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The Historical Story
of Bee County Texas By Camp Ezell
Early in 1958 Gentry Dugat organized the Bee County Historical Commission and was elected president of the body. He called a public meeting and the people who attended expressed a desire to hold a countywide Centennial Celebration.
Mr. Dugat was oil editor and staff writer for the Beeville Bee‑Picayune. He was a native of Mineral City, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Dugat who settled near Mineral in 1892.
Mr. Dugat and several representatives of the Historical Society appeared before the Commissioners Court and urged the county to get behind the proposed celebration. The court followed the suggestion, and the Beeville and Bee County Chamber of Commerce, the City Council, the civic clubs, the women's clubs, the churches, and the citizens in general offered complete cooperation. and everybody went to work.
The dates were set for Saturday, October 18, through the following Saturday. October 25. Officials of the celebration were: Lincoln Borglum, President; Teal Adkins, Active Chairman; Dewey Pieratt, Treasurer‑, W. C. (Dub) Saunders, Secretary, and Mayor George Spikes, Mrs. A. C. Jones, Judge Joe Wade, Mrs. I. P. O'Neil, Captain Gerald Duffy. and H. C. Brinkoeter, Vice Presidents. On the Advisory Council were County Judge John Monroe and County Commissioners Dewey Sinclair, Hugo Spiekerman, Cyrus Fox, and E. T. (Boots) Mussett. Mrs. Camp Ezell served as chairman of the Spectacle Division. Mrs. A. C. Jones was head of the museum.
Several small social gatherings were held on Saturday, the 18th, but the big celebration actually started Sunday night, the 19th, with a nondenominational county‑wide religious service held at the Fair Grounds, with all churches represented. It was an evening of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the development of a wilderness into a prosperous community of industrious, religious, and contented people.
A huge parade officially opened the celebration when the town clock struck the noon hour Monday, the 20th, and eighteen bands, seventy‑two decorated floats, marching units, novelty and historic groups, and hundreds of horseback riders thrilled the approximately twenty‑five thousand people who had come from far and near to help pay tribute to Bee County's one hundred years of existence.
Miss Mary Wofford, great‑granddaughter of Mrs. Mary Hefferman Riggs, one of the original Irish settlers who claimed a Mexican land grant in this area, was Queen of the Fair and rode in the parade. Mrs. Mary Hinnant, Queen of the Live Oak County Centennial Celebration, who at that time had reached the age of 101 years, rode as a ''quest queen.''
Beeorama Pageant, with more than six hundred persons in the cast, including a number of Navy personnel, was staged Monday through Friday nights on a huge stage at the Fair Grounds.
Men grew beards three months prior to the dates of the scheduled celebration, many of the whiskers and mustaches resembling those of the Irish colonists and later settlers of one hundred years ago. Women wore long dresses and bonnets to carry out the fashions of pioneer days. A number of dances were provided for the visitors during the eight‑day event, including old‑fashioned square dances.
Through the influence of Mrs. Teal Adkins, the wildlife exhibit of the Texas Game and Fish Commission was shown in a tent at the Fair Grounds, with no admission charge.
Saturday, October 25, was Navy Day, and Chase Field held open house from I to 5 p.m., featuring the world‑famous Blue Angels in an air show. That night, as the final number on the program, A. C. Jones High School Trojans engaged the Cuero Gobblers in a football game.
This was not only the most gigantic celebration ever held since the county was organized‑, it was the consensus of the people that if did more to cement the citizens in the bonds of friendship and brotherly love than any other event that had been held here.
Gentry Dugat is given the credit for advancing the suggestion that the Centennial Celebration be held. He served several years as president of the Bee County Historical Society, then resigned and nominated Miss Ida Campbell for the office. Miss Campbell did a great job, and it was through her influence that the McClanahan House, the first store building erected in Beeville. was preserved. Several years ago Miss Campbell resigned and Mrs. Dudley Braly was named to succeed her. She is the incumbent.
