The Daily Tribune and The Matagorda County Tribune
Century of Progress Edition
August 26, 1937
Collegeport Articles

DEVELOPMENT OF TEXAS LAND WAS AIDED BY HURD

 

BROUGHT FIRST TRAIN OF SETTLERS TO TEXAS; DID MUCH FOR THIS COUNTY

 

Taken from the Writings of J. S. Cullinan and Carey Smith, Sr.

 

The history of the development of Matagorda County would be incomplete without the history of the men whose years of far reaching insight into the future, who fearlessly took risks that would make way for those who came after, who were the pathfinders for advancements.

 

One of the builders in Matagorda County whose activities for twenty years during the height of immigration, when greatly encouraged by the railway companies penetrating the Gulf Coast country from Port Arthur to Point Isabel, was Burton D. Hurd, a man of powerful personality, keen judgement, a discerning mind and a keen sense of values. It has been said of Mr. Hurd that he lived a full quarter of a century ahead of the times. This is clearly evidenced in a resume of his twenty-five years of bringing people to Texas and the manner in which he prepared for the well-being of his people.

 

Burton D. Hurd was born on a stock farm in Hamilton County, Iowa, where his parents, of Scotch-Irish ancestry, settled in 1865, his progenitors having been land owners near Windsor, Connecticut, before 1640. After public school he graduated from Spaulding's Business College in Kansas City, Missouri, working days and going to college at nights. After having been active in the development and organization of reclaimed lands in central and northwestern Iowa, Mr. Hurd attracted the attention of Arthur Stilwell, builder of railroads. In 1897 he furnished young Hurd with an entire train of Pullman cars, free of cost, which he filled with prospective settlers and prominent men and came to Port Arthur, Texas, where a tract of 40,000 acres of land was sold to settlers. It was the special free trip that laid the foundation for the future development that followed of 16 separate ranch properties along the Gulf Coast of Texas, from Port Arthur to old Point Isabel, on the Mexican border aggregating more than a half million acres.

 

Fourteen canal systems were financed and built for irrigation of rice; roads, rice mills, warehouses, drainage ditches, schools and churches went into the improvement plan on a large scale. Included in this was the opening for sale of the first lands at Kingsville on the great King ranch, at Sarita on the Kennedy ranch, and another special train of prominent people with B. F. Yoakum on his railroad to open Mercedes, Texas, another garden spot of the south. Also included in the tremendous acreage of land developed by Mr. Hurd and his associates was 56,000 acres on the west side of the Colorado in Matagorda County and 25,000 acres on the east side; 16,000 acres west of Tres Palacios River south from the M. P. R. R. to the head of the bay in Matagorda County.

 

It has been said of this fine friend, neighbor and home builder that he never cared a cent for any dollar that could not be used for the betterment of the human family. His aim was always to the highest and his fertile mind constantly was active in the behalf of the development of this country.

 

Matagorda County Tribune, Century of Progress Edition, August 26,1937, Section 7, Pages 1 and 7.

 

COLLEGEPORT HAS COLORFUL HISTORY

 

By Dena D. Hurd

 

Collegeport is located on the east side of Tres Palacios Bay and on the site of the headquarters of the Ace of Clubs Ranch, the ancestral ranch of Mr. A. B. Pierce. The history of Collegeport is the history of the development of a 50,000 acre tract of land extending from the Colorado River on the east to the Tres Palacios Bay and River on the West and to Matagorda Bay on the southeast.

 

January 20, 1908 the Burton D. Hurd Land Company purchased the Ace of Clubs Ranch for the purpose of subdivision ad selling in small farms to buyers to the north and east. The site of Collegeport was selected for its location because it was near the center of the development. It was called Collegeport because the first project proposed toward the development was the building of a college for the education of boys and girls in the industrial arts. Later on, the World War caused the abandonment of the college project.

