Monthly Archives: February 2009

100 Years Ago – February 18, 1909

Denton, Tex., Feb. 18, 1909: The Denton Record and Chronicle noted that the Houston Chronicle had featured a Texas Railroad Commission report showing that damages paid by railroads in lawsuits had risen between 1891 and 1908 from $223,749 to nearly $2 million. The Denton paper commented, in an article titled “Damage Suit Industry”:

Although Texas has a barratry law the damage suit lawyer is still able to make trouble and especially have the railroads suffered from the activities of the ambulance chaser. . . . As the Commission points out, all this is figured in when it comes to making the rates, so after all, the people who patronize the railroads in Texas – and who does not in one way or another? – pay indirectly for the damages paid out. No defense of railroads particularly is intended in this. They themselves, by their dilatoriness and refusals to pay just claims, are to no small extent responsible for the disrepute in which they are held and which aids in the assessment of large verdicts, but when the people discovery that they themselves are paying these damages indirectly, they are going to see things differently.

The Denton Record and Chronicle was formed when William C. Edwards merged two competing Denton papers. His brother, Robert John Edwards, became co-owner and editor in 1906. The Handbook of Texas Online states that the Edwards brothers were “active in state politics,” and that the newspaper, “reflecting the concerns of its owners, consistently supported Democratic candidates and policies.”


100 Years Ago – February 16, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 16, 1909: Mayor H. Baldwin Rice announced that there would be no Mardi Gras ball in 1909, and that the police had been instructed to keep “masked women” out of saloons. Explaining the cancellation of the Mardi Gras ball, Mayor Rice said: “One of our police officers lost his life as a direct result of the ball last year, and we will have no more of it.” As for masked women in saloons, he commented: “It is no place for woman, and such conduct can only have a demoralizing effect on the community.”

The death to which Mayor Rice referred was that of Houston police officer J.S. Simpson. Simpson and another police officer, Henry Lee, were on duty all night at the 1908 Mardi Gras ball. When they got off duty in the morning, they went to a saloon. Simpson was shot at the saloon, and Lee was charged with killing him.

Horace Baldwin Rice served as mayor of Houston from 1896-1898, and from 1905-1913. Rice was the newphew of William Marsh Rice (founder of Rice University), and his great-aunt, Charlotte Baldwin Allen, was the first wife of Augustus Allen (one of the founders of Houston). Rice’s grandfather, Horace Baldwin, had also served as mayor of Houston. Mayor H. Baldwin Rice is best remembered as a supporter of the development of the Houston Ship Channel.

100 Years Ago – February 15, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 15, 1909:  Around 7:00 a.m., a man was found dead beside the stove of the city jail. A police officer had run across him on Milam Street the night before, and he “appeared to be suffering from the cold, being poorly clad and almost helpless.” He was offered shelter in the police station, and was “allowed to enter the runway and rest beside the big coal stove.” He talked with some of the prisoners during the night, and had responded as late as 4:00 a.m. An inquest was held, and the justice of the peace declared that the man, Stoge “Tobe” Townsend, was found to have come to his death by natural causes, induced by exposure to the cold. The newspaper noted: “There were no signs of struggle, and it was evident that the sands of life had run out while the man was asleep.”

The man’s death was more notable than it might otherwise have been given that he was a member of the Townsend family, “who at one time were engaged in the famous Reese-Townsend feud.”

100 Years Ago – February 14, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 14, 1909: Improvements had made to the Houston Buffaloes park, in preparation for the 1909 season. These included “[s]idewalks and pavements, an enlarged grandrstand and a grass diamond.”

In 1909, the Buffaloes were part of the St. Louis Browns farm system. By 1910, the following Buffaloes were playing for the St. Louis Browns: Roy Mitchell (P), Jim Stephens (C), Frank Truesdale (2B), Patrick Newnam (1B), Hub Northen, Joe McDonald, Art Griggs, Dode Criss, Alex Malloy, and Bill Killefer.

