Houston by Night

Douleur Détruite

More than 150 years of Houston history is presented in one captivating and readable account, brimming with photographs, told by a journalist who has followed the city's fortunes since the beginning. From Allen's Landing to Intercontinental Airport and San Jacinto Battleground to the Galleria, this accounting describes the growth and development that took Houston from cotton, cattle, and oil to spacecraft and computers.

The author skillfully weaves the stories of Santa Anna, Sam Houston, William Marsh Rice, Howard Hughes, Dr. Michael DeBakey, Richard Nixon, Nolan Ryan, and dozens of others into a chronological tapestry depicting the history of a fascinating city. The narrative covers the progress of Houston's industry, politics, art, and medicine from the city's yesterdays and possible tommorrows.

Forward

It has been my privilege to know, to take shelter, and to partake of feast with Father Amberlin. He has escalated to great heights while remaining in the shadows. More than once have I envied his steadfastedness and oft entertaining musings on the "Bayou City." Instead of retiring to inactivity between defending interests or conquering foes, he chooses to roam many parts of south-east Texas to record and chronicle on the unique glories of this areas flora, fauna, and supernaturals. He is owed much for the perpetuating in his Douleur Détruite these capitivating, historical sagas. Finally, for the first time, Father Amberlin opens his notations on the city of his love -- a city he as seen grow, develop and prosper. There is no one better qualified to give us the overview contained herein, and to furnish an insight into Houston as it has been and is, than this gifted watcher.

Deacon Ian Stewart Cromwell
Chide of Amberlin

Introduction

People come to Houston now from everywhere and for all kinds of reasons. Time was when most of the people moving to Houston came from smaller cities and often the idea of moving on later to a bigger city. This idea is not as prevalent or as valid as it was. The list of cities bigger than Houston is considerably reduced. The list of "liveable" cities of barely comparable size is very, very short and getting shorter each year. I was living here in the early 1800's and never expected what was to grow up around me.

As the years passed, I half expected the wander lust to strike me. But I have yet to get the itch to leave or move on.

Father Adam Eric Amberlin
Chide of Rameriz Alverez
Chide of Monsanto


Early History
1836-1899

"The town of Houston is located at a point on the river which must ever command the trade of the largest and richest portion of Texas..."

Excerpt from the founders' origional advertisement.

Architect Philip Johnson has said that Houston is the last great 19th century city where people are not afraid to try anything. Douglas Milburn called it the "Last American City" in the book he wrote about it. Whether it is either or neither of these, Houston started as a scheme to make money. John Kirby Allen and his brother Augustus Chapman Allen, were looking for land they could sell for more than they had to pay for it when they came up the Buffalo Bayou in the summer of 1836. The imprint of that beginning is likely to be a part of Houston's character forever. But an imprint that is not necessarily a stima.

Texas had been Spanish territory (and heavily in shadow cast by the Sabbat to the south) for 300 years when Moses Austin in 1821 persuaded the Spanish to let him bring in some Anglo settlers from the United States. Moses Austin died and Spain {sabbat fracture?} lost control of the territory shortly after that, but Moses's son negotiated a new deal with the Mexican government. Buffalo Bayou was on the eastern edge of the colony Stephen F. Austin developed. The land where Houston started was granted to John Austin.

John Richardson Harris arrived in this area in 1824. He settled on land at the junction of Bray's and Buffalo bayous. In 1825 the city of Harrisburg was laid out. On December 30, 1835, the General Council created the Harrisburg Municipality and designated the town as the seat of its government.

Relations between Mexican authorities and the Anglo colonists never became really cordial. Mexican colonial policies and attitudes changed several times as the Mexican government changed. Some of the colonists resented the way they were treated. Some of the Mexicans resented the presence of outsiders. The Mexican government was trying to limit further Anglo immigration by the early 1830's. Some of the Anglo colonists were agitating for a seperate state government.

Texas had agents in the United States by 1835 enlisting volunteers to fight against Mexico. Volunteers without any legal status were coming in, looking for action. They were the original illegal aliens in Texas. Davy Crockett and some others went to San Antonio and joined the little garrison in the Alamo after Texans seized it from the Mexicans in December, 1835. Mexican authorities realized that they were losing control, so Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna gathered up an army and headed for Texas. He was determined to put down the rebellion and more. He planned to chase all the Anglos out of Texas.

