A HISTORY OF THE HUGH ALEXANDER HOOKS, SR. FAMILY
By W. T.Block
(The writer is grateful to Mrs. Barbara Newberry for genealogical information graciously supplied to the writer.)
Hugh Alexander Hooks, a long-time Nederland plumber and scion of one of Hardin County's oldest and best-known families, was born in Thicket, Hardin County, Texas on April 13, 1903. His great grandparents were William "Pap" Hooks and Martha "Ma" Collier Hooks, who were progenitors of most of the extensive Hooks clan of Hardin County and who moved to Texas from Georgia in 1849.
Hugh's grandfather, Alexander Buchanan "Buck" Hooks, born May 5, 1848, was the last of the three children of William Hooks born in Georgia. At age seventeen, he was preparing to depart for the Confederate Army, when the Civil War suddenly ended. It was said that his older brother, James Darius "Day" Hooks, walked all the way back to Texas from Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, the scene of the Confederacy's demise. "Buck" Hooks, a very handsome man, was said to resemble King Charles II, who was his probable ancestor through his grandmother, Margaret Lane. In 1870 he married Mrs. Fannie Allums, a widow with two children, whose maiden name was Tarver.
Hugh A. Hooks' father, Benjamin Allen "Little Ben" Hooks, was the third child and third son of Buck and Fannie Hooks. Benjamin A. Hooks (b. November 26, 1874-d. September 5, 1942) married Mrs. Martha Jane Adams, whose maiden name was Smith. Hugh Hooks was the oldest child, that is, except for an infant daughter who lived for only seven weeks. Ben A. Hooks built the family's ancestral home at Thicket that Hugh A. Hooks would return to during his old age.
After Hugh's mother died in 1917, he left school at age fourteen in order to split railroad ties and cut "stave bolts." The Hardin County schools during Hugh's youth were rather primitive by today's standards, often requiring a long walk or horseback ride of several miles in order to reach a one-room, country school that taught only through the seventh grade. Hugh Hooks, however, never neglected his schooling, even as an adult, educating himself through night class attendance, correspondence courses, long hours of reading, as well as apprentice training in his chosen vocation of plumbing.
In 1921, Hugh Hooks began working in the Saratoga oil field, and long after his oil field days had ended, he claimed he kept a suitcase packed just in case he decided to make the next boom somewhere. The very early 1920s also took him to work as a driller in Colonel Albert Humphreys' (who would later found Pure Oil's Smith Bluff refinery) oil field at Mexia, Texas; the Corsicana oil field; the El Dorado and Smackover, Arkansas fields; as well as oil fields in Oklahoma. Hugh Hooks often remarked that he "didn't like what he saw in the oil fields. Women, worn out long before their time, tried to raise unruly families in filthy tents. I just didn't like to see people live like that!"
Hugh A. Hooks learned the plumbing trade in Houston during the middle 1920s while he was helping to build the old Hermann Hospital and the Nils Esperson and Nellie Esperson buildings. In 1926 he moved to McAllen, Texas, where he opened a plumblig business and where he likewise soon met and married the former Annette Gillespie.
Annette was born in Baber, Texas, a sawmill community north of Woodville, Tyler County, in 1906, the second of five children born to John Thomas Gillespie and Mabel Fox. She and Hugh met and married in the First Baptist Church of McAllen.
After her children were born, Annette Hooks taught Sunday School, Bible School, and was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Nederland.
She also became Hugh's office manager when he founded Hooks Plumbing Company, and she remained there until the business closed in 1963. She also was active in the Business and Professional Women's Club, the Pilot Club, and the Nederland Garden Club. Flowers and plants were her main outside interest, along with cooking, trying new recipes, chocheting, and whatever else was necessary to the tender and loving care she extended to her family.
The arrival of the Great Depression, however, was soon to end Hugh Hooks' first business venture at McAllen, Texas, and the young couple soon returned to Thicket, Texas, where in 1932 drought and other circumstances enabled Hugh to produce only one bale of cotton from seventeen acres planted in that staple commodity. This was also the age when farmers were paid for the acreage they plowed under or did not plant. So while the depression left most everyone else unemployed, the Hooks family left the family farm and moved to Nederland, where Hugh worked for Pure Oil Company from 1933 until 1942. The 1938 Nederland city directory noted that Hugh A. Hooks worked as a pumper for Pure Oil Company and resided with his family on College Street, later to become 1408 Avenue C. This was to become the only house that Hugh and Annette Hooks ever owned in Nederland and where they were to raise their children.