Houston, Tex., Feb. 14, 1909: Preparations were underway to welcome Charles William Eliot to the city on March 2nd. Eliot was then in the last of his 40-year term (1869-1909) as president of Harvard University. A.H. Jayne, a local graduate, was organizing a “genuine college welcome, with yells, snake dances and night shirt parade.” Houston had no university in 1909, and this was given as the reason why Houston “has more real enthusiasm for such things than any other town in the South.” The Pan Hellenic Association of Houston and the “‘Barbarians'” were planning to participate in the welcome.

Houston, Tex., Feb. 14, 1909: Houstonians were also preparing for a March 8 week-long conference of Woodmen of the World representatives from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The 3500 Woodmen “camps” in those three states comprised some 150,000 members, the 1000 Woodmen “groves” in those three states represented another 50,000. The program of special events included an opening banquet at Sauter’s Cafe, competitions, speeches, a March 9 parade with 16 “elaborately decorated” floats, a memorial service, and a closing “smoker” [barbecue?].

At the time, Houston had nine Woodmen camps: Red Oak (700 members), Black Jack (135), Post Oak (140), Poplar (172), Laurel (70), Willow Tree (75), Pine Tree (135), Old Hickory (70), and Magnolia Camp No. 13 (the oldest Houston camp) (400). It also had six groves: Hollywood, Post Oak, Willow Tree, Ellen D. Patterson, Poplar, and Magnolia.
[1911 Woodmen of the World Convention in Mineral Wells, Texas – Portal to Texas History]

100 Years Ago – February 13, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 13, 1909: Harris County Sheriff Archie Anderson announced a “systematic investigation of the situation at Houston Heights, the citizens of which suburban addition to Houston are at present experiencing the presence in their midst of negro highway robbers.” The robbers were accused of having carried out almost nightly hold-ups, without masks – including an incident on February 12 in which a Heights resident was robbed “under the glare of an arc lamp.”

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in Texas – it was created in 1837, with a single man on horseback, back when Harris County was still Harrisburg County. Archie Anderson was the nineteenth Sheriff, from 1899 to 1912. He had previously served as Deputy Sheriff. Anderson took office at a time when “gambling was everywhere and cattle and horse thieves were abundant, as were the cowboys who insisted on shooting up the town.” (Harris County Sheriff’s Department – 1837-2005 (2005))

100 Years Ago – February 12, 1909

Austin, Tex., Feb 12, 1909: Representative C.C. Highsmith, of Houston, asked the Texas House of Representatives to reconsider its refusal to pass a bill he had sponsored that would have made stealing a dog illegal in Texas, with the penalty being the same as that for stealing a hog. His intention was apparently to protect valuable bird dogs.

He could not, however, get the House to consider the bill seriously, although it considered it twice. He was asked if it had occurred to him that this bill would protect curs and other undesirable dogs, as well as bird hunters. “What’s the difference between a dawg and a hawg?” some members asked, and they answered: “You can eat a hawg, but a dawg eats you out of house and home.” The House killed the bill on Monday. They brought it back today by the reconsideration process, and then speedily, without consideration for Mr. Highsmith’s feelings or the welfare of the fine Houston dogs, again killed and buried the bill. Senator Vest’s tribute to the dog and all that sort of thing was brought into play, but it was no use. The House had gone on record to the effect that there is at least one living thing that is not entitled to legislative protection or attention.

In 1907, as Assistant City Attorney of Houston, Highsmith had convinced the city to enact fines for druggists selling cocaine other than by prescription.