Santa Anna was in San Antonio preparing to attack the Alamo when 59 people met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to sign a document declaring Texas free and independent. They all said they were Texans, but only two of the people there on March 2, 1836, had been born in Texas. Some others were bona fide settlers. Some had been in Texas as long as 10 years, but several had been in Texas less than a year. Sixteen of the signers had come from Tennessee. Sam Houston and several of the other signers from Tennessee had been friends and political allies of President Andrew Jackson there. Everybody knew Jackson wanted to expand the United States to the west. Many people believe the seperation of Texas from Mexico was a Washington idea.

Santa Anna's Mexicans overwhelmed the Alamo garrison on March 6 and started eastward. They looted and burned homes and villages to terrorize the settlers. The settlers fled with what possessions they could carry. Sam Houston and his Texas Army maneuvered to stay out of the way of the advancing Mexican columns. Santa Anna had things going his way. He heard that the interim government of Texas was as Harrisburg on Buffalo Bayou. He headed for Harrisburg to try to capture the rebel leaders. The Texas officials got away from Harrisburg just in time. The Mexicans burned Harrisburg and, on April 16, they looted the homes along the bayou and around Morgan's Point.

Sam Houston and the Texas Army showed up in the same vicinity. The Texans and Mexicans selected camp sites within sight of each other on the plain that has been called the San Jacinto Battleground ever since. Santa Anna was satisfied the war was over. He had the rebel government and all the settlers on the run. He had the enemy army in a position where he could attack any time he wanted. He apparently thought he deserved a little break. The Mexican president may have been relaxing in his fancy campaign tent with a young woman named Emily Morgan at midafternoon on April 21 when Sam Houston and the Texas Army stormed into his camp and put an end to the war and the Mexican rule over Texas. Emily Morgan was a mulatto servant in Col. James Morgan's house at Morgan's Point. Santa Anna's troops had taken her prisoner a few days before the battle. She never got any official credit for whatever role she played at San Jacinto, but she is remembered in the folk song "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

The principal settlements in what is now Harris County before the Battle of San Jacinto were Harrisburg, Lynchburg, New Washington, and New Kentucky. Harrisburg, Lynchburg, and New Washington were all on the Buffalo Bayou. New Kentucky was inland near the present town of Tomball. Harrisburg was an important port. Supplies for the Austin colony came to Harrisburg by ship and then were hauled by ox cart to San Felipe and other inland settlements. Houston did not exist.

John and Augustus Allen were New Yorkers. They had come to Texas in 1832 to speculate in land claims. The Allens apparently were the first to realize what an opportunity Santa Anna had created when he burned Harrisburg. The new republic needed a port. The Allens made an offer for what was left of Harrisburg, but there were problems with the title. So they rented a boat and sailed up Buffalo Bayou looking for another likely site. They were taken with the land around the junction of White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou. It was the John Austin grant. Austin had died. Augustus Allen bought 2,000 acres on the south bank of the bayou from his widow. The Allens hired Gail Borden to lay out the townsite. Borden is the man Houstonians can thank for the wide streets downtown. The founders named several of the streets for heros of the revolution and named the town for the winner of the Battle of San Jacinto. The Allens had decided that their new port should also be the capital of the new republic.

There were other contenders for the capital, but the Allens had some advantages. The man they named their town for was elected president of the republic a short time later. John Allen won a seat in congress at the same election in September, 1836, and also got appointed to President Houston's staff. The brothers and their colleague Robert Wilson were able to persuade the president and the congress that the new republic should put its capitol in the town named for Sam Houston. The congress made the decision at the temporary capital at Columbia on November 30, 1836.

Robert "Honest Bob" Wilson had been elected to the senate. He evidently advanced the Allens' cause by sharing with President Houston some of the real estate he earned by assisting the Allen brothers. Houston wound up with 12 lots in the new town. The Allens' records indicate the lots were paid for. Houston told people they were given to him. He gave several of them away. He gave one to a sailor he had never seen before. The occation was the ceremony in Houston marking the first anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. Marquis James wrote in "The Raven" that the Lone Star flag got tangled in its halyard so that it was not waving properly from the flagpole. A sailor from the visiting schooner Rolla climbed the pole and straightened out the flag. The president called him over when he got back down and gave him the piece of property.

Houston was never a frontier town. There were substantial settlements much farther west long before Houston was established. But it certainly was a primitive town when it became the capital of the Republic of Texas. One visitor described it as a city of tents with no more than a couple of frame buildings. One of the frame buildings was the capitol building the Allen brothers built at the corner of Main and Texas streets. The Allens promised the government free use of this building as long as the government remained in Houston.

