Odessa 1884

                TOWNSHIP ODESSA
                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
                 "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
          Several of the other principals had also had experience in real estate
          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: Span gler 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
          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
          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
                    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
                      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
                      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

Courtesy: ODESSA 100
an informal history

Published July 1981 by the
Exchange Club
Odessa, Ector County, Texas

Last Updated: Friday, August 13, 1999