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Bay City Hotels

 Bay-Tex Hotel                     The Big House                Nuckols Hotel               Nuckols House                     Mayfield Hotel    

Photos of Como Motel and Starland Motel

Hotels Become Landmarks

Shortly after Bay City was founded in October, 1894, John Nuckols built the town's first hotel. Adjacent to the two-story Nuckols House, situated on the west side of the square, was a vegetable and flower garden.

Two additional hotels were erected that same year. The Rowlett House, situated on Avenue F, was a two-story, 24'x60', wooden structure owned by N. H. Rowlett. In 1895 Rowlett sold the hotel to C. L. J. Sisk. Before the turn of the century, Sisk traded the Rowlett House to J. S. Gillett for 312 acres of land at Big Hill.

Shortly after completion of the Rowlett House, a third hotel was established under the management of Mrs. William E. Austin. The Austin House was a two-story frame, L-shaped building extending 60 feet on Seventh Street and 40 feet on Avenue E, in addition to a kitchen. This hotel became known as the Franz Hotel, when managed by W. R. Franz, and later as the Commercial Hotel, under the management of Mrs. C. L. J. Sisk.

By May, 1895, Edgar P. Rugeley had built a two-story, ten-room, L-shaped house on Avenue F, which was used as a private boarding house. The Rugeley House later became Bay City's first hospital and afterwards became known as the Van Shi Inn. In 1986 this house is still in use and in good repair.

By the turn of the century, two other hotels had emerged, the Kuykendall House, under the management of Emma Kuykendall, and the Martin Hotel, managed by a Mr. McKenn.

In 1905, John Nuckols (no relation to the Nuckols previously mentioned), an El Campo businessman, bought the Martin Hotel and changed its name to the Nuckol's Hotel. The Nuckols Hotel, situated on the southwest corner of Avenue F and Sixth Street, was one of the major hotels in Bay City until it was destroyed by fire in 1945.

Other hotels of this era included the Mayfield Hotel, the Baker Hotel, and the Hotel Wylie, situated on Seventh Street and Avenue I. The First Methodist Church purchased the Baker Hotel in the early 1950s and replaced it with a two-story brick youth building.

By 1927 the Bay City Hotel Company had begun construction on Bay City newest and finest hotel, the Bay Tex. This hotel readily became the site of many social events and business meetings. A 1934 newspaper schedule in the Daily Tribune noted that the Chamber of Commerce met at the Bay Tex at noon on the first Tuesday of every month. The first Rice Festival tea was held at the Bay Tex in the fall of 1941.

In more recent times, motels have emerged in the place of hotels. The major hotels of the area in 1986 included: Best Western Bay City Inn, Holiday Inn, South Texas Inn, Cattlemen's, Starland, Sunset, and the newest, Econo Lodge.

Daily Tribune, August 22, 1969                Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, 1986

Nuckols House

John F. Nuckols,  built Bay City's first hotel, the Nuckol's House, shortly after the founding of Bay City in 1894. The hotel was located on the west side of the square and had a vegetable and flower garden adjacent to it.

The family had been living in Matagorda County for some time. The 1860 census of Matagorda County listed a John F. Nuckolls, age 11,  living in the Hawkinsville - Kenner Prairie area of Matagorda County with his parents Fred J.? and Mary Nuckols. The 1870 census enumerates them as John F. and Mary A. Nuchols ages 54 and 49 and John F. and wife Ellen Nuchols ages 21 and 20 living in Kenner Prairie. John F. Nuckols, Sr. was the postmaster for Kenner Prairie November 17 , 1871 - December 14, 1882 and February 24, 1887 until the post office was discontinued on May 11, 1887 and the mail was sent to Hawkinsville. The older John had died before the enumeration of the 1880 census, and Mary, along with the younger John's family was still living at Kenner Prairie. John F., the son, was the builder of the hotel in Bay City. He died before the 1900 census and Ellen was still living in Bay City in 1900 and 1910 with her daughter, Annie Benedict, and Annie's family. She died on December 30, 1915 in Texas City and was buried in LaMarque.


