Drop Down MenusCSS Drop Down MenuPure CSS Dropdown Menu

Friday, August 4, 2017

News & Updates

Sugar Land Heritage Foundation

As I've mentioned in the past, the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitor Center is under construction. I can't give you a firm date on the opening, but it should be around the first of next year. I'll report more when I hear it. For now, you can read a recent newsletter from the SLHF board by clicking on this link.

Fort Bend County Historical Commission

The Fort Bend County Historical Commission will have its 3rd quarter meeting on Tuesday, August 15th. It's free and open to the public. Our speaker will be a good one. He's Dan Worrall, local historian and author. He will talk about Pleasant Bend and The San Felipe Trail.  Here's a blurb on his presentation:

The story of Upper Buffalo Bayou and the San Felipe Trail as they existed west of Houston in the 19th Century will be the program topic for the Tuesday, Aug. 15 full membership meeting of the Fort Bend County Historical Commission.

The meeting, which is open to the public free of charge, is booked at the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy, 1521 Eugene Heimann Circle in Richmond, beginning at 3 p.m.

Presenter is historical preservationist Dr. Dan Worrall of Fulshear, an active member of the Harris County HC. Worrall, a retired exploration geologist, is currently searching out prospective historical marker sites in west Harris County. He was instrumental in rescuing the 19th-century Morse-Bragg Cemetery, near Post Oak Boulevard in Houston, from loss to development.

Worrall extensively researched what he called "nearly forgotten" rural areas where pioneers settled and lived a century and a half prior to the sprawling westward growth of Houston. In describing the content of his recently published book, "Pleasant Bend," Worrall wrote:

"One such area is that of Upper Buffalo Bayou, extending from downtown Houston to Katy. In this area, European settlement began at Piney Point in 1824, over a decade before Houston was founded. Ox wagons full of cotton traveled across a seemingly endless tallgrass prairie from the Brazos River east to Harrisburg along the San Felipe Trail, built in 1830.

"Also here, Texan families fled eastward during the Runaway Scrape of 1836, immigrant German settlers trekked westward to new farms along the north bank of the bayou in the 1840s, and newly freed African-American families walked east toward Houston from Brazos plantations after Emancipation."

Fort Bend CHC Chairman Chuck Kelly, who helped secure Worrall as program presenter, noted that while Pleasant Bend lay beyond the Fort Bend County line, "its history and that of our county are contemporaneous in time and contiguous in location, and our ancestors were doubtless familiar with the story we will hear from Dr. Worrall in August."

Sons of the Republic of Texas

The Lamar Chapter of the Sons of the Republic of Texas (SRT) has been inactive for several years, although it was the first chapter of the SRT. Fort Bend County resident F. M. O. Fenn was the driving force to start the organization. It's important that we make a determined effort to restart the chapter.

Tom Green of the SRT has told me he found a copy of a letter from John R. Fenn's son, Frances Marion Otis Fenn, a lawyer in Richmond, Texas, who started the SRT in his legal office there in Richmond on April 11, 1893.  As far as we know, F. M. O. Fenn became the first member of the SRT on April 21, 1893, and a copy of his membership certificate is in the San Jacinto Monument archives.

There are no annual fees. The organization's mission is to promote local history, particularly in schools and educational organizations. The only qualification for joining is documented evidence of an ancestor living in the Republic of Texas (1836 - 1845).

Members of neighboring chapters have graciously volunteered to help this effort. If you want to become a member of the Lamar Chapter of the SRT, respond to this this message. An SRT member will contact you.

If you want to join the local chapter of Daughters of the Republic of Texas, please respond to this message, and we'll put you in touch with the chapter in Richmond. They are a very active group.

Old Timer News

I'm very thankful I have no deaths to report, but I do want to mention Steve Shelton. Some of you know he suffered a stroke a few months back.  He's at home in Hillje. I saw his sister Nancy and brother Lee a few days ago, and they said Rose (Steve's wife) and Steve would appreciate your prayers and good wishes. I'm not certain Steve is ready for visitors just yet, but I'll report on his progress when I hear it.

