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Friday, March 10, 2017

News & Updates

I have been busy over the past few months and haven't had time to update the blog regularly. I hope to get back on schedule.  Several items in my backlog, which I'll get to in a week or so. 

I want to mention just one thing because it's coming up soon.  You have a chance to have your home movies digitized free of charge by The Texas Archive of the Moving Image. They will be in various locations in Fort Bend County (including Sugar Land) from March 16 to 26. This is a terrific opportunity if you have film and VCR video you want digitized.

Click the image to view a newspaper article with more details.

Model of Old Sugar Land

One of my colleagues on the county historical commission, Bruce Grethen, sent me photos of a model of old Sugar Land that has been on display at the Rosenberg Railroad Museum off-and-on for a few years.  Russell Straw was its creator.  I saw it at a Railfest celebration a few years ago and forgot how good it was until I saw the photos Bruce sent.

Click the image to view the album of photos.

Fort Bend ISD 1997

My thanks to Terry Bates for giving a copy of Inside, a monthly publication from Fort Bend ISD. This copy came out in April 1997, almost 20 years ago exactly. It's very interesting reading. 

I've selected a few things for now.  First is a summary time line of the history of FBISD up to 1997. Second is a page of teaching awards. Last is a photo of my DHS classmate, Janice Jenkins Girard. She was a spring chicken back then.

Click the image to view the clippings.

Sugar Land Tenant Farms

Several months ago I had a wonderful visit with Mr. Tom B. McDade (SLHS Class of 1940). We talked about a wide range of topics, but among other things he donated a collection of Sugarland Industries tenant farm records from 1929 to 1942 to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. His father was the clerk/bookkeeper for the Industries tenant farm operations and had saved these records long after he retired. Tom found them and wanted to give them to the SLHF.

These records are unique historical evidence of a forgotten part of old Sugar Land, but I haven't had enough time to give them proper attention.  I still haven't looked at them closely, but I wanted to post a brief selection now.  I chose the packet of records for 1929.

Here are some quick, summary points about what they contain:

1) The records cover cotton and corn crops, but cotton predominates by a large margin.

2) The Sugarland Industries Gin processed cotton from outside sources, as well as Industries farmers.  You'll see a separate list for these outside customers, showing the farmer and the farm owner, plus number of bales and total pounds.

3) You'll see lists for Share Farm (I assume these are Industries farms), Senior Farm, Prairie Farm, and Blakeley Farm. I'm not sure of the precise location of these farms (although I can make good guesses), or who actually owned them. I think the Industries probably owned the Prairie and Blakeley Farms, but I'll have to confirm that.

4) There are no dollar values, so I can't tell how much money was made on the crops. I'll try to find a cotton price for 1929 and make some rough calculations.

5) I assume some of these farmers worked part time at other jobs.  (Tenant farming may not have been their sole source of income.) Furthermore, I'm not sure about their contract with the Industries. I assume that in some cases the Industries supplied mules, seed, and other equipment and materials, which would mean some of these farmers were actually share croppers (using technical definitions of these occupations).

These records need a lot more analysis to uncover exactly what they tell us. Thank you, Mr. McDade for this interesting evidence from a little-know aspect of old Sugar Land.

Click the image below to view the records.

People of Old Sugar Land

A few more people of old Sugar Land. I have found many of these on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who has posted them there.  

Click the image to view the photos.

Fort Bend County

I want to plug Fort Bend County for a moment. I am chairman of the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, and over the past 3 years I have become aware of the myriad things our county does to preserve local history.

The first thing to highlight is the archeological work our Cemetery Committee does. The committee has more than 25 members who do all sorts of things to preserve the county's subterranean historical assets. The recent issue of The Medallion (from the Texas Historical Commission) included an article titled Super Stewards

Look closely at the accompanying photo and you'll see two of our Cemetery Committee members, Bob Crosser and Bruce Grethen. Bryan McAuley (also in the photo) is a Fort Bend County Historical Commissioner, as well as site manager at San Felipe de Austin. Sandy Rogers and John Rich (also appearing in the photo) are good friends of the Fort Bend Historical Commission even though they aren't members.

The article explains the thoroughly professional work these volunteers perform to preserve local history.

Click the photo to view the article.
Houston Suburbs
Super Stewards at San Felipe de Austin. (Photo courtesy of The Medallion.)

Some of you may be aware that the County is planning to restore the old Missouri City Gym. The historical commission is assisting the county government with this project.

Click the photo below to read an article about this renovation project.
Missouri City Gym
Missouri City Gym in 1937. (Photo courtesy of Lee Elkins LeGrand.)

