By Melinda Narro
Fort Bend Museum Intern
Tomorrow, the Fort Bend Museum will host its annual Candlelight Tours of the historic Moore home. With the entire first story decked in holiday décor, guests can stroll from room to room while learning about different Christmastime traditions throughout Texas—and, on their way out, enjoy the romantic glow lent to the Museum grounds by soft, flickering candlelight.
Whether it’s at baptisms, vigils, anniversary dinners or even birthday parties, today we tend to light candles only for special occasions; electricity serves to meet our daily illumination needs. But when did Texans start to shift their allegiance from the old standard of wax and wicks to glistening glass bulbs? Although Galveston led the charge by building the state’s first electric power plant in the 1880s, industrial development in Texas progressed slowly. Only in the 1920s did the electric power industry truly begin to boom statewide, and yet another decade would pass before rural electrification efforts gained steam. Interestingly, in Fort Bend County, both Richmond and Rosenberg were among those lucky Texas towns at the forefront of electrical innovation.
Electric lights blazed to life in Richmond for the first time on January 19, 1898, and the pioneering Richmond Electric Company received its charter the following year. Rosenberg’s electrification came by way of an ambitious West Virginia transplant, W.C. Czigan, who, along with partner J.A. Sadler, founded C & S Light & Power Company in 1912. On a Sunday morning in May, Czigan personally threw the switch that turned on 40 “drop cord type lights” installed in Rosenberg’s newly dedicated Baptist church. He later estimated that most of Rosenberg’s population of less than 1,000 attended this momentous event, recalling, “You never heard such cheering in your life.” Knowing the community’s excitement must have helped Czigan and Sadler power through the challenges of being the city’s only electrical enterprise: for years, the two men singlehandedly wired homes, sold light bulbs, read meters, and managed customer accounts. One particularly trying incident saw Czigan staring down the gun of a tardy bill payer when he attempted to cut service to the man’s gambling hall!
Come kick off the holiday season with us at the Museum tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. All ages are welcome, and the Wells Fargo stagecoach will also be on hand for old-timey rides! For more information, click here.
The Candlelight Tours are this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but we'll let you have a sneak peek at the decorations today! This year's theme is "How Santa Came to Texas" and each room in the 1883 Moore Home will tell the story of Santa through the eyes of the different cultures of Fort Bend County. For instance, do you know what flying pigs and carp have in common with Christmas?
We hope you'll join us on Saturday to learn about all the different cultural traditions for Christmas! Click here for more information. Tickets at the gate are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. (And after the Tours, be sure to check out the Miracle on Morton Street holiday festival just a couple of blocks from us! There will be food trucks, live entertainment, craft booths and more -- and it's FREE!)
Civic engagement seems to run in Richmond’s Moore family, perhaps even when certain individuals weren’t so keen on it. John Moore, Sr., whose 1883 mansion still stands on the grounds of the Fort Bend Museum, served in both the Texas Legislature (1896-1898) and as a representative for the state's 8th Congressional District (1905-1913). The elder Moore’s youngest son, John Moore, Jr., followed in his namesake’s footsteps, first assuming the role of county judge between 1933 and 1936 and subsequently becoming mayor of Richmond.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle was the could-have-been mayoral tenure of John Foster Dyer Moore, commonly known around town as “J.F.D.” or simply “Dyer."
On Friday, October 8, 1926, the Texas Coaster reported that J.F.D. Moore had been chosen as Richmond’s next mayor. “This was a special election,” noted the article, “Mayor Wessendorff having resigned…plead(ing) that his private affairs demanded his time.”
J.F.D. and newly-appointed city commissioner Ernest Farmer were both optimistically described as “popular young men who have an abundance of time and ability to fill the positions.” However, neither rising politico had yet offered a public statement—the Coaster somewhat sheepishly admitted that the pair were still away after departing on Thursday morning to visit San Antonio: “Some say they went to look into the latest wrinkles in city government, while others contend they just left town in order to avoid making a speech of acceptance or giving a barbecue or something. Still, that can be looked into when they come back.”
