Elm Grove Fire

An arsonist set fire to Elm Grove Elementary in the early morning hours of Monday, June 7, 1999.  Firefighters were on the scene in minutes.  Sixty-six firefighters fought the blaze for two hours. The fire destroyed classrooms used by fifth-grade language arts/social studies teachers, two second-grade classrooms and five third-grade classrooms. Smoke and water damage was sustained in other parts of the building.  To rebuild the structure, nine classrooms had to be completely demolished, and most of the rest of the structure had to be gutted.  The damage exceeded $3.5 million.  Two other Humble ISD schools had incidents of arson during that same month. A fire set at Riverwood Middle School was quickly contained, but still suffered in excess of $40,000 worth of damage.  At Deerwood Elementary the playground equipment was set on fire. 

Arson investigators quickly caught the 13-year old arsonist.  Two other 12-year old boys were admitted to being present when the fire was started.  All three had been former students at the school.  The students were processed through the juvenile justice system, and all three were referred to HFD's Juvenile Firesetters program, and also referred to a twelve session counseling program. Only the 13-year old student was charged. Since he had no prior record, he received only one year's probation. 

 Elm Grove Fire: Demolition
Fire damage at Elm Grove Elementary, June 1999

Elm Grove South: The building was too damaged to allow the school to open for the Fall semester. Several parts of the building had to be razed down to the concrete slab. Determined to keep the students and teachers together, in a sense of community, the Humble ISD School Board decided to relocate classes to the old Humble Elementary campus on Charles Street. The district had recently sold that building after opening a new Humble Elementary campus behind Deerbrook Mall. The district leased the old building back from the new owners, and turned it into "Elm Grove South." Realizing the difficult situation in having student attend a school so far form their neighborhood, the district provided transportation each day from Kingwood.

Community meetings were held at Deerwood Elementary for the Elm Grove parents to meet with district leaders, including Assistant Superintendent John Widmier, School Board member Aaron Clevenson, and Elm Grove administrators Principal Cathy Airola and Assistant Principal Georgia Bartlett.  Parent concerns about transportation, safety, and other issues were addressed. 

Transportation: Principal Cathy Airola explained that Goodman buses had been contracted to transport students from Kingwood to Humble each, and would make normal stops to pick-up students, starting at 7:25 each morning. The buses would be traveling along West Lake Houston drive to avoid Highway 59 and construction problems. Parents also had to option of driving their students to school. The plan was for Elm Grove South to start at 8:30, and it will there will be leniency with the tardy policy. 

The district ran trial bus rides for the Elm Grove Students July 27-30, to help put them at ease in their new surroundings.  They were picked up close to their homes at 9 a.m. and transported to Elm Grove South so they could understand how long it would take to get to school each morning. Once there, they would given a snack, and then taken back home.

Elm Grove South: Trial Bus Ride
Elm Grove South students take a trial bus ride 
to their campus, July 1999

School begins: School started on August 11, 1999 at the Elm Grove South campus for the 600 students and their teachers. Elm Grove second-grade teacher Kara Jennings and first-grade teacher Regina Eakin coordinated the establishment of a fund to help their colleagues purchase teaching materials lost in the fire, and to replace personal items lost by teachers that were not covered by insurance.

Elm Grove South
Elm Grove South, 1999-2000

Elm Grove South: Principals
Assistant Principal Georgia Bartlett and Principal Cathy Airola
greet their students at Elm Grove South, Fall 1999.

Elm Grove South: 3rd Grade
Elm Grove South 3rd grade students participate in a 
walking field trip throughout the Humble Downtown Area.

Everyday Heroes: Principal Cathy Airola and Assistant Principal Georgia Bartlett were nominated by the Elm Grove Elementary faculty and staff for the Kingwood Observer & Sun's Everyday Heroes Award. Both administrators spent the majority of their summer vacation helping students, parents and teacher ease into the situation regarding Elm Grove South. They spent many hours contacting parents and working out the minute detail of the move to the south campus.

Return to Elm Grove Elementary:  Students and staff returned to a totally rebuilt Elm Grove Elementary in Kingwood at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school-year.

