a Pecan Shell
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
When 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 slightly inland.
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 permanent residents.
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.