What made Orange great: “THE COVE” was Orange’s unique neighborhood – Orange Leader

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By Mike Louvière

Rivers have a way of changing the earth, and in doing so, they change history. The Sabine River downstream from Orange curves between the mouth of Adams Bayou and Cow Bayou. This area was once a large cove deep enough for ships to anchor. A large mound of shells, called a “massif” once stood near the mouth of Adams Bayou. This was proof that the first inhabitants of the region were the Attakapa-Ishak tribe. The heap was made from the shells of the seashells that made up a large part of the Attakapa diet.

It is not clear why ships anchor in the area. Some speculation is that Jean Laffite once came here. He may have buried treasure, but no evidence of this has been found. Another group that may have come to the Big Cove could have been the “Blackbirds,” ships that smuggled slaves into the Republic of Texas for sale to plantation owners in Louisiana.

One thing unique to the area was a large grove of orange trees. Speculation is that they came from the seeds of overripe fruit that French and Spanish ships carried to combat scurvy among crew members. The fruits could have been thrown overboard and the trees sprouted from the seeds. The cove eventually silted up so little evidence of the creek remains. In the area, a residential area has developed, known as “The Cove”.

In 1840, the survey team that established the border between the United States and the Republic of Texas designated the area on the map as “Huntley.” Several years later, Alexander Gilmer, the lumberjack and real estate speculator built a community he named “Gilmer’s First Cove Addition”. As this area sold and became inhabited, he developed a second area “Gilmer’s Second Cove Addition”. The present “Cove” essentially follows Gilmer’s original dish.

Gilmer’s plan was to have a living area for his employees and those of other sawmills in the Orange area. The area began to develop and in 1883 it was decided that a school was needed in the area. Ms David Bland had moved in with her family a year earlier and started teaching at home. In 1884, the “Adams Bayou School Community” was organized and the first school building constructed in 1885. The number of students increased as the population increased. The boom caused by WWI shipbuilding resulted in the need for another school building.

In 1920, the Cove Independent School District was created by the state legislature. In 1951, a modern brick school building was constructed at the corner of Campus Street and DuPont Drive. The independent district lasted until the 1965-66 school year when it merged with West Orange and became the independent school district of West Orange-Cove.

Over the years, “The Cove” has been unique in that it is almost self-contained. There have been various businesses, from small shipyards to plumbing companies and lumber yards. Many are still there. There have been churches of various dominions. Once upon a time there was a poultry processing company. There have always been grocery stores. The only thing that never existed in “The Cove” was a hospital.

“The Cove” may also have the distinction of being the city in Texas that was chartered for the shortest period. Of course, this is the one that existed in Orange County for the shortest time. In 1954, the City of Orange decided to annex “The Cove”. Residents believed that all Orange could give them would be higher taxes, which is why a decision was made to incorporate. The incorporation vote was passed and Cove City received its charter in July 1954. Talmadge Pike was elected mayor and there was a city marshal and a municipal judge for one dollar a year.

The problems started when the new city put out a tender for a new water supply system and discovered that even though the cost was unreasonable, citizens feared spending so much money that they would have to establish a high tax base. This is what they had incorporated to try to stay away.

On January 8, 1955, citizens voted to abolish the Municipality of Cove City. Even though Cove City has not been incorporated, the neighborhood still remains as it has over the years. Like most neighborhoods, Mom and Pop grocery stores are gone, but a lot of things are the same. The churches are still there, the houses are still well maintained and the uniqueness of “The Cove” remains.

The biggest change in the area is that the school campus has been razed. The school remained vacant for several years until it was purchased by a contracting company. After a few years, this company evacuated the buildings, and they were abandoned to the ravages of nature. Eventually, the City of Orange took possession of it and after attempts to sell the buildings were unsuccessful, the buildings were demolished.

Many of the people who live at “The Cove” have lived there most or all of their lives, some living in homes passed to them by their parents. They have a sense of pride for their neighborhood which is second to none. Another thing that makes “The Cove” unique are the streets bordering Adams Bayou, which showcase some of the most beautiful scenery in Orange County.


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