In 1899, the Tarpon Club in gulf-coastal Texas was the most expensive, expansive and exclusive club in the world, its membership dubbed the “First Four Hundred Sportsman of America,” whose combined wealth reached into the hundred-millions. Or so said E.H.R. “Ned” Green, the one-legged, prostitute-loving son of the richest woman in the world. Texas historian Rob Sawyer describes the Tarpon Club and other exploits of one of the wealthiest and most accomplished historical American figures you’ve never heard of! Truth is way stranger than fiction!

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Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to MOJO’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast. I am in Texas with my buddy, Rob Sawyer, duck guide and Texas historian. Long time listeners have heard him before, but we got a different story. Boy, we got a different story today. We kind of warmed up to it last year and said that this year on our annual teal hunt, we’re going to tell it. 1899, state of Texas, the most expansive, the most exclusive club in the world, the Tarpon Club. Rob, how the heck are you?

Rob Sawyer: I’m good, Ramsey. It’s good to see you again.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, it is always and of course every time I see you, we have these conversations, we’ve been killing blue winged teal. We got after them this morning. It was a great time, good time. Different part of Texas, I’m used to seeing you in.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, this is the east side. The mud is blacker, the mud is deeper and it’s harder on your knees.

Ramsey Russell: And it smells like sulfur.

Rob Sawyer: It does, indeed. But both of us owe our gratitude to Will Beaty and Central Flyway for having us out here and an opportunity to get together again and talk about our favorite subjects.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. Look, this is a different book for you and I read the book and it is absolutely riveting. It was one of the most interesting, about the most interesting people and some of the most interesting subjects I never really heard about or read about. It was fascinating. What was the Tarpon Club?

Rob Sawyer: Tarpon Club was a lot of different things. It started off as an idea with Ned Green and we’re going to talk about him. And I think the line that you remember and that you love was that Ned Green was a prostitute loving, one legged son of the richest woman in the world, who built the world’s biggest duck and fishing club.

Ramsey Russell: And a whole lot more.

Rob Sawyer: A whole lot more.

Ramsey Russell: I mean, that’s a heck of a way to be remembered. Now I’m going to tell you and why was he one legged?

Rob Sawyer: Well, so if –

Ramsey Russell: He’s the son of the richest woman in the world.

Rob Sawyer: Yes, that’s right.

Ramsey Russell: And even in the 1800’s.

Rob Sawyer: Yes. And so I think to go back to poor Ned’s missing leg, which really obviously influenced his life, particularly in those days, you have to look at his mother. His mother was the richest woman in the world. If she wanted to socialize, which she never did, she would have socialized with the Vanderbilt’s, the Morgan’s and the others. She had about 100 million back in 1899.

Ramsey Russell: Back when 100 million was a lot of money.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, it’s like 30 times that now. But I can’t do the arithmetic and some of the stories kind of give the background to how this poor guy was brought up. She hated lawyers, doctors and taxmen. She called lawyers buzzards. She wouldn’t pay them unless they sued her. She wouldn’t go to doctors because they were just a bunch of robbers.

Ramsey Russell: They charged too much money.

Rob Sawyer: Right, and that’s the heart of where a doctor –

Ramsey Russell: About $3 billion in today’s dollars and she wouldn’t go to doctors because they charge fees.

Rob Sawyer: No. And she was ruthless, if you were a business partner, she called you a devil or a wolf or she’d pull a pistol on you. So if you’re going to negotiate pistols usually. Okay, she wins.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a last minute technique.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, it is.

Ramsey Russell: It has a strong arm.

Rob Sawyer: And she was a famous tight watch. She would not spend money, whether it was a doctor or anything else.

Ramsey Russell: No wonder she had $3 billion.

Rob Sawyer: No, well, it was a – it’s actually a disease name, they have a name for it. But she wouldn’t live in a permanent residence, she didn’t want to pay taxes. She lived in these cold water flats. She refused to put any money in her own name. Didn’t want to pay taxes, so she would actually put money in her dog’s name.

Ramsey Russell: Golly.

Rob Sawyer: It was a pet Terrier, it was the richest dog in the damn world. So when this young boy, her son. There’s different versions in there, biographers. In his biographers, he was hit by a car sledding accident, but his leg developed gangrene and she wouldn’t have it fixed. And ultimately, her ex husband, she dumped her husband because he lost money and the ex husband stepped in and the doctor said, if you don’t take the leg off now, your son’s going to die. So they amputated the leg and interestingly enough, they shipped it north and buried the leg in the family cemetery. And the young man, Ned, after about a year, he healed up and it was because of his mom’s lack of, I’m not going to pay a doctor to look at this hurt leg.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. How did she, especially a woman back in those days, how did she acclaim such wealth?

Rob Sawyer: She invested smart, conservative and as you say –

Ramsey Russell: Where did she learn to do something like that as a woman?

Rob Sawyer: So her daddy –

Ramsey Russell: Back in those days there was a disparity. That’s like, before women’s suffrage, I think.

Rob Sawyer: She had a mean old daddy, wanted a son, got a daughter. He owned this massive whaling business.

Ramsey Russell: Whaling.

Rob Sawyer: Yep, whaling ships, the largest fleet in the world.

Ramsey Russell: Back when Boston and all the big cities were powered by whaling oil.

Rob Sawyer: Yep, and the world. And so he said, well I’ve got this daughter and I’m running this business. She might as well learn it. And I guess she, genetically, she got some of her daddy in her and she would rather read the Wall Street news or papers like that, the financial pages, than things like novels and she got, and she was smart.

Ramsey Russell: She must have been. What about the time the preacher told her she’d go to hell? She foreclosed on the bank or foreclosed on the church.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, that was a Chicago minister. And, I mean, that’s how ruthless she was. She was a businessman, period. And he couldn’t pay the note, so she said, I’m going to foreclose and he said, if you foreclose, you’re going to go to hell. And I think the way I wrote it in the book was, I know that he gave a sermon and said, we’re closing our church and it’s because of Hetty and did the whole sermon about her, but I think the line I used was nobody knows if hell, if Hetty went to hell or not, but that minister sure wanted her to.

Ramsey Russell: I mean, how did Ned grow up? I mean, obviously the family had a lot of money, but if you won’t give medical treatment to help your child keep his leg on something as fixable as infection, I mean, it ain’t like he lived like the Vanderbilts, right? You didn’t grow up like that. I mean, I remember something about her. She wore just terrible clothes and made her own clothes out of curtains or something like that.

