Texas Highways, Volume 51 Number 10, October 2004 Page: 7
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HISTORY, FOLKLORE, AND FASCINATING FACTS
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, helped save not just
lives, but also an entire Texas town. Before the turn of the 20th
Century, Pasadena was established as a small farming community.
Lured by the mild climate, families settled along the banks of Buffalo Bayou just
southeast of Houston.
After acquiring small
tracts of land, farmers
planted peach, pear, and
plum orchards, along
with cantaloupe, pota-
toes, and cucumbers.
In 1899, a record-set-
ting cold wave that af-
fected much of the South
and other parts of the na-
tion brought snow that
blanketed the Gulf Coast;
Galveston Bay froze over.
The following year, the
hurricane of September
1900 decimated Galves-
ton, killing some 6,000
people and causing in-
juries, major flooding,
and property damage
throughout the area. The
1899 freeze had de-
stroyed Pasadena's or-
chards; the hurricane de- Best known for fo
saved the town of
stroyed all other crops. strawberry plants.
On the heels of the
storm, Clara Barton (who, by the way,
never trained as a nurse) arrived on the
Texas coast with medical relief. Realiz-
ing the desperate situation of local farm-
ers, she immediately arranged for the
delivery of 1.5 million strawberry plants.
With their short and early growing
season, strawberries would quickly put
much-needed income back in farmers'
hands. Pasadena soon became famous
for its strawberries, and over the next
few years, they became the town's pri-
mary crop. First to arrive in northern
markets, the Gulf Coast berries com-
manded premium prices.
Harvest was a family affair: School
PHOTO COURTESY CLARA BARTON NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
ending the American Red Cross, Clara Barton
Pasadena with a donation of thousands of
started in June and let out in February
so that children could join in the berry
picking. Workers packed the berries in
12-quart crates and took them daily to
the railroad loading platforms. Each
refrigerated rail car held approximately
700 crates, with 12 tons of ice loaded in
a compartment on top of the car to keep
the vulnerable cargo cold. At the peak of
the season, up to 28 cars rolled out of
By the 1930s, agriculture in the area
had given way to industry. Buffalo
Bayou had become the Houston Ship
Channel, lined with petrochemical re-
fineries. Today, with a population of
October 2004 TEXAS HIGHWAYS 7
more than 140,000, Pasadena is no
longer a small farming community. But
each May, thousands gather at the annu-
al Strawberry Festival to celebrate the
town's heritage and, of course, the berry
that saved it all.
-Tracy Connell, Pasadena
LOOKING A GIFT MORSE
IN THE MOUTH
T he fledgling Republic of Texas
caught the imaginations of
many Americans in the 1830s.
New York inventor Samuel EB. Morse
was so impressed with the newly mint-
ed nation that in 1838 he offered to
give the Republic his new telegraph and
his Morse code. Texan leaders ignored
Why? Possibly because they had so
many more-pressing problems to solve,
among them persuading the U.S. Con-
gress to approve annexation, and guard-
ing against a return of the Mexican Army.
The Massachusetts-born Morse (who
had wanted to be an artist and began
dabbling in invention to try to support
his painting) continued refining his ideas
for a system of electrical telegraphy. He
applied for, and was granted, a patent
for his "Electro-Magnetic Telegraph" in
1840. In 1859, after years of legal wran-
gling over the invention, Morse and his
partners sold their patent rights.
Morse formally withdrew his offer to
Texas in a graceful letter to Governor
Sam Houston dated August 9, 1860,
saying, in part, "Although the offer was
made more than twenty years ago,
Texas, neither while an independent
State, nor since it has become one of the
United States, has ever directly or im-
pliedly accepted the offer.... I, therefore,
now respectfully withdraw the offer
then made, in 1838, the better to be in a
position to benefit Texas, as well as the
other States of the Union. I am with
respect and Sincere personal esteem Yr
Ob. Servt, Saml F.B. Morse."
-Mary G. Ramos, Dallas
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Texas. Department of Transportation. Texas Highways, Volume 51 Number 10, October 2004, periodical, Date Unknown; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth839147/m1/9/: accessed April 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.