"When you went downtown, you knew everyone you met," was the way Annette Hooks described pre-World War II Nederland during those days when the town only extended from Ninth Street on the east to Fifteenth Street on the west.
The war years of 1942 through 1945 were to send Hugh A. Hooks scrambling about from one defense job to another, a life not greatly different from his oil field years. The years 1941-1942 brought about the building of many area army bases, Fort Polk and Chenault Field in Southwest Louisiana and Camp Wallace and Ellington Field in the Houston area, and Hugh Hooks was to hone his plumbing skills while helping to build such bases. Beginning in 1942, a number of new area defense industries, the huge shipyards of Beaumont and Orange and the synthetic rubber complex at Port Neches, allowed him to work closer to home until World War II ended. Sensing correctly that Nederland was soon to undergo a vast, post-war building boom that would double and redouble the town's population, Hugh founded the Hooks Plumbing Company at 320 Twelfth Street in 1945.
The H. A. Hooks family were soon to embrace their adopted hometown of Nederland in all of its various aspects, business, civic, religious, and scholastic. The three Hooks children are all graduates of the Nederland school system. During the 1940s, Hugh Hooks was elected to terms on the Nederland School Board, and in 1954, he was elected to the Nederland City Council. He was also a longtime member of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce and was elected to its Board of Directors. Hugh Hooks was also a member of the Masonic Lodge, No. 1368 of Port Neches, and he remained a Mason for fifty-five years.
The Hooks family were also active in the community's religious life and were members of First Baptist Church. While still a young man, Hugh Hooks was baptized at McAllen, Texas, and although unable to attend church regularly due to his trips to or residence at Thicket, he remained an avid Bible reader and led a Christian life to the best of his ability.
Although Hooks Plumbing Company prospered modestly during the building boom times of the 1950s, Hugh Hooks could hardly wait for the moment he could close out that business and move back to the family farm at Thicket. The eighty-acre plot still contained the old abandoned family home, which had deteriorated beyond any hope of repair. It was built in the famed East Texas pattern, with full-length porches, wood shingle roof, and the customary "dog trot" through the center. And most every weekend prior to 1963, Hugh would hurry back to the old homestead to watch the squirrels scurrying through the pecan and black walnut trees or just to inhale the fragrance of pine needles or the similar odors emanating from the pine forests he loved.
Finally in 1963, Hugh and Annette Hooks liquidated their Nederland business and other holdings and returned to Thicket to live. With the old farm house in such an advanced state of decay, they chose instead to build a new home, but they could not bear to see the old house torn down. In December, 1975, Richard Stewart, a former Enterprise staff writer, visited the Hooks farm and published his subsequent article and pictures in the Sunday Enterprise-Journal of January 4, 1976.
Stewart pointed out Hugh and Annette's love of the farm and nature was second only to their half-century love affair with each other that could end only in death. Their daughter added that the care of her husband was Annette Hooks' principal interest in life, and throughout their married life together, she always called her husband "Mr. Hooks."
Stewart added another comment of a friend who once inquired of Hugh Hooks, "It looks to me like your honeymoon has lasted about 48 years, true?"
"Yeah, about that," Hooks smiled back at him with a sheepish grin.
After sixteen years of canning, cooking, and the house cleaning that characterizes a farm wife's daily routine, Annette Hooks died on January 4, 1979, and was buried in Oak Bluff Cemetery in Port Neches. Hugh Hooks survived her for nearly five years, passing away on December 31, 1983, at age eighty, and he was laid to rest beside his wife.
Hugh and Annette Hooks were the parents of three children, as follows: Hugh Hooks, Jr., a Dupont retiree with thirty years service, who recently moved back to the Thicket homestead; Thomas A. Hooks of Nederland, a Dupont superintendent; and Mrs. Barbara Newberry of Nederland, librarian of Henson Memorial Library. Hugh and Annette Hooks also had seven grandchildren, as follows: Roxanne Newberry Morrow, Carol Hooks Smith, Allison Newberry Dennis, Randall Newberry, Lisa Hooks, Kelly Hooks, and Tommy Hooks. As of 1991, the couple's great grandchildren are as follows: Jason Newberry, Blake Smith, India Morrow, Brandon Newberry, Erron Newberry, Justin Dennis, and Christian Dennis.
Hugh and Annette Hooks are still fondly recalled and are sorely missed by their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and an entire host of friends whose live they touched.