State recognizes old Austin settlement of freedmen and Mexican-Americans

Friday morning the Texas Historical Commission unveiled what some are calling an untold story in Austin's history.

Each day, hundreds of Austinites walk along the Shoal Creek banks to enjoy the scenery.

But the area near wood street, filled with tons of people, and businesses was much different in the early 1900's.

“At one time this was a vibrant little enclave that was in the early 20th century was inhabited by descendants of former slaves, these were the freedmen. As they left and moved to the east side, many of these homes were occupied by Mexican-Americans,” said Joe Ramirez, commissioner with the Travis County Historical Commission.

These were the working class: the servants, porters and brick layers. Friday, with a push from the shoal creek conservancy, Austin Parks and Rec, plus the county historical commission, the Texas Historical Commission recognized these workers with a plaque, placed at the Wood Street settlement.

“Sites like this tell the stories of immigrants and slaves who struggled to improve life for themselves and live out the American dream following emancipation,” said Wallace Jefferson, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.

Mitchell McGovern lives near the new historical site.

“I wanted to make sure we capture the history before it disappears and no-one remembers. We have to recognize the fact that there was slavery here, there were plantations here,” said McGovern.

Some historians say these working class people's stories were undertold and this marker may help Austinites and tourists understand that Austin is a product of both the wealthy, and the poor.

“As our community grows we risk losing the unique and inspiring stories of the city's history and culture,” said Jefferson.

“We can't forget the African-American contributions to the city,” said Ramirez.