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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

News & Updates

Unfortunately, I have some sad news to report.  First, Betty Pence passed away recently.  I don't have a newspaper obituary, but I have the following item from her funeral service.  I didn't remember until someone mentioned it, but Betty graduated from Missouri City High School in 1950. (I think that's the correct year.) 

My sincerest condolences and best wishes go to her daughter Valerie and her son Kevin.



I also receive word that long-time Sugar Land resident Jewell Jenkins, Jr. passed away earlier this month.  I've posted a handout from his funeral service.  My best go to Jewell's wife, children, grandchildren, and his sister Ella in their time of grief.


   
I want to thank Wayne Landin (DHS '66) for reminding me that the John McCord family lived on Belknap Ct., rather than South Belknap St.  You can see the Landin's garage across the street on the right in the photo I posted recently.
 


I also want to thank John Paul Pausewang (DHS '67) for his message saying Sugarland Industries used CU as their cattle brand. He suggests the 'C U Ranch' on the chuck wagon in the photo below (posted earlier) may refer to Sugarland Industries.
  

  
Last but not least, I want to let you know that the Old Foster Community Museum will have its summer fundraiser in August.  Here's a flyer.  You'll enjoy a great time for a good cause.

Old Sugar Land Baseball

I had the chance to talk with Peggy Shallock recently and since her grandfather was Bob Storm, baseball was one of our primary topics of discussion.  Bob was an instrumental member of the Sugar Land Blues, a team sponsored by Imperial Sugar around in the WWI era.

There's much more to her grandfather's story than baseball, but we focused on that and left other topics for later discussions.  Peggy brought me excellent copies of photographs I've posted before.  She also identified people in the photos, so I want to repost them now.

The photo below is from the 1915 season and shows 4 players with the team mascot.  Notice that he (or she) is wearing a catcher's mask.  Bob Storm is kneeling by the goat and pointing at the camera.  The player behind is was nicknamed 'Dutch,' but we haven't determined his identity exactly.  He may be E. E. Saeger.  The player directly behind the goat is Peggy's great uncle (Bob's brother) Clif Storm, and the young man on the right is Oral 'Lefty' Craig.

1915

The next photo may also be familiar.  It shows Clif Storm, Lefty Craig, and Bob Storm at the same photo session, whose location must have been a home on The Hill.  It's a superb image of their uniforms.

1915

Lefty Craig's name rang a bell, and after our conversation I remembered seeing his name in a Texas Farm and Industrial News article published in 1921.  Here it is.  (Unfortunately, the end is missing.)  

  
I found this entry for him in the Baseball Reference Guide.  It logs his minor league career, but leaves out his semi-pro days with the Blues.  Note that it verifies the information in the newspaper article.
  
This next photo shows E. O. 'Ernie' Guenther in the 1914 season.  Real old timers may well remember Mr. Guenther, but I've included a later photo from 1949 to refresh faded memories.

1949

Cemetery & Oral History Pages on the Fort Bend County Historical Commission Web Page

The Fort Bend County Historical Commission's Web Page various categories of information for those people curious about our local history.

Click this link to connect with the Cemetery page.  Note the map showing the location of known cemeteries across the county.  Also note you can select info about cemeteries by name.

News from Fresno's Mustang School in 1919


I found this article in the Texas Farm and Industrial News published in Sugar Land in November 1919.  The paper was a weekly publication that offered national, state, and local news.  Here's an interesting sample of the latter.

The Mustang School had just organized a literary society.  The school's principal, a Miss Stewart, sponsored the group and submitted two essays to the newspaper for publication.  One was a fairy story written by Miss Daisy Fischer, a 10-year old 5th grader.  Preston Renfrow, a 10th grader, wrote the other.  His theme was "Popular Prejudices Against Higher Education," which was very topical.  

Texas schools at the time were poorly funded.  There was a state law capping school taxes, and some communities had to 'pass the hat' to fund their schools adequately.  I think there were two referendums, one in 1919 and 1920, to revise the law and increase school funding.  