 

Grazing land and farms surround this town noted for its fishing, oyster beds, pure soft artesian water, gardens each month of the year and contented people. There are two general stores, a drug store, a restaurant, a community house and a community church. The Collegeport Woman's Club owns a library of 2,000 volumes of well assorted and selected books, and is housed in its own building, a gift of the Missouri Pacific Railway Company. There are no hotels in Collegeport, but guests are cared for in the homes of residents.

 

The Daily Tribune and Matagorda County Tribune, Centry of Progress Edition  August 26,1937  Section 7,  Page 4

 

MEMORIES OF AN OLD SCOUT

 

By Harry Austin Clapp

 

The other day the mother of a scout who attended the jam in Washington was visiting me and after I told her my scout tale, she asked me to write it for the special edition. She was a beautiful mother, cultured, refined, intelligent, and I fell in love with her at once. So here is the tale.

 

In 1912 the Scout movement was only two years old in America and as I read about it in the press I had a desire to organize a patrol in Collegeport, so made application. It was granted and in July, 1912, I received my commission as a Scoutmaster. A troop was organized and we had two patrols. Every member was in uniform and fully equipped with such items were required.

 

This was the first Scout organization in Matagorda County and I was the first Scoutmaster. I taught the boys how to make an Indian fire, to make damper bread and stick bread, to make coffee in a tin can, to broil beef on a willow stick, how to pack corn in the shuck, with potatoes and a chicken or fish heavily coated with clay and all packed in a red hot pit. I took them on hikes and taught them how to tie the bowline, braid and splice rope. First aid was given special attention and many other things too numerous for my space.

 

We took long hikes, sometimes twenty to fifty miles, each boy packing half a pup tent with their outfit. No hard roads those days. Most of the hike was cross country and we used the scout pace. We hiked fifteen minutes, rested five, and made good time. At a river we shucked off our duds and had a splash, much to the disgust of certain good home folks who thought it terrible that I should undress and splash around naked with the boys. It was indeed, terrible, but not nearly as terrible as when we would hold a boy down and allow a mud turtle to crawl across his belly. Good folk, that was awful, judging from the yowls of terror which emanated from the river bank. This was a punishment for sneaking a cig. We organized a hike to Bay City and were to camp on the court house lawn by invitation of Judge Holman, but some of the merchants objected so we just hiked cross country. Took a boat to Palacios, but the local hoodlums made so much fuss calling us sissies and baby boys that we were not allowed to land. Some of those bums are in business this day.

 

Our most pretentious hike was a trip to Galveston when the Intracoastal Canal was opened. We hired a boat and the trip was financed by the business men of the burg and easily financed. Today I could not raise enough money to enable me to hoist the anchor. We started early Saturday morning with Mrs. Clapp as hostess. Some of the boys had never been outside the county and were amazed at street cars, elevators, etc. The first night we spent at the mouth of the San Bernard and at noon were at Freeport where we were the guests of the Tarpon Inn with a turkey dinner. That night with other boats of the fleet headed by the U. S. Army engineer's boat, the Colonel, we spent at Mud Island.

 

We made Galveston without any trouble but high sea and took our place in the water parade reviewed by the governor and staff from the deck of an anchored ship. Tied up at dock and marched to the Galvez Hotel where, with the management's permission, we made camp on the lawn close to the hotel. The manager gave us free toilet and bath privileges in the hotel.

 

We were escorted to our camp ground by a detachment of Galveston Scouts and enroute we stopped at the Galveston News and were address by the editor. On our return trip the Galveston Scouts escorted us back to our ship. All during the trip we prepared our own meals and continued to do so when we were camped except when invited out by good folk. Strict discipline was exacted and no boy was allowed to leave camp alone. Always two. Bathing, pictures shows and other entertainments furnished recreation. The Scouts stood at attention and were addressed by Governor Colquitt and C. S. E. Holland, president of the canal association.