Mrs. Gentry Dugat. the former Lena Ross of Dallas. made the first Bee County Flag, which was adopted by the local Historical Society. Mr. Dugat was a personal friend of the famous composer, Geoffrey O'Hara of New York who composed the popular song ''Beautiful K‑K‑K‑Katie'' during World War 1. Mr. Dugat asked Mr. O'Hara to write a song entitled ''Bee County." Following are the lyrics that he wrote:
''Bee County, Bee County, now we celebrate your hundredth birthday; We're for you, we adore you, to you we all bow. We love your plains and hills, where Herefords graze; we love your cotton fields, broomcorn and maize. So now it's My County, Your County. Bee County‑you're for me, Now.''
Mrs. Etta Lee Findley of Beeville helped Mr. O'Hara with the words. The song was sung frequently by choruses at the Centennial Celebration.
My friend Gentry Dugat passed to the Great Beyond on February 5, 1966. We had been pals since we were in the eighth grade in school, when we were deskmates, with Professor J. A. Risenhoover as our teacher. It Was my sad privilege to officiate at the Masonic obsequies in Mineral Cemetery where his body was interred. The Historical Society later erected a Historical marker at his grave out of appreciation for the research Mr. Dugat had made on the annals of Bee County.
The society has erected twenty‑one markers in the county, and four others have been approved but not marked. These are Blanconia, Mineral City, First Bee County Jail, and the Tom Alsup stone residence. The inscriptions on the markers that have been placed follow:
COOK HOME: Built by John Cook, who was born 1846 in Texas‑bound wagon train‑, at 17 was in Civil War~ in 1866 married Frances Miller. Lived in rock house near this site. With son, R. J., contributed much to area cattle industry with fine registered Herefords. House erected 1897 of select long‑leaf pine placed to catch gulf breezes. Each room opens on a porch. Has four fireplaces with mantels of mahogany, maple, oak. Architecture is Victorian. Owned by William D. Dugat and family since 1941.Historical Marker
PETTUS CHRISTIAN CHURCH: First Christian Church built in 1905. First church to serve the needs of the Protestants in Pettus. Called a Christian Church at request of land donor, Mrs. S. B. Hodges. Contributions came from all denominations. On August 29, 1906, the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was organized with 25 members. For many years the Baptists, Methodists and Disciples conducted a union Sunday School and worshipped here. Its fall white spire became the town landmark. Historcal Marker
JIM LITTLE HOMESTEAD: On F9 Ranch, granted to Little in 1873, grazed earlier by his cattle. Home built about 1870 of cypress and heart pine that came by steamer from Florida to Saint Marys, then by ox‑cart to site. Kiln on ranch made caliche blocks for chimneys. Good water well. Country store made this a camp site for such travelers as Mexican horse traders. A stage stop on San Antonio‑ Brownsville Road until railroad came into area, 1886. Historical Marker
BEEVILLE ON THE POESTA: Long before Mexico granted land (1834) on Poesta Creek to the first settlers, Anne Burke and James Heffernan, savage Indians roamed this valley at will. Their colony, although successful at first, soon met disaster. In 1836 James Heffernan. his brother John, and John Ryan, who had planned to join Texas patriots at Goliad, were planting a crop in a field at this site when they were massacred by Comanches. Also killed was James' family in his picket house upcreek. Bee County was organized in 1858 and named for Col. Barnard E. Bee, a Republic of Texas statesman. Soon after, choice of a county seat came info hot dispute. A site seven miles east on Medic, Creek was chosen for ''Beeville.'' But fen months later. voters made the 150‑acre donation of Anne Burke O'Carroll permanent county seat, on the banks of the Poesta. The new town, first called ''Maryville'' for Mary Heffernan (relative of those killed in 1836) was soon renamed Beeville. In its first decade, it had two stores, one saloon, and a blacksmith shop. First Courthouse was bull[ for $750 on west side of present square, 1860. First railroad came through, 1886, and a larger Courthouse was soon built. After if burned, the present one was erected in 1913. (Incised on back of marker: ''Gift of Mrs. William Heuermann, a great‑granddaughter of Samuel Reed Miller, a member of Austin's old three hundred colonists and physician to Gen. Sam Houston after the Battle of San Jacinto. Miller later had a ferry on the Nueces River. Has many descendants in South Texas.'') Historical Marker