One other thing I'm not sure of: Preston may have been a senior.  I don't recall when Texas officially added an 11th year to graduation requirements.  I know the state added a 12th year in the mid 1940s.

I've posted images of the article, but they are very difficult to read.  Here is a transcription.  A few places were so illegible I couldn't make out the text, so I inserted question marks.

A Literary Society Is Organized Friday

Mustang School At Fresno Is Working With A Hum

A Fairy Story and An Apt Discussion of Higher Education Written by Pupils

Miss Mary Lee Stewart, principal of the Mustang School at Fresno, has her work well in hand as may be seen from the news items received from there this week.

Besides having organized a literary society, Miss Stewart has her classes busy at composition.  Little Miss Daisy Fischer, aged 10 years in the 5th grade, sends in a splendid fairy story and Preston Renfrow in the 10th Grade sends in a fine composition on "Popular Prejudices Against Higher Education."  Preston's penmanship is superb.  His theme is timely just now in view of the momentous election in this State next Tuesday on the very question he is discussing.  I hope he keeps pushing till he has equipped himself with the best (?) education to be had in the world.  He can get a (?) to the goal right here in Texas if the amendment passes and if it doesn't, then some other way will be found.  I also hope Daisy will keep on till she is thoroughly educated.  She has a fine start and when Texas girls are properly educated, they are the most brilliant girls in the world.

I also hope Miss Stewart will send in more of the work of her pupils and that other teachers will take notice and follow her example.

A Fairy Story by Daisy Fisher, age 10 years and in the 5th Grade, Fresno, Texas

There was a little boy had to go around in ragged clothes but always had clean clothes because his mother and father were poor.

He had to go around this way for a pretty long time but one day some fairies came to see the poor boy.

They felt sorry for him and one day when the boy was playing, something happened.  His clothes changed so they weren't ragged any more.

At first he didn't know what happened.  But in a little while he thought of the fairies.

The fairies kept on being nice to the little boy and whenever he would be thinking of something he wanted, the fairies would give it to him.

When he got old enough they made him president.

After he did this he became rich.

By and by a little girl was born.  He (sic) had so much money that he didn't have to worry about not having a good time.

One day while she was out playing she saw the rainbow.  She thought it was the home of the fairies.

She thought she would go and get some beautiful things from the fairies.  So she started to go.

She went and went but still the rainbow looked as far as it ever did.  It led her away off into the woods and she became frightened.  She looked around to find out how to get home, but she didn't know which way was south, which way was west, which way was east or north.  She knew she was lost.

After a little while her father and mother found out she was gone.  They began calling and calling, but they could hear no answer.

Then they sent out people to look for her.  They went calling and calling, and finally the girl heard them calling, but she thought that it might be some Indians that knew her name.  So she hid behind a log.

One man got close to the log she was hiding by and called and called.

The girl looked up from where she was hiding and saw it was a man that she knew. So she jumped up and everybody was delighted to know they had found her.  They went home right away with the girl.

After that the little girl never did try to go to the home of the fairies and the fairies never did come to see the little girl again.  That was her punishment for being selfish.   


Popular Prejudices Against Higher Education
By Preston Renfrow, 10th Grade, Fresno

Education has been developed wonderfully in the last three centuries.  The American colonists were interested in education, therefore it had a good start.

In 1647 the Massachusetts General Court passed a law providing that every town of fifty or more families should establish a primary school, the expenses of maintaining same was to be met by  the parents of the settlers in general.  It was also ordered that every town of 100 families or more should maintain a grammar school which should fit the student for college.

At the present time we have a large number of colleges located in nearly all countries. Harvard College open in 1638 and graduated its first calls in 1642.  Yale College was founded in 1701, Williams in 1755 and Dartmouth in 1769.

