HOW ODESSA GOT IT'S NAME
Odessa 1884 TOWNSHIP ODESSA Texas
May 1884... A group of Zanesville, Ohio investors were brought to the area by the T&P Railroad to attend a sale of lots by the Midland Town Company. Headed by Colonel Tileston F. Spangler, a colorful lawyer, real estate developer and promoter, the Ohioans were impressed with the potential for profitable land sales and promotion of settlement. Resolved to establish the "future great city of West Texas," the group headed west in a private railroad car. "By the time Well's Point was reached, there was not a man in the car who was not expressing his delight at the magnificent prospect that opened up," Spangler reported. An agreement was made with the railroad involving 24 sections of land (15, 360 acres) for $53,760. The 640 acres in Survey 27 surrounding Section House 163 were selected for the townsite. The name "Odessa" was selected for the "future great city" after Odessa,Russia, a then prosperous and widely known wheat and wheat-seed center and seaport. This name would be synonymous to "wheat country" in the sales pitch made to farmers in the north and midwest.
The "founders-promoters" of Odessa knew how to package a product and sell it. Spangler had headed development of four new Zanesville additions. Promotional ideas included brass bands, free carriage rides and lunches, open auctions, prizes of gold coins and 1,700 free streetcar tickets. Other principals included James Herdman, industrialist, railroad builder, large lumber company owner and manufacturer of tile and farm implements. The prime mover and chief financial backer was John Hoge, financier and industrialist. Hoge, with his cousin, Robert Schultz, another Odessa founder, owned a large soap factory. Hoge's novel advertising ideas had created a nationwide market for the firm's "Gold" and "Star" soaps. He sent a coach drawn by four white horses through the streets of Boston and New York to plug "Gold." The "Star," originating in 1866, had been popularized by "rebuses, premiums, calendars, and books of rhymes." The firm was later sold to Procter and Gamble for $846,000. Several of the other principals had also had experience in real estate ventures. The entrepreneurs set up a complex organization to finance and handle the project: a syndicate and corporation in Ohio, a Texas charter to hold title and two real estate firms to take care of details and the "heat." The T&P gave a deed to John Hoge, Trustee, on February 17, 1886, covering Survey 27 at a cost of $4 an acre for a total of $2,560. Townsite Odessa consisted of 300 acres with 78 platted blocks. It was bounded by North Washington street on the west, the railroad tracks on the south, 8th street on the north, and on the east, Center Street, if it extended south from 8th. A 50' x 140' residential lot was priced at $100, a corner lot at $150. A 25' x 140' business lot was $150, if on the corner $200. Land was offered at $8 an acre if 80 or 160 acres were purchased; smaller tracks sold for $10 an acre. Terms offered were one4hird cash, one-third in one year and the balance the next year. Interest was 8 percent on the unpaid balance. A 10 percent discount was given for cash. Two classic sales brochures were published: Spangler and Finley's Real Estate Bulletin in 1886 and Texas, The New Southwest, The New County of Ector, The New Town of Odessa in 1888. "The future city" was described a being on "the Staked Plains of West Texas" with sunshine, pure water and "no mosquitoes or dengue fever." To overcome the fear of the West, prospective investors were assured there were "no Indians nearer than 300 miles and there had never been a Mexican raid...." And to recap the assuiaflces, ",..cowboys (are) as peaceful as gentlemen...." Migration was urged to this spot where the "air is so pure that invalids should take advantage of the natural cure it offers for their ailments." Future Odessans were assured there were "...no saloons and a promise there never will be." In fact, deeds in the townsite contained a restriction against the sale of liquor. Representations were made that Odessa was not only a health spa, but an agricultural area as well. Farmers were assured that "...a 40 acre irrigated farm in Ector County would make more money than 160 acres in Kansas or Iowa." Taxes were $1 on each $100 evaluation, with land valued at $1.25 per acre. Other good investment potentials were portrayed: a one room house 16' x 28' (painted) for $330; business houses 24' x 50' could be purchased for $450; bricks $13 per thousand. The founders built a number of two-room houses to help recruit settlers. The founders were smart enough to know that people could not live by bread alone. Free land was reserved for public schools, a courthouse, 20-room sanitarium, a college, library and churches. The sanitarium was built and a doctor sent to run it. The founding fathers did not rely entirely upon the written word to sell the "future city." Widely publicized lot sales with all the trimmings were held. In cooperation with the T&P, low fare excursions were arranged from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Missouri. A special train paid for by the promoters was brought down from Zanesville. A demonstration orchard and irrigation system were subsidized. A Grand Experiment Fails But, the "best laid plans..." Odessa and Ector County didn't sell as was hoped. Cities are hard to build in this country. The image of "The West" was difficult to overcome, as it is today and the elements didn't cooperate, as is often the case. There were several bad drought years and the price of cattle and sheep dropped. Many of the courageous pioneers did not have the cash to drill wells, buy windmills and install irrigation. A number of lots and acres were purchased as investments by absentee owners. The railroad further undercut the scheme by selling land in the area for $1 an acre, the State of Texas gave land to homesteaders and leased grazing land for 4 cents an acre. In 1886, the population was 60. Eleven businesses were here in 1888. The first U.S. Census taken in 1890 recorded 224 residents; 185 were Anglos born in the U.S., one was Black, 28 were Mexican American and 11 were of European extraction. In 1895, John Hoge, individually and as Trustee, deeded 24 sections in Block 42, except the "recorded plat of the City of Odessa and the College Lots," to the Odessa Improvement and Irrigation Company, a Texas Corporation. The property was mortgaged to three Zanesville banks. A foreclosure was filed by them and a Sheriff's sale occurred in 1896. The property was bought back by the original principals for an amount sufficient to pay off the banks. On January 8, 1897, the property was deeded to John Hoge. These actions were taken to clear title and limit liability. On March 4, 1903, Hoge deeded the 24 sections, with the above exceptions, to T.J. Martin of Midland, H.M. Pegues and W.N. Waddell of Odessa. The price was $38,915 with $10,000 down. The balance was paid in March, 1906. In Retrospect Odessans can be proud of their founding fathers. They were entrepreneurs - free enterprisers willing to risk their money in an unknown part of the country. True, they became involved to make a profit, but that has never been a dirty word in these parts. These men were civic and cultural leaders in their hometown. Spangler was chairman of the first park board. Herdman headed a drive for a large hospital and formed an industrial foundation that brought in a number of new industries. Schultz and Hoge built the Schultz Opera House that brought Shakespearean productions and many famous entertainers to town. Hoge was noted for his philanthropies. He gave a million dollars to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and half a million dollars to the Actor's Fund of America. In his Will he created a $25,000 "Hoge Concert Series" to bring music to Zanesville. He also left $1,000 to each organized church and hospital there. He made liberal bequests to orphan homes, YMCA, Black organizations and other worthwhile endeavors. Historical footnotes... Oil and gas had been produced in the Zanesville area since 1866 and Hoge and Herdman had participated in drilling and production - if they had "held on another 23 years.... Hoge, who insisted on the anti-liquor restrictions in Odessa deeds and went to court twice to defend them, signed a petition in 1911 for "...open, law- abiding, well-regulated, tax paying saloons.... Little remains in Odessa to remind its citizens of the risks and financial loss encountered by those founding fathers "...to establish the future great city of West Texas." Nor is there much to be found on this significant period in its heritage. A few musty courthouse records, brief references - many incorrect - in published works and Muskingum "Draw" and "Street," which are named for the home county in Ohio of the founder promoters of Odessa, are the only reminders.
Courtesy: ODESSA 100
Published July 1981 by the