Chandler

The first time Goose Creek stream appears on a map was on the 1828 Alexander Thompson survey of Trinity Bay. Stephen F Austin also showed it on his 1830 map which he had assembled over a period of years to promote colonization of his grant from the Mexican government. 

Some of the early arrivals to the place which would become known as Goose Creek were awarded the original land grants, William Scott and Harvey Whiting. Both men have streets in Baytown named for them. 

Goose Creek was home to several other notable figures. To name just a few, Mary Jones was the widow of Texas President Anson Jones, Thomas Gaillard owned the land which would later become the Goose Creek oil field, Thomas Chubb built the Confederate shipyard on Goose Creek, and Hance Baker and Gilbert Brooks were founding members of Cedar Bayou Methodist Church and Masonic Lodge. There were others too numerous to mention which will have to wait for a future article. 

The 1850 census shows about a hundred people living in the Goose Creek neighborhood. Most were farmers but there were also sailors, carpenters, two doctors, a gunsmith, and a schooner master. By 1860 there were still farmers but there was also two doctors, two attorneys, a teacher, a Methodist minister, a magistrate, a lighthouse keeper, a merchandiser, and several mechanics (to operate the sawmills and steamboats).

Goose Creek was the name used for the precinct which included almost all of east Harris County from the San Jacinto River north to Crosby. The 1841 election for president and vice president of the Republic of Texas was held at Benjamin Page’s house with Page serving as presiding officer. From 1844 through 1849, the elections were moved to Ashbel Smith’s house. This was a convenient location since most travel was by boat because of poor or non existent roads and Smith lived on the bay shore just west of today’s Evergreen Golf Course. Several people served as presiding officers in these elections over the years; Attorneys R. S. Redmond, John Shea, and R. P. Boyce, Dr. Ashbel Smith and Harvey Whiting. 

In 1849 the precinct voting place was moved to Kipp’s Store. Abram Kipp, a son-in-law of Harvey Whiting owned land and had a store on Goose Creek stream near today’s water tower on Park Street. In the August 1849 election, his store was in Precinct 8, Goose Creek. Three weeks later, Harris County Commissioners renamed the whole precinct as Cedar Bayou, but voting was still held at his same store. For the next four years the precinct was called Cedar Bayou and elections were held at a place called “School House, Cedar Bayou.” The 1854 Scholastic Census names the school as the “Galveston Bay and Cedar Bayou” school. I’m still looking for the exact location but this school house was not near the location of today’s Cedar Bayou school. Sometime between 1853 and 1856, the precinct was renamed back to Goose Creek and through 1862 elections were held at various locations within the Precinct. In 1863, the precinct was broken into two, Cedar Bayou Precinct 8 and Goose Creek Precinct 9. The Presiding Officer for the Goose Creek Precinct elections was John L. Bryan who owned 500 acres on the west bank of Goose Creek and the San Jacinto River which would later become the Bayland Orphan Home.

By 1900, there were about 125 people living and working in the area south of today’s Ward Road between Goose Creek stream and Cedar Bayou. Almost all were farmers although there were a few sailors, brick makers, and even a clerk, a steamboat engineer, and a doctor.

1905 was a benchmark year in Baytown history when oil exploration began on John Gaillard’s land. L.P. Garrett with the Gulf Production Company was the first geologist in the area and kept a journal of his observations in the Goose Creek field. 

His first entry dated April 17, 1905 said “I was informed by Mr. Welch and Mr. Rue that there existed some indications of oil on the Scott survey near the Tabb’s place, and in company with them I visited the locality. On the W. M. Scott Survey, gas deposits are abundant. Gas is escaping and the smell of the sulphuretted hydrogen is very strong.” 

Baytown legend says John Gaillard lit a bubble with a match while he was fishing, but if he did, Garrett didn’t say so. Over the next 10 years exploration continued sporadically and the field was almost abandoned in 1910. Annie Schilling had been given two and a half acres from her aunt Minnie Gaillard and a town of sorts grew up on her property in the oil field. This town was on the bay shore between Evergreen Road and Lee Drive south of Business Hwy 146. People were living in tents and shacks and during this whole time and the population of the entire Goose Creek area was not more a few hundred. 

In 1911, 16-year-old Alice Mae Fayle opened a school in a tent provided by her father and taught for a year. The following year it was replaced by a wooden building. In 1913 a Methodist Sunday School which was the beginning of St John’s church was established in the old town. The same year there were enough people in the town that the Goose Creek Post Office was established and when the U.S. government survey was made in 1916 there were about 50 buildings in the in the old town of Goose Creek. 

But all this was about to change. 

 

Baytown resident Chuck Chandler is retired from the Exxon Refinery and serves as Vice President of Baytown Historical Preservation Association. Contact him at chuck.chandler@baytownhistory.org

 

 

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