THE MEMOIRS OF WILLIAM O'KELLY HAIZLIP, SR.
Recorded on Audio Cassette on January 19, 1973
I remember the early Singleton Meat Market in Nederland. They killed the beef or hog early in the morning and then hung the meat inside a screened, but not refrigerated, enclosure. You could buy only freshly-killed, warm meat back then, and you had to cook it immediately unless you had access to ice for refrigeration. In other words, this was real "Snuffy Smith" country back then. That market belonged to the Langhams (Blewitt and Virgil) and the Pevetos, as well as to (E. N.) Singleton, who was Blewitt's stepson by his first wife and a half-brother to Virgil Langham.
Lloyd Johnson drove the mail hack (a buggy or light, spring wagon) from Nederland to Port Neches back at that time (Ca. 1905-1910), carrying freight and passengers as well. "Old Man" Berwick had the mail contract, and he furnished a two-horse team and wagon for delivering mail to the Star Route boxes along the way to Port Neches. (Ed.'s Note: In 1903 Herman Gloede delivered the Nederland-Port Neches Star Route. The editor still had an original envelope, addressed "W. T. Block, Nederland, Texas," that shows a clear Austin postmark of 1917 and was delivered on this route.) In 1906, the Haizlips farmed rice on C. X. Johnson land (later the Mobil Oil Co. tank farm), and they lived on the edge of Port Neches where the tank farm's east fence intersects Port Neches Avenue. The Haizlip mail box on the star route was about where the old Builder's Lumber Company was later located. The next box on the mail route was Abbie (Albert C.) Block, and the second box past ours was Willie Block (W. T., Sr.). In those days, Vidor was called 'Duncan's Woods,' and you could get shot there without even trying. There was a very sparse population there then, mostly bootleggers, who lived in heavily-timbered areas.
Dillard Singleton lives in Port Arthur (in 1973--is dead now). One day I was fishing at Sabine Pass, and I met a couple there, also fishing, and talked to them. He said his name was Singleton, and was from the old Nederland meat market family. In those days around 1910, you could get a big sack of steak for 15 cents. When I was a boy in Nederland, we swam in the old No. 2 (rice) canal, which is where the town's first sewer plant on Gage Street used to be. (Ed.'s Note: Gage is an angular street near the end of Boston because it was surveyed up against the right-of-way of the old No. 2 rice canal, which crossed the northeast part of Nederland from present-day Highway 366 to Nederland Avenue, thence across south Nederland about on the line of present-day Avenue E. South Twelfth through South Seventeenth Streets, before 1940, deadended at the 400 block, up against the No. 2 canal levee, which was already long abandoned.)
Singleton said he was from Orange. I told him that I was from Nederland. He said he once knew a doctor named Haizlip in Nederland. I told him that I was Bill Haizlip, the oldest son of that doctor that he knew. He said, "Then you're the one who pulled me out of the old No. 2 canal when I darn near drowned in it!" In those days, we used to swim in that canal "buck nakid," the same amount of clothes we entered into this world with. And if we saw a buggy coming, we knew there would be women folks in it, 'cause the men all rode horseback, and we would then dive under water until the buggy had passed. No, I can't remember Dirk Ballast, Sr., but my mother would have. I do remember Dirk, Jr., the son who was only a couple of years older than I was.
My father, Dr. John H. Haizlip, was from the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina, and he had brothers living in Little Rock, Arkansas, who enticed him to move west. Dad became company doctor for the cement plant at White Cliffs, Arkansas. This plant belonged to the "Holland Syndicate." (Ed.'s Note: There is no longer even a village named White Cliffs in Arkansas, so the writer believes it must have disappeared whenever the cement plant was closed. By "Holland Syndicate," Bill meant that it was one of the auxiliary enterprises, like the Port Arthur Land Company, controlled either by the Kansas City Southern Railroad, or by some of the Dutch bankers who controlled the railroad. Since the cement plant was on the main line of the railroad, and cement-making requires an enormous supply of white (calcium) sandstone, the editor suggests that it was probably located either in the Rich Mountains (the Queen Wilhelmina State Park area), northwest of Mena, or in the Gross Mountains area at Vandervoort.)
