Arthur R. and Ruth Matthes Head Farm Equipment Business Here Since 1936
Plant Remodeled In 1944 Served Agriculture, Rice, Cotton and Cattle
In 1845, when Matagorda county was yet a part of the Republic of Texas, when the city of Matagorda was the metropolis and supplies were brought in by sailing vessels from eastern parts, agricultural implements were few and of an extremely simple nature. From the first year of the colonization of the county, cotton was an outstanding crop, but it was harvested by slaves. Two strong hands to a cotton picker resulted in one slave picking 800 or more pounds a day. What need of any new-fangled contraptions? Grass grew higher than the body of a wagon, but if it was cut and baled for hay, the implement again was two strong hands wielding a sickle or a scythe, a rake, a pitchfork. Slaves were many and it was their job to harvest the crops. Truck farming was unknown—this soil would not grow vegetables, preached the cattlemen. Matagorda may have had hardware stores where the sickle, the scythe, the hammer, the wrench, the hoe and the rake were used but such an implement store as A. R. Matthes Farm Equipment Company of Bay City in 1945 just was not imagined.
The farmer’s needs were far fewer. Customers in 1945 ask Mrs. Matthes, presiding behind the counter, for nuts and bolts, for Quaker State Oil and Alemite, for windmills and tube repair kits, for screws, springs, magnetos, and Casite, for Motor Rhythm and ... sparkplugs. The merchants of old Matagorda, hearing such a jargon, would have said, “Sorry, sir! I don’t speak your language.” Yes, the farmer’s needs were fewer and simpler. Steam and electricity and mechanical science had not troubled the brain of man. The complicated age in which the farmer of today lives and produces food for a whole world existed only in the wild imaginings of an occasional writer. The cotton and sugar kings, the cattle barons of a century age were a secluded, a contented group compared with their successors a century later. Yet out of the beginnings of the century following 1845 have grown the needs of cotton, rice, vegetable farmer which call for just such establishments as the A. R. Matthes Farm Equipment Company.
Opened Here 1936
The company took over the F. G. Cobb Implement business here in 1936, the business located then as now in the large brick building at 1932 7th St., built by C. L. Sisk as a hotel. The interior had been arranged to suit the purpose of the community, show room and stock room in front, garage and repair shop at the rear, the stock continued to expand and the room seemed to grow smaller by comparison for the next eight years, until in 1944 and 1945, it underwent a complete remodeling. Its outstanding characteristic today is a place for everything, the scheme of cabinets, closed drawers, open shelves, cases and racks being, for the most part, the child of Mrs. Matthes’ brain, for it is she who must go directly to one of several thousands of parts for machinery and implements when the customer prefers a request. Today she can do exactly that, make a “bee-line” for the smallest item, neatly segregated in a marked compartment of its own. The racks as they line up the left of the customer entering the store remind him of stacks in a library. The system worked out here for filing the countless parts needed by the farmer who manipulates modern machinery in time of war when new machines are not available is unique in the county and state.
The customer, entering by the front door, passes through the show room where the display consists mostly of Goodyear tires and tubes but where, when reconversion releases new Electrolux refrigerators, Bendix Home Laundry, dairy equipment and new farm machinery, these things too will be displayed.
At the customer’s left is the office. He follows the full-length counter to the rear where is the opening to the repair shop.
On all sides are smaller details of farm machinery, temptingly displayed—tempting, at least, to the man with a broken piece of equipment who had been worrying all the way into town for fear he could not find the part or repair.
First At Blessing
The A. R. Matthes Farm Equipment Company first went into business in Blessing. This was in 1931, five years before the company took over the store in the county seat. They contracted to handle the International Harvester line of farm implements and continue that line to the present.
A word about the line will not be amiss for the McCormick farm implements are more than 100 years old, having observed the centennial of the invention of the reaper by Cyrus Hall McCormick in 1836. Today they advertise such a long list of implements as disk harrows, weeder-mulchers, peg-tooth harrows, spring-tooth harrows, soil pulverizers, rotary hoes, rod weeders, land packers, tractor plows, special Riceland plows, combines, rakes, reapers, binders. Each and every implement has been kept in advance of the latest improvements and will be so when the war is ended and manufacture begins again.
