From prehistoric times until it was included in the Land Grant to Allen C. Reynolds, the site that is now the City of Southside Place, located between Buffalo Bayou to the North and Braes Bayou to the South, was an undesignated and unimpressive spot on the Gulf Coastal Plain. Here and there on this grassy prairie were low sienna bean that were transformed into temporary lakes after each of the frequent rains. The first European visitors described the region from the coast inland as rich in game, fish, and wild plants. Deer and bear were plentiful along the wooded bayous and rivers; small game, fowl, and bison sporadically inhabited and roamed the prairie. Mosquitos were prolific in that coastal area.
Historically, many of our modern cities of any consequence were founded on locations which had been used by the ancients as camp sites or settlements. Houston, one of this nations larger cities and of which Southside Place is a satellite, seems to be an exception. Currently, there is no concrete evidence that the original town site was ever used by the Indians as a permanent campsite or settlement (habitation). When it was chosen in 1836 by the Allen Brothers as the location for their future city, it was, at least, no better than second choice. Not only was this whole coastal plain rather sparsely inhabited by the Indians, but the early Europeans seemed to have by-passed and overlooked the coastal inland area from the Brazos to the Sabine as favorable for establishing settlements.
It is interesting to history buffs to know which Indians were roaming and occupied this general area when the early Europeans arrived; however, reliable information is rather meager. What is now the southwestern area of metropolitan Houston may well have been somewhat of a no mans land between the major Indian tribes of the Tonkawa to the northwest, the Atakapa (Atakapa in Choctaw means man-eaters or cannibals) to the east and north, and the Karankawas to the south and southwest. Two subtribes of the Atakapa were the Parties who lived along the upper San Jacinto and the Akokisas who dwelled along the lower San Jacinto and Trinity River valleys and along the eastern shores of Galveston Bay. Recent clues discovered by archeologists investigating nine sites in the Addicks Basin indicate that Indians with a culture related to the Atakapans roamed and may have inhabited that area. The Hans, in some ways related to both the Akokisas and the Karankawas (to the southwest), occupied Galveston Island and the adjacent coastline to the southwest. The Capoque, probably a sub tribe of the coastal Karankawas inhabited the coastal area inland from the Hans. The Spaniard Cabeza de Vaca, who spent six years among the Hans as a visitor, captive, slave, medicine man, trader, and later explorer gave more complete information about the Indians and the geography of the area than any other of the early explorers.
The stories that some Indians were at times man-eaters are substantiated by the Frenchman Simars de Bellisle, an officer of the ship Maréchal de Esteés. For some unexplained reason, he and several others of the crew were abandoned while ashore from Galveston Bay to get fresh water for the ship and all but he died from exposure and starvation. While wandering on the East Shore of Galveston Bay, he was captured by the Akokisas Indians and was a captive during the years of 1719-1721. Once when he was with a hunting party out on the prairie from their camp on the lower San Jacinto, the Indians captured an enemy. After the Indian enemy was brought back to camp, he was decapitated, skinned and eaten. The account of de Bellisles two years is quite detailed and interesting as found in his book Relation, which was fully translated by Folmer (1940).
The French did considerable trading with the Indians along the San Jacinto and Trinity rivers during the seventeen hundreds but left little history.
The Spanish claimed Texas for well over three hundred years and with one exception made no effort to settle the coastal plain between the Sabine and Colorado rivers. They did establish a mission, Nuestra Senora de la Luz south of the present Liberty town site, and a presidio, San Augustin de Ahumada, a few miles above the mouth of the Trinity River near the Indian village, El Orcoquisac. These were established about 1755 and abandoned in 1771. Their purpose was to prevent the French, who were trading with the Indians, from laying claim to the territory. The lack of interest on the part of the Spanish in settling the area was because there was no evidence of gold and they had little need for the land since there was still plenty in Mexico for colonizing.
