Matagorda County Historical Marker Narrative

Avenue B & 10th Street           2852'19.30"N       9613'14.67"W
 


THE BLESSING COMMUNITY HOUSE AND LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

 

 

By Mary Belle Ingram

 

The Blessing Library Association was organized in 1912 in the old 1909 Blessing Elementary School and joined the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs in 1914. Edna Woodruff, first grade teacher, was the first president. They assisted in the organization of the Matagorda County Federation of Women's Clubs in 1916. The original by-laws handwritten by Rose Duller were saved and are stored in the minute books. Membership totaled 68 for the Blessing Library Association from 1914 to 1916.
 

It was in 1902 that Jonathan Pierce (06 Dec 1839 - 29 Mar 1915) put the wheels in motion for his plans to establish the town of Blessing, Texas. In the late 1890s Pierce filed a deed with the rail line, the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad, now known as the Southern Pacific Railroad, and laid out over 600 acres of land to help this rail company start a town. The town site of Blessing was located west of the junction of State Highway 35 and Farm Road 616 and twenty miles west of Bay City in northwestern Matagorda County.

 

A. B. Pierce (04 Dec 1874 - 23 May 1944), Jonathan's son, moved the reception house from their ranch "El Rancho Grande" located on the Tres Palacios River by railroad car. It was the office of A. B. Pierce and later the first site of the Blessing State Bank. A. B. Pierce donated this building to the Blessing Library Association in 1917 after he built his new bank building in 1908. It was moved from a site near the Southern Pacific Depot to the town square. Shelves were installed lining the walls and a fireplace was used for heat.

 

The Blessing Library was located on the town square which is a city block shown as the "Common Block" on the plat of the town site of Blessing in Matagorda County, Texas, according to the plat thereof recorded in Volume 19 at page 386 of the deed records of Matagorda County, Texas, being bounded on the north by Mulberry Street, on the east by Avenue A, on the south by Avenue B and on the west by Tenth Street.

 

Adelaide H. Pierce (27 Aug 1885 - 24 Oct 1967), wife of A. B. Pierce was president of the Matagorda County Federation of Women's Clubs in 1916 of which the Blessing Library Association was a charter club.

 

The Blessing Library Association began to do charity work immediately and in 1915 sent donations to the commission for relief in Belgium where people were starving. Herbert Hoover was chairman of the effort. Steamers took donations to London from the United States and then to Belgium. Lindon W. Bates, Vice Chairman, sent a thank you March 11, 1915 to the Blessing Library Association.

 

The wooden blocks were rotting under the library building and in June of 1917, Charles Eikenberg put brick pillars under the building at a cost of $355.00.

 

On November 5th and 6th, 1915 a livestock and agricultural fair was held in Blessing to help raise funds for the library association. There was an antique and art department, culinary department, horse races, band concert, livestock exhibit and judging and vegetable and grain judging.

 

Adelaide H. Pierce received on August 29, 1920 pencil sketches of plans from architect John H. Wheeler of St. Paul, Minnesota for a community house as an addition to the small library. The outside dimensions were 32 ft. by 75 ft. with a ceiling height of 10 ft. Under the stage would be space for storage. He estimated the cost of such a building to be $8500.00. The building committee for a community house was F. L. Hoffman, Tom Horne, Roe Guynes, C. A. Lucas, C. E. Duller and Adelaide H. Pierce.

 

"The Governors Banquet" a minstrel play was held May 24, 1921 at the Blessing Opera House for the benefit of the community house. Tickets were 50 cents reserved, 25 cents children, and 35 cents balcony.

 

On May 28, 1921 a town picnic was held consisting of barbeque, ball games, bronco busting, pony races, foot races, sack races, potato races, fat man's race and a married woman's race to raise money to help build a community house. About $500.00 was raised by the citizens of Blessing.

 

The meetings of the Blessing Library Association and Community House were held in the members' private homes prior to the construction of the Community House. On June 11, 1921, the Blessing Library Association and Community House hosted the Matagorda County Federation of Women's Clubs for a business meeting and luncheon with vocal and piano solos. The talks given were on County Free Libraries, Disarmament and the Dedication of the Community House.

