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Collegeport Columns

December, 1929

Thoughts About a Saga of Collegeport

By Harry Austin Clapp


“And then the blue eyed Norseman told

A saga of the days of old.”



A saga of Collegeport properly begins generations ago, when all these lands were covered with roaming herds of cattle and the home of a few, very few, people, but for the purpose of this tale it goes back to about the year 1906 when a man on horseback rode over its expanse and with ambitious eye visioned its future. Allowing his horse to graze, he folded his arms and stared at the brilliant scene. He did not see the landscape. His eyes were projecting visions. He saw nothing but tall grass up to the belly of his horse, clumps of huisache, groups of grazing cattle and driving all day he came upon but one wandering cowman. In his future reaching eye, however, he saw, farms with men busy putting in crops, roads, radiating from all parts of the territory, women singing at their work, children laughing at play. He saw schools, fine homes, a railroad and other evidences of progress. In his mind he laid out the country into blocks and the blocks into large and small farms and on a delightful bluff overlooking the bay he saw a town occupied with a busy, happy contented people.


Came a surveyor in the year 1907 who ran lines across the country with a compass and these lines were transcribed onto blue prints. The bell was tolling for a long occupied pasture land and the day of cowmen and cattle was passing.


For my purpose in this tale the time begins when I read an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune, which called me to the Marquette building where I met a man whose presence inspired confidence, and so I signed up and on January 24, 1909 , I first gazed upon what was to be Collegeport.


Collegeport, like Gaul , is divided into three parts, viz: the originals, those who lived here before 1909, the old timers, those who settled here during the years 1909 and 1914, and the new comers, those who arrived since 1914.


The five years beginning with 1909 were golden days of the community, for it was during that period, the railroad came, the post office was opened, a bank established. People came fast and soon the town boasted of twelve business houses, a weekly newspaper, The Collegeport Chronicle, a splendid hotel, two big rooming houses, fine residences along the bay shore and the principal street. Then came the days of retroversion. People began to turn back from whence they came. Some of the older ones died after trying to snatch back some of their youth, jaded ones who were getting a thrill out of what they called pioneering, disillusioned ones who tiring of the effervescence of home seeking. These left. Some others stayed and are still here living a contented life.


Old timers, do you remember with what pride you used to listen to the wonderful music produced by the Collegeport band? Do you remember those boys? L. E. Liggett, business manager; Mr. Harsh, director; Abbot Kone, cornet; Donald Travis, cornet; J. Walters, clarinet; Carl Judin, Clarinet; G. Yeamans, baritone; C. Yeamans, bass; A. Morris, snare drum; Geo. Martin, bass drum; Ora Turner, alto; Joe Paine, alto; George Corporon, slide trombone.


In 1911, Mrs. Emma B. Ruff of Houston offered to build a canning factory provided we would subscribe $10,000 in stock. We decided to wait until Dr. Van Wormer would build one without so much encouragement.


Came those who are here now whose names it is not necessary to mention, but also came Smith, Travis, House, Sholl, Knight, Judin, Pierson, Miller, Kone, Gaumer, Van Ness, Spence, Palmer, Olsen, Morris, Sicks, Hurd, Sr., Sterling, Darling, Lipsitt, Glasser, Herbage, Livers, Adams, Sweet, Dierke, Lake, Leach, Jones, Brown, Wilkinson, Pfeiffer, Cobb, Ives, Black, Clark, Aucutt, Harrington, Delaplain, Gableman, Kanht, Grimes, Sellers, Wilder, Carey, Maples, Hutchison, Hoffhines, Sarchet, Hansel, Elmer, Pridgeon, Mott, Price, Edwards, O’Kane and a host of others whose names my memory does not recall.


Now as I look back I regret those halcyon days of Collegeport. I recall the night we met to organize our first school district and count all the children then living here and those whose parents were planning to come we had about ten names and so the first school was opened in a small tent about where the library stands now, with a devoted teacher whose name I do not remember.


Mrs. Elmer started the first Sunday school, in the Mott grocery store, with Chauncy Brown as superintendent and H. A. Clapp as assistant. The assistant was needed, as we had as many as six or seven members. I can hear Mrs. Elmer’s voice as I write, singing, “Bringing in the Sheaves.”


Then there was the Dena H. What memories the name brings to us as we think of the many happy trips on that gay ship from the Collegeport dock to Portsmouth and a royal dinner with the O’Neals.


