The history of a marble top walnut parlor table on display at the Best Museum at the Horlock House in Navasota has a direct connection to the historic P. A. Smith Hotel. A story in the Navasota Examiner’s special edition issued on April 14, 1977 relates the connection.
This small exquisite table became a part of the historic P. A. Smith Hotel on Railroad Street in the late 1800s with the second wife of P. A. Smith.
Smith, a born New Yorker claimed to be a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. He found his way to Navasota around 1869. Hotel entrepreneur Louisa Loftin joined Smith as his wife for whom he built the three-story hotel that he named for himself, the P. A. Smith Hotel. Completed in 1876, the edifice was declared the grandest structure ever built in Navasota. It was a hotel for the next 14 years until Mrs. Smith died in 1890 and the hotel became only the Smith residence.
Smith next married Annette Mistrot, and with her the marble top walnut parlor table came to the family’s living quarters at the hotel. Mrs. Smith had a daughter named Mrs. Curtis, from her previous marriage who lived in Calvert. Mrs. Curtis had twin daughters, Zenobia and Tina, when she came to the hotel to be with her mother for the birth of a third child. Mrs. Curtis died in childbirth with her daughter, Claire, surviving. The three children remained at the Smith Hotel reared by their grandmother.
Smith died in 1903 with his second wife and her three grandchildren continuing to live at the hotel. The grandchildren essentially grew up in the historic structure amid the marble top parlor table. Zenobia’s marriage to Harry Hutson Smith was held at the hotel. They continued to live in the building along with her twin sister Tina who never married and younger sister Claire.
Zenobia, known as ‘Nobie’, and her husband had a daughter, Jean, who married Robert L. Caton of Tyler.
In 1977, the P. A. Smith Hotel was being converted into a Grimes County Museum by the Grimes County Historical Association. Mrs. G. H Morley, director of the Museum Furnishings, wrote in The Examiner’s special edition relating the donation of a marble top walnut parlor table. The second Mrs. Smith’s great granddaughter, Jean Hutson Caton, donated the table as a memorial to her mother Zenobia.
Facing financial problems in converting the Smith Hotel into a Museum, the project ended when Robert Horlock gifted the Horlock House to the Association. The marble top parlor table became part of that collection. In 1999 the Association dis-banded and ‘gift’ deeded the Horlock House with its collection to the City of Navasota. A few years ago, when the City partnered with the Brazos Valley Arts Council, the collection was taken from the Horlock House to provide a gallery and housing for rotating artists. About four years ago the Two Rivers Heritage Foundation was granted management of the City’s Collection and portions of it are now on exhibit at the Best Museum that adjoins the Horlock House. The table is currently on display at the Museum.
Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. Visit www.tworiversheritagefoundation.org for more information or to become a member.