History of the South Belt Area
Land once used as payment for fighting in war
The typical male of today, on his way to work in a suit and tie with briefcase in hand, is a far cry from the first inhabitants of this area, 7-foot-tall Karankawa Indians clad in only loincloths, carrying knives.
The Indians, feared cannibals, were labeled "demons of hell" by explorer Jean LaFitte. Their reputation, undoubtedly, kept the sightseers and settlers from this territory for many years.
However, when the first settlers arrived in the South Belt and Clear Creek areas, they were greeted by much more than the less than friendly Karankawas.
Marshy lands were unfit for growing many of the crops that had been grown in the settlers' home territories.
Diseases, such as hepatitis and dysentery, probably forced many to return to their former homes.
Many settlers braved the dangers and remained. Using this area for farming and ranching, the communities surrounding the creek grew and expanded through the early 1800s.
Texas, under the Mexican flag, became the battleground for freedom. Volunteers enlisted in the Texas Army and won the war of independence when Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana at San Jacinto.
With few funds to pay its soldiers, the Texas Army paid its men in land grants.
Dickenson Putnam, a soldier in the Texas Army, received a land grant in 1838 deeding to him some 960 acres of land.
Today that land is the bulk of the Sagemont subdivision. Putnam's recorded deed described the property as "18 miles southeast from the city of Houston north of and adjoining Halls League and west of and adjoining a survey for William K. Smith."
Putnam's ownership of the land lasted a short time. After dying in debt in 1838, the property was sold to C.V. Uglo. (Putnam's ownership of the land was recognized when the street connecting the Gulf Freeway feeder and South Belt was named "Dickenson.") The land changed hands several times before being purchased by Ayrshire Development Corp. over a century later.
Revolution & South Belt
In 1860, with the war under their belts, businessmen formed the Clear Creek Development Community. The Industrial Revolution had hit southeast Houston.
In 1879, George Washington Butler imported the first Brahman bulls from India and started a cattle business in this area.
Marshy areas of the South Belt and Clear Creek areas were immediately pinpointed for excellent rice growing. In 1903, the Houston Chamber of Commerce and Southern Pacific Railroad invited a Japanese divinity student, Seita Sabara, to move to the area to teach local residents rice farming techniques.
In the early 1960s, Ayrshire surveyed the area and overlooked the marshes and cattle. A major community, they felt, could be developed. Thus, in 1962, the development group acquired 881 acres of what is now Sagemont.
Originally five homes were built on the plains in 1963 to establish a water district. Families living in the homes had none of the amenities routinely featured in today's home. Drawing water from a ground well and traveling along dirt roads became the norm for the "pioneers" of this area.
After approximately one year and the advent of the water district, Sagemont became a legitimate subdivision and water district. Ayrshire began immediate construction of homes, with the first one being sold to the George West family in 1964.
Life in the South Belt area was rather lonely in 1964. Gulfgate was the closest shopping and banking area. To pass the time, the West family spent much of their time backpacking in the "wilderness" which is now occupied by Stuchbery Elementary.
The Rev. Sherman Wilson, founding pastor of the Sagemont Presbyterian Church, served as second president of Sagemont's Civic Club.
With rice fields still growing here, a serious mosquito problem required immediate attention. The civic club sought and received mosquito spraying.
Today's South Belt
Had any of the original pioneers thought to envision the new face of this area 200 years later, one would be hard-pressed to get an accurate reading.
No longer are cows and marshes a part of the South Belt area. In their place stand homes, parks and sports fields. The Karankawa Indians were long ago replaced by today's "Modern-man."
Today some 3,021 acres with 13,000 single-family dwellings grace the former fields.
Unlike other developments, the South Belt area land was not acquired at one time. Instead, the land was purchased over 20 years.
What will the South Belt area be like in another 100 years? Only an imagination run wild can envision such a thing.