By Kathleen Tatum
The Town of Collegeport, in the southwestern part of Matagorda County, Texas was founded May 25, 1908.
The name "Collegeport" was derived from two promises Burton D. Hurd, the land developer, made to Jonathan Edwards Pierce and his son, Abel Brown Pierce. It was agreed that Mr. Hurd would build a college and develop a port to support the economy. Thus, the name "Collegeport" became the name of the new proposed town.
Jonathan and Abel's dream was to establish a town on the Tres Palacios Bay front and sell plots of land. They hired the Burton D. Hurd Land Company, with offices in Des Moines, Iowa, to promote the land sales. The Pierce's had other lands, but this 9,000 acres of land, with fourteen miles of bay front, is what the Pierce's wanted to sell in ten, twenty or however many acres as a person wanted to buy. The advertisements in the northern papers stated the climate was very mild and on just ten acres of land, planted in figs, citrus and other fruits and vegetables a person could make a good living. The people from the northern states flocked to Collegeport, bought land and built homes for their families.
By 1912, Collegeport had 29 businesses, that included a bank, a postoffice, two lumber yards, real estate office, three large hotels, a newspaper, jewelry store, nursery, canning factory, drug store, grocery, dry goods, livery stable, meat and ice stores, as well as a physician, a two-story school, a university, a Federated Church and Grace Episcopal Church.
In 1914 a heavy freeze killed most of the fig and orange trees as well as vegetables and livestock. The next year, a drought and Charbon, a disease, killed much of the livestock that was left. The majority of the families eventually packed up and left due to the calamities of the previous two years. Some of the families that chose to stay were the Nelsons, Mercks, Franzens and Holsworths.
Collegeport is very proud of the fact that they had the first university, free public library and Boy Scout troop in Matagorda County.
The Gulf Coast University of Industrial Arts was the first "university" in Matagorda County. It was first offered to a preacher, but when he failed to accomplish anything, a plot of land was deeded to the professor of the Palacios Baptist College, M. A. Travis. Mr. Travis promoted industrial, domestic and agricultural arts and science at GCU. He also encouraged development of waterways for Collegeport. Mr. Travis taught the students and farmers how to raise figs, citrus and other fruits as well as garden vegetables. Later he established a weekly newspaper, The Collegeport Chronicle. The name was changed to Collegeport New Era in 1914 when J. J. Rodebaugh became publisher.
Collegeport also claims the first Boy Scout troop in the county. It was organized on September 15, 1910 under the leadership of Harry Austin Clapp.
The Woman's Club of Collegeport, which was organized May 19, 1910, had the first free public library in the county. The library was opened February 10, 1912 with Miss Lena Duller as head librarian. The little library was temporarily housed in the real estate office of W. W. Wilkinson. Then, October, 1912, the club rented a reading and library room in the Buchen store. On July 30, 1914, they moved the library to the west room of the public school. The club purchased the home of J. H. Adams, the second postmaster, for $50.00 on July 14, 1923 and moved it to a lot in Block #105. Later they purchased lots 1-11 in Block 105 from Dr. W. W. Van Wormer.
When the Missouri Pacific Railroad ceased service to Collegeport, Harry Austin Clapp, Industrial League secretary, was successful in obtaining the lumber from the depot built in 1910. The lumber was used to build a community house which was named Mopac House. It was attached to the library and open house was held May 4, 1935.
Since Collegeport's inception, residents have celebrated its founding on May 25th. In more recent years the celebration has been held on the last Saturday in May. Residents, former residents and friends from across Matagorda County gather to celebrate "Collegeport Day," with barbecue and all the trimmings.
Most of the "Old Timers" have passed away, but their descendants and friends return each May to Collegeport and keep the spirit of the community alive.
The dedication of the Texas Historical Marker for Collegeport, Texas was held May 25, 1991.
JONATHAN EDWARD PIERCE AND ABEL BROWN PIERCE HIRED LAND DEVELOPER BURTON D. HURD TO SELL OFF 9,000 ACRES OF THEIR RANCH LANDS IN 1908. THE AGREEMENT WITH HURD CALLED FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A TOWN THAT WOULD INCLUDE A COLLEGE AND A PORT ON TRES PALACIOS BAY.
ADVERTISING THE VENTURE IN NEWSPAPERS OF NORTHERN STATES, HURD PROMOTED THE AREA’S MILD CLIMATE AND PROMISING FARMING OPPORTUNITIES. A NUMBER OF FAMILIES RELOCATED TO COLLEGEPORT TO PURCHASE LAND, ESTABLISH FARMS, AND BUILD NEW HOMES.
THE GULF COAST UNIVERSITY OF INDUSTRIAL ARTS, THE COLLEGE PROMISED BY THE TOWN’S DEVELOPER, OPENED IN 1909. SERVED BY THE MISSOURI PACIFIC (MOPAC) RAILROAD, COLLEGEPORT GREW QUICKLY AND BY 1912 INCLUDED A BANK, POST OFFICE, SCHOOL, TWO CHURCHES, RETAIL STORES, AND OTHER COMMERCIAL BUSINESSES. IT BOASTED THE COUNTY’S FIRST FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY, ITS FIRST BOY SCOUT TROOP, AND THE WOMAN’S CLUB, FOUNDED IN 1910.
IN 1914 A
HEAVY FREEZE KILLED MOST OF THE FARMERS’ CROPS, AND THE AREA
EXPERIENCED A DROUGHT AND A DISEASE WHICH DEVASTATED THE LIVESTOCK
HERDS, CAUSING MANY FAMILIES TO MOVE AWAY. THE RAILROAD DEPOT WAS
DISMANTLED, REBUILT AS MOPAC HOUSE, AND ATTACHED TO THE PUBLIC
LIBRARY IN 1935. (1990)
Copyright 2009 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Feb. 22, 2009
Feb. 22, 2009