Bailey landmarks lost to Hurricane Ike
Nothing remains of the home of Bridge City naturalist and wildlife conservationist Sue Bailey. In fact, Hurricane Ike washed away nearly 100 years of local history leaving only scattered debri of the once popular Rob Bailey and Fred Bailey fish camps on Bailey’s Road.
Nearly two weeks since Hurricane Ike destroyed most of Bridge City water and mud still covers the long winding Bailey’s Road where the Bailey family became among the first settlers of the area along Sabine Lake.
Rob Bailey and his brother Fred’s parents operated a store-gas station and dance hall on the road in the 1930s, before the Rainbow Bridge, when a ferry took cars across the Neches River.(His parents survived the 1900 Galveston Hurricane.) Eventually, Rob operated a fish camp at the end of the road, and his brother, Fred, had their parents’ old place. Rob sold bait and no beer, and Fred sold beer and no bait, so they didn’t compete.
Sue Bailey raised their six children and worked at the fish camp, where they also lived. She sold bait, Cokes and cheese crackers to people fishing and crabbing. In addition to becoming an expert on the flora and fauna, she was an expert on fishing.
Susan “Sue” Bailey, 84, passed away, on Sunday, April 27, 2008, at her residence. Today her life long home on the edge of Sabine Lake no longer exist, blown away by Hurricane Ike.
The beauty of wildlife around Sabine Lake, which is actually a bay of the Gulf of Mexico, led her to become a photographer. Her photographs of birds, butterflies and flowers are professional quality. Through the years, she presented slide shows with her talks about the marshes.
She particularly liked sharing her knowledge with school children. She knew that if they learned about the land, they, too, would love it and protect it. For a number of years, she invited school children and their teachers for a day-long field trip in the marshes. The lessons included information about the Native Americans that had once camped along the lake. Of course, Mrs. Bailey had arrowheads and artifacts.
She was active in the Audubon Society and in the 1970s and 1980s, served as a warden for the society when nearby Sydney Island had the largest roseate spoonbill rookery in the country.
Sue Bailey was featured in stories in magazines, newspapers and television. Texas Country Reporter and Bob Phillips rode through the waters and marshes with her.
“Sue Bailey looked upon the natural world with curiosity and wonder and shared her discoveries with others,” said Mark Dunn of Bridge City, who grew up near the Baileys. “She lived a simple life on the edge of Sabine Lake, where she became an observer and activist on behalf of local wildlife preservation and the protection of our marshlands. It earned her acclaim, but she would laugh with those who considered her an academic.”
But for all the acclaim, Dunn remembers simple Mrs. Bailey, who would give him complimentary sodas or even homemade ice cream, when he was a kid fishing in the lake. He liked to eat the ice cream while sitting under the shade of the big live oak trees by her house.
Sue Bailey had the elegant demeanor and red hair reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn. But instead of comedic romps on the silver screen, Mrs. Bailey rambled through the marshes and sailed on the waters of Sabine Lake, while wearing lipstick and making sure her red hair was fixed.
She became the beloved expert on the creatures and plants of Southeast Texas.
Sue was born November 12, 1923, in Beaumont to William St. Elmo and Ruby Ophelia (Harvey) Young. She became the owner of Rob Bailey’s Fish Camp after the death of her husband Rob. She was a charter member of First Baptist Church in Bridge City.
Though she didn’t have a college degree, scientists with doctorate degrees went to her to get information. Some compare her to Henry David Thoreau. She learned by standing still to watch and listen. She knew the tides, the birds, the fish, the stars, the flowers, and the time of the year when thousands of monarch butterflies would spend the night in the marsh as a stop on the fall migration.
The local marshlands have now reclaimed the strip of shoreline that once brought fishermen and tourist from around the world to the popular Bailey bussinesses on Sabine Lake. Nothing remains.