Duke, Texas

Marker is located on the east bound side of State Highway 6 at the intersection of  Post Oak in Arcola, Texas.[2008]

Duke Community  In 1824, old three-hundred settlers David Fitzgerald, Thomas Barnett and Moses Shipman, received land grants in this area. Fitzgerald fought at Anahuac in 1832; Barnett signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. This location on the northeastern high bluff of Clear Lake, an ample supply of water for steam engines, led to the construction of railroads here by the mid-1800s. Duke was terminus of the Sugar Land Railway for loading sugarcane. The area developed as a major shipping point with a store, hotel, livestock pen, and sugar mills. It was named for Duke Hessey, the storekeeper. Duke had a Post Office from 1883 to 1922; the first Postmaster was J. R. Fenn. Today, Duke Cemetery is the only remnant of this once-thriving community.

The map below shows Clear Lake


Perry, Dan'l., 8 Feb 1849

Discontinued 17 Nov 1851




Fenn, John R., 16 Nov 1883

Discontinued 28 Jly 1891; papers to Thompson's

(Re-established) Adams, Harrison Z., 17 Aug 1891

Mills, Wm. L., 7 Oct 1892

Fenn, John R., 5 Dec 1893

Kennon, Jas. D., 6 Jan 1902

McKeever, May F., 16 Aug 1906

McKeever, Jas. J., 29 Oct 1914

Discontinued 31 May 1918; mail to Arcola

(Re-established) Kennon, Annie S., 1 Jly 1921

(Modified 27 Dec 1922; mail to Iowa Colony)

Discontinued 31 Dec 1922; mail to Thompson

Recollection of Duke, Texas, written probably by G. T. Snedecor who died in 1946.
"Duke, Fort Bend County, Texas,
This is a plantation town, or station, almost obscure at present, once a thriving little place, it was owned and operated by Col. J. R. Fenn for many years.  Mr. Fenn built the place upon his ranch and plantation and it was named sometime about the year 1872; there was an immense pavilion and picnic grounds upon a beautiful lake, Clear Lake, where boating, and every variety of pleasure were once had; the ground and park were maintained by the Santa Fe Railroad Co., it has long since crumbled down and the Park and Lake a wilderness now.  It became inactive about 1900: up to 1896 it was a week-end resort for Galveston and Houston City pleasure seekers.  Named after Duke Hesse, Manager for Mr. Fenn."


In 1840 Allen Vince owned a stock ranch on Vince's Bayou and farmed corn on Oyster Creek. He is best known for building the bridge that Deaf Smith, Sam Houston's famous scout, and a companion crossed and later destroyed the morning of the Battle of San Jacinto. Vinces Place on Oyster Creek was situated along State Highway 6 near Duke [Arcola].

Long Point Creek not Oyster Creek is near Duke. Arcola was not formed until 1865. Because most historians don't kmow about the community of Duke, Arcloa is used as a refference. State Highway 6 and Oyster Creek in neat Trammells.

The error that changed local history

David Fitzgerald arrived in this Mexican run territority of  Texas in late 1821. He began building his home on property he wanted to claim. When he went to San Felipe to file his claim, Steven F. Austin informed him the League was already claimed by William Morton. William Morton agreed to trade David Fitzgerald 1/4 of his League for 1/4 of  the League David Fitzgerald would claim, thus allowing  David to own the home he was building. David Fitzgerald claimed his League 20 miles downstream on the Brazos River. The trade was not immediately recorded, mainly because the area belonged to Mexico and recording land transactions was difficult. David died in 1832, shortly after participating in the battle of Annahuac. William Morton drowned in the Brazos River in 1833, leaving a wife, Nancy, a son, John V., and two daughters Louisa Ann and Mary. David's daughter, Sarah, married Eli Fenn and they continued to live in the home David built on the Morton League. The decendents of the Fitzgerald and Morton famlies eventually filed the land transaction for the 1/4 League trade. The Morton familly lived on the west side of the Brazos River until the death of William, when Nancy moved the family to the east side of the river closer to the Fenn family. Nancy sold the property on the west side to developers who would create Richmond, Texas. Louisa Ann Morton married Daniel Perry on December 24, 1833 and they moved to the land obtained by the 1/4 League trade [the Duke area] in 1834. In 1836, after the fall of the Alamo, General Santa Anna chased General Sam Houston causing the settlers to flee in what is known as the 'Runnaway Scrape'. The Morton and Fenn homes were destroyed by the Mexican Army. Both families relocated on the Fitzgerald League. The Fenn family lived with Moses Shipman until they completed their new home. The Morton family lived with Daniel and Louisa Ann [Morton] Perry on the 1/4 League they had gained by trade. Also in the year of 1836, John V. Morton married Elizabeth Shipman, they were the son and daughter of  two 'Original 300' settlers.

