Page 2 - Heritiage Guide 2016
P. 2

Page 2
By: Brian Besch PCE Assignment Editor
Livingston Mayor Clarke Evans remem- bers a time when the town he oversees was not surrounded by water. He remembers
a farming community where the primary crop was cotton. There were  elds of corn, sorghum and soybeans around his family’s dairy farm, as well as those in the area.
In an area called Kickapoo, named
for Kickapoo Creek, times were slow and quiet. It was about three miles from Onalaska with a cotton gin and general store that sold horse collars, ringer wash- ing machines, groceries, working clothes and everything in between.
The people were extremely dependent
on the weather and pricing of the com- modities sold. It was a close-knit commu- nity, with neighbor helping neighbor and family helping family. All of it would change with the plan to provide a metropolitan area with water.
There were tenants and sharecroppers who knew only how to plow a  eld and raise a crop. Suddenly, they were without a job. They were scattered from small communities to “town jobs” in Houston, where more opportuni-
ties existed. Evans’ parents had a high school education, but a good portion of others did
not, something common for that time period. Their education was based in weather, soil conditions, planting and animal care that had been handed down through generations. Most lessons were not learned within the con nes of a school building.
“The most signi cant thing that affected me personally looking back over the changes that have been made is that a whole way of life is gone,” , Evans said. “It is nothing at all like it was when I was growing up. We had a dairy and also farmed grow crops. That’s what everybody did. The old community and old economy was based on farming and it was an income that was not a steady income. It was seasonal with the crops, as they would come open and be harvested.
“There were numerous cotton gins through- out the county and, of course, people today would not know about cotton. When the gin would crank up about this time of year — or maybe a little bit earlier when the crops were coming off — they would run seven days a week and 24 hours a day. It was constant be- cause of the demand for it.”
he most significant thing
that affected me personal-
we could not stay in busi- ness operating a dairy the size that we had. Dairies have thousands of cows that are milked per day and it is the same way with the cot- ton, corn and the soybeans. I am so thankful that I lived inanerathatIwasableto see all of that.”
Evans said the TRA’s idea was that the whole basin would be cleared. There was very little timber because the majority was cropland or pasture land.
“That was the deal that they (TRA) made. They said if you stayed here, this stuff is about to be cleared. Of course, the cattle at that
to take barges and horses to pin the cattle, then put them on a trailer, and move the trailer onto the barge to pull them back across the lake. I don’t know how many barges they had loaded, but they got out there, the cattle started shift- ing and it turned over. There was numerous amount of cattle that were drowned with those trailers. There’s still two or three dozers that were left out there in the water.”
When purchasing homes, Evans explained that the TRA came in and performed an ap- praisal, as it would happen today.
“I don’t know how many appraisers they had, but they would come to the property and look at the improvements of your house, your barn, and we had a concrete block for a dairy barn and a two-story hay barn. We had two houses and then they would put a value on the land and a value on the improvements. If you didn’t like the price on it, you could refuse it and go to mediation. They would just put that money in escrow and go to the next man — and that was it.”
Evans said that owners were better off to go with what was offered. His father  gured the lake was on its way and there was nothing they could do about it. They made the decision to get the best price possible and relocate. Those that held out received more per acre, but by that time, choices on relocation had become slim and prices had begun to escalate.
“The county was not really prepared for the development. Looking back, there was no order as far as the infrastructure — the roads, the water system, and things of that sort. A lot of those entrepreneurs would buy a piece of ground, take a dozer to cut a strip down through it and start selling lots. Then you get people in there who can’t get in and out and they want the county to take the roads over. It was mass confusion for a while.”
The lake became a tourist attraction quickly, causing a demand for lots around it.
“Being in the real estate business, it just amazes me as to what waterfront lots sold for back in 1969 and what they’re selling for now. You could buy a nice one for $10,000 there at that time. My daddy used to say there’s no way in the world anybody would ever give that kind of money for it. Now we’re looking at $200,000 for lots.
“I think that Houston had the foresight to realize that if they were going to grow, they needed more water. This just seemed to be the logical place to put the lake. It is good because the City of Livingston will never be without water. I don’t know what it is going to cost — and that is the big deal. We’ve been working with the storage tank by the high school and the contract that we’ve got, we never use as much water as we are under contract for. If we hadn’t renewed that contract, today it would be worth about 10 times what we’re paying for it right now. We’re going to see some big changes in how you use your water in the future.”
