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Gleanings From Beaumont's Book of Life

RECALLING how they lived in the early days of Texas when Beaumont was nothing but a straggling group of log houses along the banks of the Neches river; when the whoops of Indians blended with the coyotes' yells; when bear and deer nosed around the back doors of their homes, Beaumont pioneers recount many interesting details of those first days.

In those times everybody was busy and everybody was neighborly. Everybody was happy and contented.

Scenes of Yesterday.
(click here for an enlarged image)

The following pioneers give a graphic picture from first-hand information:


"Do I remember when Indians roamed about Beaumont's streets? Indeed I do, and of how frightened I always was at seeing them," stated Mrs. T. H. Langham, daughter of David French and granddaughter of John J. French, pioneer residents of this section.

Mrs. Langham's grandfather had a general merchandise store on the Voth road, and she recalls hiding many times at the approach of Indians to the store, with baskets and moccasins and other products to exchange for provisions.

In connection with the store her grandfather conducted a tanyard, where they made leather. Their equipment consisted of fourteen vats and an old mill drawn by a horse. They would go into the woods in the spring and cut around an oak tree while the sap was up and peel off the bark and after it had dried would grind it and sprinkle on the leather to tan it.

There were no schools in those days, and children had to learn the best way they could, declared Mrs. Langham, who attended a private school conducted in a barn for the children of John Marble, and also went to the governess of the McFaddin and Herring children for a short time.

"Our social gatherings were dances and candy pullings, with quilting bees favorites too," said Mrs. Langham. "We danced the quadrille mostly, having the dances at each others' homes. Occasionally there was a gathering at the court house, but these were unusual. And many quilts were made at bees, when a woman would invite in a group of neighbors to help with the quilting. Simple amusements these may appear now, but we had just as much fun in those days as the young people do now," Mrs. Langham stated.


"When I first came in to school in Beaumont I was about eight years old," declared Martin Hebert, the Hebert family living out on the Fannett road. "I attended a school taught by Mr. Jim Ingalls. This was in 1855.

"Then, there was only one residence between the court house and Calder, owned by a man named Hutchinson. This was not Joseph Hutchinson who married Noah Tevis's widow.

"Our father brought myself and brother to the hanging of Jack Bunch. I protested that I did not want to see the man hanged, but my father thought it would serve as a lesson to us boys.

"At about this same age I remember an Indian came along with a wolf across his shoulder and asked my mother for a bounty. He tried the same game at the homes of all our neighbors.

"And once I remember seeing many Indians* on their ponies in our yard."

That the best duck pond hereabouts was where the Postoffice Drug Store now stands, is the statement of Mr. Hebert, who recalls that although it was the shorter route, he could employ the path running zigzag through this low place to the Calder home at the head of Pearl street only in dry weather.

Mr. Hebert also remembers that deer would come out of the woods late in the evening to drink in a sink where Millard school is located.

* That Indians roamed these parts is also borne out by the statements of Emmett Fletcher, who, when a boy helped to dig skeletons out of the shell bank at Port Neches and of Mrs. Ed Hebert, who found arrows buried on the beach at Caplen. * That Indians roamed these parts is also borne out by the statements of Emmett Fletcher, who, when a boy helped to dig skeletons out of the shell bank at Port Neches and of Mrs. Ed Hebert, who found arrows buried on the beach at Caplen.



Mrs. Simon Wiess and daughter,
Mrs. Pauline Wiess Coffin.

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Mrs. Pauline Wiess Coffin, who still lives in the house built by her father at Wiess Bluff in 1858, has also seen Indians roaming the streets of Beaumont. She recalls hearing her mother tell that General Sam Houston, a familiar figure in the streets of Nacogdoches, gave the Indians and Mexicans papers privileging them to beg, and how frightened her mother was one evening, when alone in the house, she heard the shutters rattle, then saw an Indian's arm stuck through the window, waving such a paper.

Mrs. Coffin's father, Simon Wiess, moved from Nacogdoches to Beaumont early in 1839, making the trip down the Neches on a keel boat, and was engaged in the merchandise business, later moving to Wiess Bluff, where he was in charge of the big cotton trade from the upper country down the Neches.