The historical commission's Historic Preservation Committee has launch an ambitious, long-term project to survey the historic structures across Fort Bend County. The last survey was performed in 1980, well before the 'computer age,' so the end result will be an electronic version of the data collected.

The project began just a few months ago, but data collection is well underway. Here is an example collected by Bradley Stavinoha. It's the Horak Gin in Needville. (See the photos below.) 

I won't go in to a lot of detail, but here's what Bradley sent me in a brief email message:

"Original building constructed after WWI.  Victor Horak original owner. The 1929 Hurricane destroyed the building.  It was rebuilt and remodeled as ginning technology has changed through the years.

Ignac Horak operated it after Victor. Then Rodney Horak and now the brothers Kevin and Dustin Horak operate the gin.  Continuous operation at same location with same family for over 98 years.  One of the oldest in Fort Bend County."
(I'll bet most of you didn't realize there was a cotton gin still operating in Fort Bend County.)
Undated photo.

My cousin, Becky Bass Gallimore, sent me this article she found in a 1940 issue of The Rosenberg Herald. It is an announcement that the Sartartia Plantation (located in today's New Territories subdivision) planned to open a milk depot in Rosenberg. I assume this was a storage facility for home delivery of dairy products in Rosenberg and the surrounding area. It may have included a shop and ice cream parlor. (They operated retail stores in other location.)

One last item: The Fort Bend Museum is showing an exhibit of historic local maps through June. If you're a map fanatic (like I am), you might give it a try.  The article below is not directly related to the exhibit, but it explains the 'tools of the trade' in early map-making. Click the image to read the magazine article.
Early Surveying Equipment
(Photo courtesy of Fort Bend Life Style and Homes.)


I saw the following photo on Facebook and thought it was interesting due to the distant background. I think it shows an aerial view of the Astrodome area looking southwest in 1965. Loop 610 is under construction.  (The feeders are the double lanes across the upper third of the frame.) Kirby is the street next to the parking lot, and South Main angles off into the upper right side of the frame.

The pilot flying the helicopter, Frank Pasket, submitted it to the Facebook Page, Traces of Texas.

(Photo courtesy of Frank Pasket and Traces of Texas Facebook Page.)

Donna Christopher Baker sent me the following link to an article in The Houston Chronicle. It explains how many of Houston's suburbs got their names. Click the photo below to view the article.

Houston Suburbs
(Photo courtesy of The Houston Chroncle.)

Texas & Beyond

People have recently sent me a couple of items about topics beyond Sugar Land and Fort Bend County.  I thought I'd pass them on.

My aunt, Mayme Rachuig Hause, sent the first one to me.  It's about the lone surviving Republic of Texas boundary marker in East Texas, indicating the border between the US and the ROT.  How unique can you get?  Click here to read the article.

The second item came from John Frierson. It's a series of postcards, showing Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michgan in 1927, I think.

Monday, January 2, 2017

News & Updates

I was swamped with other duties over the last two months, so items have piled up. I'll eventually get to them, but for now I want to mention just a couple of items. First, Mark Voss (DHS '71) died suddenly last week. Click here to view an obituary. I had no idea he had worked in Afghanistan. I have recent photos of Mark in the More People of Old Sugar Land posting immediately below.

Mark Voss.

My classmate (DHS '68) and good friend, Sam McJunkin, lost his wife Hilda suddenly last month. Click here to read an obituary. Some of you will remember Sam's father was a druggist at the Sugar Land (Rouse's) drug store. Sam's mother Hazel was the City of Sugar Land's first Secretary. Sam's sister Olive is a Dulles alum (Class of '63).

My sincerest condolences go to the Voss and McJunkin families. 

On a brighter note, I want to wish Shirley Laird a very belated, but happy birthday. The big day was November 15th. I don't want to make a mistake, so I'll say she's either 93, 94, or 95-years old.  But, who's counting?  Happy birthday!

I will have more on this later, but I wanted to congratulate the City of Sugar Land and Pat Pollicoff, Director of Communications, on the new state historical marker at the Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery in Telfair. I participated in the dedication ceremony and thought it was well done.

More People of Old Sugar Land

Click on the image below to view a photo album of more people of old Sugar Land. I've added captions, which you can view by clicking the 'i' icon in the upper right of the display.
Photo album of old-timers.

More Views of Old Sugar Land

I've been reviewing several old documents over the past couple of months and came across two items I wanted to post. I may have posted the first one, but it's worth repeating.  It shows a layout of The Hill, dated February 18, 1919.

Note the numbering of the street names. What we now know as First Street was labeled 'Boulevard.' Actually, Boulevard or First Street was undeveloped at the time this drawing was made. We know it wasn't created until four or five years later. 

