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Monday, October 31, 2016

News & Updates

Congratulations to the First Presbyterian Church of Sugar Land, which celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, October 9th! I had the pleasure of attending the service and took some video, which I hoped to have done by now, but time grew short. I'll have it done next time.

I also attended a recent groundbreaking ceremony at San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site near Sealy. They will begin constructing a new museum soon. It was a grand event, which I enjoyed. I and everyone else in the audience were particularly enthused by 4th graders from Austin Elementary School in Lamar CISD.

Click this link for a news video of the event.

You still have time to get tickets and sponsorships for the Speakeasy Fundraiser for the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. Click the image below for ticket information.

If you prefer to see their Facebook page, click this link
If you can handle even more fun, you might try this fundraiser for the Fort Bend County Historical Commission on Tuesday evening, November 15th in Fulshear.

Dulles High School News

Congratulations to Dulles High School's Class of '66, who celebrated their 50th anniversary last weekend. I hear they had a great time seeing old classmates and friends. I enjoyed seeing several of them during their planning meetings and hope to see them again soon.

Click the image below to see a selection of photos from their big night.
Congrats to the Class of '71 who also celebrated a big anniversary - their 45th! (I remember when they were kiddies.) Click the image below for a few pix from their blow out.

I recently reconnected with one of my classmates, Orval Scott (DHS '68). He had two photos that I want to post here.

The first shows Orval and his wife, possibly on their wedding day. I recognize Orval's parents in the background. 
 Mr. & Mrs. Orval Scott
The next shows our 8th grade football team at Sugar Land Junior high in the fall of 1963.  Great stuff.
 SLJH 8th grade football team, 1963.

A Survey of the Imperial Mill's Former Location

My colleague on the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, Bruce Grethen, did this work a few months ago. I saved it thinking I would collect additional supplemental information, but I haven't had a chance to do that. It's such a good example of the work he does for our Cemetery and Historic Preservation Committees, that I didn't want to delay any longer.

First a little background on the Imperial Mill. It was a sugar mill built in 1883 by Ambrose Littleberry Ellis and Edward H. Cunningham. At that time, Ellis owned the Sartartia Plantation, roughly the area covered by the old Central Units (former prison farm), New Territories, Telfair, and the land south of I-69 where the new Smart Financial Center is under construction. Cunningham owned Sugar Land and the land surrounding it, including what became the Imperial Sugar refinery. 

They formed a partnership and built the Imperial Mill behind Nalco's present location. More precisely, it was located on the south bank of Oyster Creek across from Constellation Park.  It burned to the ground in late 1913.

It's a little-known site, but important to the growth of Imperial Sugar - even though it had a brief operating life. We'd like to do an archeological survey sometime in the future if it's possible. What you'll see is the preliminary work Bruce has done.

First I want to show the only photo we now have of the mill.  (I've posted it before.) As you can see it was surprisingly large.
A 1909 westward view of the Imperial Mill in the background.
Note the split in the dual tracks. It will help locate the exact position of the camera in later images.

The first step in Bruce's analysis is a 1953 aerial photo of the vicinity. He's overlayed it with the old Sugar Land RR, which ran west of Sugar Land. You can see Central Unit 1 near the middle of the photo. The general layout of the mill is colored red in the middle of the right half of the image.
Next you see he has added a 1912 survey of the area, which was useful because it gave him precise survey coordinates.

The next image shows a magnification the mill's location on the 1912 survey map.
This image shows the magnified area with georeferenced detail from a Sanborn insurance map.
Next we see the georeferenced detail projected on a 1953 aerial photo. Notice the cotton gin, depicted on the Sanborn map, is included.
Bruce also overlayed the detail on a 1968 aerial photo. You can see that Highway 6 (2-lanes) has been constructed.
The last image shows the 1912 georeferenced detail on a 2012 aerial. What a difference 100 years makes.
Now you can see that the camera in the 1909 photo, near the split in the rails, was located on what is now Sugar Land Municipal Airport property. (The cotton gin must have been constructed between 1909 and 1912 since it doesn't appear in the photo but does appear in the Sanborn map.)

I was surprised that the camera was that far west.  I had guessed it was on the east side of Highway 6. 

Recent Changes.in The Hill Section of Old Sugar Land

Thanks to Tommy Laird (DHS '67) and David Mutina (DHS '70) for sending me a few photos of recent renovations in The Hill section of old Sugar Land. The first one shows the late Rosie Syblik Hansen's home after it was demolished. I'm using Google Maps to determine the street addresses. It says this house was at 115 6th St.

115 6th St. in Sugar Land

The next two photos show the Mutina family home a few yards to the west (toward Main St.) at 107 6th St. The remodeling looks very nice.