DHS Class of 1977 Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Dulles High School's Class of 1977 is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its graduation from that august institution with a reunion at the Redneck Country Club.  I'm very late with this, but the reunion is tomorrow evening, Saturday, August 5th.  I hope they provide post-reunion photos. Click the image below to view an album of images they've collected. (Thanks to all who have posted them on Facebook.)

DHS Class of '77 mementos & photos.

 An undated photo of The Viking Den posted by the Class of '77. (Thanks for the memory.)

I thought this last item was a hoot. Mark Schumann posted it on Facebook.  It's a Dulles directory from 1976. I don't think we had anything like this in my era. Click the image to view selected pages.

More People of Old Sugar Land

I've stretched the topic a little, but for good reasons. Click the image below to view the photo album. Be sure to turn on the captions option.

The Schumann kitchen on 6th St. back in the early 1970s.
I've posted items on the aircraft observation group in Sugar Land during WWII. Jackie James has kept her mother's certificate of appreciation for serving in the group. You can see it below.

I've talked to my mother about this. They had a similar group out at the Humble Camp. She said kids were allowed in the group, and when they were on watch they reported almost everything that flew in the air. She said the operator at the other end was always respectful and polite. He or she never told them to cut out the useless chatter. Who knows if they ever wrote down what  children called in, but they made them feel they were part of the war effort.

Certificate awarded to Miriam James for service in Sugar Land's aircraft observation group during WWII.
The final item was a surprise. I never knew former council woman, Cyril Hosley's family was connected to the Hoggs and Bayou Bend. Fascinating. Click the image below to read an article on her grandmother's employment with Ima Hogg at Bayou Bend.

Cyril Hosley on the right with her sister Carol and grandmother, Velma Arisman Beasley at Bayou Bend in 1949.

Brazos River & Fort Bend County History

About a month ago, I talked with John Rich, a member of the Harris County Archeological Society about water management on the lower Brazos River. We were looking through an Arcadia book Sharon Wallingford brought to my attention: Lower Brazos River Canals by Lora-Marie Bernard. 

John told me about a series of locks and dams on the river near Navasota. I had no idea there were ever any locks on the Brazos, but John said he discovered them on a canoeing trip he took in 2011 and documented in this article, which includes photos. Great stuff. Click here to read about John's trip.

A colleague on the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, Chris Godbold, writes a regular column on local history for Fort Bend Life Styles and Homes.  Here is a sampling.

Click here to view an article on Fort Bend County during WWI. (We are now in the 100th anniversary of The Great War.)

One final item: my brother found these photos of the Fort Bend County Courthouse by noted photographer Yarnell Richtie. (I wonder who those kids are.)

Fort Bend County Courthouse in 1948 by Yarnell Ritchie. (DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

Fort Bend County Courthouse in 1948 by Yarnell Ritchie. (DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Old Imperial Brochures

While researching items for a future exhibit, I found several brochures Imperial Sugar published for different audiences through its corporate history. They span several decades and reflect changes in the company and, implicitly, in the town. I'll post a couple of early ones now and several more in the future.

The first is a short pamphlet on how sugar is made. M. R. Wood was a real renaissance man and eminently qualified to talk authoritatively about sugar technology. (Wood was the chief engineer and chemist at Imperial in its very early days.) Click the image below to view the brochure.
Cover of M. R. Wood brochure on Sugar Refining, c. 1920
The next brochure was printed in 1925. Note that the author is C. B. Gillespie, who was managing editor of The Houston Chronicle at the time. (My brother found this interesting tidbit about him, which says he was a newspaperman, who worked for W. T. Eldridge in Sugar Land for a few years before returning to the newspaper business and becoming a senior figure at The Houston Chronicle. I guess he did some free-lance work for his old employer and friend.)

Take a quick look at the images because they give an distinct impression of Sugar Land in the mid 1920s, but the business reason behind the brochure is interesting, too. 

The biggest sugar refiner in the US in those days was American Sugar Company, which produced Domino Sugar. The New York-based behemoth was trying to poach Imperial's market in Texas.  Eldridge was defending his company's territory from what appear to be under-handed practices.  American was selling inferior sugar as 'pure cane' sugar -- at a much lower price than Imperial. They seemed intent on driving Imperial out of business - or that's what Eldridge thought. 