Rob Sawyer: That was her outfits, you bet. She wouldn’t buy clothes, she made and she wore the same ones day after day after day. And in the case of her son and her one daughter, wouldn’t buy them winter coats. She just stuffed their clothing with newspapers. This is the richest woman in the world. One of the lines I really enjoyed, I think that one made sense was, she wanted to have a studio photograph taken of her son, but she didn’t want to press the whole suit. She just pressed the front because that’s all that was going to be photographed.

Ramsey Russell: Golly, talk about a tight wad. Who was he? What was his upbringing? I mean, how do you go from, okay, your mama’s got all that money, but she only pressed the you first suit, you limping on a leg, because she didn’t take it to the doctor. So it, again, this privileged lifestyle he didn’t enjoy.

Rob Sawyer: No, he didn’t. At first –

Ramsey Russell: How did he go from that to eventually being a tarpon? Where did we go from here? Where was his break? He had to have a break.

Rob Sawyer: His break was when mom sent him away. She sent him to Chicago and he was 20, 21 years old. And she said you learn business, so here’s a guy you got to confess, if that was certainly me and I grew up like that, I had one leg, I might have some shyness issues, some lack of security.

Ramsey Russell: And she must have been a very domineering person.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, my God. Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: So I can see somebody growing up like that may be shy, maybe very quiet and introspective and just basically told what to do and how to do it his whole life.

Rob Sawyer: Correct.

Ramsey Russell: By a woman that’s going to hell for foreclosure on a church. I mean, so, I just, I would love knowing how the book ends and the story ends. I’d love to kind of see what he was like at age 19 or 20. I would have said he was very socially awkward.

Rob Sawyer: He was. That’s the words they used for him and she, I mean, clothes that didn’t fit, a suitcase. When he went to Chicago, they taped and tied his suitcase together, but –

Ramsey Russell: Probably got it to goodwill.

Rob Sawyer: All of a sudden, he’s in Chicago dealing with the boys.

Ramsey Russell: What was he doing? What’s she sending to Chicago for, school?

Rob Sawyer: No, that was to run part of her empire.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Rob Sawyer: He was going to do some of her block houses and part of her Chicago empire.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Rob Sawyer: It didn’t make much of an impression because she called him back real quick, because when he got there, the boys introduced him to sex, they took him to a brothel. They said, we’re going to fix this guy.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, what was wrong with it?

Rob Sawyer: Poor, uncomfortable guy. He’s 21, he’s never had a woman and the problem was that the very first woman that he had at the brothel, he fell in love with. Her name was Mabel Harlow and he fell in love.

Ramsey Russell: 21 years old, fell in love with the first woman he’d ever had relations with who was a prostitute in Chicago.

Rob Sawyer: Yes and so he’s in love. Well, she’s in business and the 2 are not compatible. So she scampered off with another guy real quick. And there’s poor Ned, well, mom catches wind that here her boy is growing up and she called him right back to New York where the family was based because she was a Wall Street Mogul and she was going to have him regroup.

Ramsey Russell: He, did I remember hearing that he threw a bunch of parties and got started, really, after falling in love with this woman, began to evolve socially.

Rob Sawyer: Well, you’re absolutely right. So she brings him back and she says, look, behave yourself. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. She sends him now to Texas and that’s where our story begins after.

Ramsey Russell: That’s where the story begins. And what was he doing in Texas? Totally different business not real estate.

Rob Sawyer: This time she got really pissed, it’s probably not a good word. She got angry with one of the boys that bought a railroad out from under her, so she bought one out from him. And she sends this young son of hers to Texas to run the Texas Midland Railroad Company.

Ramsey Russell: The railroad, you talk about the rail industry today. It’s almost a yesteryear industry.

Rob Sawyer: That’s right.

Ramsey Russell: Boy, it wasn’t in. We’ve talked about that in several podcasts, it was the cutting edge. It was like the Internet back in the late 80s, early 90s. It was absolutely technology that transformed the entire, certainly the United States, if not the world.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, that’s absolutely correct and we’ve talked about it in terms of delivering sportsmen to various parts of the United States to hunt that they would never have gone to because they had to take a sailing yacht or a horse and cart.

Ramsey Russell: It brought civilization to the wilderness.

Rob Sawyer: It did. And last year, we talked about it in terms of market hunting, where all of a sudden, all these ducks from the Texas coast could go to Chicago and New York and places that the greens were and so she sends him to Texas. And he’s –

Ramsey Russell: The Midland Railroad company.

Rob Sawyer: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: And what happened?

Rob Sawyer: Well, now he’s free from mom.

Ramsey Russell: Texas is a long way from New York City.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, it is. She’s free from mom. He’s free from mom and he gets an apartment. He lives a very spartan lifestyle, but he’s also brilliant. He’s got mom’s genetics. And he turns this rusty railroad into this showcase of not just Texas railroading, but the United States railroading. He develops patents for things like lights that actually worked and switches and tracks to keep them from crashing one into the other. But the curious thing is, Mabel Harlow joins him in Texas and that’s when his lifestyle starts to become a little more robust, certainly outgoing and he’s got plenty of money. He’s starting to be successful.

Ramsey Russell: Well, she’s a businesswoman. He’s an up and coming railroad magnate.

Rob Sawyer: Yep, but he’s always had a fascination with tons of stuff. The only time he fished was on the rivers in New York, never hunted. But he’s beginning to go to the coast, to Rockport by train. Since he owned it, it was pretty easy thing to do. But he gets an interest in politics, a big interest and he decides he wants to be governor of Texas.

Ramsey Russell: 28 years old.

Rob Sawyer: He joins the Republican Party at 24 to 25, revolutionizes it, gets all these votes for the National Republican Party and decides, okay, I want to be governor at 28 years old. But there’s a lot of things going against him trying to be a governor. First off, he’s in Bible Belt, Texas and so Hetty never called Mabel Harlow anything but Miss Harlot.

Ramsey Russell: Miss Harlot.

Rob Sawyer: And she was a liability, obviously.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: He didn’t try to hide her.

Ramsey Russell: Easy to make headlines out of that

Rob Sawyer: Boy, and they tended to. He was also a republican and this was a purely democratic state.

Ramsey Russell: Not that old Southern Democrat I mean, that’s when times were way different than what we think of democrat and republican today.

