From the Mudflats of 1836 the Allen Brothers and their Dreamtown

The Allen Brothers bought a bog, named it after General Sam Houston, and the rest is history in the making

Mosquitoes, snakes, mudflats, tangled undergrowth, a wilderness with a somewhat nondescript bayou meandering along.

Main Street, Houston, Texas.

Main Street, Houston, Texas.

Hardly the sort of place anyone would expect to become an almost futuristic city of gleaming towers rising toward the sky, and well over a 3.88 million residents.  Not the likeliest-looking place to locate what would become, in the short span of little more than 176 years, officially the United States’ fourth largest city.

In 1836, the United States itself was far from being the international leader it would become: the State of Texas wasn’t even in existence.  The unlikely-looking spot, in fact, was a part of what had just become a brand new Republic and had won its independence from Mexico only four months earlier.

But this was where two New York real estate promoters—the Brothers J. K. and A. C. Allen—decided to start a new town.  They paid the large sum of $9,428 (only $1,000 of it in cash) for 6,642 acres of land situated at the head of navigation on the west bank of the Buffalo Bayou. Continue reading

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176th Anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto

San Jacinto Day Ceremony

San Jacinto Day is the celebration of the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

It was the final battle of the Texas Revolution where Texas won its independence from Mexico. It is an official holiday in the State of Texas. On this field on April 21, 1836 the Army of Texas commanded by General Sam Houston, and accompanied by the Secretary of War, Thomas J. Rusk, attacked the larger invading army of Mexicans under General Santa Anna. The battle line from left to right was formed by Sidney Sherman’s regiment, Edward Burleson’s regiment, the artillery commanded by George W. Hockley, Henry Millard’s infantry and the cavalry under Mirabeau B. Lamar. Sam Houston led the infantry charge.

With the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” the Texans charged. The enemy taken by surprise, rallied for a few minutes then fled in disorder. The Texans had asked no quarter and gave none. The slaughter was appalling, victory complete, and Texas free! On the following day General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna, self-styled “Napoleon of the West,” received from a generous foe the mercy he had denied Travis at the Alamo and Fannin at Goliad.

The State of Texas erected a fitting monument to her heroes in the construction of the historic San Jacinto Battleground and Monument, which is located about twenty miles southeast of Houston. In the year 1836, Texas gained her independence in a decisive victory over the Mexican forces led by General Santa Anna.

As part of the San Jacinto Battlefield, the monument was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960, and therefore automatically listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designated an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1992.

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The Lancaster Hotel’s 85th Anniversary

To commemorate the 85th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Lancaster Hotel, which is located in the heart of Houston’s Theater District, the downtown hotel recently published postcards that give a glimpse of the Houston landmark’s earlier days.

Over the its many years of service The Lancaster has hoasted business guests from all over the world but few may know that the hotel was originally named the Auditorium Hotel and was built in 1926  just across the street from the City Auditorium, which is now the current site of Jones Hall.

In 1982, the hotel was remodeled and reopened as The Lancaster, Houston’s first boutique hotel. The hotel was one of the few luxury hotels available in downtown Houston. When it opened it boasted that each room had its own bath, ceiling fan, and circulating ice water. The combination of a new luxury hotel next to the City Auditorium raised the profile of the surrounding blocks.

The Auditorium Hotel Groundbreaking Ceremony

The Auditorium Hotel Groundbreaking Ceremony

It was originally designed by architect Joseph Finger and built by Houston investor and real estate developer, Michele DeGeorge. DeGeorge, an Italian immigrant, is pictured to the right of then Mayor of Houston, Oscar F. Holcombe. To his left are Dupree Fountain, the Hotel’s Manager (1926-31) and Joseph Finger, architect of the DeGeorge Hotel, 1913 and the Auditorium Hotel in 1926.

Austrian-born and prominent local architect Joseph Finger designed the Italian-Renaissance hotel’s upper floors to match the City Auditorium, which was located on Texas Ave. Oscar Holcombe was Houston’s longest-serving mayor and Dupree Fountain was the hotel’s first manager.

