Tyrrell Historical Library

 

 

My ongoing research into all things SETX has spanned many counties—even taking me off our clay paths to places like Austin—and the search continues. For instance, last month I talked about my affection for the Sam Houston Research Center and all the great things they offer. Well, this month I thought I’d stay closer to home and give the number one research hub in Jefferson County the opportunity to be in the spotlight. Through my research on Susie Spindletop and her “Weekly Letter,” I’ve spent many hours—and a fair sum of money—at the old Baptist Church. In fact, I’m sure I’ve personally kept them well stocked in quarters over the past two and a half years by printing out the Sunday Enterprise’s “Weekly Letter” from their microfilm machine at $0.25 per page. To be honest, I get a lot more out of a roll of quarters at the Tyrrell than I do at our neighboring state’s casinos!

The Tyrrell Historical Library has been a fixture in Beaumont since its inception in 1926, but the intention wasn’t always for it to be a library. Indeed, this classic structure had its own history before being converted into its current form. Built to be the First Baptist Church in 1903, it served as a replacement for the original brick church previously erected on the same grounds. In the early 20s, the congregation had outgrown that building, so they constructed a church at the corner of Broadway and Willow that was sufficiently large to host the masses of new members each Sunday.

In 1923 W.C. Tyrrell, a venture capitalist and one of Beaumont’s most prominent businessmen, purchased the building and donated it to the city for use as a public library. The library opened in 1926 and served as the main public library until the new structure was built in 1974. The building was subsequently renamed the Tyrrell Historical Library in honor of Mr. Tyrrell.

To assist those doing genealogical research, the Tyrrell has an extensive collection of family archives, city directories, and newspapers, and has gateway access to other research venues such as Ancestry.com. As an aside, volunteers from the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR) are usually on hand on the first Saturday of each month to help anyone doing family research. But it is a good idea to call beforehand to make sure that they will be there.

The Tyrrell has been a very useful resource for me, especially when I was doing research on old Beaumont through the pages of the former Beaumont Enterprise and Beaumont Journal. I do have private access to a newspaper archive, but unfortunately neither newspaper is digitized so are not currently available there. I have also found the collections at the Tyrrell to be excellent. Old photos and letter archives of a few subjects that I’ve written about in the past can be found there. One collection in particular is the Stratton-Stevens-Follin family papers, which were donated in October 2013. This collection comprises 60-plus letters by the Stratton family. Those of Asa Evan Stratton, the father of Florence Stratton (Susie Spindletop), account for most of them. Notably, it was here that I obtained a copy of a letter proving the year of Florence’s birth. Most of the other letters are general correspondence between various family members, which are not of particular interest at the moment. However, they should provide me with further insights into her parents’ lives during my future research.

The Tyrrell Historical Library is certainly a gem, not only to Beaumont, but also to all our surrounding counties. The archives are a pivotal resource documenting our history. And I for one am glad to have it as my number one starting point when delving into our past.

Did You Know:

You can support the Tyrrell Historical Library by joining the Tyrrell Historical Library Association.

$15 Associate Membership

$25 Family Membership

$50 Sustaining Membership

$100 Patron Membership

—– Institutional Membership

Your tax-deductible membership dues and donations are used to support the library’s restoration, promote the development of its diverse collections, and encourage the use and enjoyment of the library.

 

Mail contributions to:

Tyrrell Historical Library Association

P.O. Box 12563

Beaumont, Texas 77726-2563

 

 

 

 

Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center

 

 

I believe that here in SETX we are a lot better off than in some areas, where gathering historical documents can be next to impossible at times. I found this out in my first year researching Florence Stratton’s college years at Troy Normal College in Alabama (now called Troy University). I will say it is still an ongoing process. But when the archives are in shambles, and there is no one to sort them out, it is quite frustrating to say the least. Nevertheless, I hope to persevere.

To begin with, I would say that we certainly have some great places that are top-notch institutions, which provide a home for most of our historic archives. They keep them safe and accessible for those of us laying the groundwork into our historical past. These sanctuaries of history are certainly an essential part to my research. I could never see myself obtaining as much documentation about my subjects without them.