President Houston's residence was a log cabin a few blocks away. It had two rooms and a lean-to at the back. Naturalist John James Audubon visited the new capital shortly after it was established and someone took him to meet the president. Audubon later wrote that President Houston and Surgeon General Ashbel Smith were sharing one of the cluttered rooms in the official residence and the president's two black servants were living in the lean-to. The president was not complaining. He wrote in 1838 that Houston had improved more than any place he knew anything about. He said new people were moving in at the rate of 200 a month.

The advertising the Allen brothers did alleged that ships could sail from New Orleans or New York to Houston without obstacles. Many people doubted this claim; so the Allens staged a demonstration. They engaged the captain of the steamboat Laura to make a trip from Columbia to Houston in January, 1837, and they invited several distinguished Texans to ride along. The Laura was the smallest steamboat in Texas waters at the time; she was just 89 feet long. The Laura took three days to travel from Harrisburg to Houston. The distinguished passengers were called upon several times to help clear away logs and obstructions, but several steamboats were making regular trips to Houston within a year after that demonstration.

John Kirby Allen died in 1838. Augustus and his wife, Charlotte M. Baldwin Allen, split up in 1850 and Augustus left Texas for good. He died in the East in 1864. Charlotte stayed and dominated Houston society for 45 years. The original Allen promotional fever had infected the four other Allen brothers and enough other early Houston settlers to ensure that Houston would survive.

Houston had two two-story houses, a warehouse, and a hotel by the end of 1837. One of the two-story houses was the A.C. Briscoe home at Main and Prairie. Briscoe was a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto and the first county judge here. The first warehouse was at Main and Commerce, backing up to the bayou. The first hotel was at Travis and Franklin where the Southern Pacific building is now. The hotel was built by Ben Fort Smith and operated by George Wilson.

Harrisburg had been the original administrative center of Harris County. The town was founded in 1824 by John Richardson Harris. The county was originally called Harrisburg County. The county seat was moved to Houston shortly after Houston was established. The name of the county was then changed to Harris. The first courthouse in Houston was a double log cabin and the original jail was a crude log building with no windows or doors. There was only a trap door in the roof. The original courthouse and jail were on the same block where the Harris County Civil Courthouse is today.

One of the capital city's prominent female citizens was locked up in the log jail and put on trial for her life in the log courthouse in 1839. Pamelia Mann had borrowed some money from a man named Hardy to finance a boarding house at Washington-on-the-Brasos during the convention that produced the Texas Declaration of Independence. Hardy died and his widow demanded that the money be repaid to her. Pamelia produced a receipt purporting to show that she had repaid most of the loan before Hardy died. The widow denounced the receipt as a forgery and filed charges.

Pamelia Mann had built another boarding house by the time the case came to trial. She was operating the Mansion House at Congress and Milam. She was kept in jail during the trial because of the seriousness of the charge against her.

Forged land titles were among the most serious problems Texans had to deal with druing the early days of the republic. The first Congress of the Republic accordingly had passed a law makig forgery a capital offense. The penalty was hanging. The jury found Pamelia Mann guilty of forging the receipt. The jury recommended mercy, but the judge followed the law and sentenced Mrs. Mann to death. The jury petitioned President Mirabeau Lamar to commute the sentence. He did more than commute it; Lamar issued a presidential pardon to Mrs. Mann and she went back to her boarding house.

Saving Pamelia Mann from the hangman was about the last official act Mirabeau Lamar performed as president in Houston. Lamar was the son of a Georgia planter. He came to Texas in 1835. He performed heroically the duties Sam Houston assigned him at the Battle of San Jacinto and was elected vice president when Houston was elected president in 1836.

Opponents and critics of Sam Houston rallied around Lamar in the second presidential election in 1838. Houston could not run because the constitution prohibited a president from serving consecutive terms. Peter W. Grayson, James Collinsworth, and Robert Wilson lined up against Lamar. The Houston partisans favored Grayson but {intrigue} he shot himself before election day and Collinsworth jumped off a boat into Galveston Bay and drowned. Lamar defeated Wilson handily and took office in December, 1838.

The new administration declared war on the Indians, threatened the Mexicans, and started looking for ways to get the government out of the town named for Sam Houston. {intrigue} Lamar wanted to move the capital to a site on the Colorado and he got the congress to go along with him. The government hired contractors to build a new town and named it for Stephen F. Austin.

