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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Old Timer Visits Sugar Land in 1920

I've mentioned several times before that Sugar Land had a local paper from June 1917 to sometime in the early 1930s.  It name changed at least once (I think), but its early name was the Texas Farm and Industrial News.

Jane McMeans has donated a microfilm reel of copies printed from June 1917 to May 1920.  It's not a complete set, and one of my goals is to collect as many issues as possible.  Based on what I've seen so far, they are an invaluable record of the town's history.

Anyway, I found the brief article below in an issue printed in 1920.  It recounts the reminiscences of R. Y. Secrest on a return visit to Sugar Land after a 42-year absence.

As you can see, it's very difficult to read.  I've included a transcript below, although there were a few words I couldn't make out. I made a few corrections to clarify the text.

Note that Walker Station, called Sartartia Station in 1920, was the main shipping point in the area back in the 1870s.  Secrest remembered the Terry-Kyle sugar mill and the layout of the town.  (Actually, it probably wasn't even a town at that time.)  Also notice his description of how they made sugar before the days of modern refining.  (N.B.: A hogshead is a large wooden barrel.)

Afer 42 Years He Visits Sugar Land

R.Y. Secrest Finds Contrasts
Here Since He Went Away

Remembers When Walker Station Was
the Post Office and Finds One of
His Playmates Still Here

Back in the days when the station now called Sartartia was called Walker Station, and when the Sugar Land of the present shipped through Walker Station by means of a spur track connection, R. Y. Secrest left this vicinity.  That was forty-two years ago.  We hear he came back to Sugar Land for the first time since then.  He was welcomed by T. J. Hodge, (?) Oyster Creek veteran who for (74?) years has dwelt in this vicinity since he was born. Mr. Secrest is (?) years younger than Mr. Hodge.  They played together (?) boys (?) the long ago. The visitor hoped to find Mrs. Betty Shamblin and Mrs. Emma McLaughlin with whom he used to go to parties, when they were the Misses Fields, daughters of W. D. Fields.  They now live at distances too remote for Mr. Secrest to make during his few hours here.

Mr. Secrest paid his respects to Miss Vera Teague of the Imperial Bank and Trust Company whose family he has known for many years at Georgetown and whose cousin married his son, P. G. Secrest, a jeweler at Bay City.

Mr. Secrest recalled many events of long ago in this vicinity.  His father, Felix G. Secrest, was the first agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad here.  He succeeded his father and administered the affairs of Walker Station for seven years, "allotting' cars to Sugar Land, which then used as many as three or four each week.  There was a brick sugar house here owned by R. G. Kyle and B. F. Terry, the latter for more than 50 years famous as the commander of Terry's Texas Rangers.  The post office was then at Walker Station.

Plantation sugars were made by a system of open kettles or vats.  After the sugar had been placed in hogheads, these were set on poles above the vats and permitted to "leak," the "leakings" again going through the sugar making process.  In those days W. P. Quigg had just purchased what is now the Harlem farm from a Mr. McMann.  The Thatcher, Borden and Brevard places down Oyster Creek were land marks of the times.  Killing deer was easy, and there was plenty of small game and lots of good fishing.

At Sugar Land the negro quarters extended down what is now the shaded avenue of Eldridge Park.  These, the sugar house and the foreman's residence, which stood near the railroad track, made up the Sugar Land buildings of these times.

Mr. Secrest married Miss Hettie Dunlavy on October 9, 1873, and their six children all reside in Texas, all the way from the Red River eastern (boundary) to the Rio Grand western boundary.