Matagorda County Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
|Price-Farwell Home Death of John Price|
[Abstracted from the narrative submitted with the Texas Historical Commission application for a historical marker. The introduction, which was three pages about early Palacios, has been omitted.]
Promotional material for Palacios and the area consistently touted the climate as favorable for raising fruits as well as truck farm projects. The bay brought fishermen from Alabama and Louisiana. The water of the town came from artesian wells.
Two of the families who came to Palacios to make their home were Mr. John T. and Opal Dean Price and her parents, Reuben A. and Lula Cates. Mr. and Mrs. Cates were from Tiptonville, Tennessee, where they lived with their daughter and son.
Mr. Price was born in Yell County, Arkansas, February 26, 1875. He moved to Dallas County, Texas in 1877. He grew up on a farm in Erath County, Texas, near Stephenville. He started his career at the age of fifteen, most of his time as a helper in a lumber yard. He married Opal Dean Cates in Tiptonville, Tennessee, on December 22, 1904. They lived in Stephenville, Texas, until May 23, 1906, when they moved to Palacios where he had charge of a lumber company located on what is now the 700 block of Commerce Avenue. He built lumber yards in the new towns of Blessing and Collegeport.
A small building in the rear of the lumber yard was made into a home for the Price family. They quickly made friends with the local people as well as those who came to enjoy the Baptist Encampment.
Very soon the energy, industry and thorough-going business methods of Mr. Price began to make themselves felt in the business circles of the community. He became director of the local bank, director of the Board of Trade (now known as The Chamber of Commerce) and rancher as he had bought several hundred acres of land west of Palacios where “he built up one of the most carefully selected herds of Brahma cattle in the state.”
Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Anderson and Lula Cates of Tiptonville, Tennessee joined the Price family in Palacios sometime before 1908. They planned to build a winter home in Palacios to be near their daughter.
On the 13th of January, 1908, Mr. and Mrs. Price bought lots 1 and 2 of block 53 in the Palacios Townsite, just one block west of the Hotel Palacios.
Mr. and Mrs. Cates bought lots 4 and 5, also in block 53, of the Palacios Townsite. Records show that at that time, he traded lot 5 of block 53 to a Mr. Bailey for lot 3, which made Mr. and Mrs. Price owners of lots 1 and 2 and Mr. and Mrs. Cates owners of adjoining lots 3 and 4 of block 53.
Mr. Winn Wood, a young architect who was staying at the Hotel Palacios, designed the homes and a Mr. Emerson was the contractor. The first home of Mr. and Mrs. Cates, on lots 3 and 4, burned before it was completed and was rebuilt. Mr. Emerson finished the home early in 1910. [Research in 2005 determined that the Price home was designed by architect Jules Leffland of Victoria, Texas.]
A companion home for John T. and Opal Dean Price was built on lots 1 and 2 of Block 53 at the same time as that of the Cates’ home. This house was later sold and moved two blocks east to Bay Boulevard and Pavilion Street [now 4th Street] and became known as the Price-Farwell home.
Mr. and Mrs. Cates lived in Tiptonville, Tennessee and never really established a residence in Palacios, but occasionally used their home as a winter residence.
John T. Price and Opal Price moved into their home on lots 3 and 4 and it quickly became the Price Home and the showplace of the town.
As Palacios is located on the central coast of Texas, the Palacios Board of Trade was interested in developing the central area of the Texas Coast, especially the Intracoastal Waterway which is just off the coast. The fishing industry was growing, the railroad was bringing trade to Palacios, but the area needed to take advantage of the coastal trade.
It was suggested that the governor be invited to speak at the local Fourth of July celebration. Governor Pat M. Neff accepted the invitation to speak on the 4th of July, 1921.
The Palacios Board of Trade decided to make the celebration a mid-coast affair so more people might have the pleasure of hearing the governor.
On the morning of the third of July, Mayor James W. Sartwelle and Mr. John T. Price met Governor Neff and Major C. M. Crawford of the Adjutant General’s office in Houston and accompanied them to Bay City where a committee from Matagorda and Gulf awaited them. After a luncheon served by the Bay City citizens, the party motored to Matagorda and Gulf, both towns south of Bay City. They toured the Texas Gulf Sulphur plant and the town of Matagorda, the site of Stephen F. Austin’s second colony in Texas.
Major Adams, a member of the governor’s party, was waiting in Matagorda with the government launch, “Seeland,” on which they sailed by way of the Intracoastal Waterway down the coast to Palacios.