Over the past five years, I’ve visited many places, seeking information on many different subjects. There are too many, in fact, to mention them all in this article, but I do have a couple of “go-to” places I will use regularly. The first is the Tyrrell Historical Library, which I hope to cover in depth in another upcoming article slated for March. The second would be the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.

I first visited this library back in 2012. I learned about it through Darlene Mott, whom I met at Dick Dowling Days in Sabine Pass. She was a reenactor portraying Kate Dorman in a living history scenario at the event. I was new to this research thing, and to the history of Mrs. Dorman, but I wanted to find out a little more information on her other than the lone W.T. Block article that everyone writing about her uses as a source. (I will admit that I was guilty of this as well.)

I emailed the research center and set up a day on which I could visit. What I found that day was nothing less than amazing. The treasure trove of information stored at the library is beyond belief. Not only can you sort through government records, tax rolls, and such (which I did researching Kate Dorman), you can also browse through many family and other collections on file. Most of the collections are accessible, but as always, you should plan your trip and give the library notice about which contents you want to research. The staff is astounding at what they do, but it would be best to let them know ahead of time what you are researching. It will save time.

I have since returned a multitude of times these past four years for different research topics and projects, and have always enjoyed my times there. I had the good fortune to help in the inventory of historian Bill Quick’s research papers, along with Don Smart and Bruce Hamilton. These colleagues from the Jefferson County Historical Commission are “foot soldiers in Bill Quick’s army,” as Bruce always refers to himself. On a side note, I never met Mr. Quick, but I will say that through learning about the man and his research, and from the many who hold him dear, he has definitely been an ongoing inspiration to me and my own fact-finding missions.

Another treasure that the Sam Houston Center holds is their collection of Beaumont newspapers. I’ll admit that through my research of Florence Stratton, I have spent many hours in Beaumont at the Tyrrell looking at old microfilm. I have nearly all the “Susie Spindletop’s Weekly Letter” articles (Miss Stratton’s weekly journal of Beaumont happenings, published in the Beaumont Enterprise from 1926 to 1938). But with no fault to the Tyrrell, some of the film is blurred and unreadable. Fortunately, most of the originals are at the Sam Houston Center, and I have been able to make much-needed copies.

On the grounds of the property, you will no doubt see the multiple structures near the library. You can tour these buildings, along with the Price Daniel mansion, but must reserve them two weeks in advance.

About the library: The Center was built in 1975 on land donated by former Texas Governor Price Daniel and his wife Jean to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to construct a regional historical resource depository. Most of the funds for the construction came from private donations. The Center takes its name from Jean Daniel’s great-great grandfather, Sam Houston.

 

Before you visit: www.tsl.texas.gov/shc/visit

Contact information:

Physical Address: 650 FM 1011, Liberty, TX 77575

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 310, Liberty, TX 77575

Telephone: (936) 336-8821

Email: SamHoustonCenter@tsl.texas.gov

Kirby Hill – House

Last year, a friend entrusted me with the task of finding a home for some historical papers belonging to W.W. Cruse, dated between 1911 and 1928, and a Hardin County map dating back to roughly 1900. While sorting through these treasures, I found that most of them were legal documents pertaining to either abstracts, wills, or business ventures. Some of these ventures were Beaumont-related, such as the Beaumont Brick Company, but most of them were based within the borders of Hardin County. I contacted the Museum of Hardin County, and they gladly gave this piece of history a home.

So, in December, while dropping off these papers at the museum, I made it a point to see if the historic Kirby-Hill House of Hardin Country was open to tourists. When I made an enquiry a few years ago, there were unfortunately no volunteers to hold regular tours of the house. I did learn about their Murder Mystery Dinner Theater events but found that they were usually sold out.

 

One thing I learned about Hardin County is that they are workers. All their historical houses, museums, etc., are sponsored, paid for, and established by private donors and volunteers. It amazes me just how much gets done without monetary help other than that from the good people of Hardin County. I know this also holds true for the Kirby-Hill House.

The house was built by James Kirby in 1902. James was the brother and partner of the lumber mogul John Henry Kirby. In 1907, Lucy Kirby Hill, James’ daughter, purchased the house from her father. It would remain family-owned until 1987 when it was put on the market by Autie Lois Hill.