Rowlett House

The Bay City Breeze, May 30, 1895 reported the Rowlett House was a 24' x 60' wooden structure first owned by N. H. Rowlett. who sold it to C. L. J. Sisk in 1895. Before 1900, Mr. Sisk traded the hotel to J. S. Gillette for 312 acres of land at Big Hill.

C. L. J. Sisk
A Good Man Who Wouldn't Stay Down

(The following was taken from an account written by Mr. Sisk about their hotel experience in visiting Bay City in September 1895 and buying the Rowlett House.)

Mr. N. H. Rowlett had just finished up a small hotel and had opened it up and at that time seemed to be doing a nice business. Mr. Rowlett's wife had tuberculosis and the doctors advised him to take her north, so he and his friends asked me to take the hotel off his hands at just what it had cost him. After considering the proposition three or four days and watching the business he was doing I decided to take the property. In buying I assumed $1,000, he still owed on the property.


We had only been in this business a few weeks when I could see clearly that I had made the biggest mistake that I had ever made in my life. I began to think matters over in their true light. Instead of people coming in they began to go away. A hotel, with every dollar I had on earth tied up and owing $1,000, and with but few customers, I began to view the situation as one of the darkest things I had ever run up against, so I said to myself: "If I can't get some help from back in Alabama I am sure a goner this time," so I wrote my brother-in-law, M. T. Trice, and told him how I was up against it and told him I wanted $500--that I wanted to start a little store, and in this way felt sure I could pull through. He wrote back encouragingly, telling me he thought he could let me have this amount. Then I wrote J. S. Reeves & Co. and told them what I wanted--that I wanted help to the amount of about $500 worth of goods to start me up. They replied that they would help me to that amount, so pretty good feelings came back to me. I felt sure that with this $500 from Mr. Trice and the $500 stock from Reeves & Co. I could start up a pretty nice little business and pull through, so I just went ahead to prepare to begin business and ordered the $500 stock from Reeves & Co. and wrote to Mr. Trice to send me the $500, as I was ready to open up business. But when I received a reply from Mr. Trice he stated to me that money matters were very tight back there and it would be impossible for him to furnish me.


Oh, my, when I received this word of defeat my heart almost went out of me for I would never have asked J. S. Reeves & Co. for the $500 if I had not felt sure of the $500 from Mr. Trice, because I knew I could not make a success in business here with a little stock of dry goods alone. However, I went along and opened up the little stock of dry goods, but soon saw it was going to be a failure, and by this time my debts on the hotel were falling due and we were not making anything at all in the hotel to meet them with. I did not know what to do. I knew if I was sued and closed out on the lumberman's lien I would lose probably every cent I had in the world, so the only thing to do was to see if I could find some merchant in the county to take the goods I got from J. S. Reeves & Co. and let me have to money to pay on the hotel debt. I was trying to save what I had already put into the property, so I went to the manager of the Townsite Company and asked him to help me to get some one to take the goods and let me have the money. It was a scary time for me, as the lumberman had already told me he would have to foreclose his lien.


Mr. Magill found a man to take most of the stock and I gave the proceeds to the lumberman, and this seemed to satisfy him for a while (and I want to say right here that my wife never failed to be my partner in all of these struggles; she never missed an opportunity to hand out lunches at the back door to the Negroes when they came to town, and it helped out wonderfully). Finally we paid off the $1,000 but after it was paid out I felt just like I had nothing, although I had paid $2,900 for the property I would rather have had $1,000 in cash than to have had the hotel, for I knew I could take $1,000 and make a living, but I did not see any possible chance to make a living out of the hotel, and I do not suppose I could have cashed the hotel for $1,000.