 

The night of the grand parade was an exciting evening. The parade was on the sea wall boulevard and from Galvez Hotel to Fort Crockett. First the U. S. Army Band of about 100 pieces--then the Scoutmaster in uniform with Roy Miller at his side leading the Scouts, and then about 2, 000 U. S. soldiers with perhaps two more bands. Say, Boy Scouts, that was a grand parade and we were a proud bunch. When we returned, the Army gave a drill to music and my Scouts gave their staff drill to the strains of "The Trail of the Lonesome Dove."

 

The last night discipline was thrown away and the boys given permission to go where they pleased without restriction, with the proviso that at ten thirty all should have reported and in bed. They were, and not one violation was reported. They kept the Scout faith and honor. The boys were several times invited to dinner by nearby café operators and one day they were the guests of the Galvez Hotel for luncheon.

 

My tent was a balloon silk, 9x9 in size and I occupied it with two scouts. I slept on the ground, as all did, and ate the same food. I had long before taught them how to make a cozy bed on the ground and they slept sound and well.

 

The time arrived for retreat, and, escorted by the Galveston Scouts, we were marched to the boat slip and with our equipment, plenty of food, and other necessities we boarded our ship and started on the home hike. The passage under the bascule bridge leaving the harbor presented a grave danger for the tide was a rip and the waves three to four feet high. I kept the Scouts in the cabin fearing one might be washed over. All down the bay we fought heavy seas, many of them breaking over our little ship and we were to be safe at Mud Island for the night.

 

Starting early in the morning, we passed Freeport and were again entertained by Joe Reynolds, manager of the Inn. Tied up at San Bernard for the night and arrived at our local dock Sunday night about ten o'clock. Oh, yes, we had a dock in those days, in fact two, one in the bay and the other doc in the drug store. Nine days of great fun, never an accident, no illness, great fun at all times.

 

Closing this tale, will add that the World War broke up my troop, for about all the boys joined some branch of federal service. Joe Paine in the Coast Artillery, Louis Powers in the Siberian campaign, one boy became an expert in sub construction, several on transports and I can hardly realize that one of my little Boy Scouts could be brave enough to leap into the Atlantic Ocean from a torpedoed transport to save his pal from drowning. It's true. All served. Cecil Morris served in the National Guard under Captain Richard Lewis, but for oversea service was turned down for physical defect. This nearly broke Cecil's heart. He lives in Houston, a strong hearty man.

 

This is my scout story. When you Boy Scouts read this, remember that the first Matagorda troop was organized twenty-five years ago and that the writer of this column was the first Scoutmaster. I hope some of you boys will be interested. The tale is true and you may believe it or not.

 

Matagorda County Tribune, Century of Progress Edition, August 26, 1937, Section  7, Pages 1 and 7

 

THOUGHTS

Things I Remember

By Harry Austin Clapp

I remember that on the 24th of January, 1909, my eyes first saw what I now call the place where the star fell. Leaving Chicago in a snow storm, the warm sunny days in Texas were relished. I was told that it was a land of winter vegetables, fruits, fish, oyster, geese and ducks, but during my stay, never did have opportunity at any vegetables except from cans, fruits were not seen and my appetite for sea food went, well just went without.

I was shown the land and told that it was very rich hog wallow land and I could believe that statement for all over the prairie I could see where the hogs had wallowed.

Under the hypnotic voice of Burton Hurd I found myself tied up to a debt of $1,600, when the most I expected to bind myself to was about fifty bucks for a tiny place for my shack. Believe me, but that man could sell ice in he-l. He sold me, but I have no regrets.

I landed on Lot 50, Block 1, on March 17th and ever since folks have flown the green flag in commemoration. Came the erection of a shack, a sweet shack built by I and the miserable wretch. We were happy when we moved into our house goods and, Lord, Mamma was a proud bird and sitting on the tree branches preening her feathers and sang her song. We were free.

