Drop Down MenusCSS Drop Down MenuPure CSS Dropdown Menu

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wrastlin' Match at the Auditorium in 1919

I saw the following ad in the Texas Farm and Industrial News printed here in Sugar Land on September 28, 1919.  I think the Cultural Arts Foundation ought to revive this spectacle.  They could have Bull Curry's great-grandson battle Jose Lothario's great-nephew.  I was going to say something about a celebrity match, but I better not.
Some of you sharpies may remember that Joe Kopecky performed in a wrestling exhibition with his brother as part of the July 4th celebrations in 1919.  I guess it was a hit.

A Recent Tour of the Imperial Refinery Site

A few of us took a quick tour of the Imperial refinery site last week.  I took a video camera and made this short (5-minute) video.  Those of you live in Sugar Land will probably have no trouble orienting yourselves, but those of you who don't know the site well may want to take a look at this aerial before watching.

Click here to view the video. (Sound track: The Mills Brothers with The Duke Ellington Orchestra and Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.)

Two Follow Up Items

I asked Haroldetta Robertson about the demolition of the old Richmond Bridge.  (I posted a photo of it a couple of weeks ago.)  I learned that it was demolished on July 14, 1988.  The home where Haroldetta grew up was on the east bank of the Brazos near the foot of the bridge.  She said her late brother-in-law, Henry Robertson (SLHS '51), collected a few pieces of the debris, which she still has.

Belinda Jenkins Faison (DHS '69) recently asked about the old fire whistles.  Many of you will remember they were coded so Sugar Land residents (and volunteer firemen) knew where the fire was located.  Here's an old poster I've posted in the past, explaining the different blasts.  I guess you could say these are a blast from the past.

Images of Old Sugar Land

I found the following article in the June 8, 1917 edition of the Texas Farm and Industrial News printed in Sugar Land.  I'm not absolutely certain, but I think the photo just below is the building the article refers to.


Next is an undated article (I think it's the '60s) from The Houston Post about dredging Oyster Creek.  I never knew John Sembere was involved in that project.

The first issue of the Texas Farm and Industrial News was printed on June 8, 1917.  It included the following editorial feature.  I've noticed that T. G. Locke is the editor.  I'm reasonably certain he's one of the founders of TracyLocke, the Dallas-based agency that handled Imperial Sugar's advertising and public relations for many years.

More People of Old Sugar Land

I want to mention first the passing of two old-time residents: Charles Laperouse (SLHS '45) and Ida Lee Pamplin.  Thank you to Betty Sue Douglas Lubajosky (SLHS '49) for letting me know about Charles.  Click here to view an obituary.

Mrs. Pamplin was not a native, but she (and husband Darrell) was a long-time resident of The Hill.  Click here to view an obituary.

My best to the Laperouses and Pamplins. 

Linda Cruse Wilson (DHS '65) mentioned that yesterday, July 29th, was Jerry Naill's birthday.  Technically speaking, Jerry isn't a Sugar Lander, but I'll stretch the point.  Here's a photo of Linda crowning Jerry king of the 1964 Dulles Prom.

In case you missed it the first time round, here are a couple of Jerry's early recordings.

I want to thank Carmen Willey for sending me photos of her husband's (Harold's) retirement from Imperial Sugar on April 30, 1981.  [A tip: If you like Carmen's drawings and watercolors, you can buy originals at the Fort Bend Museum at a very reasonable price.]

Harold on the left with Bill Krocek - Pansy Vaculik is in the background

Harold with James Boyd.

Harold addressing guests at is retirement party.

Pansy, Harold & Bill.

Harold with Al Bartolo on his left - other well-wishers unidentified.

More miscellaneous photos of old Sugar Landers.

Imperial yard crew in the 1920s?

Leo Friend on the left with Bob Boehm in Imperial refinery in 1920.

Undated Imperial Awards Banquet honorees. (I recognize W. H. Louviere, Sr., Peter Schwalbe, Jim Skiles, Julius Jochec, and Don Hoke.  If anyone can help with others, I'd be grateful.)

Rev. Bill Jones (Methodist Church) and family in the 1960s.

The Thompson Ferry

I received a message recently from my classmate, Robert Brandon (DHS '68), asking about the Thompson Ferry.  He said he was confused about its location.  He thought it was down at Thompsons, Texas, but then he read that it was up river between Richmond and Rosenberg.  He asked if there were two ferries?

The quick answer is yes.   Actually, there have been other ferries at different locations on that stretch of the Brazos since the colonial era, but they had different owners and different names.  William Morton had a 'ferry' (a small boat) roughly opposite the Morton Cemetery in Richmond, and Henry Jones had a similar operation further downstream, but above Thompsons.

The Thompson's Ferry where Santa Anna's army crossed the Brazos was on the western side of Richmond.  Here's a map annotating it's location.

Jesse Thompson established the ferry, but Thomas Borden killed him in self-defense in 1834.  His family still operated the ferry in April 1836, when Santa Anna crossed the River.

Jesse's oldest son Hiram moved downstream to what became Thompsons, Texas.  I haven't found direct evidence of this, but since there is a Thompson Ferry Road still there, I presume he established a ferry in that location, too.    I don't know details, but at some point a vehicular bridge replaced Hiram's ferry.  Another presumption on my part is that the bridge was located roughly where Hiram Thompson's ferry crossed the river.  Here's an annotated map showing the area today.

As you can see, the Santa Fe Railroad has a bridge over the Brazos just a little downstream of the presumed location of Hiram's ferry & the vehicular bridge. 

I know the vehicular bridge fell in the Brazos sometime in the 1930s.  I can't find details on this bridge, but an old timer has told me traces were visible into the 1950s.  

Robert had a long career at HL&P, and he mentioned another historical site in that general area:
As I mentioned in my previous message, delivering poles brought me to a lot of interesting and out of the way places.  I remember one time we had a delivery off of County Road 25 down there in Brazoria County (south of Brazos Bend Park).  Some guy was building a deer camp and wanted service to the area.  I drove down CR 25, took a left on CR 255 and where it makes a bend I had to go though a gate where  started dropping off poles.  Lunch time came and Eddie (Eddie Martin) and I pulled into this grove of big old oaks to eat, and off in the weeds was this big monument that the State had erected.  It marked the old Orozimbo plantation where Santa Ana was kept prisoner before being sent back to Mexico.  It was weird.  Oh well, I digress.  Thanks for the information.

Timely Topics Tersely Treated

First off, a salute to a local historian, Virginia Scarborough:  click here to view The Houston Chronicle's recent article about her devotion to our historical legacy

I also found this article about what's happening at the San Felipe de Austin State Historical Site.  Click here to read about recent archeological exploration.

And finally, the Cemetery Committee of the Fort Bend County Historical Commission is probing below the surface in Richmond, trying to located the lost grave of Erastus 'Deaf' Smith, famed scout for the Texas army during the fight for independence from Mexico.  Historical records indicated the general vicinity; the committee is using their Ground Penetrating Radar device to relocate Smith's resting place. 

If you are interested in local history and want to volunteer, call 281-342-6478 or email redrocket37@yahoo.com.  Here are some photos of their work.

Erastus 'Deaf' Smith
Pushing the radar

Radar image of subsurface

Collecting data in the grid

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.