STORIES OF EARLY WHARTON
By the Fourth and Fifth Grade
Social Studies Classes of
1974 or 1975
[Note: I have copied these exactly how the students wrote them]
Early Caney Country
Told by Mrs. Violet Frietag to Janet Evans
About 1945, during World War II, soldiers would come to Wharton and go dancing at the Community Center. Then it was called U.S.O.
Cotton was a major crop here. During the summer people worked in the fields harvesting crops. Stores were not air-conditioned. On the east side of the courthouse were furniture stores. Some of those stores are still here. Some stores stayed open early and late on Saturdays. During the Christmas Holidays some stores stayed open to 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.
Mr. Hayes, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Fred Mills were some of Wharton's early mayors years ago.
Behind the highschool where my home is now, was a swamp area.
Where the H.E.B. Store is now there used to be many homes. Mr. and Mrs. Cozier used to live in the red brick home across the street from H.E.B. shopping center.
In 1946, Wharton Junior College was established. They didn't have many students at first.
The roads were rough and bumpy. The Santa Fe and the Pacific Railroads gave many men jobs.
Where No Nam Boutique is now, there was a big ring where horses were tied when people came into town in the 1900's.
Int he early 1900's Wharton was completely flooded. Many people escaped in boats.
When hurricanes struck, people took shelter in the courthouse. The schools weren't safe enough to be used as shelters.
The Abell Street School was for white students in grades one through six. The seventh through twelfth grades went to the junior high.
All Black students went to Canton Street school. There was another school where Mr. McGregor's service station now stands where Spanish students went. In the 1950's Spanish and White students went together. In the early 1960's, all races went to the same school.
Told by Mrs. Dorothy Woodard to Linda Woodard
In 1960, the president was Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon was the vice-president. Jesse Martin was the Mayor.
Canton Street School was only for Black people. It's color was kelly green and white. The name of the football team was the Fighting Wolves. Some of the players in 1960 - 1961 were Leroy Mitchell and Jimmy Kearney who are now professional players with the Denver Broncos and the Boston Patriots. The football coaches were James Wanza and Shelly Stewart. The principal was C.W. Dawson and the vice-principal was Mr. McIntosh.The nurse was Mrs. Richardson and the most popular teacher was Mrs. Hartwell. The band teacher was Mr. Brown. The superintendent was Mr. Sivells. Alpards is the oldest store in Wharton. Dee's was Lockwoods. When there were storms, they would go to the school.
Told by Mr. G.A. White to Jane White
Fidel Castro came to Wharton, Texas from Cuba approximately in 1963 or 1964. Wharton gave Fidel Castro a hero's welcome and was accompanied by armed guards. Fidel Castro ate lunch at Petersons.
Mr. Johnny Ferguson gave Fidel Castro a race horse to take back to Cuba. The horse was a full blooded son of Black Gold King. Black Gold King was Texas' famous leading cutting horse. Ferguson's horse to Fidel Castro sired many sons that were great names in the field of racing.
Some weeks later after that, Fidel Castro went back to Cuba and became a communist. Consequently, the United States broke off relations with Cuba because of the Communist activity.
Early Year in Wharton
Told by Mrs. Mary Lee Allen to Kenneth Allen
The roads had ruts and the roads were dirt. They had to pump water out of a well. They had to cook on a wood stove. They didn't have any electricity, they had to use lamps. They didn't have any cars, they had wagons and mules. They didn't have electric irons, they had flat irons. They had to make a fire and put the iron on it. You would have a rub board because they didn't have a washing machine and dryer. In the school house they had one room. They didn't change rooms because there was only one teacher. They didn't have school buses they had to walk. There weren't any cars. There weren't any chain saws, they had to take a wedge to break wood and had to use a cross cut saw. They didn't have any tractors, they had a mule and a plow. There were no diesel engines, they had steam engines.
Told by Mrs. Maggie Pike to David Mason
During the earlier years Wharton wasn't a very large town but groceries and clothing were very inexpensive. There was still some fun and enjoyment such as Wharton County Fair and there was a lot of good movies in Wharton County. Some good times in those days you might could buy candy for a penny and meat might cost a nickel or a dime. You might could get a beer for 20 cents or something like that. Gas was not high and other things were not high. Soup was five cents a bowl and it was as much as you could eat at one time. They didn't have very good roads in that time. And thats how it was!
Told by Mr. Carl Reynolds, Jr. to Neil Reynolds
Hurricane Carla began on September the fourth and lasted for about three or four days
It came with about a hundred and twenty mile an hour winds. The wind was so strong that people had to put boards on their windows to keep them from breaking
When it came, it brought a lot of rain. It rained about 18 inches and filled up ditches and in some places it even went over roads.
When it came, strong wind destroyed many crops such as corn, cotton and other kinds of plants.
Many homes had their roofs blown off and some houses even fell down from the strong winds.
My family had no electricity for about five days. They had to use candles and other sources of light.
When it came, it flooded the Colorado River and lots of cattle drowned. Many people who lived by the river had to move to high land. Millions of dollars worth of damage was done in coastal counties.
Told by Ira Mae Davis to Annette Harris
The city of Wharton has been the governmental center of the county since the days of the Republic; it's history is inseparable from the development of the country.
