The Daily Tribune
Collegeport Article
Date Unknown
 

THOUGHTS--WHERE A STAR FELL

 

By Harry Austin Clapp

 

"And the earth was without form and void; and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." A limitless sea, a moving, restless sea. It waves sparkling in the sun light and the tossed spray broke into a million brilliant fire flashing diamonds, just as it does this day. When storm winds broke across its breast, immense waves charged a shoreless shore. This grand sea, glorious as it might be, for millions of years, covered many fathoms deep the place where the star fell.

 

And then one day God said, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together in one place and let the dry land appear, and it was so." Therefore on orders given by the Great Master the sea dried, land appeared and the place where the star fell became visible, dry, teemed with new vegetation and forms of animal life and so it remained for millions of years, but God never forgot the place where the star fell and one day man came--a white man, the first of his race to press the soil of Texas beneath his feet.

 

Vasco de Gama made a successful landing fourteen years after Columbus and made his discovery. From that date the arrival of men from Spain carrying the cross and the sword, was continuous, resulting in one war after another.

 

Two hundred years passed and La Salle brought the flag of France . He landed in Matagorda Bay while seeking the entrance to the Mississippi . Here tragedy stalked and here he left his bones. One day, seeking a way out, he came up the bay to the mouth of the Palacios River , and unable to go farther, he abandoned his boat and crossed just north of Collegeport to the Colorado River and down that stream to the bay and to make contact with his ship.

 

After that Stephen F. Austin traversed the same land and the army of Santa Anna, in retreat, crossed what territory this tale intends to cover.

 

Although the word " Texas " means "friend," the land has witnessed one fight after another, until one might say every inch of soil has been drenched with the blood of explorers and exploiters. Few came here except to exploit. After the coming of the Austins , development took on new activity.

 

Land was segregated, farming practiced, live stock raising predominant, but progress was the order. I am trying to impress upon the reader that although my tale concerns the history of one community, that God in His way took millions of years preparing the place where the star fell, for the use and occupancy of man. After these millions of years what means the four hundred since Columbus came?

 

This place lighted by the brilliance of the falling star, covers about two hundred square miles, about 128,000 acres, and is known as the Collegeport territory. The land is well watered by the Colorado , Palacios, Wilson and other waterways. Heavy timber grows along the waterways, thousands of acres of excellent pasture grasses, some swamp land, acres upon acres of rich soil capable of producing the maximum of crops and in great variety. I digress. It is my duty to relate the history of one community.

 

Briefly I have covered the years of preparation. Many explorers, many speculators, many explorations organized, until one day a man of vision, of high ideals, ideals that reached far and beyond the acquiring of money, came upon this place and viewing the land with the eye of an expert engineer, he pronounced it good and well fitted for the home of a community.

 

Selecting a beautiful bluff, some eighteen feet above mean tide he laid out streets, alleys, parks, public places and the town of Collegeport was born. The name Collegeport was used because one of the plans of the engineer was the establishment of a college where boys and girls might become educated with small cost. The college was established and known as The Gulf Coast University of Industrial Arts. Some high class name. I should know for I was a trustee.

 

The school was under the direction of Professor W. H. Travis, a godly man, who believed he had a call for this work. The first Sunday school was organized by Mrs. Gussie Elmer. I can hear her voice as I write, singing "Bringing in the Sheaves," and "Open Wide the Windows and Let the Blessed Sunshine In." Chauncy Brown, one-time husband of Miss Grace Smith, was superintendent. By the way, Chauncy died about four weeks ago, a member of the editorial staff of the Dallas News. Along come dozens and scores of fine, substantial folk, desirous of settling in a community which presented such admirable home situations.

 

Three hotels were erected: Hotel Collegeport, the Savoy , the Weborg, rooming houses in numbers. A bank, two lumber yards, two hardware stores, a weekly paper, The Collegeport Chronicle, edited in its later issues by M. A. Travis. The post office was opened in 1909 with H. N. Sholl as the postmaster. Five grocery stores, two dry goods stores, a news and novelty store by Herbert Adams, who later became postmaster. A school district was organized with 12 scholastics and the new district voted bonds in the sum of $12,000 and a new brick school house was built. The first school was held in a tent with four pupils.

 

The necessity of a church was seen and one was designed by Mrs. Dena D. Hurd and built by popular subscription. The formation of an organization was handled by Rev. M. A. Travis, a Baptist minister and E. C. Van Ness, a Baptist layman, and it became known as the first federated church to be organized in America . Fourteen different sectarian bodies united in this enterprise. It functioned until like other things I write of the frosts of winter descended.

 

Theo Smith & Son built a telephone line between this community and Bay City , built a phonehouse and gave us night and day service.

 

The building of the beautiful Smith home, the Hurd home and the splendid Holsworth home on the bay shore was followed by the erection of a score or more of attractive bungalows and the establishment of many happy homes. A regular boat service between Palacios and Collegeport was established. The local ice wagon bore the inscription "Watch Us Grow." It grew as ice melted.

 

Mrs. Dena D. Hurd organized in 1909 the Collegeport Woman's Club and it has lived and functioned to this day, thanks to the sacrificing labors and love of about three to five devoted women. Most of the women cared little and that is the present day rule, but the club has marched on and today owns and operates the only free public library in the county with 1800 books. The library and club are established in a commodious and handsome building. The King's Daughters affiliated with the church and the Woman's Union both with continuous and valuable efforts.

 

The Collegeport Industrial League, once with ninety members, now gasping for breath with three members: S. W. Corse, Hugo Kundinger and H. A. Clapp. For the interest of the readers I give a list of names of those who were members of the league and community. Events long forgotten will return. Memory of folk well known will come back and reappear, bringing happiness and sorrow. Where are these folk this day? Dead, gone back to their home in the north, a fine type of Americans who had they stayed might have built a town.