From the first it looked as though everything had gone to the bad in every direction. By 1897 the boll weevil had stuck the country and that put cotton out of commission, so that left nothing going on but cattle business, which is a poor business for a town or town business. It just got to where I was compelled to make a shift, and I did not know how to go about it. One day I said: "Wife, it begins to look like you and I and the children will have to take a bundle on our backs and walk out of this country and go until we can find some work to do, for there is nothing going on here for us to do," but finally I struck a man who owned 700 acres of land down on the bay, eighteen miles below or south of Bay City, and I told him I would give him the hotel property for 300 acres of this land. We traded right away, but I felt that the land would not help me much unless I could sell it or put it up as collateral and get some money, as money was what I most needed. I knew I could make a living anywhere with my wife's help.

Austin House - Franz Hotel - Commercial Hotel - 7th Street and Avenue E
Phone Number 114 in 1906

Two-story L-shaped frame building extending 60 feet on 7th Street and 40 feet on Avenue E with a kitchen. First managed by Mrs. William E. Austin, then W. R. Franz and lastly, Mrs. C. L. J. Sisk.

Old Landmarks Razed

One of Bay City's oldest houses is being torn down to make room for just one more modern filling station.


The house known as the Commercial Hotel and the first hotel the town had, was built by Conrad Franz in 1895 and sold to C. L. J. Sisk in 1902.


The timber, which came from Florida, was intended for Bay City's first courthouse, but after the county-site was moved from Matagorda to Bay City, the promoters of the townsite, G. M. Magill and N. M. Vogelsang, conferred with the citizens and a brick courthouse was decided upon.


The timber, however, was on the ground and had to be disposed of. It was bought by Mr. Franz and was used in the building now being razed.

The Daily Tribune, Tuesday, July 22, 1930


7th Street

Rugeley House - Jones Hospital - Van Shi Inn in 2011

Built by May, 1895 by Edgar P. Rugeley as a private boarding house. It had 10 rooms and was L-shaped. Later became Bay City's first hospital operated by Dr. Jones and later the Van Shi Inn. Oldest hotel still standing in 2013.

Kuykendall House.

First-class hotel convenient to both the depot and the business part of town. Special attention to commercial travelers and transient trade. Special rates to regular boarders.

Miss Emma Kuykendall, Proprietor.

Matagorda County Tribune, October 28, 1904



Mrs. Bennie Cates of Palacios has bought the Baker Hotel from Mrs. C. F. Baker and has opened the dining room to the public. We appreciate this very much, as those in Bay City who have to live at the hotels, and especially those who have been with Mrs. Baker so long who were forced to look elsewhere for meals during the time the dining room has been closed have had a hard time getting meals, owing to the large crowd of teachers here last week.


Besides this, Bay City needs the place open to help accommodate the traveling public. Mrs. Cates is not a stranger to us, as she was born and raised in Matagorda County.


Her many friends will join in a hearty welcome to our city and prove their appreciation by calling around and enjoying a fine dinner at popular prices. Knowing Mrs. Cates, as we do, we feel no hesitancy in saying she will make a success of the business.


We again bid her welcome and assure those who do not know her that they will find a home-like hotel where she abides.


Matagorda County Tribune, September 20, 1918


Northeast Corner of Block 108
5th on the north & Avenue H on the east
Purchased by the First United Methodist Church
which built a Youth  Building in its place


5th Street
5th Street


Hotel Bay City During the 1913 Flood
J. M. Morgan, Proprietor
Location Unknown


Hotel Wylie

Hotel Wylie was located at 128 7th Street on the north side Block 119 between Avenues H & I, northeast of the site of the Odell Hotel-Stockton House. A 1907 map indicates the site was used as Bay City Iron Works and was Bay City Machine Shop in 1912. The Hotel Wylie opened in November of 1913 and on a 1917 map it was labeled the Progressive Hotel.

F. G. Cobb opened an implement business in the building and in December, 1936 sold the business to A. R. Matthes who operated on the site as  A. R. Matthews Implement Company.

Insurance maps in 1942 and 1947 indicated that the second floor was still used for rooming.

Hotel Wylie During 1913 Flood
Phone Number 143 in 1906

Hotel Wylie Open For Business

The new brick hotel building recently completed for C. L. J. Sisk has been leased to Mr. and Mrs. J. T. [R.?] Wylie of Palacios and is now open for the public's patronage.

