This week in Brazos County history
This blog was authored by Henry Mayo, a surveyor and long-time resident of the Bryan-College Station area. As a surveyor and historian, Henry retrieves information from local, state and national resources to assemble a series of history-themed messages for email subscribers. To subscribe to Henry’s series, click here.
Easterwood Field dedicated on May 22, 1941
The new A&M College airport is dedicated and named for Class of 1910 Aggie, Jesse L. Easterwood, who died in a plane accident almost exactly 22 years earlier on May 19, 1919. He had served heroically over Europe in World War I, but died shortly after the war.
Before having an airport, A&M had been active in aviation training, especially aviation mechanics, for more than 20 years. The Pavilion, now in the middle of campus by the libraries, was used as a hangar for training in World War I. I assume the biplanes could take off and land nearby, needing very short, grass runways.
Jesse Easterwood was a childhood friend of Gibb Gilchrist, in Wills Point, Texas. Gilchrist played a major role in creating the modern Texas Highway Department in the 1920s and served as state engineer. He came to A&M in the 1930s to serve as dean of engineering. He worked hard to make the college airport a reality, even trying to get Bryan to partner with A&M instead of continuing construction of the separate Coulter Field. Under Gilchrist’s command, the Department of Aeronautical Engineering was created in 1938. As a side note, this pink granite monument at Easterwood Field is identical to the ones that each of the 254 counties in Texas received for the state centennial in 1936 with a plaque telling their history, except they have 5-point star emblems on their front and this one has the A&M College seal. Gilchrist’s connections with the state highway department must be the reason this style of monument came to be at Easterwood. I don’t know of another one of this style, except the county history ones.
In early 1940, the the first runway was bladed and sodded, and a hangar was built at its north end. The following two photos show this hangar and the runway. This landing strip was only about one-third the current length of main runway 16-34, but its north end was at the same location. North of the landing strip is Lake Shineola, which is where FM2818 now runs by the airport.
The following picture shows the new concrete taxiway and hangar building that are still in use. The control tower was not built yet and the wind tunnel building did not yet have the large, loop chamber constructed. I believe this photo from A&M archives is dated 1947. The entrance road to the airport came in from FM60, north of the airport. Lake Shineola is in the top of the photo, but appears to be drained or extremely low. The airport terminal building was not yet constructed. Either all planes were in the new hangar or still located at the old hangar when this photo was taken.
For comparison, here’s a fairly current aerial view of this hangar, the wind tunnel, new control tower and the general aviation terminal. The monument pictured above is located in the middle of the grass area between the wind tunnel and terminal.
A great history of the history of flight training at A&M and Easterwood Field is the booklet “Wings Over Aggieland” which is included in College Station’s Project HOLD. Some of the photos above are in this booklet.
Before I close, I wanted to mention a milestone anniversary for Texas, although its not specifically tied to Brazos County. The State Capitol had a week-long, grand opening celebration 125 years ago on May 14-19, 1888. It took six years to build and cost 3 million acres of land.
Have a great week,