[C.C. Highsmith – University of Texas Center for American History, Robert Runyon Collection]

100 Years Ago – February 11, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 11, 1909: A meeting of International & Great Northern freight men from around the country gathered for a meeting in Houston. The freight men dined at the Richelieu Cafe, and received souvenir menus printed in the form of a railroad car waybill:

The car was weighed at “Destination” and the marked capacity was shown to be “Size of waistband.” The car was stopped only one time en route, and that was “The Richelieu” for “Drink and water.” The consignor was shown to be “Hunger and Thirst Company of Houston,” and the consignee and destination “E Nough (incorporated),” of “Good Night, Texas.”
. . .
The “Articles and Classifications” were as follows:
Martini Cocktail
Oysters on the Half Shell
Olives, Celery, Salted Almonds
Mock Turtle Soup
Spanish Mackerel, Potatoes Duchess
Sweet Breads a la Richelieu
Broiled Chicken on Toast Stripped with Bacon
Peeled Tomatoes Stuffed with Lobsters En Mayonnaise
Ice Cream, Assorted Cakes
Cafe Noir, Cigars

The Richelieu Cafe was located on Congress Street, and does not appear to have been open long.

Houston, Tex., Feb. 11, 1909: That night, a member of the Houston Heights Vigilance Committee was “escorting a young lady from the street car to her home” when the pair were accosted by a “would-be highwayman” with a gun. The committee member drew his own gun, and was able to turn over the attacker to the police at the Houston Heights Drug Store. The recently-formed Vigilance Committee had been patrolling the Heights every night, and the arrest was the eighth it had secured.

Bulletin of Pharmacy (1909)
[Bulletin of Pharmacy (Sept. 1909)]

Houston Civic Club Cook Book (1906)

Houston Civic Club Cookbook (1906)
[Cover of Houston Civic Club Cook Book (1906)]

Thanks go to Google Books for making this gem available online. This is the cover of a cookbook that the Houston Civic Club published in 1906. The cookbook includes many period advertisements, a short write-up of the Houston Civic Club’s history (it was founded in 1901) and mission, a list of club officers, the club bylaws and constitution, and an unsual ghost-story introduction (called “The Story of a Cake”).

But the most interesting aspect of the cookbook is the glimpse it provides into how Houstonians were cooking and eating 100+ years ago. Below is a sampling of some of the recipes included in its pages:

This section includes recipes for Turtle Soup, Oyster Soup, Gumbo, Crab Gumbo, and Crab Bisque. Also appearing in the Soups section are a number of non-soup oyster recipes: Scalloped Oysters, Oysters au Gratin, Broiled Oysters, Oyster Omelet, Oyster Pie, and Oyster Loaf.


The Galveston Daily News observed in 1876: “Where crab and shrimp can be had so readily as in Galveston, every one should know how to make the inimitable French gombo.”

This section includes recipes for Fish Chowder, Deviled Crabs, and Baked Red Fish. There are a few other recipes as well, but it’s a pretty lean section.

This is one of the more interesting sections. It begins with the extravagant-sounding “Steak with Oyster Blanket”. It also includes “Veal Doub”, Goulash, “Opossum and Potatoes”, and “Stewed Brains”.


Opossum was not only not an unusual dish at the time, it was considered a delicacy. In 1907, the American magazine Collier’s, in an article about the German practice of eating horse and dog meat, observed: “There is apparently no reason why the flesh of the horse should not be cleaner and more palatable than the meat of the hog; or why even a fat dog should not be quite as tempting as a table delicacy as a fat opossum. Such matters are determined largely by custom and sentiment.”

Included are four sauces: a caper sauce, a mustard sauce, a parsley sauce, and a cream sauce. The book does not say which goes best with opossum.

An odd short section that might have been better titled “Croquettes and Chili”. It encompasses only Salmon Croquettes, Dressing for Salmon Croquettes, Potato Croquettes, Chicken Croquettes, and Chili. (By 1905, chili was already so popular is was being canned by the Houston Packing Company.)


One notable salad is the Tomato Jelly Salad. The salad dressings all call for eggs.

This section gets off to a good start with a recipe for “Kartoppleklosse” (i.e., Kartoffelklosse, or German potato dumplings), and also features Sweet Potato Cakes, Sweet Corn Pudding, Potato Balls, and “Cabbage a la Cauliflower”. In addition, the Vegetables section is where you will find the obligatory macaroni-and-cheese recipe (“Baked Macaroni”).