Rob Sawyer: Oh, yes.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: It was still the party of Lincoln.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: Civil war was over.

Ramsey Russell: Republicans were.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah. 40 years earlier, we had a civil war. Lincoln was a bad word still.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: And the other thing he did was he embraced black people, which was not so common. In fact, he tried to make this William McDonald a party leader in the Republican Party and he was a black man. So he did some things that, had he changed his strategy, he sure could have stayed with McDonald, but he probably should have dropped his hooker. But he was optimistic. He wanted to make a run of it. One of the things that he thought would change Texas from a democratic state to a republican was to entertain politicians from around the United States at a massive fishing and hunting lodge.

Ramsey Russell: That’s just so interesting. I can’t see a politician won’t do that today. Times were different.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, they were.

Ramsey Russell: So he formed the Tarpon Club as a political ploy.

Federal Patronage: The Key Factor for Texas.

If you look at the single biggest thing for Texas or any state is federal patronage.

Rob Sawyer: Yes, he would, it took a while to uncover this, so lots of other writers would say, okay, so why did he start this club? Well, he started it because he had lots of interests. He started it because he had a love interest and one biographer named this love interest. Well, she was just another hooker, actually. So all the other hypotheses were falling apart, but this one stayed together. If you look at the single biggest thing for Texas or any state is federal patronage. And if you want to bring dollars to Texas, then you’ve got to impress the national party that you’re going to take, Texas, going to vote for republican president and fill in the blank. And that was the ploy. That was the hook. And in return, Eddie Green, 20 some years old, was either going to be governor or he was going to get a national appointment. So, yeah, I’ll build this oasis, this place for people from Texas and across the United States can come and build the Republican Party in Texas.

Ramsey Russell: Where was it? Where exactly was the Tarpon Club?

Rob Sawyer: Well, this goes back to what you and I talked about last year. We talked a lot about market gunning and there was a handful of just exquisite shooting spots on the Texas coast and one of those was along the Gulf of Mexico, where the combination of 2 barrier islands come together and Aransas pass cuts them. Behind them is a place called Harbor Island and it’s just an exquisite ecosystem for Fish & Game and that’s north of rock, sorry, south of Rockville, Rockport and north of Corpus Christi. And all that was there was barren sand and a couple little hotels, bunch of watermen. And all of a sudden Eddie Green announces that he’s going to bring all these politicians to these relatively poor watermen’s towns –

Ramsey Russell: On his railroad.

Rob Sawyer: Well, in that case, his railroad hooked up to what was called the San Antonio Aransas, Aransas Pass and that hooked up the major cities of Texas to the Gulf coast and opened up the sporting industry.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: So Rockport became, it was the closest mainland town, the San Antonio Aransas Pass or called SAP railroad, reached that town and all of a sudden all, everybody sees dollars.

Ramsey Russell: Of course.

Rob Sawyer: They saw dollars and newspapers just followed every part of this grandiose club. And first thing he did was plan a building. Well, in Texas, nobody in these watermen towns had ever seen or heard of a 12,000 sqft clubhouse.

Ramsey Russell: 12,000 sqft.

Rob Sawyer: It took nearly half a million board feet of lumbers and a railroad car full of nails to build this thing.

Ramsey Russell: Golly, I bet it was anything but spartan.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, every modern convenience, copper screens. Well, nobody had screens. They opened their windows and let the bugs in. He built a naphtha driven electrical plant and that pumped water, they had all the modern conveniences. My favorite was 126 incandescent lamps, nobody had lamps. And this, the glow from this thing that was all the way across Aransas Bay. You could see it from the mainland, from the train and nobody had seen such a thing. He built a pier with an aquarium filled with game fish and then a tramway, so you didn’t have to go from the club to the beach and get any sand in your toes, you’d simply took the tramway. And then because of all the fishing and hunting, people that didn’t do that like to observe it. So he built a pavilion and an observatory, but my favorites and he never asked the government to pay for it, but he had all these contacts and he paid for them. He wanted a life saving station. He anticipated all these yachts coming to the club from around the United States. So they were called life saving stations. They were manned by rowers that would save boats and would, they were they were lifesavers, tough job. A weather station. He built his own meteorological station in a cupola at the top of this giant 3 story building. And he’d sit up there and he would invent things that allowed weather prediction and transmission of weather information.

Ramsey Russell: He was a smart guy.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, he was a smart guy. And one of my favorites was a post office. He said, well, I want wine, I want letters. Businessmen want stuff and he said, well, the government said, well, we would love for you to have a post office, particularly you’re going to pay for it, but you got to have an established town or city. So his one building clubhouse became the town of sport, Texas. So this wonderful gentleman who really had the idea to write this book, I covered this book, this club, in my first book, Hundred Years of Waterfowl Hunting History. Well, Jim Maloney said, I think it’s worth the whole book. And I said, well, I’ll look at it and see if it is and of course, as you and I talked about, it was interesting enough to create a whole book. But Jim has such, he has all the old photographs of the club and he has a postmark from sport, Texas, which is pretty unusual.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, he had a lot of publicity, a lot of big ideas. Some of it seemed for coverage, it seemed like a way of, he liked to be the center of attention. He liked to advertise. He had this marketing mind.

Rob Sawyer: Yes, and remember, we’re talking about is –

Ramsey Russell: What about the shy kid that was a virgin until his business associates took him to a brothel at age 21. Where did he get his marketing genius?

Rob Sawyer: Well, you’re exactly right. We’re watching the guy go very quickly from insecure and quiet to a player. And one of his better friends was John Ringling of the Ringling Brothers circus fame. And you’re PR didn’t have to be truth, it just had to be spectacular. And in the first book, when I wrote about it, I believed the newspaper that said, okay, this giant club has been announced. Well, the first part of it’s true, the first 400 sportsmen of America privileged group with more politicians and businessmen than any other organization in the United States. Now think about that. We’ve got New York, Chicago, we got and it’s all coming to Texas. Well, that was true, but all the newspapers said this club is going to have president William McKinley, former president Grover Cleveland.

Ramsey Russell: Who was a big duck hunter.

Rob Sawyer: Was he?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: Well, we will get to that, but he didn’t come. In fact, he wasn’t a member and the 2 biggest senators in the US, Pennsylvania and Ohio and then a bunch of Texas governors. And so everybody said, well, I want to be part of this club. There’s 2 presidents.

Ramsey Russell: Very exclusive club.