Came the day when the town was born, the 25th of May, with two big bands, 1,500 people, speeches by W. S. Holman and Thos. H. Lewis, who spent the moments throwing flowers at each other. Saw Mrs. Holman, sweet, beautiful, dignified aristocratic carrying Andy in her arms. Big dance, heaps of happy faces: Victor Brasfield, G. M. Magill, Judge Jones, H. N. Sholl, and scores of others, each to have a part in the building of a biggity city.

It builded to 485 ambitious folk and then subsided. That was terrible. Came plowing, planting, watching the growth, and then a storm and away went hopes. Post office opened and I rented Drawer C at 45 cents per quarter and have paid that sum for 27 years and still pay it each ninety days to that greedy official, Ben Mowery. If I don't pay he threatens to lock me out, the nasty sunuvagun. First bank opened in a hotel room with a tin can for a safe and H. N. Sholl as vice-president and Charles Duller as cashier. Church Sunday school started in the Mott Store with Mrs. Elmer leading in singing, and how she could sing, and Chauncy Brown as super. Both passed over now, God bless their faithful souls.

Church organized by M. A. Travis and E. C. Van Ness. First school in a tent right where the Mopac House stands. Gulf Coast known as the G. C. U. with about 50 pupils, called in that day, scholars. Heigh ho! Collegeport Industrial League organized in Mott's store with W. H. Travis as president. Gus Franzen, Louis Walter, Mercks, Welsby, Wrights, Nelson drove in with buggies or wagons hauled by mules, and they came pa, ma, and the kiddies.

Pavilion opened with dances, bathing, laughter, sports, fun galore, happy night, banquets, for we were a well fed bunch. Stores numbering about ten, brick bank building, lumber, hardware, dry goods, groceries. Watch us grow. Legg and Paine operating a dray line. John Long and Tom Morris driving the town bus from railroad to hotel. Very proud. Choo-choo with its welcome whistle. Sweet music to our ears.

Conductor in uniform. George Duckworth as agent, unloading express and freight and wearing his official cap. Howdy George.

To see a fellow picking his teeth on the hotel gallery set him aside as a plutocrat and gave him an air of distinction. Others envied him the wonderful privilege of eating at the hotel. Walter Wilkinson with his rubber tired buggy hitched to two sweet driving mules. Walter snooped around seeing what he might pick up. Rumor says he has been so successful that his family no longer eats grits.

Callie Metzger down here for a ride in our only auto, a Maxwell. Many times with Callie 'neath the wheel it was necessary to use a team of mules for a starter. Often the tire busted wide open. Trips on Dena H. to Portsmouth and a fine dinner at the swell hotel operated by Major Jim and Mrs. O'Neal. Mr. Mott sells thread at five per spool. Charley Yeamans clerking for his mother selling calico. Ah there, Charley, some boy! Remember Herbert Adams, postmaster. Genial, kindly, smiling Herbert. The Chronicle with its eagerly read news.

Remember Henry and Shelby Harrington? Also Ada Dierlam? Mrs. Dena Hurd organizing a woman's club and free library. She did. Both are living influences to this day. Call at the Mopac House.

Oh, well, what the h--l Bill? I might go on and on but this will do for one day. Maybe Mirth will refuse to print such slush. Anyway we, meaning I and the miserable wretch, have enjoyed 42 years of married felicity. A happy life of close companionship and today with 75 and 70 years, we stand close together, unafraid, without fear, at peace with our God and facing the west, waiting.

Welcomed last week with a brilliant pyrotechnique display. Two stars fell and while in the air broke into a million glittering fragments which illuminated Homecroft and brought us a joyous week-end. The stars were Mrs. Lena Harrison and Mrs. Colonel Taylor. They brought me a big soup bone and from Arthur Wright about six pounds of fine seedless grapes. You sweet stars, we wait with impatience your coming again.