Because David Fitzgerald built his home on land that wasn't his, an agreement to trade 1/4 League with William Morton was formed with the traded land became the new home for the Morton family after the Mexican Army destroyed their previous home.


Along the southern edge and parallel to the runway of the Houston Southwest Airport in eastern  Fort Bend County, the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad has a siding between Long Point Creek and FM 521 called “Duke Siding”.  Still standing is a sign “Duke” showing the location of  DUKE Station in 1890.  Clear Lake is horseshoe in shape and is just above the water level of Long Point Creek.  The lake water is replenished when Long Point Creek rises and Clear Lake saves the water until the next rise.  The east bank of Clear Lake is a bluff  that does not flood.  High ground and an ample water supply made this location desirable. 

Prior to and during the early 1800's this area was populated by Karankawa Indians.  It is this location and the surrounding area that some of the first Old Three-Hundred settlers received land grants after 1824, such as Moses Shipman, David Fitzgerald, and Thomas Barnett.  In time, other early settlers also lived here, such as the Morton's, the Fenn's, and the Perry's.

Starting 1824, Steven F. Austin awarded land grants in this area. These settlers were known as Steven F. Austin's Old Three Hundred and this was a part of the first Anglo Colony in Texas. This area was Steven F. Austin's Oyster Creek Settlement. DUKE will be located on the northeast bluff of Clear Lake in the Thomas Barnett league just north of the northern boundary of  the David Fitzgerald league. The Moses Shipman league is just north of  the Thomas Barnett league and his is the only league of the three that doesn't border on the Brazos River. In the era before the railroads the Brazos River was the transportation to markets.

Moses Shipman was born September 22, 1774 in Kentucky. On January 19, 1798 Moses married Mary Robinson, daughter of John Robinson, of South Carolina. Their first son died in infancy. They raised five sons and four daughters. In 1825 the Shipmans moved to their league near what would be DUKE.

Thomas Barnett came to Texas in 1823 from Livingston county, Kentucky. He never lived on the Thomas Barnett league. He later married the widow of William S. Spencer and lived on the Nancy Spencer league. He signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.

David Fitzgerald of Savannah, Georgia, came to Texas in 1822 and built his home on land he wanted to receive from Steven F Austin. The land had already been granted to William Morton however. William Morton was kind enough to promise David Fitzgerald 1/4 of  his William Morton league and David Fitzgerald promised to give William Morton 1/4 of his league when he received it. Both men would die before the end of 1833 and therefore never lived under the Republic of Texas. Under the rule of the Mexican government land transfers were, at best, difficult. Their promise to trade land was completed by their decedents under the Republic of Texas.

In 1831, Kentucky-born John Davis Bradburn, who was serving as a colonel in the Mexican army, took command of the garrison at Anahuac, the small American community on Galveston Bay. This was a port of entry for American colonists that had been established  as a Spanish fortress ten years before. Without reason, and not long after his arrival, Bradburn abolished the settlement of  Liberty and confiscated the colonist's land. He declared martial law and arrested several of them after they protested. One hundred sixty angry colonists, including David Fitzgerald and the son of Moses Shipman, Daniel Shipman, attacked the garrison to rescue their friends. At the mouth of the Brazos River, another group on the way to Anahuac battled with Mexican troops at Velasco and defeated them. This was the start of the Texas Revolution.

