Arizona Fleming was born in Richmond, Texas, on March 23, 1884. She was the daughter of Beauregard (Bully) and Laura Fleming.
Fleming attended segregated schools through 12th grade and then moved to Seguin to attend Guadalupe College, an all-black school. After college, she worked at Seagul Laundry in Houston as a bookkeeper for four years, then returned to Richmond to establish the Fort Bend Fraternal Undertaking Company in 1927.
Fleming served as secretary and manager of the Fort Bend Fraternal Undertaking Company in Richmond and after a number of years became the sole proprietor. During the Great Depression, her uncle helped her establish a good credit rating, and she eventually owned her own home. In the 1950s, she became instrumental in reestablishing the African American vote in Fort Bend County. Her name regularly appeared in the records of civil rights efforts to end local voter discrimination. Fleming became secretary of the newly-formed Fort Bend Civic Club, which was organized to get out the black vote in the 1950 election. She went house to house to encourage voters; 80 percent of eligible black voters participated in the election. When black participation was challenged, Fleming helped fund the case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Though they received funds from numerous Fort Bend black churches and business leaders from around the state, Fleming herself made substantial financial and emotional contributions to the cause. When the high court ruled in favor of the appellants on May 4, 1953, Fleming’s work had helped firmly secure Fort Bend County blacks’ right to vote.
It was said that Fleming’s personal finances were depleted in the fight to vote. “I’d do it all over again,” she was reported to say. She died penniless in Richmond on January 18, 1976 and is buried in Mount Carmel Baptist Church cemetery. In 1994, FBISD opened the Arizona Fleming Elementary School in her honor.
NOTE: This biography is currently on display at the Fort Bend Museum as part of the "Triumphs & Tribulations: African American History in Fort Bend County" exhibit. The exhibit will run through May 26, 2018.
Though their backgrounds, families and locations were diverse, they were united in the cause to create this new organization. Without a centralized advocate for sharing and preserving Fort Bend County history, that rich heritage known first-hand to so many of them was in danger of being lost.
“The purpose for which the corporation is formed is to support an educational undertaking and to support and maintain a place where historical, patriotic, civic, educational and other scientific collections may be housed [and] to increase and diffuse a knowledge and appreciation of history, art and science,” the charter document reads.
The new organization’s purpose was also to preserve objects with historic, artistic and/or scientific interests and to offer “popular instruction and opportunities for education and esthetic enjoyment.”
Its name: Fort Bend County Museum Association.
For the past 50 years, the Association has been working diligently to achieve those goals as set forth in the founding document. It owns and operates the Fort Bend Museum in downtown Richmond, and its adjacent 1883 Moore Home and 1850s Long-Smith Cottage. It houses a collection of more than 40,000 artifacts and archival items, with particularly significant collections on topics of Stephen F. Austin's Texas Colony (1821-1836), ranching and black cowboy traditions. It runs the educational programs at the George Ranch Historical Park, the internationally-recognized living history museum that welcomed more than 61,500 visitors in the first 11 months of 2016. It operates an avocational archeological society, the programs at the DeWalt Heritage Center in Missouri City, and several historic structures, including the turn-of-the-century train depot, at Decker Park in downtown Richmond.
"Though the Museum Association has grown larger through the past 50 years, the passion of the volunteers, employees and supporters has not lessened one bit. We are still just as excited about preserving and sharing the history of this county and its people as we were back in 1967 when the Association was chartered,” said Executive Director Claire Rogers.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, next Saturday's Lone Star Stomp will have a fun 1967 theme of "Peace, Love & Texas." If you haven't bought tickets yet, we still have a few seats available! With live music by The Triumphs, a fun 1960s-inspired menu by The Swinging Door, live and silent auctions (watch your email for a preview coming this week!), signature cocktails and more, it's going to be a 50th birthday party to remember! Click here to learn more about the Lone Star Stomp, or call the Museum Association's Administrative Offices at 281-342-1256.
Happy birthday, Fort Bend County Museum Association!
