Owlet Green, also known as Marvin Chapel, was a rural community in southwest Van Zandt county thirteen miles southwest of Canton at the headwaters of the Neches River on Farm Road 1995 and Farm Road 314. It was founded by immigrants from southern states about 1852 and named for the small green owls that populated the river bottom. The community was first known as Marvin Chapel and had a post office as early as 1878 and continuously from 1897 to 1905. In the 1890s the community was a shipping and supply point for area farmers and had a population of 300, two blacksmith shops, several gristmills and gins, general stores, a school, a church, a sawmill, a syrup manufacturer, and a saloon. The local school reached an enrollment of thirty in 1905 and was consolidated with the Van Zandt Independent School District in 1848. In the 1930s, the town had a population of twenty-five, a church, a school, a seasonal industry and scattered dwellings.
The first comers settled open, untilled, rich, fertile land and many of them were extended headright grants by the State of Texas for settling it. A man could obtain 300 acres of good, rich land for $30.00 and three years in which to pay for it. He usually paid off the mortgage after harvesting one crop.
Owlet Green was also the first religious community in the area, pre-dating Colfax, which later became the site of the famous mass-attended camp meetings, and ultimately the religious center for that part of the county. Other churches were subsequently established, after the Civil War, when thousands of people left the southern United States and migrated westward. One of these was Marvin’s Chapel Methodist Church, the cemetery of which contains many of those who settled in or near Owlet Green.
Information relating to Owlet Green had been hearsay, handed down by old timers, until 1962 when Truman Tunnell, of Van, Texas, uncovered an old ledger in a trunk at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Sam Wilson, nee Birdie Tunnell, that it became possible to establish factually and accurately the scope of activity in the community of Owlet Green. The ledger was kept by the various Justices of the Peace and Notaries Public as the official record of the community.
By 1884, about 32 years after being settled, the community was fairly well developed. And it did not go out of existence overnight. First, a few families pulled away, and so did a business. Business continued falling off until the last one closed up his shop and moved away in the 1940s. Today, all that remains of Owlet Green is the ruins of a concrete foundation in the corner of a pasture. The ledger contains, in original hands of the various Justices of the Peace, the affidavits, estrays deeds, oaths, marriages, and mortgages executed in this community. The ledger is an excellent source for the original inhabitants of Owlet Green. It is rich in genealogical information.
A lot of mighty good people made up this community which was the flourishing center of trade in the last years of the 19th century. Most are gone now, but are not forgotten.
My sister, Jean and I, visited the area where our Martin ancestors lived and raised families in the Owlet Green community during the late 1800s and early 1900s. We had a map of the area marking the locations of all the Martins homesteads. The map was provided by Nell Everett, whose husband, Billy J. Everett, was a Martin descendant. She had done years of research on the Martin family and Van Zandt county. Below is a picture I took of the ruins of a concrete foundation in the corner of a pasture on property that was our great great grandfather’s homestead and believed to be the remains of Owlet Green.
Van Zandt County History Book Committee, History of Van Zandt County (Dallas, 1984).
The Colfax Homecoming Committee, Colfax, Edited by Jack Geddie (Henry L. Geddie, Pub., 1963).