Researching various Houston neighborhoods has been an interesting endeavor for me, because while I have watched many of those communities experience huge changes over the last few decades, a few of them are old enough to have undergone really enormous transformations, and a lot of that older history gets buried by the passage of time.
|Photo by Texinnphilly|
|A duck pond at Arthur Storey Park offers a glimpse to what much of Alief looked like many years ago.|
As a teen in the '80s, I had a lot of friends who lived in Alief, and never really thought much about the area other than as another mostly middle and working class neighborhood in southwest Houston. But Alief goes much further back than my teenage years in the 1980s. It began its existence in 1861, when an area 15 miles to the southwest of Houston was developed by a succession of people, including the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway who built a rail line through the area.
In 1893, a man named Francis Meston bought 1,250 acres of land with the intent to develop a community within it. The following year, Harris County recognized the area and it was surveyed, and the new town was named "Dairy." A doctor named John Magee and his wife Alief Ozelda Magee were the town's first residents, with Alief. Magee acting as the settlement's first postmistress. When she successfully founded Dairy's first post office out of her own home in 1895, the postal service referred to her office as "Alief", a pragmatic honor using her first name to avoid confusion with "Dairy" being mistaken for Daisy, another Texas town.
The town remained small, and got even smaller after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 destroyed its corn and cotton crops, which forced 24 of the 30 families living in the area to relocate elsewhere. Alief's tendency to serious flooding led to a couple of important developments. Rice replaced other crops in the area, and became a quick success, luring people back to the town, including early German immigrants. Members of the community also responded to the area's flooding issues by founding the Harris County Flood Control District in 1909. In 1917, the name of Alief had edged out the original name of Dairy, and the town was officially renamed. Alief continued to prosper, inspiring the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway to establish a depot there, with commercial development growing around it.