The Allen brothers put a sign in the window of the old capitol building in Houston, offering it for rent. It was vacant about a month before it was rented and turned into a hotel. The Capitol Hotel operated in the original capitol building until 1881 when Abraham Groesbeeck bought it and tore it down. He built a new brick hotel in its place and gave it the same name. Groesbeeck went broke and William Marsh Rice bought the new hotel at a tax sale. Rice had come to Texas from Massachusetts in 1838 with a little money he had made from a store he owned there. Rice settled in Houston in 1839 and opened a store. He prospered and became one of Houston's richests and most prominent citizens. {jumping the gun}

Houston had several permanent buildings, a school, and a couple of theaters by this time, but some people thought the town was bound to die after the government moved away. Andrew Briscoe thought Harrisburg had better prospects, so he moved there. An outbreak of yellow fever discouraged people from moving to Houston and a couple of wrecked ships blocked the bayou between Houston and Harrisburg but the town never came close to dying. Merchants and shippers formed the Buffalo Bayou Company to raise money to pay for the removal of the sunken ships and other obstacles fromt he bayou. Business leaders got the congress to grant them a charter for a chamber of commerce to promote the city and the port.

There was some question about the legality of the Buffalo Bayou Company's moving of the sunken ships since they were private property. Congress cleared up the question in 1842 by granting Houston specific authority to have disabled ships and other obstructions moved out of the channel. The congress at the same time granted the city the right to levy charges on shipping to raise money for improvements to the channel.

Houstonians now began forming churches {hunter/zellot influence}. The First Methodist was organized first. The Allen brothers donated half a block of land for it on Texas Avenue where the Houston Chronicle Building is today. The First Presbyterian congregation met in the capitol building until the Presbyterian Church was built at Main and Capitol in 1842. The Episcopalians organized a church in 1839, but they didn't build their first building at Texas and Fannin until 1845. The First Baptist Church was organized in 1841 with its orginal building at Texas and Travis. The first Catholic church acquired a site at Franklin and Caroline in 1841.

The principal newspaper was the Telegraph and Texas Register. Gail Borden and his brother Thomas Borden started the paper in San Felipe in 1835. They moved it to Harrisburg during the panic in 1836. Mexican troops seized the press in Harrisburg and threw it into the bayou. The Telegraph and Texas Register suspended publication until the Bordens could get another press. The Bordens resumed publication in Columbia in time to cover the first meeting of the Congress of the Republic there. The Bordens sold their paper to Jacob Cruger and Francis Moore when the government of the republic left Columbia. The new owners brought the paper to Houston, where they stayed when the government moved to Austin.

The Telegraph and Texas Register changed hands several times and went out of business in 1873. A new owner revived it as the Houston Telegraph in 1874, but it closed down for good in 1878. The Telegraph and Texas Register was not the first Texas newspaper, but it was the first one to publish more than just a few issues. {intrigue}

The governmnet of the republic moved back to Houston briefly in 1842. Sam Houston had been elected president again and he never favored Austin as the capital {intrigue}. The Mexicans made a couple of forays into San Antonio and President Houston used those as an excuse to close down Austin {intrigue}. The old capitol building at Texas and Main was a hotel by this time; so the Senate had to meet in the Odd Fellows' Hall. The House met in the new First Presbyterian Church at Main and Capitol until the government moved on to Washington-on-the-Brazos. It stayed there until Texas joined the Union in 1845.

Houston had organized a city government with a mayor and eight aldermen by 1840. The city was divided into four wards. Each ward elected two aldermen. The First Ward was everything north of Congress and west of Main. The Second Ward was everything north of Congress and east of Main. The Third Ward was everything south of Congress and east of Main. The Forth Ward was south of Congress and west of Main. The Fifth Ward and Sixth Ward were added later as development spread north of Buffalo Bayou. The wards ceased to exist as political subdivisions many years ago, but the terms sometimes are still used.

Stage lines linked Houston with Austin, Richmond, and Washington-on-the-Brazos by the 1840's. The first cotton compress was established in 1844. The first sawmill was established on Buffalo Bayou at Milam Street about the same time. A cornmeal mill on the bayou at Texas Avanue was using three oxen on a treadmill for power. The city extended from the bayou on the north to Walker Street on the south, from Bagby on the west to Caroline on the east, in 1842. The city limits were extended a little later to cover nine square miles. English writer William Bollaert observed that Houstonians all slept under mosquito bars in the summers because the mosquitoes were so bad.

