Wednesday, August 30, 2006

170 years young

H-Town, Bayou City, Space City, Clutch City, Magnolia City -- no matter what others call it, I prefer to call it my hometown.

Today, my hometown turns 170.

Some may disagree on the date, but according to the Handbook of Texas, "The city began on August 30, 1836, when Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen ran an advertisement in the Telegraph and Texas Register for the 'Town of Houston.' "

Among the townsite's amenities the Allens touted:

"Vessels from New Orleans or New York can sail without obstacle to this place, and steamboats of the largest class can run down to Galveston Island in 8 or 10 hours, in all seasons of weather."

"There is no place in Texas more healthy, having an abundance of excellent spring water, and enjoying the sea breeze in all its freshness."

"Nature appears to have designated this place for the future seat of Government. It is handsome and beautifully elevated, salubrious and well watered...."

At the time this was written, there wasn't much to the town. In fact, it barely existed at that point.

The "WPA Guide to Houston" notes that at the time, Mrs. Dilue Harris wrote:

"There was so much excitement about the city of Houston that some of the young men in our neighborhood, my brother among them, visited it. After being absent for some time they said it was hard work to find the city in the pine woods and that when they did, it consisted of one dugout canoe, a bottle gourd of whisky and a surveyor's chain and compass and was inhabited by four men with an ordinary camping outfit....

"We asked them at what hotel they had put up and whether they went to church and to the theater. They took our teasing in good part and said they were glad to get home alive. They said the mosquitoes were as large as grasshoppers...."

Some things never change, eh?


Monday, August 28, 2006

Gone, and largely forgotten (Part 2 of 3)

Ten more towns/communities.

Myrtle Turf
Rose Hill
Beaumont Place
Moonshine Hill: State marker can be found here.
Kohrville: State marker can be found here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Some fine-tuning

As you may or may not have noticed, I've added a file cabinet section to the Web site. I'll put whatever file I've created and hosted over at right for easy access.

My personal Web page has been updated. Anyone wishing to know a little more about me can check that out.

While you're there, you can also check out the little (very little) shop I've set up. If you're interested in custom-made, blank cards printed with an antique Houston postcard on the cover, then that's the place for you!

September posts will include some old pics of Blue Light Cemetery, a continued list of old Houston communities, the next Houston History Mystery, and much more.

As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 25, 2006

When the Beatles invaded Houston

They only played for 35 minutes. But during that time, they were pelted with paper, keys and jelly beans.

The Beatles put on two shows at the Sam Houston Coliseum on Aug. 19, 1965. Billed as KILT's "Sixth Annual Back-to-School Show," ticket prices were $5. Russ Knight -- The Weird Beard -- was master of ceremonies.

Much has been written about their stop in Houston. The Chronicle's coverage can be found here. Images of the tickets (and the newspaper ad seen here) can be found here.

I've provided an MP3 from the show. This file contains four minutes from a recording made from the Beatles' 3:30 p.m. show. The file fades out at the beginning of "Twist and Shout." What's important is the level of screaming inside the arena leading up to when they took the stage!

Some tidbits from the local media that covered the event:

  • John Lennon, speaking at a press conference at the Sheraton-Lincoln hotel:
"We haven't seen much of (Texas). We've only seen Dallas and here. We nearly got killed both times."

  • Some girls donned maids' uniforms to sneak into the hotel:
"We haven't hired any 14-year-olds here, though," a hotel spokesman said. "We stopped them all."

  • A gaggle of teenagers swarmed around the Beatles' chartered airplane after it landed at Houston International Airport. Some managed to walk on the wings and knock on the windows.
"They were scared to death," said Ira Sidelle, the Beatles' company manager. "They didn't want to go out unless they could have protection."

"Terrified," said Ringo Starr.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bayou City bloodshed

"We met an automobile with a white man in it. They stopped him and Sergeant (Vida) Henry told the white man to get out of the car, but he did not get out, and all the soldiers that was up in front shot the man. I judged that about 50 shots were fired at the man."

This was a sworn statement Leroy Pinkett, an Army private, gave to Houston police.

On this day in 1917, a group of soldiers assigned to Camp Logan marched down Washington Avenue, Shepherd Drive, continued along what is now West Dallas, past Montrose and stopped near Valentine Street, where Founders' Cemetery is located today. Along the way, Houston police officers fired on the troops and vice versa. A few Houstonians, curious about the commotion, were shot dead or bayoneted.

