How it All Started
Moore credits bandits, soil for success
HARRY H. MOORE has, for the moment, leaned back and relaxed. He savors a glossy green apple and nudges an old familiar rocker into motion, calmly reflecting on his success in the farm and ranch business.
“This Brazos River land, right here in this area, is more fertile than the Nile Valley and better than the Mississippi Delta.”
Indeed, the Brazos bottom has been very good to Harry Moore, and he to it. The soil has allowed him a bountiful life, has allowed him to see some of the world, and enjoy a few of the finer things. The conversation plaques and awards that adorn the den wall of his farm headquarters are testimony to his appreciation of what the fertile grounds have given.
Harry Moore is an indisputable success. Friends and family say he achieved success by working hard and by never shying away from a risk. One of his now-deceased friends used to assert that “Mr. Harry” was “a supreme man” who should be laid to rest some day on a white cloud. That way, the man said, people could pass and tip their hats to Harry Moore.
“That man wound up borrowing money from me,” Moore recalls, “He really knew how to get to me.” Moore has been showered in his 77 years with laudatory words and more and more plaques, service certificates, and civic awards to add to the wall. While nurturing the land he has nurtured friendships with dozens of prominent politicians, John Connally and Lyndon Johnson among them.
“I never dreamed I would have the privilege and honor of going to the White House any time I wanted to,” Moore says, casting a glance at an autographed portrait from then-President Johnson. “I went to the White House three or four times when he was in office.”
Lyndon Johnson, in Moore’s view, was “a damn tough politician.” As if to underline the point, Moore recalls that he once purchased some Chinese-made bedroom furniture while on a trip to Panama. The Customs Bureau allowed one piece to go through with no problem. Another piece, a dresser, got stuck in a bundle of Customs’ red tape.
“They said they couldn’t allow it through since it came from a communist country,” Moore says, “I called Lyndon in Washington- he was Senate Majority Leader at the time- and explained to him what happened.”
Within two hours of the phone call Customs’ agents changed their collective mind about the dresser. Lyndon Johnson exercised his power. Moore and his wife Louise have hosted the wealthy and the powerful, but Moore has worked, dealed, and pushed himself to the social and financial status he now enjoys. Yet fate played a role in his success as well.
Born into humble beginnings in Navasota in 1903, he headed in 1925 for Mexico, where he joined an old friend from Navasota on a job with James F. Martin Construction Co. Louise, his childhood sweetheart, exchanged marital vows with him in Laredo on July 1, 1925. From that point Moore was advancing with the construction company, having accepted the offer of a year-long project in South America.
But Moore and bride Louise never made it to the Latin continent. While traveling through Mexican territory by train, the couple was robbed by a group of bandidos who claimed to be revolutionaries. The bandits robbed the passengers, killed 13 of them, burned all but the engine and baggage car, and made their getaway into the night. They took everything Harry Moore had in the process, save a watch and ring which he managed to slip in his bride’s purse.
“I wasn’t scared- I really wasn’t,” Moore insists. “I was scared for Louise. She was young and blonde and pretty, and I was really scared they were going to hurt her. But they were as polite and courteous to her as they could be. They kept saying they weren’t bandits, that they were revolutionaries. They said they had never hurt a lady and that they weren’t about to start.”
That was a relief, but Moore still had to walk his bride and a handful of survivors to safety. They trudged more than three miles over mountainous terrain to a Mexican town where his old friend from Navasota had come to get the bodies. The old friend had heard there were survivors in the train robbery.
Harry and Louise survived to recall the adventure, of course, but their respective families were none too thrilled with young Harry Moore’s construction job.
“The families raised all sorts of cane,” he recalls, noting that he and Louise moved back to Navasota to stay. Moore borrowed $5,000 from a man who was said to be tough to deal with (“I never had any trouble dealing with him,” he notes.), purchased four mules and took up tenant farming in Grimes County. His first outright land purchase of approximately 600 acres transpired a few years later. Moore’s holdings eventually multiplied to some 15,000 acres in Grimes, Brazos, and Washington counties and have since been divided among himself, his son Bobby and daughter Joyce.
“By the time I bought my first land,” he says, “I had begun to realize the value of Brazos River land. I tried to buy more of it at every opportunity.”
Moore admittedly might never have seized the golden opportunities in farming and ranching had the bandidos not struck.
“I really don’t know what I’d be doing if that hadn’t happened,” he says, “I’d probably have continued work with some construction company.”
Moore appears to be fit for the rigors of construction work even now. He rises promptly at 4:15 every day, has coffee with law enforcement friends at the Navasota police station and heads for the farm. He routinely walks a brisk two miles with his Weimaraner dogs before sunrise, though he wonders aloud whether “it does me any good or not.”
Moore still dresses unpretentiously in khaki pants and solid shirts, all topped by a Stetson. For a successful man, Harry Moore isn’t above poking fun at Harry Moore, not at Jackie, Queen and Pic, his prize dogs.
“Those dogs aren’t good for much,” he proclaims, “We went on my walk one morning and I got attacked by a polecat. That rascal sprayed me good, and the dogs just let him do it.”
The solitude of farm headquarters get cracked ever so often by the ring of the phone. Though his grandson, Robert Harry, has taken to managing much of the farm’s day-to-day affairs, Moore still strikes telephone deals and generally drives himself as hard, friends say, as men half his age.
“I’ve been thinking,” he observes, “that I ought to step aside and let Robert Harry get involved in more things. I think there comes a time when the old-timers need to make room for the youngsters.”
-The Eagle 2/3 Bryan-College Station, TX- Sunday, Jan 25, 1981
Harry H. Moore split the 12,000 acre farm and ranch into three separate properties with Harry keeping a third, and his son, Robert, and daughter, Joyce, getting each a third. The families were growing and they had decided to go their separate ways. Harry died in 1988 and his wife died in 1989. Their land was split equally among the six grandkids. Jerry Moore, Robert’s son (class of 73), was a partner in Robert T. Moore and Sons Farm, and took over the farm in 1992 with the death of Robert. Jerry’s son Harry B. Moore (class of 2001) became a partner in 2003 and together they own 2,000 acres of farm and ranch land in south Brazos County, where Moore Ranch on the Brazos is located.
Listen to “Tom Moore Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins…A song written by Mance Lipscomb about the Moore Brothers and life down on the farm.