"The First Lady of Texas", was an American philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th century. Hogg was an avid art collector, and owned works by Picasso, Klee, and Matisse, among others. Hogg donated hundreds of pieces of artwork to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts and served on a committee to plan the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. An enthusiastic collector of early American antiques, she also served on a committee tasked with locating historical furniture for the White House. She restored and refurbished several properties, including the Varner plantation and Bayou Bend, which she later donated to Texas arts and historical institutions who maintain the facilities and their collections today. Hogg received numerous awards and honors, including the Louise E. du Pont Crowninshield Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Santa Rita Award from the University of Texas System, and an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Southwestern University.
Hogg was the daughter of Sarah Ann "Sallie" Stinson and James Stephen "Big Jim" Hogg, later Attorney General of Texas and Governor of the state. Ima Hogg's first name was taken from The Fate of Marvin, an epic poem written by her uncle Thomas Hogg. She endeavored to downplay her unusual name by signing her first name illegibly and having her stationery printed with "I. Hogg" or "Miss Hogg". Although it was rumored that Hogg had a sister named "Ura Hogg", she had only brothers. Hogg's father left public office in 1895, and soon after, her mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis. When Sarah died later that year, Jim Hogg's widowed elder sister moved to Austin to care for the Hogg children. Between 1899 and 1901, Hogg attended the University of Texas at Austin; she then moved to New York City to study piano and music theory for two years. After her father's death in 1906, she traveled to Europe and spent two years studying music under Xaver Scharwenka in Vienna. When she returned to Texas, she established and managed the Houston Symphony Orchestra and served as president of the Symphony Society.
The discovery of oil on her family's plantation made Hogg very wealthy, and she used this income to benefit the people of Texas. In 1929, she founded the Houston Child Guidance Center, which provides counseling for children with mental health problems or diagnoses and their families. Through her brother's will, she established the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin in 1940. Hogg successfully ran for a seat on the Houston School Board in 1943, where she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay and established art education programs for black students. Hogg never married, and died in 1975. The Ima Hogg Foundation was the major beneficiary of her will, and carries on her philanthropic work today. Several annual awards have been established in her name, honoring her efforts to preserve cultural heritage in Texas.
THE HIDDEN STORIES
OF VARNER-HOGG PLANTATION
West Columbia, Texas, is a sleepy town of 4,000, just off the Brazos River south of Houston. Within the gated community of Columbia Lakes, resort homes and a world-class golf course have lured weekenders and retirees, along with executives from the many petroleum and chemical companies that operate along Texas' Gulf Coast.
On a crisp spring morning, as the mist clears from the links, you can see the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site, a decorative arts museum established by Ima Hogg. Looming in the background is a plantation house with a troubled past. Today, a golf course covers what were once the sugar cane fields of the plantation.
When the mist clears, the Varner-Hogg plantation house, like the golf course, presents an idyllic façade. In the process of making the plantation’s big house a decorative arts museum, much of its prior history was erased from the structure as well as the landscape. The big house was given a facelift, to, in Ima Hogg’s words, “make it more comfortable and practical.”
But with a little imagination, you can easily convince yourself that mysteries lurks in this landscape that is reminiscent of Southern Gothic novels or eerie British moors.
The ghosts here are real.....
Varner-Hogg Plantation’s history began in 1824 when Virginia native Martin Varner became one of 297 grantees who purchased 307 parcels of land from Stephen F. Austin and established a colony in present-day Brazoria County. The Varners received 4,428 acres and they brought at least two enslaved men to farm and raise livestock on a small scale and establish a rum distillery.
In 1834, Martin Varner sold the property to Columbus R. Patton of Kentucky. That same year the Patton clan moved to Brazoria County with a large slave labor force. Several of the Patton men became active in politics prior to the Texas Revolution and three of them — Columbus, St. Clair and William — served in the Texian army.
Between 40 and 60 slaves lived and worked on the plantation, known then as Patton Place. With bricks they made by hand, the slaves constructed the plantation house, smokehouse, sugar mill and their own quarters. With their labor, Columbus Patton built a successful and larger than average sugarcane enterprise complete with a two-story mill. His long, open relationship with his slave Rachel became a point of contention in the community.
Patton successfully managed the plantation until November 1854 when his family had him declared insane, possibly as a result of a brain tumor. He was placed in an asylum in South Carolina, where he died of typhoid fever in 1856. Patton’s estate became mired in probate court when his family attempted to overturn his will. After a prolonged court battle, Rachel was given her freedom and the annual stipend promised her by Columbus, and John Adriance, executor of Patton’s will and a Brazoria County merchant and plantation owner, became the Patton Place manager. Adriance maintained his role through 1869, when the Patton family sold the estate.
Between 1869 and 1901, the site changed ownership several times. At one point, owners used convicts through a leasing program as laborers. In 1875, however, state investigators found “particular cruelty” toward convicts at Patton Place. This unfavorable attention combined with the rising cost of convict labor ended the use of prisoners and the plantation turned to a sharecropping system.
Looking for sources of income that required less labor than sugar production led owners to try growing cotton on Patton Place with little success. In 1876, the Texas Land Company purchased the plantation and gradually switched the site’s focus to ranching. The majority of the laborers, now cowboys, were African Americans.
The plantation sustained major damage in the 1900 hurricane. Many of the original buildings, including the sugar mill, were destroyed. In 1901, former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg purchased the land, convinced that large amounts of oil lay beneath the surface. Large quantities of oil were never found during his lifetime. When Gov. Hogg died in 1906 his will recommended his children not sell the mineral rights for at least 15 years. Within that time period the Hogg heirs struck oil, making them all very wealthy.
While none of the Hogg children made the Patton Place home, they each spent time at the site. Long weekends with visitors, dinner parties and outings to the country brought them to the house. In 1919, the Hoggs made several modifications to the house producing its current appearance.
In 1958, Ima, the governor’s only daughter and surviving child, donated the plantation to the state of Texas. Before turning over the property, Ima, a great collector and decorative arts lover, furnished the home to reflect her father’s love of history and her own admiration for George Washington and other early Americans.
Now I tells you 'bout de plantation what I was born on. You all knows whar West Columbia is at? Well dats right whar I was born, right onMarster Kit Patton's Plantation, dey calls it de Hogg place now. (Owned by children of Gov. Will Hogg .) Mamma an' my papa belong to Marster Kit an' she was born right on de same place. Folks all called her 'Little Jane ', 'cause she wasn't no bigger 'n nothin', an' 'cause dey was a 'nother Jane on de place, too. Papa's name wasMike an' he was de tanner in de tan yard. He come from Tennessee an' had been sold to Marster Kit by a 'nigger trader'. But he wasn't all black, he was part Indian. I hear him say what tribe, but I can't rec'lec de name now, but I do hear him say it was a 'half bright' (half breed) tribe. I only has one sister, her name was Rachel an' she was littler'n me 'cause she was born jes' 'fore freedom.