New Book - The Tarpon Club of Texas
R.K. Sawyer and Jim Moloney teamed up to publish, in 2022, the story of The Tarpon Club of Texas & the Genius of E.H.R. Green. Their synopsis of the fabled sporting club and its founder, Edward ‘Ned’ Green, reads more like fiction than history. Here’s the blueprint:
E.H.R. ‘Ned’ Green was the one-legged son of the world’s richest female business tycoon, Hetty Green, who was known in financial circles as “the Witch of Wall Street.” In 1892, Hetty sent her 24-year-old son to Texas as the youngest railroad president in the United States. Within just six years he became an accomplished railroad man, banker, politician, and founder of the world’s most extravagant hunting and fishing club – The Tarpon Club.
When Ned opened the Tarpon Club in 1899, it was the most expensive, expansive, and exclusive club the world had ever seen. Green located his club on St. Joseph Island adjacent to Aransas Pass in the Coastal Bend of Texas. Its membership was dubbed the “First Four Hundred Sportsmen of America,” a privileged group with “more politicians and businessmen that in any other similar organization in the United States” and whose “wealth combined reaches into the hundred-millions.” Newspapers announced an unparalleled membership roster that included President William McKinley and former president Grover Cleveland. Neither, we learn, were ever members.
The truth was still exceptional. The Tarpon Club membership encompassed past, present, or future senators and governors, and businessmen such as New Yorker Edwin Gould, heir to the Jay Gould estate, C.P. Huntington, developer of America’s first trans-continental railroad, Isaac Ellwood of American Steel and Wire, and John Warne Gates of steel, Spindletop, and railroad fortune. Texas names included J. A. Baker, head of the Baker family dynasty, former Texas governor James S. Hogg, John G. Kenedy of the South Texas Kenedy Ranch, lawyer and King Ranch manager Robert J. Kleberg, and Houston banker and businessman Jesse H. Jones.
Tarpon Club members reached Rockport via the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad, its politicos predicting that “hundreds of influential and wealthy sportsmen will flock to our Texas fishing and hunting resort” and anxiously anticipating the “steam yachts of Eastern millionaires.” From Rockport, club members and guests sailed to Ned’s oasis on the Pass in schooners or Green’s personal yacht the Mabel, named for his paramour and former prostitute Mabel Harlow.
Green’s club rose to prominence during America’s gilded sporting era, a time when the word conservation was only just beginning to enter the nation’s vocabulary. Club sportsmen killed so many ducks that sharks congregated in the shallows of Harbor Island by Aransas Pass to gorge on downed birds before they could be retrieved. Tarpon Club sportsmen put the same zeal into their pursuit of big game fish. Landing a big fish on rod and reel – particularly tarpon – was a new sporting game in America that had been popularized in Florida just a decade earlier. Club members smashed records and set standards in the nascent tarpon fishing sport.
Between 1898 and 1902, press from around the world covered everything Tarpon Club. In 1903 the coverage stopped. A year later the legendary club closed its doors. Writers speculate that Ned Green shuttered the club because of a broken heart, and others because he just got bored. Neither is consistent with Ned’s character. The Tarpon Club was calculated to further Green’s political ambitions. Founder Ned Green wanted to be governor of Texas but was sidelined because of his alliance with African Americans during a time of little racial tolerance, and his love for a Chicago prostitute in a state still resonating with Bible Belt sentimentality. When Ned’s political aspirations were thwarted, the Tarpon Club was no longer of value.
During the less than 20 years he lived in Texas, Ned Green is crediting with bringing the first gasoline-powered automobile and yacht to the state. Ned was also an inventor, holding patents on such things as a wireless communication network for moving trains and a system to record the finishing times in automobile racing. He had a role in resolving the boll weevil crisis that was devastating Southern agricultural interests during the early 1900s. Racer, inventor, and farmer Green also assembled one of the world’s greatest collections of rare books, coins, stamps – and pornography.
Ned Green left Texas in 1910, leaving behind much more than the legacy of the Tarpon Club – the most renowned sporting club ever known.
Sawyer and Moloney’s The Tarpon Club of Texas & the Genius of E.H.R. Green is available in from Nueces Press at https://www.nuecespress.com.