9 March 1910: In the early 20th century, Commerce Street between Main and Travis was one of the busiest blocks in the city. In the early hours of the morning produce growers met with vendors to negotiate prices on a commission basis and prepare for a brisk day of selling. Commerce was the first street up from the Buffalo Bayou, once the main transportation avenue for the burgeoning city. Even though rail lines had largely supplanted these water routes by 1910, the infrastructure and business alliances had been in place on this low-lying street for many years. The rapid pace of business allowed for interruptions from flooding to have a minimal impact, and the places of business could rapidly respond to rising waters in a way that dry goods would not have permitted [See Houston Viaduct for a view of this section of Houston from the other side of the bayou].
1. 102-104 Main: Baldwin & Cargill, Wholesale Fruits; 2. 910 Commerce: Houston Hat Co.; 912: Lilienthal Bros., produce, feed, grain, commission merchants;3. 902 Commerce: Davidson Bros., wholsale cigars; 904: Thompson T. H. & Co. commission merchants; 906: Lewis Bros., wholesale butter, eggs; 4. 104-106 Travis: Jones-Brewster Co. wholesale butter, etc.; 106½: Texas Rice Farmers Ass'n & Exchange; Union Products Co., rice; Hooper R. H. & Co., cotton; Bulley S. Marshall & Son. cotton; 5. 808-814 Commerce: Hogan-Allnoch Dry Goods, Notions, Gents Furnishings; 6. Washington between 4th and 5th Streets: Houston Ice and Brewing Co. / Magnolia Brewery; 7. 901-903 Commerce: Davis-Fowler Co., produce; 8. 905 Commerce: Lang P. A. & Son, produce; 9. 907 Commerce: Frederick Produce Co.; 909: Myers Sidney Produce Co.; 909½ Frederick Produce Co.; 10. 911 Commerce: Browne Commission Co.; 913: Cudahy Packing Co.; 913½: Cumming & Sons, printers; 915: Dissen & Schneider, produce; 917: Japhet Gustav, produce; 11. 919 Commerce: Desel-Boettcher Company, produce.
Several of these business concerns warrant a naming of the principals. Baldwin & Cargill was operated by owners Benjamin Arthur Baldwin (1862-1944) and Thomas Arthur Cargill (1872-1942). Hogan-Allnoch Dry Goods Company was operated by Edward Joseph Hogan (1861-1947) and Fred James Allnoch (1872-1942). P. A. Lang & Son was the firm of Peter A. Lang (1842-1908), immigrating from Austria in 1861, then opening Galveston Fruit Company before moving to Houston. Desel-Boettcher was the 1904 merger of two produce companies operated by Charles Louis Desel (1869-1944) and Frederick A. Boettcher (1863-1934). Desel and Bottcher owned adjacent homes on Berry at Main: Desel at 3518 Main and Boettcher at 903 Berry, properties now a part of the 3-story apartments, Mid-Main Lofts. Glenwood Cemetery is the resting place of Baldwin, Cargill, and Hogan. Boettcher and Allnoch are buried at Forest Park and Desel is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY where his wife was originally from. Peter A. Lang was buried in Beth Yeshurun Cemetery in Houston.
30 November 2019: 1. 915 Franklin: Bayou Lofts (formerly the Southern Pacific Railroad Building), 9 floors, 1910; 2. 900 Commerce: The entire south side of Commerce Street has become a parking structure; 3. 401 Franklin: Warehouse sections for the Barbara Jordan United States Post Office (Downtown Post Office), 1962, structures now in planning stages for a repurposing of the site; 4. 901 Commerce: The Desel-Boettcher building was built by the expanding produce business in 1912 with two stories and a basement. For decades it was the location of the much-beloved Spaghetti Warehouse, but the building is now host to McIntyre’s Downtown, a sports bar.
