by Fred Collins
The old invoices from the Juergen Store in Cypress Top Historic Park lead us down many curious paths that often intertwine with the landscape and the history of Cypress. One such invoice shows where E.F. Juergen shipped 1,100 Bois d’arc fence posts to one Has Andrews of McKinney, Texas. He charged Mr. Andrews eight cents each plus the freight on the Houston & Texas Central Railroad.
The Bois d’Arc tree has many names. The name is derived from the trees use by Native Americans to make bows. Its official name is Maclura pomifera. Most books list it as Osage-orange or Bois d’Arc. Most rural Texans refer to them as bodark, or horse apple trees. They are a thorny tree usually 20-40 feet tall with broad glossy dark green leaves, reddish or yellowish brown bark and big hard round fruit that is a yellow green color. They are slow growing and long-lived. The wood is heavy and dense. The plant has a peculiar cell makeup. The plant incorporates silica molecules into the cell walls. Hence when you put a saw to it, it’s akin to cutting sand. Very tough on saws. But this characteristic also means that posts made from these trees are durable.
We have seen several examples from farms near Cypress that might easily have been sold by E. F. Juergen more than 100 years ago – one at Kleb Woods Nature Preserve and one on display at Juergen Store recently retrieved from a farm on K-Z Road.
There is still some mystery about the post Juergen sold. Where did he get them? Today, the McKinney area has more Osage-orange trees than the Cypress area. Imagine harvesting and fashioning a post from a thorny tree that eats your saw or axe and then selling it to Juergen so cheaply he can sell it for eight cents. How about transporting them from the fields and stacking them on a railcar? All that for less than eight cents each.
If you would like to see an old bois d’arc fence post or learn more about the history of Cypress and Texas, visit Commissioner Steve Radack’s Cypress Top Historic Park at 26026 Old Hempstead Highway, which is open daily from dawn to 7 p.m. The museum buildings are open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. To arrange a special tour, contact the park at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-357-5324. The park is home to the Cypress Historical Society, which is housed in the yellow train depot in the back of the park. The Society’s hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.. The Society offers genealogy and historical information for the Greater Cypress area. You can contact them at email@example.com or 281-758-0083. If you have questions or comments about this article, contact Fred Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historical facts courtesy of Cypress Top Historic Park Collection & Cypress Historical Society: Preserving Cypress History for Posterity.