History, by H. Neal Parker
The tax books contain current ownership information, and the purpose of the maps is to elucidate current ownership, not historical ownership. But since they are so old, they do provide some historical information. Someday they will probably be replaced, and the information that they contain will vanish forever, like, for example, where the gully was when it was still there.
Except for the gully, the boundary lines described in the original deeds from the Caffeys are generally north-south and east-west. Modern boundaries often deviate somewhat from the cardinal directions. A striking example is the line about 200 feet east of Detering running from Feagan to Memorial. It is about 4 degrees east of south (or west of north). The Caffeys were illiterate and probably poor, and the black families that they sold land to were probably poor. I surmise that the tracts were not, at the time of purchase, carefully surveyed with the result that tracts that were theoretically rectangles were often longer on one side than on the opposite side. And the boundaries were not exactly north-south or east-west.
George Parker purchased about 14.5 acres from the Caffeys on May 23, 1889 (44/569). His land extended from about Rose on the north to a little south of Feagan on the south. The 1895-96 city directory says that he was a charcoal dealer and that he lived on the west side of Reinerman at the end of Oak Street (now Feagan). In the 1909 city directory and again in 1915 he lives at 317 Reinerman. On July 21, 1917 he sold .85 acres to Harris County in the form of a strip 50 feet wide (384/569). It began "at a point in the center of Oak Street 276.9 feet north of his SE corner, said point being 22 feet south of the SE corner of his cottage home on Reinerman Ave." This strip was for the purpose of extending Feagan westward. Apparently George Parker lived on the NW corner of Reinerman and Feagan. The strip extended "westerly 740.3 feet to a point on an old fence line same being 185.5 feet north of an old gun barrel for Dixon's SE corner as fenced." Since the Caffey tract is 891 feet wide, this strip did not go all the way to Detering. I suspect that the street went through the 1/2 acre tracts originally sold to Cy Dillingham and Frank Washington. If you drive westward today on Feagan from Durham you will notice that it bends southward slightly at Reinerman, presumably to be able to connect to an already existing street in Rice Military (Kent Street). On April 26, 1917 George Parker sold to the trustees of Little Damascus Missionary Baptist Church for $300 a lot fronting 100 feet on Oak Street (Feagan) and 50 feet on Rusk Street (433/506). The latter street has ceased to exist. This is the building still located at 5309 Feagan. In the late 1970's it was still a functioning church. It is not now in use. George Parker sold small tracts to various people, including his children. For these sales see 299/157, 329/464, 782/253, 296/209, 327/407, 288/610, 379/104, 388/150, 754/547, 754/548, 772/605, 782/253, 811/445, 585/603.
The census is a valuable source of information about the people who lived here. In 1870 John L. Dupree is 29 years old. His wife Carrie is 24 and they have 3 children. They are white. He is a sawmill owner. George Parker is 39, black, and a teamster. He and his wife were born in Alabama and they have 2 children born in Texas. A section of the 1880 census is designated as the "Smokevill Settlement". Among those who live there are the following. Elisabeth Caffy is 60. Three unmarried children live with her: Livian, 39, blind; Francis 33; and Robert, 23, a wagoner. Charles Scott is 39, mulatto, laborer. Moses Johnson is 55, mulatto, woodchopper. John Ray is 25, mulatto, woodchopper. His wife is 25 and they have 5 daughters. George Parker is 50, mulatto, farmer. His wife Emily is 50, mulatto. They have 3 daughters and 1 son; the youngest is 3 months old. Louis Lemmons is 29, mulatto, laborer. His wife Hanna is 23 and they have 3 children. Prinz Chane is 48, black, farmer. His wife Charlotte is 50 and one son and 2 grandchildren live with them. Austin Lee is 43, black, farmer. His wife Sarah is 54, and 1 daughter and 2 grandchildren live with them. William McKissock is 27, mulatto, laborer and has 4 stepchildren. The 1895-96 city directory says that George Parker is a charcoal dealer. I believe that various people in the "Smokevill Settlement" were involved in the production of charcoal and therefore the name. In the 1880 census there is another mostly black settlement called the "Eureka Settlement" near Smokeville. There is no census for 1890. As all geneaologists know, it was destroyed in a fire in Washington in the 1920's. In the 1900 census George Parker is 70, day laborer. He and his wife Emily have been married 33 years. Three daughters Minnie, 20, Hannah, 16, and Mary, 16 live with them. Charley Scott is 57, black, oil mill laborer. He and his wife have been married 31 years and have 7 children at home from 24 years to 7 months of age. Jerry Smith is 65, black, preacher. He lives with his wife of 32 years and 2 children. Felix Crooms is 36, black, day laborer. He lives with his wife, 1 child, and 1 nephew. Austin Lee is 61, black, single and has 2 tenants, including Daniel Crooms.
