by Jack Hickey
The Northampton MUD is proud to present to the residents of Northampton a factual and pictorial history of our neighborhood. Mr. Jack Hickey has conducted extensive research and interviews with many people provide the basis for this account, which starts before the "beginning", with the original Spaniards looking for an elusive "water route to the Orient" and continues through the present. Photographs and graphics for the story were compiled by author Jack Hickey, and contributing editor, Lisa Moore. Website preparation by Lisa Moore. We hope you enjoy it.
Nestled deep in the lush forests of North Harris County lies a subdivision described by many as 'one of the best kept secrets' in southeast Texas. This is beautiful Northampton. It is serenely hidden from the bustle of nearby roads and highways by towering pine and oak trees mixed with sweet gum and Chinese tallow trees which add New England-type colors in the fall.

The Live Oak Tree in the esplanade at the front of the subdivision is estimated to be nearly 100 years old.
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Today Northampton is home for approximately 5,000 residents: men, women and children from all walks of life. There are executives, doctors, teachers and students, business owners, tradesmen, pilots and others. It is a low-cost haven for many retired couples on fixed incomes as well as young couples with school age youngsters or those just beginning a family.
Since the 1960s, Northampton has occupied an area far removed from the frantic pace of metropolitan Houston, although its location for centuries before was the home for various early-day inhabitants. As long ago as the 1750s the Spanish governor of 'The Province of Texas', San Jacinto De Barrios, for whom the San Jacinto river is thought be named, sought to establish a mission here on Willow Creek near its junction with Spring Creek. His plan moved several thousand Indians of the Orcoquisac* Tribe from the swampy mosquito-infested Anahuac area east of Houston to a creek site near Northampton, west of Gosling Road and south of the Montgomery/Harris County border.
The confluence of Willow and Spring creek, near which a Spanish mission was built over 200 years ago.
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Although the mission soon failed, the Indian village survived for years and furnished many nineteenth century youths with an exciting area in which to search for arrowheads and other bits of Native American artifacts. Across Spring Creek on the Montgomery County side, another village populated by the Bidais Indians flourished. Spring Creek provided a natural barrier separating the peaceful Bidais from the often hostile Orcoquisacs.
Possibly the backyard barbecue ritual so popular in modern society and practiced every weekend by many Northampton working 'warriors' had its beginning with two of the Indian tribes of the area. With most of the Texas Gulf Coast considered their domain by the hostile Karankawa Indians, the forced invasion by the Spanish governor of the Orcoquisacs set off occasional fierce turf skirmishes between the two tribes who were recorded in history as being cannibalistic in their dietary habits. Early day Frenchmen exploring this area claimed the winners of these Indian battles added the captured losers to the menu in a frenzied victory celebration.
Several groups of Indians inhabited Southeast Texas during the mid 1700s.
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Depiction of nomadic Karankawa Indians and a lean-to constructed of sticks and hides or woven cloth.

A more recent Indian incident occurred shortly after the Civil War. A youthful warrior hiding in the Willow Creek underbrush charged a Gosling Road farmer. One shot was fired, killing the young Indian brave. He was buried on the spot and the incident was concluded without further notice. For years however, some local residents claimed they heard the ghost of the youth roaming the banks of Willow Creek when the moon was full.

Even these historic events and legends did not mark the earliest record of the area where Northampton lies today. The first known explorer trekked through our pine forests only 27 years after Columbus discovered the new world. It was in 1519 that a Spanish captain led his company through the North Harris County forests searching for an elusive 'water route to the Orient'. His adventure strengthened Spain's claim to Louisiana and all of Texas, a claim that lasted for three centuries.

But Spain's claim was not without challenge. The French explorer LaSalle led a party through this area in the 1680s, crossing Spring and Willow Creeks before setting up a camp a few miles west of the town of Tomball. LaSalle's expedition gave weight to France's disputed claim of all the territory in Texas as far as the Rio Grande River. The Spanish however continued their presence and by the 1750s had established a trade route extending from South Texas to Louisiana. Known as the Atascosito Trail, it crossed northern Harris County near the entrance to Northampton. Used by both Spanish and French military units, traders and later by Anglo-American colonists, the Atascosito Trail played a major role in early-day commercial development.