Rob Sawyer: But then Jim Maloney got the roster of the club from 1899 and the next year and oddly, none of these men were on it. He just used what he learned from the Ringling brothers.

Ramsey Russell: Perception is reality.

Rob Sawyer: Exactly. Now, the real membership was damn impressive. It just didn’t include the presidents. But –

Ramsey Russell: So who were in this famous Tarpon Club?

Rob Sawyer: So imagine, let’s look at the annual dues. $50 annual dues.

Ramsey Russell: Nothing.

Rob Sawyer: When the headlines came out, a 1000 applicants poured in from all over the US. So indeed, it was that first year of membership there was 334 listed members, 200 were from Texas, 55 were from Missouri, usually St. Louis and I learned when I was doing my homework that my great great grandfather was in the club.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Rob Sawyer: JBC Lucas.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: Really? That was great. That was fun. So there was Colorado, New York. There were like 10, 12 other states that made this up, so this is the real deal. Now all these people from across the United States and one from Canada are all going to come to this remote location.

Ramsey Russell: Attorneys and judges, bankers, physicians, surgeons, railroad men, capitalist folks were tied to insurance, real estate, oil, steel manufacturing, mining and newspapers. We’re in that gilded age, man, where there’s just enormous wealth, conspicuous wealth and they were flocking to this place called the Tarpon Club out in Texas.

Rob Sawyer: Yes. And before that, nobody flocked to Aransas Pass, nobody. And we’ll talk about that, but sporting was just, it was the gilded era of the sportsman as well. And that was just beginning to come to Texas, into that part of the world. And, but this was exciting. Every Texas newspaper covered all of what Eddie Green was doing in this massive club.

Ramsey Russell: Say, I’m reading some notes right here. New Yorker Edwin Gould, heir to the J. Gould estate, which must have been substantial. Isaac Ellwood of American Steel and Wire, that was a big deal. J Warne Gates of steel, oil and railroad fortune. Former and various candidates for Texas governor, Texas senators, Dallas mayor. That’s kind of a big deal and US senators. The Tarpon Club was to be the most expensive, expansive, exclusive in the world. I love that. Why was it the best? Why was it all this?

Rob Sawyer: And we introduced that a little bit already. It was politics and it’s kind of funny. There was a bunch of democrats in there, but they never put those in the headlines. They always put republicans in the newspaper headlines. That’s Eddie Green controlling the message.

Ramsey Russell: I see. Even back then.

Rob Sawyer: Oh, yes.

Ramsey Russell: We talked about the gilded area the gilded sporting era. Man, what a great time. I think that’s the time in American history, people talk about Davy Crockett and Boone. No, Daniel Boone. No. I want to be in this era. This, I think, is when I would like to have lived, especially as a duck hunter.

Rob Sawyer: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: And a fisherman. This is when the modern technology of rail is carrying us into unforged wilderness with just teeming amounts of fish and waterfowl. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act ain’t around yet, so it’s just, get what you want, get after it. And I read somewhere there that not only were they hunting them, but they were serving a lot of these birds, a lot of these expensive dishes. We talked about last time, some of the meals you might eat in an elegant New York City restaurant, they were serving out here at the Tarpon Club.

Rob Sawyer: They were and you talked about railroads –

Ramsey Russell: It wasn’t just on paper plates and plastic forks back then.

Rob Sawyer: They were serving them on the railroad. I mean, think about the luxury, if you had money, what they called them special cars. So if that railroad was coming from San – Well, they traveled from all over the US, hit San Antonio, they come to Rockport and they’re taking these trains with special cars on them, with chefs and they had their hunting gear and hunting dogs in another, it was very luxurious travel. And the Tarpon club used to mainly serve what was local and available. And think about what was local and available in those days. Lots of turtles, turtles was a big deal. Every species of duck. They were still wild turkey and quails and –

Ramsey Russell: Shorebirds.

Rob Sawyer: Keep on going. They served it all. And they had Jim Maloney found, they had the Tarpon Club, China and tea serving sets. So they created a New York fancy hotel on the barrier islands of St. Joseph’s island.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. Pretty inhospitable habitat, too.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, tough. Absolutely tough. But that sporting area, that golden era of sporting, that was a 20, 30 year period of time that, yeah, you and I missed it.

Ramsey Russell: It’s an interesting time in American history, too, because like, just before all this timeline, people were shooting breech loaders, black powder. Now, the development of smokeless powder. One of the most interesting things you dove off into was the, now they’re out there catching these big old tarpon, which were known to fish and actually they kicked off and hit, like the whole modern era. And sportsman’s consciousness of this fighting fish, that one worth a flip to eat. But this big fighting fish down in Florida. And then somebody found out they were in Texas too. But what got me is, I mean, those fish run hard. They jump, they fight. You might have to, and they’re out there with, they don’t have outboards yet, so they’re out there with Orman keeping up with these fish. But it never occurred to me that the best rod and reel that money could buy was nothing more than a spool with string on it. Not even monofilament like, just string and when that fish would hit it, there were broken fingers and busted knuckles and lord knows what kind of mayhem happened when those fish hit those spools and started running. I can’t even imagine that.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, I had fun with that because I’m a duck hunter. Most people will tell you I’m a really terrible fisherman. And it was good fun to look at these gentlemen who became the pioneers of big game fishing, because it didn’t exist before 1880. If you wanted a big game fish, first off, who would? But what they do is take rope, big old hook and a barrel and they catch giant stuff. And that’s 1880. By 1880, you’re beginning wing shooting, a wing shooting, you’re beginning to evolve the shooting sport.

Ramsey Russell: Recreational sport.

Rob Sawyer: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: It’s no longer just market hunting and subsistence. We’ve talked about this a lot of times on different podcasts. It’s the ushering of recreational hunting that we continue to do today.

The Evolution of Fishing Reels: No Reverse Clutch in Early Days.

There’s no drag, no reverse clutch, a reel was a repository for excess line and still it didn’t ignite big game fishing. It was 5 years later that another tarpon was landed in Florida, over 100 pounds.