On the morning of the 4th of July, a parade was formed and escorted the governor to the auditorium at the B. Y. P. U. Encampment where he spoke. It was estimated that the crowd was over seven thousand citizens from all over south Texas who heard Governor Pat M. Neff’s address. He urged the entire coast of Texas to endeavor to secure the development of the 400 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway.
After the address, Governor Pat M. Neff was entertained at a luncheon in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Price. Following the luncheon, he motored to Wharton, Texas, where he gave another address.
At the height of his career as director of many projects, Mr. Price was told by his physician that his health was failing. He began to spend more time on his ranch west of town.
Mr. and Mrs. Price entertained many visitors in their home and their former home which was used as a guest house. Many visitors were those who attended the Baptist Encampment every summer.
On July 21, 1921, Mr. and Mrs. Price and a group of visitors to the Baptist Encampment left early in the day for a sail in the Gulf about 24 miles from Palacios. They reached Green’s Cut, a spot often visited by excursionists.
On reaching their destination at the point where the boats usually stop, several of the crowd jumped from the boat into the water which appeared to be only knee deep, but an “undertow” caught one of the party and pulled her down. Other persons rushed to her rescue. Without regard to his weak heart, Mr. Price rushed to the rescue of his friends, but lost his life along with seven others. The majority of citizens of the Palacios area knew the danger of bathing in the Gulf, but most of those lost were from North and West Texas. [Read more about the incident.]
Mr. Price was buried in the Palacios Cemetery after a funeral at his home. “The body lay in state in a mahogany casket on the east porch for an hour before the service. Almost a constant stream of people, seeking a last farewell look at the strong, genial, familiar face, passed during the hour.”
In 1924, Palacios was made the site of Camp Palacios, located on 1300 acres two miles west of town. It was the home of the training camp for the 36th Division for the National Guard. In 1930, the camp was renamed Camp Hulen, in honor of its first commander, General John A. Hulen. The National Guard usually came to camp in August and citizens of Palacios were urged to entertain the soldiers.
Camp Hulen was leased by the federal government in 1940 for coast artillery anti-aircraft training. During World War II there were thousands of men stationed at Camp Hulen. There were service clubs for enlisted men that were “off-limits” to officers. Later the U. S. O. was located two blocks east of the Hotel Palacios.
Mrs. Opal Price invited a few officers to her home for dinner. They enjoyed her hospitality and her front porches where they could rest and sometimes bring their ladies to sit and listen to the orchestra and bands playing at the hotel and the pavilion, or walking along the bay front in the moonlight. Mrs. Price’s home became the “unofficial” officer’s club.
After the death of Mr. Reuben Cates on December 21, 1928, Mrs. Price brought her mother to live with her until her death on February 7, 1951. Mrs. Price was over 70 years old by 1946 when she moved to a one-story home in Foley Addition with her mother and sold her home on South Bay.
Mr. L. K. Jecker bought the Price home that was located on lots 3 and 4 and the west 10 feet of lot 2. Mr. Jecker was a butcher in a local meat market. Mrs. Julia Jecker was a former school teacher, as was one of her two daughters.
On September 11, 1964, Mrs. Julia Jecker sold the West 3 feet of lot 4 of Block 53 to Richard Hazen. When Rita Gayle Rogers-Hudson bought the adjoining property in 1996, she became the owner of that same 3 feet of lot 4.
On May 25, 1968, Mr. and Mrs. Ira Prindle purchased the house from the Jeckers. Mr. Prindle was the local historian who recorded tapes of important events in and around Palacios. Many of the tapes are currently housed in the Palacios Museum.
Mr. Prindle was a special friend of Mrs. Price. He drove her car and took her when she wished to go to Tiptonville, Tennessee. He served the people of Palacios in many ways. After his retirement from the U. S. Postal Service as Postmaster, Mr. Prindle took the sick to doctors or hospitals, gave rides to ladies and older citizens to Houston airports, fixed broken bicycles, delivered late mail and late packages at Christmas, and later he made postal rural mail boxes on posts and sold them.
Mr. and Mrs. Prindle had two daughters and a son who continued to help others. At one time, the daughters and their husbands were house parents at a church home for children. Mr. Prindle died on August 7, 1991.[ Mrs. Anna Prindle was residing in Jacksboro, Texas at the time of this writing.]
