Matagorda County Historical Marker Narrative

Clemville Photos & Newspaper Columns
 


CLEMVILLE COMMUNITY

1833 - 2000
Written By Thelma D. Smith


"Clemville," another almost forgotten community, but upon entering the community from either direction, north or south, the sign indicates the name "Clemville."

Today, Clemville is a rural farming community located on FM Road 1468 in Matagorda County , Texas . It is some five miles northwest of the town of Markham and northwest of the Tres Palacios River/Creek of which the ditch part runs through Clemville.

Around 1908, the community was first known as Hardy, Texas , but later the name was changed to Clemville in about 1911. Today, the community is still called Clemville.

F. J. Hardy, an oil enthusiast and W. C. Moore began to seek oil near a gas seepage on what was later called the Clemville Field. This area is now called the Markham Oil Field. Their first well, a 3,500-barrel gusher came in at a depth of 1365 feet.

From this project, the Hardy Oil Company was formed. The community was first named "Hardy" after F. J. Hardy the oil enthusiast and adventurer in the oil business.

Later, F. J. Clemenger, another oil enthusiast and businessman settled in Hardy. He helped to develop oil fields in the area. Hardy sold his holdings to Clemenger. Clemenger and R. H. Danner organized small companies to drill on leases obtained from the F. J. Hardy Oil Company. The operations continued to grow. The oil boom, farming and cattle ranching enhanced the community to become a rich thriving area. From Clemenger's involvement, the name of the community was changed from "Hardy" to "Clemville."

F. M. Road 1468 runs through the community but there are other roads that lead off 1468. One leads to a sub-division of about 100 residents west of Clemville called the El Dorado Community. Another leads along the Tres Palacios River or Creek, and still others lead to other oil businesses, farms, ranches, and the Texas Salt and Brine Company.

Back in the early 1800's the area was probably a bare, over grown prairie that was roamed by Indians, and other wild animals. It is not legally claimed or inhabited by persons coming to Matagorda County from the east or deep south seeking their fortune in the state of Texas .

Henry Parker, an early colonist, received League Number 68 in the Clemville area on April 5, 1833 . The league was comprised of 4,428 acres.

Parker was the first recorded owner of the 4428 acres in the area. Today, Mrs. Annie P. Sparks says that the name Henry Parker appears on her abstract title to her property located in the Clemville area.

From 1880 to 1884, Joe Vanham was the owner of the 4428 acres and in 1885 Augusta Kountz became the owner. From 1891 to 1894, the Texas Land & Cattle Company became the owner of the 4,428 acres.

Research has not been done on the genealogy of Henry Parker, Joe Vanham, Augusta Kountz or the Texas Land & Cattle Company, but since the 4,428 acres in the league possessed by Parker have been passed down to three other owners, it seems as though there was possibly an heirship or business connection among the owners of the property.

Kountz was the owner or part owner of the Texas Land & Cattle Company. In 1910, C. T. Kountz and Z. L. Kountz acquired land from the Texas Land and Cattle Company. It is now known whether C. T. and Z. L. were sons or relatives of Augusta Kountz.

The area began to develop grazing land for cattle ranching. In 1902, the Texas Land & Cattle Company began to sell acreage out of the 4,428 acres. Its total ownership was 2,940 acres.

In 1905, W. H. Gainer owned 171 acres of the original 4,428 acres and the Northern Irrigation Company owned another 1,008.

Gainer, the Texas Land & Cattle Company, and the Northern Irrigation Company maintained the above acreage from 1833 to 1903 of the original 4,428 acres.

Prior to the 1900s, more and more people began to settle in the area. Some were squatters, some were farmers, some became owners of the land, and some were simply workers looking for work.

The Northern Irrigation Company began to build water ways, canals, and ditches. The Texas Land & Cattle Company raised more cattle in the ranching business, and farming and other industries began to spring up.

Tents, "shot gun" houses, stores, boarding houses, saloons, teamsters, and a mail route comprised some of the businesses and carrying on in the community.

Residents even lived in "shot gun" houses and tents up and down the Tres Palacios River . They lived on both sides of the river south and west of Clemville.

Some worked for and in various businesses in Clemville and some bought and farmed land of their own. Some worked as tenants in farming and other activities.