Rob Sawyer: Right? So this guy in 1880 has a New England striped bass rig and he goes down to Florida for some excursion and he catches a 130 pound tarpon. Okay, well, think about that. And exactly as you say, I mean, there’s no reverse clutch on a drag. There’s no drag, no reverse clutch, a reel was a repository for excess line and still it didn’t ignite big game fishing. It was 5 years later that another tarpon was landed in Florida, over 100 pounds. But this one got press coverage, Forest and Stream magazine and suddenly people said, well I want to do this, now a record breaking, of course, record was what? 2 tarpon, 184 pound tarpon was caught in Florida and he donated it to the Smithsonian Institution. Institute they, I think it’s there today, the first tarpon that was caught. So, as with shotgunning, anglers started saying, well, what technological advancements can we make to tackle so that we can continue to catch these fish? And there’s no boundaries when it comes to us and our interest in catching big fish or shooting a great number of birds. And everything changed, not overnight, it took a little while, but most of it was in New York City. That’s where all the fine German silver reels were made and evolved. The early tarpon reels never had a clutch or a friction drags and they had to use their finger. So they used a thing between the reel and their finger called moose snood, well or snood or some other part of a moose that I really don’t know much about, but it would tear their fingers open. You had a choice with big fish, either tear your finger open or lose it. Then if you reverse on the handle, you’d crack knuckles and break fingers and these boys went ahead and did all that because they wanted those big fish and those, the technology began to evolve towards the reels that we see today. And when that did, it created the big fish, big game fish sport.

Ramsey Russell: What was the duck hunting like on the Tarpon Club and how were the duck hunts orchestrated?

Rob Sawyer: So I think to understand, really, the background of the duck shooting, you got to remember that market hunting was still king. These boys were going out with their black powder and they would get as many birds on the water as they could, kill as many as they could with one shot.

Ramsey Russell: Even the members.

Rob Sawyer: Well, this is pre, remember that we’re setting the stage for Tarpon Club. So by the time the Tarpon Club set, market hangs deeply evoked into the culture, sport hunters and wing shooting, that’s a brand new culture, foreign as hell to watermen communities around the United States. Why would you want to shoot one on the wing?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: You’re only, if you’re lucky, you’re going to hit one, whereas I can make one shot and kill 50. And so when it was a tug of war there for a while between market hunters and the sport hunters and the best way to resolve it was to hire the market hunters as the guides. They knew the waterways and they were sea captains, in contrast to fishing, which, well, I guess we’ll talk about it in a minute with those little, small, tiny skiffs where these boys, for $2 a day, just rode all day long.

Ramsey Russell: $2 a day. Wow.

Rob Sawyer: The hunters, the waterfowlers were sea captains. They used big, what they called Texas scow skiffs with 1 or 2 masts and they sailed the waterways. And you know what these waterways are like. You can find a mud bar and a sandbar and no wind and you’re luffing sails for 2 days. So these captains became the guides, not just for the sportsmen who began to come to Rockport, but for places like the Tarpon Club. It was the first and then very quickly, by 1905, 1910 other big clubs opened up in the area.

Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. Did they keep a log of how many ducks the club members were killing or how they hunted or how they successful they were or what species they were killing?

Rob Sawyer: They did for fish, but they didn’t for ducks or let, I’m sure they did, but nobody knows where it is. So the best I could come up with was to look at the same guides, ship captains that worked for the Tarpon Club when they took other parties out of Rockport, how did they do? And one of my favorites, when you come to Texas and you start seeing new birds, you call them by whatever they were called in England or the east coast and roseate spoonbills, like we saw today, they thought those were flamingos. The first person who saw a young white snow goose called it a brant.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: So here they are in 1894 and they shoot 164 Canada geese and something they call a white bugler crane.

Ramsey Russell: Probably a whooping crane.

Rob Sawyer: That was a whooping crane. So these sea captains traditionally took between 1500 and 700 ducks a morning with a group, a party of about 4 and awful lot of them were canvasbacks because Harbor Island was one of those large canvasback areas, but they killed curlews, swans, a lot of things that we, of course, white bugler cranes, a lot of things that we don’t see any longer. And one of my favorite lines was, came from a historian by the name of Robert Robin Doughty and he had a record of so many ducks killed at Harbor Island that it wasn’t safe to go out on the water because sharks congregated to feast on all the floating birds before they could even retrieve them.

Ramsey Russell: My goodness.

Rob Sawyer: Here we got to pull an alligator off of ducks sometimes, but never have we had to pull one away from a shark.

Ramsey Russell: 700 ducks, mostly canvasbacks and redheads. Another shot, 1100 ducks in a day, 1500 the following morning. That’s just, that’s mind numbing.

Rob Sawyer: Right. So remember, this is the wing shooting era. This is the new era of wing shooting that’s never existed before, but technology of repeating firearms and preloaded shells made it all possible and you remember when the New York sportsmen started wing shooting? What were they shooting? Glass balls and believe it or not, passenger pigeons.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: Well, they shot out the east coast. By our standards, they didn’t shoot it out, but by their standards, well, we shot it out by 1890. So where’s the next wing shooting frontier? Well, it’s Texas and California and wing shooting grew quickly and by leaps and bounds. And that’s one of the reasons that the Tarpon Club became such a big deal for both, because it was providing world class wing shooting and world class fishing.

Ramsey Russell: An Austin businessman hunted for a week and came back with 800 canvasbacks and redheads. That’s just and according to a historian, Robert Daugherty, so many ducks were killed, you’re talking about the sharks. But as the newspaper explained this, even back in those days, there were people that didn’t quite understand it and defended it as well. The members are not market hunters. They’re killing scientifically and mercifully.

Rob Sawyer: Don’t you love that?

Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. It’s just hard to get my mind wrapped around those kind of numbers.

Rob Sawyer: That was the gilded era.

Ramsey Russell: Well, was Ned a fisherman and hunterman himself? Was he out there doing all this stuff? I mean, saving the best blind for himself or what?

Rob Sawyer: Well, I might have done that, but you never got the impression that he hunted much at all. He fished a few times, he was really more infatuated with the science of the fish. So bear in mind that it all started in Florida, and Texas for years wrote about how great Tarpon Club, sorry, tarpon fishing was in Florida and never realized that we had those fish here in this state. And 1890, fishing party in San Antonio or left San Antonio, went to Corpus Christi and caught the very first tarpon. And all of a sudden, Texas is saying, wait we’re cool. We’re as cool as Florida. Let’s catch fish. We have tarpon. So the very first person who caught a tarpon in Texas was a man by the name of Lockwood and he ultimately was a big part of the Tarpon Club when it formed a few years later. And nobody knew even where these fish were. Now, they knew they were in Texas, they were in Florida, but other than that, nobody knew much about them. And once they found them in Aransas Pass, just that waterway just in front of Harbor island between Mustang and St. Joseph’s island, they saw these fish dancing across the waterways. That’s what kicked off the big sport.