One week later, the Coaster glumly announced that the anticipated Moore mayor-dom (and possible celebratory barbecue) was not to be. Echoing the words of Mr. Wessendorff, J.F.D. told the paper that, “on account of his private affairs demanding his entire time and attention, he would not be able to qualify,” although he stressed his deep appreciation for the “honor and confidence reposed in him by the citizens of Richmond.” Happily, Ernest Farmer accepted his commissionership without incident, and, given that Richmond went on to elect three more Mayor Moores, the city doesn’t appear to have held a grudge.
By MELINDA NARRO
Fort Bend Museum Intern
For some of us, the most exhilarating part of Halloween is the illicit thrill of staying up late and pounding pavements after dark on a quest for fun-sized candy. There are some people, though, who crave a different, spookier type of excitement—the kind of hair-raising, spine-tingling jolt that can be found in scary movies, ghost stories, and haunted houses.
While we tend to think of Victorian-era America as a fairly buttoned-up, no-nonsense place, the mid-to-late 1800s witnessed a surging interest in all things supernatural. Writers (including Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allen Poe) populated their prose with monsters and apparitions, while the Spiritualist movement encouraged individuals to seek contact with dead loved ones through spirit photographers and séances. The Lone Star State was no exception to this trend, and residents’ appetite for the eerie was evident in Texas media by the time John and Lottie Moore settled in Richmond in the 1880s.
Tales of encounters with spirits appeared in 19th-century Texas press as both journalistic accounts and as fiction. For example, in 1889 a haunted house narrative titled “Dolph Heyliger,” penned by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving, ran in serialized installments in three town newspapers.
Those more keen to learn about real-world phenomena could often find their fix in the same pages, nestled among more mundane stories about crops and commerce. In 1881, the Galveston Daily News broke from describing Richmond’s “copious rains” and Ennis' “abundance of peaches at market” to mention the hubbub surrounding a haunted house in Tyler where rocks fell from nowhere through the roof, knives and forks stood up on end and ran around, and various other objects mysteriously moved about the premises. Eight years later, Dallas’ Southern Mercury reported that the town of Sherman had a haunted house in a listing of statewide news; this chilling fact was placed unceremoniously between descriptions of the cotton yield in Wise County and Blanco County’s successful goat industry.
When Texas offered no frights of its own, local papers picked up stories of specters from as far afield as Alabama, Connecticut, and Colorado. If all this creepy coverage failed to satisfy, readers could further pursue the paranormal by attending advertised events such as an 1888 séance led by “noted spirit mediums” at El Paso’s Myar Opera House, or a one-night-only performance by “World-Famed Mind Reader” J. Randall Brown in Denison.
Whether your Halloween is tame or terrifying, we hope you enjoy a fun, safe holiday among good friends! And if you’re still looking for something special to do, there’s still time to get on board for either the Black & White Masquerade (Friday; ages 21+) or Miss Ivy's Spooktacular Halloween Party (Saturday; family-friendly) going on at the Fort Bend Museum this weekend!
Check out the Texian Market Days website for lots of additional information, and we’ll look forward to seeing you on Saturday at the Ranch!
By Melinda Narro
Fort Bend Museum Intern
Have you already picked a costume and mapped out your trick-or-treating route? Been limbering up your jaw to prepare for an onslaught of gooey sweets? The month of October is upon us, and with it comes everyone’s favorite night for all things sugary and spooky: Halloween. This year, the Fort Bend Museum will host a pair of special events to mark the occasion, with the eerily-decorated Moore Mansion serving as a setting for both. Guests aged 21+ can enjoy an evening of music, dancing, and libations at the Black & White Masquerade on Friday, October 28, while games, crafts, and tasty goodies for all ages await attendees of Miss Ivy’s Spooktacular Halloween Party on October 29. To gear up for the frightful fun, let’s take a look at how these festivities stack up against historical Halloweens here in Fort Bend County.
Although widely popular today, Halloween’s place in the pantheon of American holidays is relatively recent. With an eclectic ancestry blending ancient Celtic rites and later Christian traditions, the celebration made its way overseas and into the national consciousness with Scottish and Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s. However, two major components of our modern Halloween—candy and trick-or-treating—didn’t appear until much later; in fact, before the late 1940s, they played very little role in typical Halloween revelry. Instead, children and adults gathered for evening socials that featured themed décor, an array of activities, and belly-filling drinks and desserts.
