Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

Page-Decrow-Weir House
Historical marker
Georgetown, Texas



N of FM 2243 (Leander Road) on W side of IH-35
(it over looks IH-35 at the Leander Hwy intersection)

 

GPS Coordinates
North 30o 37' 24.5" - West 097o 41' 29.5"

UTM 14 R - east 0625444 - north 3388399

 

Marker Text
Built in 1903, this house was owned by a succession of area ranchers. J. M. Page had the home built for his family, but sold it to his brother-in-law Thomas Decrow in 1903. The home was purchased in 1920 by Horace M. Weir, and in the 1930s a polo training center was operated on the property. A Georgetown landmark, the Queen Anne style house features an octagonal tower, two-tiered wraparound porch, and a two-story bay window. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1988



Narrative
Joseph M. Page (d. 1929) built ‘The Page House’ for his family in 1903. Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1832, Page was caught up in the excitement of the California gold rush of 1849. Sailing to the west coast by way of Cape Horn, he participated in the frenzied prospecting and speculating that was common to that era, but little is known regarding any success he may have achieved. After a short time, he started a return trip to Massachusetts via land, working as he traveled. He moved to Bastrop, Texas, where he established a sawmill in the Lost Pines region, and where he served as a Justice of the peace. By the early 1850s he had steeled in the new community of Georgetown in Williamson County, where he was known by the title "Captain." Whether his moniker reflected his early adventure at sea or his standing the military has not been determined.

In Georgetown, Page acquired a great deal of land and participated in a number of enterprises. Most notably, he was a successful rancher, the town postmaster (1865), and the proprietor of Page’s Mineral Wells Steam Baths in the 1880’s and 1890’s. He built his bath houses in Oak Grove Park, near the later site of Carver Elementary School.

Page was of medium height, stocky, with whiskers and a short beard. In his older years, his eyes were weak and he wore dark glasses outside and an eyeshade indoors. This was probably the reason he walked slowly with a shambling gait, and always carried a heavy stick. He dressed well, and gave the impression of being a man of means. He and Mrs. Page were well off when they came to Georgetown, and they built a small, four room house west of I & GN Railroad. Because the house was painted pale green, it was called the "Little Green House."

One of Page’s investments was some land in Jefferson Country. When oil was discovered at Spindle Top in 1901, he "had it made;" he sold the land for $100,000 and became one of the wealthiest men in Central Texas.

The Pages lived in the Little Green House for a couple of years when Mr. Page decided he ought to live in a more stylish house. He had the Belford Lumber Co. draw up plans for a two-story mansion of 10-12 rooms with a towering gabled roof, upstairs porches and porches on the south and east sides, electric lights, water, sewer and three fireplaces with mantles finished in pink and green tile. The Belford Lumber Co. trademark was to put Italian tile on the face of the fireplace. Page ordered cypress lumber from Galveston. The design and construction of the Victorian house resembles homes built along the coast more than the typical farm or prairie house. Built on a prominent hill overlooking Georgetown, it is on of the few "ranch" houses still preserved in Williamson County.

It is said that Captain Page built his Victorian home and 2000 acre estate, outside the Georgetown corporate limits to avoid paying city taxes. If that is true, he must have been frustrated when the city soon extended its western boundaries past his homestead. The action made little difference, however, because a family tragedy prevented him from enjoying the luxury of his new residence. In April, 1903, his wife Olivia died. Mrs. Page was evidently a wealthy woman in her own right; her probate records reveal her real estate holdings in the Texas counties of Jefferson, Medina, Williamson, Brewster, and Wilson, and in the states of Nevada and California.

Following his wife’s death, J.M. Page sold the new family home to Olivia’s brother, Thomas Decrow. Born at Decrow Point in Matagorda County, Texas, in 1849, Decrow joined his family and others who moved from the Indianola area following the devastating 1875 hurricane. He arrived in Georgetown the following year and eventually became one of the county’s leading ranchers. He married Jennie Cook in 1877, and two children were born to the couple. Decrow died of pneumonia on January 4, 1921.

In September, 1920, just a few months before his death, Thomas Decrow sold the family home and 500 acres to Horace McClure Weir and his wife Elizabeth Cecelia "Bessie" Rude. H.M. Weir was the son of Williamson County pioneers Thomas Calvin and Valinda Camp Weir. The town of Weir, located seven miles northeast of Georgetown, was named for the family.