John Chase was chief engineer of the cement plant, and he became chief engineer of the Port Arthur Irrigation Company pumping plant (replacing C. E. Land, who was chief engineer, 1898-1903. See also 1910 Nederland census, res., 102-104 for John and Alice Chase.--Ed.). Oscar Wright was the chief civil or canal engineer. In the fall of 1903, Father came down here to visit. We then moved on land now occupied by Jefferson Chemical Company (Texaco Chemical East at Groves) to raise rice in 1905. In 1906 we moved to the C. X. Johnson land (Mobil tank farm) at Port Neches to raise rice. We moved into the house at 211 Thirteenth in which the Haizlip family lived for so long in 1908, and we lived on Atlanta Street in 1907 in a house that Bill Doornbos tore down in 1972. Dad used the front room of our house on Thirteenth Street for his office. Dad died on April 11, 1938. My maternal grandfather, William T. Walker, once ran for governor of North Carolina on the Prohibitionist Party ticket. He was a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister. According to Walker family traditions for more than a century, the first son of Walker family descendants was slated to become a preacher, which meant that Bill (Judge W. T.) McNeill and I would be leaving for the seminary. We were the first generation to break with that tradition. He added that his cousin, Bill McNeill, since he was both a lawyer and judge, had the aptitude, behavior, and oratorical or vocal prerequisites to support such a calling, but Bill said that would not apply to him.
Bill recalled that his brother, Francis (b. 1909), lived only to age twelve and died of infantile paralysis. He noted as well that measles, tuberculosis, typhoid, scarlet fever, and diphtheria were scourge or pestilent diseases in early-day Nederland. He recalled that the "Dutch John" Van Oosterhuid family had been wiped out to the last person in 1 1/2 years. Marie F. recalled that the Nat Moore family had lost three young children in a single week of February, 1905, to measles. J. H. McNeill, Sr. bought both the Bradley Bell store and house (at 303 Fifteenth). Later the house was bought by old Capt. W. P. Allen, one of the Sabine bar pilots who was run out of Sabine Pass by the 1915 storm. Grandpa (Dirk) Ballast rebuilt that house, said Marie F. After Captain Allen died, Andrew Johnson, also of Sabine Pass, bought the house. After the storm, Captain John Kaper, another Sabine pilot, bought the J. William Barr (Alvin Barr's father) house at 403 Fifteenth. Norine Martin (Barras, now deceased) could tell you all about that. Kaper never owned the Allen place (at 303 Boston, later demolished so Boston could be extended to Seventeenth). Mr. McNeill hauled dirt on all the land he owned. He always told his store debtors who couldn't pay him that they should haul him some dirt onto his vacant property.
Dr. Haizlip sold the land to J. H. McNeill, Sr., where he would build his white, two-story residence with two long porch columns at Twelfth and Detroit, and would later sell to Weldon Davis for a funeral home. The "Holland Syndicate" (Port Arthur Land Company) also owned the land where the present Langham School is located between 12th and 13th and Helena and Franklin. Dr. Haizlip bought that property and later sold it to the school district. Jan Van Tyne, president of Port Arthur Land Company, sold him the lots. McNeill wanted to build his new home in 1915, but Mrs. Haizlip did not want to sell him the lots. Dr. Haizlip sold the lots anyway, after telling her what John Koelemay said. "You can't go broke making a profit."
The old Orange Hotel was no longer being used whenever we moved to Nederland from Port Neches in 1907. The hotel was just too big for the hotel demand in Nederland, and it had to be abandoned. It closed for two reasons. Dutch immigration to Nederland had long before ceased to exist, but then they were not the last boarders there. The last ones were the old Spindletop drillers and roughnecks, who left as soon as the boom there ended. There was a large dining room and also a ballroom or game room, rather sumptious facilities for a small country town. There were also beautiful, winding stairways. Itinerant dance bands came through town who would play there, western style bands, you would say today, one fiddle, one guitar, one banjo, and one accordian. People had lots of dances there - just bring one dollar and one girl friend. The hotel was lit up with lanterns and lamps, and the dances sometimes ended up with a big fist fight. Adam Biermortt knew a lot about them - their "frolics" as he called them. Sometimes a family moved into the hotel only temporarily for lack of any other quarters when they were unable to rent a house. A family named Gore came from the Village Mills area, and they had a family dance band, the Gore Band it was called. The Sons of Herman, a German lodge and insurance benefits fraternal order, had their parties and dances there. Their parties started on Saturdays and lasted through Sunday night. They were not rowdy and the food was good. I was allowed to go to the Sons of Herman parties, but not to the other ones. The house boat river rats from the Neches and the "South Spindletop cowboys" (??-McFaddin's 'Mashed-O' ranch hands?) came to the other parties, and sometimes there were shootings.
Talked about the river rats hunting gators, trapping, catching stray logs floating downriver that had broke loose from the Beaumont river log booms; these people made their living off the river. Discussed early saloon cutting scrape when Hiram Stroud stabbed "Uncle Jim" Witchett in Steiner's Saloon on Main Street (Beaumont "Journal," Dec. 17, 1905). There had been a long feud between the two men. Earlier Witchett had shot Stroud twice, but failed to inflict any serious damage.