CAMPO SANTO: Situated on headright of an 1829 settler, Jeremiah O'Toole, from New York. The isolated oak log home of O'Toole stood on San Patricio‑La Bahia Road; his family fled repeatedly from Indians or invading armies. In time other pioneers built homes nearby in Corrigan settlement (named for O'Toole's son‑in‑law). Community is now extinct. Ten acres were donated in 1871 by Ellen O'Toole Corrigan and brother, Martin, as site for Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (now razed) and grounds. This cemetery is a reminder of the courageous pioneer settlers. (Inscribed on back: ''Early settlers included Jack Barry, B. F. Burris, John Corrigan. Nicholas Dunn, D. C. Grover, John F. Hynes, William Kennedy, P. F. Lattng of Lattington Store, William Leahy, D. R. May, Hugh J. O'Reilly, storekeepers D. S. and Caroline Page, Phil Welder.) Historical Marker
TOWN OF PETTUS: Oil capital of Bee County, Pettus was settled in the 1850s when John Freeman Pettus (1808‑1878) set up his sprawling ranch about four miles south of here. The son of one of Stephen F. Austin's first 300 colonists, Pettus was an extensive cattle and horse breeder. The town, previously called ''Dry Medic" for a nearby creek, was named for him during the Civil War. The community was in the vicinity of two important Indian skirmishes in Bee County in 1859 and the 1870s; but the town slept until 1886 when the tracks of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad reached this site. If then awoke to become the cattle shipping center for the area. In the same year, John S. Hodges, a pioneer citizen, laid out the townsite and donated land to be used for streets and S. A. & A. P. right of way. For years the railroad stockyards and depot were places of bustling activity as freight trains came for loading and wood‑burning steam engines took on water . In 1909 the presidential train of William H. Taft stopped at the Pettus water tank. The tank‑a final monument to steam railroading here‑was razed, 1965. In 1929 the Houston Oil Co. brought in its well, ''No. I Maggie Ray McKinney,'' and from that time Pettus has played a continuing useful role in Texas economy. Historical Marker
EVERGREEN CEMETERY: Block 1, Beeville Original Townsite, donated 1859 by Anne Burke. First owned by G. W. McClanahan, land was bought 1862 by county for ''public burying ground.'' In 1872, H. W. Wilson donated northeast strip, land was added on the northwest, and court gave consent for a fence. Cemetery was restored In 1970. Historical Marker
FIRST BRICK BUILDING ON SQUARE: Victorian architecture. Built 1892 by grocer J. C. Thompson (1836‑1905) of brick from Calavaros kiln near Elmendorf. Upstairs in 1892 was law office of Lon C. Hill, who later founded Harlingen. Afterward on second floor was ''Beeville Light Guard" armory. Acquired in 1910 by Eureka Telephone Company, building was communications headquarters (1912‑1920) for Southwestern Telegraph & Telephone Company, and then for Southwestern Bell until 1957. (Incised in base: ''Restored 1957 for law offices of John N. Barnhart.'') Historical Marker
ROUNTREE ROCK HOUSE: On land bought 1875 by Joseph Gustav Rountree (1836‑1880), who planned house before his death. Built by his 20‑year‑old widow, Elizabeth Cornelia, with aid of her father, John Stillwell. The lumber was Florida pine, hauled from Rockport. Stone, quarried as caliche and hardened by the air, came from nearby Mulas Hills. Structure has withstood major storms and is still owned by descendants: Adele Rountree, Ann Marie Rountree Anderson and sons. Historical Marker
THE CAMP‑EZELL HOUSE: A settler's ''box'' home, board‑and‑batten construction. Lumber is Florida long‑leaf pine from a house torn down in Old Saint Marys by Robert A. Ezell. Has three chimneys; one served as flue for dining room fireplace and kitchen stove. Food was prepared on both. Ezell (1845‑1936), a stonemason, built at this creek site in 1892. His wife, Sarah Jane, daughter of the influential legislator L. B. Camp, was born at Mission San Jose, San Antonio. Six of the Ezells' sons had popular orchestra 1896 to 1904. Present owners, Camp and Helen Ezell. Historical Marker
COMMUNITY OF NORMANNA: Settlement dates from about 1850. First town, two miles west, was called San Domingo for its location near junction of San Domingo and Dry Medio Creeks. After railroad was built, 1886, citizens moved to Walton (new flag station) to be on line. Name honored Sheriff D. A. T. Walton. When Norwegians settled area, 1890s, Walton became Normanna. Word originally suggested the qualities of old Norse heroes, but through local usage came to mean ''Home of the Norseman.'' Town thrived for years, then declined after series of fires and advent of the automobile.
