NAME: Waverly
COUNTY: San Jacinto
CLIMATE: Mild Winters, Hot Summers
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Hot in summer
Waverly, also known as Old Waverly, was originally located in southeastern Walker County. James W. Winters, the first settler, came from Alabama in 1835 and cleared farmland and built a home. He was joined by the Fishers from North Carolina in 1851. In the autumn of 1852 some 300 people from Alabama, including slaves, moved into the Waverly area. The town was surveyed, mapped, and incorporated in 1858. According to popular legend the town was named for the Waverly novels of Sir Walter Scott. Some considered Waverly to belong to the South of "moonlight, magnolias, and landed gentry." In reality it was a small enclave of the slave-plantation system imported from central Alabama. Waverly Institute, consisting of a male and female academy, was established in 1856. A post office operated from 1855 until 1872. A Masonic lodge operated from 1861 to 1865, and Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian congregations were started in town. In September 1866 a group of planters from Walker County met in a general store at Waverly to discuss their labor problems and the impending harvest. The store was owned by Meyer Levy, a Polish Jew who owned several stores in East Texas. He had been a merchant in several states in the South and a blockade runner in the Civil War and was highly respected in the region. During this meeting plans were completed to bring the first group of Polish farmworkers to East Texas. Twelve planters formed the Waverly Emigration Society and commissioned Levy to go to Europe and find about 150 laborers to work on their plantations. Initially, however, only a few families came over. These Poles and their descendents became an important cultural element in Walker County. In 1870 San Jacinto County was formed from a part of Walker County, including the Waverly area. At that time Waverly leaders, in fear that the Houston and Great Northern Railroad would bring "tramps and ignorance to the town and kill cattle," refused to give the railroad right-of-way. In doing so they ensured the rapid demise of Waverly. The town of New Waverly was established ten miles west of Waverly in 1870 to take advantage of the railroad and became a prosperous town. In 1896 Waverly, also called Old Waverly, had a population of 400, but only 100 were enumerated in 1925. In 1986 all that remained of Waverly was a cemetery, a nearby Presbyterian church, and a rural subdivision called Old Waverly, which had a population of about fifty people. Texas historical markers were erected for Old Waverly in 1969 and for the Waverly Cemetery in 1978. In 2000 the population was 200. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D'Anne McAdams Crews, ed., Huntsville and Walker County, Texas: A Bicentennial History (Huntsville, Texas: Sam Houston State University, 1976). The Polish Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1972). Walker County Genealogical Society and Walker County Historical Commission, Walker County (Dallas, 1986). Submitted by: John Campbell