Grapeland Community Council
Grapeland Community Council
The Grapeland Community Council is an outgrowth of the effort by the Crockett Jaycees to boost the development of Houston County. The Chambers of Commerce of the area had become relatively inactive and upon hearing of a successful county development in Mississippi, a group from the Crockett Jaycees went to study their organization. From what they learned, the Houston County Development Foundation started. The Jaycees met with the business men in each community and they all agreed that they would work together to try to boost the county. Each community regardless of size was to have its own community council. These councils, in turn, supplied directors for the Houston County Development Foundation. The function of the foundation was to encourage this development by a broad program to improve local resources and to attract industry.
Each and every community of Houston County was to organize a council and all the people of the community were automatically members of the council. Each would elect its own local officers and then select its directors to serve on the Houston County Development Foundation.
The Grapeland Community Council was organized in 1960 and more than 100 people came to the first meeting. The elected officers were as follows: A. S. Clewis, president Frank Dailey and W.A. Brown, vice presidents; Merle Ray Brimberry, secretary; Otto Walling, M.E. Darsey Jr., Ira Rials, directors.
The first and largest project of the council was securing a hospital for Grapeland. Several committees were appointed to work on this project and it became a reality in 1963 through the combined efforts of all the citizens of the Grapeland area. Every dollar spent was raised by local groups and the work was done primarily by volunteer labor. This was a tremendous undertaking for a community of this size.
During the years of the hospital’s operation, the Community Council made donations to help meet the hospital’s needs. Through the combined efforts of the Community Council and the Hospital Auxilliary committee the following equipment was purchased: emergency room equipment, hot water heater, sterilizer, furniture for the nurse’s lounge, positive pressure machine, air conditioners, dishwasher, cardiac monitor and defibrillator machine and croup tent. They purchased many other items of equipment and sponsored the replacement and upkeep of television sets for each room. In listing the contributions of the Community Council to the hospital, the writer of this article does not intend in any way to detract or take away from any other group or person the credit due them for their contribution to the hospital. This was truly a community-wide effort done in the spirit of Grapeland.
The Community Council became a member of the State Highway 19 Association and State Highway 287 Association in 1962. They have worked with these associations in their efforts to provide better highways in our area.
In 1961, the Council sponsored the Polio and Tetanus Drive to get maximum effectiveness in the effort to stamp out and eliminate these diseases.
Other projects during the 1960s were renewal of the local chapter of the boy scouts, contributions to the purchase of new band uniforms, purchase of Houston County lake signs, purchase of welcome signs on both ends of town, provided litter barrels for the city, sponsored Christmas Lighting contests and the Christmas parade, sponsored Santa Claus, sponsored the walking blood bank for the hospital, sponsored a drive to raise $6500 for the preparation of the site for the Nuclear Corporation, set holidays each year for the town, and last but not least – sponsored the Peanut Festival.
During the 1970s the Community Council continued many of the above projects. In 1972 they sponsored a week-long centennial celebration of Grapeland’s one hundredth anniversary. At that time, they sponsored the publishing of the first edition of the history of Grapeland, ‘Crossroads to Progress’. In 1977 the Community Council organized and operated a youth center called ‘The Reck’ which consisted of a gameroom and snack bar for the youth of our community. It filled a need for entertainment for our youth for about two years.
The next project of the Grapeland Council was done in cooperation with and at the instigation of the newly formed Grapeland Jaycees. Together they bought a ten acre track of land at a cost of $10,000 to be used as a community park. A major interest of the Jaycees in acquiring the land was to build and provide a place for young people and adults to have rodeo-type activities. The original work on our rodeo arena was sponsored by the Jaycees. Since that time the local 4Hand other riding clubs have continued to improve the area. A concession stand was built for activities in this area of the park under the sponsorship of the 4-H club.
The major interest of the Community Council in acquiring the park was to provide a place to have the Peanut Festival and other outdoor community activities. The early day fairs and agricultural shows were held in an old frame building (used as a gym) located where the high school tennis courts are. In 1940 this building was torn down to make way for the new agriculture and band buildings built of local rock by the WPA. The fair activities of the Peanut Festival had been held on the railroad right of way in front of the downtown stores. The size of the crowd that attended the 1972 festival pointed up the need for more room to have booths and entertainment for our visitors.
In 1977 the community Council built the pavilion with steel joists donated by Nucor. Most of the labor was volunteer labor. In 1978 they added much needed bathroom facilities. these were expanded in the 1980s.
After the debt acquired in buying the park was paid off, the Grapeland Jaycees and the Community Council deeded the park to the City of Grapeland to become the Grapeland City Park. This park ownership was transferred to the city in 1984.
As in any project in Grapeland, the entire community cooperated in developing this park. For this reason, the city council appointed a park commission composed of members from various organizations and groups of the town who had worked to acquire the park. he purpose of the park commission is to help supervise its development, use and operation. By having representation of all of those groups, the city council hoped that through their input that the park would be used to serve the best interest of the community at large.
The latest large project at the park has been the building of a bandstand. The cost of this building was $17000. The money was raised by the citizens of Grapeland in less than two years. It was completed in 1985.
An ongoing project is the publication of an up-dated and expanded edition of the Grapeland history book.
The purpose of the community council is to serve its community. It has contributed to the projects and needs of many other organizations. It has helped the school with donations for different school needs, such as scholarships and sponsoring the selling of trades school homes. In conjunction with the Farm Bureau, the Community Council has sent a student to the State Seminar for leadership training each year. It has cooperated with the city in helped finance the ambulance service, the fire department, the Christmas decoration, and the Crime Stoppers program. All monies that are raised by the Community Council at the Peanut Festival go back into the community in some way.
The directors of the Community Council are your representatives. They are elected at the annual meeting in January. All citizens are invited to attend and vote for the new directors. At this meeting, the accomplishments and effort of the past year are reviewed and new goals are set. Your active participation is welcomed and needed by your community.