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Sunday, May 31, 2015

An Aerial View of Sugar Land From The Present Back To 1953

The set of US Geographical Survey aerial photos Bruce Grethen, my colleague at the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, shared with me are terrific.  I took one showing Sugar Land in 1953 and merged it with a contemporary Google map.  I used Google Slide Show for the first time.  (Comment: The resolution is still not as good as I want, but I'll leave this version up for now.)

Link to slide show.

The Imperial Valley Railway

One of the 1953 aerial photos provides a superb view of the old Imperial Valley Railway that ran westward from Sugar Land to the Brazos River just south of Fulshear.  Here's a link to a short Handbook of Texas article on this rail line, which became part of the Sugar Land Railroad in 1912.

The first image gives you a high-level orientation from Sugar Land to just west of Clodine Rd. (FM 1464). I've highlighted in red the old rail bed. It's still clearly visible in the '53 photo.  (I've highlighted in blue the upper end of the Sugar Land Railroad line that ran to Galveston.)  
Imperial Valley Railway's first stop west of Sugar Land was just a few hundred yards to Imperial (where the old sugar mill was located). About a mile down the line was Pryor (adjacent to Central Unit 1) and Cabell, just out of view beyond Clodine Rd.

By 1953 Sugarland Industries had taken up the last of the track west of Highway 6.  The remaining track behind Nalco/Imperial Blvd. served as a rail yard for the raw & refined sugar trains to-and-from Galveston.  (Missouri Pacific ran these trains after 1930.)

The next photo shows the eastern end of the line at the Sugar Land terminus.  You can see that Imperial (the stop just west of Sugar Land was very close, just across from today's Constellation Park.)
The photo immediately below shows the line as it passes through Central Unit 1.  The stop there was called Pryor, after the first warden of the Imperial Prison Camp.  (It preceded Central Units 1 & 2 built in 1930/31.)
The next image takes us a little further west.  Clodine Rd. (FM 1464) is on the right edge of the photo.
This last photo shows the line west of FM 1464.  You can see a prison facility just to the north of the line, but I can't determine which unit that was.  It still shows up in current maps, but it's unlabeled, and nothing on the Jester Units describes its use today.

Aerial Views of Mayfield Park

I've magnified the Mayfield Park area in the 1953 aerial photo.  I noticed two things right away.  First, the new M.R. Wood School was completed; in fact, it had opened just a month before this photo was taken.  You'll see there's just the one big classroom building - no gym.  Also notice how residential housing runs right up to the north perimeter of the Imperial refinery.

I've included the next photo taken in 1968 to highlight the big changes that were just a few years away.  Notice the school complex is bigger, including a gym.  Next, the houses nearest to the refinery were cleared for expansion.  (Avenue A disappeared.)  New housing had expanded into the north end of Mayfield Park.

Aerial Views of The Hill in 1953

I've magnified The Hill section of town as it appears in the 1953 aerial photo.  This first photo will give you a general orientation of how things looked in 1953.

The next photo focuses on the area around Wood St. north of Lakeview.  You see that 6th St. is the northern-most residential street.  Seventh St. is a few years away.  You'll also notice the houses on the north end of Wood St. next to the football field.  I wasn't aware of these houses until I talked with Randy Kozlovsky a few months ago.  (I'd forgotten them.)  His family live in the house next to the north end zone (I think).

I know Jim and Maxene Gary lived in one of the houses on the east side of Wood St. south of the football field.

The next photo moves a bit further north.  I've included it for just one reason.  It shows where I speculate the Terry plantation ("Sugar Land") was located.  The old road called "North Prairie Farm Road" looks like it could be the main path from the plantation house to the Terry sugar mill, which was located on the other side of Oyster Creek where the Imperial refinery stood.  You'll also notice the intersection of paths and roads at my proposed location.  We have no guarantees that those paths were around 80-years earlier, but it isn't a big stretch to think they were, especially when you consider historic documents say the home sat where the prairie gave way to a stand of oak trees. 
Lastly, we have a chain of evidence that indicates the plantation was sited somewhere in what is present-day Covington Woods.

Here's an irrelevant, but interesting tidbit these '53 aerials show.  I've mentioned to several friends my age that there was a race track in Stafford, roughly where the Southwest Freeway intersects with Highway 90A.  They don't remember it.  Well, it appears in the next photo.
I barely remember it as a very dilapidated wooden structure with pealing white paint and (I think) black trim.  It may have hosted motorcycle racing and dog racing, possibly other things, too.  It was certainly going to the dogs when I saw it.

Aerial Views of Old Walker Station Site in 1953

Last week I posted a contemporaneous article from The Daily Houston Post about the disastrous Brazos River flood of July 1899. It included the following drawing of the Sartartia station on the Southern Pacific rail line passing through Sugar Land west toward Richmond.  (It's the main rail line we have today.)

Prior to Col. L. A. Ellis's purchase of the plantation in the late 1870s, the rail depot was known as Walker's Station.  Ellis renamed the plantation and depot after his eldest daughter Sartartia, supposedly the Karankawa word for 'potato patch.'  (I think it's at least as pretty as some of the names given children these days.)

As I looked at the 1953 aerial, I noticed buildings by the railroad tracks next to the entrance of Central Unit 1.  I wondered if they could be the remnants of old Walker's Station.  The first blow up includes Central Unit 1, so you'll get a general impression of the location.

The next photo is a closer look at the buildings beside the tracks.  It's hard to say what they are, but it seems reasonable to me to think that's where Walker's Station (Sartartia) depot was located.
I've referred to the depot as 'Walker's Station' although Ellis definitely changed its name to Sartartia.  (Jim Vollmar's book, Railroads of Fort Bend County, includes a photo of the depot so named.)  

My reason for using the pre-Ellis name is that my family always referred to a set of buildings a few hundred yards further west as Sartartia.  I think it was the site of the Phenix Dairy's ice cream shop, which was very popular when my parents were children.  Although it closed before this aerial photo was taken in 1953, I think those structures annotated in this photo show its location.
In fact, that whole area constituted the Sartartia Plantation, and as far as I know, no one knows the precise location of the Ellis plantation home, which was moved into Sugar Land in 1908 to serve as W. T. Eldridge's residence.

A Few More People of Old Sugar Land

My brother suggests the following photo shows an early Cinco de Mayo parade.  It's hard to make any definite decision, but that seems plausible.  There's no date, but I know it's post-1925 because I can see the Char House fire escape in the background on the left.  That means they are headed west on Sugar Land St. (now Kempner St.) right in front of the Char House.  (There's a band in the first truck.)

Until I spoke with D. C. Pickett a few month's ago, I didn't know that Charles Thomas had died.  I searched for an obituary, but couldn't find one.  Here's a photo of Charles (on the left) at an event for Sugar Land's Little League, probably in the 1980s.  I'm not sure who the other men are.  Some of you may know Charles from his years as a teacher & coach in FBISD.  I'm sorry I missed his passing.

I have posted several photos in the past of the 1927/28 opening of Highway 90A.  Click here to view the photos.  I found the following one which shows County Commissioner (and Imperial engineer) I. G. Wirtz, Sr. (left) with two other men as the paving project is underway.  I can't determine the location, but that appears to be a very large cement mixer used to pour concrete in sections of the road.  (Note the metal form.)
I want to thank Jean McCord Babineaux for the following photo of the extended Smith-Rozelle-Jenkins-McCord family.  I don't have an exact date, but I'll bet it was taken in the 1950s.  The location is the front yard of the John & Hattie Lee McCord home on South Belknap.

I have a connection by marriage to this clan.  The woman on the far-right is my great aunt, Mae Kelly Smith, sister of my grandfather, Charles E. Kelly, Sr.  (I'm shocked at how much they resembled each other.)

From left: John McCord, Hattie Lee Smith McCord, Minnie Smith Jenkins, William Smith, 'Dubbo' Jenkins, Livian Smith Stowell, Monnye Smith Rozelle, Walter Smith, & Mae Kelly Smith.


I ran across the following article recently on the 'installation' of La Salle's La Belle at the Bullock Museum in Austin.  If you happen to be in the vicinity, this is another reason to stop by the Bullock, which is between the Capitol and the UT campus.

Here's a news segment from an Austin television station on a new Hispanic Heritage Tour Guid.

Finally, the link below takes you to the Texas Historical Commission's May monthly bulletin.  Note the 'Real Places, Real Stories' link.  It had some items that may interest you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Recent News and Updates

Since my last postings, I've received several items of sad news.  First, long-time Sugar Land resident, Eileen Alaminsky, passed away recently.  Click here to read an interview she and husband Lawrence did for the Brookside newsletter a few years agoClick here to view Eileen's obituary.

My thanks to Carla Daniels Meuth and Scotty Hightower Bass for notifying me that Monte Allen (DHS '66) died recently.

I want to thank Joe Bishop for letting me know that long-time Imperial employee, Bill Gordon, died recently.

My sincerest condolences go to the Alaminskys, Allens, and Gordons during their time of bereavement.  

I have another bit of bad news.  Frances Koon & Charlie Tise (both SLHS '48) lost their home and many of their personal possessions in the flooding that struck Central Texas recently.  They've lived in Wimberly near the banks of the Blanco River since Charlie retired in 2000.  Flood waters swept away their home and automobiles.  All of us who know them wish them a very speedy recovery.

Now for some updates.  Thank you, Bobby Borowski (SLHS '59) for identifying Darryl Couvillion, Kenneth Boettcher, and himself in the photo at the top right, which shows them at the 1954 Imperial Awards Banquets at the Shopping Center.

Thank you, Jackie James (SLHS '57) for identifying Evelyn Garnoski Harris (SLHS '54) and Virginia McFadden as the County Fair Queen candidates in this photo.

And I want to thank Bobby Borowski, Leon Anhaiser (SLHS '57), Travis Gandy (DHS '64), and Wayne Boehm (SLHS '55) for identifying Soapy and Stanley Borowski in the lower left of the following photo.  I certainly knew those men, but I don't remember them as being that young!

