Tidbits of Shelby County History
Sam Weaver, Shelby County Surveyor
The article today was taken for a newspaper article found in “The Champion” dated August 14, 1952 written by Mrs. C.C. Travis.
It is a well-planned rendezvous that dark-of-the-moon night when two men, accompanied by some faithful Negroes, met at an unknown place in the little Village of Center (what later became known as Center) to carry out a bold plan. None was frightened and none carried firearms.
The ox wagon was ready. Only that day it stood unsuspectingly in the door of the busy blacksmith shop; its wheels removed while wagon grease was smeared heavily around the axels. No one asked questions, perhaps no one guessed why the wagon was idle all day when idleness was not tolerated.
The white men secured the oxen and wagon after sundown and waited until the village had settled down for the night. Making no noise, the unshod oxen trudged down the dusty road. The night was far spent when they climbed the hill leading to Shelbyville and the company paused when they neared. Shelbyville, too, was shrouded in slumber and they cautiously moved in the direction of the log courthouse a few hundred feet away.(Note: County Clerk R.L. Parker and surveyor Sam Weaver hauled the records 7 miles to the townsite donated by Jesse Amason and J.C. Wilson at the approximate heart of the county. Such were the origins of Center.)
The State of Texas had said the county’s records should be moved to a new area; the heavily wooded area was located almost geographically in the center of the county. That Shelbyville wished to keep her courthouse is true and for that reasoning could not be blamed. And wanting no fuss or trouble Judge Bob Parker and Sam Weaver, volunteered to secure the records and bring them to the wooded area that later became known as Center. Sometime during the early morning hours of that momentous day, the records were carefully concealed in a little wooden building in the heart of the woods, now the courthouse square and Center became Shelby’s new county seat. But about the man, Sam Weaver.
Sam Weaver’s father, George Washington Weaver, was sheriff of Shelby County about the year 1854 and lived in the fine old community of Buena Vista. Sam, himself, was a surveyor and surveyed the area that later became Center while he was county surveyor. Later he became tax collector-assessor and was state land agent in Austin. (Note: This first "Shelby County Weaver" became Postmaster of Buena Vista by 1856 and was later Shelby County Sheriff from 1867 until 1870. (Mrs. Paul Weaver: "History of Shelby Co. Texas," Volume I)
On nearly all the old documents of Shelby County appear the name of Sam Weaver. He was a tall, silent fellow, a Tennessean, who had known many men who had fallen to the charm of the adventurers and wealth offered in Texas. Hemet Sam Houston and admired his bravery and fairness; he had pondered the tales of those who said it was a young man’s country and came thither. He was born in 1834, 22 years later he was a Texan.
Nine years after coming to Shelby county he met and later married the charming Virginia T. Woolwine, daughter of Dr. Woolwine, who practiced medicine in the beautiful hill country of Caledonia, in Rusk county. They had eight children.
Center was growing. Sawmills had entered the scene-there was no room to stretch one’s legs, Sam Weaver thought so he and his family moved four miles west of Timpson where he built the first church and schoolhouse. The land he later deeded to community. The community was named Weaver for its founder and continues to this day, a little area where many generations of the Weavers and their kin continued to live.(Note: The Weaver Community was originally called "Weaver's Mill," located four miles west of Timpson near the Rusk County line between Highways 84 and 59.)
Sam Weaver lived through the rigorous hardships of pioneering in East Texas, he knew intimately the Indians of the Big Thicket country, he suffered the hardships resulting from the Civil War and later Reconstruction Days. He was nearly 70 years old when Teddy Roosevelt led his men up San Juan Hill and he wept when McKinley was assassinated. He died in 1902 and is buried in the community he founded, Weaver community.
Children of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Weaver include Earnest Weaver and Noble Weaver, both of whom were surveyors and both deceased; Vernon Weaver, retired; Robert Weaver I, deceased; Rev. Tolbert Weaver, retired minister who lives in Houston; Mrs. J.E. Wilmore the former Ada Weaver also of Houston; WoolwineWeaver, merchant of this city and Martin Weaver, deceased, former owner of Weaver Bros. Lumber Company.
NOTE: Of course, as with most early historical events more than one version is told. I am including this account of the moonlight shenanigans about the stolen courthouse records from Shelbyville. This article is taken from the Houston Chronicle dated August 14, 1966. The article was written my Joe Murray.
Center-The autumn night was moonless. Darkness pressed around the six men as they hacked their way through the wilderness of Shelby County.Only two of them – Bob Parker and Sam Weaver – knew what they had done and where they were going.
Two others, Negroes recently freed from slavery by the Civil War, knew only that they were earning 50 cents each for helping move the loaded ox cart through the woods.
And because of what was done that night, the town of Center will celebrate 100 years of history this week.
Local historians have preserved the story of how Center became the seat of government for Shelby County when it was only a dot on a surveyor’s map.
The year was 1866, and an election had been held to determine if the county seat should remain at Shelbyville or be move to the small village of Center, which – as the name implied – was in the middle of the county.
Citizens had voted to move county records, but Shelbyville claimed election fraud and refused to give them up.
Weaver, who had surveyed the area while county surveyor and Parker, the county clerk, hit up a plan to bring the county seat to the newly surveyed area. Securing an ox cart and four Negroes to aid them, Parker and Weaver waited until late on the moonless night and then started out for Shelbyville.
It waswell past midnight when they moved into the sleeping town to the log courthouse. Parker entered his office, took the records, and loaded them into the wagon.They then moved off into the darkness, literally taking the county seat with them. Parker had decided to hide the records at a spot so secluded in the wilderness that they could not be found.
The Negroes cleared a path with axes ahead of the ox cart as it rumbled through the dense pine forest and it was almost dawn when the destination was reached.
With the county’s records carefully stored inside, the shack became Center’s first courthouse.