Vintage Photos |
PHOTOS OF STARR COUNTY
The Sgt Roy Chamberlain Collection
Ringgold and Environs c. 1918Seeking
the help of former soldiers, civilians
and present-day historians from the
Introduction by Brewster Hudspeth
Courtesy Jim Gesler, Wyoming New York
building in Rio Grande
City one block east of the courthouse. |
Destroyed by fire.
editor recently received an interesting request and it trickled down until it
reached what serves as my desk. Once or twice a year I get a good assignment -
and this was one of them. It was from Wyoming, New York ( a place described on
the Wyoming County webpage as a "hamlet"). I don't know about you, but I've always
wanted to live in a hamlet. It sounds like a place where there would be a lot
of mead drinking, archery contests and blackbird pie. A fairy-tale place where
villagers use words like forsooth and gadzooks. Kind of like Luckenbach was back
in the 1970s.|
From the beautifully illustrated website, I learned that
the county of Wyoming, New York bills itself as "The Grand Canyon of the East"
and indeed, the photos displayed on the site couldn't be more unlike the region
around Rio Grande
City, Texas. That's not to say that Starr County doesn't have its own distinctive
charm. It just happens to be a rather arid charm that seldom includes a complete
change of seasons.
Roy Chamberlain on artillery piece at Fort Ringgold c. 1918 |
the request came from Mr. Jim Gelser of New York who wrote about a photo collection
taken by one Roy Chamberlain, a Sergeant First Class who had been stationed at
Fort Ringgold in 1918. The area is such a far cry from Western New York, it's
entirely possible Sgt. Chamberlain took the photos to explain Texas to disbelieving
folks back home. Besides scanning and forwarding the photos, Mr. Gelser also provided
a short biography of the man Roy Chamberlain.|
Born in 1891 in the townhip
of Hume in Allegheny County, New York State, Roy's parents were "dirt farmers,"
keeping "3-5 milk cows, a few chickens & hogs, and bees for honey."
Their crops consisted of wheat, oats, buckwheat, and corn." After enlisting
at the age of 25 and taking his basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey he appears
to have been assigned to Fort Ringgold in what was then called the Motor Transportation
Corps. He was a machinist / mechanic and was discharged in 1919. He never drank,
never married and judging from his photos, he seems to have (mildly) enjoyed his
time in Texas. His mechanical skill was again put to use during WWII when he worked
for the Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego, California. He finally retired
from Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, New York about 1958. Mr. Gelser adds that everyone
seemed to like Roy, who died in 1975 at the age of 84.
Mr. Gelser asked
if our readers might help identify some of the buildings and streetscapes that
appear in the photos. The first batch revealed the Cameron County Courthouse in
Brownsville and several street scenes that were most likely taken on Elizabeth
Street in downtown Brownsville. The second, third and forth sets didn't offer
many clues - and only when the photos started showing somewhat hilly terrain were
we able to place the locale as Starr County.
Besides the pedestrian-friendly
streetscapes, the collection also includes trucks (with wooden-spoke wheels),
trailers, smooth bore artillery, convoys and a shot of the interior of one particular
truck - which seems to have been Sgt Chamberlain's mobile workshop.
Lost Photos of Starr County
Dear TE, Good morning! I love these photos!
... In your grouping of Military
Buildings, you have a house identified as: A residence in Rio Grande City.
The house is on present-day US Hwy 83 West Bound otherwise known as 2nd Street,
and I believe the cross-street is N. East Street.
My grandfather who was
from Kentucky was stationed at Fort
Ringgold and married my grandmother (a local) there. Both my aunt and my mother
were born on Fort Ringgold. We were all raised in Rio
Grande City... Thank you - DeAnn Peterson Cohrs, September 16, 2006
you for sharing your photos. I've really enjoyed viewing the pictures of my beloved
home town. I do have a lot of fond memories of Fort Ringgold, Starr County. I
was born & raised there and went to school at Ft. Ringgold, graduating in 1975.
I moved away fom Rio Grande City in 1977.
I was in Rio Grande City &
Fort Ringgold the middle of Nov. visiting & looking at old buildings. I enjoy
looking for old stuff from back home on the net and hope to someday be able to
collect all I can and donate them to the city.
I hope that the following
information will help identify the photos:
1. SFC R. Chamberlain polishing
the artillery piece...shows the observation deck / tower in the back ground that
was in Fort Ringgold next to the Lee
I would like to see the old observation deck / tower shown
on your photos rebuilt. It was the highest structure on campus w/three levels.
I am sure Robert E. Lee had to have climbed up to the highest level to take a
look for himself, after all, it was on the hill next door to the house where he
stayed. Today all that is left is the brick foundation. Based on the photos &
others the second level was an open floor w/cover & the third level a smaller
[floor]. All was supported by four poles. It's plain construction and should not
be very expensive to build if they (City/School) only had the money. It would
be a nice addition next to the Lee House complex and might attract more interest
to the area.
2. The photo captioned "An army of one" looks like same
location, same artillery piece & clothing, just a different angle.
The unidentified bldg. that resembles the Ft. Clark Spring Barrack looks like
today's Rio Grande City Municipal Courts / Public Works Bldg. on Water Street.
It still has the stairs, but no cover.
4. The brick house is not the
Post Commander's Residence, but an house that is still standing and in use today
as a residence in Rio Grande City.
5. Unidentified school bldg. (burned
down) was in Rio Grande City one blk. east of Court House currently the KC Hall.
6. Another unidentified street is Rio Grande City's Main St. & the 2
story bldg. on the right is today's famous restord La Borde House.
The grade levels taught at Fort Ringgold Campus were:
Primary (1-4 grades).
Ringgold Intermediate (5-6 grades).
High (7-8 grades).
Rio Grande City High School (9-12 grades).
recall taking art classes in an old two story white bldg. (morgue) which was behind
the old militarty hospital (girls homemaking bldg). We used the old parade field
for our band practises, barracks for class rooms, etc.
The campus also
had administration bldgs, auditoriums, swiming pools, tennis courts, football
& baseball fields, little league diamonds, and housing for the school superintendant.
Most, if not all the other bldgs. supported the school activities, warehouses,
Roberto Olivarez, Grand Prairie, TX,
January 11, 2005
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic
photos of their town, please contact