The city of La Feria is celebrating its 100th year anniversary and to commemorate the occasion we are digging deep into our archives each week to bring you images and stories from La Feria’s colorful past.
|The following story is a chapter from a manuscript entitled The Bicentennial History of La Feria, Texas written by Eddie Gathings McNail in 1975. Throughout the coming year we’ll be reprinting sections of her research into the history of La Feria as the city celebrates its 100 year anniversary.|
What could be more beautiful than a garden of flowers, shrubs, trees and green grass? Such is the background for the La Feria Garden Club which met for the first time at the Chamber of Commerce office in February, 1934, with delegates from each club in town being in attendance. At this meeting the ladies elected Mrs. D. W. Sigler as president and formed the La Feria Beautification Club. The club colors were lavender and purple and the flowers, ceniza and purple bougainvillea. There were four members who have given faithful service to this organization: Mesdames J. H. Mitchell, A. F. Anderson, Ray Eoncannon and E. C. Wallace.
Later three delegates were sent from each club, and the name was changed to the La Feria Garden Club. At this time the Constitution and By Laws were written, and the membership included any woman who was interested in gardening and beautification. Several men were made honorary members in the early years.
Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Schnorenberg donated a lot in the southwest part of town, and a building that stood in one of the parks was purchased for $25.00 to be used by the various women’s clubs of the town. In May, 1938, the building was moved to the lot and a small kitchen was added to the north side by Mr. Clausen.
The first meeting was held in the new club house on November 14, 1938. This building was the envy of other garden clubs of the Valley that did not have such facilities; however, a leaky roof which was flat was a worry to many presidents and house committees. Much historical material was lost because of the water and the dampness. A gabled roof was added in 1947 when Mrs. R. H. Caldwell was president.
The city officials and employees assisted the Garden Club for many years with its property and its projects. In 1963, the club house was sold to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Mercedes for $1,000. The Presbyterian Church bought the lot which adjoined their property for $1,000 that same year.
Many worthwhile projects have been undertaken by the club members: 150 roses were planted in a city park and an equal member ordered for individual members; highway beautification was undertaken in the 1930s and 1940s with the setting of hibiscus, bougainvillea and palms along Highway 83; in 1937, 50 palms and 16 retamas were planted along South Parker Road at the east edge of town by Mrs. A. H. Moore and Mrs. Amy Holbert who used a crew of Mexican laborers and trucks to secure the trees and do the planting; garden clubs of the Valley reported that from January, 1940 to May, 1941 that they had planted some 6,000 bougainvilleas, rightfully named the Bougainvillea Trail; Christmas lighting contests were sponsored by the club; corsages were provided for the patients at the Harlingen Tuberculosis Hospital on Mother’s Day in 1956; La Feria cooperated in recent years in the Arbor Day tree planting on the grounds of Harlingen State Tuberculosis Hospital, now named the Harlingen State Chest Hospital; in 1963, the La Feria Garden Club hired Henry Link of Weslaco to landscape the grounds of the Bailey H. Dunlap Memorial Library; and in 1972, the Tony A. Unger Park on West Street was landscaped by a Garden Club committee with Mrs. R. H. Waller as chairman.
The first flower show was held on October 5, 1935 with 36 entries, mostly zinnias because the club members had been given free zinnia seed earlier in the year. Flower shows have been held annually since that date.
The Valley Council of Garden Clubs was organized in La Feria on September 24, 1935 with Brownsville Civil League and Garden Club, San Benito Garden Club, Harlingen Garden Club, Weslaco Garden Club and La Feria Garden Club as members. The temporary chairman was Mrs. C. H. Simmons of Harlingen until Mrs. T. F. Rives was elected the first Council president.
Pilgrimages have been made to the Santa Ana Refuge, to gardens in Brownsville and in Matamoros, to the Cactus Garden near Edinburg, to Goodwin’s Rose Gardens and Valley Botanical Garden near Mission, to Mrs. Ruby Englerth’s amaryllis garden near La Feria, to King Ranch at Kingsville and to Monterrey, Mexico.