The Holmes tract
There is a large tract of land just west of the intersection of Dickson and Reinerman which seems today to be idyllically out of place. One sees horses grazing in a wooded pasture. The core of this property is 5 1/2 acres purchased April 2, 1946 by Harry Holmes, Jr. from A. J. Weiss for $10,000 (1440/229). These 5 1/2 acres are the 4 1/2 acre Hurd tract bought June 25, 1892 by Henry Schmidt from H. F. Hurd and his wife S. C. Hurd (62/283) and the 1 acre Ring tract bought on the same date from H. F. Ring (62/284). This property subsequently came to be owned by A. J. Weiss, who on May 26, 1926 conveyed a right of way to Harris County (658/561). This right of way was an exception to the sale to Harry Holmes, Jr. The Holmes are a prominent local family, one of best known members of which is Johnny Holmes, former Harris County district attorney. After 1946 they acquired other adjoining property, but I never determined precisely what they own(ed). See 2139/660.
I am particularly interested in William Fuchs because in 1988 I purchased a house on the NW corner of Sandman and Rose (803 Sandman), where he lived after he purchased 3 lots (1, 2, and 3 of block 37) from Herman Loock on October 3, 1905 "together with all improvements" for $1300 (183/19). On March 17, 1900 Grace Darling had sold lots 1-5 of block 37 and other lots to Elizabeth A. Fisher for $2000 (123/410), and on March 12, 1901, Charles N. Fisher and Elizabeth A. Fisher had sold lots 1, 2, and 3 to Herman Loock (127/249). According to the City Directory for 1900-01, Herman Loock is a blacksmith who lives at 2219 Union. In 1902-03 he is a dairyman, who lives on the NW corner of Sandman and Rose in Brunner. In 1903-04 he is again a blacksmith living in the same place. In 1905-06 he resides at 1918 Center. In 1907 William Fuchs is living at 803 Sandman. He has a meat market at 4906 Washington. August Fuchs lives a few blocks away at 4903 Cedar (now Gibson). In 1908-09 Mrs. Christina Fuchs, the widow of August, is living with William Fuchs at 803 Sandman. His meat market is now at 4401 Washington. On September 3, 1909 he purchased 2 more lots (lots 4, 5) on the same block from J. D. McLelland for $450 (239/297). He now owns the southern half of block 37. (On July 7, 1902 Elizabeth A. Fisher and husband Charles N. Fisher had sold lots 4 and 5 to R. C. Gray (145/71), who sold it to McLelland (223/637).)
In 1910-11 William Fuchs still lives at 803 Sandman but Mrs. Christina Fuchs is living next door at 805 Sandman, which is also in William Fuch's original purchase from Herman Loock. He has a second meat market at 4719 Washington. Similarly in 1911-12. Additionally Arnold Prause is a meat cutter and is living as a boarder at 803 Sandman. In 1913 William Fuchs still lives on the corner and 805 is occupied by someone else. It seems obvious that Mrs. Christina Fuchs is William Fuch's mother. Probably by 1913 she has died. By 1915 Arnold Prause is living at 805. I surmised that William Fuchs had a nubile daughter and that she married the boarder, at which time they moved into the house next door originally built for her grandmother. By 1920 Arnold Prause had moved to 817 Sandman, the SW corner of Sandman and Lillian, where he lived for many years. By 1923 William Fuchs no longer lives at 803, but a Frank Fuchs still lives at 805.
The corner house at 803 Sandman originally consisted of 2 rooms separated by a wide hallway. It faced east. I assume that it was built about 1902 by Herman Loock. Certain details of the construction suggest strongly that it was not built by professional carpenters. It was added onto 3 separate times, and by the late 20's had its present form. About 1947 it was purchased by the Jackson family. I knew it as Mr. Jackson's house, because when I arrived in the neighborhood in 1977, Mr. (John) Jackson lived there. In 1988 I bought it from a lawyer, who had recently bought it from Mr. Jackson's younger brother, Norvell Jackson, who had inherited it. The lawyer was intending to consolidate 3 lots, and was waiting to make an offer on the middle lot (805 Sandman) until it had been on the market for a while (soften up the seller), but I bought the middle lot and therefore, unintentionally, ruined his plan. A few months later he offered me the corner lot on attractive terms (no down payment, interest only loan).