It was during the Weir family ownership, which lasted until 1962, that the homestead gained some statewide recognition as a sports training center. The "sport" was polo, as unusual in Texas during the 1930s as it is today. In the 1930s, the Texas style of polo was seen as a natural outgrowth of ranching traditions, much as rodeos or quarter horse races. Newell Bent, in his 1929 book American Polo, provided a good description of the sport’s Lone Star version:

… We see the picturesque Texas polo at its best, for the stock saddle, the five gallon hat, and the embroidered cowboy boot is still the usual polo equipment.

Esther Messick Weir, who married into the family, gave an even more detailed picture of early polo in Texas:

The Texans might not wrap their horses’ legs with bandages and braid the horses tails and manes; they might not wear the classic polo shirt, a simple cotton knit shirt with short sleeves and a crew neckline; they might not use the special version of the English saddle which was used by the Eastern players; they might not use the helmet and the high riding boots to replace their Stetsons (sic) and cowboy boots, but play polo they did, and the more they came into contact with the Eastern teams, the more they upgraded their equipment and their skills. The Texans eventually would adopt all of the Eastern gear, even the preference for Thoroughbred horses over Quarter horses.

The site of the polo playing field was located to the east of the house, on land that was later excavated during construction on Interstate 35 in 1963.

The Page House is a reminder of the town’s prosperity at the turn of the century. It is a two-story frame structure with Queen Anne influences on a Victorian design. The architecture exhibits a variety of stylistic details and textures. A major element in the design is the 2 and ½ story octagonal tower on the southeast corner. It is an unusual feature, both because of its proportions and because it is enclosed without exterior openings. A common assumption would be that original windows were later covered, but historic photos show it was built as it now appears.

The home is designed on an L-plan, with an intersecting gable roof. A large, two-story gallery features Doric columns and turned-wood balustrades. A pent roof with shingled siding separates the first and second floors. Additional features include a brick chimney with a corbelled cap, cutaway corners on the northeast projecting wing, 1 over 1 double hung wood sash window, and transoms over the doors. The house is prominently sited on a hill facing Georgetown. That it was designed to be seen only from the direction of town is evidenced by the lack of ornamentation on the rear elevation.

 


 

 

      PAGE-DECROW-WEIR HOUSE

Researched by Dan K. Utley and David W. Moore

Narrative written by: Dan K. Utley 1988

 

Immediately adjacent to the west side of Interstate 35 in Georgetown, near the Highway 29 exit, is a stately two-story Victorian house that appears out of place in the context of a busy freeway, convenience stores, and shopping centers. The verticality of its design and its exaggerated features, coupled with its location on a prominent hill overlooking the city, adds to its uniqueness. It is the type of home that would be more common on an oversized town lot near the courthouse square or in the university neighborhood. It is not uncommon for people to assume the home has been relocated or that is a recent replica of an architectural style popular at the turn of the century. In fact, however, the Victorian house Perched high above the busy highway predates the earliest development in the immediate area.

 

J. M. Page (d.1929) built the home for his family in 1903. Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1832, Page was caught up in the excitement of the California gold rush of 1849. Sailing to the west coast by way of Cape Horn, he participated in the frenzied prospecting and speculating.

After a short time he moved to Bastrop, Texas, where he established a saw mill in the Lost Pines region, and where he served as a justice of the peace. By the early 1850s he had

settled in the new community of Georgetown in Williamson County, where he was known by the title "Captain." Whether his moniker reflected his early adventure at sea or his standing in the military has not been determined. [1]

 

In Georgetown, Page acquired a great deal of land and participated in a number of enterprises. Most notably, he was a successful rancher, the town postmaster (1865), and the proprietor of Page's Mineral Well Steam Baths in the 1880s and 1890s. He built his bath houses in Oak Grove Park, near the later site of Westside School. [2]

 

It is said that Captain Page built his Victorian home outside the Georgetown corporate limits to avoid paying city taxes. If that is true, he must have been frustrated when the city soon extended its western boundaries past his homestead. The action made little difference, however, because a family tragedy prevented him from enjoying the luxury of his new residence. In April, 1903, his wife Olivia died. Mrs. Page was evidently a wealthy woman in her own right; her probate records reveal her real estate holdings in the Texas counties of Jefferson, Medina, Williamson, Brewster, and Wilson, and in the states of Nevada and California. [3]

 