Ramsey Russell: You talk about that about that primitive fishing equipment and yet tarpon was written as fluid poetry that, all bets are off the window when that song was going to start spooling string and you got busted fingers.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, no kidding. So –

Ramsey Russell: One in 4 fish could be hooked, the note said in the book, one in 4 fish could be hooked. That was some serious fishing out there now.

Rob Sawyer: Yes, it was. And it went from no sport to the world’s most probably followed fishing sport and that old technology again, I mean, they spent a ton of time on the leader, because if the bait looked like it was dead, you wouldn’t catch enough fish. So they started evolving to technology that made the leader begin to look like a live fish and they were catching the silver king of game fish. Wrote about it endlessly in newspapers and they would talk about things like how far they could jump. Well, one jumped over a Morgan streamliner. Okay, maybe, but it was a fish that provided a fight that would last for half a day and that was probably true. It became the sport of kings.

Ramsey Russell: And even back then, the club rule prohibited gaffing them or killing them. And as much as they could, it was catch and release.

Rob Sawyer: Right. It was Eddie Green and he was a smart guy and a conservationist and he didn’t understand the need to kill those fish and that’s exactly what he did. He kept them alive, you had to row to shore and release your fish and until that time, almost nobody did that.

Ramsey Russell: Tell some fish stories.

Rob Sawyer: I think the best fish stories came out of Tarpon Club. Very few duck hunting stories, just numbers, but the fish stories came out of the Tarpon Club era and that very first year that they started the club, they caught, what, 450 some tarpon, just a huge number of fish.

Ramsey Russell: And 1 in 4 were caught and they brought to the boat, 444. I thought, that’s a lot of fish. How many? That’s a lot of fish.

Rob Sawyer: That’s a good point. And so look at the way they caught them. You’ve got the sea captains taking the duck hunters and then these small, tiny rowboats would leave the Tarpon Club pier and they go fishing. Now –

Ramsey Russell: Were they fishing outside the barrier islands or inside it?

Rob Sawyer: Well, they tried to stay inside and that’s what made the fun. So everything would be quiet. The mullet would pour across Aransas Pass, all these tarpon would start jumping and these 6, 7, 8, a dozen boats would start hooking and these fish would jump over these little boats, into these boats. They’d crash gunnels, they’d sink them sometimes. But my favorite stories just absolutely amazed me. And so here you got this Aransas Pass that leads to the gulf. And the gulf side is littered with boats, with ships that are sunk, giant breakers. It’s just a maritime mariners nightmare. And they’d hook into not so much tarpon, but a big shark or a big manta ray and pull these little boats out into the Gulf of Mexico. And I think the record, I don’t know that it’s a record, but I think it is, was about 5 and a half miles down the beach where this poor little boat came back to rest him. He didn’t get pulled out to sea. He rose back through the breakers and lands 5 and a half miles down the beach.

Ramsey Russell: That’s a lot of paddling for $2 a day, it is a lot of paddling. So what became of the Tarpon Club? I mean, it was, obviously the hunting and fishing were pretty darn good, you lived in the lap of luxury. You’re surrounded by more of the business deals that must have been cut.

Rob Sawyer: No kidding. And so for me, it’s kind of, what a shame. Wouldn’t have been nice to have followed that like we have so many of the Texas clubs that started around 1870 and have lasted to this day with this massive 150 year culture you can follow, this would have been the greatest culture to follow. Instead, Eddie Green with his prostitutes and his support of –

Ramsey Russell: So he was dating or married to Miss Harlot, Mabel Harlow, but you just used a plural word. He had other girlfriends.

Rob Sawyer: His biographers, obviously I wasn’t there. And his biographers state that there were others that, and it made enough of an impression on Texas that they weren’t going to support him for governor.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, he obviously had a lot of catching up to do it.

Rob Sawyer: That’s right.

Ramsey Russell: So he never, his political career was never more than aspirations. Wrong party, wrong ideals, wrong place.

Rob Sawyer: It was, because –

Ramsey Russell: Wrong lifestyle.

Rob Sawyer: My thesis is that this club was to further his political career within a few short years.

Ramsey Russell: And did it?

Rob Sawyer: It crashed and burned, he abandoned it.

Ramsey Russell: The club.

Rob Sawyer: His political career first, the club, right around the same time.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Rob Sawyer: When he wasn’t going to be governor, when the national party discovered that he wasn’t going to be able to pull Texas into a leading republican voting bloc, he lost a lot of the key support. So the club was no longer useful to him. He was going to find a new way, he’s still a very successful businessman, but this wasn’t working.

Ramsey Russell: Rob, you’ve done a lot of research in this era. Was there anything else like the Tarpon Club anywhere else?

Rob Sawyer: No.

Ramsey Russell: There weren’t any other lavish clubs like this.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, certainly not in the Gulf Coast. They were, it’s kind of the difference between 3 star and 5 star. Lots of 3 stars opening up, all and of course, you look at the east coast, lots of lavish private gunning clubs, but nothing of this magnitude. Nothing with 400 members that were the wealthy, among the wealthiest in the United States.

Ramsey Russell: So what became of it?

Rob Sawyer: So here the things planned in 1897. It comes to life in 1899. It’s gone by 1904.

Ramsey Russell: Gone.

Rob Sawyer: 5 years is all this world class club lasted. Eddie Green quit going in 1903. He just kind of shrugged it off and moved on.

Ramsey Russell: And he was still a young man.

Rob Sawyer: Yes, he was very young, about 31 by then. And he closed it, so he sold it. And so you’d think, well, okay, somebody’s going to buy this beautiful building and open up a new club. I mean, you got the railroad, you’ve got the name. You could have done that. Instead, the man who he sold it to said, I don’t want to be out on that remote St. Joseph’s island, sold it, dismantled it and used to build a hotel in Corpus Christi.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, okay. Did he get his money back out of it?

Rob Sawyer: No. Never intended to. Imagine what he lost, he never talked about the Tarpon Club again. And he took his, and we may have time to talk about it. He took his 200 and what, 40 foot yacht later and revisited that area again from Massachusetts later in life. And never once to any newspaper reporters or in any biographer did he ever mention that as he passed through visiting Port Aransas and Rockport, he never mentioned that he had that club.