In 1907, the Texas Land & Cattle Company was conducting an exploration for oil in the Northwestern part of the county. Three wells were drilled. None produced more than a trace of oil.

In 1911, F. J. Hardy owned 64 acres out of the holdings of the Texas Land & Cattle Company. As previously stated, the Hardy Oil Company formed by Hardy and W. C. Moore became successful in the oil business. From their gusher, Hardy or Clemville became an "oil boom" town.

Clemenger bought out Hardy's holdings and he and R. H. Danner further developed the oil industry in and around Clemville.

In 1911, Clemville established its first post office.

Before the post office was established, mail had to be brought to Clemville by horse and wagon. A Mr. Ricks brought the mail from Markham . He carried it to a boarding house where it was dumped on a table. The mail was sorted and then people would come to the table and pick up their mail.

Upon getting their first established post office, on May 5, 1911 , Walter F. Allen became the first postmaster.

The post office building was located a block or so off FM 1468 behind the plowed ground that faces the old store/cafe. The old cafe building still stands in the area on the east side of FM 1468. Mrs. D. Cowger was the last owner of the business.

On October 7, 1912 , Ms. Nora E. Daughters became the second post master and the first post mistress for the Clemville post office. On December 31, 1918 , the post office was discontinued. People had to travel to Markham to pick up their mail at the Markham post office.

On December 14, 1920 , the mail route was re-established. A new post office building was secured and Charles S. Daughters became the postmaster. He was followed by Kate B. Farthing on December 1, 1936 and by Harold F. Gates, January 10, 1939 .

After 1939, Clemville became a rural route area. Residents received their mail in rural route mailboxes delivered by a rural route mail carrier. The mailboxes are now located on FM 1468 in front of the residences or on the mail route off FM 1468.

Some of the early settlers beside Henry Parker, J. Vanham, A. Kountz, F. J. Hardy, F. J. Clemenger, W. C. Moore, R. H. Danner and W. H. Gainer were William Taylor; Murphy; Carl & Lillian Hiltpold; Hudson ; the Daughters; the Gates; the Farthings; W. A. Allen; Ed Smith; the Larsens; Isaac & Lora Posey; and the Sparks .

Annie Posey Sparks and her family lived out from San Antonio , Texas in a small community called Nixon , Texas . That year her father had a hard time trying to make ends meet. There was a drought in the land and farming was very bad. Her father's relatives asked him about coming to El Campo to work in the rice fields since he had a team and wagon. The family moved to El Campo in a covered wagon. Annie was a very small child but could recall the incident. The Posey family came to Clemville in 1917. There she grew up, went to school, attended the Clemville Community Church, married Alvin Brook Sparks, raised her own family, and still lived in Clemville in 2000.

The homes of Mrs. Sparks and another resident are the only two left in Clemville. Mrs. Sparks house is adjacent to the old church building. The other resident lives near the ditch or Tres Palacios as one travels north through the community.

All of the early settlers, but Hudson , began to sell their land. He retained his property which comprised most of the Clemville village. Residents were allowed to build on his land, but not own it.

All of the people were primarily farmers. The Hiltpold land was sold to the Texas Salt Brine Pipeline Company. Adjacent to the Pipeline Company's marker can be seen the old homestead of Carl & Lillian Hiltpold. Trees, shrubbery and green grass can still be seen where the house stood. The Hiltpolds had two sons.

By 1914, the community had a general store, two hotels, two machinists, a dairy farm, a telephone connection, a post office, a barber shop, a church, two schools and a population of about 200. In the 1930s, the community still had about 200 residents, a church, two stores, a cafe, a service station, a post office, a school for black students and a school for white students.

The school for the white children was located in the south part of Clemville west of the Daughters store and boarding house. To find the location, immediately after crossing the Tres Palacios Creek going west, to the left is a road. To the left are an old barn and plowed ground. Passing the plowed ground and the barn, a few blocks away was the area of the first school for white children.

The African-American children attended school in a one-room building which was farther down that road and across from the Larsen farm. The second school for the white children was a three-room building adjacent to the Clemville Community Church .

Each of the first school buildings was one room and was possibly built by Larsen who was a carpenter. He also built the first pews used in the community church.