The 1850 Census was the first one after Texas joined the Union. It showed Houston's population as 2,397. Galveston was the biggest city in the state and the port there was getting most of the business Houston coveted. Most ships could not make it over the sand bars to get into Buffalo Bayou. They stopped at the Galveston docks or else unloaded their cargoes onto barges. Only barges and small ships were calling at Houston.

The legislature appropriated money for the first time in 1853 for improvements to the Houston channel. The appropriation was only $4,000. But the lawmakers voted another $45,000 in 1857 to cut the channels through Redfish Reef and Clopper's Bar to allow bigger ships to enter the Houston channel. Most of the boats operating in the Houston channel at that time were ownedby the Houston Navigation Company. The company was a syndicate of Houston businessmen including William Marsh Rice. Houston Navigation charged $2 or $3 a head for passengers and 50 cents a bale for cotton.

William Marsh Rice was one of the leading citizens in Houston by this time. He and Ebenezer Nichols had one of the biggest stores on Main Street. Rice got interested in railroads after he married railroad promoter Paul Bremond's daughtr Margaret in 1850. The first railroad was the line the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado built from Harrisburg to Stafford in 1853. Rice had stock in it and he also invested in Bremond's Houston and Texas Central in 1856.

The Lutherans organized their first Houston church in 1851 ad the first iron foundry began making kettles for the sugar plantations.

The city of Houston acquired its own dredge boat in 1856 and put it to work on the bayou. Sixty thousand bales of Texas cotton went to market in 1858 through the Port of Houston.

The Census of 1860 credited Houston with a population of 4,845. Fourteen Texas counties had more people than Harris County. The richest man in the county was William Marsh Rice and he was believed to be the second richest man in the state. Rice owned the biggest building in Houston. One of his several businesses was hauling ice to Houston from New England by ship.

The first rail line between Houston and Galveston was completed in 1860. A telegraph link between the two cities had been completed a short time earlier. The telegraph line was kept operating all during the Civil War with sulphur water from Sour Lake. The batteries normaly used sulphuric acid. None was available in Texas dring the war because of the Union blockade, but some one discovered that the smelly water from Sour Lake made a reasonable substitute. Five short rail lines operated out of Houston by the time the Civil War began.

The 1860 Census also showed a total of 1,068 slaves in Houston. All were not owned by planters. William Marsh Rice owned 15 of them. Most of the people in the city at that time came from the Old South. Sentiment here was strongly in favor of secession. The vote in Harris County in February of 1861 was 1,084 for secession and 144 against.

Houston abolished all warf charges just before the war started, trying to draw business away from the Port of Galveston. There was substantial traffic between the two ports during the war, but very little between them and points beyond because of the federal blockade. Blockade runners made big profits from cargoes they managed to slip past the Union ships. Some of the blockade runners operated out of Houston. One of them was owned by merchant T.W. House. He was the father of Edward M. House, later to be assistant to President Woodrow Wilson.

Sam Houston was governor of Texas in 1861. He did everything he could to prevent secession, short of calling in the Union Army. Presidet Abraham Lincoln sent word that such a call would be answered. Houston decided to try to prevail through reason, but it was not a time for reason. The Secession Convention of 1861 swept Houston out of office when he failed to appear to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy that the Convention had decided to require. Houston told everybody willing to listen that the South could not win the war. Other Texans were killed by vigilantes and bushwackers for making statements like that, but people seemed to think Sam Houston had earned the right to say anything he wanted to say and do anything he wanted to do. Sam Houston thought so, too. Confederate authorities put out an order at one stage during the war requiring all Texans to carry identification. Houston did not and would not do it. People said that a patrol stopped Sam Houston one day and asked for his identification. Houston supposedly bellowed that San Jacinto was his passport and he supposedly rode on without any further interference. It may have happened. It may have been a story somebody else started or it may have been a story Houston started. But it sounded to Texans like something Sam Houston might do. More people were beginning to believe Houston's predictions about the outcome of the the war by the time he died in 1863.

Houstonians volunteered for Confederate forces as eagerly as they voted for secession. One thousand men turned out on September 9, 1861, to join Benjamin F. Terry in the cavalry regiment that became known as Terry's Texas Rangers. The Bayou City Guards, the Gentry Volunteers, the Houston Artillery, and the Texas Greys were some of the other Confederate units recruited in Houston. Houston bartender Dick Dowling became and instant hero by commanding a little Confederate force that routed a Union invasion force at Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863. There was no fighting in the immediate vicinity of Houston. The closest was in Galveston. A force of Union soldiers and sailors captured the island city in December, 1862. A couple of Houston steamboats were recruited for the makeshift task force Confederate General John B. Magruder organized to take the island back on New Year's Day, 1863. There were no more Union troops in Galveston until the occupation army arrived on June 18, 1865. Houston was occupied the following day by the 114th Ohio Regiment and the 34th Iowa Regiment.

