By Alton Porter
When Houston County Historical Commission (HCHC) volunteers recently learned that two costly historical markers in the county had been badly damaged, they were faced with three options.
They could try to come up with about $3,600—funds they didn't have—to replace the markers, find someone to repair them or do nothing.
Since the first option was out of their price range and the third one was simply not an option at all to them, they decided to at least pursue the second alternative, not having any idea how much it would cost to have the markers restored.
So, they contacted George Young, a welder and former owner of Young's Welding Service & GT Truck Accessories, to get an idea what the cost to have the markers mended would be.
And much to their surprise and delight, Young would turn out to be a Good Samaritan of a sort, offering to do the job for little to no compensation.
"I would like to comment on how gracious Mr. Young was," said HCHC Chair Wanda Jordan. "He was so willing to just step up and use his expertise and help—not only save us money, but—get them (the historical markers) back up so that the driving public can see them.
"He was so gracious in saying, 'Sure, I can help. Sure, I can do it.' He didn't hesitate one minute. He just said, 'Yeah, bring them over to me.'"
Jordan explained, "He's a craftsman with a welding machine, believe me. He did a really good job (repairing the markers). These are castings made of a zinc compound; it's not an easy welding job to repair them. It takes a craftsman to do it."
"He deserves kind of a pat on the back for being a part of the community and being interested in trying to help. He's also done this in the past for us.
"We just so appreciate him volunteering his time and his expertise and his interest in the history of the county."
Jordan added, "We always stress that the biggest thing Houston County has to sell is its history. We say that we're trying to preserve and promote Houston County's historic and cultural resources. That's what he (Young) was trying to do—help us be able to do our mission. He made a significant contribution to preserving our history."
Jordan gives this account of the damaged markers and Young's act of generosity.
"We had two historical markers that were damaged, probably accidentally, on the highway. They were posted on the rights of way of roadways and didn't appear to be vandalized or otherwise deliberately damaged.
"They're quite expensive to replace. So, we got permission from the state for us to try to repair them.
"And Mr. Young over at Young's Welding has done that for us. TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) is going to put them back up for us.
"These markers are very expensive," she said. "They cost like $1,800 each to replace. So, the fact that he (Young) repaired them for us saved us a considerable amount of money.
"He was like a second or third generation businessman here in town in his family's welding shop. He has sold the business and is retiring. Special thanks to him for being a part of the community for as long as he has been."
One of the markers, which honors John Wortham (1804-1876), a pioneer era landowner and farmer who was a petitioner for the creation of Houston County in 1837, was located three miles north of Crockett off US Highway 287 at its intersection with FM 2160. It was posted in 1982.
The marker pays homage to Wortham, who later served as a captain of an independent ranger company, and was a major in the Republic of Texas Army and a quartermaster of the Texas Militia. He was appointed to the first Board of Land Commissioners for the Texas Republic.
Wortham was the great-grandfather of Eliza Bishop (1920-2009), who was known for her participation in civic affairs in Crockett and surrounding communities and most notably as historian of Houston County.
The other sign is the Arbor Community historical marker, which was posted near the entrance of this historic community at a location nine-plus miles east of Crockett on SH 7 and three-and-a-half miles south on FM 232. It was dedicated in 1994 and had been posted since that year.
This marker memorializes the settling of this community, which began back in the late 1820s and 1830s. Growth of the community began in earnest after the Civil War, when immigrants from the war torn states moved there to take advantage of the expanding cattle and cotton industries.
The pole of one of the markers was pulled out of the ground—possibly hit by a truck—and the other one was bent over, Jordan said. "One of them was split diagonally, so Mr. Young had to match together all the lettering of the sentences before welding it back together. It's not something your run-of-the-mill welder could do. He had to be pretty precise in doing the job."
These and other such markers must be approved by the Texas Historical Commission and are paid for by private citizens, such as family members of an individual, or by a community's residents, a school, a church or a cemetery association.
The HCHC is the local contact for markers that are situated in Houston County, Jordan said. "We're all volunteers; we have no paid staff. The county very generously provides us with office space (in the Houston County Courthouse Annex)."