Navasota is a city in Grimes County, Texas, United States. The population was 7,049 at the 2010 census. In 2005, the Texas Legislature named the city "The Blues Capital of Texas," in honor of the late Mance Lipscomb, a Navasota native and blues musician.
Navasota was founded in 1831 as the stagecoach stop of Nolansville. Its name was changed in 1858 to Navasota, a name perhaps derived from the Native American word nabatoto (“muddy water”).
After September 1859, when the Houston and Texas Central Railway built into the town, Navasota became important as a shipping and marketing center for the surrounding area. Whereas nearby Washington on the Brazos protested the coming of the rails, the old historic town forfeited its geographic advantage, and it began to decline as many of its businesses and residences began a sure migration to the new railhead across the Brazos River at Navasota.
Slaves were a large part of the local economy, as they were imported, traded and used to work in the many local cotton plantations. Guns were made in nearby Anderson, and cotton, gunpowder, and shoes were made, processed and stored there for the Southern Confederacy during the American Civil War. By 1865 the population was about 2,700. All during the Civil War, all the marketable goods produced in the region were brought to Navasota, then the furthest inland railhead in Texas, to be shipped south to Galveston, where it could be transported by steamboat from the Texas coast and up the Mississippi River to the war effort, or exported to Mexico or overseas to Europe.
Navasota suffered a series of disasters in the mid-1860s that severely depleted its population. In 1865 a warehouse filled with cotton and gunpowder exploded after it was torched by vagrant Confederate veterans; the blast killed a number of people and started a fire that destroyed much of the original downtown, and damaged many buildings, including the post office. Not long afterward the town was struck by a deadly cholera epidemic, which was followed in 1867 by an even more dangerous epidemic of yellow fever. As many Navasota citizens, including the mayor, fled to escape the disease, the town population dropped by about 50 percent.
Mid 1860s skirmish between Navasotan disgruntled freedmen and Confederate veterans broke out in the Brazos Bottoms near Millican, after a race riot there threw the whole region into a panic. An informal militia rallied in Bryan, gathered arms, and caught the train southward towards the angry mob of armed freedmen who were marching on Bryan, a city to the north of Navasota. Many men were left dead and many were wounded after this little known battle, perhaps the greatest race battle ever fought in Texas. This led to the formation of numerous private militias, and ultimately during the late 1860s the KKK in Navasota, and on one occasion a tense confrontation between federal soldiers and a crowd of local white citizens occurred there. Later the White Man’s Union was formed, which sought political solutions when possible to the power struggles in Navasota.
During these days, Navasota was considered a wild and wooly place, where it was not considered safe for women and children to go downtown in broad daylight. The downtown buildings were teaming with lawless ruffians, gamblers, prostitutes and drunks. Lawmen had to hide and watch, and often were afraid of the streets at night. There were many saloons and gaming halls, and every Sunday morning the undertaker hitched up the buggy and went downtown to collect the bodies that were anticipated to be there, from another wild Saturday night.
Perhaps the greatest and most publicized violence was around the turn of the century, during the rise of the Populist Party in Grimes County, and the election of Populist candidate Garrett Scott for County Sheriff. A white man with great charm and political skill, he enjoyed a great deal of the black vote, which made up almost half of the population, and managed to get himself elected along with a number of black candidates. Finally, in a rage of bullets and accusations, he and his cronies were attacked in spots all over the County. The assassination attempt failed, however, and Scott was scurried out of town, badly wounded, under protection of a Federal militia, and he never returned to Grimes County. He hid for his life in Galveston, and filed charges against many of the men, who were later fined but their murders were never prosecuted.
In 1908, Navasota was a lawless boom town, wracked by violence: "shootouts on the main street were so frequent that in two years at least a hundred men died." Twenty-four-year-old Frank Hamer resigned from the Texas Rangers to become the City Marshal and moved in and created law and order. Hamer faced down, chased down, and beat down the Navasota toughs until the streets were quiet, and children could once again go downtown. He relentlessly fought the various power factions, and one day fought one perceived local warlord in the mud on main street, throwing him in jail and defying all comers, as the rest of the troublemakers began to search for cover. He served as marshal until 1911. Hamer became more widely known in 1934 as one of the men who shot Bonnie and Clyde. In 2012, the Navasota city council voted to commission a local sculptor to erect a statue of Frank Hamer in front of the new city hall building.
In the late 1990s Citizens for Action in Navasota (C.A.N.), with the cooperation of the City of Navasota, The Navasota Police Department's new Chief, and the Navasota City Council made a stand against crime and the Railroad Street bars closed down after decades of open drug sales and vice. Drug dealers, prostitutes and drunks could not be seen standing around this area anymore. The C.A.N. used the City Charter to revoke the alcohol license and the PD enforced the local laws of the land pushed by the new Police Chief, a Texas Ranger who took over after the past Police Chief and investigator where removed for corruption after an outside the county investigation of the City of Navasota Police department.
January 2002, Navasota city council default on revenue bonds, withdrawing the city from financial participation in the project known as the Pecan Lakes Golf Course, located near the city’s airport off of Highway 105.
In February 2004, the Texas Rangers again probed the Navasota Police Department. This time it is initiated by the Grimes County District Attorney. The inquiry dealt with whether the Deputy Police chief of Navasota Police department knew about the felony conviction for forgery of a family friend. The Deputy chief resigned. The dispatcher attended the police academy and had been working at Navasota Police department for some time. Investigators looked into if the Navasota Police Employee falsified government records during the city's hiring process for the dispatcher and police officer positions. The investigation started after an out-of-town newspaper (The Eagle) in Brazos County reported on the possible corruption.
In July 2009, a successful business owner was killed inside his liquor store by armed robbers. This crime was in the middle of the day on the main street in town. The Texas Rangers were once again called in. A Grimes County grand jury convicted two suspects in August 2012.
In December 2010 Navasota residents and the town paper reported the appearance of wild hogs in downtown Navasota. A wild hog was trapped at the free food bank in downtown Navasota. Later local business owners used the meat to feed the poor of the city.
On January 19, 2011, the citizens of Navasota made a stand against illegal businesses trying to enter its city limits after murders and drive-by shootings. The police acted on those concerned citizens' complaints by getting a search warrant for the tattoo and nail salon at Lasalle located about 100 yards from the Police Station and City Hall. Police seized drugs, money and illegal gambling machines.
August 10, 2011 Arrests made for rioting in Navasota, assault of peace officer under investigation. Law enforcement from multiple agencies and other Texas counties called in to subdue rioters in Navasota. Reported by the Navasota Examiner and the Bryan Eagle.
November 8, 2011 Large numbers of Federal Law Enforcement ATF Agents move in on Armed drug dealing gangs. Firearms, Crack cocaine and other drugs seized. Reported by the Navasota Examiner.
June 20, 2012, Federal agents return to Navasota along with Navasota Police and arrest 21 area residents for drug trafficking. Weapons and stolen property recovered. Reported in the Bryan Eagle and Navasota Examiner. http://www.navasotaexaminer.com/news/article_69301b7c-bb21-11e1-a35b-0019bb2963f4.html
June 23, 2012. Capital murder suspects calls 911 and turns himself in for the July 2009 killing of a Navasota business man in the middle of day in downtown. This resolved a long investigation by Local Police. Reported in the Navasota Examiner and Bryan Eagle paper. http://www.navasotaexaminer.com/news/article_93b2ddca-bf19-11e1-af8d-0019bb2963f4.html