A major outbreak of yellow fever in 1867 killed Dick Dowling in Houston, occupation commander Charles Griffin in Galveston, and many others in both cities.

The process the North called "Reconstruction" was proceeding fairly uneventfully until 1867 when the U.S. Congress threw out the presidential plan for reassimilating the Southern states ad put in its own, much harsher Reconstruction program. The U.S. military governor of Texas removed the elected governor from office and arranged a new election. Union veteran Edmund J. Davis was chosen governor. He removed most local officials and replaced them with people loyal to the Union. Houston's elected Mayor Alexander McGowen was removed and replaced by Joseph Morris and then by T.H. Scanlan. Four elected aldermen were removed and replaced with black Unionists.

Many freed slaves had moved to Houston. Most of them settled in what they called Freedmantown on the outer edge of the Forth Ward.

B.A. Shepherd and T.M. Bagby organized the First National Bank in 1866. The Houston Gas and Fuel Company was established in 1866 to make gas from coal. The first gas lights were installed in 1868. The first trolley cars appeared on Houston streets in 1868. They were pulled by mules. The city's first ice plant opened in 1869.

Galveston got the lion's share of the maritime business when ships started running regularly again. Galveston would continue to be the dominant port into the 1920s and grow very rich while Houston struggled to overcome its natural disadvantages. Houston businessmen in 1869 formed the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company to dredge the channel to a depth of nine feet.

The Congress of the United States agreed in 1870 to designate Houston a port. The Census of 1870 gave Houston a population of 9,332. Harris County had a population of 17,375. Only Washington County had more people.

The population of Galveston in 1870 was 13,818 and the Port of Galveston was doing much more business than the Port of Houston. But the only rail line between Galveston and the mainland passed through Houston. Shipments between Galvston and the interior were subject to handling charges in Houston and they sometimes were held up by quarantines. Galveston bankers and merchants established the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad Company to build a line into the interior that passed to the west of Houston through Sugarland. Business at the Port of Galveston got even better but cotton farmers were begining to grumble about freight charges and about the wharf rates on the island.

Congregation Beth Israel established the first synagogue in Houston, at Franklin and Crawford, in 1870. The City Bank of Houston opened the same year and closed in 1885.

Congress approved $10,000 for improvements to the Houston Ship Channel in 1872. The Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company had started dredging a channel across Morgan's Point, but the work was interupted by the financial panic of 1873.

Mayor Scanlan and his Reconstruction regime decided to tear down the old Houston City Hall and put up a new city hall and and opra house on the same site. They annexed several additional miles of territory to get the tax base to support a bond issue. The original plans called for a building to cost $250,000. Overruns and miscalcualtions brought the total to more than $400,000. The new building was insured for only $100,000 when it burned in 1876. The insurance company made some repairs, but the building burned again a few years later. {intrigue} Scanlan was gone from the mayor's office long before that. The Reconstruction period ended in Texas in 1874 when Richard Coke won the governer's office from Edmund J. Davis. Coke put people of the old school back in office in the cities. He appointed James T.D. Wilson to succeed T.H. Scanlan as mayor of Houston. Wilson was the son of the pioneer politico and Allen brother associate Robert "Honest Bob" Wilson. The city had a debt of $1.4 million and no credit rating when Scanlan left office in 1874. The city's bond holders were growing restless.

Houston got through rail service to St. Louis in 1873 when the Houston and Texas Central linked up with the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas at Denison.

The Houston Light Guard was organized in 1873 to compete in military events. There had been two similar volunteer groups before the Civil War. Both had disbanded as their members joined various fighting units for the war. The Houston Light Guard fought as a unit in the Spanish-American War and then was incorporated into the Texas National Guard before World War I.

The leading cotton brokers and a few businessmen met on June 12, 1874, to form the Houston Board of Trade and Cotton Exchange. C.S. Longcope was elected president. The board reorganized in 1877 as the Houston Cotton Exchange and Borard of Trade.