The first real interest shown in this general area as a good territory to colonize was an outgrowth of an idea of an Anglo-American, Moses Austin. His plan was to get the permission of the- Spanish Government to let him bring in an appreciable number of solid American citizens who would settle on the land, develop it, and become Spanish citizens. He had previously worked a similar plan with the Spanish in Missouri and Louisiana when those territories had belonged to Spain.
Moses Austin was a Connecticut native who became a frontier man. He had tried business ventures in Philadelphia, Richmond, and southwestern Virginia. In 1797 he inspected some lead mines near St. Louis in what was then Spanish Louisiana. He obtained a land grant and started his mining project, also bringing in settlers including his own family. Five years later, as a result of the Louisiana Purchase, he was back in the United States. His venture succeeded for a while, but the U.S. depression of 1818-1819 brought about his economic ruin, a misfortune shared also by other solid American citizens.
Near the end of 1820 he arrived in Texas with his plan of bringing colonists to this new Spanish frontier. When Austin began his lead mining project near St. Louis, he had become a Spanish citizen. He thought that fact would help him in getting his plan accepted by the Spanish governor in San Antonio. However, he was refused by Governor Martinez. As he left the governor, he met an old friend Baron de Bastrop with whom he had worked in his Louisiana venture. The Baron, who was well liked by the governor, agreed to help his friend. Through his help it was agreed to forward the petition to the governors superior in Coahuila General Arrendondo who approved it in January, 1821.
Moses Austin immediately left San Antonio to begin arrangements to carry out his plan and to request his son, Stephen F. Austin, to join him in the project. En route to St. Louis Moses Austin suffered hardship and exposure, contracted pneumonia and died in June 1821. Stephen decided to carry out his fathers plan. He was twenty seven years old, and by education, experience, and sterling character was well qualified to carry out the task.
When Stephen F. Austin reached San Antonio in August of 1821, he was cordially received by the governor and formally accepted as his fathers successor in the colonization project. He immediately made plans for beginning his settlement.
Governor Martinez seemed quite impressed with young Austin and gave him time to survey the country and select a site for his colony. To Austin, the most impressive region lay south of the Samino Real (Old San Antonio Road) between the Colorado and the Brazos Rivers. He liked those rich river bottoms of the southern coastal plains which had good rainfall and accessibility to the Gulf. He described it as the best in the world and as good in every respect as a man could wish. However, when he set the bounds for his desired grant, he expanded the area considerably to the east and west. On the east it extended slightly beyond the San Jacinto River and the boundary went northwest and north to the Camino Real. Included in this requested grant is the area that is -now Southside Place and Houston.
It was a most opportune time for Austins grant. Because of the recent panic in 1819 in the U.S., many rather solid citizens had lost all of their property, and to them, Texas offered an opportunity for a new start. It is true that as a result of the American Land Law of 1820, they could buy public land in 80 acre blocks for $1.25 per acre in cash; but that was a far cry from the Spanish (and later Mexican) policy of giving land up to as much as 4428 acres plus 177 relatively free, in exchange for becoming a permanent settler and a Spanish citizen. The Spanish had had little luck getting their own citizens to settle in Texas; and until it was permanently colonized, they would never be rid of their Indian problem. For this reason they were happy to get substantial settlers, even if they were Anglo-Americans, by making generous land grants.
As with many good plans, trouble developed. Austin had hardly gotten the settlement started when Mexico achieved her independence from Spain. The Mexican government did not cancel the grant, but in a state of flux, due to an insecure new government, they neglected their colonizing plan for a time. Also, about the same time, the Lively, a ship Austin had bought in New Orleans, which was loaded with new colonists and supplies, got lost and landed at the mouth of the Brazos rather than at the Colorado as planned. The Lively returned to New Orleans and from there set out with a new cargo and more prospective colonists. On this voyage it was wrecked on Galveston Island and the ship and cargo were a complete loss. The immigrants were not immediately able to find the settlements and many of them drifted back to the United States. This last mishap was a serious loss to Austin personally, as the immigrants, seed, and supplies were desperately needed for his young colony.