Imperial (Eldridge) filed an anti-trust suit against American Sugar and won after a court battle that lasted several years. Eldridge was a real bull dog.

C. B. Gillespie's brochure on Texas Pure Cane Sugar, 1925

Thursday, June 22, 2017

More Images of Old Sugar Land

Click the image below to view a photo album of images of old Sugar Land.
Mr. & Mrs. Pilz with Kate & Joe.

More People of Old Sugar Land

Click the image below to view a photo album of people of old Sugar Land.
Cara Fisher & Regina Loper celebrate their 25th anniversary with Imperial Sugar Company in November 1953.

Randolph Foster & Richmond Chapter of the SRT

I want to thank Tom Green, KSJ Sons of the Republic of Texas, for sending me the article below on Randolph Foster, one of the Old 300. The Foster Family and Old Foster Community Museum hosted a dedication of an Old 300 grave medallion on Randolph Foster headstone in the Fulshear Cemetery. Click on the image below to view photos of the ceremony. (The relevant photos are #2 to #11 in the photo album.)
Randolph Foster Grave Medallion ceremony.

Tom participated in the ceremony and became interested in Randolph's story, so he did some research and wrote this short, but informative article.

History of Randolph Foster


Randolph Foster was born March 12, 1790, in the Natchez District of Spanish West Florida, later known as part of the state of Mississippi. He served with his long time Texas neighbor, Capt. Randal Jones in the War of 1812, probably in the Canoe Fight on the Alabama River. In 1821, when he heard about Moses Austin’s plan to bring 300 American families to Texas, and Randolph Foster came to Texas with his parents, John Foster and Rachel Gibson, and their other children, including his brother Isaac Foster, making the Foster family one first of the Old 300. On July 16, 1824, Randolph Foster received a 4,400 acres land grant in what is now Fort Bend and Waller counties. Randolph Foster had married Lucy Ruffin Hunter, born on 23 June 1804, in Wilkinson County, Mississippi before 1821, and before the family came to Texas. Randolph Foster was a great hunter and stories exist about his hunts with Stephen F. Austin, and during the Texas Revolution, Uncle Ran, as he was known, provided meat and other supplies to the Texian Army.

On October 11, 1835, Randolph Foster was sent by Richardson R. Royall to William Stafford’s plantation, for whom the present town of Stafford was named, to retrieve 800 pounds of lead for the use of the Texian Army. In April of 1836, when Capt. Wiley Martin’s company was sent to the Fort Bend area to prevent General Santa Anna’s Mexican Army from crossing the flooded Brazos River, Randolph Foster joined Capt. Wiley Martin’s company, which consisted of only 46 men. There were at least 1,500 in Mexican Army, and the task of preventing the crossing of the Brazos River was impossible, but the delay was enough time to allow the newly formed Republic of Texas government to leave Jane Harris’ home in Harrisburg before General Santa Anna arrived. The delay in crossing the Brazos River resulted in General Santa taking 750 of his Calvary to Thompson’s Ferry to cross the Brazos River. The leader of Mexican Calvary was Col. Juan N. Almonte, who was one of the few Mexicans who spoke English, so the other Mexican Calvary hid in the trees, while Col. Almonte impersonated a Texan and convinced the Thompson ferry operator to bring the ferry over the Brazos River, where the Mexican Calvary came out of the trees, commandeered the Thompson Ferry and crossed the Brazos River flanking Capt. Wiley Martin’s Company and forcing them to retreat. This was the event that separated General Santa Anna from the bulk of his army, and when General Sam Houston learned of the separation he turn his army south at New Kentucky and head for Harrisburg, and later to San Jacinto. While the efforts of Capt. Wiley Martin’s men at the Brazos River was considered a failure at the time, this event changed history and was the main reason the Battle of San Jacinto occurred at the battle site.

Randolph Foster helped guide and protect the women and children during the Run-Away-Scrape. He continued to live in the Fulshear area until August 18, 1878, when the 89 year old pioneer died at the home of his daughter, Mary L. Foster, who had married Thomas Blakely, the Sheriff of Fort Bend County. A local school has been named the John and Randolph Foster High School, and on May 18, 2017, the family, who are almost all members of the Old 300 Society, dedicated an Old 300 marker for his grave.