Following his wife's death, J. M. Page sold the new family home to Olivia's brother, Thomas Decrow. Born at Decrow Point in Matagorda County, Texas, in 1849, Decrow joined his family and others who moved from the Indianola area following the devastating l875 hurricane. He arrived in Georgetown the following year and eventually became one of the county's leading ranchers. He married Jennie Cook in 1877 and two children were born to the couple. Decrow died of pneumonia on January 4, 1921. His obituary in the Williamson County Sun called him "a good citizen and a man of unimpeachable integrity, highly esteemed by his friends, respected by all who knew him and beloved by his family for the kindliness of his heart and devotion to them." [4]

 

In September, 1920, just a few months before his death, Thomas Decrow sold the family home to Horace McClure Weir and his wife Elizabeth Cecelia "Bessie" (Rude). H. M. Weir was the son of Williamson County pioneers Thomas Calvin and Valinda Camp Weir. The town of Weir, located seven miles northeast of Georgetown, was named for the family. H. M. Weir was born in Williamson County in 1872 and attended Southwestern University in Georgetown and Trinity University in San Antonio. He taught school for awhile, but eventually began farming at Weir. In 1914 he moved to Georgetown and established a successful ranching enterprise. [5]

 

Weir was known to his family and friends as "Greely" because, it is said, he was born the same year the celebrated New York journalist and Liberal Republican leader Horace Greely decided to challenge U. S. Grant for the presidency. "Greely" Weir was a strong supporter of rural schools and served twenty-two years on the Williamson County Board of Education. For fourteen of those years he was the chairman. In addition to his educational activities, he was also a leader in Baptist churches at Weir and later at Georgetown. [6]

 

Bessie Weir, like her husband, was part of an early Williamson County family. She was born in 1876 at the W. S. Rude homestead near Mankins Crossing on the San Gabriel River (about 7 mi. E of Georgetown toward Taylor). Also like her husband, she attended Southwestern University and taught school for a short time. She married H. M. Weir in 1900. Seven children were born to the union. The notice of her death in 1960, which shared the front page of the Williamson County Sun with the headline "County Landslides for LBJ," recalled:

 

She was revered by her many friends for her Christian character, kind patient, sympathetic disposition and consideration for others. She was industrious, enjoyed her work, and happy to be of service to her family. She was a devoted wife and mother and took great pride in her children, working unselfishly to assist them in attaining their goals. [7]

 

It was during the Weir family ownership, which lasted until 1962, that the homestead gained some statewide recognition as a sports training center. The "sport" was polo, as unusual in Texas during the 1930s as it is today. To understand how polo enthusiasts were able to introduce the sport into Texas despite the predominant stereotypical images of the rough, tough cowboy and the quick, steely-eyed cutting horses that ruled the ranches at round-ups, it is necessary to modify mental images of current polo matches.- In the 1930s, the Texas style of polo was seen as a natural outgrowth of ranching traditions, much as rodeos or quarter horse races. Newell Sent, in his 1929 book American provided a good description of the sport's Lone Star version:

 

… we see the picturesque Texas polo at its best, for the stock saddle, the five-gallon hat, and the embroidered cowboy boot is still the usual polo equipment. [8]

 

Esther Messick Weir, who married into the family, gave an even more detailed picture of early polo in Texas:

 

The Texans might not wrap their horses legs with bandages and braid the horses tails and manes; they might not wear the classic polo shirt, a simple cotton knit shirt with short sleeves and a crew neckline; they might not use the special version of the English saddle which was used by the Eastern players; they might not use the helmet and the high riding boots to replace their Stetsons (sic) and cowboy boots. But play polo they did, and the more they came into contact with the Eastern teams the more they upgraded their equipment and their skills. The Texans eventually would adopt all of the Eastern gear, even the preference for Thoroughbred horses over Quarter horses. [9]

 

0. W. Cardwell is the man responsible for introducing the sport of polo to Georgetown. He moved to Williamson County from Junction, Kimble County, in 1929, when several of his children reached college age. Cardwell had developed a reputation for raising quality polo ponies, many of which were used by the established Eastern players. He was also known for his remarkable polo-playing skills, despite the fact that he had only one arm. He established a riding school west of Georgetown on the Leander road and soon began instructing students in the rules of polo. In order to better serve his customers, he received permission to set up a practice playing field on the Weir property near town. The site of the old polo playing field was located to the east of the house, on land that was later excavated during construction of Interstate 35. In addition to the polo grounds, the Weirs provided stabling space for the horses. The stables used in the 1930s still remain behind the Weir House and would be a logical site for a subject marker commemorating the history of polo in Georgetown. [10]

 

Several Weir boys joined the Cardwells, Harrises, and others to establish a polo team. Under the direction of the senior Cardwell, the boys adopted a vigorous training program and as a result, became quite proficient in the sport. In 1932 they were persuaded to enter regional competition as part of the Third Annual Southwest Championship Polo Tournament in Fort Worth. Much to the surprise of the other participating teams, they won the regional title. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram provided coverage of the unusual event:

 

Georgetown's hard hitting poloists, playing an inspired game, Saturday afternoon defeated the crack El Ranchito [Fart Worth] team, 13 to 7, in the final championship game for the Third Annual Fall Polo Tourney, which started last Saturday. In addition to winning the Southwestern title, the Georgetown players were presented with the Hoot Gibson trophy and player cups, emblematic of their honors, at the conclusion of the game, which was witnessed by more than 1500. [11]

 

The article went on to describe the significance of the Georgetown feat:

 

The Georgetown mounts. . . kept on top of all the plays, shining to particular advantage on long field runs, when they often outran the El Ranchito ponies. Incidentally, El Ranchito is conceded to have the finest string of polo mounts in the Southwest, so the result of Saturday's game must be taken as a big tribute to the gameness and staying qualities of the Georgetown mounts, most of which are rather small, but remarkably fast and agile. .. This marked the first time Georgetown has participated in a Southwestern tournament. [12]

 

The Star-Telegram article listed the winning players as 0. M. Cardwell, L. Starks (probably C. Starke), Afton Weir, George Kuykendall (probably Bill Kuykendall), and Billy Cardwell. [13]

 

The Georgetown Polo Team on the Southwestern title again in 1934, despite the loss of the Cardwells; 0. W. had moved his family and horses back to Junction earlier in the yearAfter 1934, the Weirs and others continued to participate in competitions in Austin and San Antonio, and in Shreveport, Louisiana. By 1938, however, they disbanded the club because of increased costs and difficulties associated with the care and transportation of the horses. Additionally, given the context of an imminent world war in 19:8, polo lost some of its immediate importance. [14]

 

Since the training field was subsequently destroyed by highway construction (the present highway was built well below the original grade of the Weir property; oak trees on the east side of the highway denote the original lane to the Weir property), only the family house and the stables remain as reminders of polo in Georgetown. The Page       Decrow-Weir House is also a reminder of the town's prosperity at the turn of the century. It is a two-story frame structure with Queen Anne influences on a Victorian design. The architecture exhibits a variety of stylistic details and textures. A major element in the design is the 2 and 1/2 story octagonal tower on the southeast corner. It is an unusual feature, both because of its proportions and because it is enclosed without exterior openings. A common assumption would be that original windows were later covered, but historic photos show it was built as it now appears (see exhibits attached).

 

The home is designed on an L-plan, with an intersecting gable roof. A large, two-story gallery features Doric columns and turned-wood balustrades. A pent roof with shingled siding separates the first and second floors. Additional features include a brick chimney with a corbelled cap, cutaway corners on the northeast projecting wing, 1 over 1 double hung wood sash windows, and transoms over the doors. The house is prominently sited on a hill facing Georgetown. That it was designed to be seen only from the direction of town is evidenced by the lack of ornamentation on the rear elevation.

 

The Page-Decrow-Weir House is an important landmark for residents of Georgetown and for travelers on the busy freeway. Its architecture is unique in the context of Georgetown, as it is in its association with the sport of polo in Central Texas. Throughout its history, it has been the home of three important local families. Today, it continues its ties with the past by providing space for an antique business known as Past and Presents. The current owners are committed to the preservation of the historic home, the stables, and the surrounding grounds. It is their hope that historical markers commemorating the Page-Decrow-Weir House and Polo in Georgetown will result in a new appreciation for the "big house on the hill."

 

Researched by Dan K. Utley and David W. Moore

Written by:

Dan K. Utley Austin, Texas May, 1988

 

view foot notes PDF

 


 

      THE WEIR HOUSE: A VICTORIAN TOUR

Narrative by Dave Summers 1977

 

In the year 1903, a man by the name of J.M. Page, known as Captain Page,wanted a way of escaping city taxes. For this reason, he built a beautiful house, just outside Georgetown's city limits. But his efforts were in vain, for by the next city council meeting, the limits had been extended past Page's house.

 

Since Page failed to achieve his goal, he sold the house to a man named Thomas Decrow, in 1904. Decrow kept the house for 16 years, then sold it.

 

In 1920, H.M. Weir, a Williamson County farmer and rancher bought the house along with 500 acres for $ 5,000.