Thank you, Travis Gandy, for identifying F. H. 'Grandpa' Brock (bow tie) with his son Sparky in the middle right photo above.

We're almost finished: Wayne Boehm identified Jessie Hill (father of Bertha Hill Meloy, SLHS '57) in the following photo with Mr. Louis Bourg on the right.  They are shown working in the Pan House. 
Jessie Hill on the left and Louis Bourg on the right.

Wayne has also identified Bo Vogelsang and Nyla Baker (both SLHS '54) in the following photo.

Thanks, Wayne.

1899 Flood

We've just had a torrential rains and major flooding in the past couple of days, so I thought I'd post a few articles about the epic flood of 1899.  The come from The Houston Daily Post published on Saturday, July 8, 1899.  I clipped these images from The Portal to Texas History, which is a fantastic site for historic images.  Click here to view the entire edition.

This first image shows an artist's rendering of the railroad depot at Sartartia.  (I believe it was located west of Sugar Land roughly where the entrance to Central Unit 1 is now located.  It may have been called Walker's Station as well as Sartartia.)

The Portal to Texas History

This next image is an article about the situation in Richmond.  Just a cautionary note: these articles contain language that may seem insensitive to modern readers.

The Portal to Texas History

People and organizations across the state participated in relief efforts.

The Portal to Texas History

Subsequent editions contain stories about the harrowing condition of people stranded by the flood.  In some cases, trains with relief supplies couldn't get through.  Here's a short article about the situation in Brazoria County.  (There was almost no flood control in those days.)

The Portal to Texas History

1968 Aerial & Hidden Texas History Maps

I want to thank Bruce Grethen, one of my colleagues at the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, for showing the collection of high-resolution aerial photos in the US Geographical Survey archive.  They are terrific.

Here's a low-res version of a December 1968 aerial to orient you before viewing the high-res version.  

Click this link to view the high-res version.  It is a very large file, so it may take considerable time to load.  You get a superb view of where things stood in the southeast quadrant of Sugar Land at that time.  [Note: I just tested the link, and Google Drive doesn't do a good job of showing the magnified image at its best.  I'll see if there's a better method to store and display the image, but I'll leave this version here for now.]  The USGS has aerials of all of Fort Bend County.  I'll post more in the future.

I've wanted to post this next set of maps for a while, but the site had problems when I tested it.  I think it's working well now; click here to view it.  It's called Hidden Texas History and comes from the Texas Land Office.  They have overlaid a modern state map over several historic maps.  You move a 'key hole' viewer over the modern map to see the a selected historic map under it.  (Once you try it, all will become clear.)  

Of course, I was interested in the Austin Colony map which shows where the original leagues were located in terms of today's map.

Old Sugar Land Youngsters

Anyone recognize this member of the Class of '67 at Dulles?
Minor Miners well before they moved to Sugar Land.  [I assume that's Mike (DHS '69) on the right in the back.  Looks like they were born into a Longhorn family.]
Rozelle House on 3rd St. about 1940.  Monnye Smith Rozelle on front steps.  Carolyn McCord Williams, John Lee McCord, Monnye Alice McCord, Johnnie Beth Linnenberg, and Jean McCord Babineaux getting inspected before walking to church. (Thanks, Jean McCord Babineaux.)
Ryan Kelly (Clements HS '93) and Lauren Kelly Arnold (Clements HS '96) in the early 1980s. (Thanks, Ryan.)

This next photo is a stretch (not really Sugar Land), but it was too good to pass up.  I have almost no photos from Willowridge HS.  This one comes from an early '80s yearbook.  

Notable Persons in Texas History

The Fort Bend County Historical Commission received an inquiry from Humanities Texas recently, so I reviewed their Web site.  I had never seen it before.  Here's the link.  

The archives page had some interesting (to me) short intros to a variety of notable people in Texas history.  Here is a quick selection in case you want to investigate further.

Finally, I want to throw in the story of Claude Bracey, Rice University's (then Institute's) first Olympian.  He was a sprinter with a unique story as this newspaper article explains: click here to view the article.

This short article from a Rice newsletter includes a good photo of him running at Soldier Field in Chicago: click here to view the article.

Salt Grass Trail Ride Stops in Sugar Land in 1954

The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation's photo collection contains these photos of a group of Houston rodeo trail riders in late winter of 1954.  I did a little research, and I understand that in those early years the Salt Grass Trail Ride consisted of subgroups which would collect at a point west of Houston and ride into Memorial Park as a group - i.e., the Salt Grass Trail Riders.

The chuck wagon's sign says they are from the CU Ranch in Sugar Land.  I haven't found any info on the CU Ranch, so if anyone knows anything about it or the riders, I'd appreciate any leads.

This first images is an aerial showing Sugar Land in 1956, just a couple of years later, but it's useful in orienting you where the trail riders were when the photos were taken.

The trail riders near the Sugar Land Motor Company.

The trail riders in the big field behind the shopping center, not far from where today's post office is located on Matlage Way.

Color Photos of WWII

I want to thank Donna Christopher Baker (DHS '63) for sending me a link to these photos.  I'm sure most of us visualize WWII in black and white since a preponderance of historic images and film are in that format.