A HISTORY OF THE CORNELUS DOORNBOS FAMILY
By W. T.Block
A leading Nederland philanthropist and businessman throughout his adult life, Cornelus Doornbos, Sr., was born on May 20, 1880, in Warfum, Groningen, The Netherlands, the son of Heino Harmanus Doornbos and Stientje Derks Bouwman Doornbos. He was the seventh child of a family of twelve brothers and sisters. He received as good an education as the elementary and high schools of his home town could offer. He went to school during the day, after which he would go home, pick up a sack lunch that his mother had packed for him, and then he would work until ten P. M. in a nearby store.
Cornelus Doornbos, Sr., came to believe that America offered to him greater opportunities for financial growth and security, especially in the accumulation of land, which had become virtually impossible to acquire in his homeland. Four others among his siblings had also settled in North America, as follows: Jacob (Jake) Doornbos in Nederland; brother Arien Doornbos on a ranch near Bozeman, Montana; brother Tjaart Doornbos, at Yellow Knife, Northwest Territory, Canada; and sister, Mrs. A. Sorenson, of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Accordingly, he sailed for the United States in 1901, settling first at Chicago, Illinois, where he was a meat boner for a packing plant, earning the sum of one dollar daily and board. Mr. Doornbos then spent the year 1902 farming on shares in Iowa, for a man he had met while working in Chicago.
Cornelus Doornbos came to Nederland in 1903, arriving just in time to share in the wedding party of Dan J. and Johanna Rienstra on January 22, 1903. He spent the next year raising a crop of rice with his brother, Jake Doornbos. In 1904, he farmed for Robert Gerbens of Port Arthur. In 1905, he purchased the tract of land where the Jefferson County Airport is located, where he raised the first crop of rice that was entirely his own. After retaining his Dutch citizenship for many years, Cornelus Doornbos, Sr., became a naturalized American citizen at Beaumont on November 23, 1922.
One day, while driving from his farm to Nederland, Mr. Doornbos turned his wagon over in a ditch and got his clothes wet and dirty. He then stopped at the Orange Hotel to get dry, and while there, he met Miss May Newman, the daughter of Mrs. Emma Burson, and step-daughter of Alanson Burson, one of Nederland's earliest merchants. Mr. Doornbos and Miss Newman, who was a native of Great Britain, soon decided to share their married lives together, and they were wed on July 15, 1907.
Mr. and Mrs. Doornbos continued to live for a few years in their first home near the present-day airport. In January, 1909, they visited his family in Groningen, Holland, accompanied by their small daughter Christina. At least two people's memoirs have revealed that Mr. Doornbos helped evacuate in his wagon the stranded Port Arthur refugees from the hurricane waters of August 16, 1915. And Marya Koekoek (Munson) observed that 5-year-old Bill Doornbos held the reins of that wagon while his father, Mr. Doornbos, carried her out of the flood on his horse when she was a tiny tot of perhaps seven years of age.
After the 1915 storm, the Doornbos family moved to the large two-story house at 1124 Helena Avenue (only a few feet from where the C. Doornbos Inc. office still stands) in order that his children could walk to the nearby Langham School at Twelfth Street and Franklin, and thus avoid the long horseback ride from their rice farm west of Nederland.
Mr. Doornbos started out as a rice farmer, and he would continue that endeavor in Jefferson and Chambers Counties almost until his death. However, he branched out into several other fields as well, including cattle-ranching in Texas and Louisiana; land accumulation, both as acreage and city property; house construction and home financing, oil and gas leases, and timber production in Louisiana.
In the course of his business career, Mr. Doornbos built scores of homes in Nederland, on Gary Street, on Jackson Street, and elsewhere in town, and for perhaps ten of fifteen years, two early-day Nederland home builders, Rene Bourque and David Lejeune, worked almost exclusively for him. Mr. Doornbos would then finance the homes for the buyers in days long before F. H. A. financing was even dreamed of. In 1937, he sold his first rice farm to Jefferson County, which today is the county airport on the west side of Nederland. Many Nederland oldtimers can still recall when the Doornbos family hay-baling operations were perhaps the largest in the county, employing dozens of people, and accounting for the sale of several thousand bales of hay annually, as well as the hay consumed by the Doornbos cattle herds. The Doornbos real estate holdings were widely scattered, in Nederland, Port Neches, Beaumont, Port Arthur; in Chambers County, the Doornbos Ranch at Sabine Pass, where normally 1,000 to 1,500 heads of cattle were grazed; in addition to the large Doornbos Ranch at DeRidder, Louisiana, which included several square miles of extensive forest lands suitable for logging operations.
Cornelus and May Doornbos became the parents of six children, namely, three daughters, Christina (Barnett), May (Youmans), and Emma (Miller), and three sons, William, Harry, and Cornelus (Cale) Doornbos, Jr.
Following Mrs. May Doornbos' death on May 26, 1925, Mr. Doornbos was wed a second time to Mrs. Jennie Elaine McCartney, a widow, who was already the mother of a young daughter, Rose Marie (Gladding). Another son, Richard Doornbos, was born to that marriage. And following Mrs. Jennie Doornbos' death on July 8, 1945, Mr. Doornbos was wed for a third time to Mrs. Bertha Stappers, who survived her husband at the time of his death.
