Thousands of Houstonians jog in Memorial Park every day. Many others flock into this green oasis in the midst of the city?s concrete to play ball, picnic or just to enjoy nature. But, years ago soldiers drilled where people now run.
Memorial park was originally used as a farmland. Its first owner, A.C. Reynolds, established a saw mill and a grist mill there in 1831. Ownership of the land changed many times and by 1883 it was apparently abandoned and it remained a densely forested land. The calm was shattered in 1917 when the United Stated entered World War I. The city of Houston successfully lobbied to become the training site, and the U.S War Department chose 2,000 acres along Buffalo Bayou as the location of the facility. In less then a month, more than 1,000 buildings were hastily constructed and Camp Logan became home to 20,000 soldiers.
Even though Camp Logan successfully trained these men for combat abroad and continued to serve after the war as a military hospital, the base is often remembered for a bloody riot. On August 23, 1917, a battle broke out between soldiers from an all black regiment, Houston police and some local citizens. After the smoke cleared, 40 people were dead and 19 soldiers were executed after the largest court martial in U.S history. When the war ended, Catherine Mary Emmott conceived the idea of establishing a park in memory of the many soldiers who had fought and died for their country.
In 1924 the City of Houston with a population of 200,000 became the owner of one of the largest urban parks in any metropolitan area in the United States. The original deed specified that the land should always be used for park purposes only or else it would be reverted to the Hogg heirs. Miss Ima Hoggs watched the property for 50 years, during which time there were more then 100 encroachment attempts. Miss Ima and those who followed her, stood firm in their refusals.
Houstonians who enjoy Memorial Park today can thank countless people who have gone before them for this green island of calm in the bustling city.