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GOD & TEXAS: Calvert, Texas

With a population of 10,000, Calvert was once considered the fourth largest town in Texas. Calvert had the largest cotton gin in the world plus 52 businesses, multiple public schools, two banks, an opera house, five churches, and a weekly newspaper.

Calvert was named for plantation owner Robert Calvert, who influenced the railroad to expand northward. As a devoted Christian, he donated land for the founding of Calvert's First Presbyterian Church in 1850, and it remains active in ministry today.

Located in Robertson County north of Hearne, Calvert blossomed in 1868 as the railhead of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Building and maintaining the railroad forced them to search worldwide for laborers. Statisticians estimate that over time, 25 ethnic groups made the Brazos Valley their home.

This international citizenry found steady work and fertile farmland. Immigrants from China brought their culture and strong work ethic, as did other nationalities. When the railroad moved on, many of the Chinese remained in Calvert, and intermarried with the White, Native American, and freed Black residents creating a uniquely diverse populace.

Following the Civil War, many African Americans moved to Calvert to work for the railroad. Native son, Andrew “Rube” Foster, is a celebrated member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Born in 1879, Rube was the son of Andrew Foster, pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Calvert. An accomplished pitcher, manager, and executive, Rube is recognized as the “Father of Black Baseball.”

By 1870, an estimated 16 Jewish-owned businesses lined Calvert’s downtown streets. Most of the businesses were dry goods, clothing, and jewelry stores. Some of the prominent entrepreneurs included Phillip Sanger, H. Dreyfus, A. Hirschberg, Charles Jacobs, Rudolph Oscar, and Adolph Zadeck.

The Yellow Fever outbreak of 1873 roused the Jewish merchants to form the Calvert Hebrew Benevolent Society. This alliance purchased land for a Jewish cemetery and assisted in organizing religious functions for high holy days. Additionally, they built schools and established a B’nai B’rith Lodge, named in honor of Philip Sanger.

Regrettably, by 1910, the boom town of Calvert was in steep decline. The railhead moved and the cotton industry failed. Floods, fires, and viral epidemics undermined the vitality and function of this once proud town. In 2024, the population is 973.

But memories persist. There is a sobering Texas State Historical Marker on a vacant lot that reminds residents of the Harvey Massacre. It reads: “At this site one Sunday night in November 1836, the family of John Harvey was attacked by an Indian raiding party. Harvey, his wife, and son were all killed, Mrs. Harvey's blood staining the open pages of the family Bible.”

Calvert reminds us of Psalm 49:11 ASV, “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names.” But Jesus said in Matthew 24:35 ASV, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away!” May we heed this Divine admonition.

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