Also notice that the first four homes on the west side of Main Street and the homes on Boulevard are just sketched in. All the other homes have numbers assigned to them. This another indication of the progression of development that occurred during the early 1920s. The first hospital shows more detail than I expected. (It was built in 1924.)

Click on the image to enlarge the view.

The next drawing shows development that never occurred. (The title of the drawing is 'Map of Sugar Land Improvement Company's Addition to Sugar Land, Texas.') I can't find a date, but I can tell the drawing was made before 1924. Had Sugarland Industries executed this big plan, the town would have developed eastward in its early years. Our current industrial park would have been a residential district.

This next set of images comes from aerial photos taken in 1941. (I've posted selected images from this set in the past.) These images show the town on April 5, 1941. Click on the images to magnify them.

The first shows a view of the center of town. You can easily see Highway 90A and the loop Oyster Creek makes around Mayfield Park and the refinery.

Sugar Land on April 5, 1941.

Here is a blow up of Mayfield Park. Note the track. M. R. Wood School was the set of structures north of the track. (The school would undergo significant expansion in 1953.) Also note that houses abut the refinery's northern perimeter. (I'm not certain there was a fence, but I assume there was one.)

Mayfield Park on April 5, 1941.

The next magnification shows the east side of town. I've added some annotations to identify particular structures and sites.

East Sugar Land on April 5, 1941.

The next zoom shows Brooks Street. I've added annotations to this photo, too.  Notice the first two homes on the west side of Brooks Street. They would be moved a few years later when Guenther Street was extended westward. I believe Dr. Carlos Slaughter lived in the first house.

Sugar Land on April 5, 1941.

These last two aerials show more of the south and east side of town.

South and east Sugar Land on April 5, 1941.

This magnification highlights a few locations in the photo. Of course, that area is not nearly as empty 75 years later.

South and east Sugar Land on April 5, 1941.

Photos of the Imperial Sugar Refinery

I'm not sure of the date for these photographs, which come from the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation's collection. Maybe someone can make a better guess, but mine is sometime in the early 1970s. I thought they have artistic merit although there are imperfections in a couple of them. Click the image below to see the album.

The SLHF has closed its temporary location and will reopen this summer in its permanent location. The SLHF museum will be located just behind the silos at Imperial Market. The Fort Bend's Children's Discovery Center occupies the 1st floor of the building. The SLHF museum and the City of Sugar Land's Visitor's Center will occupy its second floor.

The SLHF sells images of historic photos and documents in its collection. If you are interested, review their Web site. If you want an image you don't see in their store (maybe one you've seen on this blog), call and ask if they can provide what you want.  Their number is 281-494-0261.

Monday, October 31, 2016

News & Updates

Congratulations to the First Presbyterian Church of Sugar Land, which celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, October 9th! I had the pleasure of attending the service and took some video, which I hoped to have done by now, but time grew short. I'll have it done next time.

I also attended a recent groundbreaking ceremony at San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site near Sealy. They will begin constructing a new museum soon. It was a grand event, which I enjoyed. I and everyone else in the audience were particularly enthused by 4th graders from Austin Elementary School in Lamar CISD.

Click this link for a news video of the event.

You still have time to get tickets and sponsorships for the Speakeasy Fundraiser for the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. Click the image below for ticket information.

If you prefer to see their Facebook page, click this link
If you can handle even more fun, you might try this fundraiser for the Fort Bend County Historical Commission on Tuesday evening, November 15th in Fulshear.

Dulles High School News

Congratulations to Dulles High School's Class of '66, who celebrated their 50th anniversary last weekend. I hear they had a great time seeing old classmates and friends. I enjoyed seeing several of them during their planning meetings and hope to see them again soon.

Click the image below to see a selection of photos from their big night.
Congrats to the Class of '71 who also celebrated a big anniversary - their 45th! (I remember when they were kiddies.) Click the image below for a few pix from their blow out.

I recently reconnected with one of my classmates, Orval Scott (DHS '68). He had two photos that I want to post here.

The first shows Orval and his wife, possibly on their wedding day. I recognize Orval's parents in the background. 
 Mr. & Mrs. Orval Scott
The next shows our 8th grade football team at Sugar Land Junior high in the fall of 1963.  Great stuff.
 SLJH 8th grade football team, 1963.

A Survey of the Imperial Mill's Former Location

My colleague on the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, Bruce Grethen, did this work a few months ago. I saved it thinking I would collect additional supplemental information, but I haven't had a chance to do that. It's such a good example of the work he does for our Cemetery and Historic Preservation Committees, that I didn't want to delay any longer.

