History of Sargent
(Taken from Historic Matagorda County Volume 1, published 1986)
Sargent, situated on FM 457 three miles from the Gulf, takes its name from George Sargent, a farmer and rancher who decided that the tall, waving prairie grasses which grew so abundantly here would make good pasture for livestock.
Early in 1834, Sargent and his family emigrated from Cornwall, England, to Texas. Settling first in the Refugio area, they later moved to Victoria where the marauding Indians forced them into another move. By now George Sargent had married and had a family including an 8 year old son, John Thomas. George Sargent purchased some Caney bottomland in 1844 and built a ranch house three or four miles inland from the Gulf between Caney Creek and Cedar Lake.
In those days Caney Creek was both wide and deep and emptied directly into the Gulf. During the war years, Sargent was able to ship his Texas beef and cotton along this water route without being detected, as there was no actual port.
Life was hard, the ranch remote, and neighbors few and scattered, but the Sargents had carved out a new industry for the area. In late summer of 1875, John Sargent and some neighbors drove a herd of more than 3,000 head of cattle along the Salt Grass Trail to Abilene. As they were returning, they received reports of a Gulf Hurricane. Traveling day and night, they reached home on September 17 to find George Sargents home gone and no trace of the elder Sargent or of Johns wife, Sarah Ann. Caney Creek was at high tide and wreckage blocked all the roads. Johns children were found clinging to a kitchen table which at the very moment of his arrival was being swept out into the flood. He rescued his children, and when the water subsided he found the bodies of his wife and father. They are buried in the little Sargent-Freeman Cemetery across the road from the Caney Creek Community Church. The headstones tell their own story. Henry Freeman, born June 2, 1842, died November 28, 1908: Frank J. Freeman, born August 24, 1870, died August 19, 1872; Cornelia Freeman, born December 5, 1851, died March 7, 1883; Sarah Ann Sargent, born August 20, 1838, died September 17, 1875; George Sargent ,born December 12, 1791, died September 17, 1875. There is a stone for Jacob Smith, son of Jacob and Elizabeth Smith, born September 16, 1843, died October 30, 1859 age 16 years. The same hurricane that took the lives of Sarah Ann and George Sargent moved on down the coast and wiped out Indianola. Yellow fever and cholera may also have decimated the scattered population of Lower Caney at this time.
A post office was established at Sargent on December 12, 1812, with Mary G. Montgomery as postmaster.
In 1928 a pamphlet circulated by the Bay City Chamber of Commerce described the Sargent Ranch; In 1915, the Caney Cattle and Pasture Company purchased the John Sargent Ranch at the mouth of Caney River, some 11,500 acres of land. This wonderful tract of land reached from the timber through to the Gulf of Mexico and lies along the Caney River.
In 1927 Able B. Pierce built excellent roads and drainage ditches, and his farm produced three-fourths to one and one-half bales of cotton to the acre. The native pecan and the Satsuma oranges were grown as well as corn and other agricultural crops. Around 1930 Pierce built a cotton gin at Sargent and erected a city block of houses for the families of his workers. Several of these houses, much modified and improved, are still used by some of the same families. Many of the names found on todays mailboxes are the same names found fifty to one-hundred years ago: Socha, Phillips, Chambliss, Bullard, Stevens, Freeman, Taylor and Hawkins.
Many early settlers still have descendents living in this region which includes-in addition to the town of Sargent-the resort communities of Pecan Shadows, Ramblewood, Camelot Forest, Sanborn Acres, Caney Creek Haven, Caney Cove, Caney Creek Estates, Downeys Caney Creek Club, Downeys Section 1, Live Oak Bend, and south of the Intracoastal Canal, on the beach are Sharpios Amiable Isle and Holiday Beach. The exploding population is composed of retirees, ranchers, builders store keepers, farmers, and a host of summer families who enjoy boating, water skiing, swimming, fishing, shelling, crabbing, hunting, and just getting away from the city. In addition to attendance at churches in nearby towns, there is substantial membership in the Sargent Baptist Church and the Caney Creek Non-Denominational Church. Children in the area attend schools in the Van Vleck Independent School District.
Lower Caney Creek maintains an all-volunteer fire department and an ambulance service. There is a VFW group with a Ladies Auxiliary, a Chamber of Commerce, a Girl Scout troop, Bingo on Saturday night at the VFW. There are four places that serve full meals, a gift shop, and a number of bait camps
Forty years ago the Sargent Beach was still one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast. Hard-packed sand extended back a quarter of a mile to meet densely turfed prairie grasses. The many sand dunes afforded protection against rising tides and their insidious encroachment on the sustaining grasses. A combination of hurricanes, tidal changes, and the lack of human concern for the environment have all played a part in reducing the beach to mile after mile of mud flats. Erosion by the waves of the Gulf has swept the foundations from beneath the feet of at least four rows of long-legged beachfront homes and promises to continue its ceaseless nibbling away until it finally drinks from the Intracoastal Canal, which is currently one-quarter-mile inland.
Hurricane Carla was the last major storm to hit this area. It made landfall on September 10, 1961, and left an indelible mark. The accompanying tidal wave swept inland for nearly ten miles, inundating everything the winds had not destroyed already. Now, twenty-five years later, most of the bruises have healed-except in the memory of those who were in Carlas path. One survivors story is told concerning an old-timer, known locally as Caney, who refused to evacuate. He tied himself and his little dog onto a sturdy old fig tree and did indeed ride out the storm in the tree. The little dog, however, broke loose at the height of the gale, and after the storm abated, the old-timer found his dog sitting quietly on the steps of the cabin, which was no longer there.