A HISTORY OF THE CLAYTON HENRY BARTELS FAMILY
By Mrs. Velma Weatherly and Mrs. Marlis Weatherly
Southwest Louisiana was the starting point for the early-day Nederland family of Clayton Henry and Thelma Lee Bartels. Clayton Bartels' parents were both born in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. His mother, Chloe Anna Collins, was born on May 5, 1873, and died at the age of 24 on November 5, 1897. Hope Mill, Louisiana, was the place of her birth and death. His father, Elijah Earnest Bartels, was born on May 14, 1869. The Bartels ancestry in Vermilion Parish goes back to George F. Bartels and Catherine Ann Brickwadem of Amsterdam, Holland, who emigrated first to Columbus, Ohio, and then to Vermilion Parish in 1842, where they founded the Hope Mill Plantation. Following the death of his first wife, Chloe Anna, Elijah Bartels married Rosa Becker in 1899.
Elijah and Rosa moved their family to Nederland in 1918, where he helped to build the town's first Catholic Church at Chicago and Ninth Streets in 1923. (That church was organized and met on the second floor of the McNeill building in 1922-1923.) After the building of the first brick church at South 27th and Nederland Avenue in 1939, the old wooden church was moved to 2600 Avenue A and became the Catholic school. Elijah Bartels worked as an engineer for Sun Oil Company. He died on April 10, 1946, and was buried in Port Arthur. Many Nederland oldtimers may still recall when members of the Bartels family operated the Bartels Bakery at Chicago and Twin City Highway during the 1920s-1930s, and the smell of freshly-baked Bartels bread permeated the area around the Nederland Pharmacy and depot.
Thelma Bartels' mother, Anna Elizabeth Lee, was born in Henry, Louisiana, on June 7, 1879, and died on December 29, 1954. She was buried in Beaumont at Magnolia Cemetery. She and her husband had ten children, the youngest of those being the twins, Roland "Buster" Lee and Ruby "Honey" Lee, both born in Nederland.
Oliver Lee, the father of Thelma Bartels, was born on April 3, 1874, in Henry, Louisiana, where he worked first as a rice farmer and later as a barber so that he could move his family into town. The Lee parentage of Henry, Louisiana, goes back to James Frederick Lee and Jane Poole of Staffordshire, England, who were married in the Wolverhampton Old Church and who crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the sail ship "Josiah Bradley," before settling at Henry, Vermilion Parish, in 1847. The Lee ancestry in England goes back to Reginald de la Lee, a Norman of Normandy, France, who settled in Shropshire, England, in 1195 A. D. Oliver Lee, known as "Ollie," moved his family to Nederland in 1909. After Pure Oil Company (Unocal) refinery was built in 1923, he went to work there, remaining until he retired. He served as Nederland's first city marshal from the time the town incorporated in 1940 until about 1950. He died on November 21, 1951, and is buried in Beaumont at Magnolia Cemetery.
Clayton Bartels was born in Hope Mill, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, on July 7, 1893, and moved to Nederland alone in 1914 as a very young man of 21. His first employment was with the Texas Pipe Line Company. He later joined the United States Army, serving as a cook and also as a French interpreter during World War I. Thelma Lee was born in Abbeville, Louisiana, on September 20, 1903, and moved with her family to Nederland in 1909 when she was six years old. At the age of seventeen, she met Clayton Bartels who was already 27 years old. They married at the court house in Beaumont on September 29, 1920, with Ollie Lee and Everett "Buck" Gardner as witnesses. It was such a special event in Clayton Bartels' life that he left and forgot his hat at the court house.
Around the time of his marriage, Clayton began working for the Texas Company (Texaco) asphalt plant in Port Neches, a job he held until his retirement at age 65. In his spare time and for ten years after his retirement, he continued to work cattle for Cornelus Doornbos. One of the family stories relates how Clayton, at age 75, socked a bull between the eyes with his fist so that it would stay still, probably for branding.
