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."
By CHRIS GODBOLD
Chief Curator of Collections
When Churchill Fulshear, an ex-sailor, came to Texas in 1824, he received a land grant from the Mexican government in what is now north Fort Bend County. He died just seven years later, but his children — Mary, Benjamin, Graves and Churchill, Jr. — carried on his legacy. Benjamin, Graves and Churchill, Jr. participated in the Texas Revolution, scouting the Mexican army as it crossed the Brazos River. Churchill, Jr. also fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. Churchill, Jr. and his wife Minerva had five children and, by 1850, were prominent landowners and cotton farmers. (Churchill, Jr. had inherited land from his father and also purchased land from his siblings.) He built a large house on his property, a school, a cotton gin and a flour mill. He also became well known for his horse-racing ventures. He built a race track on his property called “Churchill Downs” and raced horses there from 1850 to 1870.
Other communities nearby also competed for settlers to north Fort Bend County. Just three miles north of Fulshear, Pittsville had about 200 people living there in 1860. The town was named for the Pitts family, who operated a store and distributed the mail. All of the mail for people in the surrounding area went to the Pittsville post office which was founded in 1870. Merchants, doctors, schoolteachers, ranchers, farmers, a blacksmith shop and more could all be found in Pittsville. Prominent Pittsville families included the Bains, Walkers, Nesbitts, Cumings, Hugginses, Brookshires, Harrises and Pools.
In the late 1880s, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass (SA&AP) Railroad approached landowners in Pittsville and asked them to provide the railroad right-of-way. They said no. The railroad then approached Churchill Fulshear, Jr., who agreed to give right-of-way through his land. The town of Fulshear then grew up around the railroad and was laid out in 1890. Settlers from Pittsville and the surrounding towns moved to Fulshear to get closer to the railroad.
The Fulshear school district was established in 1893 and a Methodist Church, which still exists, began services in 1894. By the early 1900s, there were several general stores, a barber shop, doctor, drug store, blacksmith, saloon, hotel, post office and telephone company in addition to the school and Methodist Church. Fulshear had a population of approximately 250 persons and grew to 300 by 1929. The population dropped during the Great Depression and stayed low until the population of Houston started spreading to outlying communities in the late 1970s. Fulshear was incorporated in 1977. The last resident left Pittsville in 1947; all that is left is a marker on FM 359 north of Fulshear.
By SHEREEN SAMPSON
Fort Bend Museum Site Manager
A differing approach to historic house museums has become a hot topic of conversation among public historians, due in part to recent scholarly works such as The Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums.
When we examine the John and Lottie Moore Home, do we see a house that was filled with five rambunctious children? Or instead do we see a house filled with precious furniture behind velvet ropes? The goal of the Fort Bend Museum is to bring to life what the interior would have truly looked like during the Edwardian period in the Moore Home, at the time when John Moore was elected to Congress and the house was re-designed in its current Classical Revival style.
The public may be surprised by the brilliant colors of both wallpaper and wall-to-wall rugs during this time period, and might be astonished to hear of the dictated societal norms in the decade prior to the beginning of WWI. Calling cards, portières, tortuous stays, the crackling sounds of a phonograph, Edwardian entertainments, and new-fangled electric lights will all be part of the visitors’ experience when the Moore Home is brought back to 1905.
Join us on Saturday, May 7 from 3-6 p.m. for our very first Southern Garden Party. The event will honor longtime docent and Fort Bend Museum founder Billie Harris Wendt -- plus, funds raised during the event will go exclusively toward the restoration of the Moore Home! Tickets cost $45 for general public, $40 for members, $30 for docents and $15 for children (ages 5-12). A limited number of reserved tables for eight are available for $500 each.
To buy tickets, please call 281-342-6478 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you there!
We have so many great things in store for you in 2016. This Sunday, we're officially kicking off the new year with our first exhibit featuring local artist Fran Knueppel. If you can't make it to the opening, you're definitely going to want to stop by and marvel at her creations! But back to the calendar: We are super excited about the programs, events and projects on tap for 2016 and we know you will be, too. Our top six, in no particular order:
A Southern Garden Party
Brazos Cultural Heritage Festival
Our new outreach venture, this event will be held in Decker Park and will bring together the diverse cultures that were prominent in Fort Bend County during its formative years, as well as include the new wave of cultures that have helped create one of the most diverse counties in the country. This will be a fun, family-friendly event with food, drink, and entertainment centered around German, Czech and other cultures. May 21. Decker Park.
Texian Market Days
The Restoration of the Moore Home
Plans are underway to restore the interior of the 1883 Moore Home to its Edwardian appearance, which will bring the home back to the beauty and gracefulness of that era. Historically-accurate wallpaper, light fixtures, floor treatments and other furnishings will be carefully edited to provide the tour guests with an experience unlike any other in our region. The family of Congressman John Moore, including his wife Lottie and five children, will come alive again as guests tour the home furnished as it would have appeared during the years 1905-1910.
Lone Star Stomp
...and so much more!
Okay...we really tried to narrow it down to the top six, but that leaves out way too much. There's still Bites and Brews, the lecture series (the first of which takes place on Feb. 5 and features Virginia Davis Scarborough!), summer history programs for the kiddos, the Candlelight Tours, new exhibits and SO. MUCH. MORE. Stay connected with us this year -- we'd love to have you get involved as a volunteer, a docent, a member or part of the Fort Bend Archeological Society. We're looking forward to experiencing 2016 with you!