In 1930, for example, guests at the Rosenberg American Legion’s Halloween soiree competed in Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Black-Cat before indulging in midnight coffee and doughnuts. Other area events offered similarly hearty fare, including chili and rolls, hot chocolate, and chocolate cake. Children attending the Richmond P.T.A.’s Halloween party boogied to live music and bobbed for apples “amid shouts of laughter, spattering water everywhere.” According to the Texas Coaster, kids also eagerly queued for a chance to enter “the old witch den, where a true Hallowe’en witch dwelt with her snakes, owls and bats and told fortunes.” Private homes and public facilities alike were adorned with “weird figures hung about the walls,” including ghosts, witches, black cats and bats, all illuminated by the “soft yellow glow” of jack-o’-lanterns.
If this sounds like a hair-raisingly good time to you, we think you’ll love the old-fashioned amusements the Museum has in store for October 28 and 29. For additional details or to purchase tickets, check out the Black & White Masquerade and Miss Ivy's Spooktacular Halloween Party event pages. And...stay tuned for a future post about Texans and the paranormal!
By Melinda Narro
Fort Bend Museum Intern
As students traipse reluctantly back to school and summer’s scorching heat begins to ebb ever so slightly, the attention of many Texans shifts to that most beloved and ubiquitous of autumn institutions. No, not pumpkin spice lattes—American football!
Yes, this time of year inevitably finds a large percentage of the Lone Star State, and the country as a whole, glued to the gridiron. Texas enjoys a national reputation as home to truly hardcore football fanatics, a perception no doubt strengthened by films like Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights. But did you know that our state has a rich history of baseball that stretches back to the 1860s? That’s right; as Bill McCurdy of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame puts it, “there was an ancient time in which baseball was king,” and a Fort Bend County newspaper from the early 1900s reveals that enthusiasm was not so different from what we see in modern bleachers.
Published in the Texas Coaster on August 26th, 1904, an article headlined “Best Ball Ever Played” captures Richmond in the throes of baseball fever. It describes the exploits of the hometown Richmond Maroons in a four-day series battling opponents from around the state, including teams from Eagle Lake, Luling, San Antonio, Hempstead, and Houston—the same city that, on Texas Independence Day of 1868, squared off against Galveston at the San Jacinto Battlegrounds in the earliest documented baseball game in Texas. The author reports that, after a sobering 10-to-4 defeat by Eagle Lake on Monday, Richmond claimed “vengeance” with a win in Tuesday’s rematch. But the clear source of the story’s triumphant title, not to mention the author’s glee, comes on Wednesday: a down-to-the-wire “battle royale,” tied up 9-9 in the bottom of the 9th, culminating in a 10th-inning run that clinched victory for the Maroons. “It was the most exciting tip toe game ever played on this diamond,” wrote the author. “The ladies in the grandstand stood up on the seat and punched men in the eyes with their umbrellas. Excitement went wild, and the men, women, and children are too hoarse to converse.”
So the next time you scream yourself speechless over a sack or accidentally cold-cock your neighbor with a first down fist-pump, be proud: you’re carrying on a century-long legacy of Texans getting worked up over ball games.
1) Take a deep breath: …and appreciate the fact that you can! Women’s torsos had yet to escape the rib-crushing squeeze of corsets at this time. Even when the well-defined “wasp waist” fell out of favor after 1907, the new vogue for longer dresses with slim silhouettes caused corsets to increase in length, making sitting comfortably a challenge.
4) Curl up with a good book: With television still many decades distant and radio barely in its infancy, novels helped fill the leisure hours of Edwardian-era Americans. Lottie Moore, a prodigious reader, would have had plenty of great books to choose from—works published during this time period include Call of the Wild, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and multiple Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
5) Get reacquainted with Jack and Rose: Pop in a DVD of Titanic to marvel at the posh accommodations enjoyed by wealthy passengers aboard ocean liners. While the Titanic sank to a watery grave in 1912, other technological innovations of the early 1900s revolutionized transportation for generations to come—namely, the Wright brothers’ airplane (1903) and Henry Ford’s Model T automobile (1908).
Interested in learning more? Progressive and Prosperous runs through December, so make a point to stop by and see the exhibit for yourself!
One major focus in coverage of the Moore weddings is their use of a unifying color scheme. Raymond’s marriage to Mary Dee Lum featured a then-popular green and white theme that extended from decorations at the Methodist church to the bridesmaids’ dresses of pale green silk. Even refreshments at their reception followed the pattern, with guests enjoying white, heart-shaped cakes served atop green ferns on white china. John Jr. and Etta May stuck with this elegant palette for their own ceremonies, but both added pops of pink through food, the bridal party’s attire, and floral elements. (The Houston Post was especially smitten with Etta May’s artful arrangements of dainty green vines, pink Kilarney roses and white Easter lilies--among other beautiful botanicals.)
Much like the green and white motif, highly elaborate white bridal gowns appear repeatedly at Moore weddings. The different components Etta May’s dress read like an inventory for a luxury fabric shop, including two varieties of white satin, royal velvet, Venetian and Chantilly lace, cloth of silver, and embroidered accents of crystal and pearls. Mary Lum and Dorothea Guenther, John Jr.’s wife, introduce muslin, chiffon, and crepe de chine to the mix of materials, not to mention diamonds in the form of a starburst pin Mary used to secure her veil. For her part, Etta May donned a veil of French tulle, while Dorothea opted for one of lace swept into a demure Juliet cap; Ivy Moore’s long veil cascaded, fittingly, from a wreath of flowers perched in her dark hair. In an echo of Queen Victoria’s much-celebrated 1840 marriage, which had helped standardize white as the fashionable hue for bridal garments, Dorothea and Etta May’s ensembles both incorporated orange blossoms, a symbol of fertility.
For all their gossip-worthy glamour, these extravagant affairs also illustrate how tightly knit the Moore clan remained even as it expanded. Ivy shared a group bridal shower with brother John Foster Dyer’s fiancée, Lida Lum Davis, and performed the song “All Because I Love You” at their wedding; she later served as matron of honor at Etta May’s ceremony, where J.F.D. and Lida pitched in by greeting and directing guests and Dorothea took charge of dishing out dessert. In the end—and color-coordinated cakes aside—Moore weddings boiled down to a simple celebration of family old and new.
By Melinda Narro
Fort Bend Museum Intern
John Matthew Moore began his career in Congress in 1905 at the age of 43—coincidentally, the same age that the nation’s then-Commander-in-Chief, Theodore Roosevelt, had become President after his own predecessor was assassinated. However, unlike President Roosevelt, who was famed for his larger-than-life personality and impassioned speechmaking, Moore left his mark on the American political landscape in a much less boisterous fashion.
During his seven years in Congress, Moore never made a spectacle of himself on the House floor. Instead, the modest, well-liked Richmond businessman went pragmatically about the work of, as he put it, representing “the best interests of the whole people of the district.” A staunch Democrat, Moore lent steady support to his party’s national initiatives, including lowering tariffs, enlarging the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and ensuring speedy completion of the unfinished Panama Canal. At the same time, his focus never strayed far from directly serving what he deemed “one of the best districts of the best State in the Union.” Moore’s diligent efforts helped secure federal appropriations for a variety of civic projects in East Texas, most notably waterway improvements on Buffalo Bayou, the Brazos and Trinity rivers, and the Galveston ship channel. He also rustled up funding to construct a Federal Building in Houston and a post office in Navasota, as well as increasing rural mail delivery routes within his district.
By the time John Moore announced his retreat from Washington politics, a new, much embattled President, William Howard Taft, sat in the Oval Office. Democrats had recently wrested House control from Republican hands for the first time in more than a decade, and the past several years had witnessed an uptick in progressive-versus-conservative squabbling and intra-party rifts. Amidst such noisy conflict, Moore’s legacy of quiet, effective collaboration with his Congressional colleagues—what the Houston Post dubbed his “Get Results” approach—must have seemed especially notable and praiseworthy. “The people of Houston,” the Post declared in concluding its 1912 article, “will remember gratefully his splendid service on (their) behalf."