 

Work began on the community house addition to the library building by members of the library and citizens of Blessing headed by the building committee. The Community House was completed July, 1921 at a cost of $3039.00 and was left unpainted until June, 1922. The wood building began warping and it was decided to use the money that had been saved for insurance to paint the building and leave it uninsured for awhile longer.  The Community House was painted brown and the library building had previously been painted white. A few years later the Community House was painted white and the roof stained green. Copper wire was put on the window screens because the ordinary wire had rusted. The inside dimensions of the building were 70 ft. long by 40 ft. wide with a ceiling height of 14 ft. The stage on the west end measured 17 ft. by 40 ft. with space for storage underneath. There was a canvas drop curtain installed with hand painted advertisements of Blessing Businesses. Pine lumber was used for flooring, walls, and ceilings. Wooden windows were installed and the outside lumber was cypress. Citizens of Blessing voluntarily signed a note for $1150.00 to be paid to J. T. Price Lumber Company for the balance left of the original cost of $3039.00 on the building. Social events would be held to pay on this note.

 

An amateur vaudeville was held at the community house on August 26, 1921 consisting of a monologue, "Hiram Blows In," "Anna from Indiana," cornet solo, Japanese songs, comedy skit, and solo dances, with proceeds going to the community house debt.

 

Adelaide H. Pierce, on June 4, 1922, announced to the Library Association that a player piano had been purchased from Books Mays Piano Company of Houston, Texas so music could be played during the silent films. About 25 rolls of music were purchased. The old piano was traded for $100.00 and the new one cost $465.00 as it was used. She said the members of the library and the Federation of Women's Clubs were also members of the American Red Cross and had sent $70.00 to $80.00 to the Mississippi River flood relief. She said there were 61 names on the World War I list which included colored. The library association worked hard with the American Red Cross turning out surgical dressings, hospital garments, knitted helmets, socks and afghans. The World War I list of service people were Wyatt O. Selkirk, Dr. Lincoln F. Putam, Frank E. Perry, Leslie Armstrong, Austin Queen, Earnest Fleer, Clayton McFant, Thos. Grant Williams, Arthur Wise, Harry Charles Knight, Herbert William Houston, Fred Harris, Arthur Lee, Raymond Dow, Dewey White, George Hawk, Sgt. Robert Edmond Terry, Corp. Henry Vaclavick, Roy Edward Williams, Tine Pickle, Charles Armstrong, Percy V. Reed, John J. Vaclavick, Pierce Downer, Ed Day, John Wise, Arthur Clinton Queen, Thomas Braxton White, Walter Leo Hoffman, Zmiri J. Dickert, Thos. Allison, Cyril Marion Foisy, Earnest Downer, Urie Emerson Fant, Kirk V. Harter, Andrew Long, Walter Sylvester Queen, William Queen, USN Lewis Woodruff, James J. Harris, Dan E. Welch, Henry Melvin Spoor, Monroe J. Wise, Gilbert A. Hultquist, Ruby Mills, Charles Clem Segrest, Fred Dow, Thurlo Terry, Lenard Emil Blackburn, Edward Fleer, and colored Leander Franklin, Robert T. Smith, Clarence Parke, Clarence Adams, Jeff Davis Pea, Granville Pea, Coleman Norris, Harold Walton, John P. Adams, Willie Irvin and Jenkins Lacy.

 

On July 16, 1922, a wrestling match was held for a community house benefit. Jack Mobley, welterweight champ of the Y. M. C. A. of Houston, Texas wrestled Victor Kopecky, middleweight, ex-pro. The tickets were 50 cents admission, reserved $1.00 and ring side $2.50.

 

Mrs. J. A. Smith installed, in November, 1923, a curtain for $75.00 and a machine for $298.00 for viewing films. Four reels of film would cost $8.50 and Mr. Bagley would operate the machine. Abel B. Pierce informed the community house that since they had added a motion picture machine, the insurance would go up from $2.60 to $3.10.

 

In June of 1931 it was reported that the towns of Deutschburg, El Campo, Palacios and Francitas held plays in the community house.

 

There were two orchestras, two dances, high school and grammar school graduation and the senior banquet held in the community house also.

 

By the 1930s modern times had come. The library had 1800 volumes of books, a gas cook stove, gas heaters, running water with a sink and restrooms with modern plumbing had been installed. There were 35 dances that made $153.46, four travel shows made $13.02, plays from other towns made $35.55, an oyster supper made $23.60, and a chicken pie supper made $19.35. Thirty parties, box suppers, Catholic picnic, community Christmas tree and entertainment, school plays, graduation and elections were held in the community house. The gas and light bill for two years was $101.58 and library membership and fines were $42.55.

 

In December, 1931 a carnival was held for a fund raiser for the library. The women of the community house and library association began charity work with the county health department, Dr. Wagner and Mrs. Martyn. Together they vaccinated 181 children for diphtheria and 213 for smallpox.

 

The moving picture machine was stolen in June 1932 so the projection room partition was removed and the size of the kitchen was increased. Cupboards that locked were added and locking drawers for silver and linens. This work was done for $50.00 and sixty more books were added to the library.

