Hankamer Rice Farmer Has Seen Many Changes in Past Fifty Years
By Sara Marsteller ~ Hankamer, Texas Circa 1958
“Times have certainly changed,” Lester Moor, 82-year-old Chambers County retired rice farmer observed as he looked out over the 300 acres of land spread around his comfortable farm home and told of rice farming “then” and “now.”
I put my first crop out on those acres in 1900. I broke the ground with a plow and 12 yoke of oxen. It took 12 able bodied men and me to put 250 sacks of rice under the straw in the rice field in one day during harvest. Then it took 11 to 12 hours to make a trip to Devers to store the grain.”
“In 1947, my son, Euell farmed this same land and with 11 men and modern machinery put 800 to 900 barrels of rice a day in the warehouse in Devers.”
“In 1900, I got $2.50 per barrel for my rice; in 1947, he got $10.”
“And just to take you a step farther about “then” and “now,” my grandson flew over the Moor farm while Euell was harvesting and from an airplane took a picture of the whole operation. Just think what a commotion that would have caused if it had happened while I was harvesting in 1900,” the veteran farmer laughed.
Mr. and Mrs. Moor live in a comfortable home, far back from the farm to market road which carries them to the city within less than an hour.
“We’re only an hour from Houston and 45 minutes from Beaumont, just a stone’s throw from Hankamer, and a little farther from Devers,” Mr. Moor noted.
“Time was,” he said, “when Beaumont was a great distance from Hankamer.”
Not that Beaumont has changed its location, but modes of transportation and modern highways have made the difference.
“See the siding on this house. In 1903, I left home — we lived just across the road from here – early in the morning in a mule-drawn wagon filled with sweet potatoes. I traveled most of the day, got to Beaumont late in the afternoon, sold my sweet potatoes, and then loaded the wagon with siding. Next morning, I started for home and got back late that evening. It took about three trips to get enough siding to finish the house.”
Mr. and Mrs. Moor want to finish their days in the farm home they built during the early years of their marriage.
They spend their time keeping up their home and visiting around among their children and their friends.
They see their children daily, and Mr. Moor confers with his two sons, Euell of Hankamer and Hallie of Anahuac, who now carry on the activities of the Moor rice farm. But there is no longer a daily work schedule at their home.
“We’ve worked long enough; we’re going to coast for a while,” Mr. Moor declares.
Halley Estes Moor is one of the younger members of the rice industry in Chambers county but in the ten years or more he has been engaged in the business has won an enviable position among the older and more experienced growers of this section.
Mr. Moor started growing rice in 1927, his first crop being in Liberty county where he had the first year a total of two hundred and sixty-five acres. For three years Mr. Moor remained in Liberty county, increasing his acreage each year, and in 1930 transferred his activities to Chambers county where he planted a total of four hundred and fifteen acres the first year of his operations there.
With the coming of the government allotment program, Mr. Moor's acreage was reduced to three hundred and fifteen acres and in 1932 and 1933 was reduced still further, his planting during those years totaling only two hundred and nineteen acres. This was subsequently increased and in 1937, working in conjunction with his father and E. C. Moor Jr., Mr. Moor put out more than four hundred acres of rice. During the first ten years that Mr. Moor operated as an independent rice grower his average annual planting has been three hundred acres and his average yield each year has been seventeen barrels per acre.
Mr. Moor is a native of Texas and was born in Chambers county on July 7, 1906, his parents being E. L. and Eva (Stengler) Moor. After completing his education in the public schools, Mr. Moor followed in the footsteps of his father, also a well-known rice grower, and became actively associated with the rice industry.
Co-operating earnestly with other growers of this section, Mr. Moor has been named a member of the Chambers County Committee for enforcement of the rice program and is also a member of the Devers Division of the American Rice Growers Association.
On November 28, 1936. Mr. Moor was married at Anahuac, Texas, to Miss Edith Miller, daughter of Judge L. R. and Ettie Rush Miller of Anahuac.
Mr. Moor for several years has taken an active part in the community activities at Anahuac, where he resides, and is a member of the Masonic order, holding membership with the Blue Lodge at Anahuac. In religious life he is a communicant of the Methodist church. In the spring of 1937 Mr. Moor was appointed tick inspector for Chambers county and is working earnestly with the cattle growers of that district to bring about complete eradication of ticks from Chambers county cattle.