The majority of the people think that a person does not need higher education than the high schools teach, which generally is the case that the person never had any high education and says he gets along all right.

There are quite a few families who have no children to send to school, therefore they think it is wrong for them to have to pay the school tax to send other people's children to school.  There is also a class of people who employ private teachers for their children who do not like to pay common school tax.  They think the rich should be educated better than the poor.  They think a poor man would always be a bum, even if he has a good education.  Some think after a student finishes high school and goes to college, what they learn there unfits them for useful labor.  The poorer class think it is just a waste of time as they could be using their children.  Some people think that the school system is not being run right, according to their ideas, therefore they do not like it.  A man that has gotten a high reputation over the country may boast of his prosperity without a good education.

There is a large number leaving school every year thinking they know it all, while if they had taken a course in some good college they would have been better fit to enter the world.

The need of higher education is great, especially in our country.
   
**************************************

The Mustang School Literary Society was organized Friday and the following officers were elected: Preston Renfrow, president; Essa Lepley, vice president; Ofis Fischer, secretary; Miss Stewart, critic; Miss Raab, sgt. at arms.  Leslie Raab, Floyd Renfrow and Bessie Fenn constitute the program committee.

More People of Old Sugar Land


I noticed this article in a local newspaper recently.  As it says, Sugar Land's oldest American Legion Post hosted a blood drive earlier this month, and I wanted to give their good deed some modest publicity.  Click here to read the article from the Fort Bend Star.

I want to thank Tommy Laird (DHS '67) for bringing the story of Dr. Leo Windecker to my attention.  The Windeckers were the Laird's neighbors in the late '50s.  I'm sure few people in town knew what Dr. Windecker was up to -- he had an early career as a dentist but developed an interest in aeronautical engineering and became a forefather of stealth technology.  Who knew?

[A brief note on Google's photos.  Looks like they've changed their application again.  I have to download the images, which is just a click on the down arrow icon, to magnify the images.  I use Firefox as my browser, but I assume that's something everyone will have to do.]



More of old Sugar Land from the 1953 Aerial Photos


Here are a series of magnified sections of an aerial photo taken in 1953.  They show the east and south sides of Sugar Land.  I've annotated them to indicate various landmarks and locations.  I've also provided contemporary Google aerials to help orient you.

This first zoom shows the center of town.

1953
Today
 
The next shows Belknap down to Terry St. on the southern edge.

1953
Today

This zoom shows Venice & Brooks Streets extending beyond Terry.

1953
Today

Here you see Alkire Lake and the future locations of Venetian Estates and Sugar Creek Commercial Center.

1953
Today

Next you see the area bounded by Venetian Estates and Alkire Lake on the north and Highway 6 on the south.

1953
Today

The next photo shows the area just south of the previous one.  You see the dehydration plant, where Sugarland Industries dried alfalfa and hay after it was harvested, and the Houston Lighting & Power substation.  As you can see, Highway 59 passes through that area today.

1953
Today

This photo moves eastward along Oyster Creek and shows the rail line to Galveston and San Ysidro Cemetery.

1953
Today

This final zoom moves a little further east along Oyster Creek toward Dulles Avenue and River Bend Country Club.  The Stafford Cemetery is the probably location of the Stafford Plantation that Santa Anna's army burned before the Battle of San Jacinto.

1953
Today

Aerial Video of Sugar Land's 1925 Water Tower After Renovation


Randy Kozlovsky (DHS '66) shot this video of Sugar Land's old water tower after recent renovations.  Be sure to view it full screen and note the hawk sitting nonchalantly on the handrail.
 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

An Aerial View of Sugar Land From The Present Back To 1953


The set of US Geographical Survey aerial photos Bruce Grethen, my colleague at the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, shared with me are terrific.  I took one showing Sugar Land in 1953 and merged it with a contemporary Google map.  I used Google Slide Show for the first time.  (Comment: The resolution is still not as good as I want, but I'll leave this version up for now.)

