In September 1887, as a young single woman, my great-grandmother, Catharine Mary Taylor, set sail from the Port of Southampton, England on a ship bound for Galveston, Texas. Having graduated from the London Conservatory of Music, and with the goal of marrying her childhood sweetheart, John H Emmott, she at age 25 left all her family and friends behind to begin an amazing adventure. To live a life that would ultimately lead to the establishment of a memorial for our country’s fallen World War I soldiers.
After surviving a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and 25 days at sea, her vessel came to the Port of Galveston in October 1887. On October 22, 1887, John H Emmott married her at Trinity Church, Galveston. The ship’s captain gave the bride away.
Around the turn-of-the-century, Catharine and John built their home pictured here at 4505 Washington Ave. John died in 1914 of pneumonia. In 1917 Camp Logan was established. Catharine began renting rooms in her home to the wives of soldiers stationed at Camp Logan. Catharine and her gracious hospitality were very comforting to the wives of wounded soldiers recovering at Camp Logan and to the wives of soldiers soon to be headed to the killing fields of France.
Catharine’s son, Army, as a teenage boy, made his way daily to Camp Logan and earned money polishing boots of the soldiers and caddying for the soldiers who played golf. The original 9-hole golf course helped the wounded soldiers recover from casualties of war as part of recreational therapy. In addition to renting rooms to the wives of soldiers, for over 20 years Mr. Arthur D. Unkefer, the first Manager/Greens Keeper at the golf course, rented a room at her house.
Catharine was an avid golfer. In fact, she was the first woman to tee off there with her dear friend Mayor Oscar Holcomb. Pictured here is Catharine at Camp Logan (now Memorial Park) in her golf attire with her wooden shafted forged St. Andrews golf clubs.
Memorials don’t just happen. Someone has to start a flame that catches fire in the hearts and minds of others. In this case, when Camp Logan was being deactivated and sold to developers in 1923, Catharine wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper calling for the creation of a park to honor our country’s WWI soldiers.
Catharine Mary was asked to Chair the Memorial Park Fund Drive Committee to raise money and to work with others to secure the land to be utilized for the Memorial. Her initial vision was for a park of 100 acres. As a result of her work and others with Warner Realty owned by Will and Mike Hogg, 875 acres were sold at cost to the City for the park. An additional 630 acres were secured from Reinerman Land Company. The resulting Memorial which Catharine intended for 100 acres became more than 15 times the size as envisioned by her, a total of 1503 acres.
Today, let us honor all American soldiers for their sacrifice to preserve America’s liberty and freedom and peace in the world. But, the remembrance of them does not happen without those who do the remembering. The ones who did as Catharine did to bring about a Priceless Legacy, a legacy that is not just a place to golf, jog, play tennis or eat at Beck’s or commune with nature. But, a place to honor those who gave their lives for us.
The large, comfortable, two-story house on Washington Avenue is gone. So are the over 30,000 soldiers who trained at Camp Logan. So is the trolley which took people to and from the Camp Logan entrance near the current roundabout at Washington Avenue and Westcott Street. Catharine Mary and her son, Army, are no longer living either. But for generations to come Memorial Park will honor and remember our soldiers because Catharine remembered them and worked tirelessly with the Mayor, the American Legion, war mothers, civic leaders, women’s clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, churches, the newly created Harris County Historical Society, and with numerous gatherings in her home to create the Park in memory of those who sacrificed so much for us.
If you want to know more about Catharine Mary Emmott, the Mother of Memorial Park, visit Emmott Circle at the Houston Arboretum. Additionally, at the information desk, you can ask to read a book about her and Memorial Park entitled, Memorial Park, A Priceless Legacy.
Today, we honor all our country’s fallen soldiers. But, let us also remember those who remind us to remember our fallen soldiers and give thanks for all the memorials across America that exist because of the perseverance, wisdom, and vision of those like my great-grandmother, Catharine Mary Emmott.