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Naming of Humble Schools

Humble ISD plans to have six new schools open over the next ten years. Elementary School #28 will open in time for the next school year (2017-2018), and Middle School #9 will open the following year (2018-2019).  The Humble ISD School Board has not announced what the names of these two schools will be yet. However, the schools in Humble ISD are not typically named after people. They are sometimes named for certain areas of town, such as Humble, Atascocita, or Kingwood. More frequently, they are named after neighborhoods, such as Lakeland, Greentree, Eagle Springs, and so on.

 

Only two of the Humble ISD schools are named after people:

 

(1) Jack M. Fields, Sr. Elementary School, which was named for a local businessman Jack Fields, who was

the founder of Rosewood Funeral Home and who also served on the Humble ISD School Board, and

 

(2) Ross Sterling Middle School, named after the former governor of Texas who owned a feed store in

Humble and was one of the founders of the Humble Oil Company (which later merged with Standard Oil of

New Jersey and became Exxon).

 

Foster Elementary is named for an old business from that area, the Foster Lumber Company. Some sharp readers

may contend that three of the schools are named for the founder of Humble, Mr. Pleasant Humble. However,

Humble High School, Humble Middle School, and Humble Elementary are named for the town, not specifically

the town's founder.

 

In Humble ISD's past, there were other schools named in honor of area citizens:

 

The Singleton School, named for Reed Singleton, a member of the school board for Harris County Common

School District No. 35, who also served as a local election judge. The school opened in 1903 on Atascocita

Road, where the Waste Management landfill is now located. The school was closed due to low enrollment

in 1926.

 

The Woodward School at Moonshine Hill, named for Emerson Francis Woodward, assistant superintendent

of the Producers Oil Company's southern division, who approved the donation of the land for the school.

Woodward was also the founder of the Houston Gun Club and was once listed as Houston's richest resident.

The Woodward School opened in 1910. It eventually became known as the Moonshine Hill School, and

then simply the Hill School. The school was closed in 1932 due to low enrollment.

 

Charles Bender High School, named for local sawmill owner Charles Bender. Mr. Bender's business was

critical to the growth of the early town of Humble. Charles Bender High School opened in 1930 and was

used as a high school until 1965. It was used as an middle school from 1965-1972. It later was used as the

school district office, and then as the instructional support center. The building was sold to the City of

Humble and was recently renovated into a performing arts center.

 

Joe Dunman's Schoolhouse, named for Joseph W. Dunman (the owner). It was the first school in the area,

opening in 1873. It was closed in 1903.

 

Is there any chance that any of these NEW schools will be named for people important to the district's

history? There's always a chance.

 

Naming schools after people would depend on the how strongly Humble citizens (and School Board members)

still feel about these individuals.

 

If considering people to name schools after, who could it be?

 

1) A board member?

 

The Instructional Support Center is already named for past board member James Eggers, and Jack

Fields Elementary is named for a former board member.

 

The good candidate would be Dr. J. Alford Moore. Dr. Moore is a local veterinarian who served on

the school longer than any other individual. He was first elected on October 8, 1974, and served

continuously until May 4, 2002. He was later appointed to complete the unexpired term of Board 

Member Bob Strader, from December 9, 2003 until May 15, 2004. He served a total of 27 years on the

Humble ISD school board.

 

He was President of the Humble School Board when Dr. Sconzo was first hired.

 

2) A past Superintendent?

 

The football stadium is already named for Superintendent #9, George Turner. Other recent

superintendent's would be Superintendent #11: Dr. Guy M. Sconzo, who served from 2001 through

2016; Superintendent #10: Dr. Michael W. Say, who served from 1982 through 2001; and

Superintendent #8: Dr. Floyd Burton, who served from 1942 until his death in 1961. Or how about

Superintendent #2: John F. Crawford, who served from 1911 through 1919 and was greatly

responsible for the success of the early school district. Crawford served as superintendent when it was

Harris County Common School District No. 28, and then when it became District No. 50, and then

when it finally became the Humble Independent School District.

 

3) A respected Principal or other district employee?

