Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Hogue," not "Hogg"

When J. S. Hogg became a player in the booming oil business in the early 1900s, his portly figure and his colorful personality made him an instant celebrity in New York City. Newspapers loved him. In the fall of 1901, when Ima went to New York to study music, the New York Times ran the following piece about her father:

         Ex-Gov. “Jim” Hogg of Texas is in town on his annual Fall visiting the city. The Governor has been very successful in business the past year, but never misses the opportunity to tell one of those hard-luck stories of his early career, which, given with such genuine feeling, always impress his auditors. His latest is that of the early days when Mr. Hogg had first commenced the practice of law in his Texan home after his return from the civil war.
         He was decidedly hard up for a board bill amounting to $50, and was on the limits of landlady leniency. Sitting in his office one day, wondering how he could raise the needed sum, a man entered and informed him he wished legal advice.
         “Fifty dollars, sir,” exclaimed Mr. Hogg almost involuntarily as he saw visions of a financial windfall.
         “Oh, you want your fee in advance? All right, Sir,” and the client took a roll of bills from his pocket and handed him a $50 bill.
         The visitor then announced that he contemplated some “crooked work”--nothing short of robbing a private banking house.
         Mr. Hogg, while considering his duty to his client, also was mindful of that as a good citizen, and gently but firmly dissuaded his visitor from his proposed crime, raising all the legal obstacles he could, rather than facilitating the other’s scheme to escape by his aid the penalty if detected. The man left not so much discouraged as Mr. Hogg thought he ought to be, while Hogg himself hastened to his boarding house joyously to liquidate his board bill.
         His surprise and disappointment when he did not find the aforesaid $50 in his pocket where he had placed it when he received it from his client, may be imagined. It cannot well be described. . . . Returning to his office later he found under his door a scrawl on a bit of paper to the effect that the party did not consider the advice given worth the sum charged, and that therefore before leaving he had stolen the bill from his pocket.
         “Don’t talk to me,” says Governor Hogg in concluding this story, “about honor among thieves.”
         The Governor pronounces his name as if spelled “Hogue,” but the unsophisticated pages will go about the corridor shouting, “Letter for Governor Hog!”
--The New York Times, October 13, 1901.

“Hogue.” He never said that in Texas.
He never fought in the Civil War, either.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"A place called Spindletop..."

On January 10, 1901, an oil well came in at a place called Spindletop just outside Beaumont. The oil well was a gusher, spewing forth more than 75,000 barrels of oil a day. The great oil boom was on. Soon producing 100,000 barrels of oil per day, the gusher tripled the nation’s oil production and set off a frenzy of oil drilling. Beaumont, a town of about 9,000 in January, turned into a boomtown of 30,000 by March.  This development did not go unnoticed by ex-Governor J. S. Hogg.

Early in 1901 Hogg did two things: With James W. Swayne, a Fort Worth lawyer friend, he formed the Hogg-Swayne Syndicate to invest in lands at Spindletop. To enlarge their capital, they invited three other men—Judge Robert Brooks, A. S. Fisher, and William T. Campbell—to join the Syndicate. They bought 15 acres of land at Spindletop, and since prospective buyers were eager to pay thousands of dollars for a fraction of an acre just large enough to drill a well on, the Syndicate was soon free of debt and reaping handsome profits. By 1902 there were 600 oil companies, 285 oil wells, and Spindletop was a forest of oil derricks.
The second thing that Jim Hogg did in 1901 was to buy an old plantation in Brazoria County. The “Patton Place,” as it was known, had a colorful history long before Hogg bought it. Located about 50 miles south of Houston, with lush green fields and magnificent oak trees, it was one of Stephen F. Austin’s original land grants to 300 Texas settlers in 1824. The first owner was Martin Varner, who sold it in 1834 to Columbus Patton, who brought his family and his slaves (one of whom was his mistress) from Kentucky. The plantation (now Varner-Hogg Plantation Historical Site, and well worth a visit) declined after the Civil War, and eventually was acquired by the New York and Texas Land Company, from whom J. S. Hogg purchased it in 1901. He got a good price: 4,100 acres for $30,000, or about $7.00 per acre. In today’s dollars that would come to over $783,000.
         Hogg's oil syndicate merged profitably with J. S. Cullinan's Texas Fuel Company (later Texaco), and ex-Governor Hogg reveled in his new-found affluence. There were happy times at "the Varner," which Hogg had bought because he believed there was oil under the land. When made his will in 1905 he ordered that the Varner property not be sold until 15 years after his death. He died in 1906, and he was right about the oil. In 1917--eleven years after J. S. Hogg’s death--the first big oil well came in at Varner. Other wells soon followed, and By 1920 the field at Varner was producing an income of about $225,000--per month.
For Will, Ima, Mike, and Tom, money worries were a thing of the past. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ima Hogg, and "you're another."

Before Facebook and Twitter, Ima Hogg’s name went viral--via newspapers in 1890s:

         * Texas ought to be proud of its governor, Hogg, whose two girls and boy have been named by himself, “Ima Hogg, Ura Hogg and Moore Hogg.”
--The Atchison Champion [Atchison, Kansas], April 25, 1891.

         * Governor Hogg of Texas named one of his daughters Ima Hogg. Her reproach to her father must be, “you’re another.”
--The Daily Evening Bulletin [San Francisco, California] May 2, 1891.

