Fort Bend Archeological Society hosts program
Local historian and author Louis Aulbach and his research associate Linda Gorski, will present a program at the January 17th meeting of the Fort Bend Archeological Society on Camp Logan, the World War I training camp that was built to house over 44,000 soldiers on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in Houston in what is now Memorial Park. The program will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the George Memorial Library in Richmond.
Camp Logan was an emergency training center in World War I, located on the earlier site of a National Guard Camp just beyond the western city limits of Houston. It was named for Major General John A. Logan, a prominent Civil War Union officer. The land was leased by the United States from the Hogg family who, by World War I had assembled the block of land that includes Memorial Park in their vast real estate holdings.
Construction of the center began on July 24, 1917 in the area that is now Memorial Park. The developed area of Camp Logan was 3,002 acres within a tract of 9,560 acres. Camp Logan was a tent camp supplemented by 1329 wooden buildings with a troop capacity of 44,899 men. “As you walk or run through Memorial Park now, it’s hard to imagine a huge sprawling military base on its grounds, but historic photographs of the camp depict row after row of tents on raised wooden platforms along graded streets near mess halls and latrines – and many of those foundation features are still visible in the wooded areas of the park,” said Aulbach.
Completion of the first phase of the camp was accomplished by August 15, 1917 setting a record for construction of World War I camps. Within three months, more than 30,000 men were living and training at Camp Logan. Most of tents had wooden walls about 4 feet high. The streets in Camp Logan were unpaved or surfaced with oyster shell or cinders. The City of Houston hired Layne & Bowler Company to drill a 600 foot deep water well south of Washington Avenue to service the camp and that well produced over 1 million gallons of water per day!
A complete sewer and trench system was installed. Sewer lines were of ceramic pipe with brick and mortar manholes. In addition to the main camp, a Remount Depot was constructed just west of the main camp. The Base Hospital was at the southeastern corner of Camp Logan. A rifle range was built 8 miles west on Hillendahl Road. Drill fields were between 1 and 2 miles northwest of the camp proper. In short, Camp Logan was a huge place! “The thing that surprises us is how little you will hear or read about Camp Logan in any of the books dedicated to Houston’s history. Even the Handbook of Texas dedicates just one paragraph to it,” said Linda Gorski. “Most of the residents of River Oaks have no idea that Camp Logan extended across Buffalo Bayou and that horses and men paraded on grounds that are now their front yards,” she said.
Despite the enormous amount of work that went into building Camp Logan, it only operated as a military establishment for 20 months, from 1917 – 1919. On March 20, 1919 it was turned over to the U.S. Public Health Service. In 1919 a building at Camp Logan, used by the American Red Cross during WW I, was converted into a hospital for charity purposes.
Shortly after World War I, Mike and Will Hogg regained possession of the tract on which Camp Logan was built. The City of Houston acquired the property from them for the development of Memorial Park in 1925.
We may not be able to see any of the buildings at Camp Logan above the ground today, but according to a recent archeological survey, the camp has left its mark on Memorial Park: “The imprint of Camp Logan remains clear to this day. The system of roads and drainage ditches form visible lineations matching the camp map grid where ground disturbances have been minimal.”
In his presentation Aulbach will highlight Camp Logan through a series of maps, letters and postcards left behind by Paul V. Hendrickson, a private stationed at the camp in 1917. He will also use recent photos to show archeological remains of the camp.
Louis F. Aulbach is the author of five best selling river guides to the rivers of West Texas, including three guides to the Rio Grande, a guide to the Pecos River and a guide to the Devils River. His first river guide, called the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande, was first published in 1987 and is now in its fourth edition.
His current projects include a guide to Buffalo Bayou in Houston, which delves extensively into the local history along the city’s most famous stream. The story of Camp Logan, which he will present at this program, will be a chapter in his book.
Aulbach, a native Houstonian, is a graduate of St. Thomas High School, Rice University and the University of Chicago. He recently retired after over 17 years as the Records Management Officer for the City of Houston. He served on the Harris County Historical Commission in the 2009-2010 term.
Updated information to his published guides and excerpts from his current projects can be found on Aulbach’s website: http://users.hal-pc.org/~lfa/
The January 17 meeting is free of charge and is open to the public. For more information about this program on Camp Logan, contact email@example.com