Alexander McBride, born a slave in Georgia, was brought into what would become Texas in the 1820s by his plantation owner. He is heralded as a man who never could read or write as the founder of the early McBride African American college.
Little is said of another slave couple, who was an equal partner in the development of Shankleville that actually was named for he and his wife - Jim and Winnie Shankle. The book, “Texas Tales, Stories That Shaped a Landscape and a People,” written by Myra Hargrave McIlvain, tells the historic story of the Shankles. Jim was born a slave in 1811 and was owned by a Mississippi plantation. Jim married another slave, Winnie, who already had three children, who suddenly was sold by the plantation owner to another. Over the next few days Jim learned that the new owner was in East Texas. Determined to find Winnie, he quietly ran away. With a price on his head as a runaway, Jim took the precaution of only traveling at night and surviving on foraged food from the fields he hid in during daylight hours. Afraid to ride a ferry, he both swam the Mississippi River and the Sabine into east Texas.
Once in Texas, Shankle would night by night sneak into different plantations and ask about Winnie. One night he found Winnie as she collected water at a spring. She hid him and brought food at night. Two stories are told as how he was found - one that she told her master about him, the other that the master had found him. Either way he purchased Jim Shankle from his previous plantation owner. The Shankles would bear six children of their own. Over time, Stephen McBride married one of the Shankle’s daughters. Once emancipated in the mid 1860s, the two families partnered in purchasing land and developing the African American community of Shankleville. The village developed with schools, churches, a cotton gin, sawmills, gristmills, and merchandise stores. The pair soon owned over 4,000 acres. Eventually, in 1883, the McBride College was initiated. Stephen Mc-Bride, though he never learned to read or write, formed the college for the local African Americans to become educated. Little history is written of McBride College. It is described as a two-story structure that operated for 26 years from 1883 until 1909. The school also served as a community center and town hall. During summer months, teachers came to attend training conferences and seminars. When school was not in session, Mc-Bride College was frequently used to host revivals for traveling preachers.
The College was launched the same year that Winnie Shankle died, with Jim living another five years. McIlvain called the Shankle’s story a “love story that has become a legend.”
(An interesting sidelight for the Shankles is that Michael Strahan, a Good Morning America host and retired NFL player, is a Shankle descendant.)
Shankleville is located in Newton County, about 75 miles north of Beaumont bordering the Sabine River.
(Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. See www.tworiversheritagefoundation. org for more info and membership).