Contrasting prices then and now, Mrs. Coffin recalls that it cost her father only $18 to get a nine mile road cleared out and built, connecting their home place with the highway at Pine Island. Her mother was the first woman to go over the road, riding horseback. Then it cost only $2.50 to make the boat trip from Wiess Bluff to Sabine Pass, with meals included.

It was a neighborly custom to borrow fire in case a housewife had no steel and flint handy, and everybody guarded "spunk" almost with his life. Lard oil lamps were stylish, and people moulded candles from beeswax.

The country was so sparsely settled that there were few social activities, but occasionally there was a candy pulling and a famous camp-meeting was held at Pine Island yearly, with people attending from miles around, All women here abouts wore homespun dresses, with, very rarely, a dress pattern bought in New Orleans. Traveling was on horseback, and a trip from Wiess Bluff to Houston was a matter of weeks, a trip that may now be made by airship in an hour and a half.

Houston was the capital of the republic then, and boasted but a few houses, and Galveston was a group of houses built of wreckage on a barren island.


"What did Beaumont look like when I first remember? Just like these woods about my house now, only without the roads that we have through here," remarked Gilbert Stephenson, sixth son of Mary Tevis and Gilbert Stephenson. Mr. Stephenson now lives in Duncan's woods in Orange county, near the original homesite of his father, who, tradition says, was the first man to cross the Neches and traverse the land whereon the present city of Beaumont is located, and was the first man to be married in this county.

Mr. Stephenson, who is eighty years old, recalls the early days with kindly eyes, telling of the neighborliness of all the settlers when anything one had was the common property of all.

He remembers visiting often in the home of "Grandma Nancy Hutchinson", which was built on the bluff overlooking the river, just above where the Southern Pacific bridge now is. Here his grandmother conducted for a number of years Tevis's ferry, and many of his little boy memories are associated with her home, where he spent much of his time.

He explained that many people erroneously spoke of the home of his uncle, young Noah Tevis, which was about where Pipkin Park now is, as the home of his grandmother, who was the wife of the Noah Tevis, Beaumont's first settler. At the old homesite, Mr. Stephenson explained, are still standing some of the trees, and a crepe myrtle bush planted by his grandmother, living and green as the memories of her life.

Only one undimmed regret of his childhood did Mr. Stephenson express. There was a criminal named Bunch who was hanged in Beaumont. and young Gilbert, hurrying to the scene much as a present-day youngster rushes to the newest thriller in movies, arrived too late to witness the hanging.

Mr. Stephenson also mentioned a store along the river front owned by one Hop Johnson, with a private pier to the back from which boats unloaded merchandise for the store.


"Chish no ho Chiffo monte ho?" That's Alabama Indian for "What is your name?" according to Thomas F. Crawford of Glenmora, Louisiana, who lived here when the Alabama Indians were settled on Village Creek.

He remembers seeing Indian braves carry water in the primitive fashion used by the Jews in Palestine two thousand years ago, in skins, down Pearl street, followed by squaws trailing behind with papooses strapped to their backs. Curious redskins would peep in at the busy white man when he attended the warehouses at Wiess Bluff.

The Crawfords settled in Hardin county 75 years ago when there were no roads, only a few bridle paths, and when Neches swamp was almost a solid canebrake, inhabited by wild cattle, bear, deer, panther and wolves. Getting meat was an easy matter in those days, for it was there for the killing and the meal was ground in a hand-mill or beat out on a mortar.

The first road through these parts was from Herring's store to Towns Bluff, a distance of about 55 miles, according to Mr. Crawford. There were only five settlements on the road, and there were no churches, no school and no mail.

Herds of horses and cattle roamed over the prairies in those days, and one of Mr. Crawford's first jobs was assisting in rounding up the stock of Colonel Lucy of Sour Lake. The price of horses then was from $7 to $12.


"There was lots of sickness in Beaumont sixty years ago," declared Captain W. E. Rogers, who for forty years did a little bit of everything on the Neches river.

"The water was bad because we didn't have any supply but from wells. Well, now, I do believe a few got water from the river. This wasn't healthy, and four doctors weren't too many for 250 people. A little later people built cisterns, and their health improved wonderfully."

When Captain Rogers first came to Beaumont it was the smallest place around here. It had a population of 250, and that figure included men, women, and children too. Orange was larger than Beaumont. Sabine Pass was the big city of the district. It was twice as big as Beaumont, for Sabine Pass had over 500 people.