In 2021, Halley Estes Moor's son, Halley Ray Moor and Grandson, Halley Ray Jr. continue to farm rice in Chambers county.
Herbert Roedenbeck (1881-1975) in the given course of time will suffice as one of the last legendary pioneers of this century; his achievements in agriculture and land development proved to be an integral part of the present demographic status of Southeast Texas.
Mr. Roedenbeck is credited as having planted one of the first commercial scale rice crops in Chambers County in 1910, developing a new strain of rice that became known as the "Roedenbeck Prolific"; during his tenure as Chambers County land commissioner, 1920-1924, he eradicated the fever tick by mandatory dipping of cattle, mostly longhorns. Roedenbeck is responsible for the migration of over five thousand emigrants to this area through his land development transactions. After having lost most of his holdings, Roedenbeck became active in the oil leasing business in Chambers and Jefferson Counties where he estimated transactions in excess of 300,000 acres.
The above excerpt from his biography - Tyrrell Historical Library Archives
"My first rice farm operation was in 1910 on 160 acres on H. T. & B. Railway Co. section 113 in Chambers County. The land was sod and in spite of brackish irrigation from the Lone Star Canal, we made two barrels per acre and broke even. In 1911, '12, and '13, I leased some of my lands to rice farmers for $2.50 per acre per year. Some of the crops in those years were lost, because the Canal Water was polluted by salt water which had entered Turtle Bay which acted as a reservoir from which the water was pumped into the canal. It took several years before the canal water was fairly free from the influx of salt water. It took great engineering and a lot of money to assure safety of the water for irrigation under the Lone Star of Anahuac Canal."
"During World War One, before the U. S. entered the War in 1917, the price of rice advanced until it reached $16 per barrel of rough rice in 1918-1919 to May 1920. The increase in price from $2 to $3 per barrel in 1912-13, induced many non-armers, lawyers, bankers, barbers, and other professionals to enter rice farming mostly by financing farmers for a share of the crop."
"1917 was the best rice year of those times, season was favorable, price of rice up to $12 per barrel, labor still low, and equipment and feed still reasonable."
"During 1917-18-19 I leased my lands to farmers, either for cash or on the basis of one-fifth of the Crop, and I came out fairly well in those years..." "One remembers the old saying 'When the donkey gets feeling too well, he goes on the ice trying skating and falls thru into the icy water.' this was the case in 1920 with many people who believed the rice farming business would continue to be profitable, but that year 1920 taught us all including me that there is a limit to the sky." "In that year I took on 18 tenants and farmed with them about 3000 acres on the Neches and on the Lone Star or Anahuac Canal. My leases provided that I as landlord furnished the land, the seed, and paid for the water sent for one half the rice produced; the other one half to go to the tenant who was supposed to finance the field work and all other costs of operation. This arrangement looked feasible in the spring of 1920 when rice reached a market price of $16 per barrel of rough rice in the local warehouses. In May of that year one of the tenants ran out of money and applied for a loan of $4,000 with a bank in Beaumont. The bank insisted that I as landowner endorse the note. Before doing this, I consulted brokers and economists about what they thought of the immediate future of the rice market. All assured me that as long as the Government insisted that farmers raise all they could, these economists assured me that the rice market would hold. To be short to tell about this expert advice, I mention that the price of rice was down to $4 per barrel in July, to $2 per B. in Sept. and almost unsaleable (sic) by November 1920. It is unnecessary to mention the fatal consequences of the break in the price of rice. American Rice had to meet the World market and the American farmer had to compete with Asiatic rice, from Saigon, Thailand, Burma, and other countries where surplus rice flooded the World markets." "I end this excursion of my thoughts of farming and knowing that they cover the vast subject only in spots. I nevertheless enjoyed expressing them, especially writing about them in the Week of Easter when Nature brings forth new life in all living creatures. Millions of flowers and buds on trees awake out of the slumber of winter; Azaleas greet us everywhere, little violets peep out of the prairies, forget-me-nots smile at us, the white dogwoods flutter in the breeze. All of them presenting a picture of colours, in light and shadow, such as a gifted painter may put on canvas, but a picture which the Greatest Artist of the World, 'Nature' offers us of colours of Light and Shadow in hundreds of variations each year." "And who dares to say, 'there are no miracles?'”