On June 6, 1993, Mrs. Ruth Jendry purchased the house from Mrs. Anna Prindle and her children as a gift to her daughter, Ms. Rita Gaye Rogers. Ms. Rogers created a bed and breakfast business in the house by renovating the entire property with the intent of keeping the house as much like the first owners had intended. The business was named Moonlight Bay Bed and Breakfast to reflect the waterfront tourism appeal, the nostalgic era of the forties and World War II, and Ms. Rogers appreciation of the “Glen Miller” style of music. The first day of business was October 15, 1994. The title to the house was transferred to Ms. Rita Gaye Rogers’ name on February 15, 1995.
Moonlight Bay Bed and Breakfast was the first such business in Matagorda County and Palacios. Since Ms. Rogers’ grandfather, Mr. M. E. Rogers, owned the first grocery store at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets in Palacios, and her mother, Mrs. Ruth Jendry had lived in Palacios since age twelve, and since Ms. Rogers grew up in Palacios, her return to home as a new business owner was very well received by the community.
There were skeptics who thought there would not be enough tourism traffic to support a bed and breakfast in Palacios. However, with a background in public relations and public school administration, Ms. Rogers proceeded to establish her business. After careful study of the King William Bed and Breakfast Association in San Antonio, she determined that the current need of people today was to escape the hectic life of the city and relax by a body of water. With the inclusion of her musical background, she created the perfect “home away from home.”
With professional marketing concepts and affiliation with the Historical Accommodations of Texas and the Professional Association of International Innkeepers, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce and various civic groups, Moonlight Bay was operating with great success. The business received its membership in the Historical Accommodations of Texas organization on February 16, 1996 and held a Certificate of Excellence for Recognized Superiority within The Texas Hospitality Industry and or meeting or surpassing all entry criteria.
The spacious wrap front porch facing the bay welcomed guests to enter the house through the leaded glass panels in the over-sized front door opening in to the parlor area. To the right was a grand piano played by the owner during afternoon tea for guests on Friday and Saturday. Early photos show a piano in the parlor of the Cates-Price home. Also shown were wallpaper borders in the room and the original fireplace which remains to date. A dark colored ceramic floor pedestal which belonged to Mrs. Cates now stands in the parlor. Mrs. Helen Cates Neary, granddaughter of Mrs. Cates, gave the pedestal to Ms. Rogers as a token of her appreciation for restoring her family’s home.
Double wooden pocket doors open into the library which has the original fireplace grid. The original five-tiered brass and glass chandelier from 1910 is a favorite conversation piece of guests. The adjacent wall of double wooden pocket doors opens into the formal dining room. The leaded glass doors on the built-in china buffet are all original. Glass paneled pocket doors leading back into the parlor are still in use today.
On March 29, 1997, Ms. Rogers married Earl Dee Hudson, a history teacher and coach at the Palacios Independent School District. The Hudson lived in the master bedroom on the first floor of the house. They used the outside door to the driveway and porch. A hall back, which is now used as one of the guest baths, has the original toilet and 6 ft. bathtub used in 1910.
When the kitchen was renovated, five layers of wallpaper and flooring were removed to reveal the original placement of the sink. The current sink faces the bayfront as it did originally. A mirrored pass-thru window to the dining room was used for all meals served. The house was built for entertaining and includes swinging doors in the dining room for serving the food. The kitchen has a pantry under the stairwell.
There are four bedrooms upstairs, all opening into the other. A claw-foot tub from the original house remains in one of the bathrooms. The Moonlight and Roses Room utilized a side outdoor veranda and a bayfront garden veranda. The front Moonglow Room also had access to the bayfront garden veranda. The side room Ebbtide, had access to the side outdoor veranda. The smallest room, Stardust, had a view of the bay from its window. Hugh closets large enough to hold a single bed accompanied the rooms. The second floor had a front staircase and a back staircase.
The back porch slants downward for rain drainage. Landscaping includes date palm trees.
Many luncheons and dinners were held at the house. Guests included local and state officials as well as world-wide archeologists participating in the historical LaSalle shipwreck excavation and foreign guests ranging from Famagusta, Turkey to Belgium.
The house at 506 South Bay was purchased by Ms. Rogers in 1995 to add three more guests rooms to the bed and breakfast business. This lot was originally part of the land purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Cates in 1910. It was named The Paper Moon and expanded the street appeal of Moonlight Bay.
The house still beckons peace, warmth, and rest to its visitors. People are in awe of the architecture, history and simplicity of life projected by this fine old home and are glad to see it once again bustling with life as it once was.
Oldtimers from Camp Hulen days drop by and recall the
good ol’ days as they remember good times not forgotten.
Copyright 2011 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Sep. 5, 2011
Mar. 23, 2013