Captain Rogers remembers making trips to Concord, once an important port of call, Sabine Lake and its tributaries. "We carried cotton and cattle mostly," he stated.

Captain Rogers came to Beaumont in February, 1857. He got a job on the "Doctor Massey" that made regular trips between Beaumont and Sabine Pass. It took about eight hours then. Cave Johnson was the master of the boat.


Roar of cannon at the battle of Sabine Pass still sound in the ears of Steve W. Pipkin, who as a little child accompanied his father. Rev. John Fletcher Pipkin, pioneer Methodist minister, in his visits of mercy to the wounded brought here from Sabine Pass.

And seeing a fourteen-year-old boy with his leg shot off, indelibly impressed upon the Beaumont child the cruelty of war. Mr. Pipkin remembers, too, seeing Confederate soldiers take a man away from Sheriff Jack Tevis and hang him in a grove of gum trees where the Alexander building now stands. The victim had killed a fellow soldier.

Turning to more pleasant pictures in his book of memory, Mr. Pipkin told of Sunday school picnics enjoyed by his little comrades of the long ago. Town hall played with a rubber ball, bull pen and mumble peg were favorite games. And the Cushman baseball team galloped around in what is now Keith Park, when the city was in its infancy.

Mrs. Nora Pipkin Haltom
Postmistress during Civil War.
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No. Mr. Pipkin can not remember any Christmas trees in the young town, but recalls that he never failed to hang up his stocking and that Santa Claus never overlooked even the tiny settlement of 200 that Beaumont was then.

Mr. Pipkin says during his childhood his clothes and shoes were made at home, and right after the Civil War his entire outfit consisted of a long hickory shirt. The women of his family knitted socks and fashioned hats from palmettoes.


Joseph Milton Chasteen, only survivor of the battle of Sabine Pass, tells of first coming to Beaumont in 1863, and says there were only a few hundred people living here at that time. In recalling the trip to Beaumont over the old Texas railroad, he told how he and his fellow soldiers would get out and kill alligators for sport between helping push the train over particularly bad stretches. While killing their fifth alligator, the train pulled out and left them, and they had to walk into town.

Standing out vividly in his mind are the details of the battle of Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863. This was the second attempt of the Federal army to invade Texas, five thousand soldiers leaving New Orleans for Sabine Pass with the purpose of landing there and advancing on Beaumont and Houston. But when the army reached Sabine Pass and attacked the fort its garrison of forty-one men under Lieutenant Dick Dowling not only repulsed them, but, without losing a single man, captured two of their gunboats and 500 prisoners.

Mr. Chasteen told how Dick Dowling's men double-quicked into action and how the "Clifton" went down. He mentioned it was the old walking beam of the "Clifton" that stood under the trees in Keith Park, thanks to the efforts of Frank W. Godsey, who, thirteen years ago conceived the idea of thus preserving this relic of the war between the states.

He saw Colonel Crockman hand over his sword to Dick Dowling and remembered that bacon, hay, molasses and horses were scrambled up together in the water after the fight.

Mrs. Chasteen resided at Sabine Pass also, at the time of the battle, and, with her mother, cooked beef, bread and coffee and sent the food into the fort to Dowling's band.


"When I came to Beaumont forty years ago, there were but two wall-papered rooms in the town", declared Mrs. T. J. Russell, "and many of the early settlers died from colds contracted in box houses. One of the papered rooms was the parlor of the John Craig home in Main street near Keith Park. (This house is still standing.) I remember hearing a neighbor declare, 'No indeed, I don't want my good heart pine covered by paper'."

In the fall of 1884 a circus came to town, and this fact was considered so important that court adjourned and everybody attended. The circus was held on the grounds of Dr. Z. T. Fuller's home in Calder avenue.

Judge T. J. Russell planted the cottonwood trees on Main street between Crockett and Liberty, according to Mrs. Russell.

In 1869 Cypress was the principal business street, and all travel was along it down to Main, and from there to the court house on Main street. The Liberty road ran out where Liberty street now is, Mrs. Russell quotes judge Russell as having told her. The Hardin county road was up Pine street to Long and Company's mill, thence northwest by the McGuire Chaison home and on to Pine Island. This road was in ancient days known as the Pea Ridge road.