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A Day of Remembrance

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Imperial Sugar Company History

Imperial Sugar

Imperial Sugar

Imperial Sugar Company holds the number one position in refined sugar in the United States, with a market share of about 33 percent. The company refines raw cane sugar at four facilities in Texas, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana, and processes beet sugar at 11 processing plants in California, Wyoming, Montana, and Michigan. Its line of sugar products includes several well-known regional brands: Imperial Sugar (Southwest), Dixie Crystals (Southeast), Pioneer Sugar (Great Lakes region), Holly Sugar (intermountain West), and Spreckels Sugar (California). The company also sells sugar under private labels and markets the Wholesome Foods brand, the national leader in organic sweeteners. In addition to its sugar operations, Imperial Sugar derives about one-quarter of its revenues from its foodservice business, which sells a variety of nonsugar products–from drink mixes to plastic cutlery–restaurants, healthcare institutions, schools, and other entities. Imperial Sugar traces its history back to 1843, when a sugar refinery was erected on a small sugar plantation in Sugar Land, Texas. The fledgling sugar enterprise grew as the nation grew, adopted the name Imperial Sugar Company during the early 20th century, then merged in 1988 with Holly Sugar Company–a beet sugar producer with roots stretching back to 1905–form Imperial Holly Corporation. Following the acquisitions of Spreckels Sugar Company in 1996, Savannah Foods & Industries, Inc. in 1997, and Wholesome Foods L.L.C. and Diamond Crystal Specialty Foods, Inc. in 1998, the company changed its name back to Imperial Sugar Company in 1999.

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Thanksgiving Day Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another year has rolled around since last the American people observed that beautiful and time honored custom which is peculiar to them as a Nation of offering to the Great Ruler of all Nations the formal expression of their gratitude for His continued favors.

Last year the country had just emerged victoriously from war in behalf of civilization and humanity. Our losses had been comparatively slight, the chains of despotism had been stricken from the limbs of millions of human beings and American prestige had grown greatly in all quarters of the earth. Thanksgiving day, 1898, was, therefore, an occasion on which, particularly, the American repbulic could acknowledge its obligations anew and with heartfelt gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.

Today we still have the watchful care and the material bounties of a Divine Providence to be thankful for. Prosperity in our worldly affairs has continued to follow us as a people. No great calamity has overtaken us within the year which closes today; we have been free from famine, from virulent pestilence, or widespread visitations of disaster. The uniform progress and the good fortune which have been ours in the past we have continued to enjoy for the twelve months just gone. As a Nation, therefore, especially favored by Providence, we still have occassions to offer up grateful hearts and hopeful prayers to Him who holds in the hollow of His hand the destinies of Nations as of individuals.

But have we done our duty as a people, fully and unselfishly and in accord with justice, while enjoying these continued evidences of Divine favor? There are hundreds of thousands of us who question our National conduct during the past year. Have we not abused our power, given us for wise ends? Have we not violated that basic tenet of Christian faith that we should do unto others only as we would that they should do unto us? As surely as there is a God of Nations, retributive justice will sooner or later overtake and chastise us as a people if we forget the high purposes of our destiny or turn from the paths of honor, probity and humanity!

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Houston’s Early Fire Company

Even before Houston became a city, in name at least, by obtaining a charter, steps were taken to organize a fire company.

Firemen posing with hose equipment.

Houston's Station 3 Fire Company, cira 1889

In 1836, Protection Fire Company No. 1 was organized. That was perhaps the first organization of the kind in Texas. They had no engine or anything with which to fight fire, except buckets, and their method was a primitive one of forming a line and passing the buckets from hand to hand. As crude as this method was, much good was accomplished, because executed by an organized force rather than an excited mob.

Protection Company No. 1 preserved its organization and identity, until the old volunteer department was absorbed by the city and became the present day department. In the early fifties this company bought its first engine. It was an old-fashioned hand engine, but at that day was looked upon as a grand affair. It was a vast improvement on buckets, at any rate, and did a great deal of good work.

Houston was growing rapidly at that time and the demand for better fire protection was becoming more apparent each day. The whole city being constructed of wood, and the houses, in the business part of the town, being jumbled close together, the fire risk became very great. The imperative need of better protection was accentuated in 1858-59 by the occurrence of two great fires, one sweeping away the block bounded by Main, Franklin, Travis and Congress Streets and the other, the block bounded by Main, Congress, Travis and Preston Streets. In addition to these there was another big fire that destroyed a number of buildings on both sides of Main Street between Texas Avenue and Capitol Avenue.

