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Old Ghost Town Once Was Home To Great Pioneer

W. T. Block

Reprinted from Beaumont ENTERPRISE, August 28, 2004, p. A12.

In 1972, while officer-in-charge at the Orange post office, I found four unused metal postmarking stamps, one of them being the discontinued post office of Terry, Texas. Terry was in central Orange County, 11 miles east of Beaumont and 13 miles west of Orange, where the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks intersected Highway 1134.

Long before Terry was a surveyed townsite, it was the location in 1829 of the log cabin of George Alexander Pattillo, one of the giant figures of frontier Texas. He received a Mexican land grant, and in 1835 was postmaster at Pattillo’s Station, a stop on the 107-mile mail route No. 6 between Liberty and the Calcasieu River.

He served as a representative in the 6th Congress and senator in the 7th, 8th and 9th Congresses of the Republic of Texas. He was also the first chief justice of Orange County in 1852. In 1855 he sold most of his league of land and moved to Bunn’s Bluff on the Neches River, where he died in 1871.

Terry was built on a section of land awarded to the Texas and New Orleans Railroad in 1860. The first railroad built from Beaumont to Orange in that year was abandoned in February of 1863, and it was not rebuilt until 1876. Terry was probably named for J. L. Terry, who was a railroad official. A post office was established there in 1877.

With probably an abundance of nearby prairie land, Terry was devoted to agriculture during most of the town’s life. Evidently a number of French Acadians settled there first around 1860, because in September 1877, they completed the second Catholic Church ever built in Southeast Texas, although they did not have a permanent priest until 1880. According to his memoirs, a Methodist circuit rider, Rev. W. H. Crawford, was pastor of Terry’s Methodist Church in 1881.

The year 1892 brought the first sizable rice industry to Orange County, perhaps half of it centered on Terry. Those early rice planters shipped their first 70,000 pounds in boxcars to a New Orleans mill in November 1892.

By 1898, Terry’s rice farms were being irrigated by the Cow Bayou Canal Co. and the Des Moines Canal Co. In February 1898, the towboat Nellie left the Bland rice farm on Cow Bayou, towing the barge Welcome, loaded with 864 barrels of rice, equal to 135,260 pounds.

Perhaps the best known of Terry’s new rice farmers was Kichimatsu Kishi, who in 1907 imported a colony of Japanese rice and truck farmers. The farmers prospered there for many years, although their progress was temporarily halted by saltwater intrusions from the new Oilla oil field, discovered in 1913, which was adjacent to the Kishi rice fields. However, it was the Great Depression of the 1930s that destroyed agriculture in that area and brought about the discontinuance of the Terry post office in 1939.

Also in 1913, during Orange County’s lumber boom, C. E. Slade founded Terry Lumber Co., which operated a sawmill there. The lumber company went bankrupt in 1917 and the mill was dismantled and moved away.

Terry was never more than a rural community, with its peak population of 200 people between 1900-1915. By 1939 its population numbered only about 40 people when its post office was discontinued, and there are still a number of rural residences in that vicinity today. Nevertheless it is now a ghost town with a unique history and because of that, it deserves to be remembered.

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