In 1992, the Kirby-Hill House Educational Foundation was established by a few concerned citizens with the intention of saving the deteriorating home from demolition. The foundation’s main goal was to purchase the house and restore it to its original glory. The house has since been exceptionally renovated to its former beauty, thanks in part to donations and the money earned from tours, rentals, as well as the popular Murder Mystery Dinner Theater events.

As stated before, the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater events sell out quickly, so if you are interested in attending, be sure to get your tickets early! These funds go toward the upkeep of this house, and your support would be greatly appreciated.

The Murder Mystery Dinner Theater is held in the fall and spring. Tickets cost $64 per person for a live play performed while you enjoy a five-course meal.

The house is open every Wednesday and every 2nd & 4th Saturday of the month from 10 am to 4 pm.

You can also call 409-246-8000 to make reservations for renting this gem.

Promoting SETX

 

When I started this blog/website, my intention was to promote our local SETX (Southeast Texas) history, and by local, I mean all of SETX. You can also add a little bit of SWLA (Southwest Louisiana) as well, since we share most of the same history. I will also add that the caretakers of my favorite lighthouse are there.

I hope we’ve done our part in the last four-and-a-half years to shed light on our rich history, and to promote a positive image of this area. In the beginning, I wanted to devote time to promoting our museums, places of interest, and other historic sites so that visitors could have an educational experience. Here in SETX we have a plethora of great places and unique histories that I think should be known to everyone (especially to our own Southeast Texans). In our first few years, we visited many hidden gems that do a wonderful job of bringing SETX’s history to life (links to the stories of our jaunts are located at the end of this article), and I want to expand this scope in 2017.

So, as of now, I am requesting suggestions from you for places of interest, museums, etc., for us to visit in 2017. I am particularly interested in branching out into the northern counties this year, because in the past, I wasn’t able to explore most of these counties since I could not take time off from my other job.

Another project that I have been wanting to do is add a “Places to Visit” page to the website. I would like to provide a list all our museums, with working links and completely up-to-date information, such as what days and times they are open to the public. I can only accomplish this if those of you in the know send me the information. I hope this page will be yet another tool for promoting our history.

Finally, if you have anything that you think should be of interest to Southeast Texans please don’t hesitate to email me at rediscoveringsetx@gmail.com, or if you prefer, send letters and/or other info to:

Rediscoveringsetx Press

P.O. Box 2078

Nederland, Texas  77627

Heritage House (Orange)

Museum of Hardin County (Kountze)

Bertha Terry Cornwell Museum (Sour Lake)

Beaumont Police Department Museum

Vuylsteke House (Port Arthur)

Pompeiian Villa  (Port Arthur)

White Haven (Port Arthur)

Chambers House Museum (Beaumont)

Neches River Adventures Tour

Clifton Steamboat Museum

La Maison Beausoleil Museum (Port Neches)

T.J. Chambers House & Chambers County Historical Commission Museum (Anahuac)

 

 

Aged to Perfection: 42nd Annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour

 

IMG_2608 5.1.16

It’s that time of year again, and the Galveston Historic Homes Tour was in full swing this weekend. Unfortunately the weather was generally a bit hazardous for travel on both mornings, but the Galveston weather was good to go for a tour. It seemed that Poseidon was in full control of the storms, and while most of SETX had rain, Galveston remained dry during the tour hours. Thank you, Poseidon!

James and Violet Waters House 5.1.16I missed the opening day but was determined to experience the splendor that I have become used to in recent years. So with the weather a non-event on our tour, we headed for the 1893 James and Violet Waters House. I thought it best to try to see the showcase house first since there may be long lines later, and I was correct. I guess arriving 30 minutes before the tour started clinched my early entry. Having said that, overall, the wait time for this year’s tour was notably shorter than in previous years, most likely on account of the weather.