The mayor said he has mixed feelings of longing for a past life, yet excitement over what the body of water has done and will bring to the area.
“I would love to be able to still have the same place that we had, because there is no comparison in the quality of the soil there
and what we have now. It was home and I was raised there and knew every bit of it. I grew up shooting ducks and doves back there in the fall over the maize  elds. I miss that.
“God’s got a way of taking care of things
for us and it all works out. I know that, overall, Polk County would not be what it is today if
it were not for the lake, because it has brought in so much development and so many more people and it has changed. We’re the second largest body of water within the boundaries
of the state. With us being as close to Houston as we are, it caused the Polk County side to develop quicker than the San Jacinto side. I still have strong roots in the soil, the weather, the animals and things of that sort, but our county would never have been what it is today had it not been for the lake.”
ly looking back over the changes that have been made is that a whole way of life is gone. It is nothing at all like it was when I was growing up”.
Livingston Mayor
Clarke Evans
With the Trinity River Authority coming in to warn all of the impending changes for Lake Livingston, most prepared sell their way of life and start over in a new setting and for some, a new occupation.
“All the farming was gone and my dad was the second person to sell to the Trinity River Authority,” Evans said. “We sold our place
in 1965. They continued to buy land up until 1969, when the gates were closed and the water actually started covering the properties up. If you don’t want to move, there’s never really enough money to satisfy you on the deal. It was a way of life that was all that I knew. I had already gone to college and got back from the Army. When I got out of college, I had several nice job offers that I didn’t take because I just couldn’t leave the place. I had to stay close to it.
“When the Trinity River Authority came in and bought the property, they gave the im- provements back to the landowners with the stipulation that the landowner could stay there as long as they wanted to. We took all the barns down, took all the fences and fence posts up, and all the improvements were removed.”
Evans’ parents purchased a tract of land just outside of Leggett in the New Willard commu- nity and started moving items there. They were also running beef cattle in addition to farm- ing at that time and sold the dairy once Lake Livingston was imminent.
“Fast forwarding and knowing today what
I didn’t know then — with mechanization, animal genetics and plant genetics — the time of the small farmer was fast going away. Today,
time were open range, but everything then was branded. Their plan was to completely clear that basin of the lake. I don’t know how many dozer contractors came in, but it was like you cannot imagine. They had a lot of the inmates from the prison over in Huntsville that came in and went behind to do manual labor.
“The word that came down was that once
the gates were closed, was that it was going to take months for that lake to  ll up. My daddy and the rest of those people that were raised out there on that river knew what would happen. Our place was in an area that was bounded
on one side by the Trinity River, one side by Kickapoo Creek, and one side by Penwaugh Slough. We were surrounded in a huge way by some major waterways through there. When the river would get up, it would stop the  ow of the creek and the slough into the river and the backwater is what would come in to  ood us.
“All of the people living on the river knew the river and how quickly it would react. That land that would over ow was where your best crops were grown because of the silt that was deposited on top of it. They said that it was going to take a long time for that like to  ll, but the old-timers would just shake their heads. Ev- erybody knew where the water line was going to be. They knew the elevation. The old-timers talk about a big  ood back in ‘31 or ‘32 and there were logs and trees that were scattered in different places in the area. People knew pretty well how it was going to happen.”
In a matter of months, much of the land was covered. Evans said his family had four years
to move, but the farm was a little over 400 acres and there was much to move. Evans’ parents married in 1929, the onset of the Great Depression. Perhaps because of that, every- thing was saved. Evans claims it was “almost to the point of becoming a little bit junky.” His father could take scraps and make do, a neces- sity when living 15 miles from a larger town.
“We actually swam cattle out; we stayed there that long. It really kind of forced every- body out. When they closed the gates, we had a wet spring similar to what we had this last year. We had lots of real heavy rain and you just woke up one morning and started seeing water out there. We had already moved physi- cally. The house that I was raised in was a frame house on blocks and then I had a frame house on blocks.
“They (the TRA) bought the houses and then they gave the houses back to us. We re- sold the houses to individuals and they moved them. So, my parents and I had already moved into town, but we had close to 200 head of cattle that we were running out there all the way from Onalaska to Blanchard just about. When the lake started  lling up like that, we went out there and started gathering cattle
and trying to move them. We would swim the cattle to dry land on horseback until we could get a truck and trailer to move them.
“I remember one tragic incident out there when some of the cattle on the San Jacinto County side swam to Pine Island. It was cov- ered in cows. One guy over there had the idea
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