 

The Weir family immediately moved into the house. When Mr. and Mrs. Weir died, the ranch was inherited by their seven children. In 1963 they were tired of family business, so they sold the land.

 

The house shows little wear, but it almost bursts with character. When the weirs moved into the house, there was plenty of room. There are ten rooms altogether. It was obviously built with many great ideas and quite a bit of money.

 

Page was intent on copying the "Victorian" style architecture and he did a tremendous job of it. The roofline, broken by many gables, is outlined by intricately carved trim. There is a rounded dome or tower, sometimes called a cupola; very stylish at this time. There are porches around the entire house, and many doors and windows.

 

The fence, porches, and trim are all decorated in lavish hand-carved woodwork. The house's colors are yellow with white trim. For these reasons this style is called "Gingerbread", a distinctive and fashionable "Victorian "feature.

 

Many people are interested in touring this house, and for good reasons. As a visitor approaches the large 10-room house, one feels as if time has gone back. The outside is made completely of cypress. Page had the siding sent up from the California coast in wagons. This was a very expensive venture, but well worth the money. Cypress never rots and requires painting very seldom. As the visitor enters through the large front door, he finds himself in the Entry Hall. The Entry Hall is an expanded hallway. The solid pine floors are also an expensive and beautiful feature throughout the house. Every room throughout the house opens into the other rooms surrounding it. From talks with Doc Weir, a former owner of the house, I learned the reason for this.

 

" In the summer, we would go up into the attic and open the north and south windows. As we went back downstairs, we could feel the heat rising to escape from the house".

 

This is proof that the house was very well ventilated and cool during the entire summer.

Directly to the left of the Entry Hall is the Parlor. The Parlor is the interior room of the cupola, used as an informal sitting room. Windows surround the whole dome wall.

 

Directly to the right of the Entry Hall is the Tower Room. or formal living room. This room has one of three fireplaces with a large mirrored mantle and a tile front. With Victorian style furniture, I'm sure this room was beautiful and was probably used for entertainment.

 

Directly ahead of the Entry Hall is the formal dining room. This room was the most spectacular of them all. Obviously, many formal dinners had taken place in this large 30 foot long room. At one end is the second fireplace. It is identical to the one in the formal parlor and goes beauti­fully in the large room. At the other end is a large built-in china cabinet. This cabinet starts at the floor and reaches the 11 foot ceiling. Again there is some intricate designs carved in the hardwood. The front of the cabinet fact has a beautiful glass cover. This glass slides up into the higher part of the cabinet. Its ease ability shows how skilled the crafter was.

 

Directly behind the dining room, in the back of the house is the kitchen and breakfast nook. This room has been totally refinished, to the injury of the Victorian effect.

 

As we enter the Entry Hall again one turns into the second doorway by the cupola and enters the only bedroom downstairs. This room contains the third fireplace of the house. It is large and very comfortable, with three big windows for ventilation.

 

If the visitor goes back into the cupola room, he can see the main stairs leading to the second floor (there is a back stairway in the kitchen). The main stairway is the most spectacular sight in the house. It is all carved into hardwood, climbing gracefully to the second floor. At the top

of the stairs and to the right is a small sitting room going out to one of the two balconies. This balcony is on the front of the house.

 

Then one can take the first doorway along the front of the house and enter one of the three bedrooms. All the bedrooms are both large and cozy.

 

Turning down the hall and taking the first left, is the second bed­room. This bedroom opens into the bathroom.

 

Further down the hall, there are stairs leading to the attic. Though not quite as pretty, these stairs are still of high quality and a touch of class for attic stairs.

 

The second door on the left goes into the bathroom, still containing the claw-and-ball legged bathtub, porcelain sink, and commode all with porcelain fixtures. This room is well preserved.

 

At the end _is the last bedroom which is large. At the south end is the door leading to the second balcony. This balcony was private to whoever used the room.

 

As I left the house, I was almost reluctant to go back to modern times. The house now stands empty, looking lonely and sad. The Weir house had much to tell and a beautiful way of showing how times have changed.

 

Bibloigraphy

Interviews: Doc Weir, Georgetown. Lived in house as child.

Clara Scarbrough, Georgetown. Georgetown historian. County Records: Deeds from Williamson County Courthouse.



 

 

Georgetown Plays Polo

 

For a its brief years in the early 1930's Georgetown had one distinguishing feature which brought it notice from all over the state and, in certain elite circles, all over the United States. Georgetown had a winning polo team. Here is the story of how polo came to be played on the rocky pastures of several of Georgetown's ranches and how the Georgetown team astounded the polo world in a tournament near Fort Worth in 1932.