Concerning his civic activities which helped build a better Nederland, Clayton Bartels was a longtime member of Nederland's volunteer fire department. He served on the Nederland city council for eight years, and a large photograph of him and other members of the city council, taken in April, 1949, appears adjacent to page 33, of Volume III, of "The Chronicles of The Early Families of Nederland, Texas," now in Nederland's Henson Library.
A recent article in the "Midcounty Chronicle" reported on Clayton Bartels' luck as a betting man in the November general election of 1932. Although he actually voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the presidential election, Clayton made a bet with Judge R. L. McElvain that the Democratic candidate would lose to Herbert Hoover. The loser of the bet would give the winner a ride in a wheelbarrow from the post office in Port Neches to the post office in Nederland. The trip took 45 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, with the judge riding with ease on a pillow and Clayton Bartels pushing that wheelbarrow with all of his might.
In addition to the various jobs he held and his fun with the lost bet, Clayton and Thelma Bartels were the parents of four children, namely: Ethel Chloe, Velma Ray, and twin sons, Donald Elijah and Darold Ollie. Although the children grew up during the era of the Great Depression and World War II, the family nevertheless enjoyed many happy times and shared a lot of love with each other. Friends and relatives frequently gathered at the Bartels home for parties, dances, meals, and card games. A regular Sunday afternoon activity for the kids was baking pies -- a way to pass the time together, as well as of making a very special dessert for meals. The children developed a strong sense of family support, discipline, and responsibility -- with total thanks to the tender love, care, and discipline showered upon them by Thelma and Clayton Bartels.
Clayton Bartels predeceased his wife Thelma on August 17, 1979, at the advanced age of 86. Thelma Bartels passed away on February 17, 1984, at the age of 80. They are fondly recalled and sorely missed by their children, grandchildren, and a host of friends, whose lives they touched and who still live in the Mid-Jefferson County area.
Ethel Chloe Bartels was born on November 9, 1923, and died on November 12, 1987. She was married to Paul Ezia Williamson for 45 years. Their son Paul Wayne was born in 1945 and lives in Nederland with his wife, the former Jan Badger of Port Arthur, and two children, Chad Wayne and Jamie Lee Williamson.
Velma Ray Bartels was born on September 26, 1927, and worked variously for the Rio Theater and Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. She married Wesley Augustus Weatherly, and they enjoyed a marriage of 34 years before he passed away in 1980. They were the parents of two sons, Wesley Clay, born in 1951, and Kirk Lee, born in 1955. Wesley Clay married the former Marlis Land of Austin, and they live in Port Neches with their children, Wesley Clint and Darla Eve. Kirk married the former Kelly Mangum of Nederland. They reside in Nederland, and are the parents of two sons, Jim Wesley and Ethan Lee.
Darold Ollie and Donald Elijah Bartels were born on July 16, 1931, and they served in the U. S. Navy together during the Korean War. Darold worked for the Pennzoil Company in Houston for 31 years before retiring and moving back to Nederland in 1989. He died on April 20, 1991.
Donald Bartels married the former Patsy Carnahan of Port Neches on May 31, 1958. Donald worked for Union Oil of California refinery in Nederland for 28 years until his retiremnt in 1988. Patsy retired in 1990 as a teacher with 31 years of service in the Port Neches School District. Their two sons, Bryan David and Darren Hugh, have careers that have taken them many miles away from Southeast Texas. Darren attends college and works in Provo, Utah. Bryan, a graduate of Texas A and M University, has been in the United States Air Force since 1982 and has served in such faraway places as Okinawa, the Philippines, Greece, and Saudi Arabia.
The descendants of Clayton Henry Bartels and Thelma Lee Bartels are immensely proud of both their parentage and their connection with the early years of the growth, progress and development of Nederland. They likewise believe that the story of their ancestors should be perpetuated - a story of the hardships and hard labor they endured, as well as their coal oil lamp, wood stove, and horse and buggy existence, in order that their children and grandchildren might enjoy a better standard of living.