Ramsey Russell: In some respects, it was kind of a failure for a guy that was over successful, came from a lot of wealth that was built himself up from the bootstraps. It was an attempt at political greatness that failed, in a lot of respect.

Rob Sawyer: So when you’re a man like Eddie Green, with so many successes, you’re bound to have 1 or 2 that don’t work. Because he had so many in so many arenas as he went through life, that 10 massive successes and 1 or 2 failures, he’s okay with that. Whereas somebody like me, that would have set me off.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. So the world famous, most expansive, most expensive, most influential fishing camp, the Tarpon Club, in the gilded age of sportsmen, the brainchild of Ned Green, who had political ambitions and used this as a way to catapult Texas into the Lincoln party, which was then the Republican Party, it failed. But the whole time you tell the story about the Tarpon Club, Rob, I mean, he continued to have business interest in the rail and other things with his mom, was a state. I mean, surely they had big business. Maybe in some of those business regards, he was continuing to make a lot of money and accumulate his own wealth. Would that have been fair to say?

Rob Sawyer: Oh, yeah. He learned that in Texas, he was a good railroad man. He did experiments with agriculture. He helped with the boll weevil crisis.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, he did. I remember that.

Business Successes: Five Thriving Ventures.

This business plan didn’t work, but these other 5 pieces are, so he and mama are virtually separate businessmen and women by the 1900’s, he’s doing great, she’s doing great.

Rob Sawyer: He started what was something brand new, which was acres and acres of horticulture, he dabbled in so many things. So, okay, he failed at politics and the Tarpon Club, while it means a whole lot to me, because it was a mecca for fishing and hunting, for Eddie Green, it was okay. This business plan didn’t work, but these other 5 pieces are, so he and mama are virtually separate businessmen and women by the 1900’s, he’s doing great, she’s doing great. And he stayed in Texas after the Tarpon Club for about another decade before mom said, look, I’m getting old, come run my empire as well as yours. And during the course of the time after the hunting club failed, after politics and Tarpon Club failed, even though he was a railroad man, he embraced the very same industry that shut down the railroad industry.

Ramsey Russell: What?

Rob Sawyer: He embraced something called the automobile. When I first came across his name years ago, it was because he was the first man to ever bring an automobile to Texas and it scared wild game. And I was writing a wild game book and I thought that made a nice anecdote. I had no idea who he was. And I’m going, Eddie Green brings the first automobile to Texas.

Ramsey Russell: First automobile to Texas.

Rob Sawyer: And it’s kind of amusing you think about it from our terms and he came rolling into town at a reckless speed of 12mph, horses flying off the road from this machine, so many horses that were lost and so many carts broken on his way from one of the depots to Dallas that people sued for huge amounts of money.

Ramsey Russell: Such a shy guy, every story about Ned Green, it makes him the center of attention.

Rob Sawyer: Yes, he became the center of attention. He got kind of overcompensated, I think, for his failings or that’s the wrong term, his insecurities as a youngster.

Ramsey Russell: Did he have a limp? A noticeable limp?

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, always walked a limp.

Ramsey Russell: And he had a prosthetic leg?

Rob Sawyer: Yes. Cork legs.

Ramsey Russell: Cork legs. So what became of him after the Tarpon Club? What did he get into? Boll weevil research, horticulture, cars. How big in the car industry did he become?

Rob Sawyer: Well, like everything Eddie Green has to be bigger and better. And I think –

Ramsey Russell: No half measure.

Rob Sawyer: Never. And you and I have talked about what drove this man. And so I thought about it and I produced a kind of a reexamination of him. He was a flawed man, enormous cravings and appetites. We talked about the sex part of it and the fact that his inability to control its urges was a reason he never made it in politics. Everything he touched had to be bigger, better, more opulent. Numerous examples, he liked to collect stuff, rare books, jewelry, coins. He had the world’s largest and most modern pornography collection.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: He touched huge volumes and of different things. And so I don’t know that he invents, but let’s just say he popularizes automobile racing. Okay, other people are starting to buy automobiles. Well, let’s race them, who the hell is the fastest? So he became hooked on it. He built –

Ramsey Russell: He drive them himself?

Rob Sawyer: No. It’s funny you say that, because for all his love of the automobile, because of his prosthetic leg, he could never drive one.

Ramsey Russell: He couldn’t drive his Dick’s shift because of the clutch.

Rob Sawyer: Right. So he hired a driver that drove him everywhere his whole life. So even his love of racing, so he goes to Galveston and that beach looks like a great beach to race on. Never mind the sea turtles and all the shorebirds. He’s going racing, but he’s got to deal with things like high tides and logs and seaweed and horses that walked out on the beach and horses in the town. And so in typical green fashion, he’s got racers now that can go 50 miles an hour within a few years by 1905, 50 miles an hour. And that’s not fast by our standard. But he says, okay. He kind of uses that Tarpon Club model once again. He says, I’m going to build these monstrous grandstands, garages, cafes, clubhouse and support people and we’re going to have racing.

Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy, what other crazy pursuits did he have?

Rob Sawyer: Well, he left Texas in 1910, moved back to New York and to show you how far he’d fallen as a politician, the democratic governor of Texas in 1908 says, well, you’re Colonel Green as far as we’re concerned, for the rest of his life, he was Colonel Green. So –

Ramsey Russell: And how did he earn that title?

Rob Sawyer: He actually was an aide to the governor and supported him in the race and in return, he got to be in the inaugural parade and be called a colonel.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: That’s all it took in those days to be a colonel, everybody wanted to be a colonel.

Ramsey Russell: Unbelievable. You made a note here. He also had a stamp collection, compared only to that of British monarch King George the V. That’s crazy.

Rob Sawyer: Everything he touched had to be bigger and better. His stamp collection was bigger and better than anybody in the United States coin collection. He was a massive accumulator, one of the stories that I found so interesting was this one stamp called Upside Down Jenny was an upside down biplane that the postal service put out and then they immediately recalled. So there was only a very few them that were printed and they were worth a fortune. And his, still his mistress, not his wife. Mabel Harlow just takes a stamp and puts it on an envelope and mails a letter. It was a $120,000 mistake. I love that one.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: So he’s back in New York and his mother dies, 1916. When she was alive, she would never allow any of her children to marry. Because she wanted to keep the family fortune in the family. So Eddie Green says, well, I’m going to marry Mabel Harlow. And this is a woman now he’s been with since he was 21. He’s done things like his giant yacht that he used from Rockport to the Tarpon Club. He names it after her, he calls it the Mabel.