The general store in the old days was a fitting forerunner of the present department store, and everything from a hairpin to a plough might be bought under the same roof then as now, declared Mrs. R. N. Weber, one of Beaumont's old est native daughters.

But there was no art in the matter of display in those stores of early days, no departments for each type of article, for then hose and horseradish, corn and calico were shown side by side. Nor were there exclusive rights to styles for the ladies of that period, and the merchants made no mention of the duplication of a dress pattern. Every woman in the settlement wore dresses from the same bolt of calico, and were perfectly contented too, Mrs. Weber said. The merchandise for these stores was bought in the east, brought to Galveston by boat and from there to Beaumont either by boat or in a wagon, a perilous journey either way.

Well does Mrs. Weber remember Water street, long since washed away by the river, that ran along the banks of the Neches behind the home of the Millards, thence up the river. She also recalls the old court house in what is now Keith Park, where "we went to dances on Saturday night and on Sunday night attended church services," she states.


If the old violin now in the possession of Mrs. Charles J. Chaison could speak, how much might be told of the romances and stories that clustered about the dances given in Beaumont during the period following the Civil War. For wherever there was a dance in those days, it was that violin, then about one hundred and fifty years old, that furnished the music with Mrs. Chaison's father, Frank LeBleu, as the musician.

And still further tales of adventure might the old violin tell of its early days, when it was brought to America by Mrs. Chaison's great-great-grandfather, Colic LeBleu, one of the company of Frenchmen who accompanied the dashing young cavalier, Lafayette, to the assistance of the struggling colonies in their fight for freedom from the English rule. Of military dances of brilliance and courtliness it would probably speak, of the gay scenes when parties were arranged for the young French nobleman as he was entertained by the colonial hostesses of high degree; of its journey with Mr. LeBleu to the newly settled section of Louisiana; of the boy, Frank LeBleu, and his ambitions as he played the instrument, of its final journey to Texas , where, in Beaumont, Mr. LeBleu settled, and whose music is remembered by many Beaumonters today.

The violin was made in the early seventeen hundreds, and has been handed down as an heirloom to the oldest son since that time. Since the death of Mrs. Chaison's father it has lain mute in her home, a prized possession, reminder of its youthful days when Beaumont was only a settlement on the Neches river.

The story of the old violin is but one of those told in the Chaison home, both by Mrs. Charles Chaison and by Mrs. Clara Chaison, her mother-in-law, who was married and came to Beaumont in 1861. Mrs. Clara Chaison remembers when there were only three stores here, one owned by Messrs. Mark and William Wiess, one by John C. Craig, and one by C. C. Caswell, and there were four saloons in the little settlement. Her children attended a school conducted by George H. Stovall, which was located at about the present site of the First National bank. Pupils paid $1.50 per month for the tuition.

The coming of the Southern Pacific railroad to the city is another incident that stands out in her memory. The engine was brought on a barge up the river, and crowds turned out to see the "iron horse" that could make the trip from Orange to Houston in only one day. There was only one mixed train each way a day, the trip from Orange to Houston beginning early in the morning and lasting until late at night.


"Early settlers didn't have much nor didn't want much", declared W. P. H. McFaddin, who recalls many interesting stories told him by his father, of his own and his grandfather's experiences. "My father and other pioneers as little boys had no clothes but a long homespun shirt," he remarked.


Pioneer Chair in W. P. H. McFaddin Family.

Mr. McFaddin's grandfather, James McFaddin, came to Texas from Louisiana in 1824, remaining for a short period and then returning to Louisiana. Later he came back to Jefferson county, in 1833, to make his home here. At the time of his first visit only three families were living in the county, the Noah Tevis family on the banks of the Neches, Jack Hildebrandt, living about ten miles southwest of Beaumont, and Tom Lewis, who lived three miles from town.

Mr. McFaddin was born and now lives on the land originally granted to his father by the government. His father, William McFaddin, was in the battle of San Jacinto, and being only 17, and too young to take part in the battle, he was detailed to hold horses. He saw the surrender of Santa Anna, and was finally discharged from the army at San Antonio, walking from that city to Beaumont. Mr. McFaddin recalled hearing his father tell that before the battle of San Jacinto, word was brought to the settlers in. Beaumont to vacate the town before the advance of the Mexican warrior, Santa Anna, and Wash Tevis assisted the women and children to move across the Neches into what is now Orange county for protection. There they remained for several weeks, returning to their homes after news of the surrender of Santa Anna.

