LEAGUE CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- A future road in League City will be named after an African American man who played a big role in the growth and development of the area. The story of Alexander Winfield remained widely unknown, until efforts by his great-granddaughter to restore lost history caught the attention of the city's mayor.
Deborah Konrad began looking into her family's ancestral history more than 20 years ago, after the death of her mother. She found that Winfield, her great-grandfather on her mother's side, wasn't just a Buffalo Soldier who fought in the Civil War in 1863. He was also a contributing and influential figure during the early days of League City.
"He was born in Sussex County, Virginia in 1847. But he made it to Ohio rather quickly, which makes me think he probably wasn't enslaved. We believe he was manumitted very early. He was a member of the Ohio Colored Troops and then mustered out to Texas in 1870," Konrad said. "He settled in LaGrange in 1873 and met my great-grandmother, Rose Booker. Something brought him to League City and I believe it was the settlement of Black cowboys in Texas City."
Konrad said Winfield bought land in 1904 and their family worked as farmers and laborers. She said he also founded the first Methodist church in League City, which was later moved to Dickinson.
"So what did he contribute? Certainly, a workforce. It takes a lot of people to put together a city and Alex Winfield, his descendants, his children, they helped with that," Konrad said. "League City was made and put together by many hands. In my opinion, they're all important. My family may not have had the highest-level jobs. But they were necessary."
When Mayor Pat Hallisey first learned about Winfield's story four years ago, he wanted to find a way to honor the family's legacy and approached the city council with a street-naming proposal. His original plan called for part of Hobbs Road from Ervin Street to FM 517 to be renamed Winfield Road. Konrad said Hobbs Road is actually named after Obie Hobbs, who is Winfield's son-in-law.
"The question has always been, 'Why was Obie honored before Alex (Winfield)?' Oral history said (Winfield) wasn't someone who was subservient and it makes sense. If he was never enslaved and he had been trained in the army, it would be hard to make someone like that bend," she said. "I think that's part of the reason why I think his story was lost."
According to the Houston Chronicle in June 2021, Councilmember Larry Millican said it would be confusing to rename a major road in the city. Councilmember Hank Dugie offered an amendment to the ordinance that would instead name a brand new road after Alexander Winfield, which upset Mayor Hallisey. The council eventually voted 5-2 to pass the amendment.
"This is a significant part of League City's history and we needed to chronicle it. I was pretty convinced that we need to do something of substance so the name stayed alive here in town, because our history is being eroded away by massive growth and if we don't do something to preserve our history, it'll be lost forever," he said.
The mayor says the future Winfield Road will be located between the Cracker Barrel and Space Center RV Park near the Gulf Freeway. It will take a 90-degree turn and then connect to Hobbs Road. The road is currently in design and should be completed in the next few years. Konrad says she hopes this dedication will encourage others to learn about their ancestors' legacy and share their family's history.
"I appreciate Mayor Pat for learning the story and bringing it forward because he recognized our family. There was a Winfield Day declared a couple of years ago and for Christmas, the Winfields were the grand marshals of the parade. It gives you the sense of history that you belong. Our family was here and they contributed too," she said. "Tell your story. Our stories are who we are and nobody can tell them the way we can."