Levy-Bowden HouseLooking at the nine new entries, I noticed that most of the properties were smaller. However, this doesn’t detract from the beauty of the restoration work at all. I can honestly say that all the houses were gems, and it may have been the weather that kept people away. On enquiring with the docents, I found out that a couple of the houses saw between 900 and 1000 visitors this weekend. Incredible. I am sure that these numbers will be up next weekend since the weather is forecast to be in the 60s in the morning reaching the 80s in the afternoon with little humidity.IMG_2610 5.1.16

Our total tour experience lasted around six hours. This also included lunch, so as I’ve said in previous years, most people can do the tour in a day. But if you have time constraints, then here are a few of my favorites:

 

Charles Marschner Building (1905)Charles Marschner Building - Copy

 

Charles and Catherine Albertson House

 

 

 

Charles and Catherine Albertson House (1870)

 

 

 

McDonald- Blake House         McDonald - Blake House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Barnes Tenant Cottage Benjamin Barnes Tenant Cottage

 

 

 

 

 

FYI:

I did find it interesting that this year’s tour was the fastest yet, but there were three houses where the owners requested visitors to wear booties. Compared to previous years—and given the weather, I actually thought there would have been more bootie requests, but fortunately there weren’t. These three houses require you to slip on booties:

James and Violet Waters House (1893)

Charles and Catherine Albertson House (1870)

Howard and Kate Mather House (1887)

 

I hope to see you on the tour! I will be there again on Saturday with an additional stop at Old City Cemetery on Broadway to photograph the wildflowers.

 

Nederland Historical Society

 

IMG_2021 nhs

I had the pleasure of attending the Nederland Historical Society’s quarterly meeting last week and thoroughly enjoyed all three speakers’ talks on the rich history of their city.  It was fascinating to listen to their detailed accounts of the families that journeyed here from Holland and what they had to endure. It was also interesting to learn about what life was like growing up on the farms and dairies of mid Jefferson County. Many people attended, and some even dressed in traditional Dutch costumes to mark the occasion. It was also good to see several children in the audience.

IMG_2020 nhsOne of the speakers, Robert Franke, provided intriguing insights into the lives of his grandparents, C.H. and Mary Spurlock, and their farm life in the early days. Most mid-county residents will recognize the Spurlock name from the road located north of Nederland where their farm was originally located. I was also interested to find out that Mr. Franke has a copy of the deed in which the Spurlock’s sold their land to the Jefferson Traction Company to give the Interurban right of way. Glen Koelemay’s talk on the Koelemay Dairy (1915–1943) offered an in-depth and detailed account of early life on a dairy farm, while Gale Koelemay gave an instructive talk on the Reinstra and Koelemay’s difficult journey from Holland and the subsequent founding of Nederland.   IMG_2035 nhs

For those of you who do not attend these types of meetings, you are missing out on a wealth of fast-disappearing knowledge about our local heritage. Fortunately, in Nederland historical records are being preserved for future generations.

IMG_2044 nhs

 

The Nederland Historical Society meets quarterly on the first Thursday of March, June, September, and December at 10:00 am at the Marion & Ed Hughes Public Library.