In 1846, William Kincheloe gave land for the courthouse square from his league granted July 18, 1824 as part of Stephen F. Austin's Colony
It was named for two brothers, William H. and John A. Wharton. Wharton County has a rich heritage. One of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, William Menefee lived here. Albert Clinton Horton, first lieutenant governor of the state made his home on a large plantation near Wharton. Menefee and Horton were among the commissioners named to select the site for the capital of Texas.
When My Daddy Laid Bricks
Told by Mr. Adolph Andel to Darryl Andel
My Daddy laid bricks and stones on Caney Valley Hospital in 1964.>br> He also laid bricks and stones on Marshal Johnson's game room in 1964.
Early Schools in Wharton
Told by Mr. C.G. Sivells to Becky Brooks
I'm going to tell you about the early schools in Wharton. This will involve what has happened in the last 40 years. I will talk about the fact that the schools have always been important to the people of Wharton and prior to the time of the organization of the school district in 1896, we had private schools in Wharton. Those schools were held in the homes of the families who had children to be educated or in the homes of teachers if they had the space.
In 1896 the citizens of this area voted to form a school district. this vote was brought on by their desire to have free public schools and they were wanting yo support them. On August 24, 1896, the first meeting of the Board of Trustees was held. I'm giving giving the minutes of this meeting because of the fact that they wrote a little different from the way they do today and talked a little differently from what they do today and so this is word for word what appears in the minutes of the first board meeting in 1896.
On this day met together I.N. Dennis, R. Vineyard, W.O. Victor, P.G. Brooks, and Mingo Hodges duly elected and qualified trustees of the incorporated district known as the town of Wharton, organized by electing the following officers: I.N. Dennis, President; R. Vineyard, Treasurer; P.G. Brooks, Secretary; W.O. Victor, collector and Assessor.
This is all that is given concerning what took place at that particular meeting. I list the names of the people who were first members of the board of trustees of the Wharton District because I think that there are in this area at the present time some descendants of those people who were on the first board.
There was not a superintendent at that time but we had a principal of the white Wharton School named William N. Foster. We has 3 Negro schools at Wharton at that time. Those principals were W.H. Hathan, R.H. Harris, and S.M. Martin. This was an indication that people in this town at that time were interested in seeing that their own child got an education and also interested in seeing that the Negro children also got an education.
On October 30, 1896, there was another board meeting in which the election returns of October 27th were canvassed. Seventy-nine votes were cast in this election for an annual ad valorem tax of 25 cents per $100 evaluation for the purpose of augmenting the general school fund. Twenty-six votes were cast against. Seventy-nine votes were cast for issuing a 20 year coupon bond and 26 votes were cast against. Now this is an important thing that took place during the first year of this school district.
I think it is rather important and interesting to say that the school district at that time was now known generally, or was not in the minutes as the Wharton Independent School District, but it has been the Wharton Independent School District from the time it was organized. No changes in the boundary of the district were made from 1896 until 1951, which would be some 55 years.
There was not an oil well in the district. There were all gas wells in the district. There were no mineral in the district. The support of the schools rested entirely on ad valorem taxes against personal property and real property, in other words, land and houses and so forth.
On September 14, 1898 a motion of the public for free was ordered to teach as long as money lasted. Private schools were to be taught until the people got tired of paying for it. We could say there has been a lack of funds in public education in Wharton. There has been this problem of financing the schools for many years.
On April 6th an election was held authorizing 25 cents on $100 evaluation on taxable property in the limits of the town of Wharton for the purchase of sites and constructing public free school buildings. This was present and also present were 20 year coupon bonds for the sum of $8,000.00 and an interest of 6% on the date on which the bonds were issued. Proposition Number 3, the raising of taxation for general school funds did not pass. We had at that time a 25 cent rate and they wanted to increase it a little bit and get more money. I think the value of the taxable property of the school district was less than 4 million dollars and with a 25 cent rate this only raised about $10,000.00 a year if everybody paid their taxes and , of course, they didn't. They had all kinds of trouble getting taxes paid.
On April 26th of this particular year 1898, I believe it was, out H.D. Sorrell offered 3.74 acres of land on the west side of Richmond Road called Petty Track (less a strip of land on the South side of the public road.) for the purpose of providing a location for the White School. Mr. Sorrell was paid $10 for this land. There was a reservation clause that in case at any time in the future the property should cease to be used for school purposes the land would revert back to the Sorrell Estate.
The minutes of May 22, 1899 lists 7 trustees on the board of the Wharton District. Now of course, 7 trustees is the number we have today. Evidently there was a change in the law of the trustees found out there was supposed to be 7 trustees for an independent school district. Anyhow at this time where were 7 trustees listed for the Wharton Schools.
Bonds for $8,000 were sold due to the fact that the secretary on the board advertised in the Houston Post to sell those bonds and also advertised for plans and specifications for a 6 room school to cost not more than $6000. The fact that $8000 was voted and $6000 was to be used to build the building, I think is pretty well in line and yet it was considerably less than we think of today when we think in terms of cost of buildings.
On May 29, 1899 the board voted to delete or quit operating the Bolton and the Tisdale Schools which were Negro schools at that time small Negro schools in outlaying areas. However, other schools continued to operate and other schools formed at later dates.
We had a Jake Ford School. We had a school called the Mackay School over in that area that was a one-teacher school. We had an Alta Vista School out from town a way. We had several different schools at different times. The Negro School in town at that time was called the Dunbar school. It was located over next to the Colo. river just off of East Avenue between E. Avenue and that area by the river. It was about a 4 or 5 teacher school, depending on the number of people who were there. Mr. H.F. Edwards was elected as principal of all Negro schools at that time. Mr. J.E. Biggs was elected as first superintendent and principal of the White schools in 1901.