Link to slide show.

The Imperial Valley Railway


One of the 1953 aerial photos provides a superb view of the old Imperial Valley Railway that ran westward from Sugar Land to the Brazos River just south of Fulshear.  Here's a link to a short Handbook of Texas article on this rail line, which became part of the Sugar Land Railroad in 1912.

The first image gives you a high-level orientation from Sugar Land to just west of Clodine Rd. (FM 1464). I've highlighted in red the old rail bed. It's still clearly visible in the '53 photo.  (I've highlighted in blue the upper end of the Sugar Land Railroad line that ran to Galveston.)  
   
 
Imperial Valley Railway's first stop west of Sugar Land was just a few hundred yards to Imperial (where the old sugar mill was located). About a mile down the line was Pryor (adjacent to Central Unit 1) and Cabell, just out of view beyond Clodine Rd.

By 1953 Sugarland Industries had taken up the last of the track west of Highway 6.  The remaining track behind Nalco/Imperial Blvd. served as a rail yard for the raw & refined sugar trains to-and-from Galveston.  (Missouri Pacific ran these trains after 1930.)

The next photo shows the eastern end of the line at the Sugar Land terminus.  You can see that Imperial (the stop just west of Sugar Land was very close, just across from today's Constellation Park.)
 
 
The photo immediately below shows the line as it passes through Central Unit 1.  The stop there was called Pryor, after the first warden of the Imperial Prison Camp.  (It preceded Central Units 1 & 2 built in 1930/31.)
 
 
The next image takes us a little further west.  Clodine Rd. (FM 1464) is on the right edge of the photo.
 
      
This last photo shows the line west of FM 1464.  You can see a prison facility just to the north of the line, but I can't determine which unit that was.  It still shows up in current maps, but it's unlabeled, and nothing on the Jester Units describes its use today.
 

Aerial Views of Mayfield Park


I've magnified the Mayfield Park area in the 1953 aerial photo.  I noticed two things right away.  First, the new M.R. Wood School was completed; in fact, it had opened just a month before this photo was taken.  You'll see there's just the one big classroom building - no gym.  Also notice how residential housing runs right up to the north perimeter of the Imperial refinery.

 
I've included the next photo taken in 1968 to highlight the big changes that were just a few years away.  Notice the school complex is bigger, including a gym.  Next, the houses nearest to the refinery were cleared for expansion.  (Avenue A disappeared.)  New housing had expanded into the north end of Mayfield Park.

Aerial Views of The Hill in 1953


I've magnified The Hill section of town as it appears in the 1953 aerial photo.  This first photo will give you a general orientation of how things looked in 1953.


The next photo focuses on the area around Wood St. north of Lakeview.  You see that 6th St. is the northern-most residential street.  Seventh St. is a few years away.  You'll also notice the houses on the north end of Wood St. next to the football field.  I wasn't aware of these houses until I talked with Randy Kozlovsky a few months ago.  (I'd forgotten them.)  His family live in the house next to the north end zone (I think).


I know Jim and Maxene Gary lived in one of the houses on the east side of Wood St. south of the football field.

The next photo moves a bit further north.  I've included it for just one reason.  It shows where I speculate the Terry plantation ("Sugar Land") was located.  The old road called "North Prairie Farm Road" looks like it could be the main path from the plantation house to the Terry sugar mill, which was located on the other side of Oyster Creek where the Imperial refinery stood.  You'll also notice the intersection of paths and roads at my proposed location.  We have no guarantees that those paths were around 80-years earlier, but it isn't a big stretch to think they were, especially when you consider historic documents say the home sat where the prairie gave way to a stand of oak trees. 
  
  
Lastly, we have a chain of evidence that indicates the plantation was sited somewhere in what is present-day Covington Woods.

Here's an irrelevant, but interesting tidbit these '53 aerials show.  I've mentioned to several friends my age that there was a race track in Stafford, roughly where the Southwest Freeway intersects with Highway 90A.  They don't remember it.  Well, it appears in the next photo.
   
 
I barely remember it as a very dilapidated wooden structure with pealing white paint and (I think) black trim.  It may have hosted motorcycle racing and dog racing, possibly other things, too.  It was certainly going to the dogs when I saw it.

Aerial Views of Old Walker Station Site in 1953


Last week I posted a contemporaneous article from The Daily Houston Post about the disastrous Brazos River flood of July 1899. It included the following drawing of the Sartartia station on the Southern Pacific rail line passing through Sugar Land west toward Richmond.  (It's the main rail line we have today.)



Prior to Col. L. A. Ellis's purchase of the plantation in the late 1870s, the rail depot was known as Walker's Station.  Ellis renamed the plantation and depot after his eldest daughter Sartartia, supposedly the Karankawa word for 'potato patch.'  (I think it's at least as pretty as some of the names given children these days.)

As I looked at the 1953 aerial, I noticed buildings by the railroad tracks next to the entrance of Central Unit 1.  I wondered if they could be the remnants of old Walker's Station.  The first blow up includes Central Unit 1, so you'll get a general impression of the location.

 
The next photo is a closer look at the buildings beside the tracks.  It's hard to say what they are, but it seems reasonable to me to think that's where Walker's Station (Sartartia) depot was located.
 
  
I've referred to the depot as 'Walker's Station' although Ellis definitely changed its name to Sartartia.  (Jim Vollmar's book, Railroads of Fort Bend County, includes a photo of the depot so named.)  

My reason for using the pre-Ellis name is that my family always referred to a set of buildings a few hundred yards further west as Sartartia.  I think it was the site of the Phenix Dairy's ice cream shop, which was very popular when my parents were children.  Although it closed before this aerial photo was taken in 1953, I think those structures annotated in this photo show its location.
   
 
In fact, that whole area constituted the Sartartia Plantation, and as far as I know, no one knows the precise location of the Ellis plantation home, which was moved into Sugar Land in 1908 to serve as W. T. Eldridge's residence.
 

A Few More People of Old Sugar Land


My brother suggests the following photo shows an early Cinco de Mayo parade.  It's hard to make any definite decision, but that seems plausible.  There's no date, but I know it's post-1925 because I can see the Char House fire escape in the background on the left.  That means they are headed west on Sugar Land St. (now Kempner St.) right in front of the Char House.  (There's a band in the first truck.)


Until I spoke with D. C. Pickett a few month's ago, I didn't know that Charles Thomas had died.  I searched for an obituary, but couldn't find one.  Here's a photo of Charles (on the left) at an event for Sugar Land's Little League, probably in the 1980s.  I'm not sure who the other men are.  Some of you may know Charles from his years as a teacher & coach in FBISD.  I'm sorry I missed his passing.


I have posted several photos in the past of the 1927/28 opening of Highway 90A.  Click here to view the photos.  I found the following one which shows County Commissioner (and Imperial engineer) I. G. Wirtz, Sr. (left) with two other men as the paving project is underway.  I can't determine the location, but that appears to be a very large cement mixer used to pour concrete in sections of the road.  (Note the metal form.)
 
 
I want to thank Jean McCord Babineaux for the following photo of the extended Smith-Rozelle-Jenkins-McCord family.  I don't have an exact date, but I'll bet it was taken in the 1950s.  The location is the front yard of the John & Hattie Lee McCord home on South Belknap.

I have a connection by marriage to this clan.  The woman on the far-right is my great aunt, Mae Kelly Smith, sister of my grandfather, Charles E. Kelly, Sr.  (I'm shocked at how much they resembled each other.)

From left: John McCord, Hattie Lee Smith McCord, Minnie Smith Jenkins, William Smith, 'Dubbo' Jenkins, Livian Smith Stowell, Monnye Smith Rozelle, Walter Smith, & Mae Kelly Smith.