         * The enemies of Gov. Hogg of Texas accuse him of naming his three children respectively Ima Hogg, Ura Hogg, and Moore Hogg. The Texas campaign promises to be one of the most unique on record, and the fear is expressed that it may become personal.
--St. Paul Daily News [Minneapolis, Minnesota], September 3, 1892.
         * Gov. Hogg of Texas, who is visiting New York, is a man with a large sense of humor. He has two daughters, one of whom he named Ima Hogg and the other Ura Hogg. He wanted to name his son Bea Hogg, but his wife put a stop to that.
--The Penny Press [Minneapolis, Minnesota], July 7, 1894
         * Ex-Governor Hogg of Texas takes the trouble to write to a Chicago paper that he has no children named Ura, Hesa, and Sheesa, but admits that he has a daughter named Ima. This seems to give his whole case away, says the Atlanta Constitution.
-- Fayetteville [North Carolina] Observer, December 5, 1896
         * Ex-Governor Hogg of Texas, now at the Hawaiian Hotel, besides being a man of force and strong convictions, has a vein of humor which finds all sorts of channels. His two daughters are named Ima and Ura, and a son is named Moore. These three names, in fact, introduced in succession, invariably have the effect originally conceived of. Miss Ima Hogg is with her father here.
--The Hawaiian Gazette, September 6, 1898

* Ima Hogg is the startling and decidedly non-euphonic name of the fair, winsome and pretty, curly-haired daughter of Governor James S. Hogg, of Texas, who at the Fourth of July dinner at Tammany Hall set the braves wild by a rattling Bryan and silver speech. Regarding the peculiar name of his daughter, the Governor says: “I suppose you have heard the ridiculous stories about the way my children are named. Now, the truth of the matter is, that my girl’s name is Ima Hogg. She was named by her mother. Her mother was reading a book somewhere in which one of the characters which interested her exceptionally was named Ima. About that time the little girl came along, and she was named Ima. We never noticed the play of her name until it was called to our attention. The boys all have rational names. They are Tom, Mike, and Will.”
--The North American [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], July 13, 1899.

Ima's comments on this story are not recorded.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Ah, yes. I have met your queen."

On July 31, 1898, Ima and her father sailed for Hawaii aboard the U.S. Navy's  Arizona. The United States had annexed the Hawaiian Islands, and ex-Governor James Stephen Hogg was among the dignitaries invited to Hawaii to witness the raising of the stars and stripes over the islands. (That is another story, but not here.) But there was an unexpected delay: As Ima wrote later, “The ship . . . was filled with officers and soldiers [and] was anchored at sea for a day or so when one of the rudders was out of order. This made us too late for the ceremonies.”
The voyage to Honolulu took eight days, and Ima, who had recently celebrated her sixteenth birthday on July 10, apparently had a fine time aboard. She kept a little notebook she labeled “My Freak Book” with a record of her trip, and all the Arizona’s officers signed it.
She and her father were in Hawaii by August 12, and stayed at the Hawaiian Palace Hotel. Years later, Ima recalled the events of their visit in her memoir:
”We were invited to Queen Liliuokalani’s birthday party celebration with music and native dancing outdoors, which was lovely.”
But Ima was not enchanted by the Queen’s residence, and even less enchanted by the Queen herself:
“The palace she lived in was not elegant and she was a large unattractive woman.”

Six decades later, when Ima Hogg was in her eighties, she once startled some Hawaiian visitors in Houston by remarking matter-of-factly, “Ah, yes. I have met your queen.”


Saturday, March 2, 2013

"I want no commission."

In April 1898 the United States went to war, and Ima’s father, J. S. Hogg, wanted to be in it. Cuba’s rebellion against Spanish control had finally brought the U.S. to a declaration of war against Spain. In February the United States battleship Maine, on a visit to Cuba, had sunk after a mysterious explosion in Havana Harbor. Two hundred sixty-six American sailors were killed, and many Americans were furious. President McKinley signed a document demanding Spain’s disengagement in Cuba on April 20. Spain refused, and the Spanish-American War was on.
Three days later,  J. S. Hogg age 47,  wrote a letter to his friend, Texas Governor Charles Culberson:                 

                                                                        April 23, 1898
Dear Governor:
         My services are at the command of my country for and during the war with Spain.
         Further discussion of the policy of the unfortunate measure is now out of place. The conflict is on and every self-respecting available man must, from impulses of pride, of honor, of patriotism, stand ready to place his business, his property, his life, at his country’s disposal, to the end that our flag shall not suffer dishonor. For the want of a military education I know my unfitness in any other capacity than that of a private soldier whose duty is to obey orders from those who may have the authority to give them.
         I want no commission. I aspire to no office. With those who are to carry the muskets to do execution I stand ready to go in line, shoulder to shoulder, and to share their fate whenever and wherever you or the recruiting officer you may name shall see fit to assign me.
         At command, Your Obt. Srv’t.,
                                                      J. S. Hogg.

But some weeks later the portly ex-Governor wrote to a friend, J. F. Banks in Kingsland, Texas, who was evidently of a similar age and girth: “Men of our sort and weight are excluded under the army rules and regulations from participating in the present war with Spain. . . . It seems that vigorous fat men over forty-five are not wanted by the government.”

         Will Hogg, age 23, hoped to get a commission to serve in the U.S. Navy, but he did not get it.