegleville has again regained some of its former sense of community and today boasts approximately two thousand homes.

Images

Speegleville Class of 1899

Speegleville Class of 1899

The first church structure in Speegleville, built in 1850, also served as home to the local school. By 1896, one schoolteacher taught all seventy-seven of the childrenenrolled in the district. In 1912, a two-story building replaced the multifunctional structure as schoolhouse. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Greenwood Cemetery

Greenwood Cemetery

The city of Waco established Greenwood Cemetery in 1875, and the city divided the land equally into segregated sections by race. The cemetery served as a final resting place for many citizens of Speegleville and Waco, including famed baritone Jules Bledsoe. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

US Geological Survey Map (c. 1918)

US Geological Survey Map (c. 1918)

The expansion of Lake Waco in the 1950s concerned Speegleville residents for many reasons. This map shows the location of Speegleville prior to the enlargement of the lake, just west of the city of Waco. The larger body of water required many citizens to uproot homes and businesses, as well as the relocation of several other institutions such as the Speegleville School, the local Baptist church, and Greenwood Cemetery. | Source: Image courtesy of the Portal to Texas History, the University of North Texas Libraries, and the US Geological Survey View File Details Page

Audio

Oak Point Underwater

Martha Roane Lacy Howe tells about the trees of Oak Point that now lie beneath the lake's waters. | Source: Howe, Martha Roane Lacy, interviewed by Lois E. Myers, June 16, 2009, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Nell Buice Barton and Amanda Sawyer, “Speegleville,” Waco History, accessed July 26, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/130.

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