The American Poinsettia Society, the only national plant society in the Rio Grande Valley, has headquarters in Mission.
Several members of the La Feria Garden Club are members of this organization and have derived great benefits from it. The objectives of the Society are to study the culture, propagation and exhibition of poinsettias and to collect and record information concerning poinsettias and to make that information available to the public.
The La Feria Garden Club has produced fine nationally accredited flower show judges, and they are Mesdames Ray Waller, Lowell L. Clark, John Warburton, C. E. McCormick and Dale Mock.
In 1965, the club planted 625 day lilies in a plot assigned them at the Valley Botanical Gardens near Mission. By 1968, the Garden was exceptionally beautiful.
An article in The Green Thumb of April 3, 1966 told “A One-Woman Garden Fabulous” was the garden of none other than Mrs. W. M. Maples, a rare gardener with a magic touch.
Whatever she planted in the rich, sandy soil’ around her home near the La Feria pumping plant grew rapidly and multiplied.
She started nearly everything in the garden from seeds and cuttings.
Perhaps her garden has more flowering trees than any garden in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. There are many native trees and shrubs scattered around the premises.
Some of the tropicals include the golden rain tree, the ear tree, the bo tree, the jacaranda, the eranthemum, the desert willow, the royal poinciana and the orchid tree.
Mrs. Maples’ philosophy in growing things is: “I always share.”
In 1969, there were 14,500 active Garden Clubs in the United States.
The home of Mrs. E. C. Wallace in January, 1971 was selected as winner in Yard of the Month contest by the Harlingen Area Council of Garden Clubs. The award was made on the basis of beauty, eye appeal and symmetrical balance. The committee which made the final decision in the selection of the Wallace yard began viewing the yard for the award in October, 1970.
In 1971-1972, the La Feria Garden Club won the Sears Award for the landscaping and beautification of the A. A. Unger Park on West Street. Mrs. Ray Waller was the chairman for this huge project.
Several ladies have been outstanding in Garden Club activities; Mrs. E. C. Wallace, a devoted member and worker for many years; Mrs. Lowell L. Clark, a winner of many awards in flower arranging;
Mrs. W. M. Maples, an authority on horticulture; and Mrs. Ray Waller, an organizer in beautifying the public parks of La Feria. The Pledge of the La Feria Garden Club exemplifies the dedication and concern of its members for the future conservation of the United States’ natural resources: “I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully defend the natural resources of my country, its soil and minerals, its forests, water and wildlife.”
There is no beauty like the clear sparking water of a deep lagoon, the snow-capped grandeur of a mountain chain, the limitless expanse of blue sky with white clouds, the wild, spring flowers of God’s rich earth and the mighty clasp of a human hand.
The past presidents were:
Mrs. D. W. Sigler, 1934-1936
Mrs. J. H. Mitchell, 1936-1938
Mrs. H. H. Clausen, 1938-1940
Mrs. Roy Foncannon, 1940-1943
Mrs. J. H. Mitchell, 1943-1945
Mrs. R. H. Caldwell, 1945-1947
Mrs. R. C. Ashworth, 1947-1949
Mrs. Roy Foncannon, 1949 s
Mrs. E. C. Wallace, 1949-1951
Mrs. Nate Johnson, 1951-1953
Mrs. W. B. Orr, 1953-1954
Mrs. John Warburton, 1954-1955
Mrs. C. E. McCormic, 1955-1956
Mrs. William Hartnell, 1956-1958
Mrs. Kelly Wiseman, 1958-1960
Mrs. W. M. Maples, 1960-1962
Mrs. Duane Harris, 1962-1964
Mrs. E. C. Wallace, 1964-1965
Mrs. John Hubbard, 1965-1967
Mrs. W. C. Beesley, 1967-1969
Mrs. Duane Harris, 1969-1971
Mrs. Lowell L. Clark, 1971-1973
Mrs. W. M, Maples, 1973-1975
Mrs. Kelly Wiseman, 1975-1977
Do YOU have any photos, books, or stories that might help us piece together La Feria’s storied history? If so please email us or call our office at 956-797-9920 and let us know!