By Shirley L. Brown
The Plotner-Stoddard Irrigation Canal, platted in 1902, was designed to water approximately thirty thousand acres. The head gate for the canal and the pumping station were situated on the west bank of the Colorado River.
A headquarters was established at Buckeye with Charles F. Chillson as general manager. A boarding house and company store were installed at the headquarters.
The St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railway was granted a right-of-way through Buckeye in 1903. In return the railroad agreed to build a spur to hold two cars at the pumping plant, another spur for the full length of the Plotner-Stoddard warehouse, and a flag station for local passenger trains.
A school community was organized in 1905, with a scholastic enrollment of thirty-five. Plotner and Stoddard donated the one-room schoolhouse. This first school was situated south of the Buckeye townsite.
By July, 1907, Buckeye had a post office with Arthur H. Yerxa [1871-1949] as its first postmaster. This post office was situated in the headquarters’ store. In addition to his duties as postmaster, Yerxa was assistant manager of the Buckeye property, and in 1909 he became general manager.
The Buckeye Irrigation Farm, as it was originally called, was subdivided for resale in 1909. The tracts, varying from ten to three hundred acres, were sold for truck farming and fruit growing as well as for raising rice.
A beautifully-landscaped park made the area attractive to prospective buyers. Hundreds of cape jasmine bushes, roses, and other ornamental shrubs bordered well-kept lawns and promenades. Artistic flower beds added to the beauty of the place. Beyond were extensive gardens where every known vegetable was grown. Later a tennis court was added to the rear of the park.
In the 1912 subdivision of the townsite, streets were given names of Citrus, Fig, Orange, Peach, Main, and First through Seventh. There were Plotner, Stoddard, Middlecoff, Boston, Dayton and Cotton Avenues.
The Buckeye Truck Growers Association was organized June 7, 1912, with J. A. Brown [1868-1952], president; Tom Armstrong, vice-president; and A. H. Yerxa, secretary-treasurer. Its purpose was to aid and assist new residents of Buckeye by giving them the advice and experience of old timers in practical farming.
A promotional booklet printed about 1913, depicting the outstanding qualities of Buckeye, was aimed at luring prospective homebuyers from the northern states to Buckeye. Buckeye was described as having warm winters, cool summers and green pastures all year. With the climate so mild, up to four profitable crops may be taken from the same land in the same year. The newcomer will find general stores, a post office, school, swimming pool, a ten-acre park, good roads and good neighbors.
The year 1913 brought considerable development to this little community. The population swelled to two hundred. Thirty-four thousand fig trees had been planted at Buckeye, and attention was being turned to vegetable and truck farming of all kinds. The Buckeye Canning & Preserving Company was incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts in 1913 with a capital stock of $75,000. The plant had an output capacity of ten thousand cans per day, and the entire production had been promised to Boston wholesalers even before the plant was built.
A new, modern hotel was built in 1913. It had electric lights, hot and cold water connections, steam heat, spacious dining rooms, and a large splendid office. Hotel Plotner’s Sunday dinners were an attraction for joy riders from neighboring towns.
Powers & Sons Store opened in 1913 with a complete line of general merchandise and a meat market. The second floor of the store was occupied by the Powers family.
This year also saw the beginning of a library in Buckeye, which opened with a selection of seventy-five books. Box suppers and plays were held to raise money. Until Buckeye could afford a library building, the books were cared for at the Spence Store with Agnes Spence [1883-1969] acting as librarian.
In March, 1913, an election was held for issuing of bonds for a new schoolhouse. Five acres north of the Buckeye townsite were selected for the site of the new school. The first floor of the two-store building was used for classes and the second floor for church, community, and social activities. In later years, Buckeye School District No. 14 was incorporated into the Markham Independent School District. The schoolhouse was sold to the Markham Methodist Church in 1939, and the lumber from the school was used to enlarge the church.
On June 1, 1913, a Presbyterian church was organized in Buckeye, with a membership of twenty-two. J. M. Spence and a Mr. Hodges were elected elders. The Reverend Selfridge [1871-1933] of Bay City agreed to continue conducting services at Buckeye every fourth Sunday until a resident minister could be secured.
There were various church and social organizations: The Christian Endeavor Society, Sons of Honor, Esthers, L.B.T. Club, and Whist Club. The Buckeye baseball team played surrounding towns.
Plotner and Stoddard dissolved their partnership June 1, 1916, and divided the remaining unsold property. Stoddard received about two-thirds of the Buckeye property while Plotner received the remaining one-third plus all of their Wadsworth property.
Charles G. Stoddard [1866-1921] took over his father’s interests at Buckeye January 18, 1917. He put much of the land into rice production which greatly added to the war effort. Charles built a two-story home in Buckeye, where he enjoyed the country life until his death March 9, 1921. His wife, Laura [1865-1948], continued to manage the Stoddard Ranch for twenty-three years; however, long before she sold the ranch, she returned East to live.
The discovery of oil gave new hope to the town. Edgar B. Davis [1872-1951] of the United North and South Development Company on August 21, 1932, brought in the Stoddard No. 1 well. The Buckeye oil field was put on the market in October, 1932. When a buyer was not found for the field, Davis decided to operate it himself. Expectations were high for the field, but the successful wells proved to be erratic performers needing costly workovers. Also a succession of dry tests, along with the depression, exhausted Davis’ personal fortune, and in 1935 his company was declared insolvent.
On November 15, 1944, J. C. Lewis [1891-1978] and E. L. McDonald [1896-1973] purchased substantial acreage from the Stoddard family. The Plotner heirs sold additional acreage to Lewis and McDonald May 24, 1945. The acreage bought from the Plotner and Stoddard families became known as Buckeye Ranch.
On May 31, 1971, the Buckeye post office officially was closed and a rural route was inaugurated.
In 2000, the U. S. Census bureau reported a population of twenty-five for the Buckeye area.
There are only a few houses in Buckeye today; however, the memories of a once prosperous town that could boast of several stores, a hotel, post office, school, canning plant, blacksmith shop, saw mill, and lumber yard will live on forever.