 

There are lots in Humble's long history.

 

Arthur Tipton was Assistant Superintendent for many years.

 

Dr. Jane Schneider was the first female Humble Principal in modern times, having served as principal

at Woodland Hills Elementary and Oaks Elementary.

 

Jack Daniels was a long-time principal in Humble. He worked at many of the early Humble schools.

With all due respect to Mr. Daniels, there is some humor in the fact that we once had a Mr. Jack Daniels

who was principal of the Moonshine Hill School.

 

Elliott Curtis, former longtime Principal of Bender High School and Humble High School.

Conroe ISD just recently named one of their new schools after a long-retired teacher

 

4) A local community member or public leader.

 

Again, no shortage in our area. There are Humble mayors, prominent citizens, etc.

 

 

 

Then again, there is some benefit in Humble's practice of naming schools for neighborhoods. Look at all the

trouble Houston ISD went through lately in re-naming some of their schools after people fell out of favor. Also,

Aldine ISD has done well in naming schools after people. Many of their schools are named for former school

board members, or people who donated land for the location of the school.

 

The Humble ISD School Board will soon deal with this issue, and they generally have a pretty good track record

of choosing good names for schools.

 

 

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Harris County Schools Research

Spent a day doing some more research at the Harris County Department of Education Records Storage Facility. Great people there! It's the only place left to find some of the original records for the old Harris County Common School Districts.

It's a BIG storage facility:

Went to lunch at Pizza Inn (who knew there were any left around!), then went over to the Harris County Land Records office (it's just down the road from the HCDE Facility):

I found some good additions to my research. I now have all of the School Trustees for Districts 28 and 35 from 1907-1918. I also found just about all School Trustees for District 29 from 1907-1935.

I also pulled some documents on Spring ISD (from when they first became Spring ISD), and on District 48...which eventually became North Forest.

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Mrs. Humble's death date

There are three dates no researcher seems to have:

  1. Death of Pleasant Humble
  2. Death of Jane Markhum Humble (his wife)
  3. Death of William Smith Humble (his son)

I stumbled upon the death date for Mrs. Humble while doing research lately. A notice about her death was published in Palestine Daily Herald. Mrs. Humble's niece (Mrs. W. M. Hamilton) lived in Palestine, and was often visited by the Humble's.

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published in the Palestine Daily Herald - 25 Jan 1906

Mrs. W. M. Hamilton left this afternoon for Humble, in response to a telegram announcing the very serious illness of her aunt, Mrs. P. S. Humble, who visited her here this past summer.

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published in the Palestine Daily Herald - 26 Jan 1906

Mrs. P. S. Humble

Yesterday afternoon, at Humble, Texas, Mrs. Humble, wife of Judge P. S. Humble of that place died after a long illness. Mrs. Humble was an aunt of Mrs. W. M. Hamilton of this city, and during Mrs. Hamilton's childhood was a mother to her, she having lost her mother when she was quite a small child. Mrs. Hamilton went to Humble yesterday in response to a message announcing the serious illness of her relative, but she arrived too late to see her alive.

----------

Note: That means Mrs. Jane Markhum Humble died on January 25, 1906.

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Humble Shoot-Out in Houston - 1901

The Houston Post - 8 Jun 1901, Sat - First Edition, Page 6

Two Men Killed Instantly and Two Others Wounded, One Seriously.

----------

Thos. Payne and L. C. Echols the Victims

---------

Both Lived at Humble - Jim Perkins, Well Known in Houston, Shot Through the Ling - The Trouble Grew Out

of a Case in Court

--------

A pitched battle with six shooters took place in the vicinity of the Klondike saloon on Preston avenue shortly

before 11 o'clock yesterday morning. Of the four active principals engaged in the shooting, two were killed

almost instantly and the other two were wounded, one seriously and the other slightly.

The shooting was between Thomas Payne of Humble and his brother-in-law, J. B. Perkins of this city, on one

side, and L. C. Echols and his son, David L. Echols of Humble, on the other.

Thomas Payne and L. C. Echols lived only a few minutes after the shooting, both dying on the sidewalk where

they fell in battle array.