In 1860, the warehouse of T. W. Whitmarsh, containing 2,100 bales of cotton, was burned. When the first of these great fires occurred, a number of young men met and formed Houston Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. This company was organized April 17, 1858. Its first officers were: Foreman, Frank Fabj; 1st assistant, E. L. Bremond; 2nd assistant, O. J. Conklin; president, Henry Sampson; vice-president, Fred A. Rice; secretary, Wm. M. Thompson; treasurer, S. H. Skiff. The charter members were: J. C. Baldwin, C. A. Darling, Frank H. Bailey, I. C. Stafford, Ed. Riodan, R. W. Bowling, Pete Schwander, Paul Schwander, George A. Peck, W. S. Owens, Charles Nordhausen, John S. Hirshfield, J. L. Talman, R. B. Wilson, J. D. McNulty and John W. Clark. The company entered at once into active service and accomplished great good through their well-directed and intelligent efforts.

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Houston’s Early Peace Officers

Houston Police Department

Houston Police Department

In early days, when a man’s reputation for personal courage, honesty of purpose and a bulldog determination to do his duty was established, he was recognized as fit material out of which to make a peace officer. It was the man’s personality, rather than his ability as a businessman, or his ability as an executive officer that counted. The only executive ability demanded of him was that he be “quick on the draw” and expert in the use of his pistol. The early peace officer had no regular deputies nor had he a “force.” He was the whole thing himself, and on occasions when he needed assistance, he could, and did call on any citizen or citizens to help him. In a newly settled place like Houston in the early days, there were a number of rough and desperate characters. Against such men as these, a weakling or a man who did not have a reputation for coolness and for a bravery vastly superior to their own, would have been worse than useless and would have really added to the criminal record by offering himself up as a sacrifice to the outlaws.

In the very early days police affairs were in the hands of the sheriff, and this condition prevailed for sometime after Houston had become a chartered city. In 1840 or 1841, Captain Newt. Smith, one of the heroes of San Jacinto, was elected city marshal and served as such until 1844, when Captain Billy Williams was elected to succeed him. In the late forties Captain R. C. Boyce was elected city marshal and held office for a number of years. The city marshal’s office was no sinecure. From 1840 to 1860, Houston was at times, particularly about election times and on days of public gatherings, what one might call in the vernacular a little “wild and woolly.” On such occasions both the sheriff and marshal had their hands full. There were numerous desperate characters here, whiskey was cheap and plentiful and the wonder is that there were so few tragedies. It is a remarkable fact that none of the three men who served as marshal during that troublesome period ever had to kill a man. It was not because they were not perfectly prepared and willing to do so should occasion arise, and it was possibly a knowledge of that fact, on the part of the desperadoes, that caused them not to offer resistance when the officers went after them. At the close of the war, Mr. I. C. Lord was city marshal and his administration was far more strenuous than any that preceded it. This was due to the generally disrupted condition of society; to the fact that the town was full of returned Confederate soldiers, Federal soldiers, newly freed Negroes and worthless white men, known as “scalawags” and “carpet-baggers,” who did all in their power to stir up strife between the white people and the Negroes. Killings were of frequent occurrence, and the police figured in the large majority of them.

As bits of police history are always interesting the following are given here as characteristic. They are taken from an old book at police headquarters, called the “Time Book,” dated 1882. A record on the first page reveals the fact that the police force in 1882, consisted of a chief, a deputy chief and six patrolmen, the latter divided into a night and a day relief. Charles Wichman was chief, or city marshal, and W. W. Glass was deputy chief. W. H. Smith and F. W. McCutchin were the day force, while B. F. Archer, Jack White, James Daily and Nat Davis were the night force. All of these old officers are dead.

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First President of the Republic of Texas

Sam Houston

On this day, Sept. 5, 1836, Sam Houston, the victor of San Jacinto, was elected president of the newly founded Republic of Texas. Candidates for the office had included Henry Smi…. to read the rest of this post please join the Community!

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The Town of Houston

 Brothers John K. Allen and Augustus C. Allen

Situated at the head of navigation on the west bank of Buffalo Bayou, is now for the first time brought to public notice; because, until now, the proprietors were not ready to offer it to the Public with the advantages of Capital and improvements.

The town of Houston is located at a point on the river which must ever command the trade of the largest and richest portions of Texas. By reference to the map, it will be seen that the trade of  San Jacinto, Spring Creek, New Kentucky, and the Brazos, above and below Fort Bend, must necessarily come to this place, and will at this time warrent the employment of at least $1,000,000 of capital; and when the rich lands of this country shall be settled a trade will flow to it, making it beyond all doubt the greatest commercial emporium of Texas. Continue reading

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