 

   

The route by which polo arrived in Georgetown is a long and curious one. Polo itself probably began in ancient Persia, migrated into Tibet and this China and into the secluded area called Manipur. The game was introduced into India in 1863 from Manipur and was quickly picked up by the British army officers who took the sport hme to England in 1869. James Gordon Bennett is credited with bringing the game to the United States in 1876. At least he brought the mallets and the polo balls and the knowledge of the game. However, Harry Blasson ordered the first American polo ponies from Texas for $20.00 apiece, so that polo had its start in the United States with a Texas connection from the very beginning. Polo quickly became so popular in the United States that in 1909, the United States went to England and beat the British team in international competition. From the beginning, American polo players depended on the wiry cowponies of the great Southwest for the agility and endurance which was necessary for a good polo pony. Newell Bent, in his book, AMERICAN POLO (1929) stated that Texas and the Southwest were to the United States polo pony supply what Virginia was to the supply of hunters. (p.111).

 

This same source identified the district lying between El Paso, Austin, and Sweetwater as the heart of the Texas polo country in 1929.

 

It was here, Bent wrote

 

that polo and the horse find no serious competitors in the hearts of the people in the fifteen or more towns and localities that boast polo teams, for it is not only in the towns and villages that we find the game played, but also often in localities where no sign of a town exists but where a pure love of the game brings players together, just as the cattle round-ups did in the old days (p.108).

 

Of the ranch games Bent said, we see the picturesque Texas polo at its best, for the stock saddle, the five-gallon hat, and the embroidered cowboy boot is still the usual polo equipment.. (p.108).

 

Cardwell with his ranchers' team when they played an army team from Ft. Clark in 1924. Texans had the ponies and they could adopt as much of the official gear of the Eastern polo players as they liked. The Texans might not wrap their horses legs with bandages and braid the horses tails and manes; they might not wear the classic polo shirt, a simple cotton knit shirt with short sleeves and a crew neckline; they might not use the special version of the English saddle which was used by the Eastern players. they might not use the helmet and the high riding boots to replace their Stetsons and cowboy boots. But play polo they did, and the more they came into contact with the Eastern teams the more they upgraded their equipment and their skills. The Texans eventually would adopt all of the Eastern gear, even the preference for Thoroughbred horses over Quarter horses.

 

Polo is a game which needs lots of space and lots of horses. Texans had a special advantage in both of these departments. Polo is played on a field not less than 300 yards long and 150 yards wide. The goals are not less than 250 yards from each other and the goal posts are eight yards apart. There are four players on each team and each player plays a position and has a number. 1 and 2 are forwards, 3 and 4 are guards. Number 4 plays as goal keeper. Each team defends a goal and the object of the game is to drive the ball through the opponent's goal. The game is divided into halves and each half is divided into three or four 8-minute periods, called chukkers. At the end of every chukker, each player changes to a fresh horse. Polo historians believe that polo is the game from which all other ball and stick games originated, and they further believe that polo is the only sport that requires two separate athletic skills in order to play the game. The two skills are, of course, horsemanship and ball handling.

 

Texans had the fine horsemanship, the quick  horses, and the wide open spaces to make polo playing is natural athletic activity. It was from the heart of the Texas polo country that polo came to Georgetown.

 

In the summer of 1929, O. W. Cardwell leased his ranch in Junction and moved to Georgetown to enroll his children in school. Some of the older children were already in college. Mr. Cardwell and his ranching friends had been playing polo in the Junction area for several years and some of the fine, quick-moving, short-stopping polo ponies used in the East were raised by the local Junction ranchers. Mr. Cardwell was well known for his polo playing because he had only one its and held the reins in his mouth and controlled his horse with his legs and the turn of his head. Naturally, he was reluctant to leave his wonderful small, speedy horses in Junction when he moved to Georgetown so he brought about 35 of them with him . He found a pasture about five miles west of town on the road to Bagdad (Leander) belonging to Mr. Arthur Gray where he could pasture his horses. He found a place closer to town on the same road from which he could out horses to college students for pleasure riding, polo practice, or riding lessons. Mr. Cardwell taught riding to college students from Georgetown and Austin according to the QUARTER HORSE JOURNAL of May, 1957. The place close to town was owned by Mr. H. M. (Greely) Weir. Mr. Weir had four boys living at home. The Weir boys, as children, had helped the family raise, gentle and train Shetland Ponies as a cash crop on the farm at Weir before the family moved to Georgetown so their children could go to school.