In 1832, shortly after he took part in the battle of Anahuac, David Fitzgerald died. Three month's later, his son in law, Eli Fenn, came looking for him because he and his wife, Sarah Fitzgerald Fenn, had heard nothing from her father in the ten years he had been in Texas. They were living in Lawrence county, Mississippi when Eli and Sarah's son, John Rutherford Fenn was born on October 11, 1824. They later moved to Madison county Mississippi. Eli liked the area in Texas and went back to Mississippi for his family. Eli Fenn arrived back in Texas with his family in June of 1833, just missing the calamanty mentioned above. They settled on the Fitzgerald property near Richmond.

During the flood of 1833, William Morton was on his plantation a mile from home on the east side of the Brazos River and was carried away by the flood waters. Some sources say he was attempting to swim across the river from his home on the east side to the west side where his growing crops were. He was never found. Randal Jones was the last person to see him alive. Daniel Perry was administrator of the Morton estate.

James Perry, the brother of Daniel Perry, came to Texas in 1829-1830. On December, 1832, James received a league of land on Davidson Creek a few miles north of  Lyons, in Burleson County. Daniel Perry, his wife Eliza Jane Whitehead, and two sons, James Whitehead and Samuel, arrived in Texas in June 1832 and lived with Daniel's brother James until he could find a place to make his home. During this time his wife Eliza died. At a party hosted by Thomas Barnett, Daniel met Louisa Ann Morton, also known as Louisiana Morton, daughter of William Morton and on December 24, 1833, they were married. Daniel Perry, his wife Louisa Ann, and his two sons James Whitehead and Samuel settled on the Morton property [DUKE] that Louisa Ann inherited from her father, William Morton. Not long afterward Samuel, age 12, drowned in the Brazos River. His body was never recovered.

Moses Shipman was president of the election at the home of John Owens to choose delegates to the Convention of 1836. This convention resulted in Texas Deceleration of Independence from Mexico. Thomas Barnett also signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. The day the Alamo fell Daniel Perry joined the Texas Army at Richmond as Captain. Following the fall of the Alamo, Mexican General Santa Anna chased General Sam Houston to San Jacinto where Santa Anna was defeated by Sam Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto. The pursuit of General Sam Houston by General Santa Anna became known as the Runaway Scrape in which Santa Anna burned all the settlers homes he could find. During the Runaway Scrape to escape the Mexican army in 1836, families of all these settlers were included.  Returning home after the Battle of San Jacinto and victory for the Texans, many found their homes destroyed, livestock gone, and fields ruined.  The Fitzgerald house where the Fenn's lived was destroyed; so were Moses Shipman’s pens and stock at Stafford’s Point where the Mexicans had camped.  The homes of  Daniel Perry and Moses Shipman were standing, so the Fenns moved in with Moses and Mary Shipman until they could build on the David Fitzgerald league at DUKE.  Eli Fenn was part of  Martin's 100 and would defend the crossings along the Brazos in the Fort Bend area. Martin and his men were unable to defend them all. The Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 ended the war. Early in the year of 1837 and shortly after signing the petition to form Fort Bend County,  Moses Shipman died.  His widow, Mary, lived on her league until her death. In 1837, Sarah and Eli moved to a quarter league which she inherited from her father on the upper edge or west end of the Fitzgerald grant, fronting on the Brazos River. Fort Bend County was formed in 1838; the DUKE area residents who signed the petition on May 15, 1837, for the formation of the county were Moses Shipman, Eli Fenn, Daniel Perry, and James P. Shipman.  The candidates for sheriff were James Perry, Daniel Perry’s brother, and John V. Morton, Daniel Perry’s brother-in-law, James Hughes and Adam Stafford, but the two chief contestants were James Perry and John V. Morton. These were Daniel Perry's brother and brother-in-law. Daniel served as election judge. John V. Morton was elected.

In 1840, Eli Fenn died. The cause of his death at age 46 is not known. John Fenn, who was 16 at the time of his fathers death, later said he buried his father about 400 yards below where the bridge of the Santa Fe Railroad spans the Brazos. The exact spot is lost. In 1841, Eli's widow, Sarah, sold land in the David Fitzgerald league to Robert G. Waters. Waters sold it to his uncle, Jonathan Waters in 1846.

On February 7, 1843, Sheriff  John V. Morton was shot and killed in a dispute with his deputy George W. Pleasants. The details of the incident are not known.

