“A HILL FOR CLIMBERS” THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN GRAPEVINE
Our February program will focus on the Black History of Grapevine and is being presented by Margaret Telford and Susan Pittman. The following article explains the history of “the Hill” and has been updated from the 2016 book, Grapevine: the stories behind our city streets.
With the end of the Civil War came emancipation, and freed slaves began to play a larger role in Grapevine society. Ollie Brewer was born into slavery as the child of Mr. and Mrs. Watkins on January 5, 1864. Mr. Watkins' life as a free man was very brief – he died shortly after the end of the war. When Mrs. Watkins remarried, Ollie took his stepfather’s surname, Brewer. They originally settled in the Roanoke area, where Ollie met and married Effie "Kit" Perry. Ollie and Kit worked a number of farms in the area as they added fifteen children to the family, three of whom died at a young age.
The Brewers moved to the Charlie Wall farm near Dove and Dooley Street after Charlie passed away in 1922 to help Mary Wall run the farm. Later, they bought acreage just south on Dooley Street where they built a home. This predominantly Black community located northwest of Dooley and Northwest Highway became known as “the Hill”. Some locals also remember it as “the Chutes”. Ollie and Kit had about 50 grandchildren by the time Ollie passed away at the age of 96 on January 31, 1960.
Ollie Brewer is credited with being a founder of the Hill, and Brewer Street is named in his honor. Around 2006 developers saw this area as ripe for development. The Hill was losing its character as many homes were bulldozed to make way for modern upscale houses. The Love Chapel Church of God in Christ, opened in 1930 and closed in 1942. A historical marker was placed there in 2009, recognizing its importance as an African-American church. In 2014, the City of Grapevine designated three of the old homes in the Hill as historical landmarks. Eliza Brewer, the 90-year-old daughter-in-law of Ollie and Kit Brewer, spoke at the City Council to encourage preservation of the Hill and its history. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to preserve several homes in the Hill – and in 2015, the restored Love Chapel re-opened for church services. While a number of the Brewers are buried in the Grapevine Historic Cemetery, Ollie and Kit can be found in the Bear Creek Cemetery.
Eliza Brewer passed away in September 2017.
UNIQUE ADDITIONAL FEBRUARY HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY…
GRAPEVINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY REBURIAL CEREMONY
Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 3:00 pm
North Dooley and Wildwood Lane
Please join us in respect of this special occasion, as we recommit burial of our skeletal remains from the Grapevine Historical Museum.
The bones were identified as belonging to a young Black male, originally buried on the Grape Vine Prairie between 100- 200 years ago. Dr. John Boyd, Debi Meek, president of the Grapevine Historical Society, and the Reverend Redmon of historic Love Chapel in Grapevine will be presiding over the ceremony.
Special gratitude is expressed to the Grapevine Cemetery, Nelson Grave Services, the Rev. Redmon and the Love Chapel, J. E. Foust & Sons Funeral Home, Devin Design Florist, Marilyn Tucker, the City of Grapevine, the GV Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Grapevine Heritage Foundation and the University of North Texas Forensic Anthropology Department for the generous support of the Grapevine Historical Society with this special ceremony in tribute of Black history month 2018.