Many of the African-American children who went to the school were from families who lived along the Tres Palacios Creek on the Frick and Larsen Farms and on the LeTulle Ranch and rice farm. Today, this area is FM 2431 and highway 111.

Some of the teachers in the white school were: Dorotha Green, Fred M. Thompson, Anna Jones, Nellie Harris, and Mayme Glass. In the black school were: Maud Hilliard Baines and others. The teachers lived in a building called the teachery.

The county schools were divided into districts with a county superintendent over all the schools in the rural areas. Clemville was located in district 9.

On August 31, 1917 , there were 10 grades for white children and 4 grades for the black children. In 1924, there were 10 grades for whites. By the 1927-28 school year, there were 9 grades for whites and 7 for the blacks.

In 1932, the white children were bussed to Markham to school. The black children went to Markham to school as well. The black children who previously attended school in Clemville had to move to Markham and live with relatives to be near the school during the school term. The school building in Markham was also a one room dilapidated structure located on a lot which is now the corner of Avenue D and 10th Street in Markham.

Later, the three-room building which was the second school for white children in Clemville was moved to Markham to be used as a black school. This building was to the east of the first building in Markham and it faced the south on 10th Street . The old building had been on Avenue D facing west.

Other owners of businesses in Clemville were the Daughters, Ms. Suladie C. Hathaway, Ms. Lynch and others. Ms. Lynch also had a small grocery store in her building.

George R. Burke, who has studied the history of oil development in Matagorda County , said the first oil boom in Matagorda County drew the attention of oil men to the county and then the Clemville Fields provided the second boom.

F. J. Clemenger managed and R. H. Danner was the driller on the Hardy Number 1. Danner drilled one well and sold his holdings to George R. Burke just before the Clemville well blew a big gusher.

Clemenger and Burke continued operations for several years and saw the operations grow by the arrival of Pay Streak Oil controlled by Ed Simms, H. T. Strait and Associates with Curt Hamill as the driller.

The company brought in a productive well with its first attempt. Hamill's supervision brought the company a large production and later the Swastika Oil Company.

Curt Hamill, M. Thompson, R. O. Middlebrook, and Andrew Anderson were among men who helped to develop the oil boom in Clemville, Matagorda County .

Imagine the rush to get to Clemville and the oil fields. In the thirty years of the development of the Clemville Field, the one who did more for the development and operation was C. G. Hamill. Later, Hamill & Hamill organized the company with his sons, Claude and P. R. Hamill.

By the 1930s the oil field seemed to be exhausted. But Ellis Hamill sank a "poor boy" hole which proved to the successful. This revitalized the Clemville Field. The "poor boy" method meant the workers accepted stock as pay for their labor.

In the early 50s and 70s, progress in the Clemville Field began to dwindle. People began to move away. The cafe was the last business to close. The Clemville Community Church building still remains but the last church service was held in 1990.

Other than the two residents, The Texas Salt Brine Pipeline Company, a few storage tanks for oil, other oil related businesses, a few oil pumps that still pump and the farming and cattle community, Clemville is almost like a ghost town.

Traffic is quite heavy on FM 1468. The road is used as a by pass from El Campo in Wharton County and Highway 71 to Markham and Highway 35 to Bay City to travel to the South Texas Nuclear Project on FM 521, Celanese Chemical Plant on the Celanese road south of Bay City and the Equistar Chemical Plant also south of Bay City on Highway 60.

Certainly history was generated in Clemville and especially with the oil boom as a similar Spindletop in Matagorda County .

The Markham Community has a replica of an oil derrick in its community park area as a reminder of the oil discovered in the fields around Markham and Clemville.

If one thinks that Clemville is a forgotten community and can't imagine it as a bustling community, Mrs. Sparks invites that person to drive through the area at night. She says that it is just like a city because of the illumination of lights from the various plants and businesses.

How can we forget our history, a landmark? We canít. Even if Clemville looks like a ghost town during the day, there is something here that intrigues the beauty and causes one to remember the past.

The dedication of the Official Texas Historical Marker for the Clemville Community was held March 2, 2002 . The wording for the marker appears below.
 

 

Copyright 2004 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Jan. 14, 2005
Updated
Nov. 24, 2007
   

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