First a little background on the Imperial Mill. It was a sugar mill built in 1883 by Ambrose Littleberry Ellis and Edward H. Cunningham. At that time, Ellis owned the Sartartia Plantation, roughly the area covered by the old Central Units (former prison farm), New Territories, Telfair, and the land south of I-69 where the new Smart Financial Center is under construction. Cunningham owned Sugar Land and the land surrounding it, including what became the Imperial Sugar refinery. 

They formed a partnership and built the Imperial Mill behind Nalco's present location. More precisely, it was located on the south bank of Oyster Creek across from Constellation Park.  It burned to the ground in late 1913.

It's a little-known site, but important to the growth of Imperial Sugar - even though it had a brief operating life. We'd like to do an archeological survey sometime in the future if it's possible. What you'll see is the preliminary work Bruce has done.

First I want to show the only photo we now have of the mill.  (I've posted it before.) As you can see it was surprisingly large.
A 1909 westward view of the Imperial Mill in the background.
Note the split in the dual tracks. It will help locate the exact position of the camera in later images.

The first step in Bruce's analysis is a 1953 aerial photo of the vicinity. He's overlayed it with the old Sugar Land RR, which ran west of Sugar Land. You can see Central Unit 1 near the middle of the photo. The general layout of the mill is colored red in the middle of the right half of the image.
Next you see he has added a 1912 survey of the area, which was useful because it gave him precise survey coordinates.

The next image shows a magnification the mill's location on the 1912 survey map.
This image shows the magnified area with georeferenced detail from a Sanborn insurance map.
Next we see the georeferenced detail projected on a 1953 aerial photo. Notice the cotton gin, depicted on the Sanborn map, is included.
Bruce also overlayed the detail on a 1968 aerial photo. You can see that Highway 6 (2-lanes) has been constructed.
The last image shows the 1912 georeferenced detail on a 2012 aerial. What a difference 100 years makes.
Now you can see that the camera in the 1909 photo, near the split in the rails, was located on what is now Sugar Land Municipal Airport property. (The cotton gin must have been constructed between 1909 and 1912 since it doesn't appear in the photo but does appear in the Sanborn map.)

I was surprised that the camera was that far west.  I had guessed it was on the east side of Highway 6. 

Recent Changes.in The Hill Section of Old Sugar Land

Thanks to Tommy Laird (DHS '67) and David Mutina (DHS '70) for sending me a few photos of recent renovations in The Hill section of old Sugar Land. The first one shows the late Rosie Syblik Hansen's home after it was demolished. I'm using Google Maps to determine the street addresses. It says this house was at 115 6th St.

115 6th St. in Sugar Land

The next two photos show the Mutina family home a few yards to the west (toward Main St.) at 107 6th St. The remodeling looks very nice.

107 6th St. before renovation

107 6th St. after renovation

US & TexasHistory

Thank you Bettye Anhaiser for donating this historic newspaper to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. I've forgotten where she found it, but it's good item. Notice it comes from the final edition of The Houston Post published on December 8th, 1941. I'll post more from this paper when we get closer to the historic day.

The Houston Post, December 8, 1941

If any of you are Facebook users, I highly recommend the Traces of Texas Page. Lots of interesting things there; these two items for example.

The Traces of Texas quote of the day comes from legendary rancher Charles Goodnight:

"When the Indians robbed houses they invariably took all the books they could find, using the paper to pack their shields. They knew, as well as we did, the resistance paper has against bullets. Paper offered more resistance to a bullet than anything to be had upon the frontier, unless it was cotton. The Indians knew this and stole all the books and paper they could find ...

Their shield was made by forming a circular bow of wood two or three feet across, over each side of which was drawn untanned buffalo hide from the neck of the buffalo, the toughest and thickest they cold get. They filled between the hide with paper. In times of action, the Indian had this on his elbow and always aimed to keep it at an angle between you and him. Very few of the old fashioned rifles would penetrate these shields. The rifle I carried then [1861], and still have, would knock a hole right through them at any angle. I once shot an Indian down on the Quitaque. I did not kill him, but he dropped his shield. Between the folds of hide was a complete history of Rome, and the boys had considerable fun passing the sheets around and reading them.

----- Charles Goodnight, as quoted in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Review, 1928
The next item is rather long, but worth the effort. It's an interview published in 1902 of a woman who was 104-years old at the time. Her name was 'Grandma Ziff' Dockery.  What a character.

 'Grandma Ziff' Dockery (photo from Traces of Texas)
 Shady Grove Cemetery, Pattonville, Texas (photo from Traces of Texas)

Click this link to read her 1901 newspaper article