Payne was shot above the left nipple and in the left side below the heart. Another bullet entered the back of the

head. It is probable that either of the three wounds would have caused death.

L. C. Echols was shot in the right side below the breast bone, and again just below the heart. Another wound

was in the left arm, and this was probably the first bullet that struck him.

J. B. Perkins received a bullet in the right shoulder and another in the side low down towards the groin.

Dave Echols received a bullet in the left arm, which entered the forearm and following the bone, came out above

the elbow.

-----

A Post reporter was at the scene of the shooting before the smoke had cleared away. Justice Walter Malsch was

engaged in examining the bodies of Thomas Payne and L. C. Echols when the Post man arrived. They were

lying on the sidewalk where they fell, with their heads in opposite directions and their feet almost touching.

The street in front of the place which had been cleared of people by the deadly fusillade, was packed with

curious humanity pressing forward to gratify curiosity gazing on the blanching faces and stiffening forms of the

dead. A cordon of ropes was instantly stretched about the bodies and this kept the crowd back to some extent.

Young George Payne was stopping over the body of his father and crying bitterly, while in a few feet of him Asa

Echols wept over the lifeless remains of his father. The scene was a most pathetic one. Blood trickled down the

sidewalk to pay the expectant dust a scarlet tribute, and little pools of gore formed about the dead men.

The undertaking establishments were at once notified and on the arrival of the dead wagons the bodies were

placed on stretchers and conveyed to the morgues. It was first proposed to send them both to the same place, but

this arrangement was not satisfactory to their friends. The body of Thomas Payne was taken in charge by Ross

& Wright, and the body of L. C. Echols was carried to the undertaking establishment of Sid Westheimer, where

they were prepared for burial.

Dave W. Echols of Humble, who was wounded in the arm, as above mentioned, was carried to the police station,

where his wound was dressed by Dr. Brumby.

Mr. J. B. Perkins, the only Houstonian engaged in the tragedy, was conveyed to St. Joseph's infirmary, where his

wounds were dressed, and where he was reported last night resting easy. Mr. Perkins is well known in the city.

He was a deputy under Marshall Erichson and also a deputy under Marshall Baugh. Of late he has been engaged

in the office of City Attorney Sam looking up tax suits. He is a brother-in-law of Thomas Payne, a victim of the

awful tragedy.

------

The deadly marksmanship of the adversaries in the tragedy is emphasized by the fact that only two marks of

stray bullets were in evidence. One bullet entered a show case in a cigar store in front of which Mr. J. B.

Perkins was standing when firing began. The bullet plowed its way through a stock of pipes and passed through

the wall into the barber shop next door. Another struck a horse on the opposite side of the street, badly

wounding the animal. Another scarred an iron post across the sreet form where the shooting took place. Every

party to the shooting received from one to four bullets and of the fifteen shots known to have been fired, ten

found their intended targets. L. C. Echols received four bullets, Thomas Payne three, J. B. Perkins two and Dave

W. Echols one.

Strange to relate, not a bystander was bit, although the street was alive with people when the fusillade began. A

report was started that a street vendor whose place is in the vicinity of where the tragedy occurred had been

killed, and this rumor created much alarm among the friends of the supposed dead man until it was corrected.

------

The tragedy and the causes leading ip to it have bee discussed on every street corner in Houston since it

occurred. It will take the courts to decide whose fault it was.

A reporter for The Post talked to many who witnessed the tragedy and to others who professed familiarity with

the causes thereof.

The Echols and the Paynes are neighbors, both residing in the vicinity of Humble, a small station in Harris

County on the line of the Houston East and West Texas railroad and which has lately been much in the public eye

on account of gas discoveries there. The land now owned by the Echols was purchased from Mr. Payne.

There had been no trouble between them until a month ago. The bad feeling which culminated in the shocking

tragedy which the city of Houston has just witnessed is alleged to have been caused by an indictment which was

returned against young Payne in the criminal district court in which he was charged with the theft of hogs from a

farmer who resides across San Jacinto river in Montgomery county. It is claimed by the Paynes that this

indictment was returned by the grand jury on evidence furnished by L. C. Echols. The Echols claim that Mr.

