As a new state historical marker honoring Quakertown was unveiled Saturday morning, the emotions of the community came alive.
Until neighborhood residents were forced out in the 1920s to make way for a city park, Quakertown was a thriving black community, home to more than 60 working-class families, several businesses and three churches.
“In the early 1800s, Quakertown emerged as a thriving African-American community in the heart of Denton,” former City Council member Charlye Heggins said, reading aloud the inscription of the new Texas Historical Commission marker, located outside the Denton Civic Center.
Quakertown was also the location of the Fred Douglass School, the first free school for African-Americans in the city. Denton librarian Laura Douglas said the school — which burned down in 1913 — was one of the main incentives that drew people into the neighborhood.
In 1895, there were 162 students enrolled on the first day of school, the most to start the school year up to that date, according to Douglas’ writings. She researched and wrote the Quakertown historical narrative as part of the application process for the marker.
The community was bounded by Withers Street on the north, Oakland Street on the west, Bell Avenue on the east, and Cottonwood and Pecan creeks on the south, the new plaque states.
“In 1921, during a $75,000 bond election, the city voted 367 to 240 in favor of purchasing Quakertown,” a teary-eyed Douglas said during Saturday’s ceremony in the Civic Center.
Longtime Denton resident Alma Clark’s husband, William Clark, who died in 1991 at the age of 90, was one of those residents displaced by the construction of the new park.
“From the time he was 4 years old until he was 22, my husband lived here,” Alma Clark said.
“Where the swimming pool now sits today is where my husband’s childhood home was … 73 Terry St.,” she said.
The majority of displaced residents relocated to Southeast Denton, while others, including many community leaders, left Denton altogether, according to historical information gathered by the Denton County Historical Commission.
In 2007, the City Council voted to change the name of Civic Center Park to Quakertown Park.
The new marker now provides Quakertown statewide recognition that many in attendance said they felt was needed. Not only does the plaque provide insight on the significance of the area; the marker will also be listed in the Texas Historical Commission database for anyone to discover information about the area’s origins.
Funding for the marker was provided by the Texas Historical Commission through its “Undertold Story” program, according to a news release from the Denton County Historical Commission. The program funds applications for “Undertold” stories from counties throughout the state. In 2010, the local historical commission’s marker committee submitted the application for a Quakertown marker.
“I think this recognition today is wonderful and long overdue,” Clark said.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.