The Port of Galveston and the Morgan Steamship Line fell out over wharf fees in 1874. Galveston had not been charging this good customer any fees before and Charles Morgan was very displeased when fees were imposed. Morgan had earlier dredged his own channel and created the Port of Morgan City because of a similiar move by the Port of New Orleans. He decided to deal the same way with the Port of Galvston.

Morgan acquired control of the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company by agreeing to finish the cut through Morgan's Point and dredge a 9-foot channel up Buffalo Bayou to Sims Bayou. He completed this and established a terminal he called Cliton in 1876. Morgan built a rail line to connect his docks at Clinton with the major railroads in Houston. He had a port he could use without paying wharf fees to anyone and he was soon collecting fees from the owners of other ships using his channel across Morgan's Point. Congress approved $75,000 for more improvements to the Houston channel in 1876. The first grain elevator was established on the channel the following year. The Port of Houston was gaining ground at the expense of the Port of Galveston.

Harris County had several free public schools by 1873. The first free public schools were established in Houston in 1877. They were segregated and administered by the city government.

A state fair was held in Houston each year between 1871 and 1878. The fairgrounds were west of South Main between Hadley and Elgin. The Houston Light Guard formed the guard of honor when former Confederate President Jeff Davis visited the fair in 1875. The fairground site was subdivided after the show was discontinued. The present state fair in Dallas began in 1886.

Mayor Wilson and the city council gave a private contractor a franchise to build a water system for Houston in 1878. Residents had depended upon shallow wells and cisterns up to that time. The contractor built a dam on Buffalo Bayou at Preston and a pipeline system to deliver bayou water to homes and business buildings. There were complaints about the taste and color of the water almost from the start. A few citizens drilled deeper wells and found good artesian water. The franchise holder got discouraged and put the Houston Water Works up for sale. A group headed by former mayor T.H. Scanlan bought the system. The new owners drilled some wells and tried to deliver only well water to households, but the bayou water they were furnishing to industries and the fire hydrants kept getting mixed with the good water. The city bought the system in 1906, drilled more wells and stopped taking water from the bayou.

Several other Texas counties grew more between 1870 and 1880 than Harris County did. The Census of 1880 showed a population of 16,513 for Houston and 27,985 for Harris County. Grayson, Dallas, Bexar, and Fayette counties all had larger populations than Harris County.

The first telephone exchange was installed in Houston in 1880. There were 50 telephones in the city. Long distance service didn't begin until 1895.

The rail link between Houston and New Orleans was completed in 1880. Rail service between Houston and the West Coast began in 1882.

Congress made further appropriations for improvements to the Houston Ship Channel in 1880, 1881, and 1882, but Galveston continued to be the leading port. Houston and Galveston both were using quarantines by this time to divert business away from each other. The ostensible reason for the quarantines was yellow fever. All the coastal areas had outbreaks fairly regularly. Dr. Carlos Finlay of Cuba first suggested in 881 that the fever was spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. {intrigue} But residents of the Gulf Coast consumed tons more quinine before a U.S. Army Commission headed by Dr. Walter Reed finaly proved the mosquito theory in 1900 and started to develop control measures.

The Houston Electric Light and Power Company was established in 1882 and the first street lights were turned on in 1884. The Houston Gas Light Company took over Houston Electric Light and Power in 1887 and sold it to Citizens' Electric Light and Power Company in 1891. Citizens' went into receivership in 1898 and was reorganized as Houston Lighting and Power Company in 1901.


More than 20 newspapers started publishing in Houston between 1865 and 1880. Most of them lasted only a short time. A paper called The Houston Post began publishing in 1880 and folded in 1884. The modern day Houston Post was born in 1885 when the morning Chronicle ad the evening Journal combined and took the name Houston Post. Ross Sterling bought this paper in 1924. He merged it with the Houston Dispatch and published it as the Houston Post Dispatch. Sterling sold the paper to J.E. Josey in the 1930s. Josey changed the name back to Houston Post. Former governor William P. Hobby bought controlling interest in the Post in 1939. His heirs sold the paper in 1983 to the Toronto Sun.

W.H. Bailey started the Houston Herald in 1884. Marcellus E. Foster started publishing the Houston Chronicle in 1901. Foster bought the Herald in 1902 and published a combined paper he called the Houston Chronicle and Herald. The name was shortened to Houston Chronicle and Foster traded a half interest in the paper to Jesse Jones in 1908 as part payment for the building Jones built for the Chronicle that year. Jones bought out Foster's remaining interest in 1926 and continued to publish the Chronicle until he died in 1956. Houston has had only two daily papers, the Post and the Chronicle, since 1964 when the Chronicle bought out the Houston Press and shut it down. E.W. Scripps had established the Press in 1911.


