On this day in 1859, Congregation Beth Israel, the oldest Jewish house of worship in Texas, was chartered as the Hebrew Congregation of the City of Houston. The congregation, which consisted of twenty-two members, many of western European origin, had been organized as an orthodox synagogue five years earlier. The institution started a religious school in 1864 and incorporated as the Hebrew Congregation Beth Israel in 1873. By 1943 it had completed the transformation from an Orthodox to an American Reform Jewish congregation. The Franklin Avenue Temple Beth Israel was completed in 1874, and funds donated in memory of Abraham M. Levy helped pay for a new temple at Austin Street and Holman Avenue in 1925. Among the congregation's chief rabbis was Hyman Judah Schachtel, who arrived in 1943. The Hebrew Congregation Beth Israel was renamed Congregation Beth Israel in 1945.
On this day in 1932, poet-horticulturist Frank Taylor Ramsey died in Austin. Ramsey, born in Burnet County in 1861, became his father's partner in the nursery business at the age of sixteen. By horseback and buckboard he scouted all Texas for native flora and introduced many choice wildings to cultivation. In 1894 the Ramseys moved their nursery to Austin, and Ramsey took over the business after his father's death in 1895. His establishment, the Austin Nursery, was a prominent and successful business throughout the early 1900s, at one time covering 430 acres. Ramsey, nicknamed "Fruit Tree" from his initials, discovered or originated and introduced several domestic fruit varieties, including the Breck nectarine, the Leona peach, the Haupt berry, the Ramsey fig, a seedless persimmon, and the cluster apricot. He also developed several varieties of pecans, bred a Ramsey hybrid shrub, and introduced the Chinese jujube tree into the area. Ramsey contributed articles on horticulture to various magazines and also wrote his own verses in his nursery catalogs and produced a booklet of poetry titled 'Tis Sweeter Still and Other Poems. Ramsey Park in Austin was named for him.
On this day in 1926, the first producing oil well in Ector County was brought in on the W. E. Connell ranch, southwest of the county seat of Odessa. Its limited production of twenty barrels a day did not bring about an immediate boom, but with the opening of Penn Field in 1929 and Cowden Field in 1930, Odessa became an established oil center and grew rapidly. In 1925, just prior to the discovery of oil, the town's population was 750; by 1929 it had risen to 5,000. As the demand for oil grew during World War II the population exceeded 10,000, and Odessa became the world's largest inland petrochemical complex. By 2000 the city's population had grown to just over 90,000.
On this day in 1976, Freddie King, celebrated African-American blues musician, died in Dallas. The Gilmer, Texas, native moved to Chicago when he was sixteen and developed his guitar style under the influence of Lightnin' Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, B. B. King (not a relative), and others. From 1950 to 1958 he played in neighborhood clubs and in the latter year made his professional debut. In 1963 he returned to Texas and settled in Dallas. In 1971 he recorded the first major live album ever made in Austin, at Armadillo World Headquarters, known as "the House That Freddie King Built." King opened AWH and returned periodically for fund-raisers. His recordings with Shelter Records brought him recognition throughout the state as a "top-notch Texas bluesman." Some of his classic songs were "Have You Ever Loved a Woman," "Highway," and "Woman Across the River."