The Gaillard family cemetery is located out in the Goose Creek oil field on oil company property and out of sight. The graves at this cemetery hold great importance in Baytown history.
Thomas Benjamin Gaillard was born near Natchez in Adams County, Mississippi on Jan 17, 1824. In about 1848, he married Martha M. Foster from Kentucky. Gaillard was a graduate of Oakland College, Mississippi; Washington University; Yale University; and Harvard University in 1846 with a major in law and Greek.
By 1850, he was a wealthy planter in Mississippi with a daughter, Linna, born in 1849. By 1860, he and Martha had six children, Linna, Annie, Jennie, Frederick, Minnie, and Thomas B. Jr. Also living in the household was Jennie Hadderman from Pennsylvania whose occupation was listed as “Teacher of Common School.”
The Philosophical Society of Texas was formed at Houston in 1838 as a local chapter of the national organization. The Baytown area in the mid-1800s was one of the outstanding cultural and political centers of Texas, with men like Ashbel Smith, David G. Burnet and Sam Houston being members of this prestigious organization. The cultural and political atmosphere caused many prominent people of the South to migrate to this area immediately after the Civil War.
Thomas Gaillard was a member of the Philosophical Society in Mississippi and could have known Ashbel Smith through their association with the organization. He had served the Confederacy as a member of a Mississippi infantry unit and after the war he moved his family to this area.
In 1867, he purchased the Hickory Grove Place from Mary Jones, widow of Anson Jones. The oldest house in Baytown, built in 1843, is located here.
Over the next few years he purchased several more tracts of land from Charles Stewart, S.A. Franck, and Ashbel Smith. His holdings stretched from today’s railroad tracks behind Lee High School all the way down the east bank of Goose Creek and along the shoreline to Lee Drive. In 1878, he sold the Hickory Grove Place and the Ashbel Smith tract to Jenette Duke. This land is located north of West Main between Barrymore Blvd. and Goose Creek stream and today is known as Duke Hill.
In the 1870 census, his daughter Linna was enumerated as a school teacher. She had established a school near the family’s home in an old building which had previously been used to house Confederate troops manning the gun batteries at the mouth of Goose Creek and on Hog Island to guard the ship channel and the ship yard on Goose Creek.
In 1876, a new Texas Constitution was adopted which provided funding for public free education, so at the request of the Goose Creek school trustees, Gaillard persuaded his neighbor and friend Mary Jones to donate a particular piece of land to be used for a public school. The one-and-a-half acres she sold to the county became the first school in the area built specifically for the purpose of public education. That land was located at the junction of today’s South Main, West Main and Alexander Drive.
Besides being one of the first teachers in Goose Creek, Linna Gaillard was also a teacher at Cedar Bayou School. She married Dr. Nicholas Schilling and in 1898 they donated land on today’s West Bay Road in Chambers County where the Schilling School was built. That school was absorbed into Cedar Bayou ISD when the district was formed in 1917.
Another Gaillard daughter, Minnie, was a teacher at Dunman School, located near Dayton.
By 1906, she was teaching in Sartaria in Fort Bend County. She was quite the plucky lady. When called as a witness in a murder trial she was threatened with jail if she refused to tell her age.
As the newspaper put it, “she tossed her head and snapped her jaws as she defied the efforts of the district attorney to extract the incriminating evidence.” She gave a piece of land to her niece, Annie Schilling where from 1905 to 1917 the old town of Goose Creek in the oil field was located.
Harris County School records show Gaillard’s youngest daughter Katie as a teacher at both Baytown (School District 17) and Cedar Bayou (School District 15) during the 1880s. She apparently stopped teaching after her marriage to J.O. Jones in 1890.
In 1891, Thomas Gaillard’s son, John I. Gaillard, wound up buying out his sisters’ inheritances and running a cattle operation until he sold the family farm to Gulf Production Co. in 1917. Much of the family property along Goose Creek including Thumb Point sank below the water from oil extraction between 1918 and 1922. Gaillard Street in Baytown is named for John.
Thomas Gaillard’s legacy to the Baytown area is truly the Father of Education. He persuaded his friend and neighbor Mary Jones to donate property for a school and was father to at least three teachers. And this was at a time when the entire population of this part of the county was no more than 500 people.
Baytown resident Chuck Chandler is retired from the Exxon Refinery and serves as Vice President of Baytown Historical Preservation Association. Contact him at email@example.com