Rediscovering Florence Stratton

fs14

My research on the life of Florence Stratton is now in its fourth year. It’s true that I’ve made multiple discoveries in what would seem, at times, a hopeless endeavor, but there always seems to be an open door at the end of the hallway, so to speak. And I have definitely ventured into many of those long corridors.
In late December 2015, after a visit to the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center to research historian Bill Quick’s papers, I “quickly” (pun intended) became inspired by how organized he was in his research and how he maintained his notes. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Quick when he was alive, I am ever so grateful for his years of documentation of SETX history, especially regarding the Sabine Lighthouse—it appears we shared a mutual love for this structure.
f1So as many do, in January I decided to make a New Year’s resolution. I spent countless hours filing, scanning, and digitizing all my files for future use by persons unknown should the need arise. I believe I am nearly through with this growing inventory of information, except for the Florence Stratton Project as I call it. I have scanned and digitized many related files and documents, but three-plus years of research are not always readily available to scan, such as my small two-page file on the city of Ronald, Texas. Nevertheless, most of the files about Florence and her family are stored as PDFs, along with countless newspaper clippings in JPEG (photo) format. Then there are the “Susie Spindletop’s Weekly Letter” articles written using Florence’s nom de plume, which span February 28, 1926 to January 23, 1938. This collection will be a whole new digitizing endeavor, which will mean many weekly trips to the Sam Houston Region Library and Research Center to obtain clearer images. The initial scans from many of the microfilm collections for the Beaumont Enterprise are quite blurry. DSC02508
I have also realized that field trips are a necessity. Given the timetable, genealogy, and friendships in Florence’s history, I found it important to proactively explore these sites, cities, and research hubs. And it was in Austin that I began my journey over the road. On Monday January 25, I stepped into the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The center holds many historic treasures—so much so that I could spend months, or even years, sifting through them. Since I only had a day, I decided to focus on W.P. Hobby Sr.’s papers. W.P. Hobby was the Governor of Texas from 1917 to 1921. At the time, he was the youngest governor ever to hold the office in the state. Hobby also had many local ties to Beaumont. He became the manager and part owner of the Beaumont Enterprise in 1907 and married Willie Cooper, the daughter of the U.S. representative Sam Branson Cooper, on May 15, 1915. At various points in Florence’s timeline, I noticed she spent time with Willie Cooper in Washington D.C. (1907–1908) or in the Governor’s Mansion in Austin (1917–1921). Other newspaper articles described her attendance at many functions with the Governor and First Lady, from a Turkey trot in Cuero to the inauguration of the Mexican president Álvaro Obregón.
White House reception attended by Willie Cooper and Florence StrattonIn one of the two boxes I requested, I found a scrapbook that once belonged to Willie. After looking at all the newspaper clippings and other memorabilia, it certainly put what I’d been studying into perspective. Between the clippings and other historical artifacts, I located an invitation addressed to “The Misses Cooper” dated January 9, 1908. It reads as follows:
The President and Mrs. Roosevelt request the pleasure of the company of
The Misses Cooper
At a reception to be held at
The White House
Thursday evening January the ninth
Nineteen hundred and eight
From nine to half after ten o’clock
Holding something like that in your hand can be inspiring to say the least. Both Willie and Florence attended the White House reception in January the following year as well. I know this thanks to an article in the Washington Post dated January 8, 1909.
I made many discoveries that day. Most of the scrapbook concentrated on W.P. Hobby becoming lieutenant governor and eventually governor when James E. Ferguson was removed from office. I also noticed a lot of content on women’s suffrage (women’s right to vote). Unlike others, Hobby saw the benefits of this early. There is one letter to the editor of the Beaumont Enterprise in Willie’s scrapbook. We’ll call him Pete (because that is how he signed his name in the letter). Pete was hell-bent on not giving women the right to vote. He talked of the curse of Jehovah God “by harkening to the voice of women, and giving to the ballot.” He also quoted the Apostle Paul and the like, but it would have been pointless to spend one more iota of time on this jackleg. It is interesting to ponder just what Mr. Pete would have thought when a woman, Miriam Amanda “Ma” Ferguson, was elected Governor of Texas in 1925. A possible coronary, I would imagine.
I assume Willie saved this letter as a reminder of how important this era was for women, and through the newspaper articles, I was also able to get a small glimpse of Florence’s journey. In September 1918, she was listed as one of 31 vice chairpersons for the senatorial districts for the Democratic Party.
My next field trip will be to the place Florence treasured most, her place of birth, Brazoria County. Florence was born on March 21, 1881 at her childhood home in Brazoria, Texas, which in later years she revisited regularly in “Susie Spindletop’s Weekly Letter.” Her popular column was published each Sunday, and in this, she also spoke highly of her grandfather, Major Asa Evan Stratton, who owned a sugarcane plantation.
My other ventures into her past will this month include a visit to Woodville to find any more sources relating to Willie Cooper that may be traceable to Florence, a revisit to Austin to peruse more of W.P. Hobby’s papers, and then the inevitable journey to Troy, Pike County, Alabama. Troy_School
Contrary to most articles about Florence, she graduated from Troy Normal College and not Gray Normal College as W.T. Block noted in his earlier writings. In fact much of Florence’s lore is inaccurate, and I’m still sorting through the mess. This is not to discredit Mr. Block on this subject; he was blissfully unaware that the recollections of his primary source, Florence’s niece, were wholly inaccurate. I personally have no knowledge of the atmosphere or Eunice’s mindset when she was interviewed for the articles published in the Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, but most of the “facts” were just plain wrong.
Graduation Photo editLuckily, with time, Florence’s past is emerging in the form of documented proof on how she spent her life, and how she was a positive resident who was loved by all. Many of my early questions have been answered, but there is still a mountain of research to climb. Some readers have asked what I plan to do with all this research. Well, it is no secret that I intend to submit a marker application to the Texas Historical Commission (THC) in 2017 to celebrate a life that deserves recognition in SETX history. Indeed, Florence’s contributions to Beaumont history, society, and charity cannot be matched.

