Category Archives: 100 Years Ago

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)]