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Fred Pelly first mayor of Pelly

February 25, 2007

Someone told me about reading somewhere that Eddie Cleveland was the first mayor of Pelly. No, no. Fred Pelly served as the first mayor of the city named after him.

Initially elected in 1920, he held that office on three different occasions, and through the years accepted other responsibilities, including that of city judge.

Cleveland was the top elected official in Pelly when all that consolidation business was brewing in the ’40s.

By now you’ve probably heard: Pelly annexed unincorporated Baytown in December 1945 and then Pelly (including what used to be Baytown) consolidated with the city Goose Creek in February 1947. After voters approved a new charter in January 1948, the area unofficially known as the Tri-Cities officially became Baytown.

The up-and-down name changing may have seemed like a game of “municipal musical chairs.”But through it all, the mayor’s name never changed. Cleveland led the city of Pelly, then Pelly plus Baytown, then Pelly plus Baytown and Goose Creek, and finally new Baytown.

Whew! Got all that? Cleveland deserves much credit for his multiple-mayoral role in Baytown history, but “first mayor of Pelly” he was not. It’s no wonder the city of Pelly was named after its first mayor. He and his wife, the former Lucy Wiggins, practically owned the place, having developed 71 acres on which the city was formed.

Lucy Pelly was a member of the pioneer Wiggins family that had been in the area since the 1800s. Mayor Pelly came from England. The city of Pelly was incorporated on Jan. 19, 1920. First aldermen were Isadore Wiesenthal, W.F. Hall, E.J. Smith, J.P. Weickershimer and R.C. Stephenson Sr.

The city of Goose Creek, created on Jan. 28, 1919, could boast of being the first incorporated city in eastern Harris County. W.E. Bussey led the first Goose Creek City Commission as mayor while E.C. Slaughter and L.J. Smith served as city commissioners.

“Fear” often motivates citizens to act, and such was the case in Pelly. Afraid of being annexed by Goose Creek, the people decided to form their own city. Tension existed between the two towns, especially after Goose Creek “kidnapped” Pelly’s post office in August 1918.

Different versions of that event have been told. Repeated most often is the story that several men, in the dead of the night, jacked up the Pelly post office, placed it on a wagon and rolled it to Defee Street in Goose Creek. Another version states simply that the structure had to be removed at night in order to avoid the interruption of postal service the next day.

Whatever account is accurate, one thing we know for sure — Goose Creek and Pelly had issues. Originally, the citizens of both towns had been friends and neighbors, comprising one community called Middle Town. (Old Town referred to the oil field.)

New Town then began to emerge north of Middle Town, and many Pelly residents moved there, enticed by Ross S. Sterling’s Goose Creek Realty Co.  A founder of Humble Oil & Refining Co. and a future Texas governor, Sterling had big plans for New Town, starting with changing the name to Goose Creek.

Habits are hard to change, however. People for years kept calling it New Town just as many in Pelly stuck with the Middle Town moniker. Fred Pelly, by the way, never minded that the consolidated Tri-Cities became the city of Baytown, rather than Pelly.

It bothers me, though, that some people today don’t know that he was the first mayor of the original city of Pelly.
He sure enough was.

Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor of The Baytown Sun.


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