5 August 1913: The Oxford Flats were located at the southwest corner of Fannin at Clay in a neighborhood consisting mostly of large homes with landscaped yards and outbuildings. Even as The Oxford drew prosperous tenants, many other families moved further from business centers into midtown and later River Oaks. The single family houses left behind were turned into boarding houses bringing a greater density to the area. First Methodist Church at the northwest corner of Main and Clay began to hold services in late 1910, and other churches and places of business would soon follow, each replacing earlier residential architecture.
23 November 2016: While the site of Oxford Flats is now a parking lot, it is surrounded by multiple high-rise buildings. Left to right: 1) far right, SkyHouse Houston, a 24 floor condo building finished in 2014; 2) left of center, Mickey Leland Federal Building (Concorde Tower), 22 floor office building finished in 1983 with extensive 2014 renovations which altered the appearance of the structure; 3) Cullen Center Bank & Trust Company Building (Continental Center II) at 600 Jefferson, a 20 floor structure part of Cullen Center completed in 1973; 4) with vertical facade, another part of Cullen Center, the 40 floor KBR Building, headquarters for Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc.; 5) with horizontal facade, 44 floor Humble Building was the tallest west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1963, although soon eclipsed in 1965 by Elm Place in Dallas. It still shows the cantilevered shades at each floor which were designed to screen out the summer sun. It is now known as the ExxonMobil Building even though that company has relocated its headquarters to the Woodlands north of Houston.
Postmarked: 5 August 1913; Houston, Texas
Stamp: 1c Green George Washington #405
To: Mrs. Edna Hursh
Message: Houston Texas
Aug 3, 1913.
Well I have certainly had a time and have stayed my six week out, and have to go to Alvord and Comanche yet, so I gues you wont have to give me that kicking when I get back. We had such a fine time in Galveston, went riding over the town today will go out all day to-morrow with Mr Nightingale will leave for Alvord on Wednesday night with love
In 1913 Holton Kansas had a population of about 3000, a number which has changed very little to the present day. On the other hand, Houston at this time had about 80,000 occupants, and was becoming a shipping center for the great center of the US. The great metropolis of the region was St. Louis, the fourth largest American city at the time with a population of about 700,000. Closer to Holton was Kansas City with more than 300,000 still far larger than Houston. Travelers from Holton to Houston would likely have taken a train from Kansas City, about 90 miles from Holton, the ride of more than 800 miles taking more than a full day.
At the other end of this journey was the author’s friend, Edna Hursh, the 35-year old wife of an attorney, Guy L. Hursh, her husband of 13 years. They had only two children, Doris (13 years old) and Galen Noll (6). Edna Adella, born 23 December 1877 in Union County, OH, was the daughter of James D. Poling and Mary A. Siever. Edna married Guy Louis Hursh about 1900, he was born 17 December 1877 in, Union County, PA, son of Benjamin Franklin Hursh and Catherine Irvine Wilson.
Lillie was on a six-week tour that included all day excursions riding around Houston and visits near there to a Mr Nightingale (see below), side trips to Galveston, and on the return leg, visits to Alvord and Comanche on her way home. Research does not suggest that she was a relative of Edna, and what she means by a “kicking” from Edna are not clear, but she was clearly well acquainted with her.
The identity of Lillie cannot be established with certainty without more information than this study could have afforded, but the closest neighbor with the name of Lillie was Lillie Simmons. In 1910 they lived about four blocks apart on a street that changed names in the interval between them: Edna at 437 Colorado and Lillie at 125 N. Topeka. They were about the same age: Edna (32), Lillie (30). Lillie was, like Edna’s husband, from Pennsylvania: Lillie Elizabeth Acker (Blair County, PA) and Guy Hursh (Union County, PA), although these counties are not adjoining or even close. In the absence of further data, Lillie’s identity must remain a mystery.
The Hursh family moved to Tokeka by 1920, where Guy continued practicing law until his death in 1935. Edna remained in Topeka until her death there at the age 92.
Note: The only Mr. Nightingale in Houston in this period seems to be a 50 year old Englishman, a carpenter by trade found on city directories 1907-1912 and the 1930 census. He was a single man living in Ryan Edition, a semi-rural section of southeast Houston below Sims Bayou in an area that would one day encompass Hobby Airport.
In 1913 apartment living was becoming a way of life in Houston, and there were many options in the neighborhood for an urban lifestyle. There was the Savoy, the Beaconsfield and The McAshan Apartments on Main Street, and on Fannin, the very grand Rossonian, the St. James Apartments, the Warrington, and the Burlington Apartments. The Rossonian was the residence for Niels Esperson and Julia Ideson in 1913, but the Oxford Flats had perhaps the most interesting tenants of all the multi-unit apartments at the time.