Mr. Doornbos remained a member of First United Methodist Church for almost fifty years, and his church was to become the beneficiary of many of his private charities. His son William's best-known gift to the people of Nederland is the 22-acre C. Doornbos Park at South 23rd Street and Avenue H, where the Nederland Community Center and swimming pool are located.
His varied and extensive business interests required that Cornelus Doornbos, Sr., maintain memberships in many business, fraternal, and trade organizations. He was a charter member of the Nederland Lions' Club, as well as of the Chambers of Commerce of Nederland, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Port Neches, the East Texas Chamber of Commerce, and the United States Chamber of Commerce. He was likewise a member of the American Cattle Growers Association, National Cattlemen's Association, The Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, Texas Southwestern Cattlemen's Association, American Rice Growers Association, Coastal Cattlemen's Association, Fraternity of the White Heron, Louisiana Forestry Association, and the Beaumont Farm and Ranch Club.
In 1951, perhaps sensing that he was growing old and that his children would need the advantages of his wisdom, Cornelus Doornbos addressed the following letter to them for use in their business affairs, as follows:
All of the Cornelus Doornbos children were graduated from Nederland High School and have made contributions to Nederland's growth and progress in their own right. Certainly Harry Doornbos made the supreme sacrifice of his life for his nation and neighbors, having been lost in action in the South Pacific against the Japanese Navy in January, 1943. Nederland's Harry Doornbos Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars is named in his honor.
William Doornbos has been associated with every worthwhile endeavor in Nederland since reaching adulthood, and Nederland has honored him on several occasions. In 1933, he married the former Opal Vivian Smith, a native of Mississippi. They are the parents of one daughter, Barbara D., who is married to Dr. Felix Walters. They are the grandparents of Jeana Anne Dishman and Dellann Walters, and great grandparents of William Morrison, William's namesake.
Christina Doornbos married Robert L. Barnett, and they became the parents of two daughters, Mildred Jackson and Carolyn Barnett, and two sons Bobby Barnett and Donny Barnett. Mildred Jackson is the mother of two sons, Steven Jackson and Alan Jackson, and grandmother of Brian and Scott Jackson. Bobby Barnett is the father of two children, Andrea and Robert L. Barnett III, and grandfather of Nicole and Robert L. Barnett, IV. Donny Barnett is the father of two children, Ronald and Terry Barnett. Mr. and Mrs. R. L. Barnett, Sr. are both deceased.
May Doornbos married Herbert P. Youmans, a long-time Nederland realtor and insurance agent, and following his death, she married George Englin, who is also deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Youmans became the parents of one son, Herbert C. Youmans, who in turn is the father of three children, Duke Youmans, Debbie Roberson, and Phyllis Brewer. H. C. Youmans is also the grandfather of four, Ashley and Callie Roberson, and Joshua and Jacob Brewer.
Harry Doornbos died unmarried while he was in the United States Navy. Emma Doornbos married Turner Lee Miller of Port Neches, and there was no issue of their marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Miller are also deceased.
Cornelus (Cale) Doornbos, Jr., was very active in municipal and civic affairs, having served terms both as City Councilman and Mayor of Nederland. For many years, he supervised the family ranching activities at Sabine Pass and the Doornbos hay-baling operations in Nederland. He married the former Louise Clements of Nederland, and they became the parents of two sons, Billy Wayne and Cornelus Doornbos III, and one daughter, Peggy Jo Thomas. Mrs. Thomas became the mother of two sons, Kirk Thomas and Ashley C. Thomas (deceased), and two daughters, Amanda Thomas and Kristen Thomas. Billy Doornbos is the father of two daughters, Heather and Gretchen Doornbos. Mr. and Mrs. Cornelus Doornbos, Jr., are also deceased.
For many years before his return to Nederland, Richard Doornbos managed the family ranching and forestry activities on the large Doornbos Ranch at DeRidder, Louisiana. Richard has also been very active in Nederland civic affairs, as well as in Masonic and El Mina Shrine circles. He is married to the former Peggy Durham, and they are the parents of two daughters, Jennifer and Lisa Doornbos.
If ever there were a Horatio Alger epic in Nederland, Texas, it is indeed the amazing annals of Cornelus Doornbos, Sr., a Dutch immigrant, who carved out for himself a sturdy financial empire with little else than his own hard work and personal ingenuity. His was that brand of foresight, of stamina, and of industry out of which the Lone Star State was fashioned and which has enabled Texas to remain at the pinnacle of the world's cattle, rice, and oil production for many decades. Today (1991), C. Doornbos Incorporated, the family business, still stands at 1148 Helena, only a stone's throw away from the original homesite, where the Dutch entrepreneur reared and educated his family. C. Doornbos Inc. is a family-owned investment firm and is still managed by the Doornbos family children and grandchildren.
CORNELUS DOORNBOS FAMILY NECROLOGY