Mrs. O’Neal still preserved the old register and a perusal of its pages will bring back to one many happy thoughts of the days that are gone forever. How about the pavilion, the land company provided with its promenade, its dancing floor, its bath rooms and facilities for water sports.


There is was, that Mary Louise took her first swimming lesson and as I took her into the water she clung to me like a leach from fear. Now she dives and swims like a seal. Remember the building of the fine hotel, the opening of the townsite with the two bands and after a banquet in the dining room, two hundred people dancing on the gallery and in the lobby.


There being no postoffice or railway, our mail was brought from Palacios and deposited in a box on the beach and each one selected his own mail. Groceries came from the same source. We all felt quite swell when the postoffice was opened with Howard Sholl as postmaster and the day the first train arrived, the town turned out in full force.


Everyone suffered from the citrus fruit and fig bug and many acres were set out and for a time it looked as though Collegeport would bull the fruit market. No one counted much on the dairy cow or the sow or hen. Note the change, for now they are the standby for the payment of the grocery account.


Only a few things are mentioned but they will serve I hope to bring back happy memories to those who are now in foreign parts.


Last week my copy mentioned that Gerald Merck, wife and baby boy were here for a visit and that Glenn Dale Welsby and wife were here also. The fellow who manipulates the keys on the type machine ignored the Merck copy and then stated that Glenn Dale Welsby and baby boy were here. In as much as Dale was married on the day before Thanksgiving, the announcement is a trifle previous. Some day it is hoped he will come with his baby boy.


Arthur Soekland shipped five crates of superlative fat capons this week, and Mrs. John Gainesborough Ackerman sent out a big bunch of turks. The Fred Robbins ranch shipped out eight cars of short yearling calves in a special train.


Some thief, while Seth Corse was busy reached in the delivery window of the postoffice and swiped the postal scales. A serious offense.


Gus Franzen drove in Thursday and from his car dumped out fourteen school kids. Shows what a Ford can do.


At last, Oscar Barber has made his wants known. The miserable wretch swears she will vote for him but as for me, I dunno until I have talked the matter over with Oscar. It is my humble opinion that Mr. Kleska should be retained in his office for several reasons, the foremost being that he is a very proficient collector.


A downpour of five or six inches of rain Tuesday postponed land breaking for some time. Balance of the week, “good old summer time.”


I feel sorry for George Harrison. It seems that he told his girls that every time they made the honor roll in school he would honor them with a cash deposit and here come Ruth, Naomi and Marion all in the honor roll and George will have to come across if I know those girls.


The woman’s club held its annual Christmas party at the Boeker home with a regular tree loaded with gifts for each member.


Old friends of the Sims family are delighted to know that they have arrived for a stay of several weeks and are at home in their Bay shore domicile. They left Detroit with a temperature of four below and arrive here with the mercury flirting with eighty. Mr. Sims began shedding heavy underwear and overcoat at Tulsa and by the time he arrived here was in his B. V. D.’s over which he wore the customary clothing. They brought with them Miss Mabel Berger from Tulsa . Miss Berger should be counted as an old timer for she bought land here in 1910. She also owns several lots in town and is planning extensive improvements on her home, located at the corner of Central Street and Avenue E.


Mrs. Crane, manager of the Bachman store, has a tempting display of toys surrounding a Christmas tree all located in one of the show windows.


The Collegeport Pharmacy is all dolled up with mistletoe, holly and yupon and an extra fine display of gifts. This display will in no way detract from the quality of hot and cold drinks he draws from his fountain. Hugo has not only made a reputation as an oyster chef, but is known far and wide for being a prince of good fellows.


My copy last week mentioned that among those present at the Liggett dinner was Mr. Edward Linwood Hall. The typer made it read Mr. Edward Linwood. Mr. Hall is the man who owns and operates the Portsmouth special between this burg and the city, twenty-five miles from the Bay.


Mrs. Seth W. Corse and Mrs. Carl Boeker attended as delegates from the local club, the County Federation meeting at Blessing. They report that turkey, dressing and gravy were delicious.


A letter from Mr. James Ford executive director better homes in America , Washington , D. C., requests that Mrs. Harry Austin Clapp act as chairman of the local board. If better homes means more and better noodles, I am for it strong.


Louise Walter comes out in a nifty dress of black and white check, big red tie and a bright red coat. Makes her look like a cardinal, but anyway she is a bird.


The Daily Tribune , December 17, 1929, Harry Austin Clapp Scrapbook 2, pp 38 & 39


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