In apartment #2 were three of the four children of the 20th governor of Texas (1891 – 1895) - James Stephen Hogg: Will C., Mike, and Ima none of whom were married. Will was at the time president of Midlands Securities Co. and secretary treasurer of the Mexico Fuel Oil Company with an office in the Carter Building. His brother Mike was an attorney with an office in the First National Bank Building, and Ima was just beginning her career as a philanthropist. The Hogg brothers would go on to be among the founders of River Oaks, and Ima would be called “the First Lady of Texas” as she collected French Artists and established the Houston Symphonic Orchestra. Her River Oaks home, Bayou Bend, and its classic gardens and its collection of art and antiques is now a campus of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.
In apartment #11 was the family of Thomas William House, Jr. He was one of nine children of Thomas W. House, Sr., English immigrant and entrepreneur, mayor of Houston in 1862. His mother was Mary Elizabeth Shearn, daughter of one of Houston’s first citizens. The mayor was once the richest man in Texas, whose widow in 1913 lived at 1010 Louisiana which junior inherited on the death of his father.
Perhaps most intriguing and under appreciated of all is Laura Koppe in apartment #10. She is the namesake for a major thoroughfare in north Houston, an exit off Interstate 69 which traverses from Jenson through I-69, Hirsch Rd., Lockwood, Homestead, N. Wayside and past Mesa Road. She was born Laura Mike on 2 October 1868 in Little Rock, Pulaski County, AR, daughter of David Mike, a French immigrant and dry goods merchant in Bryan, TX and Mary Evans. David Mike as a three year old came to America on 19 June 1833 aboard the Albany from Le Havre to New York with his father, David Michel, mother Marguerite, and siblings Gottlieb (13 at the time), Marguerite (12), Suzanna (9), Elizabeth (6) and Jacob (1).
Laura was sister to 11 brothers and sisters: Rosa (b. 1858), John B. (1856), Maggie (1862), James (1864), Laura (1868), Willie (1869), Mary “Mollie” (1870), Mattie (1871), Annie (1873), Louie (1875), David (1877), Jacob (1879). David and Mary Mike are in Franklin County, Arkansas by 1860 where they made a living as farmers. Laura was born in Little Rock in 1868. They moved to Bryan, Brazos County, TX shortly after Willie was born in 1869, where David was a merchant.
Perhaps yearning for a smaller household, Laura married when barely 16 to Simon Horetzky on 26 October 1884 in Brazos County, TX. They had two daughters: Catherine Mae “Carrie” (born in August 1885), and Bertha Marguerite (2 July 1887); there may have been a third child, which Laura indicated on the census of 1910 as deceased at that time. Simon died 18 October 1894, and is buried in Bryan City Cemetery. Widowed with two children, she married about a year later (21 December 1895) a man 20 years her senior, a German hardware merchant from Bryan, William Koppe. William was himself widowed, his wife Mary Kieffer died 7 December 1883, their children were William (6 July1875) and Mary (1877). William lived less than seven years after their marriage, dying on 21 November 1902. He is buried in the Koppe family plot in Bryan City Cemetery.
William Koppe had been managing sizable land holdings lands on the border of Brazos and Burleson Counties in the lowlands of the Brazos River. These holdings included Koppe Ferry which had been put into place in 1890 at Rocky Ford within the Koppe landholdings. Ferries were a slow mode of transport, but bridges were an engineering challenge along the flood-prone river. Four years after William’s death Laura began to assemble the financing for the construction of a bridge at the Koppe Ferry site, which was completed in 1908. This structure persisted for many years, but was eventually taken out by high waters. Long years later, the timbers were scavenged for the construction of the Koppe Bridge Bar & Grill, still a popular College Station watering hole famed for its burgers.
Laura Koppe continued to manage the farms in Brazos County, but by 1910 she was living mostly in Houston, rooming at a boarding house at 912 Walker St. The Oxford Flats was her home in Houston after 1912. She continued to manage affairs in Bryan with her step-son, William Koppe, her man on the ground in Brazos and Burleson counties. By 1918 he had become ill from cirrhosis of the liver, and died at Baptist Sanitarium on 8 October 1918. He is buried beside his parents in Bryan.
Laura must have cared for her stepson when he was ill, as she was still at the Oxford Flats only a few blocks away. She is listed as next of kin on his draft record for WWI on 9-11-1918 and the informant on his death certificate, so she seemed to be his only close kin. She stayed at Oxford Flats through about 1926, when she moved to El Paso near her daughters, where she died 16 June 1928 at the age of 58; her youngest daugher Bertha Marguerite Evans died 22 October 1947 at the age of 60, and her older daughter Carrie Mae Fant died 10 February 1973 at 87; all are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso.