African American Community of Robinsonville

In 1852, John Robinson arrived in Central Texas, from Demopolis, Alabama, with his family and six slaves, founding what would soon become known as Robinsonville. Two years later, his brother Levi joined him, bringing his own family and an additional four slaves. Among Levi’s slaves was a man named (Jim) Orand Bonner. According to family lore, Levi sent Orand and several other men to a Mill in Jefferson County to pick up lumber. While at the Mill, Orand met a slave woman named Millie Stewart. The two married and Millie became the nanny for the Robinson family. Millie had three children from a previous marriage, and would have several more children with Orand. In 1860, the Robinsons hired a tutor for their children. Since Millie was their nanny, her children were allowed to learn some limited lessons from the tutor as well.

After emancipation, the black community in Robinsonville grew quickly. Millie remained close with the Robinson family and with the children whom she had nursed and helped raise. In 1881, John Robinson’s son, Edward L. Robinson, gave just under 5 acres of land to Millie, with the stipulation that the land be used for educational purposes. Millie’s husband and two other men signed for the property. The community decided not only to build a school, but also a church on the plot of land. In 1882 members of the community completed St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and the Post Oak Academy. In April of that year St. Paul held its first services under the leadership of E. H. Harris, the first pastor of the church, and an original trustee of the school.

The school and the church were closely connected. Most of the families of the area attended the church and sent their children to the school. C.H. Dorsey was one of the early headmasters of the Post Oak Academy. Dorsey also organized the church choir and served as a Church Trustee and Sunday School Superintendent. Children could stay after school on Friday afternoons for choir practice in order to perform on Sunday mornings. The school had two rooms, two teachers, and taught up to a seventh grade level. Some children continued their education at A.J. Moore High School in Waco.

A block over from the church, a cemetery provided a final resting place for the community. People buried there include men and women born in slavery, as well as veterans of World War I and II and several other wars. There is a mix of beautifully crafted headstones, hand carved memorials, and various other markers. Today, descendants of the black community continue to bury loved ones in this local cemetery.

Over time, the demographic of the area changed, as many Americans gradually moved out of the area. The school was destroyed by fire in the 1920s when it was struck by lightning, and was never rebuilt. Even the town itself changed, from Robinsonville to Robinson in 1955. However, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church is still in existence today and descendants of Millie Bonner and other original families continue to attend. The congregation gathers each Sunday to worship and serve the community, just as the church was commissioned to do over 130 years ago. 

Images

Renovations

Renovations

Built in 1882, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church has undergone several renovations. In 1923, the Church purchased the land from the Trustees of Post Oak Academy for the price of $1. Originally, Post Oak Academy sat just to the left of the church. Today, a small fellowship hall, erected in 2000, stands in its place. | Creator: Stephanie Endicott View File Details Page

Making if Official

Making if Official

According to this Deed, in 1881, E.L. Robinson along with his wife Lizzie Robinson signed over 4 and 8/10 acres to Millie Stewart Bonner's husband, Orand Bonner, along with two other men, E. Harris and John Thomas. The Deed states that the land was to be used specifically for the creation of Post Oak Academy | Source: Document courtesy of Victoria Jones View File Details Page

The Early Years

The Early Years

Elisha and Fannie Bonner, pictured here, were both original members of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church. Elisha was the son of Millie Stewart Bonner. His wife, Fannie, was known for her gift as a storyteller. She passed her early memories of the school, church, and community, on to the next generations. The couple were both born in slavery and are buried at the local cemetery near the church. | Source: Photo courtesy of Victoria Jones View File Details Page

Gathering Together (c.1940)

Gathering Together (c.1940)

St. Paul's congregation stands outside the church on a Sunday afternoon. At the far right of the front row is Mr. C.H. Dorsey. Dorsey was an active member of the church, as well as the principle of Post Oak Academy. In addition to his duties running the school, Dorsey taught grades 4th through 7th . Students remembered him as a good teacher but a strict disciplinarian. | Source: Photo courtesy of Victoria Jones View File Details Page

School Report (1923)

School Report (1923)

Rita Alice Robinson wrote this composition as part of a school assignment for her teacher Mrs. Hague in 1922. In it she details the early settlement of Robinsonville. Alice was the granddaughter of Levi Robinson. Millie Stewart Bonner helped care for Alice's father, Austin Robinson, when he was a child. | Source: Document courtesy of Victoria Jones | Creator: Rita Alice Robinson View File Details Page

From the Beginning

From the Beginning

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church has run continuously since the first church services were held in April 1882, and E.H. Harris delivered his first sermon to the congregation. Before St. Paul was built, the black community was allowed to attend the Presbyterian Church in Robinson. | Creator: Stephanie Endicott View File Details Page

Laid to Rest

Laid to Rest

This local cemetery, situated on Moonlight Drive, is located one road over from St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and the site where the Post Oak Academy once stood. The names of early families active in the community are prevalent, including the Johnsons, Williams, Bonners, Clines, and Caufields. | Creator: Stephanie Endicott View File Details Page

Audio

Tight Knit Community

Alice Owens Caufield, born in 1907, describes Robinson's African American community which she grew up in. | Source: Caufield, Alice Owens, interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless 1993, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Post Oak Academy

Alice Owens Caufield recalls attending the Post Oak Academy as a child in the 1910s. | Source: Caufield, Alice Owens, interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless, February 15, 1993, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Stephanie Endicott, “African American Community of Robinsonville,” Waco History, accessed June 22, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/162.
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