In 1906, H.G. Forgason bid for the position of treasurer. Now this was something that we don't have today. At that time, individuals bid to act as treasurer for the school to keep the school money safe and to invest it and use it for their own purposes and to make some money out of it if they could during the time the school didn't need it.
On May 16, 1913, Miss Merle Wharton was elected as superintendent of the Wharton Public Schools. This is probably the first lady superintendent and only lady superintendent of the Wharton Schools that I know about and probably the first lady superintendent in the state of Texas. At the same time, Miss Josephine Smith was principal of the White schools. Mr. S.N. McDonald was elected as principal of the Negro schools and he was principal over all of them. On November 29, 1915, Wharton Bank and Trust became treasurer of the Wharton Independent School District and from that time to the present has been the depository for school funds and has acted treasurer.
In April, 1919, the election was held in approving a one hundred thousand bond issue to construct a permanent White school. Those bonds were advertised for bids. They were 40 year bonds that were 5% and on July 26, 1919, Mr. Charles Page of Austin was employed as architect. On October 15th, Mr. C.E. Joplin was awarded the contract to build the new school.
Of course, this new school we are talking about is a 3 story brick building which on the front had WHARTON HIGH SCHOOL, 1920. This building is used now as the junior high school. November 7th the location was voted to be the land purchased from Mrs. Carney Fullerton. This was where the school was located but quite a furor arose in Wharton because of the fact that this land was so far out the center of town, it was almost out in the country.
At the time that I came to Wharton in 1932, the Wharton High School was out on the edge of town and right across the street from it was a cotton patch and in behind was a duck pond and so there was quite a bit of discussion about that.
On October 1st, 2 acres were given by Negro patrons over west of the tracks on Canton Street where the Canton Street School is now and 2 acres that adjoined those two acres were bought from L.B. Outlar for the site of a Negro school and notice was sent out to bidders for a 7-room frame building to be built on the site. This was to be called the Wharton Training School.
On July 12, 1928, the purchase of the site of Abell School from the West estate provided the site for the school that we now know as the Abell School and was used at that time to build the school that was called at that time, the Stephen F. Austin School.
The last note that I'm going to say on this was that on April 4, 1931, Mr. Floyd Best was elected as superintendent of the Wharton Independent School District and he served as superintendent for some 10 years and then again after the war for another 3 years.
I think perhaps the best description of the mood of the people in Wharton and their support of the schools has been given by one of the outstanding patrons of this district who said "A town is bound to be all right when you have good schools and good hospitals and good churches." and I think we have an abundance of these three things in Wharton and this would indicate that we have an opportunity to grow in the years to come.
Twenty-five Years In Wharton
Told by Mrs. W. C. Hastings to Becky Brooks
We moved to Wharton April, 1950, and during this 25 year period many changes have taken place in Wharton, particularly in things that have been built. We had two rather small hospitals that weren't in very good condition, didn't have many beds for patient care, were not air-conditioned, did not have good heating systems and since 1950 during the years from then until now, two new hospitals and clinics have been built and take care of a large number of patients in more modern facilities. A nurses home was built and we now have two nursing homes for the care of aged patient.
We also have a new county library. The old library was in crowded quarters and the building wasn't in very good condition. It too, was not adequately heated and no air-conditioning, so it was necessary to build a new building to house our library.
There have been many new churches built in Wharton and most of them fairly recently. The churches were old. Here again, they did not have air-conditioning, they had ceiling fans and in order to make them more comfortable, it was decided that they should rebuild rather than renovating the old churches. We have a new Catholic, a new Episcopal, and a new Presbyterian Church. We have a new College Heights Baptist Church and we have a new Methodist Church. This is very good progress for a town this size and I'm proud about some of them that have been built since we came here.
They have also put in a sewage treatment plant which was necessary for the control of sewage treatment.
We had an old airport that was not very large so a new one was built fairly recently.
When we first arrived in Wharton, the Rio Theater was being built. That was in 1950 and it was quite a wonderful thing when it opened it's doors for the first time. It was real pretty inside.
The old city cemetery on the side town had grown too small for all the people who wanted to be buried in Wharton. A new Cemetery, the Evergreen Memorial, was started and many people are brought here for burial even when they have not lived in Wharton for a period of time.
Because of the heavy traffic over the Colorado River, we have a new bridge and that's a concrete bridge because the old bridge was just to narrow to handle some of our larger vehicles.
We had one swimming pool now associated with the Health Club. Because that wasn't adequate for all the youngsters who wanted to go swimming, a new pool was built just a few years ago.
When I first started working at the junior college we had many buildings, a lot fewer than we have now. We had the A Building and we had a barracks building that was used for classrooms. We had the big gym. We had the woodworking shop and the metal shop and I think everything else was inside the A Building. The cafeteria and library were inside the administration building so it wasn't a large campus at that time. The college has expanded a great deal and many new buildings and building in the planning stages.
We have a lot of new businesses in town that are very interesting, a lot of new industries, but among the businesses that have popped up are all the drive-ins like The Dairy Princess, the Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, and grocery drive-ins. We used to have only two regular grocery stores. We have a lot of antique shops. Antique dealers say that the more antique shops you have in one town, the better the business will be because when people go out to buy antiques they like to shop at several places close together so they can make trips on the weekend.
