History in a
Fred T. Pelly, an Englishman by birth is the community’s namesake. Pelly owned
much of the land here and became the first mayor when the community formed.
the Goose Creek oilfield came in, workers
needed to live close enough to the fields to work, but at a safe distance from
the frequent oil field catastrophes.
The boomtown quickly split into two
separate neighborhoods called “Old Town” (on the bay) and “New Town” which was
New Town had the backing of future governor Ross S. Sterling,
and was incorporated in 1919. An application for a post office was granted under
the name Goose Creek.
In the meantime,
another community known as Middle Town came into being – and they had an existing
post office. This modest building was loaded onto a wagon one night and moved
– not for untoward motives, but to prevent an interruption of mail. But because
of the nighttime relocation, rumors spread that it was scheme of some sort.
Now that their post office had been “stolen,” Middle Town (with a considerable
population of over 7,000 residents) feared absorption by Goose
Creek so they incorporated as Pelly in 1920.
Due to a drop in oil
production, the population declined to 4,000 by the end of the decade. Unemployed
residents moved to Baytown to work at the refinery
there. The heretofore reluctant oil companies and landowners who held the land
as potential leases, gave in to accept the bird-in-the-hand payments of the would-be
The town was platted and infrastructure installed.
What had been a slum morphed into brick bungalows and modest cottages. A fire
department was organized and a two-story city hall built. Pelley became respectable
and even a desirable place.
The Tri-Cities (Pelly, Goose
Creek and Baytown) rubbed shoulders and while
it seemed sensible to merge, several attempts were thwarted. Pelly was cautious
of Goose Creek and in a pre-emptive move,
annexed (unincorporated) Baytown in 1945. This
prompted a fight in the courts that was settled a year later when the Texas Supreme
Court declared the action legal.
Residents of Pelly and Goose
Creek voted for the merger on February 15, 1947, missing a chance to “wed”
on St. Valentine’s Day by one day.
With the acquisition of old Baytown,
Pelly’s population surpassed that of Goose Creek
by around 1,000 residents, and the towns merged. Pelly enjoyed two days of “independence”
(which may have included some gloating), but on January 26, 1948, Pelly (with
Goose Creek) formally became Baytown.