Includes three different “Stuffed Eggs” recipes.

The entire list of recipes in this section is: Biscuits, Drop Biscuit, “‘West-Tide’ Corn Bread”, Graham Bread, Muffins, Boston Brown Bread, Spiced Coffee Cake, Cheese Straws, “A Nice Way to Use Stale Bread” (i.e., French Toast), Grits Bread, Honey Muffins, Brown Bread, and “Wafles for Four”.


This section would have been more appropriately titled “One Puff Pastry Recipe and Several Pie Recipes”. The varieties of pie are: Chocolate, Lemon (x4), Molasses, Grape, Currant, Transparent, and Vinegar.

There is no pecan pie recipe, but that is not surprising. A 1910 article in the Galveston newspaper article about the “Texas pecan” suggests that pecan pie was not yet a Texas specialty – unlike pecan sodas: “Go into any soda fountain and you will see the word ‘Pecan’ on the soda bill of fare. You find it in cakes and in candies. They stuff dates with it. Why, they even make a pie of it. Never ate a piece of pecan pie? Lots of us are in the same fix, but those familiar with the pecan say there is nothing more delicious.”

The pudding varieties include: English Plum (x2), Woodford, Suet, Chocolate, Orange, Cream Apple, Cabinet, and Baked Apple.

There is a whole world of desserts presented beyond the pie, pastry, and pudding categories. Such as Jellied Apples, Orange Marmalade Parfait, “An Easter Dessert” (eggs suspended in gelatin), Prune Whip, and Russian Cream. The Google Books file skips a page in this section.

Yet another desserts section, and it’s a big one because it also includes cookies. Among the more exotic entries are “Suabian Wine Cakes”, Russian Honey Sticks, “‘Wenget'”, Lep Cake (a German Christmas-time tradition) (x2), and Leps (x2).


The desserts keep coming. Includes your choice of “New York Ice Cream” or “Philadelphia Ice Cream”. The ice cream sundae is called a “French Sundae”.

Early Houstonians plainly liked their sweets. The first recipe listed is for Sugared Pecans: “Take 1 pound of pecan meats, 2 cupfuls of sugar, 2 cupfuls water; place on stove and boil till thick; pour over pecans and stir till cold.”

This appears to be the section for recipes that were hard to include elsewhere, like baking powder and pickle recipes. Here you will find Chili Sauce (an 1897 advertisement in the Galveston paper advised those recovering from Dengue fever that “chili sauce will give taste to your meat”), “Jambolaya” (x2), “Brain Cutlets”, and yet more Chicken Croquettes.

The San Antonio Daily Express told its readers in 1910: “Jambalaya is another Creole dish, the origins of which are unknown. Its essential ingredient is rice. With the rice may be cooked a dry stew of chicken, or sausage, or shrimp, or ham, or tomatoes. In Louisiana rice is used as a vegetable, and may appear upon the table three times a day.”

This section includes more pickle recipes, and a variety of non-alcoholic “cocktails”. No recipe for ice tea, but perhaps that’s a recipe every Houstonian is born knowing. (The “Ice Cream and Ices” section includes a recipe for a “Tea Frappe” that is essentially frozen ice tea.)

Three yeast recipes: Yeast, Yeast Cakes, and Potato Yeast.

A few of the Houston Civic Club Cook Book’s many advertisements:




Highland Park

Highland Park
[Highland Park promenade (postmarked 1908) – University of Houston Libraries postcard collection]

Highland Park
[Highland Park “lake” –]

Highland Park
[Highland Park –]

Highland Park, which opened in Woodland Heights in 1903, was developed by the private Houston Electric Company, which then controlled Houston’s streetcar system, to encourage ridership on its new extension up Houston Avenue. At the time, Houston’s first public park, Sam Houston Park, was the only other large park in Houston. Highland Park would ultimately become Houston’s second public park – the park now known as Woodland Park.