We have trailer parks and motels. When we first came here the only motel was the Tee Pee Courts.
Both our banks are in new buildings and this is very nice.
Many people come to Wharton to retire and we have a need for homes. When we first moved to Wharton, this area that you live Becky in this particular block, there were only 7 houses. From where we live, clear up to the corner, we staked a horse. You don't find anyone in Wharton staking a horse anymore. We raised rabbits in our back yard and we had pigeons and raised pheasants.
We used to have an ice house across the railroad tracks and they delivered ice to the houses because a lot of people didn't have refrigerators and we had an ice house in town for a long time.
We had two old hotels and they have been closed down.
We don;t have passenger trains anymore. We used to be able to ride the train to Houston once in awhile.
We used to have a Wharton County Fair every year and it was a lot of fun to go to the fair and see all the exhibits. They always had a rodeo and a midway with all the games to play, a ferris wheel, the merry go round. This was fun for all youngsters.
In September, 1961, shortly after school started we got news on the radio and TV that Hurricane Carla was in the Gulf. The eye came through Port Lavaca and we were on the fringe area of some very strong wind. People who didn't have strong houses went to the county court house or the junior college gym. It rained and blew and limbs and electricity went off but we used candle and battery-powered radios in order to keep up with the news. This lasted for about a day and a half and the next morning Mr. Hastings and one of our boys went outside to cut down a tree that had blown over. The wind was so strong that it would pull the tree up out of the ground and we could see the roots so they thought it would be better if it were chopped down. The next morning when it was quiet, we went out to see what was going on outside. It has been scary but everybody came through it all right. We had very little damage and no lives were lost so we were grateful for that.
Wharton Long Ago
Told by Frank Suaste to Renee Suaste
Long ago in the town of Wharton, T.W. Lane was the sheriff. They called him "Buckshot" Lane. The college grounds used to be a cow pasture. Later, an airplane landing field was made for Mr. Lane's piper cub plane. He had gotten the plane by donations of the people of Wharton. He would use it to get prisoners from far away towns. Later in 1946, they built the junior college. It kept expanding across the black-top road where the county fair used to be.
There was just one school (what is now junior high). It was built in 1920. Students from Boling, Iago and small towns around would come to Wharton School. Later in the summer of 1962, they completed what is now Wharton Senior High School and they moved in. Their first graduating class was in 1962.
The Colorado River
Told by Mr. E.E. Macha to Ann Hanslik
The Colorado River today is peaceful and stays in its banks most of the time. This was not true when I was a young man some 70 years ago.
The river had no banks and when heavy rains came, it flooded thousands and thousands of acres of land. It caused many to lose their lives and the loss of livestock and poultry was always very great.
We have had many floods here in Wharton County. The flood of 1913 was one that will always live in my memory. The water overflowed and the countryside from Wharton to Richmond was like a big lake. Many people lost everything they owned and had to get on housetops and up in trees to save their lives.
The Lower Colorado River Authority built dams on the river in 1934 and this has helped to stop the flooding
Told by Mr. Phillip Meyers to Deborah Jones
He had a mulberry tree in his front yard that sat up as straight as a silver dollar. The 1932 storm split it in half and took the side of his house. My mother was a small baby. he said that before the storm my grandmother made wine by the gallon from berries. She made the best pies from them also. The storm ruined the crops that year. Cotton was all over the ground. The corn was blown on the ground and the ears rooted on the earth. Many people lost their houses from the storm. His daddy had a tall chimney but he recalls the storm blew it down even with the edge of the roof of the house. The storm blew all night long. There was many houses with people in prayer that the storm would cease.
The year 1933 after the storm was a very good crop year, as it rained to much. The rice fields ran over into the cotton field and the crops were ruined again.
The wages were cheap. Times were hard. They only got 10 cents a pound for cotton. He set steel traps to catch skunks from eating his chickens. The owls used to push chickens off the roof and catch them before they reached the ground and fly off the roof and eat them. They got their milk from the cow when she didn't kick the bucket. They'd skim the milk and make butter. They raised their own hogs for meat and killed them and cured them in boxes of salt, then smoke the meat and it would keep without ice.
Told by ________ to Geneva Falcon
It hit Wharton in 1961. It did a lot of damage. It broke a lot of windows. It damaged a big pecan crop and cotton too. A lot of people went to the junior college and into the courthouse and some went out of town. It hit in the month of September and on the 11th at 10:00. It started in Galveston then but around 6:00 it hit Wharton for two days. People didn't have any electricity or water. Some people in other towns only had hard wind. It knocked down trailer houses and houses. It knocked down trees and broke roofs. It damaged cars. It broke their vinyl tops and windows. All the flowers were dead. Some people had to buy furniture for their houses because theirs were all broken. Some needed to buy or build their houses.
The Big Black Bear
Told by Mr. Lawrence Wearden to Lori Knezek
The person who told me this story is Mr. Lawrence Wearden who lives in Glen Flora, Texas and who owns and operates Wearden Feed Mill in Wharton.
The last black bear killed in Wharton County was killed not far from where my house is now on River Road. This bear was shot with a small caliber pistol by Clay Elliott about 1926. Mr. Elliott was a man who really enjoyed hunting and on this day he and his dogs were doing just that--hunting. They surprised the Black when the bear was looking for food. Mr. Elliott only had his pistol with him so he took his chance and shot the bear. Then he loaded the big black bear into his Model T pickup and brought him to Glen Flora for everyone to see.