 

Read the list: Theo Smith, W. H. Travis, H. A. Clapp, F. House, L. E. Liggett, H. N. Sholl, Dr. Knight, C. E. Judin, Chas. Pierson, Wes Miller, O. B. Kone, W. B. Gaumer, E. C. Van Ness, A. J. Palmer, Ed Olson, Arthur Morris, H. P. Socks, Burton D. Hurd, C. E. Sterling, Dr. Darling, G. E. Lipsett, J. D. Evans, I. N. Glasser, M. L. Herbage, A. F. Livers, M. A. Travis, W. N. Glasser, J. H. Adams, N. C. Sweet, C. B. Dirke, Geo. A. Lake, O. S. Leach, Cletus Jones, W. W. Wilkinson, Thomas Jones, D. H. Morris, William Pfeiffer, W. R. Cobb, E. L. Ives, George Black, Mac Jones, T. McM. Clark, W. S. Wright, E. L. Gable, Frank Ocutt, H. C. Harrington, G. A. Delaplain, O. Gabelman, Henry Kahnt, G. S. Welsby, J. W. Grimes, L. C. Sellers, Ed Wilder, E. T. Carey, D. E. Hurd, J. W. Maples, L. S. Hutchinson, Robert Murry, E. C. Hoffhines, D. Sachett, J. W. Hansel, W. S. Elmer, Dr. Pridgeon, M. A. Nelson, George Brown, Robert Price and E. A. Holsworth.

 

These men were building a community. Where are they now? Only five left. Ask the whispering wind. Where are the sweet homes they built? Ask the ebbing tide.

On a promise by the railroad company the farmers put out 600 acres of watermelons in 1910. The company promised to be ready to handle the crop June 1st, but, alas, the choo-choo did not arrive until October. Melons decayed in the field. The railroad functioned for 25 years and then expired and withdrew like Mary's little lamb carried its tail behind. The auto and the modern highway.

 

The Burton D. Hurd Land Company, sponsors for the community progress and development of adjacent lands, built a canal system and one of the finest pumping plants; the irrigation system costing around three hundred thousand dollars. Shortage of water in the Colorado River brought failure to the new rice crop, discouragement to the farmers and final liquidation to the irrigation company.

 

May 25, 1909 , the townsite was opened. Fifteen hundred people attended, two big bands, speeches delivered, big barbecue, dance at Hotel Collegeport at night, a very big day, everyone happy and anticipating the building of a good sized town furnishing modern facilities.

 

Since that day, each year the birth of the community has been celebrated with a community dinner. Every year since 1909 the folks of Citrus Grove observe Thanksgiving Day with a big community dinner. January 1st each year a community dinner at Collegeport and on Washington's birthday the Woman's Union serve a banquet. These affairs have continued for 27 years, testifying to the sentiment of some of our people.

 

In 1935 the railroad obtained permission to take up the track and discontinue operation. One of our citizens conceived the idea of obtaining possession of the freight house and using the material for erection of a community house. The company investigated, the gift was made and with the aid of our county commissioner the community now enjoys a beautiful building known as the Mopac House. It houses the Woman's Club with its library of 1800 books, supplied with a fine kitchen, water, electric lights and an auditorium well furnished and ample for local needs.

 

At the peak of Collegeport development the place boasted of a population of 485 living on the townsite, but this day, sad to relate, only thirty-five live on the town site. At the peak, according to an estimate by the Missouri Pacific, our trading population was 1600, today it is probably around half that number.

 

So long as Burton D. Hurd, the dreamer, was in control, the community maintained a wholesome growth, but when hostile elements intruded growth slowed up and at last this element obtained control ousted the man who was a developer, brought about liquidation of the original organization and exploiters were in control. Their ambition was to suck the orange dry, take all profits possible and abandon the community and this was done.

 

This day marked the decline and so here we are today. We have no railroad, but we have a cement highway which begins at Mopac House and reaches all important cities of the continent. It gives us excellent mail and truck service and yet we are sitting at the end of the road and we dream of the time when a causeway will be built connecting us with Palacios and enabling us to "see the race of men go by."

 

Our sea wall provides an unusual view extending down the bay for many miles. Our artesian water is unexcelled and some medical men give it credit for aid in curing or relieving many functional disorders. The soil is generous in growth of crops. The sun is warming with its brilliant rays. The moon shines gently. Collegeport is the home of a happy contented people. They are going about their business of home building.

 

Development of an oil field is promised for the near future and gossip says that the Gulf Sulphur Company has cast approving eyes upon the place where the star fell. We invite the world to visit this desirable situation--a situation brought about by a man during a modest life time.

 

My reader, I know this so-called history is incoherent, unconnected, irrational, confused, rambling. Every word has been written under compulsion--under nervous strain, under disturbed equilibrium. It has taken weeks for seldom have I been able to sit at the Corona longer than ten minutes. No person other than Carey Smith could have induced me to make the effort. It is my last attempt. I hope it brings some pleasure and appeals to some interest. I shall try and write some more "Thoughts" but this is the last special for I have reached the limit of physical and nervous strength. Please forgive for failure. Perhaps this will never see print. I don't know. Whether it is set or dies on the hook makes no difference to me. Death comes to all things. I am waiting with Faith, Belief, Hope. I have faith in the Collegeport community and its people. I believe in my God. Come along with me. Collegeport offers much to the home lover.

 

It is the place where the star fell.

 

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This page was created Jun. 22, 2005 This page was updated Jun. 22, 2005
   

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