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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A History of Sugarland Industries - Part 7: Truck Farming

I recently reviewed a scrapbook containing new information about early business endeavors in the history of Imperial and Sugarland Industries.  Some of the items about truck farming were eye openers.  I'd known produce cultivation was a big part of early Sugar Land, but I didn't realize how big it was.  I've found other surprising enterprises, which I'll cover at a later date.

Much of the early truck farming was located in Brookside and the area eventually occupied by the Shopping Center.  I'm sure there were other locations, but that was the main one.  They seemed to have grown a variety of crops.  I've seen references to an agronomist, who performed serious tests of various crops to determine what would grow best in Sugar Land's soil and micro-climate.  

Of course, Marshall Canning set up a processing plant in Sugar Land in 1936, and it continued operating into the 1980s, I think.  Food crops were an important part of our local economy for many years.

Cabbages under cultivation in 1911 at Highway 90A & Brooks St., where the Shopping Center is located.

An add targeting potential celery farmers.

Financial record showing success of celery crop.
Strawberries are another promising crop. (Text missing.)
Prized strawberries.
Spinach. (Text missing.)

Undated of Captain Brooks (right), head of farming operations, and crew loading New Potatoes for shipment.
Plus Royal Walnut Trees to beautify the town. (Text missing.)

Oral Craig - Early Sugar Land Baseball Player

I found this article in a scrapbook recently.  Its date is 1921, but I don't have a definite indication of where it appeared.  I'm virtually certain it came from the Texas Commercial News, an early newspaper printed in Sugar Land.  Unfortunately, some text is missing, but there's enough to convey a good deal of Oral Craig's story.
However, I found him in the Baseball Almanac, so we can piece together what remained of his professional career.  He played until 1927.  I like the nicknames of his teams: the Longview Cannibals, the Pittsfield Hillies, the Shreveport Gassers, and the Paris Snappers.  Notice he played a year for the Houston Buffs. Click here to retrieve is stats on the Almanac.  

Apparently, the Sugar Land Blues were a state-wide powerhouse at one time.  (Note the second paragraph.)

More Photos from the 1971 Viking Yearbook


Monday, April 28, 2014

More People of Old Sugar Land

The first item is the Sugar Land column Ida Lee Krachala wrote for The Texas Coaster.  It contained late-breaking news 63 years ago.

I can't identify the man in the next photo, but he's stacking bags of sugar in the 3-Bay Warehouse.
I can identify just one person in the next set of photos, which show residents in 'down-town' Sugar Land sometime during WWI.
Three girls frolicking on the railroad tracks by the depot.  (Actually, the are on a siding - the main track is on the other side of the depot.)
A mule cart on Brooks St. - the refinery is in the background.

Another dragster tearing down Brooks Street.
The only person I can identify in the previous photos is the girl in the white dress standing in the middle of the railroad tracks.  Her name was Rhoma Sallee Phipps Aven.  I know very little about her, but I've seen her in several pictures of the WWI era.  She is buried in the Morton Cemetery in Richmond.  I found her on Find A Grave.

I'm not exactly sure about the next photo, but I think it was taken when Highway 90A became a paved, two-lane road in 1927.  The unidentified men are probably state or county dignitaries.

Far left is W. T. Eldridge, Sr. Third from right (in sweater)  is Gus Ulrich, Sugarland Industries General Manager.  Far right is W. G. Wirtz, Sr., Industries Chief Engineer.

The final article announces a significant industry honor for W. H. Louviere, Sr., President of Imperial from 1953 to 1964 and Vice Chairman of the Imperial Board in 1967.

Follow Up on Mr. A. H. Weth

I received messages from two men who have fond memories of Mr. Weth.  The first was from Lou Payton (SLHS '46).  Here's what he said:
Chuck, I would like to add a couple of stories about Mr. Weth.....When Earl Tise, Jr. and I were at Southwest Texas State, Mr. Weth allowed us to go to his ranch on the Devil's Backbone to hunt and spend time on weekends.....Later, when the Sugar Company was one of my customers I had some dealings with him and he invited me to his home to see his World War 1 trophies when he was a fighter pilot in the German Air Force.......I wonder what happened to all those items....
Thanks again for reviving old memories......Lou Payton

I agree with Lou; I wonder what happened to Mr. Weth's WWI memorabilia.  I don't think the Weths had any children, but I could be wrong.  BTW, I'd always heard Mr. Weth was an ace.  That's something I should investigate.

I got a note from David Wickersham (DHS '63).  Here's what he said:

Johnny Friend and his Dad invited me to go hunting with them and Mr. Weith at his ranch.  I was about 14 at the time.  As I remember it was 1000 acres in Fredricksburg on the Devil's Backbone.   Being a city boy who had just two years before moved to the country (Sugar Land), I knew very little about the outdoors and wildlife.  One morning I got up early and went exploring by myself.  I soon saw a flock of turkeys on the next hill.  I decided I would kill one with a big stick I had.  I was sure the men would be very impressed.  I ran down the hill and up the next one only to see the turkeys were already on the next hill.  I ran faster this time but again they had beat me to the next hill.  I ran with all I had and got to the top of the next hill just in time to see them gliding into the valley like a squadron of B-25s.  I never knew they could fly.
Mr. Weith had a WWII army jeep that he had the machine shop at Imperial weld a solid metal plate on the undercarrige and install a substantial roll bar on the top.  With that protection, he would run over anything.  We had some wild rides that week with him.  Several times he rolled it over.  We would get out, roll it over on it's wheels and go again.
Thanks for the memories.
It sounds as though Mr. Weth was a generous fellow.  Here's a photo of him at the ground breaking for the Sugar Land Gym on Lakeview in 1932.  It looks as though someone (probably Frau Weth) annotated the photo.  It says 'Albrecht.'

Gus Ulrich is standing near the stake (in shirt sleeves).  W. T. Eldridge, Sr. is in the white suit and white hat.  M. R. Wood is in the white suit next to Mr. Eldridge.

The Weths lived in the building on Eldridge Road that was once the transmitting station for KPRC radio.

More Images of Old Sugar Land

I recently found the following article, which must have appeared in the Texas Industrial News, a weekly newspaper published in Sugar Land.  As you can see, it's dated November 1921, so construction of the first Laura Eldridge Hospital on the northeast corner of Wood and Lakeview began late that year.  We've never been precisely sure when it was built.
I've posted numerous photos of this hospital, but here's one to refresh your memory.
During the same research I found the next article on the Salvage.  Imperial and Sugarland Industries were notorious for salvaging and recycling equipment and materials.  There are stories they straightened old nails and saved them for future use.  I can believe it based on the tenor of this article.  (Click on the image to view a magnified version.  If you have trouble reading it, click here to read a version you can magnify further.)
This aerial photo shows you the location of the Salvage building.
This is the earliest image of residential construction in Mayfield Park I've found so far.
Unfortunately, this last clipping (written in May 1922) is missing some text, but it indicates how important civic appearance and public amenities were to Mr. Eldridge.  He wanted Sugar Land to look appealing, and apparently people in Houston noticed.