When the school board contracted with Jimmy Murry to drive the school truck two round trips per day, it took advantage of a situation which exists in a reputable family recently deprived of the father, husband and provider. It was a chance to perform a Christian act at small cost to the district. The paying of a living wage. But they failed. No member would take the job for the money named. Robbing the tin cup of a blind man would be preferable. Just my idea and I am most always wrong. No man with as feeble a brain as mine can hope to be right. I don't believe that Jess met with the board.

A very commendable thing is the Bible study class, but it takes from the cotton field, children whose families are sadly in need of cotton money. I reckon folks who wish to know where Jesus is need look no farther than the cotton rows where farmers are saving the crop. God delights in the study of His book, but He is also delighted with honest effort to save food, shelter and clothes for the family wants this winter. Plenty of time for Bible study.

 

Each member of the school board is a decent respected member of this community, but as a board, it is a mess whose actions I do not always approve of. I enjoy spinach, oysters, figs, chili concarne, tomatoes, ham, sardines, but if they were mixed up into pancake batter, I don’t think I would enjoy the result. Hey, Bill! Get off my foot.

At last I have found my place in life. I am a dish washer. The miserable wretch plays old sol, listens to the radio, reads while I, a common scullery maid, toil in the heat of the kitchen, but up to date I have been virtuous believe it or not. Everyone to his job and I am a fine dishwasher and to date have not indulged in red finger nails.

If you ever see a big crowd coming through your gate, it probably is the Merck clan. Get busy, dress and fry fifty chickens. Mr. Merck Senior thinks he is the head man, but those who know understand that Mrs. Sadie Merck is the Grand Sachem and runs the clan. She has raised to maturity eight children. All are married, so that makes sixteen. There are eight grandchildren, making 24, and pa and ma make a total of 26. A splendid family, especially the girl part. I fall easy and hard for girls. Well, anyway to shorten my talk, Thursday I was made very happy by a visit from Mrs. Sadie, Mrs. Viola Merck Legg and "Zadie Z and Sunshine Too" from Hockley. We sure had a merry time for about 60 minutes and after they left life seemed to brighten up. Things looked different...I felt better. Mrs. Merck sent me, via Dorothy Merck, six fine cantaloupes. Grand fruit picked from the Merck Cant tree. I wish that some day the entire clan of 26 would pour in and give a round of joyous glamorous pleasure.

Also came the Shoemakers to tell me all about the big lake they are making out at the ranch. The lake will cover about eight acres and will have a depth of about eight feet and fed from a large artesian well. Mr. Shoemaker will stock the lake with gold fish and will sell the grown fish to the Rice Hotel in Houston where they will be served on golden plates at royal banquets. I have never been able to afford a meal of gold fish but hose who have pronounce them most excellent.

It would be a grand thing if Mr. Pope would stop hanging around the few Christians we have and begin to associate with us sinners, for after all, it is the sinner that Christ was interested in. He did not give one single dam for the righteous. The fish he was after was just a poor, misguided, miserable sinner. Mr. Pope do you realize that there are only two or three Christians in this burg? Plenty of sinners and they need you. I have been a criminal for many years and I would enjoy being saved, so come over some time and let's have a visit.

Boy we sure had a pouring-down rain Sunday. Sheets of water and soon the ground was a small sea. Interferes with cotton picking, but a few days sun will bring the fleecy staple out again. Ask Doc Korn. He knows.

The smiling face of Amos Johnson adds to the attraction of Collegeport Supply. It is a glimpse of olden times. Many of us can remember this old day merchant and some should hang their heads in shame because they never paid their bill. Amos is an honest man, he is a genial man, generous, willing to help his neighbors. Yes, we are glad to see Amos once more handing out groceries.

Hardly an hour passes free from the roar of planes flying from Camp Hulen, where eight thousand men are being trained. Many times they fly much too close to homes for comfort. Makes the occupants much too nervous for there would be no fun having a plane burst into one's dining room. Not any so far as I can judge.

The Daily Tribune and Matagorda County Tribune, Century of Progress Edition, August 29, 1937, Section 7, Page 4

 

 

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