It also became necessary for him to go to Mexico City to get his contract confirmed officially by the new government. The trips were dangerous and long, requiring over six weeks journey each way and he had to remain there over a year in order to complete his business. However, using his usual patience, tact, and determination, Austin made friends of many leading figures of government and succeeded in getting his contract approved, even though another revolution took place during that year.
His new contract was not quite as generous as the old one, but on the whole there was little change. The major change was that each settler was to get a total grant of one league (4428 acres) per family rather than one league for ranching plus one labor (177 acres) for farming. Some other points of the contract paraphrased:
Austin was to receive twenty two and one half leagues and three labors for bringing in the colonists. He was authorized to found a town and to establish a state militia for protection against the Indians, etc.
Single ranchers were entitled to one third of a league or 1500 acres. Later two or three were permitted to join together as families to fulfill the letter of the law for a grant of a full league.
The colonists were to pay Austin a medio ($0.125) per acre but most of this was later remitted and the government charged a flat nominal title fee.
Colonists were exempted from customs duty for seven years and from general taxation for ten years.
Austin was to have the individual grants surveyed and supply the legal titles. In turn the colonists were supposed to be married, of the Christian faith (preferably Catholic which few were), present credentials of good moral character and no criminal record, agree to become settlers, and within a year to live on the property and begin development of it.
The word got around fast, and Austin found no problem filling his colony quota of the first three hundred solid citizens with the required credentials.
Throughout his life as an impressario, Austin was completely honest and faithful to fulfill all his commitments, both to the Mexican authorities and to the colonists. Baron Von Bastrop was his right-hand man and usually issued the individual grant contracts. The first settler to enter Austins first colony proper was Andrew Robinson.
Everything progressed so well that in the fall of 1824 Austin appealed to the central government for authority to settle a second colony. The Colonization Law of 1824 had, however, transferred the colonization authority to the state government. When he learned of this, he immediately transferred his request to the State Government, and early in 1825 was authorized to settle five hundred additional families within the bounds of the first colony.
The official bounds of the first colony were finally defined by a proclamation of the governor in 1827 as follows: The southern boundary was a line ten leagues inland running parallel to the coast between the San Jacinto and Lavaca Rivers; The eastern boundary followed the San Jacinto River from its intersection with this southern line to the rivers source, then ran due north to the Old San Antonio Road; The western boundary followed the Lavaca River from the ten league line to its source and then due north to the San Antonio Road which formed the northern boundary.
As he had been authorized, Austin founded his town at the site of a small settlement on the Brazos about six miles east of the present town of Sealy. The town was officially christened San Felipe de Austin in July 1824 and from its founding until the beginning of the revolution in 1836, it was the most important town in Texas.
Austin had little trouble finding qualified colonists desiring to settle in his colonies, largely due to his reputation of being a capable, fair, and successful impressario. There were many other impressarios but few were as capable and honest, and a large part of them had troubles. In fact, Austin had such a demand that he eventually secured five contracts with the Mexican government. The fifth one in 1831 with his secretary, S.M. Williams, was a contract to bring in eight hundred Mexican and European families for settlement. This contract followed temporary restriction of immigration from the U.S. but was never completed.
In 1828 the population of Austins colonies was 2021, and by 1831 it had increased to 5,665. The record shows that 1833 land contracts had been given to 755 families by the State in addition to the 310 families in the original colony.
