San Jose Island-A Retreat for the Rich and Powerful

Welcome back. You may not know their names but down in Rockport, Texas where I’m “chasing a ghost”, Sid Richardson, Clint Murchison and the Bass family represent money, big money and yes there’s a tie to the Bartlesville area. But first I’m taking you back in time to 1937 when these oil tycoons owned a string of islands off the shores of Rockport which lies roughly thirty miles east of Corpus Christi. They were called the “islands of the oil kings” and it was Sid Richardson’s San Jose Island where Franklin Roosevelt sailed in on the presidential yacht to meet Murchison and Richardson who at the time were two of the richest men in the country.

Richardson built a house on the island that was designed to be hurricane proof. The compound included a separate house for the staff, shelter for cattle, dedicated sources of water and power and an airstrip but interestingly, no phone service. Richardson never married but he hosted many gatherings so the main house could sleep thirty-five people.

This island, along with Clint Murchison’s Matagorda Island which was close by hosted many prominent political figures including Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and former Texas Governor John Connolly all of whom benefited from Murchison’s and Richardson’s support.

In 1945 Murchison founded Delhi Oil Corporation which grew into one of the largest integrated independent oil companies in the country and his investment in gas reserves in western Canada led him to build the 2,100 miles Trans Canada Pipeline. The H.C. Price Pipeline Company, headquartered in Bartlesville, was involved in the construction of the pipeline.

Like Waite Phillips, Sid Richardson was a big supporter of the Boy Scouts and he built a ranch specifically for the scouts on Lake Bridgeport near Decatur, Texas. I discovered this description of the ranch on their website:

“Sid Richardson Scout Ranch (SR2) is a Texas–size camp with 15 miles of rugged shoreline on 10,000-acre Lake Bridgeport and 2,500 acres of scenic cliffs, prairie, and forests. The camp’s historic 1870’s U.S. Cavalry site is a centerpiece of the Chisholm Trail Adventure program at our Texas High Adventure Base.

SR2 offers over 70 Merit Badges, an air-conditioned dining hall, large pool, Technology Center, Flight Simulation Center with 16 F-16 cockpits (featured in Scouting magazine), horsemanship program, Space Shuttle Simulator, working Blacksmith Shop, Sailing Base with 24 sailboats, sporting clays range, Viking Ship, Trail to First Class first–year camper program, Climbing tower and cliffs, 2 Blobs, windsurfing, Mile Swim, Snorkeling, BSA Lifeguard, and much more.”

After his death Richardson left his nephew Perry Richardson Bass a sizeable inheritance which he grew into an oil and ranching empire. Bass had four sons all of whom attended Yale University and went on to very successful careers in energy and finance. The brothers are also known for their philanthropy, giving millions to universities, medical centers, conservation projects and the arts. One of the brothers, Lee Bass owns the former Chapman Ranch adjacent to the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska among many ranching investments.

Today the Bass family still owns San Jose Island where they operate a cattle ranch and maintain Sid Richardson’s original compound which has undergone several renovations through the years. Clint Murchison’s Matagorda Island is operated as a wildlife management area, jointly owned by the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is cooperatively managed as the Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge and State Natural Area.

Yes, this week is the history of two men who had a profound Impact not only on Texas but on the whole world. While I continue my own investigation look for more from the Rockport, Texas area.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………….

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