Although tensions between the soldiers and police officers had been strained since the soldiers' arrival earlier that summer, it was rumors over the treatment of an off-duty military policeman that sparked the riot. Rather than restate the specifics of what happened that evening, I've listed some other sites that go into more detail about the event below.

But let's not forget the end results.

Five Houston police officers were killed in the melee:

Rufus H. Daniels, mounted police officer
E.G. Meinke
Horace Moody
Ross Patton, mounted police officer
Ira D. Raney, mounted police officer

Four soldiers were killed:

Capt. J.W. Mattes
Sgt. Vida Henry
M.D. Everton
Bryant W.

Eight Houstonians were killed:

Eli Smith
"Senator" Satton, barber
E.M. Jones
Earl Finley, age 16
A.R. Carstens, painter
Manuel Garredo
Fred Winkler, age 19
C.W. Wright

Military tribunals indicted 118 enlisted soldiers for their part in the riot. Of those, 110 were found guilty. Nineteen mutinous soldiers were hanged, 63 received life sentences and one was judged not competent to stand trial. No white civilians were brought to trial, the Handbook of Texas reports.

Information on the riot can be found here, here, here, and here.
Information on the general who prosecuted the rioters is contained here.
Past Bayou City History posts leading up to the riot are here and here.

A list of HPD officers killed in the line of duty can be found here.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gone, and largely forgotten (Part 1 of 3)

The following communites/townships existed in Harris County at one time. Some still do, but most are likely memories at this point. More to come.

Bay Oaks
Barker: Here's a link to a state marker.
New Washington
Hamilton: "The site competed temporarily with Harrisburg for location of the Harris County seat of government..."
Pierce Junction
Eureka Mills

Monday, August 21, 2006

On the eve of violence

Relations between black soldiers stationed at Camp Logan and Houstonians (especially the police) were at a breaking point.

Earlier, two black soldiers were arrested for staying out past curfew. On Aug. 21, 1917, the Houston Press reported that a black soldier boarded a streetcar on Washington Avenue and seated himself in front of a white woman.

"When the conductor asked him to observe the Jim Crow law, he pulled a dagger," the paper reported.

The man was arrested by a deputy sheriff, according to the newspaper.

The paper also reported that 3,000 black soldiers would be stationed at Camp Logan. In light of the recent incident, Harris County District Attorney John Crooker allegedly "appealed to voters to rid the town of liquor before these negroes arrive."

Crooker was more than likely siding with the prohibition movement that was in full swing at the time. Numerous news articles were dedicated to the prohibition (pros) and anti-prohibition (antis) movements.

In that same edition of the Houston Press, an anti-prohibition band stirred up a little controversy during a performance at Main Street and Preston Avenue.

"Women with prohibition banners surrounded the musicians. The band quit playing and immediately retired to the Musicians' Club rooms," the paper reported.

But the band played on. A short time later, the band was seen playing on the balcony of the Rice Hotel.

"They gathered below the balcony...and had the band quit playing because it was calling attention to the good women with their banners," the paper continued.

And the band played on again.

"Still later, the women again discovered the band in front of the Rice and surrounded it. This time, the musicians took shelter in the Rice bar. The women picketed the place and the bandsmen left the saloon one at a time."


Friday, August 18, 2006

Stormy weather

Does anyone remember what happened in Houston on this day 23 years ago?

How about 91 years ago?

On Aug. 17, 1915, Houstonians were just beginning to survey the damage left by a category 2-3 hurricane that made landfall 26 miles southwest of Galveston. The island city suffered serious damage, but, thanks to the newly constructed seawall, damage was not as severe as the 1900 storm.

Still, Houston suffered heavy losses.

"Hardly a structure in the city was left whole. What the wind did not wreck the rain ruined," the Houston Press wrote.

Among the damage:

* Windows were blown out at City Hall (located where Market Square is today), drenching offices and overturning furniture.

* A large, 50-year-old oak tree in front of the county jail was stripped of most of its limbs.

* Signs, billboards and plate glass windows along Main Street were destroyed.

* Water damaged Mayor Ben Campbell's home.

* Windows at the Ford motor plant were shattered.

* Fences, trees and buildings at Bismark Park (location?) were demolished.

