Historical marker honors pioneering Pearland clan

Members of the Pearland Historical Society are proud that after seven years of hard work a pioneer Pearland family and the vision for a park on Orange Street have both received new recognition.

"It is important that we remember the people who were here before us and built the community we live in. It is important to remember our history, especially as the city continues to grow. It's critical that young people and new residents know how we got to where we are," said John "Mickey" Mark, president of the Pearland Historical Society. He has lived in Pearland since age 10 arriving in 1940.

The society, along with descendents of Robert L. and Julia Martin Hunter, recently celebrated the award and placement of a Texas State Historical Society historical marker at 3701 Orange Street commemorating the pioneer Pearland family. The entire process to secure the marker took seven years.

The marker stands on what is currently undeveloped city park space. The park space was renamed from "Orange Street Park" to "Robert L. and Julia Martin Hunter Park" via the ceremony.

Present at the May 3 dedication ceremony for the historical marker were members of the Society along with state and local officials and more than 40 members of the Hunter family, many of whom still reside in the Pearland area.

A city press release states that the park's namesakes had four children and lived in the family home on the corner of Orange Street and Galveston Avenue.

The Hunter family traces its arrival in Texas back to the "Austin 300," a group of settlers that arrived in the 1820's under the auspices of Stephen F. Austin's colonizing efforts, according to a history prepared by the Society in its application for the historical marker.

Dr. Johnson Calhoun Hunter was born in 1787 in South Carolina. After sojourns in Ohio and Missouri, he brought his family to Texas in about 1820, as noted, and moved to Fort Bend County in 1829 where he raised cattle. Two of his sons served in the Texan army fighting for independence from Mexico.

"When old Pearland was laid out in the 1890's, among the pioneers were members of the Hunter family," Mark said.

Hunter's grandson, Robert, married Julia Martin in 1905. The location of the current historical marker is on part of the land which was the original Hunter family plantation in Pearland.

According to the Society's history, Robert L. Hunter Jr. was a member of the first graduating class of Pearland High School in 1938 and was later elected to the school board. His name appears on the 1959 plaque for the now Sablatura Middle School. Other Hunter family members served as teachers and as county and local officials.

"Historical preservation is a top priority for the city. We are proud to be part of preserving the past in Pearland as we continue to plan for the future. This historical marker and what it represents will remain the guide as we create the vision of what this currently undeveloped parkland will become," said Pearland parks and recreation director Michelle Graham in a written statement.

Graham told the Chronicle the city has no definite plans for the park space at this point. "We have no developed plans and do not have a specific timeline at this point. Initial discussions are to develop the park in a manner that is befitting the community around it," Graham said. This could include playground areas, for instance.

Ideas about what to do with the park will likely come up as the city updates its park master plan the latter half of this year. Staff planning meetings will begin the end of July.

Graham said particularly priority is being placed on the projects already approved by voters in the city's 2007 bond election. "There are three park projects in some stage of design or construction. There are three trail projects in some stage of design or construction and two additional park and facility projects slated to begin the design process in fiscal year 2015," Graham said.

As the master plan is revised, Graham said, the city will hold community meetings, will gather focus groups, will consult with the city's Parks, Recreation and Beautification Board and will seek input through the city's website.

"The city of Pearland is very good in the development and maintenance of its parks. The Historical Society does not have any particular concerns or ideas to put forward about the development of the park. We mainly want people to know the story of the Hunter family and why this is a historical site," Mark said.

Residents wishing to stay up to date on parks plans or to submit suggestions can visit pearlandtx.gov/departments/parks-recreation. Residents may also sign up for "e-Alerts" under the "Residents" tab on the city of Pearland website at pearlandtx.gov..