A park will be built to showcase the brick lined cistern which has been unearthed in a lot between two buildings across the street from the Ant Street Inn. To launch the construction of Toubin Park, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 25 at 10:00 am with the uncovering of the cistern for viewing.
Toubin Park, named for Leon and Mimi Toubin, who donated the land for this purpose, will exhibit how cisterns were used in the 1800′s through the use of maps, photos of cisterns that still exist in Brenham, and give tips for using modern cisterns today.
“The story of Brenham’s cisterns starts in 1860 when the Washington County Railroad was finished,” said Sharon Brass, a Main Street Brenham volunteer who did most of the recent research. “As only the second railroad in Texas, it was a remarkable feat that turned Brenham into a boom town, almost overnight. This started a chain of extraordinary events, with colorful characters, leading to the cisterns under our streets and buildings. This is the story we’ll tell at Toubin Park.”
“The railroad made Washington County extremely prosperous and the population exploded. During the Civil War, the county’s population was highest of all Texas counties, with more residents than Houston and Austin combined.”
“Even though the railroad brought a surge of prosperity, it also brought many travelers and transients,” said Brass. “Like any boom town, frequent violent crimes kept lawmen busy. When the Civil War ended in 1865, former slaves and owners struggled with their new relationships, resulting in more crime. With lawlessness and racial tensions growing, most men walked the streets armed. The mood was tense and conflicts were frequent. This atmosphere prevailed at the end of the Civil War, setting the stage for trouble to come.”
“That trouble came in the form of Union soldiers, sent here in 1865 to occupy Washington County during Reconstruction. The soldiers terrorized citizens and the atmosphere turned hostile. A local newspaper editor emerged as a hero criticizing the deeds of the army and was arrested twice for his writings. Several events led to violence and the burning of a full city block by soldiers. ”
“After a second fire was set, the citizens began building cisterns, to collect rain water for fire-fighting. An 1885 map shows that 26 public cisterns had been built by that time and Brenham even had a cistern factory that served the region.”
Brenham cisterns are now designated as State Archeological Landmarks.