The hotel will be known as "Hotel Wylie." The lessees have moved to the city and are highly recommended as citizens as well as efficient and capable hotel managers.

The Tribune, on behalf of our citizenship, extend to these excellent people a most cordial welcome and trust that their residence here will prove pleasant and profitable.

Matagorda County Tribune, November 21, 1913

Back of Hotel Wylie During 1913 Flood

The flood of 1913 opened the front door of Hotel Wylie and let Cottonwood creek right into the foyer, as pictured here in original photograph taken for Mr. John Sutherland. Built by Mr. C. L. J. Sisk, the building while used as a hotel went through some more or less hectic experiences, not the least hectic being this flood. It should be noted, however, that since 1922 the levee protection afforded Bay City has ended all such flood danger. Purchased by Mr. John Sutherland shortly after 1913, the first floor of the hotel became an automobile show room and garage. The second floor continues to be living quarters to this day. F. G. Cobb owned the building before A. R. Matthes and installed in the first floor the farm equipment business that Mr. and Mrs. Matthes have operated since 1936.

Matagorda County Tribune, August 23, 1945


Death of Mrs. Elizabeth Smith

Mrs. Elizabeth Smith died at 7:30 o’clock a. m. Thursday, the 11th inst., at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. R. Wylie at the Wylie house in Bay City, at the age of 84 years and 2 months. The remains were brought to Palacios in the afternoon yesterday, the train making a special run for that purpose, and taken to the city cemetery immediately after the arrival by the train, where funeral services were held by Rev. Israel, pastor of the Baptist church, of which…had been a devoted…member for more than sixty years. After the services the body was laid away in its final resting place.

The deceased was born in Tennessee, Oct. 11, 1929. In early childhood she removed to Missouri with her parents, in which state she was married to Mr. Smith in 1848. To this union thirteen children were born, seven of whom survive the mother—three sons and four daughters. They are Mr. C. E. Smith of Palacios; J. J. Smith, residing on Caney; T. P. Smith, of Goliad county; Mrs. J. R. Wylie and Miss Sallie Smith, recently removed from Palacios to Bay City; Mrs. J. A. Partain, of Palacios and Mrs. Addie Coble, who lives in West Texas.

The family moved from Missouri to Matagorda county in 1890, locating near Ashby, where Mr. Smith died some seventeen years ago. Four years ago the family moved to Palacios where they made their home until a few months ago when the Wylie family moved to Bay City to engage in the hotel business. Mrs. Smith is also survived by one brother and a sister and many grand-children and great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Smith, who has always been in good health, was taken ill after the removal to Bay City, and the situation of the family during the existing flood, was a matter of deep concern to their many Palacios friends. The water is several feet deep on the first floor of their hotel, the family taking refuge on the second floor. The conditions and situation are particularly trying, in which they have the sincere sympathy of a host of Palacios friends, who regret that they were powerless to be of active assistance to them in this great ordeal.

Palacios Beacon, December 12, 1913


Matagorda County News and Midcoast Farmer - April 24, 1914
Progressive Hotel
7th Street
  6th Street

Miss Sallie Smith

Miss Sallie Smith, daughter of James E. and Elizabeth J. Smith was born in Missouri, December 10, 1858. In June 1866 she and her parents came to Ferris, Ellis County, Texas, where at the age of eleven years she came to know Christ as her Saviour and united with the Baptist Church.

The devout home life of her parents as well as her own thorough consecration combined to make her religious life her main business from the time of her conversion. At the early age of nine, symptoms of paralysis were apparent and in May 1899 a chair became necessary for the rest of her life. She did not suffer much until her later years and was a busy woman propelling her chair from room to room doing many household tasks. Study, especially the Bible, was her delight from an early age.