Discussed the two school contractors who had built the Langham and C. O. Baird (Port Neches) schools, and then had met, shot, and killed each other in a shootout in Beaumont. Bill said, "People just aren't as violent now, at least here, as they once were. Discussed Bradley Bell, the "Yankee money maker," who at first had burned out and whom J. H. McNeill bought out in 1911. His abrasive business tactics angered the Langhams, the Pevetos, and others. Dan Rienstra thought Bell was a good business man, and as long as she lived, his daughter, Anna Rienstra corresponded with Bell's daughter, Lelia. Bell would come back at intervals and visit the Rienstras. Bell was a ruthless business man, which did get him into a lot of trouble. In addition to Nederland, he had stores at Fannett, Hamshire, Winnie, and Anahuac.
Bill said that Dick and Albert Rienstra found in Bradley Bell the role model of aggressive business man that they sought to emulate, but that Dick had learned his business finesse from Barnes, the Port Arthur feed man, who owned the Nederland Grain Company on 11th Street that Dick had managed during 1937-1938. Said Dick, however, "learned to count money from old Mr. Peyton" (who lived across the road from Dan Rienstra), when Dick did some plowing for Peyton. When Peyton paid him, Dick stuck the money in his pocket. Later, when Dick counted his money, he discovered that Peyton had folded two $1.00 bills in half, so that the $9.00 that Dick actually got appeared to be $10.00. Later, when Dick got the chance to return the same treatment to Peyton, the latter said, "Dick, I believe you short-changed me." And Dick responded, "Yeah, and I learned it from you - the hard way."
My memories of him are of a yard full of chickens. He'd come in my store with big buckets full of eggs just as he bought buckets full of milk from Dan Rienstra. He took it all out in trade, and I let him wait on himself. My brother John and I owned the old Neches Company in the Haizlip building from 1926 until 1933. Dan traded ten, or twelve, or 20 dozen eggs at a time. He's the one that taught me how to count eggs. He would count eleven eggs and lay one aside, count eleven more eggs and lay one aside. etc. At the end, he would count the number of eggs laid aside to determine how many dozen he had.
I traded Peyton a cow blinded by milk weed, along with her blind calf. Peyton didn't know that the animals were blind, because the cow could maneuver about, eat grass, drink water, etc., by instinct. Peyton always bragged about "skinning" people in his cattle trades. He had a vicious old cow that kicked people that he wanted to trade, and not a very good looker at that. He wanted some money to boot, and I just laughted. Later he came back and told me I had traded him a blind cow. Old Pa Peyton would get to you if he could. He sold Dan Rienstra a fresh cow, and told Dan that the cow would give four gallons in four weeks or so. A month later, Dan told him that the cow was only giving about a quart a day. Peyton said, "Well, that's what I told you - that she'd give four gallons in four weeks or so." Later, while driving his car to Port Arthur, Peyton ran his car into a deep ditch, filled with water, and he drowned.
I remember when they gave all kinds of parties to raise money for the new Methodist Church. My earliest recollections of that 1909 church, built where the Jack Frazier home is now (113 Thirteenth St.). Then Mr. Freeman built a building in the 1200 block of Boston to be used as a saloon, but the citizens soon voted the town "dry." I used to go to the Methodist Sunday School in the morning, and then to the Baptist Sunday School in the afternoon. We would also go to the Baptist baptizings in the Neches River in Port Neches. Some of them were baptized in the rice canals. Bill noted tha the Baptist preachers "could flat preach." Freeman ran the general mercantile store (that Marie F. had picture of). Dan Rienstra worked there for a short while. One clerk in the Freeman store picture was Frank Butler, and the other was Coryell Freeman's son, Morris Freeman.
In another picture, Bill pointed out Charlie Macha. Lloyd Burnfin, ---Baer from the depot. The Haizlips had a pass on the K. C. S. Railroad because Dr. Haizlip hd been the railroad's company doctor at the cement plant in Arkansas. Bill pointed out the shed across highway from the railroad section houses where the railroad hand cars were stored. "Uncle Jimmy" Horne, who lived in the hotel, would come around to get his free beer. He would also bring an empty bucket to Mrs. Burnfin's back door and pick up the food that had been left over from supper.
