Across the street from us stands a large two-story house set among trees. This unique house with it's many white columns, porches on every side, and three flights of stairs is familiar to eveyone. In this house lives my neighbor Mrs. Estill, a former teacher of Wharton Elementary School. Through Mrs. Estill, a long time resident of Wharton, I wish to relate the growth of Wharton as she has experienced it and through information which has been handed down to her.
Wharton, the county seat of Wharton County, is rather a small ton which is located on the banks of the Colorado River. The townsite of Wharton was first laid out and settled in 1846. In this same year Wharton was chosen as the site for the county seat of Wharton County. Both Wharton and Wharton County were named for two brohters, William H. Wharton and John A. Wharton, whose names are illustrious in the history of Texas.
Many many years after the settlement of Wharton, Mrs. Estill came to Wharton to the big house across the street as a bride and it has been her home ever since. It was almost the only house north of Santa Fe track at that time. A wide expanse of fields lay beyond their place of ten acres - nine of which now constitutes the high school campus.
On the other side was the Santa Fe track, one of the railway outlets of Wharton, which was comparatively new. Almost daily some monor wreaks occured up and down the line because of the soft road-bed and insecure rails. Inspite of all this there were still many excursions to Matagorda. They were located on the vVictoria branch of the Southern Pacific, and on the junction point of the Palacios branch of the Southern Pacific.
Mrs. Estill has seen the population double and triple itself and conditions definitely improve. Paved streets now have taken the place of all the one that were impassable during wet weather. There were board side walks leading to a town also. Of course if a person ventured out in bad weather he would have to cling for dear life to the fences along the way because the boards were so slippery.
One was fortunate to have a supply of graoceries on hand if a wet spell set in. For when a wet spell would set in, the little red wagon which was hand drawn was usually set aside, and a man on horse back would plough through the mud with a basket of food on his arm. Of course this food was only for those desperately in need of food. It is wonderful how the ways od communication have improved and also shows great progress in the development of Wharton. This is all due to the fact that all the settlers of Wharton have had the spirit to work for the good of the community.
It was really a struggle in those days because they did not have the conviences which we now have. Mrs. Estill can remember when there were no electric lights and no family was without a lantern to dimly light his way over the treacherous streets at night. It was not at all like it is now with bright street lights at every street corner. Then when the electric plant was installed how happy everyone was to be able to just press a button and have a gleaming bright light. There were also many other conviences which developed through the years such as the natural gas which was piped into town by Houston Pipe Line Company during the 1920's. This is just a start in naming all the conviences which we have acquired through the years.
Also around 1926 the industries were about average for a city with a population of about 3,000. According to a survey around that time there were the Cotton Oil Mill, owned by People's Cotton Oil Company with H.A. Wilson as manager; two bottling plants with modern and sanitary conditions; the Washboard Factory, which manufactured the "Rush" washboard; two gins equipped with the latest type of machinery. Other adding to Wharton's industry were three wholesale houses supplying local and surrounding territories, two banks, and one hundred and ten business houses. There were also a spinich packing plant which only operated in season and provided itself very profitable to the farmers in this community. Wharton's industry increased a great deal up to 1926 but has increased still more today.
Wharton can also well be proud of it's fine schools. Mrs. Estill, who has definitely made a place for herself in Wharton schools, can certinaly take credit for some of this because she herself has seen and experienced the growong of the schools. For sisteen years after her marriage she enjoyed the role of mother and homemaker, but in 1918 with her three children in school she added another role and became a teacher in the Wharton school system. She devoted thirty-one years of her life to directing the efforts of many little boys and girls in their first year in school. She will always be remembered by all for her devoted efforts. Through her efforts and the efforts of many other teachers, the schools here have increased in size tremendously.
In 1926 Wharton was supporting six religious denominations. They were Methodist, Baptist, Presybyterian, Christian, Evangelical and Jewish. A few more have been added through the years.
Just as in surrounding territories, fires and storms have certainly taken their toll in Wharton. In 1902 during the Christmas holidays almost the entire west side of the square went up in flames. Then many years later a comparatively new and beautiful Methodist church was destroyed by fire. During the storms scarcely a house escaped damage. Streets were made impassable by broken and uprooted trees. The floods were very disasterous - although to the children they were rather enjoyable. They waded and played in the water to their hearts content. Wharton was indeed a little Venice with it's boats ferrying passengers back and forth.
Through the years everything has changed. The population has definitely increased during the past years. Not only has the business section of town increased but also the residential section. Now there are houses on all sides of Mrs. Estill's. Directly in back of it there is an entirely new residential section, the Mayfair Addition. Just a few years ago there was an intermediate school built in the mayfair addition. It is indeed a beautiful building. Living conditions are definitely improved.
Mrs. Estill now looks back at all the hardships and sufferings which had to be encured to make Wharton what it is today. One of her greatest satisifations though, is to see children which she started out in life suceed in life and contribute in working for the sucess of Wharton. Then when whe looks into the future of Wharton she sees a prosperous and expanding community.
Interview with Estill, Mrs. J.F.. Wharton Resident. Address 1016 North Rusk