 

In March of 1934 Dr. Barber and Mrs. Martyn with the county health department came out and with the help of the library members gave diphtheria shots and now 90% of the children were vaccinated.

 

The library and community house sponsored a dance for the children's health fund raising $27.00 in April of 1936 according to Mrs. Albert White. This was to defray the cost of eye corrections, tonsil removal and tooth extraction as the county health fund was depleted. Miss Coley's cooking class served lunch at the Blessing High School basketball meet, with most of the food donated, raising $15.01 for the health fund.

 

In March, 1937 John Vaclavick was appointed to supervise construction and repairs to the foundation of the community house. $100.00 from the Gulf Sulphur Company would be used towards the repairs. He was to install concrete piers with concrete footings, repair the porch, front doors and screens at the same time. In June, 1937 the repairs to the foundation were completed at a cost of $186.00 and the community house would have to borrow some money. There were dances and meetings held to raise money to pay the utility bills. The library gave a school girl 50 cents to work in the library on Saturday afternoons.

 

An Armistice Day Oyster Supper benefit and entertainment was held at the community house November 11, 1941. It was given by the VFW of Bay City, Texas and tickets were 50 cents. It benefited the VFW post relief and the purchase of new flags.

 

The Internal Revenue Service informed the community house by letter of June 2, 1945, that they would have to pay tax on admission, dues, cabarets, roof gardens, etc. "Admission to any Place" tax at 17 cents on each 83 cents and 1 cent on each 5 cents or fraction.

 

The roof was in need of repair, so E. C. Culbertson and Charles Harris were hired to re-roof the community house with wood shingles in July, 1945. Materials would cost $661.00 and labor would be $217.00.

 

At the general meeting of the Matagorda County Federation of Women's Clubs on May 11, 1946, Secretary, Mrs. H. A. Cooke, gave Adelaide H. Pierce a complete file of minutes of the federation from March 11, 1922 to December 5, 1931 and June 11, 1937 to May 4, 1946 in accordance with the by-laws of the federation. These were to be stored in Mrs. Pierce's fireproof vault in Blessing.

 

Ola Mae Schulte reported on May 8, 1948 in the town of Blessing seven street lights had been installed at both rail stations and paid for by the community house. There was an election of officers and names of six Greek ladies' were given to the library to send them a monthly package, but the library needed to know what they needed. There was a basketball tourney and food sales that made $152.98 to help pay for the street lights.

 

In 1951 the library and community house began working with the county health department giving chest x-rays for tuberculosis. 416 were given in 1951. Again in 1952, sponsored by Tidehaven High School, the community house and library and the American Legion, free chest x-rays for tuberculosis for anyone 15 years old and above were available. A total of 213 x-rays were taken.

 

Mrs. Dick Powell, on March 17, 1953, reported the community house and library association, wanting to provide more activities for the community, formed a tennis court committee composed of Tex Kassen, Lee Pierce, Red Foster, Mr. Earle, Scout Master, Elmer Cornett, Father Tell, Tracy Butler, Beau Butler, John Louderback, Pete Hamelik, Bert Logan, Fritz Bauman and Earl Adams, Sr. Tennis courts were located on the Northeast side of the block.

 

The Blessing square could not be deeded to the Blessing Library Association since they were not incorporated. Library members voted to incorporate as a non profit and charitable corporation and this would eliminate the franchise tax also. So on March 31, 1953, Quit claim deed No. 10804 was signed by Ellen Cornelius, Adalaide H. Pierce, Mae Powell, Ruth Matthes, Mrs. John Ackerman, Ina Mae Harter, Mrs. Lee M. Pierce, Mrs. Leo Neuszer, Ola Mae Logan and Dorothy Cornett to form a new private corporation as Blessing Library Association under subdivision 3 of Article 1302 of the Teas revised civil statues of 1925. This was approved by the Secretary of State on April 10, 1953.

 

The charter of Blessing Library Association #114755 certification of dissolution was forfeited by the Secretary of State under Article 7096 on July 2, 1954, but all of 1954 was spent trying to get a deed to the property under the new Quit claim deed #10804. On the 23rd day of March, 1955, recorded at the Matagorda County Clerk's office March 25, 1955, Judge J. J. Spurgeon sent the deed approved. This new Blessing Library Association marked the end of the Federation of Women's Clubs running the community house and library. In May, 1956, the new group gave the first annual homecoming barbeque celebration.

