Though Plano’s well-documented history dates back to the early 1800s, some of the first settlers are left off many of the lists. Two freed African American men were essential in establishing community in the Plano area, even before the Civil War: Andy Drake and Mose Stimpson. Though they didn’t know it at the time, the two sharecroppers would become the forefathers of one of the largest families in the Dallas-Plano area.
Drake and his wife Easter had eight sons and five daughters. Two of his sons married Stimpson’s two daughters, and Stimpson had seven sons. Though the men took their names from former slave owners, the names created a different legacy — one that can still be seen throughout the Douglass Community today.
Drake and Stimpson were given land on each side of Preston Road, where the two had many firsts. First Black men in Plano to have schools named after them and among the first with indoor plumbing and electricity. Drake’s children were among the five founding members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
“Oftentimes when you are the first it’s not that easy. But you have to draw on something,” Jennifer Stimpson says.
Mose Stimpson’s son Eddie Stimpson, Jr. spent 21 years in the army before retiring and returning to farming. He later became a docent at the Heritage Farmstead Museum and wrote My Remembers: A Black Sharecropper’s Recollections of the Depression. In this role, Eddie began working with Plano businessman John Wells to mark the graves of emancipated slaves from Collin County, one of which was Mose Stimpson.
“As we placed a headstone on Mose Stimpson’s gravesite, I could feel a chill run through me and got a feeling and a vision that I was going to find out more about my great-grandfather,” Eddie says of the job in his next book Remembers of Most: The Life of Mose Stimpson and His Times.
Though Jennifer was born in Dallas, her father was a Plano native with a rich history in Collin County leading back to Mose. This legacy is seen throughout her family line, from Andy Drake to Carrie Drake, Jennifer’s paternal great-grandmother. Mose had a son named George, Jennifer’s paternal great-grandfather.
“Knowing my ancestry was just kind of inspiring, so it’s interesting that I also have a series of firsts in my life,” says Stimpson.
Her aunt was in the first class to integrate the University of North Texas. Her father was the first Black pharmacist to work for the Target Corporation and the first Black pharmacist to head the Dallas Pharmaceutical Society.
Jennifer followed in her family’s footsteps with a slew of firsts. Jennifer was the first Black woman to graduate with a science master’s degree from her program and the first Black educator at The Hockaday School where she used to teach.
“I have to give myself to make the pathway easier for those girls who look up to me and those girls who like me want to forge a pathway in STEM education,” she says. “When you are the first, you might be the person that walks in the door, but your job is to make sure that the door stays open and that the path is made easy.”
Now, Stimpson is the chief program officer for the TD Jakes Foundation, implementing programmatic outreach for STEAM and workforce development initiatives.
“I’m looking forward to bringing my STEM background and experience into this position to further advance the importance of STEM in everyday life. I believe that because science is everywhere, STEM is for everyone,” Stimpson says.
The Stimpson and Drake family trees are displayed on the Plano African American Museum website, which was created last year to revive some of the information that was lost to the public when the museum permanently closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The website includes a virtual exhibit called Founding Families, which details the lives of the Stimpsons, the Thomases, the Drakes and more.
“Anytime they showed up, there was a sense of belonging and high integrity and self-respect, and that carried around,” Jennifer Stimpson, descendant of Andy Drake and Mose Stimpson says. “Anyone knew that they’re a Stimpson or they’re a Drake because of how the members of our family carried themselves,” Stimpson says.
CORRECTION: A photo provided by the Plano African American Museum was misidentified as being historic Plano, Texas and has been removed.