Historical commission begins term, plans markers for Kilgore

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Gregg County Historical Commission is starting its 2019-2020 term with an induction of members and plans for projects in Kilgore.

At a Jan. 30 Gregg County Commissioners Meeting, 20 members were appointed to the GCHC, with Johnny King as the new chairman. Officers are elected by group members. Several Kilgore members were re-appointed and another Kilgoreite, Laura McKeathan, was appointed for the first time.

GCHC has members from Kilgore, Longview and Gladewater and tries to split elected roles evenly between locations.

Gem Meacham, Kilgore resident and GCHC member, said the group will soon begin planning for the new term.

“We have quarterly meetings. The first one is in February and then officers will be elected and the agenda will be set,” Meacham said.

Though the agenda has yet to be finalized, GCHC will be finishing up some projects in 2019 which it began last year.

“The biggest thing that this commission does is historical markers. We have some we’re doing this year. There are two in Kilgore. One is at the Dansby Colored School and Dansby High School. De’lores Arline is the sponsor of that. The other one is the old Danville communtiy. It was the original community here before the railroad came through and the Danville population moved to Kilgore. Those two markers are coming up this year for dedication,” she said.

De’Lores Arline said the Dansby marker dedication will coincide with a reunion of former Dansby students this summer.

“We’re going to actually do the installation and have the unveiling in May. It will be on May 25 on Memorial Day weekend. We will have the actual biannual reunion on that Saturday morning and then have the unveiling.”

Arline explained the historical significance behind the marker, which is dedicated to the school facilities designated for African American students prior to school integration in Kilgore.

“It’s actually Kilgore Colored High School,” Arline said. “It evolved in 1955 when the school board renamed it to C.B. Dansby High School. It commemorates the African American schools for the public here. Most of those schools were in churches for a long time. Once we became part of the school district, they built schools for African American children.”

The school, once located at 630 Bates St., was torn down in 2013.

Arline said she is excited and looking forward to the dedication.

“It’s great, it’s wonderful. It was a learning experience. We were able to get a lot of information from the school district, from school board minutes stored at the administration building. We’re going to publish a blog for those that care to read it. We have accumulated a lot of old pictures.”

The blog will be published on behalf of the Ex-Students Association of C.B. Dansby High School, Elder Elementary and Kilgore Colored High School.

“We’d hope that the public would come out and we’ll be putting the announcement out shortly. The mayor will be there, he’s been very helpful. The city council will be there, all our public officials will be there.”

Meacham said historical markers are not the only thing in the works for GCHC in Kilgore this year.

“The other big thing is last year we received funding through the county and the city of Gladewater for a historical resources survey and we’re hoping to do that for Kilgore in the very near future.”

This survey can lead to the designation of historical district status from the state if the structures surveyed meet certain guidelines.

“We had a consultant identify structures that are historically significant and would contribute to a historical district. There are like 500 structures surveyed in a 2-day period,” she added. “We have our sites set for Kilgore and have been in talks with Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation.”

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Park Service sets the guidelines for recognition of nationally registered historic districts. An area has to have a certain number of structures meeting those guidelines to earn the qualification. The Nugget Hill neighborhood in Longview is the only site in Gregg County that has earned the distinction, Meacham said.

GCHC’s first 2019 meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 4 p.m. in the Longview Community Center at 500 E Whatley St.

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