One of the colonists making application for a land contract within the bounds of Austins first colony, but under his second general contract, was a future settler named Allen C. Reynolds. His title reads: Whereas, Allen C. Reynolds has been accepted as a colonist in the colonization scheme contracted for with the State Government of Coahuila and Texas by the empressario Esteven F. Austin on the fourth of June, 1825, as it appears on folio 1151 of this register and the said Allen C. Reynolds having given proof that he is married and has fulfilled all the requisites of the law of colonization of the state of March 24th 1825, by virtue of said law and the instructions which guide me, dated September 4th, 1827, and the additional article dated on April 25th, of that year, 1830, and in the name of the State, I grant, convey, and put in real and personal possession said Allen C. Reynolds of one league of land which has been surveyed by the surveyor; Samuel C. Hirams, previously appointed therefore, said land lying and being bounded as follows:
Lying on the right bank of the arroyo called Buffalo Bayou adjoining and north of a tract of John Austin and from a pine tree 8 inches in diameter on the said bank of the Bayou and on the western boundary line of the said Austin tract from which another pine tree marked R stands North 33 deg. east at 11 varas a line was drawn south 6881 varas to an earth mound; Thence west 4000 varas to another earth mound; Thence North 5891 varas to the NE corner of a league surveyed adjoining and above on the said bank of the Bayou; thence along the meanders of the Bayou downward to the place where the first line began and contains one league of land in superficies 2/25 parts of the aforesaid tract belongs to the class of arable land and 23/25 parts to that of pasture land, which will serve to classify same as to the price which shall be paid to the state according to the Article 22nd of said law, under the penalties established therein, he being notified that he must inside of one year build permanent land marks in each angle of the land and that he must settle and cultivate it conforming to the law.
Therefore, exercising the powers vested in me by the proper contract, the commission, the law and subsequent instructions, I issue the present instrument and other that a estimonio of its be transcribed and be delivered to the party interest so that he many own and enjoy the tract land unto him, his heirs, children and assigns, or any person who under him or them interest or right may hold.
Given at the town of San Felipe de Austin, the 23rd day of the month of April 1831.
Signed by me with assisting witnesses according to law.
Assisting C.C. Givens
Assisting W.A. Lightfoot
This agrees with the original on file in these Archives from which it was transcribed for the party interested this day and date in the form according to the laws, to which I refer.
Given the town of San Felipe de Austin, April 23rd, 1831.
Assisting, Samuel M. Williams
Assisting, C.C. Givens
State of Texas
Before me, Elisha A. Rhodes, a Notary Public in and for the County of Galveston, State aforesaid, appeared Samuel M. Williams to me known, who being duly sworn declared that he saw Miguel Archiniega sign, seal and acknowledge the within conveyance to Allen C. Reynolds to be his act and deed.
In testimony of which, I hereunto subscribe my name and affix the seal of my office at Galveston on the 15th day of January, 1849.
E. A. Rhodes, Notary Public.â€
This league has an interesting history of ownership exchange in whole and in parts during the interval of time between its original grant to Allen C. Reynolds and the purchase of the tract in the southern part of the league which became the town site of Southside Place.
Reynolds, a native of New York State, had come to this area in Feb. 1830 with his wife, Harriett, and a daughter, and one or more sons. Austins Family Register lists him (number 625) as a farmer at the age of 45, with wife Harriett, 40 years of age.
In 1924 Southside was a soggy, barren field out in the country, outside the City of Houston. It was without trees, shrubs, or anything else to suggest the beginnings of a beautiful, dynamic and friendly community. When Mr. E. L. Crain, the developer, established his subdivision, he knew he needed something to attract people to this unlikely subdivision. Right in the middle of it he established a park with a sparkling new swimming pool.
The opening of Southside Place was a gala occasion on Easter Day, 1925. Carrying out the Easter theme, four cases of colored eggs were hidden in the area from the park to Bellaire Boulevard to provide plenty of fun for the children. Approximately five hundred persons attended the opening. One family in attendance was Homer Hewitt and his three small boys. Mr. Hewitt thought the hunt would afford entertainment and exercise for his sons while his wife Sally was away visiting relatives in Nebraska. According to Mrs. Hewitt, â€œthe park and playground (with the swimming pool) proved so attractive we soon joined the four or five houses under construction.â€
This tract of land had been the location of the Harris County Poor Farm and was purchased by the firm of Haden and Austin which held the land for a short period of time and then sold it to E. L. Crain and Company. Auden Street was named by combining the names Haden and Austin. Edloe Street was named for Edlo L. Crain.