All the country round Beaumont was prairie and marsh land with few or no trees except along the river and bayous during the days of the early settlers, and Mr. McFaddin cites particularly the heavy pine grove near Rosedale, which was an open prairie when he first remembers.

Turkeys, deer and other wild game could be killed not more than half a mile from one's home in those days, and corn, potatoes and fruit, with pork and beef, was the food of the pioneers. That deer roamed at will over primitive Beaumont is borne out by Mr. McFaddin's statement that he saw a deer butt a Mr. Scott into the river right in front of the O'Brien home.

Pony racing and dancing were the favored pastimes. In 1866 James Cleland opened Beaumont's first dancing school, teaching a group of young people at the home of William McFaddin. At the private school on the place of Mr. McFaddin the girls had a unique dancing hall, a mound on the playgrounds hardened by constant rope-jumping, where they practiced the newest steps taught by the dancing master. All-night dances at homes were weekly affairs, and two negro musicians who fiddled all night for $2.50 each comprised the orchestra for the affairs. Square dances, waltz, and schottische were the favorite steps.

Soldies camping on his father's land during the Civil War left an indelible impression on the memory of Mr. McFaddin, not because of their warlike tendencies, but for the fact that each morning he might visit the camp and exchange a bowl of clabber for two crackers with some soldier, and crackers were a treat the little Texas boy could never forget.

The children of his day attended private schools entirely, there being one on his father's place taught by Ambrose Dudley Kent, another in a gum thicket on Pearl street where the First National bank now stands, taught by George H. Stovall, and another where the Wilson hardware company warehouse now is, taught by a Mrs. Lynch.


"I helped to fell the trees and plough up Pearl street," declared J. B. Langham, member of a pioneer east Texas family.

"My father bought the block facing Pearl between Bowie and Fannin in 1876 for $320, and dug a ditch round it to drain off the water. We hauled in sawdust from the sawmills to fill, and built a wooden livery stable where the City National Bank is now," he continued.

Mr. Langham remembers killing a deer 300 yards from where the bank now stands. He also told about seeing cattle standing belly deep in water and mud on the present site of the Perlstein building.

He was twelve years old during the Civil War, and recalls herding beeves for the Confederate government at that age. He also told that it was from his father's farm on Corn road, now Calder road, that the cotton used for breastworks at the battle of Sabine Pass was secured.

Bears, with dogs after them, was no uncommon sight on Pearl street in those days, stated Mr. Langham, who also recalled the severity of the storm of 1867.


Captain James Garvin, veteran captain of ships that plied the gulf ports in the halycon days of yore, likes to tell of a city he knew, a "stop on the river called Beaumont" as he expressed it, when he first remembers the place. Captain Garvin came to Beaumont when he was only one year old, in 1856.

There was only one store here when he first remembers, stated Captain Garvin, and it was at the foot of Pearl street on the river.

The first industry that Beaumont had was a plant down on the river which slaughtered cattle for the hides and tallow. They did not save the meat then, just boiled it up to get the tallow and dumped the remains into the river through a chute. There were thousands of catfish that fed around the chute.

Captain Garvin served as cabin boy and grew up on the water. He brought in the supplies that went into many homes of the pioneers, so that in reality he became a part of the gulf coast.


There was practically no entertainment of any nature for the young people in the first years of her married life in Beaumont, said Mrs. George O'B. Millard, who came as a bride to the little village from Louisiana in 1861. Her first entertainment after moving to the place was a picnic given in a grove where the Magnolia cemetery now is.

Mr. Millard, her husband, was a landmark in early educational affairs, and a monument to him has been erected on the Millard school grounds.


From Beaumont's first marriage in 1832 in the log cabin home of Noah and Nancy Tevis on the banks of the Neches, to the marriage of the first couple in a church in 1877 is but a step in the life of the little town.

Mr. George W. Carroll and Miss Underhill Mixson were the first couple who had a church wedding, their ceremony being performed November 20, 1877, in the structure built jointly by the Baptists and Methodists on the site where the T . S. Reed grocery company building now stands. Mrs. Carroll was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Mixson, who lived in the block where the Alamo cafe, and the Carter music store are now located. Mr. Mixson was an early architect, and in addition designed and made furniture that is still treasured by the descendants of the pioneers for whom he built it. Their children were, in addition to Mrs. Carroll, Mrs. Mark Wiess, James Craig Mixson and John Charles Mixson.


