As Pine Tree High School students, teachers and staff gathered Monday to unveil a balloon in honor of Longview’s 150th anniversary, the city’s Director of Development Services Laura Hill said she hopes the birthday celebration inspires children to develop a lifelong love and appreciation of history.

“Pine Tree High School called me to request a city flag and they told me what they were doing — and it was such an honor. It was probably the most meaningful celebration. It really touched my heart,” Hill said. “I was 10 years old when we celebrated the city’s centennial. That kicked off my lifelong love of history. I hope that today’s event touches another child.”

Monday marked the 150th anniversary of the City of Longview’s charter. Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding and while the city had planned many events to celebrate the Sesquicentennial, most were canceled due to COVID-19. Earlier this year, the city invited the community to have individual celebrations across Longview on Monday to commemorate the city charter.

As part of the celebration, the Pine Tree High School band played “Happy Birthday” and Student Council President I’yonia Mumphrey unveiled a balloon installment at the campus.

“We are just thrilled to be part of the 150th birthday for the City of Longview,” Pine Tree ISD spokeswoman Mary Whitton said. “And Pine Tree has a rich history in our city, and we’re just happy and blessed to be a part of it.”

The celebration at Pine Tree High School was one of many across the community, City of Longview spokesman Shawn Hara said.

Realtor Julie Woods partnered with Brian & Scott’s Snowball & Snacks to offer free snow cones to the community. Former councilwoman Kasha Williams held a celebration at her business.

Longview World of Wonders decorated the windows at the downtown children’s museum. Eastman Chemical Co. created a video. The Longview NAACP had a gathering Sunday at Maude Cobb. Hope Road Counseling celebrated with s’mores.

Many businesses and city offices decorated their windows and many of the city’s department’s had small celebrations, such as an afternoon cake at City Hall, Hara said.

“I am thrilled that, in spite of the weather, we have seen so many groups wanting to do something to help bring this celebration to a close,” Hill said. “It’s been three years in the making and we were interrupted by a pandemic, but Longview rose above all of that and found different ways to celebrate and recognize our rich history.”

At Pine Tree, the balloon was purchased in conjunction with the Gregg County Historical Museum’s Balloon Sculpture Project. Through the project, many businesses across the city have purchased commemorative balloon structures.

Whitton said the high school’s librarians wanted a balloon and contacted the Gregg County Historical Association. Money for the purchase came from the library’s budget.

“It was just a way for them to say not only happy birthday to Longview but also to just recognize Pine Tree and our district,” Whitton said.

The balloon features the Pine Tree flag and mascot, noting the school district was established in 1847. Artist Micah Ruland, who teaches classes at Painting With a Twist and who has painted several other balloon installments in the city, painted Pine Tree’s balloon.

Pine Tree ISD Superintendent Steve Clugston spoke about the history of and the beginning of the district.

He said Jefferson used to be a place where sea ports could be accessed, and the Pine Tree area was about a day’s drive. Near the primary school is a stream that was a viable water source.

“Pretty soon, people started to stay there and take care of their horses, make sure there was feed for their animals and things of that nature,” he said. “People kind of created a little community.”

Not long after the community came together, people wanted a church, Clugston said. This led to Pine Tree Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

“They had church service right under a great big pine tree right over where the church still is today,” Clugston said. “That’s where the name Pine Tree came from. In 1847 they said, if we’re going to have a church, we need to have a school, and that was the beginning of Pine Tree ISD.”

He said Pine Tree is the second oldest school in the state of Texas.

“It’s pretty phenomenal how all that was created and how things have changed over time,” Clugston said. “And Pine Tree has lived on, and turned into a very good place to live and a very good place to go to school, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

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Kristen is the News-Journal's education reporter. A Longview native, she got a journalism degree and a graduate certificate at Texas Tech University. She covers a variety of issues, including school finance, board meetings and happenings at local schools.