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Soldiers charged with setting fires and looting in Brenham
September 07, 1866

On this day in 1866, federal soldiers under Bvt. Maj. George W. Smith reportedly set fire to and looted several stores in Brenham. The incident grew out of a controversy involving newspaper editor D. L. McGary's frequent attacks on the local Freedmen's Bureau in the Brenham Banner. McGary was arrested by federal authorities; after his release, on September 7, three soldiers were shot during an altercation at a dance. Other soldiers returned to the scene, arrested two citizens, and set a fire that burned part of the town. Smith maintained the innocence of his men and refused to turn them over to local officials. The episode helped Brenham gain a reputation for the "unreconstructed" Southern mentality of its white residents. After lengthy hearings by both federal and state officials, the issue of the soldiers' guilt remained unresolved. Smith was transferred to Seguin, where he was later convicted of theft of Freedmen's Bureau funds. Though his conviction was overturned on appeal, he resigned his commission in 1869, the same year that a convention of Democratic editors met in Brenham and denounced, among other things, the idea of black suffrage. Smith died in 1890.

Hill County cotton mill begins production
September 07, 1901

On this day in 1901, the Itasca Cotton Manufacturing Company processed its first 100 bales of cotton. Previously, cotton grown in Hill County had to be shipped to the Gulf Coast and then to the eastern United States for processing. The ICMC mill was a vertical operation that processed raw cotton by dyeing, spinning, and weaving it into finished fabrics. For the first fourteen years the company's fortunes fluctuated widely. World War I, however, brought solvency to the company by generating a great need for cotton duck, used to make army tents. The mill continued to prosper until the Great Depression, during which it closed for a while. By 1940, however, ICMC was in full-time operation again, producing a wide variety of clothing fabrics in addition to duck and sheeting. During World War II the company was again converted to making duck for the government and operated day and night. After the war the growth of labor unions and the synthetic fiber industry beset the mill. The plant was shut down in 1959 and the company finally dissolved in 1967. By that time farming in the area had become much more diversified, and the relatively small mill could not compete with larger mills.

Houston Ship Channel is deepened
September 07, 1914

On this day in 1914, the city of Houston celebrated the deepening of the Houston Ship Channel to twenty-five feet. The channel between Houston and Galveston Bay had been the object of several previous improvement projects, most notably Charles Morgan's dredging operations in 1874-76. Houston leader Jesse Jones was a prominent sponsor of the 1914 improvements. The Houston Ship Channel is one of the busiest waterways in America. By the 1970s some 4,500 ships annually passed through the channel, which is now 200 feet wide and 40 feet deep in places.