Tom Green, KSJ
2718 North Larkspur Circle
Pearland, Texas 77584
(713) 340-1965

I wanted to mention the Sons of the Republic of Texas are reviving their chapter in Richmond. It has been dormant for a few years, and they want to restart it. If you can trace your ancestry back to the Republic of Texas, you can become a member. 

They are hosting an initial meeting at Joseph's in Richmond on July 20th at 6:30. Everyone with an interest and an ancestor in Texas between 1821 & 1845 is welcome.

Of course, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have a proud organization, too. Their Richmond chapter is very active. If you have an interest in their organization, comment on this blog and I'll send you info.

Wild Fish Tales

I had a recent conversation with an old high school classmate about fishing. I don't recall the details, but alligator gars came up. I have posted the following photo in the past, but I don't think he's ever seen it. It shows a gar caught in the Sugar Land area, I'm not sure where, and I don't know who the man is. Maybe someone will recognize him. Visual clues suggest the date is sometime around 1952. That's an impressive fish.

Alligator gar, 1952.

We also talked about noodling, or catching fish my hand, particularly cat fish. He knew I wasn't the type to wade a creek or river bank and stick my hand in a hole, pulling out a big fish (or something else!) hiding in there. However, I told him a branch of my mother's family (the Rachuigs) were big noodlers up in Bosque County northwest of Waco.  I have visual evidence to prove it. Click the image view an album of photos.
Noodlers in training about 1935. (My mother is the noodler second from the right.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Odds & Ends

I have a few miscellaneous items from recent research. The first comes from Jackie James, who said the following:

"... Of course I am old and do remember WWII very vividly.

I remember a small wooden building which was on Oyster Creek right at the end of where my Dad's park is now. There was no road but all fields at that time. The women of the town would go there and make bandages for the soldiers. They also looked for foreign airplanes. My mother would take me with her when she went and I was five years old when the war ended but I do remember this so well.

About a year ago I found something of my mom's that I had never seen before. It is a Certificate of Service from the U.S. Army Air Forces, III FIGHTER COMMAND, Aircraft Warning Service. It then says, "This is to certify that Mrs. T. L.James, Observer, OBSERVATION POST, PALM 129, faithfully and voluntarily served in the Aircraft Warning Service, III Fighter Command, U.S. Army Air Forces.

Witness my hand this FIRST day of JUNE in the year one thousand nine hundred forty-four"!

It is signed by a Major Signal Corps Acting Regional Commander and a Brigadier General, United States Army Commanding. I can't read their signatures or would have added them."

I hope Jackie can get a good image of her mother's citation - I'd love to have one. I've known about the observation post, but never heard its designation, "PALM 129." It would be a hoot if any of their reports turned up in a government archive.  
I'm sure I've said in the past that my grandmother Kelly was also an observer.  So was Mrs. W. T. 'Sallie' Matlage, Sr.  Here's her patch:

Jackie mentioned the location of the observation shack. Other people have given me the rough location. Here's an aerial photo taken in April 1941, which I've marked to show the general area. The hut wouldn't be built until sometime in 1942, I presume. (Click the image to magnify it.)
Sugar Land in 1941.
One more WWII item. Here's a piece of V-Mail Jean McCord Babineaux had in the McCord family archive. W. W. Jenkins (I don't know which Jenkins boy that was) sent it to Jean's mother at Christmas 1943 from somewhere in the Pacific theater of war. 
I saw this item on the KPRC History Page on Facebook. I remember some of these people: Bob Byron (who was co-host of the Tim & Bob radio program), Buck Buchanan (who was married to Marjorie Wappler [SLHS '48] at one time), Tom Fox, Bruce Layer (sportscaster), and Dick Gottlieb.

News & Updates

I got an update from Jackie James regarding the photo of her father and I.H. Kempner, Sr. taken when the shopping center opened in 1952. When her father retired, the Kempner family gave him a plaque of appreciation.  (I didn't realize he retired in 1972. I guess that means Sugarland Industries ceased operation that year.) Note the same photo is in the lower right-hand corner.

