Official Texas Historical Subject Marker - City of Pelly, Texas by Chuck Chandler (.pdf file)
Pelly and Baytown (Humble Refinery side) were separated by the Goose Creek stream.
Pelly took it's name from Englishman Fred T. Pelly, an area pioneer and first mayor.
Middle Town incorporated in January 1920 and became Pelly.
Pelly's business district was located on the Pelly-Baytown Road (currently West Main).
Pelly named their Bank Goose Creek State Bank (never getting over the fact that Goose Creek had stolen their Post Office). It fell on hard times during the Depression and was taken over by a Goose Creek Bank and moved away.
Robert E. Lee High School was located in the Pelly city limits. Goose Creek unsuccessfully tried to annex the complex.
Anson Jones, Horace Mann Junior, Sam Houston Elementary, and (what was then known as) the colored schools were in Pelly.
In 1944 Pelly voted to remain independent of Goose Creek. In 1945, Pelly voted itself a home-rule city with a charter.
The first Mayor of Pelly was Fred Pelly and E. D. "Eddie" Cleveland was the top elected official in Pelly. Wanda Orton Read Wanda Orton's explanation on how Pelly came into being. CLICK HERE
On Monday, January 26, 1948 the city of Pelly officially became the city of Baytown...the second largest city in Harris County (Houston).
Much of the information on this page comes from the excellent book 'Baytown Vignettes', or 'The History of Baytown' available at Sterling Municipal Library and the Baytown Historical Museum located at 220 W. Defee and Wanda Orton.
Pelly incorporated 96 years ago by Wanda Orton
Wish the city of Pelly a happy
birthday next Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Although Pelly is no longer a city unto
itself, it’s good to remember the birth date of its incorporation in 1920.
Pelly - a.k.a. Utopia - remembered
Wanda Orton | Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2016 12:00 am
Having spent most of my childhood in old Baytown, with only a brief pre-school sabbatical in Goose Creek, I’ve been history-challenged about the original city of Pelly. Fortunately, over the years, friends like Robert Floyd, Lou Floyd Elam and Charlotte Ellis Pate, have come to my rescue, sharing recollections about growing up in Pelly.
Another reliable source for Pelly history and personal memories is Buck A. Young’s award winning article, “Remembering Utopia,” published in 1982 in the East Texas Historical Journal. As Buck remembered it, Pelly was Utopia, and his remembrances are invaluable to local history buffs. If you are one of those buffs and would like to read the article, it’s just a computer click away. However, if you don’t have time to look it up, I’ll try to summarize some of the things Buck wrote about.
Envision this: Two young brothers sitting atop fire hoses in the Pelly fire station at city hall, devouring ice cream and doughnuts until their stomach hurt. Against parents’ orders, the brothers wander over the railroad trestle near Robert E. Lee High School. Every Friday night they go to the picture show at the Alamo Theater, avoiding the rowdy kiddie matinees on Saturdays. Reading comic books at Leggett’s Drug Store, they have a habit of putting the reading material back on the magazine rack instead of making a purchase. Their family has to pick up their mail at the general delivery window at the Pelly post office until the city finally recognizes their home address.
The brothers spend hours at the library inside City Hall, trying to read every book on the shelves. All that — and more — is the story of Buck Young and his brother, Dick Young, growing up in the mid-century city of Pelly, population 5,000. “Welcome to Pelly,” said the huge sign on Main Street by City Hall. “Our City Hall was much more than just a place where the city council met and you paid your water bill,” Buck wrote. “The upstairs auditorium was used by civic and church groups too, and downstairs a large room housed a branch of the Harris County Library.” On the King Street side of the building was access to the one- pumper fire station, and it remained there until a new station was built on Nazro. Next to the post office on Main was the Miracle Store where customers bought clothing and dry goods. Among other business places downtown were the Ice House, Bush’s Cafe, Katz’s Grocery, Ledner’s Second Hand Store, Sunbrite Bar, Modern Cleaners, Wainscott’s Five and Dime, Eat-A-Bite Cafe, Stephenson’s Grocery, Kaiser’s Hardware, Good Luck Store and the Red Cab station.
“Everyone’s favorite hangout was Leggett’s Drug Store where Eddie and Sally Cleveland adopted every kid in town, and later, the kids’ kids,” Buck wrote. “Images of strawberry ice cream sodas, cherry phosphates, root beer floats, and hand-packed, store-made ice cream placed in square containers run through my mind when I remember that al1- American drug store. The world moved slowly and unchangingly in that pharmacy.”
Buck frequented Creel’s Barber Shop next to the vacant lot where the Nu-Gulf Theater once stood. A shoeshine man named Tamp worked there, getting around on a low platform equipped with wheels. Tamp had lost both legs in a train accident. With his shoeshine revenue, he put a niece and nephew through college — an accomplishment Buck didn’t know about until he read Tamp’s obituary in The Sun. Next to the barber shop was Stephenson’s Grocery Store, the first business established in Pelly.
(Editor’s note: A retired Air Force major, Buck authored the book, “The Making of a City,” a history of Baytown since consolidation of Pelly, Goose Creek and Baytown.) Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor of The Sun. She can be reached at [email protected], Attention: Wanda Orton.