 

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the community house was used for meetings, elections, parties, dances and bridal and baby showers. The annual May Day was held the first Sunday of May and invited all old timers to Blessing. Barbeque and trimmings were served. The ladies would gather on Saturday to peel potatoes for potato salad and cook beans. The men would barbeque all night. Sunday would find ladies and men of the community donating their time to cut meat, serve the meal and homemade desserts. Bands would play and a parade would circle the town square. Outstanding citizens were chosen. There wasn't much repair work as money was tight. Volunteers took care of renting the community house and seeing that it was cleaned. The barbeque pits were enlarged and finished May 17, 1972 with that date inscribed on them.

 

Not having funds to take care of the property, on September 4, 1991 under special warranty deed No. 5352, the city block and property were deeded to Matagorda County. Ola Mae Logan, Secretary, and Mae Coffman, President of the Blessing Library Association and Community House signed this deed.

 

In 1995 the old roof was taken off and a new one of fiberglass shingles was installed at a price of $5390.00.

 

In 1997 under Matagorda County Pct. 4 Commissioner E. R. Vacek, major improvements began. Sixteen feet was added to the 70 ft. length of the building. Restrooms were made handicap accessible. Both restrooms were accessible through an exterior door at the entrance. The kitchen had an island added. Brothers Custom Works of Hungerford, in February, March, and April, did the foundation and framing for $13,275.00. In April, the following improvements and installations were made:

addition roofed by E. T. Rush - $819.00.;

insulation by Spray Energy Systems - $288.00 and $748.00;

toilet stalls by Clyde Griesenbeck of Houston - $3120.00;

           vanity tops, laminate in restrooms and kitchen and cabinets by Dan Haynes Construction of Hungerford - $4570.00;

           drywall, sheathing, and floor covering for restrooms and kitchen by Day Spring Company of Wharton - $7675.00;

            toilets, sinks, faucets, hot water heater and insulation by Gary Tupa of El Campo - $5137.00;

           ramps, platforms, front entry, back entry, serving windows, hand rails and concrete by Manuel and Son of Hungerford - $4687.

          A microwave, ceiling fan lights and stainless sinks were purchased from Randy Davis for $2338.25.

 

In 1998 Commissioner E. R. Vacek continued his work for the Community House. Ten trees were purchased and planted from Trees Only of Bay City, Texas in April for $3867.50. Air conditioning and central heat was installed by Ladell Sump in February for $7947.00 and a Master Built walk-in cooler provided by El Campo Refrigeration for $7814.00 in March. On the outside, Commissioner Vacek had erected a metal pavilion, 50ft x 100ft x 9ft for $12,100.00 in March from Superior Building Systems of Whitsett, Texas.

 

Commissioner Vacek, in 1999, had insulated windows and more insulation installed in the community house. Lumber was purchased and the county employees made wooden picnic tables to go under the pavilion. In September, the Matagorda Episcopal Health Outreach program was initiated. It provided free health services to the community.

 

Tropical Storm "Faye" hit on September 7, 2002 and tore the metal pavilion down. There was insurance and the county collected $9710.00 to repair the damage.

 

In 2002 under Commissioner Percy Carroll, the county made an agreement with Linda Gibson to manage the community house, handle scheduling, receive deposits, unlock and lock the building, inspect building and clean building twice a month. Ercel Hadden had the trash pick up agreement and Billy Jalufka mowed the lawn. New tables and chairs were purchased for the inside of the community house and a new steel back door was installed.

 

In 2003 Hurricane Claudette hit but there was only minor damage. County Commissioner Percy Carroll put lights under the pavilion and repaired the barbeque pits. He extended the management contract for 2003 and 2004 with Linda Gibson and also the agreements with Ercel Hadden and Billy Jalufka.

 

The Blessing Library Association started out offering the citizens of Blessing, young and old, an opportunity to have books and literature to read. Seeing a need for a meeting center, the community house was built. It has been a cultural center hosting silent films and plays, assisted the Red Cross during the wars, helped the county health department eliminate diseases, held elections, graduations, showers, parties and dances. The fourth generation is now serving the needs of the community house and on May 2, 2004 they held their 49th annual Blessing Day and Homecoming Celebration. Through the years with the dedication of the citizens of Blessing and the generosity of Matagorda County Commissioners Court, this Blessing Community House has remained the hub of the community.

 

The Official Texas Historical Marker for Blessing Library Association was dedicated August 13, 2005.

 




Blessing Teachers and School Board in Front of the Blessing Library and Community House
c1918-1922

Front row, teachers, l to r: Ralph Newsom, Francis Harrison, Mary Doss, America Judkins,
Beth Wynn, Mary Luder

(If you can help with identification of back row, please email.)
 


 

Copyright 2009 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

This page was created
Feb. 22, 2009
This page was updated
Feb. 22, 2009
   

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