The Horse and Buggy
Told by Mrs. Eunice Rogers to Wanda Allen
During the early 1900's the popular transportation was the horse and buggy. There were horse lots then instead of car lots. Horses were raised, cared for, groomed and then put in fenced areas. The horses were beautiful, just like the cars are beautiful today. There were large horses, small horses, and horses of different colors. A buyer could choose the horse he wanted to buy. The horse had to be trained before he could be ridden or before he pulled a buggy. Buggies were sold on lots and the buyer would choose the buggy he wanted to buy. Sometimes people would buy a horse and buggy of the same color. They would ride the horse or the horse and buggy to town, to church, or to visit, just as we ride cars today. they did not have to buy gasoline like we do but they had to feed and care for the horses. My grandmother said it was a lot of fun.
A Story in the Old Days
Told by Mrs. Rosie Jackson to Rosie Jackson
When I was a little girl I played with my friend and we rode a horse and went down to the bottom. When I stayed home my friend could come over to play and we rode our bikes and had fun with them. When my Father got work he brought me some milk and some ice cream. My mother and father would go to the show and we would have fun eating popcorn and other things. I went to church with my mother and father. The church's name was St. James Baptist Church. He'd preach so well that all the people int he church were happy.
Back There in Early Wharton
Told by Susie and Willie Richardson and Omer Lee Willimas to Debra Richardson
In 1935 a flood came. The first time the flood came people could just sit on their porch and wave their feet in the water. The second time the flood came from Austin, a dam broke and rthe water rushed in and people had to leave their homes and go to high places. They went upon a high hill where the school was. The mane it was Crescent, out there by the south of Glen Flora, Everybody had to stand upon the hill by the school and they couldn't go home. They had to sleep in the school. When morning came the people could go home and get clothes. If they tried to go home they would be cought in the flood. Many old people got drowned when the flood came because some of them couldn't swim. The flood was on for 4 or 5 days. Right after the flood a storm came and tore down many houses and schools. When it tore up the school, they had to have school in a little house.
The Old and New of Wharton
Told by Mrs. Millie Sprta to Cynthia Sprta
All the roads in Wharton a long time ago were made of dirt. There were no drive-in grocery stores except one which is now called Wharton Fruit Market. There were only 2 barbershops in town back then. In the old days there were only two dentists. They had only one eye doctor and for all the people there were 6 medical doctors. There were only 5 drugstores in 1942. There wasn't any fabric stores in Wharton. Wharton didn't have any nursing homes. There was only 5 churches in Wharton. The grocery stores were small. The courthouse was the same except they added on to it in 1956.
Some of the new buildings that were added are the library, two new banks, Chamber of Commerce, and the jailhouse. There are two schools that have been built which are the Senior High and the junior college. In Wharton two new hospitals were added. They are the Caney Valley Hospital and the Gulf Coast Hospital. The new river bridge was built. There was one cotton gin called the Cotton Queen. The telephone company was rebuilt and then added on. And that's the old and new of Wharton.
Told by________ to Diana Cruz
Before people made the Jack-in-the-Box, there was a field there. The man who had that field planted crops there. He planted corn, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, The man who planted this food is named Mr. Wisnieski. He gave us some of his food. He was a good man. He let us help him and he let us play in his field. He was nice to my mother and father. When he cleaned his field he let us ride his tractor. He would give us a ride. He gave my mother some seeds.
Mr. H.M. Garrett, 1910
Told by Mr. H.M. Garrett to Janna Reed
Mr. Garrett has lived at 504 North Fulton ever since he moved here in 1910. Mr. Garrett has stayed one night in the Blackstone. He told me that about 20 years ago, the Blackstone went out of business. It went out of business because it didn't get enough business to support it.
In 1911, Wharton got it's first electric lights put up.
In 1913, there was a flood and the river reached from Pierce to Beasley. In the late 1020's he told me that the raft was taken out of the river.
In the late 30's our streets were paved. The first contract that Brown and Root had was paving our streets. Before this, the roads were hard to travel on. The only travel back then was by buggy or horseback. The first car in Wharton was owned by Dr. Davidson.
There were criminals hanged in Wharton. The first name Mr. Garrett saw hanged was in 1907. The last man was hanged in Wharton was a man that murdered a man named Mr. Raydown out by Peach Creek. People were hanged down where the old library was. After the person who was hanged died, they brought him down and a doctor was there to pronounce him dead.
In 1930, Bonnie and Clyde came through Wharton. The sheriff, who was J.C. Willis, and his deputy had a roadblock over by the Colorado River. When Bonnie and Clyde saw it was a roadblock, they turned real fast and went the other way. They shot at the deputy.
The old house at the corner of the street where the police station is was built before Mr. Garrett moved here. It was owned by a German man whose last name was Ahldag.
My Story on Early Wharton
Told by Mrs. Gayle Nelson to Amy Fitzgerald
I came to Wharton in 1928. There was only about 2 paved roads and a big R.H.D. Sorrell home was where H.E.B. is now. Across the street was the Rust's Grandmother's home. It was another great big two-story home with no paved street in front. Later we moved on North Richmond Road. Dr. Neal was the best medical doctor and all the young men who are in this area named Simon are named after Dr. Neal. His name was Simon Neal. further out on North Richmond Road, Dr. Neal's father lived. He was a Justice of the Peace and he rode his horse every day to work from his home. Now Wharton has grown to be quite a little city.