Rediscovering you’re two years old.

RSETXlight

Well, another milestone has been reached here under the oaks at ye olde Block Farm. Rediscovering SETX has turned two! First, I would like to thank all who read our blog, follow us on Twitter, or have liked us on Facebook. Your input and support makes bringing SETX history to those who might otherwise not know of our interesting past even more a labor of love. As in our first year, over the past twelve months we’ve met and heard from many wonderful SETXans, been to many great places, and learned more and more from all of you.

The PeopleTFHG

We learned the trials and tribulations of life in Jefferson County during World War II. We discovered who Tom “the Tramp” was and delved into the fascinating life of Port Arthur’s Evelyn Keyes via out new monthly segment Tales from Hallowed Ground. But my favorite article has definitely been from a reader who shared her grandmother’s journey to Port Arthur in 1905. Blanche Morgan’s story provides a captivating account of the hardships and successes of a widowed mother of four in the early 1900s. Finally, it was fitting to investigate architect Nicholas Clayton’s marvelous legacy of Galveston architecture for the 40th anniversary of the Galveston Historic Homes Tour.

The Places

IMG_5778Since its creation in 2012, Rediscovering SETX has strived to promote SETX museums and historic houses, as well as its history. Well, this year was no different, and we explored many magnificent places. Here are some of the highlights:

I was fortunate to be invited to the grand opening of a marvelous museum in Kountze called the Museum of Hardin County. The museum opened its doors in August, after years of hard work and determination by the Hardin County Historical Commission and its members. Another prized invitation from Hardin County was to the Terry Bertha Cromwell Museum located in Sour Lake. Lutcher Memorial Building

In Orange County, we discovered the Heritage House Museum and did an awe-inspiring tour of the Lutcher Memorial Church Building; I must say that this is one of SETX’s greatest treasures.

Other memorable sites include the Beaumont Police Department Museum, Clifton Steamboat Museum, Christmas at the Pompeiian Villa, the Women’s Club of Beaumont, Heritage Village (Woodville), Liberty Opry (Liberty), Polk County Museum (Livingston), Bayou Bend (Houston), Bishop’s Palace (Galveston), and finally Galveston’s 40th Annual Historic Homes Tour.

History

Texas fight DDD2013We also attended some notable historic celebrations, memorials, and fun reenactments. Dick Dowling Days turned 50th in September, and this coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Sabine Pass. The Liberty County Historical Commission did a wonderful job of treating a few of its esteemed residents, who forged the grounds of what is today Liberty County, with the “Whispers from the Past” tour in October. It was both inspiring and entertaining. IMG_9580

IMG_1428In December, the 15th, to be exact, it was the 100th anniversary of the Interurban. (The Interurban was an electric train that ran from Port Arthur to Beaumont for 19 years, between 1913 and 1932.)  Unfortunately. little is left of this SETX achievement, and very few know of its existence. We were glad to be able to shine a light on this awesome part of our past.

In January, the 113th anniversary of Spindletop was celebrated at Gladys City with the Driller’s Reunion. And what a splendid time was had by all. I bet even the Temperance ladies had an enjoyable time!IMG_2721

Future

As in the first two years, we will continue to visit and promote what SETX has to offer. Our little part of the world is rich with history, and we think it should be communicated to all and sundry. So if you know of a museum, historic home, or any other part of our history that you think should be given some online airtime, then please send us your feedback and suggestions. You can contact me by email at rediscoveringsetx@gmail.com. Alternatively, you can also leave a comment on our Facebook page, Flickr, or @RediscoveringSE on Twitter.