Succeeded F. G. Cobb
The five years following the opening of the company at Blessing in 1931 were pretty low years in most parts of the United States. They were years of unemployment and low farm prices, of the killing of little pigs by government order and the plowing under of crops; days of bank failures and men employed to rake leaves for the CCC; days of wages paid for and by the WPA, the PWA, days when many families did not know where the next week’s food money was coming from. But, it appears, the farmers of this section went on a merry way, needing parts and machinery, and the A. R. Matthes company in Blessing flourished. Bay City looked like a promising field at the time and F. G. Cobb was willing to sell his implement business here. The deal was consummated in December, 1936.
Selling farm machinery is an exacting business in the Gulf Coast area where crops are all year. There is no breathing spell for the business man who serves the farmer here. Cotton is followed by rice and rice by cotton with cattle a never-varying source of farm needs and extensive truck farming and general farming thrown in. It makes for the prosperity of the county and the county seat as well as for the farmer and the businessmen who serve his needs.
A. R. Matthes Is Farmer
A. R. Matthes knows the farmer’s problems because he, too, is a farmer. The magic of rice farming did not pass him by in the early days of its development. Indeed, it was rice farming that called Arthur R. Matthes to Matagorda county in 1921, ten years before he took on the contract with International Harvester Line.
From Middle West
The Matthes family lived in Slater, Mo., at the beginning of the twentieth century. Mr. and Mrs. F. R. Matthes, father and mother of Arthur R., moved to Canada, Texas, in 1905, accompanied by their family. Mr. Matthes died in 1932.
The Braden family, Mr. and Mrs. George Braden and two children, came to Matagorda county, to Citrus Grove near Collegeport in 1910. They had lived for years in Alton, Kansas, where Mr. Braden farmed. He continued this line in Collegeport and later took up rice farming which he followed to the time of his death in 1929. It was at Collegeport that his daughter, Ruth, met Arthur R. Matthes and there that they were married in 1923. Their son, Sgt. Paul Braden, is at Ellington Field, Houston, as the second World War goes into its final stages.
Mrs. Braden, known as Mrs. Della Braden since the death of her husband, also is from a family of farm tradition. She speaks of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. P. Shuey who left Alton, Kansas, in 1909 and were joined in Collegeport one year later by Mr. and Mrs. Braden. “My father,” she recalls, “owned one of the first binders Deering put out. This was in Osborn county, Kansas. It had no bundle-carrier and my brother and I were old enough to follow the binder and shock the wheat.”
From this it appears that Mr. and Mrs. A. R Matthes, known throughout this section of the Gulf Coast as farm implement dealers, have farming and interest in its development in their blood.
This season, Arthur R. and his brother, Frank R., are rice farming between Bay City and Van Vleck. Mr. Frank R. Matthes has purchased a home at Blessing.
The company has the following personnel as of June 1, 1945:
Manager at Blessing, Mr. Steve Rickaway since 1928.
In the office besides Mrs. Matthes, Mrs. J. W. McKelvy, Jr., formerly Miss Dorothy Duller, and Mrs. Floyd Howell whose husband is with the Seabees in the Philippine Islands.
Truck driver and deliveryman, Perry Bryan, and his helper, Charlie Woods.
Mrs. Matthes is one of the most capable businesswomen of the city. She is an active partner, at the counter every day in the week, holding in her mind an unbelievably large amount of the detail of the stock and business. She is a member of the Order of Eastern Star, Bay City chapter and past matron of the Palacios chapter. She is a former president of the Bay City Business and Professional Women’s club.
Mr. Matthes has served on the board of education in Blessing. He is a member of the Arabia Temple Shrine and other Masonic chapters.
The family attends the Presbyterian church.
They have two sons, one in the service of his country, the other a sophomore in Bay City high school in 1945-46. This younger son, Fred “Fritz” is a lively young person, jolly fellow well met.
Russell A. Matthes, AOM 3/c, as of June 1, 1945, is soon to embark for the Pacific war area, aerial gunner on a PBN. He was planning to be a physician and surgeon when Pearl Harbor intervened. He began his training for the U. S. Navy with the V-12 program at the medical school of Tulane University. He received his naval technical training at Memphis, Tenn., aerial gunnery at Banana Field, Fla., and operational training at Corpus Christi and San Francisco.
Other members of the Matthes family include Miss Clara Matthes, administration dietitian at Memorial Hospital in Houston; Mrs. T. C. Robertson, employee of the federal government in Dallas; Dr. H. C. Matthes, Gorgas Hospital at Ancon City, Panama, Canal Zone.
Matagorda County Tribune, 100th
Anniversary Edition, Thursday, August 23, 1945
- Present by Bay City Newspapers, Inc.
Nov. 21, 2011