Shankleville Love Story

Shankleville is an unincorporated community located about as far east in Texas as a person can go, since in that area the border follows the river which takes a bend to the east. The community is situated in Newton County, a long and narrow county that extends to the Sabine River which at that point marks the border between Texas and Louisiana. Shankleville itself sits a few miles north of Newton, the county seat, and less than ten miles west of the Sabine.

Shankleville was founded by formerly enslaved people, Winnie and Jim Shankle and their friend Stephen Alexander McBride. By this time, many people have heard the story of Jim and Winnie Shankle, but it bears repeating.

In 1973, a Texas historical marker was placed nearby which outlines their remarkable story, as follows:

“Named for Jim Shankle (1811 – 1888) and Winnie Shankle (1814 – 1883), known as first Newton County blacks to buy land and become local leaders after gaining freedom by emancipation.

Both were born in slavery: Jim in 1811, Winnie in 1814. After Winnie and her three children were sold to a Texan, Jim ran away from his Mississippi owner. He traveled by night, foraged for food, swam streams (including the Mississippi River), walking out of sight the 400 miles to East Texas. At dusk one day he found Winnie beside her master’s spring (800 ft. W). After slipping out food for several days, Winnie told her master, who arranged to buy Jim. The couple worked side by side, bringing up Winnie’s children and six of their own: Wash Rollins, Tobe Perkins, Mary McBride, George, Henry, Houston, John, Harriet (Odom), B. M. (Lewis).

In 1867, they began buying land, and with associate, Steve McBride, eventually owned over 4,000 acres. In their neighborhood were prosperous farms, churches, a cotton gin, grist mills, sawmills, schools – including McBride College (1883-1909), built by Steve McBride.

Jim and Winnie Shankle are buried in Jim Shankle Cemetery (600 Ft. SW). A great-grandson, A. T. Odom, has been guardian of this heritage. Annual homecomings have been held since 1941.”

In an article posted in the Kerrville Daily Times on April 12, 2003, two of Jim and Winnie’s descendants, a mother and daughter named Larutha and Lareatha Clay, elaborated on the fascinating story. The article was written to commemorate that the two ladies had become the first Blacks to be inducted into the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Citing the Newton County Historical Commission, the exact date of Winnie and Jim’s marriage was unknown but they were held out to be husband and wife back in Mississippi before Winnie was sold to a person moving to Texas. Not wanting to be separated from Winnie, Jim escaped from his plantation and walked the four hundred miles and swam across two rivers until he came across Winnie at the Texas spring. It is not clear how Jim knew where to begin looking for Winnie, but in time, the couple was reunited when the owner arranged to purchase Jim.

Winnie had three children before her marriage to Jim and together they had six more children. After the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, the Shankles began to purchase land. Their descendants married, including one daughter who was in the direct line of the Clays. Another daughter, Mary, married Stephen McBride, the Shankles’ long time friend. A son is the great grandfather of former NFL player Michael Strahan.

Inage credit: Seguin Gazette Enterprise, September 16, 1980

Perhaps less is known of Stephen McBride, but he is described as a businessman who owned land and several local enterprises. He was also said to be a generous man and a founder of McBride College, created to educate the area children. Mr. McBride also has a Texas historical marker in his honor. Placed in 2009, the text is as follows:

“As a co-founder of the Shankleville community, Stephen McBride worked to improve the lives of fellow African Americans. Stephen was born a slave in Texas in 1834. After emancipation, he and Jim Shankle bought land in northern Newton County, forming the nucleus of a community of homes, churches and businesses. McBride owned a cotton gin, store, blacksmith shop, and syrup, saw and grist mills in Shankleville. His most enduring contribution was McBride College (1883-1909), the gift of a man who could not read or write but valued education for young people. The two-story school building also served as a community center and site of religious revivals. Stephen McBride died in 1920.”

Jim, Winnie and about thirty-two other individuals with Shankle in their names are buried in Jim Shankle Cemetery. There are probably many more individuals buried there who are directly related to the Shankles. Mr. McBride’s final resting place is currently unknown.

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