Here’s to another remarkable year of rediscovering SETX!

40th Annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour

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The 40th Annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour kicked off on Saturday, and no one could ask for a better weekend. The weather was perfect. Indeed, sunshine and temperatures in the 70s made for an overall grand time.

Our first stop was the Old City Cemetery to take a few photos of the splendid wildflowers covering this hallowed ground. This has been a favorite stop for me these past three years, and I hope the tour organizers continue the tradition.IMG_3285

1893 Augusta Peters Townhouse

After looking over a map of our nine objectives, we decided to begin our journey at the Augusta Peters Townhouse, which was built circa 1893. It appeared to be small and quite narrow from the outside, but as we progressed through the home, we found that it is actually a lot bigger than originally thought. Hats off to the owner for the period décor. I’m envious (in a good way), and thank them for sharing their treasure.

 

The next residence on the list was the Charles Suderman Tenant House, built around 1905. Again, I am always fascinated by these types of homes. To me, the oak and long leaf pine floors were the main feature of this attractive dwelling. The high-wheeler bicycle was also a nice touch for the tour.1905 Charles Suderman Tenant House

1886 Adolph and Lena Nitsche HouseAfter a short wait, we were able to enter the 1886 Adolph and Lena Nitsche House. It was beautifully decorated with antique English furniture and a collection of English boxes. Antique walking canes were also on display throughout the house.

1875 Julius and Elizabeth Ruhl HouseThe longest wait of the tour was at the 1875 Julius and Elizabeth Ruhl House. This was the tour’s showcase home, and judging by the line, it was well received. However, it wasn’t until we moved closer to the tour exit door that we found out the main reason for the extended wait: booties. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not a fan of booties for home tours, particularly after last year’s experience. I understand the reason for them, but if you’re that nit-picky about people walking on your floors, then don’t include your home in a public tour! With that said, both the 1875 Julius and Elizabeth Ruhl House and the 1928 William and Marie Helmbrecht House are must-sees. However, you may want to plan on making these your first or last stops on the tour as they were relatively busy when we were there. The crowds are usually thin around ten in the morning or after four o’clock.IMG_3404

1907-08 Lucas TerraceAnother stop on the tour was a restoration-in-progress: the 1907–8 Thomas Lucas Apartments. The new owners have refurbished part of this property for their private residents but are in the process of fully restoring the balance of the residence. According to the owner, who was there at the time of our tour, the property, when restored, will have three apartments. I hope the owner and the Galveston Historical Foundation will add it to future tours when the restoration is complete.

 

After a bite to eat at Shrimp and Stuff, we set our sights on another restoration-in-progress. The 1874 Smith-Hartley House has had a bit of work done on it, but I hope to see this treasure in its full glory on a future tour.1874 Smith- Hartley House

1867 Poole - Parker CottageThe 1867 Poole-Parker Cottage, the oldest home on the tour, was next on our list. As we passed the beautiful climbing roses on the front gate and walked up the stairs, I couldn’t help but admire the well-sized porch. One a beautiful day like that of the tour, it would be a perfect place to sit and enjoy the scenery.

As mentioned before, the 1928 William and Marie Helmbrecht House is a must-see. I love the French design, especially the many charming French doors located throughout the home. The backyard has been beautifully landscaped as well. We toured this home later in the day, so there was not a long queue. It would be worth taking that into consideration when planning this weekend’s tour.1928 William and Marie Helmbrecht House

1887 August and Augusta Neumann CottageWe finally reached the end of the tour at the August and Augusta Neumann Cottage, which was built in 1887. This is another beautiful home, both inside and out. In fact, I can say that with confidence about all the homes on the tour. Each one is worth a look, and since there are still two days left of the tour, you still have the opportunity to take your time and visit each treasure.

I hope you all have a fantastic time this weekend. And of course, I wish the Galveston Historic Homes Tour another 40 years of success.

 

For more photos please click on the link below to our Flickr page.

