East Texas is vibrant with life, character and rich in history and it takes just the least mention of something that sets the wheels in motion to prevent any loss of history. Who could have guessed this one started with a rock – more accurately a boulder that jutted out over a road lending a shade as dusk approached the land south of Kilgore.
Those raised on the land still remember vivid tales of an Indian Chief sitting on that rock meditating; smoking a pipe after tribal council and looking to the heavens for answers for his people. It was thought the Chief was Cherokee as they did move into East Texas in 1823 and often camped near or with the Caddo. Not knowing any better, children of white families being raised in the area referred to him as Indian Joe. However, Chief Big Head was Caddo and those grounds were located just off Hwy 259 S. and Baughman road. A creek bearing his name still twists and runs through the land and connects in to the Sabine River.
As time passed and more people settled in East Texas and Kilgore grew, families such as the Bauchmans, Lee and Baton with a three-way connection of pastures, became synomous with the ownership of the land upon which the rock and the council grounds once stood.
“At one time, my grandfather, Jacob Baughman, owned 1,000 acres in the area,” said Lou Hanks. “After his passing the land was divided between heirs and some sold. I still live on fifteen acres of the original that I refuse to give up,” she said. “I remember the rock, but, can’t tell you what happened to it…I suppose it was just moved and done away with.”
It was to Baughman Road that the rock lent its shade until the road was moved to the other side of the “mountain.”
“My father was in the oil business, my mother a housewife,” said Janie Baton Finney. “Land was acquired through a swap and they had to use dynamite to move the road. Buster Dickerson and Tommy Penry, who was County Commisioner of Precinct 1, came out at the time to make sure everything was legal and they started dynamiting to cut the new road. The dynamite was so loud it was known to have blown out windows in downtown Kilgore and eventually they had to stop using it prevent the complaining,” she said.
“My father acquired the strip of land on Baughman Road from T.O. Scales but was having trouble with vandalism and people running off the road, tearing up the fences,” said David Baton. “It was in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s that we cut the road to the other side of the mountain.
“The rock ended up being on the mountain that I owned,” he laughed. “And it was a mountain at the time, not a hill, being six acres across the top. Six inches of dirt down we found a huge smooth grinding rock as big as a wheel, used by the Indians. It had a perfectly formed circle in the middle where they could grind corn. The grinding stone was not of the stone found in Texas. It had to have been moved in from somewhere else and I would really like to know how they managed to move it. Countless arrowheads were also found on the mountain,” he added.
Under the dirt, the mountain was pure rock and bit by bit was crushed and used for gravel; it became a rock quarry for Baton’s Gravel & Rock Company.
“I rocked practically every oilfield location in the area from the mountain and had to use a diamond bit and three track-hoes to do so,” said David. “My best friend Charlie Hodges tore up a backhoe trying to get that rock out the mountain.”
The rock that jutted over the road where Chief Big Head sat eventually came down when the building of the Charles K. Devall Memorial Highway bypass came into existence. It was crushed and became part of the gravel used by TX Dot for the building of the bypass. The bypass opened took place in April 2016.
Today, just a “lip” of the rock mountain exists on the right just north of the loop’s junction with Hwy 259, according to David. According to the state environmental study on the land, Big Head Creek was listed as the travel route for black bears.
Existing businesses such as Stone Road Farm and Garden got its start on that land and moved to its current location in June of 1986 by Charles and Debbie Harvey.
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