Louisa Ann Morton Perry, Daniel's second wife and the sister of John V. Morton died sometime between 1843 and 1849. Nancy Morton, wife of William, lived with Daniel and his family to help raise her grandchildren.

Texas joined the Union February 19, 1846.

Daniel Perry married Jane Hogue in 1851.

The year 1852 saw the marriage of John R. Fenn to Rebecca Williams, who lived at the neighboring plantation of  Moses Shipman. He was 28; she was 17. In the following years John began accumulating land in and around the Thomas Barnett league. The southeastern high bluff of Clear Lake was his homestead. The northeastern high bluff became Duke.

Before the Civil War, there were ten railroads operating in Texas. The first was the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado RR from Harrisburg to Stafford Point and started operation in 1853. The Columbia Tap traveled from Pierce Junction, at Houston, past DUKE, to the east bank of the Brazos at Columbia, a distance of 50 miles. It made its first run in late 1859. The train consisted of two engines, one passenger car, seven box cars, and eighteen platform freight cars. The Civil War halted its operation and the steel rails were used to make Dance revolvers.

Sarah Fitzgerald Fenn Cox, born 1797, died in 1860.

General Sam Houston died in 1863.

The Civil War ended in 1865. Most wealthy plantation owners were in dire straights because they spent everything on the war effort. Labor for the fields was nonexistent. The Arcola community was formed. Daniel Perry moved to Houston in 1865 and would travel by train to Stafford Point and by horse to Duke. He died in Houston November 9,1869 and took his last ride to Duke.

In 1872, Jonathan Waters's widow sold the property, that Sarah Fenn sold in 1841, to Thomas Pierce. That same year, 1872, T.W. House purchased the property from Pierce. During the time House owned the Plantation, John R. Fenn worked for him. In 1876, Fenn bought 75 acres of  land in the Fitzgerald league from Jane H. Perry, a descendant of William Morton.

The Houston Tap and Brazoria railroad, built beside the right of way of the Columbia Tap, was from Houston, past DUKE, to Brazoria and sold to International and Great Northern [ I&GN ] in 1871. Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe started building in 1873 and opened in 1875 from Richmond to Galveston. A direct route from Richmond to Galveston would be closer to Rosharon, so a more accurate description of the chosen route is from Richmond to DUKE then DUKE to Galveston. These early train engines were steam, steam comes from water, and DUKE had the water from Clear Lake. There was a railroad water tower still standing at DUKE in 1970. The Sugar Land Railroad was funded in 1893 and one of the board of directors, J H B House, was from DUKE, Texas. Duke in 1909 map shows a store and hotel and how the Cunningham "Sugar Land road" railroad connected with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe and then with I&GN. This "Sugar Land road" was about 800 feet south of today's McKeever Rd.

John R. Fenn had built a general mercantile store, a hotel and a stock pen in the DUKE area.  Duke Hessey was the storekeeper, so the place became known as DUKE when the railroad established a stop there. It was also known as Duke Station, Clear Lake Station, and Fenn Lake.  DUKE had a post office from November 16, 1883 to December 31, 1922; John R. Fenn was the first postmaster.

In October 1888 the Young Men’s Democratic Club of Fort Bend County met at DUKE on the picnic grounds in the “horseshoe” of Clear Lake.  This was a joint Jaybird and Woodpecker event of the older generation hoping for a compromise about candidates for public office in the county.  Francis Marion Otis Fenn, son of John R. Fenn, wore his black broadcloth Prince Albert and his shop made boots, the most neatly dressed man in the county and presided in his happiest manner to make everybody feel at home.  In 1889 this club became the Jaybird Democratic Association of Fort Bend County; F. M. O. Fenn was secretary, and his father, John R. Fenn served on the Executive Committee. This organization was to provide the people of  Fort Bend County with economical and honest county government after the carpet bagger control since 1865.

GALVESTON DAILY NEWS MARCH 24,1892                              GALVESTON DAILY NEWS APRIL 3, 1894

The Clear Lake picnic grounds are located at Duke, Texas on the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe RR.Texas tracklaying Sugar Land Railroad and Arcola to Boyd.









