Many Sabine area families have long wanted a weekend and vacation retreat in this beautifully wooded part of East Texas with its clear streams and rolling hills. Few such places have ever been available though because most of the land is owned by a few owners and is used for growing timber. With this in mind I have started development of a 1200 acre block of land that I hope will furnish many families, and particularly the children, many happy days of relaxation and healthful recreation in the water, woods and sun.
Written by Jim Haralson, 1952
Hardy Johnson on Frog Pond Lake. Late 1950s or early 1960s. Before the lake was cleared of trees. Dock posts are still standing today. Photo courtesy of Janelle Johnson and Greg Askew.
1952 Haralson Lakes Created
While serving as a Captain in the US Army in WWII, attorney and Colmesneil native J. G. “Jim” Haralson, Jr., determined to seek to use family land, owned by his parents and his father’s two siblings, to create a lake and sell lots around it for weekend homes. Note -- Frog Pond, with its construction in the early 1950’s, predates other private, amenity lake subdivisions in this region. Mr. Haralson’s concept was to provide rural recreation in the beautiful woods of east Texas for city dwellers – many of whom had rushed to the coast to earn a living wage and support the war effort. Persuading elder family members to participate, he constructed the first dam and spillway for Frog Pond around 1953-54. Before the concrete spillway sufficiently hardened, that is “cured,” a torrential, 100-year flood occurred causing the spillway to fail leaving the bed of the lake with a small pool of water perfect for bull-frogs thus the eventual name of “Frog Pond.”
1956 Frog Pond Rebuilt
Over the next few years, Jim and wife Virginia, acquired additional capital, redesigned and rebuilt the structure completing it and commencing the sale of lots around Frog Pond in 1956. The lots, priced at $650, sold quickly allowing the family to pay off construction debt, buy-out the two participating family members, and pursue the construction of a second lake.
1957 – 1975 Growth Period
Mr. Haralson and his wife pursued completion of his dream to build a second lake, sell lake front lots around it and begin the sale of interior, non-lake front lots. The second lake required acquisition of additional land and capital. Local business leaders Cecil Ogden and Herbert Sutton invested in the venture. The second lake, Lake Amanda, was built and lot sales were phased to sell over a period of years. In 1973, Mr. and Mrs. Haralson borrowed money to buy-out the two partners. Over this period, Mr. Haralson performed maintenance on the Frog Pond Dam and Spillway. With Frog Pond waterfront lots sold, and Lake Amanda lots near sold-out status, Mr. Haralson began to sell off-the-water lots along the southeast side of the property and platted the Tompkins lots on the southeast side of the Frog Pond Spillway. “Big Jim” as he was called by many, died May 1975, before completing the survey work on the Tompkins lots.
1975 – 1992 Middle Years
Widow, Virginia Stephens Haralson, daughter Amanda Haralson and husband at the time, attorney John D. Stover, assumed management of Haralson Lakes, determining how to manage the debt and cover property taxes with most of the waterfront lots sold and income from owner financing dwindling due to payouts being completed. They finalized the platting of the Tompkins subdivision lots with lots being sold with water access through the common access lot on Frog Pond thus following Mr. Haralson’s intent. Having no desire for greater density of people, the family increased efforts to manage for timber production to offset property taxes. Due to safety concerns with 300 developed lots around the lakes, the hunting of game was no longer viable. Hiking was allowed; the advent of the popularity of motor bikes and 4-wheelers was prohibited as was dumping of trash and household goods and appliances. Regrettably, these practices continued unabated as did the poaching of game. Both Frog Pond and Lake Amanda created informal property owners associations during this period.
Ms. Haralson and Mr. Stover divorced in 1988.
1992 Mrs. Haralson Passes
In 1987, “Miss Jenny” retired from a 37-year career as an educator and lived out her life in the family home on FM 256 until her death in February 1992. During that period, ownership of Frog Pond and Lake Amanda was transferred to the Haralson Lakes Trust for the property owners to manage, or, if they chose, to remove the respective lake from the Trust and manage independently. Ms. Haralson, who worked and resided in Austin at the time of Miss Jenny’s passing, assumed responsibility for communicating the change in ownership, encouraged the property owners to form a joint Haralson Lakes property owners’ association to work with the Haralson Lakes Trust to perform maintenance on the two dams and spillways. Property owners chose to not participate. Amanda proceeded with renovation plans for dams and spillways of both lakes working with Everitt Griffith, Jr. & Associates, Lufkin with oversight by the Texas Commission on Environmental Commission (TCEQ). Renovations were completed in the mid-1990s.Ms. Haralson resigned as trustee of the Haralson Lakes Trust shortly thereafter providing recommended maintenance plans for Frog Pond and Lake Amanda to contacts of record for each lake.
1997 FPPOA Formed
Building on efforts begun in the 1980s, property owners increased efforts to formalize the property owner association and increase efforts to manage Frog Pond Lake.
Frog Pond POA established Artlcles of Incorporation and became a 501c3 organization.
2001 Woods Become Wildlife Managed
By 2001, Ms. Haralson, as an absentee landowner, was striving to increase her knowledge of forest management and conservation practices, and in frustration over the amount of erosion and damage to the forest land caused by 4-wheelers ridden against rules, natural openings were fenced and access to the property was limited to foot traffic. Management practices to benefit wildlife and ecosystem services were increased to complement Best Management Practices guidelines of the Texas Forest Service.
2014 Member Access Lot
Ms. Haralson deeded the approximate 5-acre access lot to the Frog Pond Property Owner Association to own and manage to benefit Frog Pond and Tompkins subdivision property owners.
2016 Year of the Storm
May 2016, remains of a weather system that caused severe flooding in the Bryan-College Station area stalled over Tyler County delivering 22-inches of rain in less than 24 hours causing the most severe flooding in more than 50 years. The rapid rise of water threatened Frog Pond and Lake Amanda. Frog Pond dam and spillway incurred damage; Lake Amanda dam failed due to the rapid rise of the lake and non-TCEQ approved modifications to the dam and spillway.
Haralson heirs, Amanda Haralson and Seth Haralson Stover, gifted the clay-sand mix needed to reconstruct the Lake Amanda dam and to incentivize the formation of a water control improvement district to fund the rebuild of the dam and spillway. FPPOA determined the usefulness of creating a Frog Pond Water Control Improvement District to provide funds to maintain the integrity of the dam and spillway. The WCID was formalized in 2019 and benefitted from a gift of property from the Amanda Haralson Stover Trust. The 2016 flood disaster; guidance from natural resource management professionals espousing the importance and challenge of using prescribed fire and select herbicides to improve wildlife habitat, timber production and ecosystem services, and that doing so is almost impossible with 300 surrounding lot owners; the aacknowledged need for more hands-on management of forest and wildlife habitat than Ms. Haralson could individually provide, combined with family priorities; converged and led to the decision to allow the acreage surrounding the lakes to pass out of Haralson family ownership in 2018.
In 2016: Hurricane Harvey strikes the United States as a Category 4 hurricane, causing catastrophic damage to the Houston metropolitan area, mostly due to record-breaking floods. At least 108 deaths are recorded, and total damage reaches $125 billion (2017 USD), making Harvey the costliest natural disaster in United States history, tied with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
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