107 6th St. before renovation

107 6th St. after renovation

US & TexasHistory

Thank you Bettye Anhaiser for donating this historic newspaper to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. I've forgotten where she found it, but it's good item. Notice it comes from the final edition of The Houston Post published on December 8th, 1941. I'll post more from this paper when we get closer to the historic day.

The Houston Post, December 8, 1941

If any of you are Facebook users, I highly recommend the Traces of Texas Page. Lots of interesting things there; these two items for example.

The Traces of Texas quote of the day comes from legendary rancher Charles Goodnight:

"When the Indians robbed houses they invariably took all the books they could find, using the paper to pack their shields. They knew, as well as we did, the resistance paper has against bullets. Paper offered more resistance to a bullet than anything to be had upon the frontier, unless it was cotton. The Indians knew this and stole all the books and paper they could find ...

Their shield was made by forming a circular bow of wood two or three feet across, over each side of which was drawn untanned buffalo hide from the neck of the buffalo, the toughest and thickest they cold get. They filled between the hide with paper. In times of action, the Indian had this on his elbow and always aimed to keep it at an angle between you and him. Very few of the old fashioned rifles would penetrate these shields. The rifle I carried then [1861], and still have, would knock a hole right through them at any angle. I once shot an Indian down on the Quitaque. I did not kill him, but he dropped his shield. Between the folds of hide was a complete history of Rome, and the boys had considerable fun passing the sheets around and reading them.

----- Charles Goodnight, as quoted in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Review, 1928
The next item is rather long, but worth the effort. It's an interview published in 1902 of a woman who was 104-years old at the time. Her name was 'Grandma Ziff' Dockery.  What a character.

 'Grandma Ziff' Dockery (photo from Traces of Texas)
 Shady Grove Cemetery, Pattonville, Texas (photo from Traces of Texas)

Click this link to read her 1901 newspaper article

Saturday, October 15, 2016

News & Updates

As is too often the case, I have sad news to report. I want to thank Ike Hestrie for notifying me that Lee Foy passed away recently. Here is a link to his obituary. I know several members of the Foy family; in fact, Freddie was in my class at Dulles ('68). I'll try to determine how Lee was related to them.

Some of you may remember Robert 'Bo' Harrison who taught at Dulles in the late '60s. (He was Coach Dugan Hightower's nephew.) He too passed away recently.  Click here to view an obituary.

(from the 1968 Dulles Viking yearbook)

A few real old timers (like me) may remember Frank White, a founder of Parker Music Co. in Houston. He sometimes substituted for A. C. Hart, Sugar Land Junior High Band Director, and James Gary, Dulles High Band Director. He passed away recently. I didn't realize he was a Sugar Land resident for so many years. Click here to read an obituary.

Bettye Anhaiser noted the recent death of 93-year old Lillie Sontag, a 30-year resident of Sugar Land. I'm not certain how she's related to the Sontag's I know, but I presume she is related to them. Click here to read her obituary.

My sincerest condolences to the Foy, Harrison, White and Sontag families for the loss of their loved ones. God bless them all.

I want to highlight a Kempner High School student's project to honor my old school, now known as Lakeview Elementary. Vianca Jiminez (KHS '16) has created a garden to celebrate the campus's 100th anniversary in 2018, and as a result, she's won a Girl Scout Gold Award. Congratulations to her! Click here to read a Houston Chronicle article on her project.

I also want to mention a correction Charles Farrugia (Clements '90) sent me about the item I posted on his great uncle Alvin Kadlecek. I mistakenly said Gloria was his sister, but actually, she's his mother (formerly Gloria Solomon). I'm sure I know some of Charles's aunts and uncles, but I can't place his mother. Anyway, I want to thank them both for that information. It's a great story.


Finally, I have a few announcements. The first is an invitation to the next meeting of the Fort Bend Archeological Society. (Sorry to give such short notice.) It's on Tuesday, October 18th at 7:00 pm in the Gus George Academy in Richmond.) The guest speakers are Linda Gorski and Louis Aulback of the Houston Archeological Society. Their presentation is "Along the Aurelian Wall - Rome in Ruins - A Self-Guided Walk." If you are interested in archeology, let me know, and I'll give you details on their regular meetings.  

Click the image below to view the latest FBAS monthly newsletter.
Linda Gorski & Louis Aulbach.
Last but not least, the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation is having a speakeasy-themed fundraiser on Thursday, November 10th. Click the image below to get all the details. I'll have more on this in the future.
A scene from the 2015 SLHF Speakeasy Fundraiser.

More People of Old Sugar Land

Thank you, Kristin Lytle, for posting this photo on Facebook and alerting me that today is Frankie McFadden's 86th birthday.  Congratulations, Mr. McFadden (SLHS '48).

Way back in 1947.