The people came and liked the larger-sized lots and the chance to build a good home away from the city. They liked the idea of the park and swimming pool around which many of their community activities were to be centered. The section south of the park was developed first, possibly because of its closeness to Bellaire Boulevard and the street car, affectionately referred to as the Toonerville Trolley, which regularly ran from Houston to Bellaire, turning around at what is now Bellaire Boulevard and Rice Avenue. There are a number of stories concerning how the early residents would meet the trolley and give the conductor their doctors prescriptions and the money.
On the return trip, the conductor would bring them the medicines from the pharmacist. This spirit of neighborliness and concern for each other has been evident in the community life of Southsides right from the beginning.
The area south of Bellaire Boulevard abounded with orange and pecan trees. However, there was not as much as a stick to be found north of it, so Mr. Crain did something about this also. Chinese Tallow trees had just been introduced to the United States, and Teas Nursery recommended their use in Southside. They adapted so well that Southside was sometimes called ˜The City of Tallows.Also, each lot was beautified with Radiant Red rose bushes along the street front and larger lots were provided with a chicken house and fig trees in the back.
Even on the opening day the subdivision had such modern improvements as concrete curb and gutters, gravel streets, concrete sidewalks, sanitary sewer and storm sewer. There were three houses completed and ready for sale. These houses were a Colonial Bungalow for $9000 at 3722 Farbar, a Spanish Bungalow for $7750 at 3709 Farbar, and an English Bungalow for $8200 at 3734 Elmora. The first house to be sold was the Spanish Bungalow which was purchased by Albert Bevans. Perhaps he was attracted by the developers brochure stating:
How many times have you wished for a REAL HOME, one that wasn t crowded onto a 50 foot by 10U foot lot. A place with plenty of room for the growing children to play and work at home.
Southside Place fulfills your ideals, your needs room for flower gardens, vegetable gardens, pet, poultry and fruit trees close enough in to be convenient to the City, just far enough from downtown to make the ideal home.
It is interesting to realize that the Crain houses in Southside were forerunners of the prefabricated houses sold today. People were able to peruse the Crain Ready-Cut House Company catalogue and choose a house. All of the major materials for the house were cut at the factory and then taken to the home site to be erected. The cabinets and window and door frames were built at the factory. Even the correct number of rolls of wallpaper was delivered to the home site. This resulted in a great saving of material and labor. In addition, even where similar plans were used, care was taken so that each house shows individual characteristics and beauty. Crains innovative method did away with guesswork in regard to the final cost of material. The ready-cut method meant â€œless effort and worry during the construction of the house, quicker construction, and dollars saved through systematic and economical manufacturing methodsâ€ according to the catalogue. And to think that this was at a time when natural gas was not yet available and the iceman still delivered 25 pound blocks for the ice box on the back porch.
Deed restrictions were designed to increase the desirability of the addition. One restriction provided that no spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors or medicated bitters capable of producing intoxication shall ever be sold, or offered for sale, on said premises.Brick, stone, or stucco exteriors were required for homes on Bellaire, Farbar, and Garnet. Buildings of frame construction were required to receive at least two coats of paint at the time of construction. Each residence had to be at least 35 feet from the front property line and all garages, barns, and servants quarters had to be at least 80 feet from the front property line. Detached garages were deemed to be desirable at that time.
Development of the second section of Southside Place, that area from Harper Street to University Boulevard, began in 1926. By August, 1928, one dozen houses had been constructed in this section. The Great Depression of 1929 slowed the development.
One promotional gimmick was the raffling of the house at 3776 Jardin Street. The houses built before the depression cost about forty percent more than those built during the depression. Some houses built during the depression included a bedroom with a door leading outside. This room could be used for boarders or relatives needing a temporary home. Built before the advent of air conditioning, the houses were situated for good cross-ventilation and had what now seems like an excess of windows. Many homes contained screened porches for summer comfort. Ceiling fans were a luxury item included in some homes. When gas became available in Southside, gas logs became the vogue.