 

Mr. Sam Harris owned a local feed store and he too had several boys who liked horses. Mr. Harris owned some land west of town on the road to Burnet and Llano.

 

A practice-playing field was on the Weir place just to the southwest of the ranch house. This field, although rocky, had the advantage of being close to the horses. The best playing field was on the Harris place, about a mile west of the river, and across the road from the cemetery. The younger boys led the horses down the hill and across the South San Gabriel to get from Weir's to the Harris field on game days. There was also a smooth spot of ground on the Arthur Gray place where horsemanship practice could take place.

 

Three or four Cardwells, two Harrises, and two or three Weirs were available most of the time to practice or play polo. That is, except Sunday. The Cardwells, man and boys, did not practice or play on Sunday. Since many of the games including

 

 

the finals of most tournaments were played on Sunday afternoon, the Georgetown team, led by Mr. Cardwell, did not appear in many of the contests played at that time. The Georgetown team, without the Cardwells, played some Sunday games but that information was concealed from their leader.

 

Duddy (Howard) Weir tells of playing a game in Buda at Bill Kuykendall's ranch one Sunday afternoon, when Georgetown played against an Army team from Ft. Sam Houston and Georgetown won. Duddy heard the captain of the army team speak harshly to his players after the game, telling them they were going to have to go home and really work on polo because they had just been beaten by a sandlot team with a couple of fifteen year old boys playing with equipment they'd be ashamed to let their groom see in their possession. Duddy was one of the fifteen year olds and his favorite mallet was one that had been broken in two places and patched with electrician's tape. James Harris was the other fifteen year old and James' father, Sam, and Duddy's brother, Doc(Afton) were the other two players.

 

The polo players in Georgetown practiced and scrimmaged every weekday afternoon, weather permitting, in those years of 1931 and 1932. The interest in town was reflected it the enthusiasm of the children in town. Peggy Beaver (Gaddy), said her father used to pick her up after school and they would park on the Leander road to watch the polo practice and polo games. Ellagene Eases (Lott) tells that she and Seth Ward Lehmberg and John Lewis Merrell would ride their horses and carry their mallets out to the Weirs so they could pretend to be playing polo. She said they had to ride very fast past the Kelly house because the Kelly children always threw rocks at the horseback riders.

 

Local townspeople had their favorite players. Jewell Edwards said that Doc Weir was the best

horseman she has ever seen. She said that when he played polo he looked like he and the horse were one entity.

 

In the summer of 1932, Mr. A. B. Wharton of Wichita Falls called F. Cardwell and said he had heard of the Georgetown team and would like to have the team enter the Third Annual Southwest Championship Polo Tournament to be held at El Ranchito, the ranch polo club located near Fort Worth. The tournament would be in October. Mr. Cardwell replied, as he had in the past, that the team could not play because they would be having games on Sunday. Mr. Wharton promised that if Georgetown would come they would be guaranteed no Sunday game. Mr. Wharton probably felt safe in making that offer and still have the final game a Sunday afternoon game. The rest of the story Will from an article in the FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM.

 

GEORGETOWN POLO TEAM WINS SOMME. TITLE Victors Play For First

Time in Tourney With

Award of 5 Goals,

Make Sweep

 

Fort Worth, Texas, October 29, 1932‑

 

Georgetown's hard hitting poloists, playing an inspired game, Saturday afternoon defeated the crack El Ranchito team, 13 to 7, in the final championship game for the Third Annual Fall Polo Tourney, which started last Saturday. In addition to winning the Southwestern title, the Georgetown players were presented with the Hoot Gibson trophy, and player cups, emblematic of their honors, at the conclusion of the game, which was witnessed by more than 1500.

 

Georgetown, with a clean sweep of the tournament, took the field Saturday with a five goal award, which was El Ranchito's handicap. The visitors got away to a flying start, and harried the red, white, and blue standard bearers continually by getting inside of many plays. The Georgetown mounts, too, sensed victory, and kept on top of all the plays, shining to particular advantage on long field runs, when they often outran the El Ranchito ponies. Incidentally, El Ranchito is conceded to have the finest string of polo mounts in the Southwest, so the result of Saturday's game must be taken as a big tribute to the gameness and staying qualities of the Georgetown mounts, most of which are rather small, but remarkably fast and agile. 0. M. Cardwell, L. Starks, Afton Weir, Billy Cardwell and George Kuykendall played for the tournament victors. Starks was high man, scoring four goals. Billy Cardwell tallied once for Georgetown.

