Baird, 68, and a Vietnam veteran, lives in San Antonio so he can make his medical appointments easier. But he says he keeps his fingers in Live Oak County.
But Baird also has a piece of Live Oak County history that should be recorded.
“I was gone and there wasn’t anybody there (in Live Oak County) to say anything about my great-great-great grandmother, Martha Godwin,” Baird says.
In addition to his relative, this missing piece of history involves hotels.
He says Godwin was born in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1851.
In 1893, she brought her daughter, Ada, and daughter’s son (Rolland) to Oakville, along with her daughter’s husband who subsequently left for California and never came back.
Godwin died in 1924 and is interred in the Three Rivers Cemetery.
Baird had read some local history that mentioned the Clayton family in Simmons City owning the hotel there.
But Baird says he had called Mildred House years ago and asked her if she remembered that Martha Godwin had ordered the hotel from Sears & Roebuck and had owned it for a short while before realizing she needed the railroad to come through there to be prosperous.
“She remembered my great-great-great grandmother selling that hotel to members of her family (the Claytons),” he says.
Baird said H.D. and Mildred House, both deceased now, were friends of his grandparents.
“I’m not sure how long my great-great-great grandmother had the hotel,” he says.
Sears & Roebuck had sent the hotel by rail.
The company put the hotel on the San Antonio Uvalde and Gulf Railroad out of San Antonio.
“The rail went through Three Rivers, through Kitty on to George West and to Corpus Christi,” Baird says.
“All the lumber, nails, directions how to put it together, came with it,” he says.
“The company hauled the first package to Simmons City. The hotel was built about 1905-06.
“I’m not sure how long she had it. But that’s when she figured out she needed to be by the railroad, so she sold the hotel to the Claytons,” he says.
Baird also says there was a Mobil oil and gas plant at Kitty that wasn’t big enough to handle everything that came to it.
So Mobil built another plant on the Clayton property and called it the Clayton Plant.
“In summer, I would drive a tractor to mow the Kitty Plant and Clayton plant,” Baird says.
Eventually, both plants were shut down “because they ran out of product,” he says.
“The justice of the peace in Simmons City was James Smith. He was a blacksmith, too. His wife was my grandmother’s mother.”
Baird’s grandfather was Rolland Harold Pursley, who was married to Smith’s daughter, Neddie Jefferson, Baird’s grandmother.
“Simmons did not have the 12th grade,” Baird says.
So Baird’s grandmother’s aunt, Rudell Robinson, invited Neddie Jefferson to go to Kingsville and go to King High School for the 12th grade. This was about 1914-15.
Mr. Robinson had a huge farm at Kingsville. Later the farm was sold to the U.S. Navy to build the Kingsville Navy Base.
Rolland met Baird’s grandmother when she returned to Live Oak County from school.
“In about 1915, they subsequently sold the hotel. In 1916, or so, my great-great-great grandmother ordered another one, and it was built at Kitty, where the railroad was, and near where the confluence of the Nueces, Frio and Atascosa rivers was.
“She very quickly concluded she wasn’t going to make it. So she had it disassembled and put on a wagon, and she hauled it to where Three Rivers is today,” Baird says.
The hotel was re-erected across the street from present day Roberson Funeral Home. At that time, the building housed the Longhorn Drilling Company and the Live Oak County Gas Company.
Baird said Henderson Coquat of the latter company in 1916-17 hired his grandfather to build a wooden derrick out by Oakville.
The drilling was about 1,500 feet deep.
“It became the discovery well for the Oakville oil and gas field,” Baird says.
In 1924, Godwin was leading a cow from across the street where she had staked it out. She was headed back to the hotel, but the sun was setting and she could not see down the road.
“She stepped out in front of an old Model T Ford. She didn’t see it because the sun was in her eyes. A couple of weeks later, she died,” Baird says.
“It wasn’t too much longer after that the hotel was sold to the Donahos, and it was called the Donaho Hotel afterward.”
As late as 1962, big letters on the side of the building said “Donaho,” but it was not being used as a hotel. I don’t think anyone was living there,” Baird says.
Baird said Valero had started buying up the entire western quadrant of the city where the hotel was except for the small strip of businesses and the Rialto Theatre that remain today.
“At some point, all those other buildings were torn down,” Baird says.
Baird also says in 1966 his grandmother – Neddie Jefferson – built the nursing home in Three Rivers and managed it.
At any rate, the hotels weaved a story through Baird’s family and was an important part of Live Oak County history.