Kempner appreciation plaque for Tom James.
Here's another news item about the Sugar Land Heritage Museum & Visitor Center. Click the image below to read the article in the Sugar Land Sun.
Sketch of Sugar Land Heritage Museum exhibit space.
Finally, a piece of shameless self-promotion. (However, congratulations to the Fort Bend County Historical Commission.)
County Judge Bob Hebert presents the Fort Bend County Historical Commission the THC's Distinguished Service Award for 2016.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


I have a couple of announcements that should interest readers of this blog.  On Tuesday afternoon, I attended a meeting with Dr. Charles Dupre, Superintendent of Fort Bend ISD. He led a discussion with several local residents about the school district's plans for Lakeview Elementary and the old Sugar Land Auditorium.

I'll summarize his points very briefly since I'm sure we'll have more on this in the future:

  • FBISD will not close Lakeview Elementary. In fact, they will renovate the school to a degree yet to be determined, but the result will be an active, thriving school. 
  • Renovations may involve reworking existing buildings, or maybe replacing them with new ones built in a suitable architectural style. 
  • The gym, dating from 1932, will remain.
  • The development of Imperial Market will result in changing demographics for the area surrounding Lakeview, so there are solid reasons to keep the school in operation.
  • The Auditorium will be preserved. The relevant issue is transferring ownership to the City of Sugar Land, which is better equipped to handle historic preservation of the structure.
  • Almost everyone recognizes the Auditorium's historic significance and wants to see it return as a hub of community life. 

If you hear rumors that the school will be closed, or that the district will not expend funds to improve it, you can quash those rumors with this information. The district will put a bond proposal before the voters in 2018. It will include upgrades for Lakeview Elementary based on community consultation. I'll have more on this in the future.

The second item concerns the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitor Center, which will open later this year. The City hosted a ceremony on Thursday morning (May 31st) marking the countdown on these new developments. 

The museum and visitors center will be located above the Children's Discovery Center in Imperial Market. (I'll post design sketches in the future.)

Last but definitely not least, Martin Nicholas, Chairman of the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation's board of directors, announced that Larry Johnson, President & CEO of Johnson Development Corp., donated $150,000 to the SLHF to fund the museum's opening exhibits. Mr. Johnson's donation comes before the SLHF has formally launched a capital fundraising campaign, so it is as timely as it is generous. Thank you, Mr. Johnson!
Sugar Land's mayor and city council begin work on the museum & visitors center.

News & Updates

I regret that, once again, I have bad news to pass along. My thanks go to Ella Patterson who relayed news of Charles Allison's death she received from Beverly Wharton. Charles and Beverly graduated from Dulles in 1973. I searched for an obituary, but could not find one. God bless Charles and the Allison family.

Charles Allision, DHS '73.

Ella also notified me that Margaret Lindsay, long-time resident of Mayfield Park, died in early May. I know her son, Eddie, who graduated from Dulles in 1969. Here's a brief obituary. My deepest condolences to Eddie, his brother Carl, and sisters, Dianne and Sharon.

Just a few days ago, Roger Howard notified me that Mary Amaro de la Cruz passed away. Mary graduated with Roger in the Class of '63 at Dulles. George Morales (DHS '63) sent this obituary, which included many things I never knew about Mary. (I remember when she worked at the post office in Sugar Land.) I hope Mary's extended family finds genuine comfort after the loss of their loved one.

My final bit of news concerns Steve Shelton, also in the Class of '63 at Dulles. He suffered a stroke a few weeks ago and was hospitalized here in Sugar Land. I mistakenly thought he was on his way to recovery, but I understand that he's back in the hospital. I thought his friends would want to know he needs their prayers and kind wishes for a strong recovery. I'll pass along any new when I hear it.

I have one update from Ronald Miller (SLHS '51). After reading about B. I. Webb's recent death, he sent me this comment:

Charles, thank you for BI's obituary.  Our days of hunting together is now over, but I know that I'll bump into him again.  He was a great class mate, storyteller and friend.  I have been missing his phone calls and thought of him yesterday, not knowing what was going on. Ron

Here's a good photo of B. I. enjoying life.
 George 'B. I.' Webb in the 1950s.

Images of Old Sugar Land

A few more images and info on locations in old Sugar Land.
A view looking northwest from the intersection of Brooks St. & Highway 90A in the 1920s.