Defying the encroachment of the town, two daughters of the junior George W. Smyth, Mesdames C. E. Walden and R. F. Cheesman, are residing on the old home site, other pioneer families having long since moved to sections of the city far removed from their original homes.

"In an early period of Beaumont's history, many of the dwellings were clustered around Long and Company's mill, near the creosote works, but the passage of time has brought strange changes to this part of the city," said Mrs. Walden. "As the steady blows of the hammers sent Beaumont landmarks to destruction in a cloud of dust, our neighbors left the old settlement."

"My father first lived about where the Duke hotel is, when he moved to Beaumont from Jasper county in 1877.

"I remember when a little thing, my mother would stand on our porch and watch me safely into Mr. John Craig's store, which stood on Main street close to the new Elks club," declared Mrs. Walden. Then it was a clean sweep from the Smyth home to the Craig store.

A glimpse at the books now in the possession of Mrs. Walden which came from the library of her grandfather, George W. Smyth, first congressman from east Texas, makes one stop and catch breath at the thought that the volumes were brought by covered wagon from North Carolina to Smith's Bluff in 1828, then removed to Jasper county, where the distinguished pioneer later made his home. These books have survived all the crudeness of primitive days, both bindings and illustrations being in perfect condition.

Among her books are John Bunyan's complete works, "National Portrait Gallery", "The History of General Francis Marion". Then there is "The Bandit's Bride" a novel, which belonged to Mrs. Walden's grand mother, Mrs. John Blewett of Jasper. The heroine of this story is named "Rosalthe" and the name has been perpetuated in the Smyth family.


The first cement sidewalk built in east Texas is the one running on the Travis street side of the old V. Wiess home, according to Joe Loeb, many of whose boyhood recollections center around that neighborhood. The old horse block which still stands bears the inscription: "V. Wiess-1886."

"We boys almost wore that sidewalk out riding our bicycles on it, the high-wheeled kind," he said.

And at the corner of Mulberry and Travis is a huge cottonwood tree with a chain right through the middle of it, which bears evidence of the pranks of Joe Loeb, Alfred and Albert Eastham and Earl Wilson. This chain came from an abandoned planing mill at the corner of Pine and Mulberry, and Joe Loeb remembers tossing it into the fork of the tiny cottonwood sapling.

Another recollection of this same neighborhood is of the mule car system that was operated for a few months. The line started at Wall street and went to Long and Company's mill.

Mr. Loeb recalls with enthusiasm the battle between the Confederates and Federals that the boys and girls of his day staged one Christmas eve about where the Clairemont now is. They fought it out with skyrockets, and Mr. Loeb, a scarred veteran of the battle, was struck just above his eye. He also tells how once, while hunting for whiskey flasks in the bushes that grew six feet high on the triangle in front of the new Elks club, he found the body of a dead man. Mr. Loeb and his boy hood companions did a thriving business selling whiskey flasks, and their income furnished them funds for circuses and other amusements of the day.

Mr. Loeb also remembers when Samuel Webber kept the postoffice on the river bank near the power plant, and there was a two-by-four board across the marsh to its door.

Surrounding the postoffice were the dwellings of the Caswells, Beaumonts, Webbers, Van Wormers, Leonards, Loebs and Schwerins.

Came Here in Shoe Box.


"That liveoak tree in the Hubert Fuller yard, 934 Calder, came to Beaumont in a shoe box," declared Mrs. Homer Chambers, descendant of prominent pioneers.

"It was a gift in 1888 to my father, Dr. Z. T. Fuller, from Mat King, brother-in-law of Patillo Higgins. Mr. King dug it up from Duncan's woods in Orange county. My mother, who greatly loved trees, planted it, and also other trees familiar to Beaumont folk. When but a child she planted those in the yard of the old Gilbert home in Liberty avenue, and the cottonwoods and elms in the same block, still giving grateful shade to passersby."

Nathan Gilbert and his wife, Caroline A. Gilbert, lived for many years at 820 Liberty avenue in the home afterwards purchased by W. P. H. McFaddin. Their children were John N. Gilbert, Wilbur Gilbert, Nathan Gilbert and Mesdames Z. T. Fuller, Frank Smith and M. L. Hinchee.