The park was operated by Fred Bishop, who leased the property from the streetcar company. The park was scheduled to open to the public on July 4, 1903, but the opening was postponed a day due to rain. A large crowd was guaranteed because both the clerk’s union and the Woodmen of the World (Magnolia Camp) held their annual picnics at the park that day. The Galveston newspaper reported that: “A programme of interesting events fully a yard long had been prepared and kept up interest at a high pitch from the opening of the festivities until the day was at an end.”

Other groups holding picnics at the park in its opening weeks were the Painters Union and the Houston Civic Club’s First Ward Division. The Painters Union’s entertainment program included James E. Black, a “singer, dancer, and acrobatic high kicker without legs”; and Charlie Ward, described as “Comedian: blackface specialty.” However, dancing was the evening’s main feature.

In its early days, the park’s primary attraction was a dance pavilion, where patrons would waltz and two-step. The park had its own band, the Highland Park Band, made up of about 20 musicians. By August 1903, a gravel path had been added between the streetcar stop and the pavilion, but work continued on the park. In the winter months that followed, most press coverage related to the park was devoted to the Highland Park Gun Club, which held shooting tournaments at the park’s gun range.

Highland Park
[Boat House at Highland Park (postmarked 1908) – University of Houston Libraries postcard collection]

By the time the park reopened for warm-weather use in 1904 – again for the Woodmen of the World annual picnic, complete with “minstrel performances” – a lake (formed by damming Little White Oak Bayou, sometimes called Hollywood Bayou), bridges, boats, fountains, and a cafe had been added, and the pavilion (which doubled as a summer theater) had been renovated. The Galveston newspaper described the park as follows:

Adding grace and beauty to the park are great, tall, towering majestic pine trees and shrub oaks, wierdly beautiful with a fantastic drapery of moss suspended from their branches and festooned around their boughs, bidding a fond welcome to the visitor and offering a cooling retreat from the burning rays of Old Sol. Situated on a grassy eminence fifteen, feet higher than any other spots in Houston the first structure that meets the eye is a large and commodious cafe and buffet building with a capacity to feed and entertain 1,000 people. Broad, wide galleries surround this building on all aides, where cooling drinks and refreshments are served at all hours at reasonable prices. This building commands a fine view of the park and adjoining country and its galleries rest on the edge ot a bluff overlooking the valley wherein sparkle the waters of a lake, dotted here and there with islands, while a gasoline launch and numerous pleasure boats dart hither and thither, forming a scene of animation and enjoyment exquisitely beautiful. Nestled between the hills fifty feet below the cafe and buffet building, with the rays of the sun glittering and sparkling upon its clear transparent surface is a lake of exceptional beauty and picturesqueness. Surrounding the lake on all sides are comfortable tree seats and rustic benches where the pleasure seekers, wishing to rest, may have ample opportunity. Special anangcments have been made with the United States Government whereby 50,000 fish, including the big-mouthed bass and trout, are to be shipped from the United States fish hatcheries at San Marcos to stock the waters of the lake and bayou. In a year or two, when these game members of the finny tribe have attained their full growth, the lake will afford the finest fishing to be had in this section. A few yards from the edge of the lake is an artesian well 478 feet deep, which has a flow of 75,000 gallons daily, furnishing patrons of the park with pure crystal mineral water. The water was tested by a chemist and found to contain a certain per cent of lithia, thus giving it curative properties of exceptional value. Arc lamps are distributed throughout the grounds, and thousands of incandescent lamps are suspended from wires overhead, lighting up the lanes and places of amusement and sparkling like millions of fireflies in the darkness. The surface of the lake, shining and glimmering in the moonlight, reflects the myriad electric lights, the pleasure boats with their gay occupants and the shadows of the great pine trees lend a touch of mystic enchantment to the scene. On the largest Island, which is situated in the center of the lake, is a circular band stand connecting with the main land by rustic bridges, which span the lake on either side.