Dr. Haizlip had a haystack across Main Street from the old hotel. Bill and other kids would hide there with air guns and shoot out the hotel's window glass. The old hotel had huge, rosin-filled construction timbers in it that would be worth a fortune today. Some houses must have been built out of the old hotel's lumber, but Bill could not remember which ones. Pictures of Freeman's dad's store (Watson L. Freeman), also of C. L. Freeman's general mercantile store and livery stable. Bill noted that Morris' mother, Mrs. Annie, was red-headed, as well as Mr. Freeman.
Bill spoke of "Evelina" - Aunt Lil -a heavy-set, middle-aged black woman from one of the section houses. She lived from day to day with the help of a bottle. She had her own very unique phraseology, her lexicon, in Bill's words, "borrowing nothing from Shakespeare, or Milton, or Tennyson, or the King James version." Some of her phrases "were grammatic gems," which Bill said he often wished he had recorded on tape. She would come by the store whenever she wanted to get drunk (Bill did not specify whether that was the Neches Company or Nederland Furniture Company that he later operated). He and "Miss Margaret" (his wife) always knew beforehand that F. A. Roach at the drug store, M. L. Brown at the depot, and perhaps others, had already turned Evelina down for a "loan." "Ah doan want no 'freeology,'" Aunt Lil would mutter. "Ah jes wants to borrow fitty cents to gits me a pint ah gin. It too hot." Miss Margaret: "No, Evelina, when you drink that stuff, it'll just make you hotter." Evelina: "Oh, no, Miss Margaret, it keep me coo-o-o-l!"
They recalled that Dr. Haizlip was a handsome man that sometimes sported a full beard - that son John had at one time courted Miss Cynthia Press, an early Nederland school teacher. John lives in Bull Shoals, Arkansas - now retired. (Ed.'s Note: John left Nederland to work for Great Lakes Carbon Company for the remainder of his working life, managing one of their large plants in Joliet, Illinois. He died in Arkansas about 1975.) Picture of Dr. Haizlip's 1910 Maxwell auto, taken from in back of the McNeill building. (Ed.'s Note: The "back" of the building had once been the "front" of the building before it was moved from across the street, following the Bradley Bell fire of 1910.) Bell had had the first "second-hand" car in Nederland. Dr. Haizlip's Maxwell was the first "brand new" car in Nederland. Dr. Haizlip received his medical degree from John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Back to the Orange Hotel - the hotel chimneys went through three stories of rooms before puncturing the roof, with a fireplace in each chimney on each floor. All of them burned wood, since firewood was plentiful and very cheap in those days. There were two or three huge fireplaces on the first floor in which wood as long as crossties could have been burned. Earl Spencer said the hotel bricks were made at Sun Station, one mile north of Nederland. Said his grandfather (L. A. Spencer) had helped make the bricks for the chimneys, piers, fireplaces, and well casing. (Ed.'s Note: Copies of the old Port Arthur "Herald" observed that bricks made in Nederland were used in several early Port Arthur buildings.) There was a huge, hand-dug well, eighty feet deep, to serve the hotel. When George Yentzen bought the property, he hired John Mize and Bill Haizlip to clean out the well, each of them earning $1.25 per work day. As one was lowered into the well cavern, he struck matches along the way to check for escaping gases. A dangerous well, it was walled on four sides with brick put in there by hand. After Dick Rienstra bought the place in about 1940, he had the old well filled up. Discussed old Mrs. Franke, mother of several local residents. Well at the hotel had a three-legged windmill pumping it (much like the Sears windmills that Cornelus Doornbos had scattered out on the prairie to water his livestock). And it pumped to an overhead tank. Discussed Mr. Freeman's "thermal shower." He also had a windmill that pumped his well water to an overhead tank, mounted on a square tower built of four walls of brick and mortar, with a door cut into one wall. During the day, water in the galvanized tank was heated by the sun, and twice a day Coryell Freeman would go inside the brick tower and shower himself, using water from the tank above him. Indeed, that was a unique arrangement and "bath tub" for a small town that had no public water system prior to that installed by W. N. Carrington in 1938 and only private wells for homes. Freeman built his 'water system' in 1914, but he left Nederland for Nome, Texas, in 1923. Bill Haizlip married in 1928; discussed Bill's honeymoon picture, boarding a train bound for Bay City, Texas. (Remainder of tape had little of historical value because pictures of the Haizlip and McNeill families were being discussed and it was unknown exactly what pictures were being viewed.) Bill did discuss a picture of Frances "Frankie" McNeill, his first cousin, who married Berthold Cooke early in 1918, and six months later, died of "Spanish flu," the pestilent epidemic that killed 50,000 Americans during the closing days of World War I in 1918. Said Dr. Haizlip did everything in his power to save his wife's niece, but did not succeed. She was buried in her wedding gown. End of Tape.