Campaign fights to preserve historic Black community in Fort Bend Co.

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Most of us know the rich history of the Sugar Land area, but here's something you may not know. Nestled within the New Territory subdivision is a community founded by freed enslaved Africans. Only two streets of homes and a church remain due to development - but the fight is on to save what's left.

"We could, back in the day, look straight forward and you would see all the way to Highway 90, but now you can't even see 200 feet past where we're standing," resident Eugene Howard explained. "Our people have been here prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. They were here as early as the 1820s. This was a slave plantation. My descendants worked these lands."

Thompson Chapel is tucked off Williams Landing Drive and Thompson Chapel Road in unincorporated Fort Bend County. It's like taking a step back in time. When Paul Thompson was deeded this acreage after the Civil War, he made the best of it.

He started Thompson Chapel Community Church in 1880 and the land surrounding it. A couple of other Black families joined him, and together, the Thompsons, Bishops and Williams became the pillars of the neighborhood.

Schawnte Williams-Taylor is a descendant. She gave ABC13 a tour of their old cemetery today.

"Probably mid-1800s or so, they were looking through records and what I remember are the old little crosses that used to be out here," she said. "Unmarked graves. Stones that marked where people were buried."

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Less than five minutes away from the Grand Parkway, more Thompson Chapel residents are buried. They're shielded with a fence but are easy to overlook.

Representative Ron Reynolds of House District 27, is working to save Thompson Chapel.

"It's very important to me that we preserve that rich history," Reynolds said. "It is my goal to get a historical marker, but in the meantime, I want to make sure that we don't try to erase this history. That we don't try to act like that didn't happen in this community."

Funding and the right amount of votes will be needed for historical declarations, but Reynolds said that's what public-private partnerships are for. He hopes to appeal to leaders' moral conscience when it comes to the town.

Howard, his cousin Williams-Taylor and everyone whose family started here, is all for it.

"This little plot, we're going to put this little plot down and say hey, we're not going to erase the legacy of Fort Bend, of Sugar Land, of this part of Texas," Howard said.

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