The Atascosito Trail, one of the most important early Texas routes.
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An important business of this early-day commerce saw lumber from our plentiful forests railroaded to barren West Texas for use in building frontier forts, homes, churches and schools. A major logging and sawmill operation across Spring Creek in South Montgomery County laid a narrow gauge tram track. It connected to a link of the International & Great Northern Railroad that ran through Westfield, Spring and branched off to Hufsmith, just south of Tomball. These early tracks still are in use today near Northampton. The narrow gauge operation, known as the 'Dinky Tram', is part of the past, but old timers remembered it rumbling across a rickety bridge over Spring Creek with a load of wood headed for West Texas.

First established in 1838 as a trading post on Spring Creek, in the 1840's Spring became a farming community producing cotton and sugar cane. In the 1870's Jay Gould brought the International and Great Northern Railroad through town and Spring began to grow. This picture shows the Spring Train Depot.
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At the beginning of the 1800s all of Texas was part of Mexico. The Texas war for independence ended in 1836 and set up the legal machinery which influenced the selection of Northampton's present site.

When independence was declared after Sam Houston's army defeated Santa Ana at San Jacinto, framers of the new Texas constitution granted free land rights to all settlers with the exception of 'Africans and Indians'. One of those land grants, which included up to 4,600 acres for the head of a family, was presented Texas pioneer John Brock. His claim extended northward from Spring Cypress Road across Willow Creek almost to Spring Creek. The original Northampton tract was carved out of the northern end of John Brock's grant. Later development in Northampton included part of the survey of another pioneer, Levi Goslin.††
Although modern day Northampton is a city in itself with approximately 1,400 homes, it is by no means the first community to follow the earlier Indian villages. One of the land grants following the 1836 war went to Frenchman Claude Nicholas Pillott. He established a community on the banks of Willow Creek. It was called Willow.


Some of the area's most populous subdivisions are carved out of headright lands granted by the Republic of Texas.
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Although the village of Willow has disappeared, as late as the 1920s a one-room schoolhouse, Willow School, served youngsters from the surrounding area. One local resident remembers walking five miles to school as a youngster. "The poor kids walked," he recalled, "And the rich kids rode their ponies." He didn't claim, as some old timers do, that it was uphill in both directions and the trail through the woods was covered with six inches of snow both summer and winter.
The Frenchman Pillott's role in establishing Willow was one of the few foreign influences not German in nature. The influx of immigrants from Germany beginning in the middle 1800s still is reflected in Northampton's vicinity by street and road names and the Germanic names of nearby schools. Although Willow School has long disappeared, site of the educational facility known originally as 'Rural High School' still exists and is now the Klein Independent School District tax office on Spring Cypress Road. Rural High School was the forerunner of Klein High School and later Klein Forest and Klein Oak.
Willow School, located 1/4 mile north of Willow Creek. This 2-story building was the second school built there. The first was made of logs. In 1910 the school was praised for its up to date equipment of maps and globes.
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Just outside the entrances to Northampton today, three modern schools put education from the first grade through high school within walking distance of subdivision youngsters. Now that motorized vehicles have replaced ponies, ample parking space is a necessity rather than hitching posts, although bicycle racks still are important for the younger set as they count the days, months and years until they reach their magic 16th car-driving birthday.

The development of the elementary, middle and high schools within a few hundred yards of the entrances to Northampton has had a major influence bringing families to our beautiful subdivision. It is interesting that as Northampton youngsters grow up, graduate and leave their parent's home, many of them return and purchase homes here when they marry and begin their own families.

The Northampton lifestyle is unique in that it offers a variety of facilities to meet whatever type of lifestyle is desired. It appeals to people of all age groups and interests.

*Alternate spellings for the Orcoquisac tribe include Arcokisa and Akokisa.

Photo and information provided by the Klein, Texas Historical Foundation.
The spellings of many family names have changed over the years. Many local streets and small towns are spelled differently than the original family name.

Copyright © 2001 Northampton Municipal Utility District