2023 Annual Report


Crockett is a city in the county seat of Houston County, Texas. The city has a population of approximately 6,332 and is the fifth oldest city in Texas. Being one of the oldest cities in Texas makes Crockett full of history.

The town was named after Davy Crockett, a frontiersman, soldier, politician, congressman, and prolific storyteller. Most people think of Davy as an American Folk Hero and “King of the Wild Frontier” due to the stories about his wild adventures. The town was named after him since he camped nearby on his way to the Alamo in 1836. Crockett was a training center for Confederate forces during the Civil War.

In 1872, the Houston and Great Northern Railroad and depot was built through Crockett. This brought a regional trading center and started the growth of the lumber industry in the area. By 1885, the town started growing and had a bank, hotel, opera house, several schools and churches, and a newspaper. In the 1960s, after World War II, the local economy was based on agriculture, cotton, furniture, plastics, chemicals, and clothing production.

According to easttexasnews.com, the depot later became one of Crockett’s greatest treasures after former Houston County Commission Chairman Eliza Bishop and the Crockett Chamber of Commerce representatives went before the Railroad Commission to attempt to save the depot and use it as a museum. The depot was chartered as the Houston County Visitors Center and Museum (HCVCM) in 1993 and is home to some of Crockett’s finest historical artifacts. The museum is an independent not-for-profit historical organization, and after being converted, the museum became known locally as the Train Depot Museum.

A map showing where Crockett, TX is located
The Houston County Vistors Center and Museum is located inside the depot in Crockett, TX.

The HCVCM has items ranging from ox bows to railroad artifacts. Cotton was essential to the area in the past, so the museum has tools and an old gin on an adjacent property that recaptures that era. Room to room is filled with military uniforms, war memorabilia, and a full-sized fire engine.

The museum has been preserving the town’s remarkable history for several years, with documentation and preservation of the artifacts, all while keeping the information that tells the town’s stories protected. The minor volunteer staff at the museum cannot do this alone; they have full-time jobs and families, so they lean on the help of local schools that take on the tasks for class projects and workshops.

In 2005, Stephen F. Austin (SFA) University in Nacogdoches, Texas, History Professor and Graduate Director Dr. Perky Beisel, became involved and met with the Houston County Museum Director Dorothy Harris and the East Texas Research Center Director Linda Reynolds to talk about SFA graduate students getting involved in digitizing materials for the museum. Perky and her graduate students worked to develop a set of documents for the HCVCM. This packet included statements, an accessioning policy, an interpretive outline, and a grant proposal. Each group researched and produced a packet of materials for the HCVCM Board of Directors.

In 2023, Communities Unlimited (CU) Community Resource Manager Kristy Bice learned about the project by visiting with a community champion in Crockett named Robin Ogg. “She was telling me about the museum and asked if I had ever been to it,” Kristy explained.

Kristy and Robin walked the few blocks to the museum, and while chatting with a museum volunteer, Kristy learned about the museum’s needs. It was then that Kristy and Perky formed a connection. Since Perky had already worked with the museum in the past, she shared with Kristy that she had been trying to get Dorothy Harris to record the museum’s oral history since 2006.

Kristy said, “I was at the right place at the right time and worked through the steps to get Perky and Dorothy connected again to move forward with the project.”

During the summer of 2023, Perky and her students started recording the museum’s history. They scanned what Perky described as “foot by foot” of materials rich in historical content. A few examples were materials from Houston County Coal and Coke Mining, a late 19th-century industrial company. They also worked through numerous journals from a local doctor who was in business in Crockett for forty years.

“We have already gone through multiple records. I love history, from the big fancy museums to the equally small spots in East Texas; it’s a passion and excellent work for students.”

— Perky Beisel, History Professor and Graduate Director, Stephen F. Austin University

Perky helped the museum institute a process. If funders are looking, they want to know that the museum has procedures in place. Perky and her students continue implementing and updating things as they go, ensuring the materials are presented and preserved correctly. The HCVCM has an open storage concept, and everything is on display. They change essential items occasionally so visitors do not repeatedly see the same things.

“I am grateful that the city and county, as well as Kristy and CU, are there to help and give us long-term support,” Perky concluded.

"Communities Unlimited was able to connect a small rural nonprofit in a deep East Texas community to a vital resource with the SFA Center for Regional Heritage Research. This connection builds a foundation for future collaboration and will drive more project opportunities between the two agencies."

— Kristy Bice, Community Resource Manager, Communities Unlimited