In 1889, with her parents, she moved to a farm in Matagorda County near Deming’s Bridge Church to which she was united. At that time there were three other religious centers and Baptist Churches, Wharton, Edna and old Matagorda besides Deming’s Bridge Church. Largely owing to the devotion and consecration of the Smith family the Church at that place maintained a very active life and was seldom without a pastor and regularly had a revival in the summer of the old fashioned pioneer type when the cattle men furnished beeves and their chuck wagon outfits for free meals for all who came. The religious fervor and sacrifices of early Christians puts to shame our present system in many respects.

Miss Sallie’s chair was loaded in the wagon along with the whole family and as she rode along she dropped messages and scripture verses she had written during the week. They were found by many who afterward came to Church and some confessed they were saved by her messages.

Her child like faith made it easy and a great pleasure for her to teach the children, so on those preaching Sundays to which the families brought their dinners she gathered the children about the wagon in which was her chair and conducted a sunbeam band.

In 1906 Miss Sallie and her mother came to Palacios and assisted her sister, Mrs. Wiley, acting as clerk of the Wiley Hotel. Her Church membership was transferred to the First Baptist Church, Palacios.

Of her life here, and its high type of Christian activity, everyone knows and words are inadequate to describe it, only Eternity will reveal its worth to the community. Of the many nurse-girls who have cared for her in the long years of her invalidism only one was a Christian when employed, yet every one coming under her influence accepted her Saviour.

For a number of years after the Wiley Hotel closed, she conducted a kindergarten and the children seldom left her school without a thorough foundation of Bible Knowledge which made accepting Christ an easy step.

The B. Y. P. U. Encampments were annual sources of joy to Miss Sallie. Many people throughout the state will miss her chair and her friendly smile.

In talking of the Encampment this year, she assured her friends that she hoped to attend the heavenly meeting before that. The last years were ones of great suffering and she anticipated her release with much longing and joy.

We were made poorer and Heaven became dearer when she went to be with her Heavenly Father, Thursday morning, April 12, 1934.

She is survived by two sisters, Mrs. J. A. Partain, Sr., of Palacios, and Mrs. M. Fiori of San Antonio, a number of nephews and nieces and other relatives and a host of friends.

Funeral services were held from the First Baptist Church, Palacios, conducted by Rev. George D. McClelland, and assisted by Rev. G. F. Gillespie, Interment was made in Palacios Cemetery, under the direction of the Palacios Funeral Home.

Music was furnished by a double-mixed quartette, from the First Baptist Church composed of Mesdames Harper, Halliday, Appleton and Feather and Messrs. Burton, Nelson, Stadig and Forehand. They sang “Someday, It Won’t Be Long,” “When They Ring Those Golden Bells,” “Face to Face,” and “Rock of Ages.” Mrs. M. K. Feather accompanied on piano.

Pall bearers: Messrs. J. A. Partain, John Richards, and John C. Richards of Palacios; Rev. Elmer Dunlap, Gonzales; Mr. Forest Partain, Houston, and M. C. Starup, Danevang.

Palacios Beacon, April 19, 1934


Rice Hotel During the 1913 Flood


1800 Block of 7th Street
Between Avenues G & H
2013 Buildings
Wells Fargo & Bay City Office Supply



Rice Hotel Just Before Demolition Gordon Yates, listed as owner in the 1952 Southwestern Bell Telephone directory


Mrs. Odell's Hotel

Meals 25¢

The hotel appeared on a 1907 map of Bay City and was located on the south side of Block 119 between Avenues H and I. The address was first 210 6th Street and later 502 5th when the street were renumbered.

A 1912 map indicated the building was vacant and dilapidated, but by 1917 it was again operating as a rooming house.

Stockton House

By 1913, the O'Dell House was operating as the Stockton House. The porch was extended around to the east side of the building. In 1947 the address had become 1925 6th Street. The building was still being used as a rooming house as late as 1947.



1913 Flood

Scott Hotel

6th Street




Scott Hotel at left of Bay City Fire Station and City Hall


The Big House

1500 5th Street (1945 Southwestern Bell Telephone Company)




<---------------- NORTH

                 ^The Big House Hotel


Photos courtesy of Matagorda County Museum


Copyright 2011 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Jan. 3, 2011
Mar. 14, 2012