One of the first orders for public buildings by the early Beaumont citizens was on February 5, 1838, according to Frank W. Godsey. On this date the commissioners decided to erect a jail and county clerk's office on the block given by the city founders for that purpose, and asked for bids. The specifications called for a building 16x20 feet, two stories high. James Ingalls was awarded the contract for the building at $3800.

In 1840 the contract for the first wharf facilities for the section was made. The articles of agreement were between Joseph Hutchinson, husband of Nancy Tevis Hutchinson, and Lucien Hopson, in which Joseph Hutchinson agrees to "furnish the land to build a certain canal 30 feet wide and so deep as may be necessary to float a vessel drawing 5 feet of water, and land on the south side for the purpose building a wharf, also timber necessary for said canal and wharf to be cut on any part of his land, free of charge."

Of records of public roads, Mr. Godsey states, the first order was made July 3, 1837 when Joseph Grigsby, H. Williams, George Allen, R. Ballue, and Clark Beach were appointed reviewers of roads to be laid out between Ballue's ferry on the Sabine river to the western boundary of the county. Bids were received from W. P. Clark and N. Holbert for the work, the two bids being each $250.

The first move toward a county courthouse was made on March 8, 1853, when the commissioners' court ordered bids for the building of a court house forty feet square and eighteen feet under the eaves. Jeremiah Mixson was awarded the contract, and he executed a bond in the sum of $3200 to complete the same by March, 1854.


"When Beaumont first became a town, Pearl street property sold for a song. The block on which the Perlstein building now stands, lots 73 to 84 of block 14, were sold January 19, 1859, by Pulsifer, Huling and Millard to C. H. Ruff for $80," said J. H. Rachford. Today that block could not be bought for half a million.

Another contrast in real estate values of the early and present day is found in a deed made by the heirs of Joseph Grigsby to T. F. McKinney, selling to him the block of land between Pearl and Orleans for $52.66. In this block now stand Hotel Beaumont, the Alexander building and the Keith building.


Coming down through the years to 1902, when Beaumont had grown up from the struggling village of 500 to a booming city, growing so rapidly that civic improvements were far behind the needs, club women recall the first state federation convention ever held here in November, 1902. Sessions were held in the old Kyle Theater, and the old First Methodist church, where the T. S. Reed grocery store now stands.

Important club issues that were discussed at this meeting have faded before the memory of the rains of the convention days, when streets were flooded and delegates were met in boats. The rain, which began the day of the opening of the convention in November, continued every day until March 25, witnesses declare, and streets were impassable.

J. V. Polk tells of how the real flood came the day following the closing of the convention, and how chagrined hostesses were who had persuaded their guests to remain over to see a play at the Kyle theater, when the piano floated in the pit.

The hostess club for this convention was the Woman's Reading club. It was organized on January 18, 1895, by five ladies, Mesdames T. A. Lamb, Cush Wiess, Hal W. Greer, and Misses Mary Lamb and Harriet Farrand, who had gathered at Mrs. Greer's suggestion at her home to organize a literary club. From this small beginning has grown the present large and active organization, the Woman's Reading club, first woman's club in Texas to own its own home, and at the forefront of all civic movements in the city.


All that was cultural in Beaumont fifty years ago centered round "Aunt Mat" Miller, who lived about half-way between Long and Company mill and the cemetery, according to Mrs. R. D. Kent, who can remember walking three miles with her mother to visit "Aunt Mat", and to this day Mrs. Kent delights to tell how "Aunt Mat" held aloft the torch.

"Aunt Mat" was thrown from a carriage in girlhood, becoming a hopeless cripple. Her charm of personality, fine spirit and splendid brain quality drew early Beaumonters like a magnet and Mrs. Kent says she doesn't know how , but given only a few days in Beaumont and strangers always found their way to "Aunt Mat's" door, never leaving without refreshment of mind and spirit.

She was a gifted writer, and in the Patillo family connection, of which she was a member, there is treasured more than one volume from her pen. "Aunt Mat" and Augusta Evans Wilson, author of "St. Elmo," "In felice," and "At the Mercy of Tiberius" were devoted friends and literary associates.

Children's Costumes of Early Days in Beaumont.

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