PAPALOTE CREEK: A few yards south passes Papalote Creek, crossed by the fierce Karankawa Indians who found kite‑shaped pebbles and named it Papalote, which means ''Kite‑Shaped'' or ''Wing‑Shaped.'' Along its banks came the leaders of the Power and Hewetson colonists, holding Mexican land grants in the 1830s. On its Rata tributary there is evidence the Mexican Army camped on its way to suppress the Texas Revolution. By 1857 the town of Papalote had emerged. It was the center of entertainment for the county, boasting of a circular dance hall built by cowboys trading steer yearlings at $3 a head for lumber. There were rooster fights, ring tournaments and horse races. In 1886, when the railroad came, the town was booming. After the turn of the century, however, Papalote began to die away. A land company sold lots to settlers from as far away as Hawaii. Expecting to grow citrus fruits, they were disillusioned when the first killing frost doomed the project. Threats of Pancho Villa's raids continued as late as 1916, when women and children hid in a brick schoolhouse. In 1948, Main Street was bypassed by U. S. Highway 181. Today there is no post office‑only a rural route for the few remaining households. Historical Marker
EARLY TRAILS IN BEE COUNTY: From pack trails and wagon roads that marked this area at least 300 years have developed such modern roads as U. S. Highway 181. The old trails of Indians, wild cattle and Mustang horses formed highways for 17th, 18th and 19th century expeditions coming from Mexico to claim sovereignty for Spain over land in Texas. When pioneers established land grants in this section, they also found Indian trails useful, placing towns along them. Beeville, the county seat, was situated at the natural intersection of San Patricio‑Helena Road with Goliad‑Laredo Road. About 20 miles south, the Matamoros‑Goliad Road (Camino Real to old-timers) was probably the most historic road in this area. In the years 1861‑1865 the ''Cotton Road''‑called ''lifeline of the Southern Confederacy''‑crossed Bee County. A later route of great value was a cattle frail that channeled thousands of Longhorns north from the Rio Grande to the Red River and up the Dodge City Trail of the Chisholm Trail to northern markets. In this area were also La Para (or grapevine) Road, the Indianola‑Papalote Road, and a road to now‑vanished Saint Marys, a port on Copano Bay. off the Gulf of Mexico. Historical Marker
GEORGE HOME: Built in 1890 by Will H. and Julia George of materials from early house on land inherited from her father, Major J. H. Wood (Texas cattle empire builder) who came from New York to join Texas War for Independence. Remodeled in 1900, house is raised cottage architecture and has elegantly detailed interior woodwork. Many social and cultural functions were held here at turn of century. Present owner is Mrs. Mary M. Welder, a Wood descendant. Historical Marker
CAPTAIN A. C. JONES (1830‑1905): One of builders of Southwest. Born in Nacogdoches County, son of very early settlers. Became a cattleman; served as sheriff of Goliad County in 1858‑1860. In Civil War Cavalry of Col. John S. ''Rip'' Ford for four years. Fought at Palmito Hill, war's last baffle, 34 days after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee. In 1886, raised $75,000 to build S. A. & A. P. Railroad from San Antonio to Beeville. Aided in getting G. H. & S. A. to extend line from Victoria here In 1890. Was county treasurer, banker and the president and general manager of Beeville Oil Mill. Historical Marker
GENTRY DUGAT (April 25, 1895‑February 5, 1966): Colorful historian, orator and journalist. Born on nearby ranch, son of Alex and Martha (Page) Dugat. Earned Law Degree. Worked on seven Texas newspapers; edified Cotton Ginners Journal. Wrote biography of post‑Civil War editor‑orator, Henry W. Grady. World War I veteran, Methodist, Mason; member Sons of American Revolution, Lions. Collected rare books, newspapers, artifacts. In 1958 organized and chartered Bee County Historical Commission. Historical Marker
