GLEN FLORA, TX
GLEN FLORA, TEXAS. Glen Flora is at the junction of Farm Roads 102 and 960, on the east bank of the Colorado River six miles northwest of Wharton in Wharton County. The area's first settlers, members of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred, were John C. Clark and Robert Kuykendall. About 1890 C. H. Waterhouse moved to Wharton County and purchased large tracts of land on the west bank of the Colorado. He brought in German families from his home state of Pennsylvania to tenant-farm his acreage. He established a large sugar mill and pumping plant as well as a cotton gin across the river from his home. The pumping plant was advertised as the largest one in Texas. The Waterhouse Rice and Sugar Company changed names and ownership several times. It began with the name Waterhouse; when partners were added, it was renamed the Pittsburg-Glen Flora Sugar Company; it was then sold and renamed the Kincheloe Irrigation Company (asit was located in one of the Kincheloe leagues). Later it was resold and named the Wharton County Irrigation Company by R. H. Hancock.
The German families were established about a mile west of the sugar mill. There Waterhouse set aside five acres for a church and a cemetery. The residents called their settlement Vesperville. In 1895 they built a church, St. John's Lutheran; its services were conducted in German only. The church building was completely destroyed three times while at this site: by a hurricane in 1909, by a tornado in 1910, and by a fire in 1918. The congregation moved the church to Glen Flora in 1919, but the new structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1929. A fifth building survived in Glen Flora until 1941, when the congregation decided to move it to Wharton and renamed it St. Paul's Lutheran, as there was already a St. John's Lutheran in Wharton.
After the construction of the Cane Belt Railroad, the townsite of Glen Flora was established in 1898 on the east bank of the Colorado River, directly across from the Waterhouse plant. Two of the main railroad investors were William Thomas Eldridge and William Dunovant. A street on each side of the railroad track in Glen Flora is named for one of these two men. In 1902 Eldridge shot and killed Dunovant while traveling on one of their trains. The community post office was established in August 1900, and in May 1902 the Glen Flora Town Company was formed with Waterhouse as president. It was reorganized in 1906 with G. C. Gifford as president. The name Glen Flora was suggested by William Hood, who with R. M. Martin owned and operated a mercantile store in the area; it was the name of Hood's plantation. The store was moved to the townsite, and Hood eventually built a grand three-story brick structure there.
The town grew rapidly, and it had numerous businesses, including several mercantile stores, two cotton gins, a meat market, a drugstore, a hotel, a bank, a gristmill, a lumberyard, and later a movie theater and a telephone company. The county commissioners gave permission to the sugar mill to construct a rail line down the middle of the bridge spanning the Colorado to bring its cane and cotton to the Cane Belt Railroad for shipment, using mules to pull the cars. The school district was established soon after 1900, and in 1905 it had thirty-seven students and one teacher. Many black families were in the area, and local black children were served by two schools. The white school was consolidated with the Crescent district in 1948, and eventually it became part of the El Campo Independent School District. The small black schools in the area consolidated and built a single campus just west of Glen Flora; this school was named after the principal, Thomas Lane Pink. After desegregation black students were transferred either to the El Campo or to the Wharton ISD beginning in 1961.
Glen Flora is surrounded by rich farmlands. After the decline of sugarcane, important cash crops were rice, corn, and cotton; potatoes were grown and shipped out by the carload before scab ended that venture. In the early 1980s a large commercial fruit orchard was established, and a local store for sales was built. The population of Glen Flora began to decline after 1960, and businesses closed as many residents began to move to Wharton. In 1980 there were only 210 residents listed on the census; the population remained the same in 1990 and 2000. In 1992 service by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (the Cane Belt) was discontinued; the railroad track, ties, and gravel bed were removed, and the right-of-way was sold or returned to the contingent landowners.
Annie Lee Williams, A History of Wharton County (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1964).