The Handbook of Texas reports 275 deaths as a result of the storm. In 2004, the National Hurricane Center ranked the storm 29th among the costliest tropical cyclones to hit the United States. Adjusted for inflation, damage from the 1915 storm totaled nearly $2 billion.

More photos from the 1915 hurricane can be found here.

More on what happened 23 years ago today can be found here and here.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Saved from suicide

No one knows her name or the reason behind her actions.

On Saturday, July 7, 1917, a 19-year-old walked inside Kipling's drugstore at Houston and Washington avenue, the Houston Press reported.

That night, the "pretty girl...asked for a bottle of strychnine, saying that she wanted it to kill a dog."

The clerk found a bottle and gave it to her. The woman took a seat at the fountain and asked the clerk for a soda. He fixed her a drink, and then he left her to tend to some other matters in the store.

"A few minutes later, he heard her groaning and found her unconscious near the soda fountain. She had placed the poison in the soda and drunk it," the paper reported.

The woman was taken by ambulance to a hospital and given antidotes.

"She was later taken to her home in Cottage Grove," the paper concluded.

Any ideas where Cottage Grove was located would be helpful.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Seven-day forecast

It seems someone lost a diary, and the folks at the Houston Daily Times were eager to find its owner.

"Several memorandums in the diary give no light as to who is the owner, but the following daily entries of the owner's wife's temper during the last week may assist the proprietor in recovering his property," the paper published, on Jan. 16, 1869.

Monday: A thick fog; no seeing through it.

Tuesday: Gloomy and very chilly; unseasonable weather.

Wednesday: Frosty, at times sharp.

Thursday: Bitter cold in the morning, red sunset, with flying clouds portending hard weather.

Friday: Storm in the morning, with pearls of thunder; clear afterwards.

Saturday: Gleams of sunshine, with a partial thaw; frost again at night.

Sunday: A slight southwester in the morning; calm and pleasant at dinner time; hurricane and earthquake at night.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Target: Houston

By 1955, the Cold War was on, and both the United States and the USSR were developing hydrogen bombs.

Houston, a city of nearly 600,000 at the time, underwent preparations in case Soviet bombers decided to drop nuclear weapons on the Bayou City.

In March of that year, the city's Civil Defense department released an evacuation map that Houstonians were urged to follow in an impending H-bomb attack. Considering the Gulf Freeway was the only freeway constructed at the time, residents likely would have faced a tough time getting out of town.

Katy Road, Hempstead Highway, Hardy Road, Mykawa, Almeda and Market were some of the roads identified as evacuation routes. All of the routes were to be one-way, outbound.

"If evacuation is ordered during daylight hours many families will undoubtedly be temporarily separated," the Houston Post wrote.

Here was a rough protocol of what to do, as published in the March 20, 1955, edition of the Post, with help from the city's Civil Defense department:

* A steady, five-minute blast from the city's air raid warning siren was a sign for every resident to tune their radio to 640 or 1240 AM. These were the CONELRAD frequencies that were allowed to operate once the alarm sounded. All other television and radio stations had to stop broadcasting. The order to commence evacuation would have been given over those two frequencies.

(CONELRAD stood for Control of Electromagnetic Radiation. Its purpose was to keep Soviet bombers from being able to home in on specific radio or television stations. By restricting broadcasts to two frequencies, it would potentially be difficult for the Soviets to single out a specific target to attack.)

* The other air raid signal (the one you never hoped to hear) was a warbling sound -- with the tone rising and falling repeatedly.

"This means that evacuation is out of the question. Enemy attack is imminent. You should take cover immediately," the Post wrote.

Motorists had to follow these tips when leaving the city:

* Pick up any persons needing transportation while stopped. Do not pick up pedestrians while your lane of traffic is moving.

* Should your car stall, it must be pushed off the road immediately and abandoned.

By the early 1960s, the chances of enemy bombers dropping bombs within the continental United States seemed pretty remote. ICBM's equipped with high-tech guidance systems posed a bigger threat. The CONELRAD system became the EBS (now EAS) system by 1963.

Freeways rendered this plan obsolete, but we know how effective freeways can be in an evacuation.

Nevertheless, here is the city's current evacuation plan.

The Federation of American Scientists produced a scenario detailing the effects of a nuclear weapon on major cities, including Houston.