The hurricane of 1900 destroyed Daniel Perry’s house.  Also the house where Mr. Hubbard lived on the John R. Fenn farm was partly wrecked, and the family ran out to seek another place of refuge.  Mrs. Hubbard held the two-month old baby, and Mr. Hubbard took care of the children who could walk.  A tree blew down on the mother, breaking her back, but she was still clinging to the child in her arms when rescued.  She was fatally hurt and died within a month and was buried at DUKE cemetery.

In 1903, T.H. Scanlan purchased the Arcola Sugar Plantation from T.W. House.

On November 23, 1904, John Rutherford Fenn died and was laid to rest beside his mother Sarah Fitzgerald Fenn and  possibly his grandfather David Fitzgerald at DUKE.  Eight months later, in July of 1905, Rebecca Williams Fenn was laid to rest beside her husband John Rutherford Fenn.

Some time after 1892 Francis Marion Otis Fenn, son of John R. Fenn, wrote to the Editor of the Texas Coaster newspaper to say “Fort Bend County is on record as having the most fertile soil which has yet been known to man.”  His father and T. W. House, banker and sugar planter, sent a box of Oyster Creek soil to the first Paris Exposition, where it was analyzed; and a like amount from the fertile valley of the River Nile, which had always been considered the finest in the world, which when analyzed, was found to be inferior to the Oyster Creek land, which won the gold medal.  This box of soil was returned and then went to the Smithsonian Institute inWashington, D.C. This is a testament to the rich, alluvial soil the colonists found.  It was from the Brazos River floods over many centuries.  

GALVESTON DAILY NEWS JULY 13, 1884                       GALVESTON DAILY NEWS MAY 29,1886

Otis Fenn goes on a deer hunt.Ottis Fenn attends Hockly, Texas ball.


                   DAILY NEWS JULY 28, 1886Ottis Fenn for County Attorney


              GALVESTON DAILY NEWS APRIL 22, 1886

curtain number 9 led by Ottis Fenn, marshal











Ottis Fenn visited his mother.




The cemetery is located across Clear Lake southwest from DUKE and contains the graves of  Sarah Fitzgerald Fenn, John Rutherford Fenn, Rebecca Williams Fenn, members of the Williams family, Daniel Perry, Perry children and Mrs. Hubbard.  Probably Louisa Ann Morton Perry and her mother Nancy Spencer Morton are also buried in this area, as well as David Fitzgerald.  In 1901, W. P. Hamblin, son of Jane Hogue Hamblin Perry, wife of Daniel Perry, deeded a part of the old Perry homestead, to be set aside as a cemetery. The cemetery is referred to as the DUKE Cemetery; there are no headstones in the cemetery.  Eli Fenn was buried on the Brazos River bank where today the Santa Fe Railroad spans the Brazos River, and Moses Shipman was buried nearby on his property.

Duke remained a major stock shipping stop for the railroad for many years; seasonally sugar cane and raw sugar were sent by rail to theSugar Land mill and refinery.  The T. W. House sugar mill was one of the last four operating in Fort Bend County.  By 1917 the “Sugar Land Road” had been abandoned from House, Texas to DUKE, Texas.  With the introduction of the diesel locomotive, water was not necessary at DUKE.  Today there is a post near the railroad track with the sign on it that says “Duke”.  DUKE was a tight community of early settlers struggling to do what they could for their families, Fort Bend County and the State of Texas.

Duke Rd, Fort Bend, Texas        Burned hotel remains with Clear Lake in the background.

Santa Fe Duke sign east       Santa Fe RR Duke sign west

Santa Fe switch at North Duke east       Santa Fe RR siding at North Duke west

The following is about Joe and Mona Fenn's place.

Early cistern at J R Fenn homesite

When the town of Almeda applied for a Post Office in 1893 the application required the listing of the two closest existing Post Offices.

Application for Almeda Texas, Post Office in 1893

Budden Fenn recolations.


Recolections of Budden Fenn continued.

Recollections of Erasmus Bockel.

July 6 1901, The Houston Daily Post, page 7


The Galveston Daily News March 12, 1892

Vegetable farm at Duke, Texas in 1892.


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