The Southern Pacific established shops and a regional headquarters in Houston in 1886. The Commercial National Bank opened the same year and merged with the South Texas National in 1912. The Houston National Bank opened in 1889. It was reorganized in 1909 as the Houston National Exchange Bank.

The mayors of Houston during the 1880s were W.R. Baker and D.C. Smith. They managed to work out a compromise settlement with the investors holding the bonds the city's Reconstruction adminstration had issued. The city's voters set the stage for the compromise by voting to pay the holders of those bonds no more than 50 cents on the dollar. The investors came out a little better than that in the final settlement and the city's credit rating began to improve.

SOme fancy steamboats were operating on Buffalo Bayou between Houston and Galveston by this time. The Diana and the T.M. Bagby were described as floating palaces equal to anything operating on the Mississippi.

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word opened the first hospital in Houston at Franklin and Caroline in 1887.

The Census of 1890 gave Texas a population of more than two million. Seven counties had more people than Harris County. Houston was credited with 27,557. Galveston had 29,084.

Congress started spending substantial sums of money on the Port of Galveston in the 1890s. There was an appropriation of $6 million to pay for the jetties at the channel entrance. These were just as helpful to Houston traffic as they were to Galveston traffic. But the congress also put up money to deepen the channel to the Galveston docks. The channel was dredged down to 14 feet in 1893, to 18 feet in 1895 and then to 25 feet in 1896. Most ships could steam right up to the docks. It was a big plus for Galveston.

Retiring Congressman J.C. Hutcheson of Houston proposed a survey for a 25-foot channel to Houston. Representative Thomas Ball succeeded Hutcheson and wrangled an appointment to the Committee on Rivers and Harbors. Ball got the 25-foot channel for Houston approved. But congress made only token appropriations until the great hurricane of 1900 raised questions about the viability of the Port of Galveston.

After Charles Morgan died, the federal government in 1890 bought the Morgan channel across Morgan's Point and eliminated the tolls. It was a plus for Houston but the bigger ships still had to stop at Galveston. The Southern Pacific acquired Morgan's rail line and the docks at Clinton, after Morgan died.

John Henry Kirby moved to Houston from Tyler County in 1890. Kirby was a lawyer. He won some cases for forest owners and then went into the timber business himself, on a big scale. Kirby was the richest man in Houston by 1900.

Nebraska banker O.M. Carter came to Houston in 1890 and bought up the two trlley systems then operating in the city. The cars were still being drawn by mules but Carter changed that. He consolidated the trolleys in service in 1891. This made it possible for Carter to promise and deliver trolley service to Houston Heights, started the same year by Carter and the Omaha and South Texas Land Company. Twelve rail lines were operating in and out of the city by this time and Houston was the most important rail center in the state.

The city had several packing houses and maufacturing plants by 1894. Barbed wire, brick, tile, cigars, textiles, carriages, wagons, and beer were some of the products being made in Houston.

Jacob Binz put up the first skyscraper in 1894 at the corner of Main and Texas. The Binz building was six stories tall.

The city's merchants and businessmen formed the Houston Business League in 1895 and this organization became the Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1910. The first city park was established in 1899. This was Sam Houston Park, bound by Bagby, Walker, and Dallas, where the Harris County Heritage Society's old houses are today. There was a small zoo when this was the only park in the city.


Jesse H. Jones moved to Houston in 1899 to manage a branch of his uncle's M.T. Jones Lumber Company. The Joneses had come to Texas from Tennessee when Jesse was nine. They settled in Dallas in 1883. What might have happened if Jesse Jones had stayed in Dallas can only be guessed at, but he became a legend in Houston. He opened his own lumber business shortly after arriving in Houston. That led him into building and that led him into banking. He became the biggest booster of the city and the port. Jones did more to advance Houston's causes than any other single individual from the time he arrived until his death.

Jesse Jones believed in Houston and real estate. He was associated with many rich and famous oilmen, but he was always dubious about their business. Jones invested $20,000 in the Humble Company when it was founded. He was pleased to be able to sell the stock and get out a year later. He doubled his money, but some other early stockholders made huge fortunes as Humble grew and evolved into the giant Exxon USA.



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Last Updated Wed Jul 14 04:32:46 CDT 1999.
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