The Jackson's were definitely not home improvement sort of folk. The house when I got it was essentially unchanged from the late 1920's. The electric meter was inside the front door on the east side of the house and under it was a 2-circuit cast iron fuse box. Most rooms had a light bulb hanging from a cord, and 2 or 3 plugs had been grafted into the original circuitry. The bathroom (the last addition) was on a latticed-in back porch. The wall paper might have been 50 years old. I added new wiring, new plumbing, heating and a/c. I made certain concessions to modernity like closets, but my goal was to restore the house to its original form. I had to rebuild the porch (rotten floor and joists) and I incorporated it into the house, but I left the bathroom in the same corner where it was, though it is now a bit bigger. I feel very confident that the bathroom was added in the late 1920's. The original toilet (still there) was dated Nov '27 underneath the base and the original bathtub (unusable) was dated Oct 13, 1928, and on February 19, 1929, William Fuchs granted to the City of Houston an easement 4 feet wide across the lot occupied by 805 Sandman for the purpose of constructing a sanitary sewer to the house.
There is a small 2-story dwelling facing Rose (5006 Rose) on the rear of the lot. The address first appears in the city directories in 1940, but the building may have been built earlier. It was built as a garage apartment on a poured beam with a dirt floor. According to Norvell Jackson, by the late 40's the bottom part of the walls --- very close to the ground --- had rotted and the building was leaning westward toward the church. The building was jacked up, a concrete floor was poured inside the original poured beam, the lower part of the walls was trimmed to remove rotten parts and the building was set back down. The garage was converted to living space, which has a lower than normal ceiling due to the trimming.
The land on which Messiah Lutheran Church is located today was sold to the board of elders on February 21, 1924 by William Fuchs for $2000 (563/387). The congregation built a beautiful building with wooden siding painted white which was demolished in the mid 1960's to build the present building. There is a very nice picture of it in the current building, which also shows the house at 803 Sandman and the garage apartment at 5006 Rose.
In 1995 I was approached by a real estate agent who indicated that a client was interested in purchasing the house. I sold the house to Harold Hollis, who was aware that it had belonged to his great-grandfather, William Fuchs. Harold confirmed that what I had surmised about Arnold Prause and William Fuch's nubile daughter was correct.
The house next door at 805 Sandman was originally a 2 room house facing south. I assume that it was built by William Fuchs for his widowed mother about 1910. There was a porch on the south side. It was added onto twice, and it now faces east. The second addition dates from about 1947, when Arnold Prause's daughter, Betty Cook, moved into the house shortly after her marriage. When I bought the house in 1988, she still held the mortgage associated with a previous purchaser. In 1988 there was a sturdy 2-car garage on the lot between 805 and 817, which was being supplied electricity from 805. The four lots on the west side of Sandman between Rose and Lillian had been associated with one family, off and on, for a very long period of time.
According to Harold, William Fuch's butcher shop still exists, though not at 4401 Washington, now occupied by the Laredo Taquería. The building was moved a few blocks west and it is now a bar on the SW corner of Washington and Birdsall called Jack's Place. The Alamo Motel on Washington immediately west of Jack's Place used to have a sign which I especially liked: "Last Courts to Town".
William Fuchs was actively involved in property acquisition. Specifically by 1912 he had consolidated a tract of 10 1/2 acres in the Caffey tract, as mentioned above. Today a big chunk of the southern part of that tract is occupied by the Hillside Condos and by Memorial Drive. The Covington map of 1930 indicates that at that time, Memorial Drive ended just west of Reinerman. On February 19, 1923, William Fuchs subdivided the northernmost part of that tract, creating the Fuchs Addition (523/545). A. C. Stimson was the surveyor, and the one east-west street in the addition was named Stimson (now Chandler). The lots, all between Chandler and northern boundary of Fuch's property, are slightly irregular in shape but are basically 50 feet x 100 feet. There are 20 of them. Five face Reinerman; five are on the east side of Arnold; five are on the west side; and five are on the east side of Ida Bell, a street which no longer exists. Three of these last five lots have been occupied for many years by a commercial building facing Chandler, which until recently was occupied by the Carl Poe Co., owned by C. W. Poe, one of William Fuch's great-grandsons. He lives at 99 Reinerman.