Cale-Lane Oil Company
11 December 1908: At the turn of the century Buffalo Bayou was the main conduit through which barges brought Texas cargo into the rail center that Hosuton was becoming. Fifth Ward was a developing area of manufacturing and transportation, with a few residences sprinkled in. The lack of zoning there would set a pattern that spread to most parts of Houston and made it a city very different from most cities in America.
30 March 2017:The Fifth Ward, once the manufacturing and shipping center of Houston, began to languish after the Houston Ship Channel was opened in 1914. Most businesses moved the base of operations there, leaving the once busy zone a warehouse center. All too soon these became redundant as well and most were demolished by the 1980's. Parts of the Fifth Ward began to resemble bombed-out vistas of some War of Commerce.
Only when the flight to the suburbs began to be reversed, did real estate in the area begin to rebound. Now condominiums and apartments have sprung up from the vacant lots as tenants are glad to have such a short commute into downtown.
Postmarked: 11 December 1908; Houston Tex “D”
Counter postmarked: Paige, Tex Dec 12, 1908
Stamp: 1c Blue Green Ben Franklin #300
To: Mr. W. L. Scarborough
Paige Texas [pencilled: Mullin]
Message: [Front typed]
You are cordially invited to visit us whenever you are in Houston. Take Liberty car on Main St., get off at “Big Tree” walk 2 blocks east and 2 blocks south. We’ll be glad to see you.
Cale-Lane Oil Company was a modest enterprise in 1908 when W. L. Scarborough received this typed postcard detailing how to reach the location in the fifth ward on Houston’s north side. Typed cards were unusual in that day, as typewriters were almost exclusively the domain of business, and the red typewriter ribbon made sure it would catch the eye of the recipient. Travel in Houston in the early years of the 20th century was mostly by public transportation. Trains brought travelers from East and Central Texas and beyond, and once settled into their hotel or boarding house, trolleys brought visitors to the various places of interest. The “Liberty Route” took passengers to the manufacturing and transportation section of town in the 5th Ward north of downtown. Rails converged there and Buffalo Bayou provided transit to and from shipping routes in Galveston and the East US. “Big Tree” might have referred to a Houston lumber company with links into East Texas forests. “2 blocks east and two blocks south” directed Mr. Scarborough to Cale-Lane, but today those blocks have been subdivided further involving more intersections than in 1908. In 2017 the business element has largely deserted 5th Ward and their modern equivalents are found mostly in the ship channel area further east. After decades of decline, condos and apartments have sprung up featuring the lure of short commutes into downtown.
The president of Cale-Lane Oil Company was Algernon S. Cale from St. Louis, but he may have provided mostly capital. Algernon lived in Houston only a few years, residing at #1 Savoy Apartments, one of the early mid rises on the largely residential southern edge of town at 1616 Main near the intersection of Pease. Residents there also included Leonard W. Macatee and William S. Farish. Macatee was partner in W. L. Macatee & sons, were dealers in brick and construction materials found all over Houston from the courthouse to Annunciation Church; brother George Pettit Macatee was the owner and manager of The Macatee Hotel next to the railroad depot. William Stamps Farish, Jr. was soon to be founder of Humble Oil Company, and later president of Standard Oil. His brother Stephen Power Farish was the namesake for Farish Hall housing the College of Education on the University of Houston campus. Algernon Cale served as a Major in the 5th Army Corps in WWI and returned to St. Louis, MO after the war, where he worked in advertising. He died in 1957 and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in a family plot that included most of his brothers and sisters.
d his son took the name of his step-father.
The company secretary, Clark Breckinridge LeClere, may have been the operating officer. He was from Pennsylvania, and the company advertised itself as providing “Pennsylvania Oils and Greases.” He may not have typed out the postcard, but at least he probably dictated out the text. C. B. was the son of James Buchanan LeClere, a glassblower in the Pittsburg, PA, area and Sallie Hatfield, and grandson of John Lewis LeClere, an immigrant born near Paris, France about 1808. Clark worked as a glass worker in Pittsburg before moving to Galveston and then Houston. On 28 February 1900 in Beaumont, TX he married Emily Douglas from Georgia, daughter of Irwin Bird Douglas and Emily Malinda Webb, a descendant of Giles Webb from a Virginia tidewater family early into America. Emily had been married previously to J. H. Caton and had a son, James Douglas, born August 28, 1895 in Trinity, TX. Caton died in 1898, and his son took the name of his step-father.
Clark lived only a few years after the postcard, dying of Tuberculosis of the Kidney on April 26, 1914 and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery. His step-son worked as a bookkeeper for Texas Oil Company as an agent in Colorado Springs, and served as an Army Corporal in WWI. He and his mother moved to Colusa County, CA where Emma married for a third time on May 13, 1922 to Charles Way See from Indiana. Emily died in 1928, her widower lived another 34 years, dying at the age of 93; both are buried in College City Cemetery in Colusa County. James died in 1983 and is buried nearby his mother.
The postcard was written to William Lawrence Scarborough of Paige, a small community near Bastrop, TX, a cotton ginner at the time of the postcard, who later moved to Fort Bend County and took up the dairy business. He was married to Nancy Hutchinson Reid, and they raised five children: Cora, Murray, Myrtle “Mattie”, William Carroll, and Nannie May. W. L. died in 1957 in Sugarland and is buried next to his wife,, in Morton Cemetery in Richmond, TX.