W. L. Macatee and his family were extremely involved in the economic and social development of Houston. They hosted baseball games and the very first state fair on their land. They were not only all involved in their family cotton, building material, and lime and cement company but they also built and owned a hotel in downtown Houston. W. L. Macatee was involved in the city government in Houston in 1888 which shows that he was actively involved in the community. W. L. Macatee and his family were not only important on the social scene but economically as well. W. L. Macatee and his company had a delivery of cement on the first seafaring ship that entered Houston’s port, this shows that they supported Houston’s economy and expansion from the very beginning. W. L. Macatee has an interesting past and his rise to prominence is not well known to me from the documents I have encountered thus far. His children also have interesting lives, coming in and out of the family businesses, and eventually running them themselves. This research, if it was developed more, could provide information, that has yet to be found, on a man who clearly had a great impact on Houston.
If my research were to end now I would say that W. L. Macatee was a business man and active citizen and he raised his sons to be the same way. These traits led him to support the Houston economy with his business, but also to get swept up in the economic boom that was the early 1900’s in Houston. His building materials company found no end of contracts, but Macatee also worked hard for everything he had. I would say that W. L. Macatee’s personality and drive for success helped make Houston the economic hub it is today, but Houston’s expansion also helped Macatee with his success. In conclusion, Houston played as much of a role in the Macatee’s development as the Macatee’s played in its.
My research has some holes in it that I would fill if I were to go further with my research question. One thing that could be stronger is the depth of information connecting the Macatees and Houston. It would be useful to find specific events that the family was involved in and then research the impact that those events had on Houston. I would need to spend more time at the Brisco Center and possibly at other archives as well in order to get a full profile of the information. It would be helpful to travel to Houston to see what would be there and also to see the sites that the Macatees occupied. I think this would give more depth to my research and help me to better answer my question.
Jerome Farbar writes about the commission government that was in effect in Houston beginning in 1901. This government contracted the paving of the roads, extending public parks, deepening the shipping channel, and other civic projects. Also, this was a more centralized form of government in contrast to the ward style government that proceeded it. Now the mayor and four commissioners make decisions instead of twelve ward officers. Under this new government, government employees face the same job insecurity as those in the public sector, “as in the directorate of a corporation, its officers can be removed by a majority vote, while all department heads are responsible to the chief and various employees responsible to the department head and the mayor.” (232) This change in government put more power into the hands of those who ran Houston so they could get more things done. Their contracting of the paving of the roads along with other building projects probably helped to employ W. L. Macatee, and if not directly then the expansion that this government helped to create certainly added to the success of Macatee and Sons.
To better understand Macatee’s role in the development of Houston it’s important to understand how Houston developed and what was going on in the time that Macatee was on the scene. “The Destiny of Buffalo Bayou” written by Andrew Forest Muir describes how the counties along the lower Brazos and Colorado Rivers became exceptionally successful. One of the reasons that these areas were so prosperous is because of the access to salt water ports that allowed trading of goods and materials produced on plantations which thrived off the rich soil in the region. However, there were natural obstacles in these river and their shallow depth made it difficult to transport goods over a great length of them. These obstacles hindered Houston’s entrance into the world exporting scene. Another reason for this areas success is the introduction of railroads and roads from other states, because this increased possibilities for export. The main reason for Houston’s success, Muir says, is the deepening of the Bayou which created a shipping channel. Houston became a booming port after the dredging of the channel because it allowed more bigger boats to enter. With its increased accessibility Houston took away trade from other cities and found their way to the center of the action. All of this information helps to give dates to all of these changes that were occurring in Houston when the Macatees were starting to grow their business. Since they worked in building materials their success was helped by Houston’s expansion and new connection to international and domestic markets.
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Once I began to focus on the question of what role the Macatees played in the development of Houston I went in search of an article that would answer that question. The vertical files in The Briscoe Center for American History located on The University of Texas at Austin campus contained this article about Macatee. It was written for the Houston Post in 1949, when W. L. Macatee was still alive. This is the most information that I found about the connection between Macatee and Houston. Other than this article it seems as though there is not much written about this man who contributed to Houston in so many ways. I decided that this research could fill the gap and provide the one document that would connect Macatee and Houston as well as describe Macatee’s road to success. Macatee & Houston: Partners from the Beginning was the turning point in my research that lead me directly to my question and gave me a focus.
Citation: Sumerlin, Ted. “Macatee & Houston: Partners from the Beginning.” Houston Post, September 18, 1949. Vertical File – Macatee, W. L.., Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
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Through sharing resources with other members of the class I found this article on W. L. Macatee in a book titled “Makers of Houston”. It discusses how W. L. Macatee came to Houston and his early life. It also mentions Macatee’s and his children’s business successes. Although this article doesn’t contain answers that analyze the connection between Macatee and Houston it does deepen understanding of his life and his successes.
Houston City Directories. Morrison & Fourmy Directory Co./R.L. Polk, 1882-83. pg 38.
Houston City Directories. Morrison & Fourmy Directory Co./R.L. Polk, 1887-88. pg 26.
It was discovered that W. L. Macatee held the first Texas State Fair on his property from the Houston city directory of 1882-83. Also, it was discovered that Macatee was involved in the Houston city government from the Houston city directory of 1887-88. These discoveries only increased the notion that the Macatees were highly involved in the development of Houston. These findings led me to search for articles on this connection that the Macatees had with Houston and what role they played.