5 June 1916: W C Munn and Company was the largest department store in the south when it was built in 1913 by Wiley Cooper Munn. A few years before he had come to Houston from Weimar and joined Gustave Antoine Mistrot to operate a retail dry goods store, Mistrot-Munn at Congress and Travis. The Munn family lived at 2901 Main near some of the most prosperous Houston businessmen, including Jesse Jones. Reincorporating in 1913 as sole owner, he erected the 5-story Dow Building on the northeast corner of Capitol and Travis to house W C Munn Company. The store had entrances on Texas, Capitol, Travis, and Main Streets and sold dry goods from 1913 until 1938, the year that Munn died and Wards took over the space. Wards occupied the building until 1961 when they closed their downtown store; the building was demolished shortly afterwards. On the far left, the Milby Hotel occupies the southeast corner of Texas and Travis.
22 April 2013: JPMorgan Chase Center, accessory building for the 75-story JPMorgan Chase Tower across Travis Street, occupies the site where the W C Munn Company once sold clothing and other dry goods. The center’s 20 floors include parking for over 2000 cars, as well as offices for various support activities for the tower, as well as retail outlets on the first level. Designed by I. M. Pei, the accessory building and tower were completed in 1982 as Texas Commerce Tower. Long-time Houstonians will remember Hurricane Alicia the year after completion, in which the building lost windows and Travis Street was blocked by glass and debris from offices high above, but fortunately no one was harmed at street level.
Postmarked: 5 June 1916; Houston, Texas
Stamp: 1c George Washington #405
To: Miss Mary Real
Message: June 5 – ‘16
Dear girl – do I owe you a letter or do you me? Have you seen mama yet – she is sure having a good time. Go see her if you can, Are you in school? How is everyone – Love Cletus –
Cletus Opal Frump was 18 when she wrote this postcard to her friend Mary Eleanor Rea back in the tiny town of Coal City, Owen County, IN. Cletus had been married about a year and a half, so she was likely traveling to Houston with her husband, Edward Lelonnie Bennett. They had a five-month old daughter, Clemodene Franklin, who would have probably been on the trip as well. Edward may have been checking out Houston’s job market, or maybe the family was there on a leisure trip.
Her correspondent, Mary Elizabeth Rea, was just a year younger, still single, the daughter of Charlotte R. Baumgartner and George Lewis Rea, farmers near Coal City. Mary had brothers John L. (9 years older), Carl F. (8 years older), Leo Troy (6 years older), and sadly, three infant brothers who died young (1893, 1984, 1898) and an older sister Ruth who died at 10 when Mary was 8 years old.
Cletus was the fourth child of Mary Ann Orman and “Doctor” Dick Frump, a farmer in Clay County, IN a few miles west of Coal City, so named for the industry which first drew settlers there in the mid 19th century. Cletus (had an older brother, Carl Elzever (1886), sisters Ethel Margaret (1890), who married David Staley and raised a family, and Florence (1893), who married Carlton Vice and raised a family. The Frumps, the Staleys, the Vices, and the Reas were farming families.
Edward was the son of John Monroe Bennett and America L. Walker formerly farmers in Tazewell County, VA. John Bennett moved to Jackson County, MS between 1900 and 1910, and in 1917 America died and Bennett married to Hattie Gray Garrett, who had been married to Justin Melvin Harman, by whom she had a family of XXX children. By 1920 the blended Bennett family was living in Otoe County, NE where they made a living from farming. Edward was the eldest child, and married December 19, 1914 when he was 20 and she was 16. They would have three more children after Clemodene: Opal Vee (1917), Bernice I. (1924), and Lloyd E. (1927). In their first years of marriage, they were moving every few years, living in Nebraska City, NE (1916), Butterfield, Hot Springs County, AR (1917), before coming back to Indiana where they settled in Indianapolis (1930, 1940). Edward worked as a laborer in a packing house (1920), foreman in a carpenter shop (1930), and manager of a coal company (1940). Cletus died in 1968 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Greenwood, Johnson County, IN, and Edward died in 1984 in Florida and is buried beside his wife.
Mary Rea married Hermit Darewood Alkire in 1921, the son of Everett Wilson Alkire, formerly a coal miner in Greene County, IN (1920), later a Town Marshall (1930) and farmer (1940). Hermit was the eldest (1903) child, with younger brothers Oscar O. (1909), Orval L. (1913), and Lloyd Paul (1914). Their mother, Maime Keller, died in 1918 and Everett married Nora Story, widow of James (1851-1908), and stepbrothers R. K. Story (1905) and Mark O. (1908) joined the family.
Mary and Hermit Alkire had a son, Donovan R. Alkire in 1923, and a daughter Gwenavere in 1932. Hermit worked as a steam shovel operator in 1930. Neither Mary nor Hermit lived past 40, Hermit died in 1934 and Mary in 1936. They are buried in Rea Cemetery, a family cemetery with only 36 internments going back to Hermit’s grandfather Samuel Rea (1790 – 1859). Their minor children subsequently lived with their Uncle Troy Rea, a state road patrolman in Owen County. Donovan enlisted in WWII, and married Sylvia Joyce Goodman in 1949 in Arkansas.