Some of these park features can be seen in the Highland Park postcards above. Houstorian has found no online photographs of Highland Park, though some may exist in a library collection and/or Houston newspaper archives. Also, a 1904 newspaper article about the park noted that an automobile party that included Baron Masanao Matsudaira and Harvey T.D. Wilson (who had an interest of some sort in the Japanese colony in Webster) took “kodak pictures” of the park, using Mr. Wilson’s camera, on June 19, 1904. So photographs of the park may exist somewhere.

By June 1904, a number of unions had placed Houston Electric Company on their “unfair” list, and begun fining members seen riding the streetcars or visiting Highland Park. One of the unions’ complaints against the company was that it was not hiring union labor at Highland Park. On July 7, 1904, a streetcar returning from Highland Park was dynamited. The car was thrown from its track, one of its wheels was blown off, and its glass windows shattered, raining glass on its full load of passengers. Remarkably, though, none of the riders was injured, a fact deemed “little short of miraculous.” The attack was one of a number of similar incidents around the same time period, all of which were blamed on union interests.

Highland Park
[“Shoot the Chute” at Highland Park]

Despite ongoing labor problems, including a strike of streetcar operators and workers, improvements at Highland Park continued. A “shoot the chutes” attraction was added in 1904, as pictured above. A “museum of natural history” – sometimes referred to as the Natural History and Fish Museum – was also added in 1904.

In October 1904, charges were filed against Fred Bishop, the park’s manager, for allowing a theater production to be presented on a Sunday. A newspaper account noted: “The laws covering the case are peculiar and prosecution difficult if any offense exists.” The charges were ultimately dismissed on the grounds that no admission had been charged for the theater production.

The 1905 season at Highland Park opened with a hot-air balloon ascension plus parachute descension. The park also touted games of “water baseball,” using floating rafts as bases. However, the crowds came for the new construction – the “scenic railway” called the “figure 8” or “roller coaster”:

The “roller coaster” was the leading attraction. The cars were filled from the start, and be it known that boys were not the only patrons, for many men of various ages clamored for seats in the “coasters.” The ride is thrilling in the extreme, but is so smooth and pleasant that there is never a jar of the nerves, though they are essentially tense. The coasters are hauled up a steep incline about fifty feet by a chain belt run by an electric motor. The coaster is then released and Newton’s law does the rest. You plunge forward at a most thrilling gait and many are the ups and downs, ins and outs, but all pleasant, before the end is reached.

The ride is calculated to cure a malady of most any kind, mental or physical. It simply puts new vigor in the heart and new speed through the veins. Its exhilirating effects are almost instantly noticeable. Should a patron mount a car with his blood flowing sluggishly, his heart beating slowly and away down in his shoes, when he whirls through the air up and down, round and round, and alights from the car he will be a new man, and his best girl will be in love with him. It is a panacea for almost any trouble, mental or physical.

In November 1905, Houston Electric Company sued Highland Park manager Fred Bishop for past-due rental payments, plus $30,000 in damages for violation of the parties’ lease agreement. The alleged violation was supposedly Bishop’s “admission of improper characters to the park.” M.C. Michael took over the lease in 1906.

The park continued to operate as Highland Park until no later than June 1908, when it was reopened as “San Jacinto Park” under the auspices of the Houston Civic Club. The new name was confusing because there was already a park at the San Jacinto battleground, and it does not appear to have gained acceptance.

The city of Houston purchased the park in 1911. In 1914, residents of the Woodland Heights neighborhood, which was platted in 1907, successfully petitioned to have the park’s name changed to Woodland Park.

There are still reminders of Highland Park in Woodland Heights today. There is of course Woodland Park itself, which Houstonians continue to enjoy. But there is also, a block to the west, a nursing home named “Highland Park Care Center”. And a Highland Street a few blocks to the north.

For more information:
Steven M. Baron, Houston Electric: The Street Railways of Houston, Texas (1996)