Alief, a residential suburb of Houston originally known as Dairy and Dairy Station, is on Bray's Bayou in western Harris County. The site was first settled in 1861, when Reynolds Reynolds claimed 1,250 acres of land at the bayou headwaters. Jacamiah Seaman Daugherty purchased Reynolds's land in 1888 and in 1889 granted the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway a right-of-way. Daugherty's plans failed, however, and in 1893 Francis I. Meston of Colorado purchased the land. Meston hired W. D. Twitchell (perhaps Willis D. Twichell) to plat the town in 1895 and retained Daugherty to oversee land sales at his Houston land office. Meston granted a free lot in town for the purchase of every forty acres of farmland and in 1900 donated land for the Alief cemetery. In 1894 county surveyors named the community Dairy, but application for a post office in 1895 resulted in changing the name to Alief in honor of the first postmistress, Alief Ozella Magee. The population was twenty-five in 1896, when the community had a two-room schoolhouse for White children and a one-room schoolhouse for black children.
Alief suffered heavy damage from the flood of 1899 and the Galveston hurricane of 1900, which destroyed the Methodist Episcopal church and cotton and corn crops ready for harvest. When the International–Great Northern Railroad Company offered free transportation to anyone who wanted to leave, many residents left for Ellis County, where they had previously resided. The town reverted to prairie; only six of its thirty families and the Bassinger General Mercantile Store remained, and wolves were seen during the daytime. In 1900 Daugherty convinced local farmers that rice was particularly suited to Alief's easily flooded land and spent large sums of money to raise the first crops. His effort made rice a prominent cash crop until 1915, when cotton production resumed. Daugherty also acquired and distributed free Egyptian cottonseed.
In 1901 Andrew Jackson Martin became the first of a small group of German immigrants to arrive in the community and purchase land for farming. Many who left after the hurricane returned by 1904. Resettlement brought a new commercial district along the tracks of the San Antonio Aransas Pass, where depots were constructed in 1904. The town's first cotton gin was built in 1905, and an independent school district was established in 1911. In 1908 the city of Houston built the Upper Brays Bayou Wastewater Treatment Plant in Alief, and in 1909 residents formed the first Harris County Flood Control District. Daugherty promoted the Cane Belt Canal, whose irrigation system reached Alief in 1934 and caused a resurgence in rice as a major cash crop (seeRICE CULTURE). In the 1930s the population of Alief fell from 112 to thirty-five. In 1942 the town had 200 residents and eight businesses. From the end of World War II through the 1950s it had a population of 150. In 1964 work began on a new school building for the district, which comprised nearly thirty-seven square miles; but between 1964 and 1968 school enrollment declined by more than 50 percent. By the 1970s much of the community had been annexed by Houston, though the town retained its identity. From 1962 until 1990 the population was reported at 1,400. Businesses peaked in 1983 at sixty. In 2004 the community, which contained some thirty-six businesses, was listed as part of Houston. The railroad line that ran through Alief had been removed to make room for a toll road.
Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library.
Upper Gulf Coast
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