141723416064 ProduceRow Wiley
Postmarked 9 March 1910; Houston Tex. Trans Clk
Stamp: 1c Green Ben Franklin #331
To: Harry Wiley
Message: Houston is all right Hy – Right up in G – Have one of the finest Y.M.C.A. going
“Pap” was James Allen Wiley (1858-1945), owner of William H. Wiley & Son, a manufacturer of overgaiters, a firm founded by his father in Hartford, CT before 1880. Gaiters were personal protective equipment worn over the shoe and lower pants leg, similar to spats worn more for display. Wiley mailed his postcard while traveling, so his card bore a “Trans. Clerk” postmark applied at railroad post offices. What drew him to Houston is not made evident, but when he mentions “Houston is … - Right up in G-“ it may mean that Houston knows about gaiters [G]. One of the stores depicted on the postcard, Hogan-Allnoch Dry Goods store, may well have stocked gaiters. He also mentions the YMCA as “one of the finest going,” [See YMCA for a look at the 1908 facility at Fannin and McKinney] and would later travel to Great Britain and France in connection with Y.M.C.A. work.
The Wiley residence at 176 Collins was about a mile and a half west of downtown Hartford, an easy commute even by walking. The neighborhood was filled with fine 2-story brick houses owned by prosperous citizens. [The area was left behind in the American flight to the suburbs; the block on Collins is now the site of many large three story apartment buildings.] Hartford and Houston were similar in size at the time. The population of Hartford was a little larger at 98,915 and Houston was 78,800, the third largest city in Texas after San Antonio (96,614) and Dallas (92,104). Houston’s growth would be phenomenal in the early years of the 20th century, and by 1920 Houston (138,276)and Hartford (138,036) were close to the same size; San Antonio (161,379) and Dallas (158,976) were still marginally larger. Houston would not be the largest city in Texas until 1930 when the population would be 292,352, followed by Dallas (260,475), and San Antonio (231,542); Hartford lagged behind at 164,072.
James sent the card to his son, nicknamed “Harry” Wiley (1893-1991), but born William Henry Wiley, named, no doubt, after his grandfather. When James Allen Wiley returned to Hartford, he no doubt greeted his not-quite 17-year old son Harry warmly, having left him man-of-the-house in charge of his mother, Annie Corbin Wiley (1867-1966), brother John Corbin Wiley (1896), and sister Laura Corbin Wiley (1904-2007). Coming from a family of means, Harry attended Yale in 1914; he trained for service in WWI at the Plattsburg Camp, an unofficial training camp for officers. Even before WWI hostilities broke out, it was clear to many that the United States was woefully unprepared for a conflict with Germany, which supported an army 20 times the size of the American forces. To help the US prepare for war, private citizens organized Citizens’ Military Training Camps modeled on National Army Officer Candidate Schools, the most important of which was in Plattsburgh, NY. The enrollees paid their own way, and were most often college graduates drawn from elite social classes. Harry was enrolled in the Plattsburgh Student Federal Training Camp when he registered for the draft, receiving an exemption. Despite this training, no actual record of service has yet been found.
There was a family tradition of military service, and Harry’s namesake, William Henry Wiley, Sr (1821-1892), served in the Civil War in 1864 for the Massachusetts 8th Infantry. The call to service was long-standing, and Harry applied for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution in 1932, and was admitted for his ancestor, Nathaniel Wiley (1729-1822), who served as a private at the Lexington alarm on April 19, 1775 and in the War of 1812.
Members of the Wiley Family remained in the Hartford area. Harry married Eleanor Marsh Gay (1899-1980), and worked in the insurance trade, ultimately becoming the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Insurance Agents in 1951. They adopted two children from Vermont, Richard (b. 1929) and Constance (b. 1933). Harry and his father seem to have remained close throughout their lives, Harry bringing his parents into his home in 1941.
James Allen Wiley died in 1945 and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Annie died in 1966 and was buried next to her husband. Eleanor died in 1980 and Harry died in 1991; Eleanor is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, CT, but Harry’s place of buried has not been found.