Things that were in Early Wharton
Told by Mrs. Alice R. Baker to Gay Lynn Williams
Well, in early Wharton there were floods and there were fields of corn, sorghum, and mules and wagons instead of cars. People worked very hard. There were wild animals, panthers and bears. They had mules for plowing their fields to get their crops out. They didn't have any electricity or gas for fires. They used oil and there was no pollution. There were very few stores in those days. People had to go a long way to get where they were going. Living conditions were very bad.
Told by Mr. Henry Macek to Tammy Macek
Carla was a storm that came in 1961 or 1962. The wind blew hard for 4 or 5 days. There was flooding and a lot of buildings were torn down. Daddy's family stayed home. Many roofs were blown off. At the beach the houses were blown away. When my mother's family got back, the roof from the house was damaged. They had to get a new one. Tree limbs were lying in the yard. Windows were broken out and the carpet in the living room was wet. There was no school for several days.
At Palacios, boats were all blown into fields and pastures. Butane tanks floated int he fields. Trailer houses and houses were blown apart. The police and National Guard were called in because visitors were looting torn down houses and private property.
After the flood was gone and people came back to their homes that weren't torn down, they had to be careful. There were rattlesnakes hidden in closets and other parts of homes. It took a lot of time to clean up the town and get settled down again.
By J. Boone Koonce
Stephen F. Austin received a grant from the Mexican government in 1821 to bring colonist to Texas. This grant said that he must bring 300 families of good character. One of these early colonists was William Kincheloe. He chose the land that Wharton is now on. The town was named for two brothers, William H. and John A. Wharton. By 1885 the town had 2 churches, a school and several stores. Among the settlers of our area were Joel Hudgins and his wife, Rachel Ann Northington McKinney. Their son was J.D. Hudgins, who farmed the J.D. Hudgins Ranch. J.D. Hudgins is my Great Great Grandfather.
Told by Adela Sosa to Gloria Martinez
Once Plaza III used to be a restaurant. My Grandma used to work there and she got 25 cents an hour. When there was a flood people would get around in their canoes.
Told by Mr. Tommy Dickson to Scott McKinney
In the 1890's the area where I live was a cotton plantation. Its owner had fine horses, so he built a race track where people could bring their horses to race.
In 1930 Mr. B.C. Roberts, Sr. asked Mr. George Rust if he could lease land for a golf course. He was given permission and work began. Where the Wharton County Library is today was the clubhouse and Number One Tee. It was a nine hole course and crossed the old Caney Creek.
This area in Wharton is known as Mayfair District, After. After the golf course disappeared, he built streets and gave them names from Mayfair. They were all called lanes. Some examples are Park Lane, Mockingbird Lane, Merry Lane and Lazy Lane.
Our Old House
Told by Mrs. Janie Navratil to Brett Navratil
This house is over a hundred years old. At one time, it was clear across town where Dee's is. This house was first the old Blumberg home. In those days the Jewish people of our community didn't have a synagogue, and this house was used for weddings and other special occasions.
In later years it became a boarding house. When Lockwoods bought the property to build a grocery store this house was split in two and moved to 1301 Rusk Street by the McElroy family. The lot it is now on was part of a Spanish land grant.
In 1964, my family, the Navratils, bought the house and it has been out home ever since.
The Flood of 1935
Told by Mr. Harry Burger to Henry Burger
It was late in May of 1935 that the Colorado River overflowed in the streets of Wharton. The water was so deep that you could have "floated a battleship" at the present corner of where the Security Bank and Trust Company is. These flood waters were caused by the river backing up through Caney Creek which goes right through the center of town. This flood was so terrible that it stopped all forms of transportation in the city for many days. People could only get to the business district by the use of small boats and rafts. My father received his high school diploma during this time at the present City Hall. He goes on to say that we never have to see water in the streets of Wharton again.
My Life in Early Wharton
Told by Mr. Duncan Green, Jr. to Simone Williams
My life in Wharton wasn't so nice because I had to stop going to school in order to help send my brothers and sisters to school. So I begin to tell you, it goes like this. I was about 19 when I left school trying to help my mother and father. I had one sister and two brothers. We lived in a little wooden house on the corner. Mother and Daddy worked very hard trying to send their kids to school. We sometimes had hard times but mother always told us to keep our hands in God's hands.
Mother got ill, and soon passed away and we took it very hard. We always remembered to keep our hands in God's hands for surely He will take care.
After working in the fields we often sat around and talked about Brother going to college. On Sundays we went to church, all except dad, he wasn't a church man.
Dad lived to see little sister finish school . After he passed away we often cried and wished we had someone to reassure us in the right direction.
We lived on and better. Brother finished school. Sister got married and had a baby.
A Long Time Ago in Lane City
Told by Mrs. Alice Baines to Wanda Baines
Long time ago there were dirt roads. Across the railroad track there was a large store. The name of it was Mercantile Store. They had mail, gas, dry goods and other items. That was the only store they had then.
They used to farm lots of cotton and corn. They did not have many combines. They used mules and oxen, and you had tractors. Some planted rice but not as much as they do now. They did not plant maize and soy beans. They had a cotton gin that was built there in the 1920's or 1930's. It got burned down in 1974.
Told by Mrs. Sandra Kaye Ephran to Arlita Ephran
My mother said she went to a wooden school. It was green and had very scary, shaky stairs. She said she went to Canton Street School later and she said it was a very good school and lots of fun.She went at 7:45 and the time that she got out was 4:00. She used to go to a store called Red and White. It was where Carol's Gun Shop is now. She said that she liked the Commission House because her father worked there and he gave her plenty of food. She said the Commission House was on Milam Street.
Wharton In the Olden Days
Told by Mrs. Janet Orta to Branda Orta
In 1932 a hurricane came to Wharton. The water from the river flooded and the hurricane killed people and animals and broke houses. The people were so scared that they didn't know what to do. Some people died because they couldn't get to town because of the weather.
People rode horses and wagons because they didn't have cars. In 1932 at the courthouse there was not any pecan trees but they had lots of Alamo trees.
In the Early Days
Told by Mrs. Rebecca Hargrove to Bridgette Hargrove
In the late 1810's my grandmother told me they went to school and had to sit on the floor. They had about 3 books, reading, spelling and science. They learned how to write and read. When they stopped going to school they were in the fifth grade.
When they wanted to go to the store they had to go by wagons or horses. They did not have paved roads. The roads they had were gravel and it had mud puddles in the roads when it rained.
When they cooked their food to eat they had to make a fire.
They slept on the floor and they only had 3 blankets to sleep on.
They kept their food in a wood box. They had to walk ? miles to get some water from the well.
Life in a Black School in 1930
Told by Mrs. Ethel G. Ross to Leslie Moses
In the early days we had only the first three grades. The black school teacher made very little pay in the early days. Very few teachers had cars or nice homes because they made very small pay.
In School, we never had a new book or a new desk. The school house was never warm. They had coal heat and never enough because the stoves were always out. In our all Black school we had no science, the only subjects taught were reading, writing and arithmetic.
Our school burned down in 1936. I was in the sixth grade. I heard we were going to school at the fair grounds. There were some good buildings. I was sure we were going to school in them, By the way, those buildings are still there today. I know you are not going to believe this, but I went to school in the animal pens on a dirt floor with very little heat in the cold winter weather.
The 1913 Flood
Told by Mrs. Evelyn Hendon to Shirley Young
The flood came out of Austin. It came down the river. They could see the flood coming through the fields. It ran the people out of their houses. They had put all their belongings int he attic. The water was pouring out of the windows. They had to stay out of their houses for about two days. All they could do was watch it flood.
Told by Mr. Robert E. Ripple to Beverly Ripple
Hilje is a small country town about 6 miles west of El Campo on Highway 59. It began int he early days as a farming community. Its present population is approximately 50. Hilje had one grocery store and a gin.
My father, Robert E. Ripple was born in Hilje on November 16, 19?? and lived in Hilje until 1950 when he married my mother. My father's parents were farmers. My grandfather moved to Hilje from Fayetteville at the age of 12. They farmed cotton and grain. My father also assisted in the farming during the years he was a young boy. His duties consisted of feeding the mule, hogs, chickens, milking the cow and working the fields. My grandfather would hire help when it was time to harvest the crops. My father and the hired help would get involved in fights with cotton bolls in the cotton fields. My father tells me life on the farm was not the most fun. Today, however, farming is not as hard as it was when he was a boy because we now have modern machinery.
Hilje now has 2 grocery stores and 1 auto repair shop, 1 cotton gin, farmers co-op store, welding shop, and a large air-conditioned dancehall. It also has a Catholic Church which was built in 1962. There is also located in Hilje a home for the aged. In fact, I have a great grandmother living there.
Told by Mrs. Johnnie Mae Woods to John Woods
When mother went to J.H. Speaker Elementary, it was the great old days. You had to get your lesson or get whipped by the teacher. They seemed mean, but you got your lessons.
The most beautiful school was Wharton High. It was a new brick school. They planted the grass and trees all around the building that's there today. We enjoyed every minute in the sun planting to make the school house look pretty. We also had a great football and basketball team. Everything we did at school was great!
Best Year of Farming
Told by Mr. Robert Krenek to John Krenek
This story was told to me by my father. He is telling about the best farming year in his life, the year of 1963. That year he was chosen the Farmer of The Year because he was the first farmer to use fertilizer and first to have a mechanical cotton picker. He farmed with a Farmall Bo Tractor. In 1963, he farmed 60 acres of land and produced 100 bales. He also rented 9 acres and produced 18 bales. In 1962 he farmed 82 acres and produced 80 bales-- too much rain.
Wharton Long Ago
Told by Mrs. F.G. Sommer to Bonnee Somer
This story is about changes in Wharton. A long time ago Wharton was not as big as it is now. The courthouse has a statue by it. The county had people who liked sports. We had, just as a little town, a rodeo place, golf course, and people even swam in the ditches and river. The Blackstone Hotel used to have a lot of business but it soon was lost. It always was neat and clean and had antiques.
Wharton in the Past Years
Told by Mrs. Lucy Rogers to Eloise Curtis
One of the most important experiences in Mrs. Lucy Rogers' past was that of the 1900 storm. The storm damaged and flooded most of the buildings in the Wharton area. To make things worse, her sister died the same day of the storm. She stated that the home began to shake from the high winds and everyone knew they had to get out of the house before it collapsed. Her mother refused to leave the body of her deceased daughter, but she remained safe.
Told by Mrs. Cleo Taylor to Andrea Taylor
When my grandmother used to go to school back in the old days they had to walk to school. They had only one school where everybody went. It was the junior high school. My grandmother and her other friends had to walk about 3 miles to school and back. That is 6 miles in all. My grandmother had books just like we have now. They has recess just like we have now. She said that she and her friends liked school.
Told by Mr. and Mrs. L.B. Matthews to Cheryl Parker
In early Wharton there were no drive-in stores. Sansings was the only main store. There were no super markets. The post office was across the street from the courthouse square. The courthouse was still the same in 1950. Alabama Road School land was used for farming and all the roads were dirt, shell and gravel.
By Ronnie Shoppa
In the early days of Wharton it was different from what it is now. It was about 20 years ago in the 1950's when the town was making changes. There were different stored in different places, like Oshmans was located at the corner where the stamp store is now by the drug store. Recently Wharton has added some new places and a new highway has been built.
Told by Mrs. Edith Ondrias to Sheryl Ondrias
In 1961, during the first week of September, Hurricane Carla came through Wharton, and swept through most of the coast and caused much destruction to many areas of our town.
Hurricane Carla happened two years before I was born, but my parents and brothers remember it very well. Our family was very lucky. My father nailed all of the windows up and no damage was done to our house. Many people in our town had much damage done to their homes.
Told by Mrs. Lucy Rogers to Kenneth Curtis
The progress made in farming has really added to the growing of Wharton County. Mrs. Lucy Rogers remembers how farmers would have to have their sweep-stock plows sharpened quite often by the local blacksmith in order for the horses to be able to pull them evenly down the fields.
The people of that time openly shared almost everything with their neighbors. There were times when her mother couldn't wash her clothes for sharing the well with the neighbors.
Told by Mr. Ira Monroe Slaughter to Terri Slaughter
My grandfather's name is Ira Monroe Slaughter. he was born in January 16, 1902 to Tom and Jane Slaughter. He was born and raised on a ranch near Wharton. There were 10 children in his family, four girls and six boys. They had a very hard time making a living, so my grandfather, being one of the oldest, had to help make a living. He liked music and could play any stringed instrument, so he began playing in a band. His favorite instrument was the violin. He also learned to be a carpenter and later when cars were manufactured he learned to be a mechanic.
He married Lovine Lacy and they had five children, two boys and three girls. My grandfather is now seventy-three years old and can't do as much as he used to. I hope he lives for a long long time.
Told by Mr. J.B. Scott to Scharles Malone
My grandfather and his grandfather went to town on horseback. My grandfather was behind his grandfather. When they got to Wharton, he rode up to a grocery store. The owner of the store was Dr. Skinner. They got down off the horse and hitched him up to the rack and went in the store and carried his moral sack. He bought plenty of groceries. Of Course, it took some time because the clerk would get the items that you needed to buy. Wharton has improved much since that day.
Told by Mr. Lupe Perez to Renee Perez
When Wharton was very young, in the 1880's it had dirt roads. The Caney Creek was flowing on to the Colorado River. River water was drinkable then.
Wharton was a stagecoach crossing, going from Victoria to Houston. When the first railroad came through Wharton, it was built by the Italians.
The Wharton Brothers were two brothers who came to settle here. They were honored by the people because our town was named for them. Both brothers died at an early age.
The Colorado River used to be full of logs. It had so many, you were able to walk across it. Finally they blasted it.
Wharton was peaceful then and it still is today, a nice peaceful town.
By Danny Cannon
Wharton was situated on the banks of the Colorado, with Caney and Peach Creeks nearby. Wharton was an ideal location for a town, being at the crossroads of mail routes from Matagorda to Columbus and La Grange and from Houston to Victoria.
In 1846, when the county was organized, there were few houses, some of logs, some of lumber, and a few were of bricks made by slave labor.
A History of Wharton
Excerpt from a tape made by Mr. Dorman Nickels, former County Judge, Wharton County, for Amy Fitzgerald
Wharton County was organized from part of the Matagorda, Jackson and Colorado Counties in 1846. Of course, Wharton has the distinction of having served under six flags.
It is interesting to note in reading some of the old records in the courthouse in Wharton how the Commissioners Court of Wharton County appropriates money in olden days to assist Brazoria County in its navel operations during the Civil War.
One thing of interest, I think historically, that strikes me at this point is the Colorado River being one of the outstanding streams in Texas. In the olden days of this county it was navigable from the Gulf of Mexico as far as Columbus I was told. Some people even argue with you that it was navigable as far as Austin. That might be questionable. There are pictures showing boats docked in the Colorado River just opposite the courthouse in the 1880's.
Mr. William Kincheloe gave the courthouse square to the county and in the early days it was called Monterey Square. The present condition at the courthouse is very crowded and in the next ten years the people of this county will have to have a new courthouse to house the necessary overflow of the government. Words might be said about some of the early settlers in the Wharton areas--about the Northingtons, the Rusts, the Dormans, and the Duncan families--naming a few.
Early Lane City
Told by O. Fitzgerald to Amy Fitzgerald
I came to Lane City in 1917 in a woagon from East Texas. When we came, there was only a mercantile store, which housed hardware, grocery, clothing and a post office in the same building. There was also a barber shop and a saloon and a hotel. I moved to Magnet later and there was no electricity in this part of the country. My brother John and I built a high line from Lane City to Bay City. We set poles by hand and mules.
Back To Wharton County Research Index
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids