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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Timely Topics Tersely Treated

["Timely Topics Tersely Treated" was the title of a regular feature of the Texas Farm and Industrial News, Sugar Land's newspaper of the early 20th century.]


The Fort Bend County Historical Commission has created a new Web page listing cemeteries in the County.  Click here to view the page.  We intend to have more history-related information online in the future.

Odds & Ends

I came across these miscellaneous items as I researched old newspapers.  I thought they were interesting.

I've seen several articles about Sugarland Industries traveling to various parts of Texas to recruit labor.  (A little known fact is the Industries sent an emissary to Germany to recruit workers there.  More on that later.)  This article appeared in the Brownwood Bulletin, issued on August 13, 1919.

The next article appeared in The Naples (Texas) Monitor, issued on August 9, 1929.  The item I noticed appears at the bottom.  It says KPRC was constructing its transmitting station in Sugar Land.  (It was located near the intersection of Highway 90A and Eldridge Road - on the northeast corner.)

A few months later the Stock Market crashed and the Depression began.  KPRC relocated its transmitting station to La Porte about a year later.  I assume it was due to costs.

The Palestine Daily Herald printed the next article on September 1, 1908.   I know from the date that Kempner and Eldridge had just sold Sartartia (the Ellis Plantation) to the State of Texas, which would turn it into the Imperial Prison Farm, later Central Units 1 & 2.  This article mentions other units which were growing sugar cane and suggests the State was launching into the sugar business in a big way.
Last but not least, always beware of scam artists.

Cunningham's Grit (Final Installment)

For the past couple of weeks I've posted excerpts from a 1888 newspaper article about Colonel Edward H. Cunningham's application of advanced technology (diffusion processing) in his Sugar Land refinery.  The article appeared in the Fort Worth Daily Gazette.  Click here to view the entire article.  

An undated photo of Col. Edward H. Cunningham
As explained in the previous posts, the article describes Cunningham, Sugar Land, and the wide-spread attention his venture attracted in the sugar industry.  I wanted to close this series with the article's description of the milling and refining process as it was performed in Sugar Land in 1888.

The article described the old crushing process, which Cunningham was still using at the Imperial Mill.  Regular readers will remember it was located on the banks of Oyster Creek a little over a mile west of Sugar Land.  The site is across from Constellation Field.  It also describes the new diffusion process he installed in his bigger mill next to the refinery, which later became the Imperial refinery we all knew until it closed in 2003.

Cunningham mixed the liquid sugar from both mills and purified it in his refinery.  You'll notice the article doesn't mention a char house.  I assume the end product wasn't white table sugar as we know it, but more like Demerara sugar.  I think Cunningham added the first Char House in 1893, which would have allowed him to produce the white table sugar we consume today.  Here is the article.

The Process - Part 1.

The Process - Part 2.

The Process - Part 3.

The first paragraph mentions 'squads of men.'  They are the leased convict labor, who worked the cane fields around Sugar Land.  You see below several photographs of this operation taken roughly 10 to 15 years later, but it hadn't changed much in the intervening years.

A convict labor crew beside a mule train loaded with cut sugar cane.  These cars ran on flexible, movable track which could be relocated around the fields to facilitate loading.
A convict labor crew unloading a rail car filled with cut sugar cane.  The Imperial Mill is out of view.
The Imperial Mill is in the background.  The camera is facing east toward Sugar Land, which is behind the mill.  Constellation Field is now located on land out of view on the left.
A convict labor crew working a cane field in 1900.
A 1923 aerial showing what we think is old convict housing in Mayfield Park.  The U-shaped building on the east side of the quarters is probably a commissary and guards quarters.

The newspaper article mentioned bagesse, which are the remains of cane stalks after they've yielded their sucrose.  Most mills and refineries used bagesse as fuel, so industry experts were curious about the condition of this byproduct after undergoing diffusion processing.  

Cunningham chose to use bagesse as a raw input for a paper mill.  He was the first person in the US to attempt this type of paper production.  The product was rough, wrapping paper, similar to kraft paper.  Actually, Cunningham's mill was the first to produce paper of any kind in Texas.   Here is photo of bagesse piling up on the east bank of Oyster Creek across from the refinery.  The paper mill was just across Main Street, roughly where the camera is located. (I assume it is on the roof of the building.)

Finally, here's a photo of Cunningham's home, which stood on the northeast corner of the intersection of Brooks and Guenther Streets.

People & Places of Old Sugar Land

I clipped the following article from an issue of the Richmond Reflector printed on April 23, 1879.  I found it at The Portal to Texas History, which is a Web site run by the University of North Texas.  It's very good if you're interested in historic Texas photos and documents.  Click here to view the complete newspaper.  The article is on page 4.

Notice the reporter says 57 trout were caught in the vicinity.  Sounds fishy to me, but maybe the fishermen were locals who made a trip to the Gulf.

Also note that W. L. Dusoing was starting a brick plant on the Dunlavy plantation.  This may have been the start of the Jester Unit's brick works that Jon Pitts (DHS '61) mentioned a few weeks ago.

Finally, the article includes a report that J. Turner Sharp had died at the Terry camp.  This indicates Eward H. Cunningham hadn't bought all the Terry land by 1879.  I'll probably have to review the county land records to determine exactly when Cunningham and Ellis acquired their properties.

The following photo came from Jean McCord Babineaux (SLHS '47).  It shows the first house her father John McCord built in Brookside on Belknap Court.  Commissioner James Patterson will be interested in this because that's his house.  The camera is looking northwest from the north arc of Belknap Court.  I think those are the Charlton and Guenther homes in the background.  I'll have to ask Jean when this was taken, but I guess it's about 1950.

This next photo came from Jean.  It has identifications annotated on the back, which I've included.

This one also came from Jean - she's let me scan several good photos.  It shows the Sugar Land Elementary choir which participated in the Fort Bend County Meet in 1938.  It has annotations on the back, which I've included.


And finally, this image comes from a large panoramic photograph you can see in the Sugar Land Museum, open on Saturdays from 9:00 to 1:00.  I chose this section because it shows two wagons drawn by oxen.  Mules and horses don't surprise me, but these fairly large wagons are pulled by teams of oxen.

They are parked on what is now Kempner St., about where the Saturday Farmer's Market is held.

Then-&-Now Photos of the Normandy Invasion in 1944

Thanks to Donna Christopher Baker (DHS '63) for sending me the link to these photos.  I really like this type of presentation and hope to do similar things with local historic photos.

Houston's West End Park

Yesterday (Saturday, July 12th) the Harris County Historical Commission unveiled a marker commemorating Houston's old West End Park. Click here to view a Wikipedia article on the Park.  The map in the article is poor, so here's an annotated Google map to help you locate the Park in today's Houston.

You may wonder if Sugar Land has a connection with West End Park.  Well, it does.  No doubt many Sugar Land sports fans saw athletic competitions of all types there roughly 100 years ago, and I know with certainty that the Sugar Land Blues played a game at that site in 1915.  (I don't doubt they played there several times.)

A few years ago, Ultimate Fort Bend, a suburban section of The Houston Chronicle, had a story about the Blues playing Liberty at West End Park.  They've taken down the original article, but here's the text, which I saved for future reference.

Baseball in Sugar Land - Sound Familiar?

As the city of Sugar Land pursues a minor league baseball stadium and team, it's interesting to take a look back and see that baseball had a strong following in 1915.

Chances are you've never heard of Fletcher "Sled" Allen, but 95 years ago, he had many people in Sugar Land ticked off.  Allen was a baseball player who played one season with the St. Louis Browns in 1910 before he ended up being a player/coach in the Texas League.

In the summer of 1915, Allen ended up umpiring a baseball game at West End park in Houston between teams from Liberty and Sugar Land (which was spelled "Sugarland" back then in newspaper accounts).  According to a small story in the Rosenberg News-Herald, more than 1,500 people were in attendance for the game, which Liberty won, 1-0.  Unfortunately, there's no details on whether the teams were amateurs, semi-pro or perhaps rival schools.

Nonetheless, it was Allen's umpiring that drew the wrath of many in attendance. Here's what the news article had to say:

"A crowd of more than 1500 people saw the Sugarland boys go down in defeat, and a great per cent of the crowd also realized that Sugarland's defeat was due almost entirely to the partial umpiring of "Sled" Allen."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sugar Land's Fourth of July Celebration 95 Years Ago

I've found contemporaneous newspaper articles describing how  Sugar Land celebrated the 4th in 1919 - 95 years ago.  It was an all-day affair that started at school campus on the banks of Cleveland Lake where everyone enjoyed sporting exhibitions and a barbecue lunch.  

Afterward they went to Lonnie Green Park, to watch children compete in various races.  At that time, Lonnie Green Park was located on the block bounded by Main, 4th, Wood, and 5th Streets, which was vacant of residential housing.  Churches and homes were built on that block a couple of years later, and decades later Lonnie Green Park was re-established on the north bank of Cleveland Lake along 1st St.

As soon as the races were over, the crowd walked to the ball park, which was then located in what is now the west parking lot of Kempner Field.  They first watched an exhibition game pitting Sugar Land's 'Fats' versus the town's 'Leans.'  It lasted just three innings because the Fats pooped out.  (The newspaper account is pretty funny.)

A serious game followed: the Sugar Land Blues played Rosenberg.  The Blues were missing some important players, and Rosenberg was undefeated, but the home-town nine were victorious in a one-run squeaker that went 10 innings.

Next up on the agenda was a fried-chicken dinner for WWI veterans at the Auditorium.  Sponsors were the Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross, and Sugarland Industries.

The young crowd finished the evening with a dance on the roof of the Auditorium.

As you'll see if you read the accounts, there was a separate celebration for colored (African-American) veterans in the Quarters (Mayfield Park).

More People of Old Sugar Land

Many Dulles alums plus people with connections to Fort Bend ISD know that Larry Patterson (DHS '73) died suddenly last week.  Here is a an obituary for him.  My brother told me that he was an avid baker and planned to open a pie shop once he'd retired.  (As you'll see he was an assistant principle at Kempner High School at the time of his retirement.)  My best wishes and sincere condolences to the extended Patterson family.
Larry Patterson (from the 1970 Viking)
I saw some discussion on Facebook about the First Baptist Church in Sugar Land.  Jean McCord Babineaux (SLHS '47) let me scan the following photo from her mother's scrapbook.  She told me who all the men were, but I didn't take notes.  (I plan to talk with her again to get their names correct.)  Carla, Roy, and others can probably identify those that I've missed.  The photo was taken when the sanctuary at 5th & Wood Streets was completed in 1954.  The building is now the Manantial Iglesia Bautista.
Left to right: Acord, Usrey, Brock, ?, Rev. Lewis, Rister, McCord, Rawson, ?
This next item is a newspaper article from the Texas Farm and Industrial News issued in Sugar Land on July 18, 1919.  It reports on a dance party held on the roof of the Auditorium.  Apparently no one went 'overboard,' but it sounds like they had a good time.  They even got an orchestra from the Rice Hotel.
Belinda Jenkins Faison (DHS '69) asked me recently about the PTA fundraiser held in the Auditorium in 1962.  (By the way, I want to thank Al Bartolo for giving me the date.  I didn't have anything indicating it, so his info was a big help.)  I've posted a few entries about it in the past, but many of you may have missed them.  Here they are.

This first one is a promotional photo that appeared in The Mirror.
I also have a program of the event, courtesy of the Scotty Hightower Bass (DHS '66).  AND, I received some home movies of the dress rehearsal from the Bill Little family, although I'm not sure who did the filming.  I haven't put any sound to it, but it's still amusing to see old time Sugar Land having a good time.  I remember attending.  I don't remember if he appears in the film, but Coach Bill Appelt was the emcee.  (Belinda: The Hula Dance is at the end of the first clip.)
Click here to see the program and videos.
And last but not least, this is a photo I took of my parents in 1958 or '59.  It's probably one of the first photos I took, if not the first.  They are standing on the front steps of our house on Guenther St.

Flanagan Road & West Sugar Land, 1952 & Today

I made a simple little video of west Sugar Land using a Fort Bend County aerial taken on March 6, 1952 and a current Google Satellite image.  I didn't spend a lot of time overlaying the images precisely, but they are close enough that you can make the transition.

I recently went with John Frierson and his sister Cindy to the old location of Flanagan Road and the site of their family home, which was the original Buck Flanagan family home.  It's gone now - so is the road.  There's just a trace of the road bed in the field.  We haven't found the exact site of their home, but we know the general location.  It's within the trees that appear on the Google image.

Cunningham's Grit (cont.)

Last week I posted an article form The Fort Worth Gazette, which featured Col. E. H. Cunningham's application of leading-edge technology to his refinery in Sugar Land.  All this took place in 1888.
If you haven't read the full article, you are probably unaware that Cunningham's bold experiment drew wide interest in the sugar industry.  Lots of industry titans, technologists, and other interested parties came to Sugar Land to see first-hand what was happening.  Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Next time, I'll finish with some photos of the operation as described in the article.  We have photos dated roughly 20-years later, but they illustrate what the visitors witnessed when when they visited Sugar Land in 1888.

Follow Up On Recent Posts

I've received more help with identifying people in the 1947 Employee Awards Banquet. Betty Sue Douglas Lubajosky (SLHS '49), Jackie James (SLHS '57) and Carla Daniels Meuth (DHS '72) have identified David Enquist, Andy Anderson (SLHS '49), Jack Addison, and (possibly) Paul Schumann.  Thanks for the help.
Here's a link to the entire photo.  Unfortunately, it doesn't magnify as much as I'd like.  If I can find a print (or better yet, a negative), I will rescan it.

Here is a link to the program for the event.  It was the first Awards Banquet, and for the first few years it included Imperial and Industries employees.  The first was in the refinery complex.  A couple of years later it moved to Kempner Field.  One year it was at the Shopping Center, but for many years it was in the cafeteria on the Lakeview campus.  In later years it was in the Sugar Land Community Center on Matlage Way.

Travis Gandy (DHS '64) is a former Imperial employee with sharp eyesight.  He pointed out that the man I identified as Joe Ruzicka is actually Chuck Vastine.  Travis pointed out his name on his helmet.  (I  never thought to look.)  Thanks, Travis.
Mary Jo Patterson reminded me that an effluent tunnel ran from the Imperial refinery under Highway 90A and the sidewalk on the west bank of Oyster Creek (where the homes have Venice St. addresses) and empties into Oyster Creek at a little concrete culvert under Guenther St.  I remember it well because we lived on Guenther St. until I was 10-years old, and the periodic smell of molasses is a permanent memory from those days.  The water was very warm and aromatic.

Finally, Frank Lampson (DHS '68) said his father attended the opening of the 'new' Highway 90A bridge in Richmond in 1925.  Mark Schumann has told me his father was there, too.  I'll have to check on the details, but I'm certain several people attended its opening and its demolition many, many years later.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cunningham's Grit

I found this lengthy article in the December 31, 1888 edition of The Fort Worth Daily Gazette.  (It was in fact a reprint of an account that appeared a two days earlier in The San Antonio Express.) The report details Edward H. Cunningham's adoption of new (actually experimental) diffusion technology in his sugar operation here in Sugar Land.  The article is well-rounded, giving a good account of the man, his approach to business, the state of sugar technology at the time, and the ground-breaking nature of what Cunningham was attempting.

Kempner and Eldridge deserve credit for their innovation and business acumen, but Cunningham was their equal as a visionary and risk taker.  He made some mistakes and suffered some bad breaks that weren't his fault (like floods, fires, and crop disease), but he was adaptable and alert to future business opportunities.  For example, he recognized the demand for refined sugar and the potential of foreign imports before most other businessmen.  His experiment with sorghum (mentioned in the article) didn't pay off, but he didn't let one set back put him off his course.

In the end, his age, lack of a successor, and depleted working capital, among other things, drove him into bankruptcy, but that shouldn't erase his achievements.

Here's an excerpt that profiles Cunningham the man.

Here's an excerpt giving a brief description of Sugar Land back in 1888.

Click here to view the complete article.  I think I'll have a little more on it next week.


I wanted to find a good account of the original event, when General Gordon Granger read the proclamation on the balcony of  Ashton Villa in Galveston on June 19, 1865.  I was hoping for a contemporaneous account in a Galveston newspaper, but I couldn't find one.  The best I could do was this entry in Wikipedia.  

Although it probably didn't happen on the exact date (although it may have), here's a brief account of emancipation in Sugar Land back in June 1865.  It comes from A. J. Sowell's History of Fort Bend County, which the Fort Bend County Historical Commission is reprinting.  It will be available later this summer.

The author visited Cunningham's plantation in the late 1890s and talked with Aunt Sarah Chase, a former slave on the Terry Plantation.  Here's a little background on how she got to Sugar Land and her brief recollection of her first day of freedom.

I've tried to determine who Judge Buckner was, but I haven't had any success.  I'm fairly certain he was not a Fort Bend County judge.

Construction of Highway 90A in 1927

I've collected photos of the construction of Highway 90A from several sources, but most of these I received from Terrell Smith.  (Thank you.)  

The Highway was paved in 1927 as a two-lane road.  Those of you who remember it was a four-land road will understand when I say it was the westbound (or northern) lanes that were first paved.  Bridges and other support structures were built before the paving was done.

Sugar Land was still isolated after the road was improved, but it wasn't quite as isolated as it was before.

The annotations say these were taken east of town between Sugar Land and Stafford.  I've taken a close look at the horizon in all the photos, and the annotations seem to be correct.

More People of Old Sugar Land

I got a note from Betty Sue Douglas Lubajosky (SLHS '49) recently.  She told me that Harry McBride (SLHS '49) is struggling with memory loss now, and old photos help his recollection.  I'm glad they have a therapeutic effect for him.  Here are a few more to help him remember the old days.

Harry McBride about 1932/33. (From the Buddy Blair Family Scrapbook)
Harry McBride as a high school sophomore in 1947.
Harry McBride's parents in the mid 1960s. (From the Buddy Blair Family Scrapbook)

Harry's mother, Coco McBride, in the 1960s. (From the Buddy Blair Family Scrapbook)

Here are three photos of Mrs. Boyer's kindergarten class from 1957/58.  My brother Bruce and other members of the 1970 Class at Dulles are in these photos.    Let's see if they recognize themselves.

Bruce's report card was in his scrapbook.  We have mine, but it wasn't in my scrapbook.  (I may have had a few red stars on mine.)

I want to thank Terrell Smith for relaying this wedding photo to me from Betty Kellis Urbanek.  It shows the wedding party at the marriage of Bonnie Draemer & Frank James on June 3, 1961. (I'm not sure of the location.)  

We've identified Al Nulisch on the far left.  That's Tom Acord on the far right.  Jon & BJ Pitts (DHS '61) provided a little more help - starting from Tom on the right and working toward the middle are Joe Scanlin, Darryl Couvillion, Robert Johnson, and the groom, Frank James.  From the left inward are Al Nulisch, Tim Husbands, & Leslie Martin.  (They can't see enough to be sure, but they think Barbara Daniels is standing in front of Al.) If anyone has some additional ids, please pass them on.