Fred T. Pelly was born in London, England in 1870 and
came to the United States in 1889 for, as he put it, “adventure and work.” After
a stint in the U.S. Cavalry he moved to Houston and, on a visit to Goose Creek
met Lucy Wiggins. She was a daughter of David Wiggins who, in 1879, had
purchased a farm called Headquarters from Mary Jones. After they married in
1895, he moved to the Wiggins farm and took up ranching. Lucy had a brother and
sister and in 1899,Wiggins gave Lucy and her brother Thomas about 72 acres each.
In 1907 he gave sister Dollie Hauffa 67-acre tract which she immediately sold to
Producers Oil Company. Thomas died in 1910 and left his widow, Hettie, in charge
if their children’s inheritance. The other land owners in the neighborhood were
Lafayette Jones, Vivian Duke and Benjamin Hunter, who lived in Tennessee.
Oil drilling began at Goose Creek in 1904 but when it was discovered on John Gaillard’s property in 1908, all the land owners in the neighborhood had visions of riches dancing in their heads. When the first well came in, all the property in the area was leased and after the first big gusher blew out in 1916, most people moved north to the Wiggins and Duke properties. After New Town was established further north on the Wright and Pruett properties, people started calling everything between New Town and the oil field Middle Town. There were thousands of people living in as Middle Town, but after John Gaillard sold his property for more than a million dollars, the other property owners refused to sell, hoping for oil money. A business district developed along today’s West Main Street but by mid-1918, it was becoming obvious that the oil was mostly found south of the Wiggins property.
So in December, Hettie Wright (she had married
Clemons Wright by now) had the children’s property surveyed and platted as
Middletown Subdivision. The residents of Middle Town planned to incorporate with
the name of Goose Creek, but before they had a chance, New Town grabbed that
name and incorporated the following January. Ten months later Goose Creek
annexed part of Middle Town, prompting Fred Pelly to lead a petition drive to
incorporate Middle Town as the city of Pelly. The incorporation election was
held on December 6, 1919 and the city of Pelly was chartered with Fred Pelly as
the first mayor. Whether by happenstance or by design (my money is on design),
the Pelly city limits had a finger of land extending all the way to Goose Creek
stream, preventing Goose Creek from annexing the territory between the creek and
the western boundary of the Pelly city limits. The territory that Goose Creek
had annexed was called “Center Town” and for three years, the two cities
contested over ownership, with Pelly finally winning.
The Tri-City Chamber of Commerce was formed by
businessmen of Baytown, Goose Creek and Pelly in 1927 and Robert E. Lee High
School was built in 1928, located on the newly-built Market Street centrally
located between the three towns. In order to annex territory, that territory had
to be contiguous or touching existing city boundary. Goose Creek badly wanted to
annex the school and later, Baytown, but that finger of Pelly extending to the
creek cut them off. So, in May 1928, Goose Creek surveyed a 200’ strip of land
on the west bank of the stream so they could annex it and do an end-run around
the Pelly city limits. But Pelly got word and beat them to the punch, annexing
the school as well as the Wiggins Homestead tract, which also included the
future Hill of Rest Cemetery. In 1930, Goose Creek made a push for
“consolidation” with Pelly and Stewart Heights, but it was really annexation.
Goose Creek wanted to get it done before the census was taken because they
needed 5,000 citizens to retain their home-rule charter, and they weren’t sure
they had them. That move seems to have thrown a wet blanket over cooperation
because shortly afterwards, both Goose Creek and Pelly had their own chambers of
commerce. It would be 1945 before the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce would be
There were several more consolidation attempts over
the years and some even went to a vote. The most serious attempt was in 1939.
The campaign went on for months and was strongly pushed by both chambers of
commerce, but a referendum election in Goose Creek showed only lukewarm
enthusiasm for the proposal and it wasn’t put to a general election. Pelly
Alderman A.P. Geiger was outspoken in his criticism of the plan, saying that
Goose Creek had always been antagonistic to Pelly and he could see no benefits
from consolidation. Other Pelly Aldermen weren’t so vocal in their thoughts.
Another try at consolidation in 1944 made it to the polls where Pelly voters
turned down the proposal with 254 against consolidation and 152 for. All of
these consolidations would have had Goose Creek annexing Pelly.
In January 1945, Goose Creek annexed a 300-acre tract
north of Pelly right across the stream from Busch Terrace, just south of Park
Street. This would allow them to annex that territory the following year, so in
June the city of Pelly went on the offensive when the mayor appointed a census
commission for the city.It determined that Pelly’s population exceeded 5,000,
the threshold for designation as a Home Rule Charter city. An election was held
on July 28thand the citizens of Pelly voted 94 to 21in favor of the
new city charter. Among other things, this designation allowed the city to annex
contiguous and unincorporated territory without the approval of the people being
annexed. It took until December to draw up the charter, get it approved, and
plan the next move. Late on Saturday night, December 8th,
1945,the same day that Lee beat Milby in the quarter final football playoff game
annexed the contiguous and unincorporated territory of Baytown.
No official map of original Pelly was ever
made. This map was created from the metes and bounds as described in the Harris
County Commissioners Court record dated November 20, 1919. The dashed lines were
the only roads at the time.