Homes Tour: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjXgygUY

Old City Cemetery: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjXT5uzo

 

 

 

 

 

Monster of the Swamp: Bigfoot in SETX?

Port Arthur News 10.31.1984

 

A few weeks ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Extreme Wildlife Radio. (For those who do not know what a podcast is, it’s basically a radio show that you can upload to your iPod or other listening devices.) Extreme Wildlife Radio is a local podcast hosted by journalist, author, and SETX wildlife expert Chester Moore, along with Terri Werner, Director of Operations at the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, Texas.

I will start off by saying that I love the content of the show. It is, as its name suggests, about wildlife. Whether it’s big cats, black bears, wolves, or our many species of fowl in SETX, the show does a great job of promoting and presenting historic facts about our wildlife. With that said, I also love the other side of wildlife that comes up from time to time. During the week in question, the topic was “Bigfoot: A Roundtable Discussion.”

Bigfoot? What do I know of this so-called primate that has eluded visual documentation for hundreds of years? Absolutely nothing! As a child growing up in the early 70s, I remember having dreams about this creature visiting and peeking in the window. I had always wondered why I thought this—until I came across another podcast talking about the Boggy Creek Monster. I found out the movie had been released around 1974. This would fit the timeframe of my childhood puzzle, and I have a sneaking suspicion that one of my older siblings (whom I shall blame only for convenience) saw the movie, and I had overheard her description of this frightful documentary. Other than this scenario, I have never really been interested in this thing called Sasquatch, Bigfoot, or Yeti.

Well, there was that TV episode of The Million Dollar Man that . . . On second thought, let’s skip that. Oak Bluff 1

Last year, one of our SETX residents was visiting Oak Bluff Cemetery in Port Neches. He claimed to have seen, and also photographed, two “primates,” which he called Bigfoots. Unfortunately, as always, the photos are blurry, and nothing in them is distinguishable. I frequent this part of Oak Bluff Cemetery, and I also have photos. Many clear photos, in fact, of the same area where our primate friends supposedly spent an afternoon skipping rocks. Honestly, I have never seen anything other than a beautiful sunset in this bayou, but to each his own.

Sabine LighthouseSo, is there an actual documented historical record of something in our area that fits the description of a hairy man who walks, undetected for the most part, through SETX swamps—besides possibly Boudreaux or Thibodeaux? Well no, not that I believe, at least in these times, but there is an article in the Port Arthur News dated October, 31, 1984, by staff writer Peggy Slasman. Slasman had interviewed a Port Arthur resident whose father was the Sabine lighthouse keeper in 1905.

The story began as the fog rolled over the marsh, and the lighthouse keeper’s 10-year-old daughter stepped out on the porch to enjoy her favorite time of day. Unfortunately, this morning was different. The silence of the early morning was broken by movement in the marsh. She peered out over the railings, wondering what could be lurking near, when suddenly, she saw something so terrible that she screamed and fainted.

Her parents later found and revived the child. Both dismissed their daughter’s story as a figment of her wild imagination, but they couldn’t help but notice her obsession with her tale.

A month later, the lighthouse keeper was hunting in the marsh when he heard movement in the reeds. He crouched down and stared in the direction of the sound. To his dismay, there stood an eight-foot hairy, dark, and ugly “thing” that scared the lighthouse keeper so much that he ran away toward the safety of the lighthouse, forgetting his loaded rifle in his haste.

The monster was seen by others 12 times that year, but it never harmed anyone. Most Sabine residents believed it to be a bear, and that is indeed quite possible, but one can only speculate. That same year, a storm flooded the marsh, and the beast was supposedly drowned or washed out to sea. However, according to Slasman’s article, there are those who say it still lurks in the marsh . . .

So, do I believe there is a hairy primate living amongst us here in Jefferson or the lower portion of Orange County? Probably not, but you never know what lurks in places like the Big Thicket. There are many different species of animals living undisturbed in our dark forests, so it may be quite possible. With that said, I will take this opportunity to reach out to the other amateur paranormal, cryptozoologist ghost hunters out there and recommend that they take photography classes. Blurry is bad!