Echols was simply a witness before the grand jury and had nothing to do with the prosecution. On this point

Attorney James Brockmann, who had been employed to represent young Payne in the criminal district court,

states that the indictment grew out of a similarity of marks used by Mr. Payne and the farmer referred to. Mr.

Payne's mark was two swallow forms in one ear and a crop in the other, while the other man's mark was two

splits in one ear and a crop in the other.

All of the parties came to Houston yesterday morning as witnesses and spectators in the trial of young Payne.

After talking with the witnesses, District Attorney Len nol pessed the case.

The parties left the court room to meet a little later in the street duel above detailed.

----

Dave Echols, who was wounded in the left arm, was occupying a cot at the police station when a reporter called

to see him. Mr. Echols stated that he is 20 years old and that never before has he been in trouble of any kind.

Asked to make a statement of the tragic death of his father and the wounding of himself, Mr. Echols said:

"The trouble started about the hog business. My father was a witness in the case, but had nothing to do with the

prosecution. Father had no bad feeling on the subject. He spoke to Mr. Payne this morning, Mr. Payne said, "G-

- d-- you. I don't want to speak to you." Father replied, "All right, Mr. Payne, " and asked him to excuse him.

The case was dismissed in the court, and I came to town to get a pair of pants. Pa was talking to Bully Singleton

and Ben Kegans. Tom Payne, Buge Isaacs, Jim Perkins, George Payne, Post Isaas, George John and Walter Bush

came up. Isaacs began abusing father and he replied: "I am not hunting trouble." Jim Perkins said, "You --- ---,

I'll kill some of you," and pulled his gun. Mr. Kegans caught him and said, "For God's sake, Jim, don’t' cause

any trouble." He threw his hand over Kegan's shoulder and shot father in the hand. Father jumped to one side

and was fired on by Thomas Payne, who was in turn fired on by father. Both fell at about the same time. I

turned on Perkins , who had fired three shots at me, the first two missing and the third hitting me in the arm. I

fired on him at the same time, and he fell. I may have shot at Mr. Payne while he and father were shooting at

each other. By this time my pistol was empty and I turned it over to the officer who arrested me. When father

was shot down, my brother, Asa Echols, ran to him on the sidewalk and while he was kneeling down over the

body crying, another party walked up and kicked him in the jaw, saying, "Oh, you ---- ----, you ought to be dead,

too." I didn't see my brother fire a shot, and if he had a pistol I was not aware of the fact. My father was 56

years old and had been a resident of Harris County for many years. He had never had any trouble. He leaves a

wife and ten children, four of whom are married. I used a pistol of 44 caliber and I think my father's pistol was a

38 caliber."

Mr. Echols concluded by telling The Post man that he had stated the truth throughout to the best of his

knowledge, and he asked that his statement appear just as he made it.

------

Mr. George Payne, son of Thomas Payne, was seen at the undertaking establishment of Ross & Wright. He was

too much overcome by the awful memories of the tragedy he had so recently witnessed to be able to make a

statement concerning it. A number of relatives were in the undertaking parlor, and their grief was pathetic in the

extreme.

Mr. W. T. Payne, it was learned from one of the relatives, was 51 years of age. He was born in this county, but

had lived in other sections of the State and recently for a time in the Indian Territory. He joined the Masonic

fraternity at Cedar Bayou, and affiliated with the lodge while a resident of Brownwood, but had recently

demitted. He is survived by a wife and three children, all of whom are grown. He owned a small place in 

demitted. He is survived by a wife and three children, all of whom are grown. He owned a small place in the

Adams survey, near Humble. The dead man is highly spoken of by his neighbors. Referring to this connection

again to the statement made by Anthony Brockmann, it appears that Mr. Payne was not armed. There are

conflicting statements on this point. Mr. Brockmann was quite sure that Mr. Payne was unarmed. He had talked

with deceased about the case a short time anterior to the tragedy and had asked Mr. Payne if he anticipated

trouble. Mr. Payne replied in the negative.

-------

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