In the late 1870s, Lottie traveled to Virginia to attend the Wesleyan Female Seminary, a respected academy for well-to-do young ladies. Here she received accolades for her fine artistic skills, and when Lottie returned to Texas she was a polished and accomplished lady. Later, she attended Baylor's Female Academy, where considerable emphasis was placed on music training. Lessons were taught in piano, harp, guitar, and voice. Lottie became an accomplished musician, and in later life passed down this legacy to her children.
Upon returning to Fort Bend County from Waco, the now graceful and educated young woman was courted by an up-and-coming businessman named John Moore. In 1882, a shadow was cast on the courtship as she struggled with the early loss her father, James Foster Dyer, who died at the age fifty-five. Perhaps at the encouragement of their mother, both Clara and Lottie traveled to Tennessee to visit relatives the following year. Here, Lottie was met with another devastating blow – news of their mother’s death was announced to the daughters during their visit to Nashville.
In a letter Lottie penned to her beau in Texas, she wrote: I am feeling very badly and you are the only one I could possibly think of seeing…but I feel that you do realize and sympathize with me in my terrible loss and affliction, and of course will be glad to see you.
John Moore quickly arrived Nashville. One week later, the orphaned 18-year-old was joined with him in matrimony at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. The newlyweds left the heat of the summer in the city and arrived in the mountain town of Sewanee for their honeymoon. Upon their return to Texas, Lottie was informed of her immense inheritance, which included her grandmother Nancy Spencer’s league of land and a large number of cattle. This enabled the newlyweds to begin plans for a large home, to be built on an entire square block in the city of Richmond. By 1884, they had moved in to the grand and romantic house which took its architectural influences from both the Italianate and Queen Anne styles.
John and Lottie were anxious to get settled, as she was expecting a child in the summer of 1884. On June 19, 1884, Lottie gave birth to a baby boy, whom the parents named Maxwell. A few days later, they would stand at his graveside in Morton Cemetery as he was laid to rest. The following year, they welcomed a robust son whom they named Raymond. Two years later, a daughter named Ivy was born. James Foster Dyer Moore, named after Lottie’s father, was born in 1890, and he was soon followed by John Moore, Jr., born in 1892. The youngest, another daughter, was born in 1894. She was christened Henrietta (Etta Mae,) after John’s mother.
Throughout this time of pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing, Lottie maintained her social status in the community as was fitting for a women of her stature. In her gracious drawing room she entertained neighbors and important visitors to Richmond, and hosted musical events and grand parties. She was instrumental in the founding of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, and the growing congregation met in the Moore home until a church sanctuary was built across the street on land donated by John and Lottie.
One can imagine the amount of order needed to raise five rambunctious children under age ten in the Moore household. The family’s wealth enabled Lottie to hire domestic help, which included cooks, nannies, housemaids, serving staff, and governesses. Staff would also attend the family as they traveled the country during the summer months to escape the stifling Texas heat.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, John Moore had established himself both commercially and politically, and in 1905, he was elected to the U.S. Congress. This would dramatically change life for Lottie as she was elevated into a prominent position as wife of a prominent political figure.
Note: This information originally appeared in the 2016 exhibit "Progressive & Prosperous: The Moore Family During the Edwardian Era."
Still looking for a few more items to complete your Christmas list? Share your love of Fort Bend County history this year! The Museum gift shop has a little something for everyone. A few of our favorites:
Born in the Bend - Child Onesies & T-shirts
Perfect for your favorite Fort Bend County tots! (Super cute AND you can feel great that $5 from every purchase goes directly to the Museum!)
Historic Toy Stocking Stuffers
Sometimes the simple toys are the best. Graces (always a kid favorite), cornhusk dolls, hand fans, slates, Jacob's ladders and more can be found in the gift shop!
Moore Home Ornament
Hang a little piece of Fort Bend County history on your Christmas tree! The ornament is available with or without the shimmery translucent background.
We can all agree that somehow, the old-fashioned candy is still the best!
A One-Year Membership
Give the gift of Fort Bend County history! Members receive a year of free admission to the Fort Bend Museum and George Ranch Historical Park, plus tickets to the Texian Market Days festival, special discounts, invitations to members-only events and more! You can buy a membership online or call 281-342-1256 for more information.
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!