For a while it seemed as though the depression would be the demise of Southside Place. However, as the panic ebbed, more and more people sought refuge from the discontent of urban life by building their homes in this quiet, gentle suburb. Their preference for this new neighborhood was absolutely demonstrated in June of 1931. Under the provisions of the Texas State Civil Code, the citizens had recorded a charter establishing Southside Place as an incorporated community.
The first regular meeting of the City Council of Southside Place met Monday, June 15, 1931, with Mayor T. L. Evans, Aldermen J. J. Josey, S. C. Schoverling, S. W. Greer, M. A. Stallcup and E. T. Jenn present. The first order of business was to appoint and swear in R. F. Kachtick as City Marshal. The Mayor and Aldermen volunteered their time for city business. They met regularly once a month or called special meetings as needs arose. These meetings, usually held at a council members home and sometimes at the clubhouse of the Park Association, were understandably short at times and, it is said, were always accompanied by a bottle of good bourbon. The records reflect a continued concern for the welfare and benefits of their neighbors and the community. Endeavors were made to obtain equitable utility, water and insurance rates, as well as lower trolley fares. These men did a commendable job in working with their neighbors to bring together and organize the business of their new city.
April 5, 1932, marked the first city election. All but one member were returned to office and there was a new mayor. The new council set up a board of equalization and established an ad valorem tax rate of 25-cents per 100-dollars valuation. This tax rate, though a bit higher today, reflects the trend of the city fathers to keep the cost of running the city at a minimum. The first financial report, covering the period from June 1931 to April 9, 1933, exhibits their frugality: receipts were $1,579.37 and disbursements $1,045.89.
The council, at their meeting of August 3, 1934, passed a resolution establishing Southside Place as a sovereign city under the provisions of Title 28, Article 961, of the Revised Civil Statutes of the State of Texas, in lieu of the existing Charter. They also established and set the official seal for the city. These actions were the beginning of several bold ventures undertaken by City Council over the next few years, guided by the leadership of Major J. Lindsey. Plans were drawn and construction started on City Hall. The building was dedicated and hosted its first City Council meeting in November 1935. Several additions have been made to the building to accommodate the citys growing needs but it still serves its citizens satisfactorily.
A bond election was held on April 2, 1935, for the purpose of purchasing the water system from Mr. Crain. A $20,000 bond was passed to procure the system and water department and to make any improvements and extensions. A $25,000 bond was passed to acquire the land and buildings and to make any and all improvements and additions. The transaction was culminated on May 8, 1936. Southsides have since enjoyed adequate water service at a rate often half that of their neighbors in Houston. The water tower which stands today in its vivid raiment celebrating the Bicentennial of the United States were erected as part of the improvement.
The continuum of city services forged on to meet the residental needs. A Seagraves Fire Truck was purchased in December, 1935 and the Citys volunteer fire department was established. The fire siren which calls these dedicated volunteers to duty was placed in service on February 7, 1936. The first Fire Marshal of Southside Place and one of the outstanding citizens of all times was Glen Miller. Mr. Miller came to Southside Place as construction superintendent for the developer. After completing his work of installing all utilities he was asked to stay and be the addition superintendent. After the City was incorporated, he remained as City Superintendent. Glen Miller came to be known as Mr. Southside for the people depended on him for many personal services that he always seemed happy to render.
He was asked to arbitrate family squabbles, pick up stray dogs, put out fires, inspect plumbing, heating, and electrical work, and help collect the garbage. Glen Miller knew every square inch of Southside; in a household emergency, he knew the location of every valve and pipe. He was on duty for all emergencies and would fill the duties of all the various services on a twenty-four hour a day basis. He lived in the apartment over City Hall and was on duty seven days a week. Along with all of his other duties, he was a Notary Public and often served as City Secretary. He was as indispensable an individual as anyone could ever be to the City of Southside Place. He retired during the administration of Mayor M. E. Peters and was honored with a Glen Miller Day and the traditi