FREEPORT — In a city known best for its exports, Freeport is doing its best to export history by way of events like the Freeport Historical Day.
On Saturday, the Freeport Historical Museum decided to hold an event spun off from something they did last January — the city’s “Remember Freeport When” Weekend, which preceded noted area historian Nat Hickey’s death by a matter of months — in hopes of creating an annual event.
For Museum Coordinator Wade Dillon, it came as a chance to celebrate Freeport’s legacy, as well as that of Hickey and Edmeryl Williams, who also contributed greatly to the preservation of the past.
For Williams, that meant holding on to the history of the East End neighborhood, traditionally a Black community which has been seeing itself dwindle as industry encroached over time. Members of her family were on hand to speak to visitors, including Angie Williams, who was spreading out family photographs that freeze years of lives for future generations.
In addition to that personal touch, there were other members of the community there to spread the word about Freeport’s past as Dillon said he had reached out to a wide swath of people who could bring different periods of the city’s past to visitors.
Additionally, there were items out for the public that were not typically part of the museum’s exhibits — century-old photos, newspapers and film footage of Hurricane Carla in 1961 and an array of postcards of Freeport scenery, including the port, the plants and the scintillating bus station.
Recently hired Main Street Coordinator Ana Silbas was on hand to promote the downtown area with its historical buildings. Freeport is one of about 90 cities participating in the Texas Main Street Program.
“I’m just sharing our goals and our missions of preserving and economically revitalizing our downtown areas,” Silbas said. “We hope to get input from all of the community organizations and partner closely with our economic development corporation for the city and our friends here at the museum as well, so we’re glad to be here to support them today.”
Local author and former teacher Brenda Laird took three years to complete her book that she had on display, having worked with the museum. Titled "Images of America: Freeport-Velasco," it is a tour through the merged communities with historical photographs.
One of the most engaged representatives was Chris Kneupper of the Cradle of Texas Conservancy.
Kneupper spoke to visitors about the city’s importance in the early days of the Republic of Texas, going back to pre-revolutionary times and serving as a de facto capital where the government had set up on multiple occasions before elections were held.
The pandemic gave local historians a chance to get out and do research, both by looking into publications going back to before the state joined the union, as well as perform surveys that definitively determined the original site of Fort Velasco.
“A whole lot went on at old Velasco at the mouth of the Brazos that has largely been forgotten because ultimately, as Galveston and Houston grew, it eclipsed the mouth of the Brazos as the chief seaport,” Kneupper said. “People moved away and there was no one to tell its story.”
Now, local advocacy groups, history buffs and the museum are seeking to bring back that history to the community and give them something in which to find pride.
“I do this as kind of an advocate to dredge up this old history,” Kneupper said.