Some of you may know I'm a graduate of Rice University. I enjoy reading a Rice history blog that comes out daily. I was surprised recently to see a Sugar Land Gator turn up in the blog. The person in question is fellow Rice alum, George Salmon (SLHS '52), who had a remarkable career on Rice's track teams of the mid 1950s. If you'll click on the image below, you'll view the article. Scroll down to the third photo, and you'll see George, other members of a relay team with Emmett Brunson, Rice's famed track coach. They are standing on the track at old Rice stadium.

I've found the following images Facebook and took the liberty of reposting them here.  Thanks to everyone who contributed them.

The first shows Pam Schmidt Moore (DHS '64) on the right with sister Sabrina Schmidt Rust (DHS '72) at the '64 Texas Prison Rodeo in Huntsville.

The following photos shows the wedding party at Janice Jenkins (DHS '68) and Dexter Girard's nuptials. I don't know the date,  location, or all the people in the photo, but I do recognize Janice's two daughters on the far left, I don't know who the young girl is, but that's Janice, Dexter, Robert Allen (DHS '68), then a man I don't recognize, and Gary Horstmann (Janice's brother-in-law) on the far right.
The next photos shows members of Dulles High's Class of '65 enjoying themselves recently. From left to right that's Sherry Howard Davis, Diane Broughton Lundell, Joan Davis Kendrick, and Pat Schiller Bono.

The final image shows members of Dulles High's Class of '66 at the 2008 Mega Reunion.  I'll let you guess who is who.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Texas History: Galveston & the Alamo

I received the following note from Wanda Skidmore Benge (DHS '69) after I posted the videos of the 1900 Galveston Storm.

Your story about the infamous Galveston Hurricane reminded me of Ron's (Wanda's husband's) grandfather. Thaddeus Parsons, was a General Contractor on Galveston Island.
Thad hauled granite from the Texas Hill Country to build the Galveston Seawall. He invented a dump trailer to haul and dump the granite much easier, and he received a patent for this trailer. 
So, when you see that pink granite in the Galveston Seawall, it came from the Texas Hill Country. Thad was originally from Center Point, TX, in the Hill Country.
Of course, I think, he was a very handsome man. (See the first photo below.) And, I married one of his handsome grandsons. He had 14 children and 39 grandchildren.
Thad Parsons, bought (the home shown in the second photo) in March 1928 and owned it until 1967. It was one of the few homes that survived in infamous 1900 Hurricane. It sits behind Sacred Heart Catholic Church and they think the church protected this particular home. Hence, the reason Thad purchased this home for his large family of 14 children.
This home was designed by the premier architect of Galveston Island, when it was constructed in 1876. Nicholas Clayton built this home originally for the Lemuel Burr Family.
The current owners, the Floyd Pollock Family have completely restored this home to its originally glory. It is a historical home and sometimes it is on the Galveston Home Tour.
Every Mother's Day weekend and the weekend before, approximately 10 homes are on the Tour. A VERY fun tour to go on with your Mother, friend, etc
This home is considered one of the most beautiful homes in the entire Southern USA. It is a quite lovely old home. The Pollocks have outdone themselves with the restoration to this home.
It is now 140 years old. Still standing and people still living in it on a daily basis. It has survived many hurricanes as Ron's grandfather had hoped.
Thad Parsons.

Former Parsons Home.
I read the following article about Adina de Zavala on the Texas General Land Office Web site. Her story is not well-know but should be. Click here to read the article

Researching Local History: The Fulshear Race Track

Where was Churchill Downs?
by Bruce Grethen, Fort Bend County Historical Commissioner

I am certainly not the first to be interested in this question. I ran across some clues through my work at the Fort Bend County Historical Commission and thanks to the help of local historians. I believe we are much closer to solving this puzzle.


In 1850 the Fulshear, Texas area was a small agricultural community centered around the Fulshears' cotton gin and flour mill. The Fulshear area was less populated than Pittsville located three miles to the northwest. In 1888 Churchill Fulshear, Jr. granted the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway a right-of-way through his land. Many families moved to the developing Fulshear community from Pittsville, which had refused the railroad, and in 1890 the town of Fulshear was laid out and granted a post office.

Churchill Downs

From 1850 to 1870, after his father and brothers had all died, Churchill Fulshear, Jr. operated a race course called Churchill Downs on the family plantation in Fort Bend County. It is believed that it was located on land that is now in the northern part of the City of Fulshear. His pupil, John Huggins, won world fame by training the first American horse to win the English Derby. Click here to read Bruce Grethen's entire article.

More Images of Very Old Sugar Land

The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation's photo archive contains an album of very old photos, which appear to date from 1908 to 1910. There are no annotations, but the first of these photos is very similar to one that appeared in The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer Gazette in February 1908. Click here to view the article.
East side of Imperial Refinery around 1908.