 

El Ranchito was represented by A. B. Wharton, Jr., Luther Weeks, Cecil Childers, Frank Johnson and B. H. Stephenson.

 

Following the game, and after the presentation of the Gibson trophy, El Ranchito toasted the victors with an impromptu reception at the club rooms. This marked the first time Georgetown has participated in a Southwestern tournament.

 

-There are two names on the roster in the paper that have not been mentioned previously as being members of the Georgetown team. They are L. Starks and George Kuykendall. L. Starks should have been spelled C (Clarence) Starke and George Kuykendall should have been Bill Kuykendall. Clarence Starke was a fine player from Llano. Who had played with and against the Georgetown team from time to time and Bill Kuykendall was from Buda and Austin and loved being around polo playing. Bill, Clarence, and L. E. Gillian from Lampasas were frequently listed in newspaper articles as playing on the Georgetown team.

 

Borrowing players from somewhere else was considered an acceptable practice in polo in those days. In a clipping from the HOUSTON POST describing a game played in Houston in 1933, a player was hurt and one of the officials took his place in the game.

 

The Georgetown team returned to El Ranchito in 1934 and again won the tournament but this time without the Cardwells. By the fall of 1934, Mr. Cardwell had moved his ten children and his thirty five horses back home to Junction.

 

The hardriding, colorful Cardwells - 0. W., Marshall, Billy and sometimes Kathryn - with their short-legged wick horses and their cut-off polo mallets, no longer dominated the Georgetown polo scene. The Weirs and the Harrisses continued to practice and play games in Austin, Shreveport, and San Antonio. James Harris and Duddy Weir finished school and went on with their careers and Doc Weir joined Clarence Starke and began to play polo in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. In 1937, Doc went to Long Island with Charlie Armstrong of Kingsville. They loaded their horses on a freight car in San Antonio and carried the car along on the Texas Special of the Katy Railroad. Doc went from his seat on the train into the car carrying all the horses to check them out from time to time. The men played on long Island during the summer season and at the end of the season they sold their horses and came home. By this time good polo ponies were quite a bit more expensive than the $20.00 price tag on the original Texas ponies.

 

By 1938, the high cost of feed, the increased labor needed to care for the horses, the passing of an income tax law that made polo ponies a non-deductible item, the difficulty in transporting the horses, the activities all over the world in and L. E. Gillian from Lampasas were frequently listed in newspaper articles as playing on the Georgetown team.

 

Borrowing players from somewhere else was considered an acceptable practice in polo in those days. In a clipping from the HOUSTON POST describing a game played in Houston in 1933, a player was hurt and one of the officials took his place in the game.

 

The Georgetown team returned to El .nchito in 1934 and again won the tournament but this time without the Cardwells. By the fall of 1934, Mr. Cardwell had moved his ten children and his thirty five horses back home to Junction.

 

The hardriding, colorful Cardwells - 0. 0., Marshall, Billy and sometimes Kathryn - with their short-legged wick horses and their cut-off polo mallets, no longer dominated the Georgetown polo scene. The Weirs and the Harrisses continued to practice and play games in Austin, Shreveport, and San Antonio. James Harris and Duddy Weir finished school and went on with their careers and Doc Weir joined Clarence Starke and began to play polo in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. In 1937, Doc went to Long Island with Charlie Armstrong of Kingsville. They loaded their horses on a freight car in San Antonio and carried the car along on the Texas Special of the Katy Railroad. Doc went from his seat on the train into the car carrying all the horses to check them out from time to time. The men played on long Island during the summerr season and at the end of the season they sold their horses and came home. By this time good polo ponies were quite a bit more expensive than the $20.00 price tag on the original Texas ponies.

 

By 1938, the high cost of feed, the increased labor needed to care for the horses, the passing of an income tax law that made polo ponies a non-deductible item, the difficulty in transporting the horses, the activities all over the world in preparation for war,— all these things caused a decline in polo everywhere. As went the world, so went Georgetown, and polo in Georgetown became a story of the past.

 

Once again Georgetown reached for the gold ring. This time the ring looked like a silver goblet.

 

Selected Bibliography

Bent, Newell. AMERICAN POLO, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929).

The FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM, October, 1932. The HOUSTON POST, 1934.

The QUARTER HORSE JOURNAL, May, 1957.

 


 

 

 

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