2013 was a grand year for me here at Rediscovering Southeast Texas. I had the opportunity to explore many wonderful places and meet countless interesting people. I believe that with your help, 2014 will be even better. SETX has a rich history, and I would like to share it with as many people as possible. Your input is important, and I welcome your suggestions, insights, and stories.
Rose Hill Manor is a Port Arthur treasure that I had never visited—until 2013. To find out that Donia Thibodeaux’s doll collection is on display there brought back scores of memories. I knew Mrs. Thibodeaux back in the 1990s and found her to be the nicest of individuals who was also most informative about the old Port Arthur.
The Women’s Club of Beaumont is a place that I have passed many times, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I finally got to see inside. Thank you, Mrs. Walker- King, for the invite. Over its 100-plus years, the who’s who of Beaumont have been associated with this house in one way or another. I’m glad it’s in good hands.
2013 also brought us a new museum. The Museum of Hardin County, located in Kountze, opened its doors in August, and what a fantastic source of SETX history this is for all of us to cherish. Not only does it show all Hardin County’s history, but it is a valuable repository for neighboring counties as well.
Speaking of Hardin County, I was invited to the Terry Bertha Cromwell Museum in Sour Lake in October. This is another destination that everyone who is interested in SETX history should frequent. From the birth of Texaco to the old Hardin County jail, it’s all on display. My favorites are the photographs—I particularly love the old photos of the early Hardin County families.
This year I found out about the origin of the name Beauxart Gardens, located in Mid-Jefferson County, as well as life in Port Arthur during World War II. These insights were shared by two people who experienced life in the 30s and 40s firsthand. I found their stories irresistible and would love to hear more. Do you know someone with a story to tell? My contact info is at the end of this article.
2013 was also the 100th anniversary of the Interurban. The Interurban was an electric train that ran between Port Arthur and Beaumont from December 15, 1913, to August 15, 1932. This is a subject that I would like to investigate further in the future.
Certainly many events took place in SETX last year. One of my favorites was the Galveston Historic Homes Tour. There were nine notable private homes on display for all of us to experience and enjoy, but the 10th, which you might remember as being the cause of the Great Bootie Debacle, was simple, modern, and dangerous. Yep, it’s always those folk who screw up a tour. Just say “no” to tours involving booties. They may just get you into trouble.
In 2013, Orangefield turned 100, and what a celebration these fine folks put on. The Cormier Museum was also open for people to browse through and enjoy. Another highlight was a visit from the Big Thicket Outlaws. Tejano and clan always put on a good show.
2013 was also a year of remembrance for American history. It marked the sesquicentennial of many of the War against the States battles, and Sabine Pass was no exception. The 50th anniversary of Dick Dowling Days and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Sabine Pass drew many spectators and reenactors—both foreign and domestic—and was a huge success. I personally met a lot of new and fascinating people. Indeed, I never knew what really went into reenacting, but after talking to a few accomplished living historians, I now realize that it involves a substantial amount of time and effort.
For that reason, I would like to say what a tremendous job the members of the Dick Dowling Camp #1295 and the Kate Dorman OCR Chapter 11 did in making this event possible. Some members certainly went above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks especially to Mr. Michael McGreevy.
Jane Long Days in Bolivar brought many things, too. I was particularly glad to see such a fine lady remembered as such. The new memorial, located at the entrance to Fort Travis, is one of a kind, and I was happy to see a few Texan reenactors at this event. Another gift, brought to us by the Galveston Historical Commission, was the opening of Battery 236. This structure, built in the 1940s during WWII, is not the only fortification on the peninsula—two more had previously been built in 1898, and another in 1917.
Shangri La in Orange has always been a favorite of mine. I especially love the Scarecrow Festival (in October) and the Evening Strolls (in December). There is always something to see in this astonishing place, especially if you are into wildlife photography.
The Liberty County Historical Commission put on “Whispers from the Past” in October, both as a fundraiser and to promote their rich heritage. I hope this becomes a yearly event because it really inspired me to search my own backyard (so to speak). Whether it’s Magnolia Cemetery (Beaumont), Greenlawn (Port Arthur), or Oak Bluff (Port Neches), there are stories waiting to be told. So stay tuned!
One of my highlights of 2013 was undoubtedly the new discoveries in my research into Florence Stratton’s life. After 14 months’ investigation, I can now finally say that her birthdate is March 21, 1881. I discovered two mentions of this in her column, “Susie Spindletop’s Weekly Letter.” Furthermore, a descendent from the Stephens/Stevens family kindly donated 62 letters from Asa Evan Stratton (Florence’s father), Asa’s brother, and Emily (Florence’s older sister), to the Tyrrell Historical Library. Thanks to a letter written by Emily, dated February 1883, along with the 1900 census record, I was finally able to confirm that Florence was born in 1881 and to therefore dismiss Eunice’s (Florence’s niece) account in the Texas Historical and Biographical Record that Florence was born in 1883. Yes, it’s a relatively minuscule detail, but if one is doing historical preservation, I believe this type of information needs to be correct.
I am looking forward to this New Year and all that it holds. If you have a story, know of a legend, or have any interesting historical treasures to share, I would love to hear from you. I am also looking for historical houses, old cemeteries, and museums that many people may not know about.
Here’s to you, SETX! Thank you for your continued interest and support.
My Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org