Approximate view of 1908 photo.

View of old Sealy Mattress Factory at Main & Hwy. 90A around 1915.

View of scene shown above as it appears today.

View of the Imperial Inn on the east bank of Oyster Creek at Hwy. 90A around 1908.

View of scene shown above as it appears today.

View of Salvage Building at Main St. and Hwy. 90A around 1908

View of scene shown above as it appears today.

Monday, September 19, 2016

News & Updates

Unfortunately, the first item is sad news that skipped my notice until Brenda Albers Miles notified me a couple of weeks ago. Duane Phillips (SLHS '52) and his wife Sarah died in a car accident in West Texas late last month.  Click here to read an obituary.  I didn't know him and was intrigued by their interesting experiences - for example sailing their boat from Chesapeake Bay to Corpus Christi after he retired from IBM.

Duane Phillips, 1952.

My high school classmate Marsha Krause Smith is a good friend of Duane's sister-in-law Margaret Dierks Phillips.  (She was married to Duane's older brother Rufus.)  Margaret told Marsha the story about Duane climbing the old water tower and painting "Srs. '52" on it.  It was there for years -- I clearly remember it. As Margaret said, everyone knew he was the culprit because he was the only kid crazy enough to do it.

Old timer B. I. Webb (SLHS '51) told me the story a few years ago. He corroborated what Margaret said, but added another detail. Duane told B. I. that he found dozens of duck bills scatter on the walkway around the tower. Hawks nested up there, and apparently, ducklings were their regular cuisine. If you've seen Randy Koslovsky's 2014 video of the water tower (taken with his drone), you'll see a hawk perched on the tower's railing.

I extend my sincerest condolences to the Phillips family, which includes Carole Phillips Bossley (SLHS '56) as well as Margaret.

David Wickersham (DHS '63) related another incident in which Sugar Landers serving in the military met by chance far away from home. When he was outbound to Vietnam back in the '60s he had a layover at a California airport. He walked into a snack bar and met Dulles classmate, Billy Ernest, who had just returned from Vietnam!

Tracey Matlage Calvert pointed out that her mother Virginia (Mrs. W. T. Matlage, Jr.) is the teacher on the far right of this photo.  I didn't realize she taught at one of the elementary schools for Hispanic children.

Grand Central School 1st grade, 1939/40.
And last but not least, I wanted to mention that all friends of DHS Class of '66 can buy tickets to their reunion set for October 22nd. (There are 20 or so tickets left.)  Click here to see an earlier post with all the details

While helping the Class of  '66 with their upcoming reunion, I found a few amusing items from the 2003 multi-class reunion.
A short video of Dulles Cheerleaders & Twirlers entertaining classmates & leading the Dulles Fight Song.

A few photos from the 2003 Dulles Multi-Class Reunion.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Captain Brooks

Several people remembered the Brooks home on Dam Road along the east bank of Brooks Lake. I posted a 1980 photo last time. (Of course, Dam Road is gone, and it's now Lake Pointe Parkway.)

Bettye Anhaiser met Marjery Brooks Ashford, younger daughter of Captain Brooks, many years ago. She interviewed Marjery and collected some of her photos. Her recollections of old Sugar Land are fascinating. I've posted a few of her photos, which you can see by clicking the image below.

Here is a brief summary of Captain Brooks's life.  You can also click this link to read a a newspaper article on one of two attempts on his life. (Apparently, the Brooks family lived in Victoria before moving to Sugar Land.)

Captain Brooks
Captain Brooks (in white shirt) showing potato crop in Sugar Land. Date is uncertain. Location is probably the rail loading dock behind the old Mercantile Store.

More People of Old Sugar Land

My brother Bruce and I had an opportunity to attend a Smith family reunion for the first time last weekend.  We had a great time and enjoyed a chance to meet some distant relatives.

The extended Smith family includes the Jenkins, Rozelle, and McCord families -- quite a few people in old Sugar Land. The matriarchs of those families (Minnie Jenkins, Monnye Rozelle, and Hattie McCord) were Smith sisters. They had more than one brother, but one (Walter) is where the Kelly family enters the picture. Our grandfather's sister Letha Mae Kelly married Walter. Mae and my grandfather (Charles or Chuck) were orphaned at a very young age and were estranged, so Bruce and I weren't really aware of our connection to the Smith family for many years.

Click on the image below to view a few photos from the reunion.  (Mae Kelly Smith was grandmother to the Stowells and Irvans, so that's why we're grouped together in one of the photos.) 

We're looking forward to the next one.
Betty Ann Williams, Claudia Rozelle Thornhill, & Ray Babineaux at the Smith family reunion on September 10, 2016.  (They are all DHS Class of '71.)