“The Hills of San Augustine” by Neal Murphy

November 21, 2022 - Many cities are known for the hills surrounding them.  Rome is known as the “city of seven hills”.  There is also a Seven Hills in Ohio.  San Augustine can also boast of several hills surrounding the city.  In the 1950’s when a teenager, I had experiences on each one of them.  There are four hills surrounding the city – actually three hills and one dip.

Taylor Hill – was my favorite of all the hills.  This steep hill begins at Liberty Hill Church on SH 147 north and ends as it crosses the creek bridge.  There was a picnic area on the left on the creek bank.  The first house on the left across the bridge was a saloon in the early days.  My father reminded me several times that as a young lad he felt that if one had an automobile that could climb Taylor Hill in high gear it was a very good car.

I would regularly ride my bicycle to Bland Lake to fish most of the day.  Taylor Hill was fun as I did not have to pump even once as I gathered momentum down hill, reaching perhaps thirty miles per hour as I crossed the bridge.  Of course, riding back home up Taylor Hill was a different story.

McDonald Hill –   is located north of town on N. Harrison Street.  This hill is not a particularly long one, but is fairly steep.  The creek that now runs behind the Sheriff’s Department produced much “fools gold”.  As a youngster exploring the creek I found this “gold” in great abundance.  I always felt that it was valuable in spite of what the adults told me.  I recall my parents telling me that the State wanted to build Stephen F. Austin State College on top of McDonald Hill back in the early 1920s.  However, they could not purchase enough land to do that, so they went to Nacogdoches.  I always felt that our city lost out on a great opportunity for growth.

McBride Hill – located west on SH 21.  This hill was a favorite place to race our automobiles when I was a teen.  The races were mostly between Fords and Chevrolets as there was always a controversy as to which car could go the fastest.  So, to end the argument we would drive to the summit of McBride Hill, then turn around and face east.  One then had an unhindered view of the road all the way to the bridge and past. When the coast was clear the two competing cars would spin off with tires screeching. Could the stick shift out drag the automatic?  Gayle Teel and Preston Wood both had 1949 Fords and would usually outrun everyone else. I never stood a chance with my dad’s 1950 Dodge with the “slushmatic” drive.  Its top speed was around eighty-five.  That all changed in 1954 when Dad purchased a new 1955 Chevrolet with General Motor’s first V8 engine.  It would run like a sage hen.  Even today when I drive on McBride Hill all these special memories of being a race car driver come to mind.  Luckily no one ever had an accident while drag racing their cars down McBride Hill.

The Devil’s Dip – Not really a hill, but in the early days before the road was paved, this creek bottom was a real challenge to travelers on SH 147 just before Liberty Hill Church.  Today the “dip” has been filled in and it almost un-noticed by the traveler. However, in the early days of the Model T Ford the Devil’s Dip was aptly named.  Automobiles as well as wagons struggled to cross the creek and get to the top of the hill on the other side, especially after a hard rain. 

Rome may have its seven hills.  South Wales may have its seven hills, as well as Seven Hills, Ohio.  But, San Augustine can boast of its three hills and a “dip” that have provided both pleasure and hardship for its residents for many years.  I am just one example.