MEDIO CREEK: Named by the Spaniards about 1800 because of Its midway position between the San Antonio and Nueces Rivers. Rises in Karnes County; empties into Mission River. Crossed by explorers, padres, soldiers, settlers who traveled on early ox‑cart roads that led from Mexico to Mission La Bahia at Goliad. The Cart War of 1857, between Texas and Mexican teamsters on the freight route between San Antonio and Gulf ports, originated along San Patricio Road, southernmost of the three roads. The Mexican cart drivers used Mesquite beans as feed for their teams, starting the Mesquite brush which thrives along creek. Settlers were attracted here by the fall grass and many veterans of the Texas Revolution were given bounty lands in the area. First post office in Bee County was established in 1857 at Medio Hill pioneer community, once a downcreek settlement. In 1909, the town of Candlish was founded within 50 feet of here, with a hotel, general store, school. The store closed; Candlish became a ghost town. In 1938‑1939 on Medio and Blanco Creeks, fossil beds yielded 1,000,000‑year‑old fossils of a new mastodon species (named Buckner's Mastodon), rhinocerous, elephants, alligators, camels, and three‑toed horses. Historical Marker
ARANSAS CREEK SETTLERS: Earliest known residents were Karankawa Indians who named creek. On this stream was one of the most famous ranches in early Texas, occupied in 1805 by Don Martin De Leon, who in 1824 founded Victoria. In 1830s Irish colonists came by way of Copano Bay, settling downcreek. Anglo‑Americans from older settlements came by road and trail, stopping mainly upcreek. Stockraising, trucking and freighting provided livelihoods in the rich, new prairie land. In 1850 Patrick Fadden sold to Fort Merrill corn and vegetables from 1835 land grant of his uncle, Father John Thomas Malloy. Fadden and W. R. Hayes freighted supplies to settlers in 1860s. Hayes had early post office in his home, 1870; was county judge 1876‑1892. John Wilson, an 1850s upcreek settler, brought first Durham cattle to country~ built one of first wooden fences, enclosing 600 acres of homesite with rough heart pine plank. On creek's north bank stood ranch of Frank 0. Skidmore, founder of Skidmore, who gained fame for building first barbed‑wire fence and windmill in county. He promoted breeding of registered Herefords and in 1886 gave much right of way to San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad. Historical Marker
McCLANAHAN HOUSE: Oldest business structure in Beeville. Erected about 1867 on east side of Courthouse Square, near Peosta Creek. General store, lodging house, post office. Pioneer western style, with southern porches. Built by G. W. McClanahan, Beeville's first merchant, school teacher, postmaster, county clerk, ‑inn keeper. Sunday School superintendent. Historical Markers
SAINT PHILIP'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH: First unit, transept, built 1893 on this site purchased 'In 1890 from heirs of G. W. McClanahan. In 1910, nave added with funds from sale of block of land given to the Missionary Jurisdiction of Western Texas by English‑born H. W. Wilson, 1888. Early members donated furnishings, bell tower, and in 1896 inscribed memorial bell. First Protestant parochial school in county was organized here in 1954. Gothic design retained in 1964 renovation. Historical Marker
THE A. C. JONES HOME: Built 1906 by Mrs. Jane Field Jones (18421918), philanthropist, builder of a local school and teacherage, widow of ''Father of Beeville,'' Captain A. C. Jones. Occupied 1918‑1966 by Mr. and Mrs. Allen Carter Jones 11. Sill property of descendants. Early 20th century Baroque architecture with large formal rooms, 8 fireplaces, hardwood floors, high ceilings. Has been site for entertainment of Texas leaders, including governors. Historical Marker
The Historical Story
of Bee County Texas By Camp Ezell
Updated Thursday, December 21, 2006 21:02
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