More information on CONELRAD can be found here.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Houston History Mystery #2: The case of the missing flagstaff

In 1919, Houstonians had a reason to be festive.

On May 13, throngs of residents welcomed home 151 men of the 117th Supply Train, part of the 42nd Infantry Division, at Union Station.

“When the first blast of the train sounded as it hove into sight mothers, wives and sweethearts, of their own accord, took the arrangements in their own hands. They stormed the barricades set up by the police and with one grand, mad onslaught they thronged through the gates and into the enclosure where the train had stopped. And thereupon a wild rush of greeting ensued,” Houston Post reporter J.F. Carter Jr. wrote.

The men of the 117th Supply Train were part of the Texas National Guard, mustered into federal service on August 5, 1917, to fight in World War I. As part of the 42nd Division, the men fought in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and in the Argonne.

From Union Station, the soldiers were led on a parade down Crawford, then Capitol, then Fannin, north to Franklin, then Main, down to Texas Avenue and finally stopping at the city auditorium.

“The route of the parade was strewn with roses and national colors were conspicuous on almost every business establishment and residence. Traffic for the while was suspended and every point of vantage, whether it was in a tree or on the housetop, was occupied with onlookers,” Carter wrote.

Three months later, thousands showed up to mark the dedication of the Victory Flagstaff, erected in honor of World War I veterans.

“No greater response could be asked, and no more patriotism shown than when the vast crowd cheered and sang,” according to a WWI booklet (available here, PDF) from 1919.

The base of the flagstaff reads:

“Erected in recognition of our heroes who served in the world war for liberty, 1914-1918”

The booklet makes no mention of where the flagstaff was erected. One presumed location was Camp Logan, or where Memorial Park is now. But an official with The Memorial Park Conservancy says the flagstaff isn’t located there.

Maybe it was placed outside City Hall, where Market Square is today?

If anyone knows where it is located, please share!

Meanwhile, the search continues in our other missing piece of Houston history.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Famous last words?

On this date in 1917, the Houston Post gave an update as to how the military police were doing at Camp Logan.

"Military policemen are succeeding in keeping good order among the negro soldiers stationed at Camp Logan," the Post reported in its August 7 edition.

Three days earlier, the paper reported that two black soldiers were arrested for being out past their midnight curfew.

"They are N.B. Shelton and Geo. Matahews. Both were turned over to camp authorities," according to the newspaper.

This is one post in a series of entries about the tensions leading up to the Aug. 23 riot.

For more on the riot that would occur in the coming weeks, check out this Web site.

More information on the riot can be found at the Handbook of Texas Online.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Something a little more recent

Southern Media's News Music Archive is comprehensive enough to take you back to those days when Ron Stone ruled Houston's airwaves, Marvin Zindler took on the Chicken Ranch and Dominique Sachse was probably a toddler.

Personally, I think KTRK had the best news themes. Many, though, sound quite dated. Check for yourself!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A rodent problem

From the Dec. 24, 1842, edition of the Houston Morning Star:

RATS -- These mischievous creatures are becoming quite numerous and troublesome in many parts of the city. They may be easily destroyed by placing a little arsenic mixed with meal near the holes or in the rooms they frequent. They will readily eat the poisoned meal and go off and die in their holes. The weather is so cold and the air so pure at this season, that no injury will result by destroying them in this manner.

Oh, one last sentence:

Great care should be taken to prevent children from tasting the poison.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hillendahl (Blue Light) Cemetery (Part 2 of 3)

In addition to the names listed last time, a few others were buried at the western Harris County cemetery after the 1870s:

John Grisbee
George Grisbee
William Addicks: Likely dragged to death by a horse
Eliza Jane Keely
Samuel Quade
Clara Kobs: Died at the age of 6
Son Kobs: Date of birth unknown, location of grave unknown
Emil Fritz Brandt: Thought to have been buried there after losing his battle to cancer caused by chewing tobacco.
Conrad Hillendahl: Born 1890, died 1890
George Hillendahl: April 6, 1872 -- Jan. 30, 1881
George Hillendahl: March 21, 1847 -- 1915
Dina Sauer Hillendahl: 1850 -- 1896

The number of people buried there is not known. Years ago, a group of Boy Scouts placed some index card-sized plaques at the cemetery for identification. Finding an original headstone or marker these days isn't likely since vandals either destroyed or stole them.

(Contributed photo, late 1970s)