More People of Old Sugar Land

Several people posted photos of their mothers on Facebook just before Mother's Day. (Thanks to all of them for their photos.) Click the image below to view the photo album.
Barbara Stead Batten before she arrived in Sugar Land.

News at the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation

In addition to yesterday's (May 31, 2017) announcement about the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation & Sugar Land Visitor's Center, there is more news about the Heritage Foundation. First, the foundation hosted a dinner for its volunteers on May 3. (Many thanks to board member Allison Wen for sponsoring the soiree at Safari Texas.)

The top of program was a presentation by Jim Murnane, Imperial Market developer. He walked us through the plans for the old Imperial refinery site. Here are some of the key points:

  • construction will begin in July 2017 and be completed in December 2018. (It's ambitious, but reasonable.)
  • the Char House will be a Marriott Signature Hotel. (They made this choice because Marriott's Signature line maintains the history and character of their locations.)
  • tenants will not include national franchises. (Local owners/operators will occupy the retail spaces to give a community feel to the site.)
  • tenants will undergo a thorough review to ensure long-term occupancy.
  • free transportation (trolley) will be available on the site. (Boat tours are under consideration.)

Click here to view the graphics that accompanied Jim's presentation. I will have more on Imperial Market in the coming months. I think this is exciting.

Some of you may have seen KHOU's Great Day Houston program which featured our town. If not, click this link to take a look.

The Imperial Quartet

I thought I'd posted a short item about the Imperial Quartet before, but it doesn't come up when I do a search on this blog. Regardless, I came across an article recently in the August 1985 issue of The Imperial Crown. It recounts the history of this vocal group with Imperial's marketing campaigns from the mid 1940s to the mid '50s. 

Click the image below to access the article.
The Imperial Quartet with piano accompanist, Marion Snider.

Imperial Refinery State Marker

On April 22, 1982 the Imperial Sugar Company dedicated a state historical marker at the Imperial Refinery. (The marker is now stored at the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation.) I found an article in the May 1982 issue of The Imperial Crown covering the dedication ceremony and a summary of the Kempner family's involvement with the company. 

Click the image to view the article.
  Imperial Refinery State Marker Dedication, March 1982
There are four other state historical markers within Sugar Land's city limits: the Sugar Land Auditorium, Sugar Land (community/town), Main Building on the Texas prison system's Central Unit, and Stafford's Plantation. There is also a Historic Texas Cemetery marker within its precincts: the Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

News & Updates

I have more bad news, which saddens me personally quite a bit. B. I. Webb passed away a few weeks ago. I thought something must be wrong because I hadn't heard from him for a while. I always enjoyed our phone calls and always learned quite lot from them.  (As you'll read in this obituary, B. I. lived in Salley, South Carolina. He left Sugar Land in 1955, but he was a fount of knowledge when it came to old Sugar Land.)
B. I. Webb in 1947
God bless Charlotte and the extended Webb family. I'll certainly miss B.I. (My thanks to Norm Prasatik and Jerry Cooper for notifying me.)

Greg Ordeneaux (DHS '68) lost his father Elmo recently. His mother died not long ago, so I'm sure this is difficult. Click here to read an obituary. My sincerest condolences to Greg, Paula, and the extended Ordeneaux family.  God bless them as they grieve this loss.

Sugar Land has been in the news recently. Click this link to view an article about its recent award as Best City for Tourism. Mayfield Park is in the news, too.  Click here to read about the big plans for this part of old Sugar Land.

And last but not least, the City of Sugar Land declared May as historic preservation month. It's not possible to save everything, but the city is well aware of his historic assets and their value to the community.


Can anyone help identify the people in this photo? I got a note from Carolyn Ellis LeMaster. She's identified some of the children shown in this 1959 photo of an M. R. Wood group touring the refinery. They are elementary and junior high students. Recognize anyone? Can you confirm Carolyn's guesses? Post a comment to this blog if you can help.

More Images of Very Old Sugar Land

I've collected some old photos of the Cunningham/Imperial refinery from its very early years. Be sure to look at the captions because I've tried to explain what the photos show. Click on the image below to view the album. Click the 'i' in the upper right of the frame to display the captions.
The Cunningham refinery (later the Imperial refinery) in 1894.