Ramsey Russell: It was an 8 mile run across the board.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: He has a railroad car painted bright purple with yellow gold letters, Mabel. So he’s with her now, a fairly good while. He’s 48 years old, so that’s 27 years, he marries her. But now he’s got a press problem that he’s married a former prostitute.

Ramsey Russell: Did the world know it?

Rob Sawyer: Well, some part of it did, but –

Ramsey Russell: Not like there was Internet or something back then.

Rob Sawyer: That’s right. Well, all the press, all the newspapers, it was great to read, it said his bride did not shine socially. Meaning you haven’t heard of her because she’s not really a socialite, she’s devoted to charities and the humane society. And Eddie Green says, I’m marrying a quiet little lady to whom I can go to when I am burdened by the troubles of the world and she’s going to make me a real home. So the press buys it, that’s the message that gets out. She hurt him in Texas politics, but at this point, he’s recreated her image. So he buys her a wedding present, I don’t know what you bought your wife. I probably bought mine some decoys. But for a wedding present, he decides to buy her the largest yacht in the world.

Ramsey Russell: His little empire must be doing good. That plus his mama’s.

Rob Sawyer: He’s up to about 70 million of his own dollars by this point.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Rob Sawyer: So he buys a 100, a 200 foot yacht, but then somebody tells him that JP Morgan’s yacht is bigger, so he welds 60ft onto it.

Ramsey Russell: Geez.

Rob Sawyer: Now he’s got, it takes 40 people to man this ship.

Ramsey Russell: I wonder, did you ever stumble across how he got along with some of the mother socialites or did he interact with JP Morgan? Did he interact with some of those kind of people? Did they go to the same dinner club? Did they see each other at restaurants or was he just largely keep to himself? For lack of a better word, he’s a free spirit of every proportion.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, absolutely right. He did not, he traveled within his own circle.

Ramsey Russell: With Mabel and her entourage.

Rob Sawyer: That’s right. And never did, he always went his own way, because what he did, he finally went up to Massachusetts after he had this giant yacht. He says, I’m going to take the family estate in Massachusetts and I’m going to build a small house. And it was a 60 room mansion.

Ramsey Russell: I wonder who stayed there, because it wasn’t, a lot of those folks had a lot of friends like themselves to occupy 60 rooms. Somebody see what I’m saying?

Rob Sawyer: Yep. Remember at this point, now, he’s, a lot of the biographers don’t really go into this, but here’s a man that’s in that era has a bad leg. He’s getting older, his health is going. He’s beginning to, at 48 his health is going. He’s occupying himself with more indoor activities like collecting. He goes into radio broadcasting. He builds a, inventing things and he builds a massive –

Ramsey Russell: Radio broadcast. And he took over the world. I mean so much of the stuff he did from boll weevil to radio broadcasting, he brought it into an era that had never been before.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, a lot of firsts, a lot of inventions. Electric headlights for locomotives as early as 1894, high speed hybrid gas electric rail cars, patents on all kinds of things. And now he’s going into the new thing called state of the art broadcasting. So here’s this guy that once upon a time had the world’s most grandiose hunting and fishing club in the world. And it’s, he splits it off it’s gold. And getting to be a politician fails and he’s found all these other avenues and he throws himself into this new thing. He brings in AT&T and western electric and all of these scientific and university people and establishes the first permanent radio network in the United States of America. But he never stops there being Eddie Green, he’s still having fun. So he’s got all these staid Yankee neighbors, but he’s driving around in a car with his massive speaker system and he’s giving them radio broadcasts whether they want it or not, you can hear it for half a mile. He’s got, he’s driving –

Ramsey Russell: He’s reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield on that golf show Caddyshack.

Rob Sawyer: No kidding. I mean, he played music, sports events. He would drive around with a Boston terrier in this car and this is what this eccentric man did.

Ramsey Russell: He ended up having a car that he could drive, did he not?

Rob Sawyer: Yeah. They finally, by then, were able to refit it so that he could use 1ft pedal to operate numerous different parts of his vehicle. And then he goes, first off, his 260ft yacht is. It’s as disposable as the Tarpon Club was. Shallow water, it topples over.

Ramsey Russell: Largest yacht in the world.

Rob Sawyer: In the world, topples over. So all these people in New England see this giant ship topple over. They take pictures of it, I’ve got –

Ramsey Russell: Why did it topple over?

Rob Sawyer: Bad navigation. Not on this part of Eddie Green. Because he had the world’s finest navigation systems, but hit a rock, took on water. So what’s he do? He sells it. Doesn’t take anything off of it and they dismantle this yacht over 6, salvage this yacht over 6 months. It’s just disposable.

Ramsey Russell: I guess you got that much money, it can be.

Rob Sawyer: I guess so. I mean, I probably would have, at least. That’s a big ship. I mean, yeah, I’d have done something to keep it. But he keeps going on to new things. He buys the last remaining American whaling vessel, spends God knows what to restore it and you can see that sailing vessel today because after he died, he donated it to the seaport museum in Connecticut.

Ramsey Russell: Isn’t that something?

Rob Sawyer: Just amazing things.

Ramsey Russell: That’s kind of appropriate, because later in his life that he bought the big whaling vessel, since that’s how his family made an initial fortune.

Rob Sawyer: And it was his grandfather’s vessel, so it had a link back to the family. So he decides to build an airport. Aviation’s coming in and he says, okay, I want to be involved in aviation. And so he builds the greatest airport in New England. It’s better than all of the public and other state and federal funded airports and typical Eddie Green, who stops into his airport. Eddie Rickenbacker from World War I fame, William Randolph Hearst and Charles Lindbergh, they all went to his airport and he experimented with things like, they call it a flying boat. Well, we call them seaplanes, but one of the first flying boats and, of course, he named it after Mabel. And one of the first blimps, 130ft blimp. So now these poor, staid New Englanders, they’ve got their radio broadcast, they got planes flying over, they’ve got now a giant blimp. I mean, they didn’t need the excitement, I suppose, but he brought it to them, whether they were ready for it or not.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, he was Eddie. He was Ned Green.

Rob Sawyer: He was indeed and he died, 1936. And when he did, it was interesting, they buried him next to his leg.

Ramsey Russell: Next to his leg.

Rob Sawyer: Next to his leg.

Ramsey Russell: So when he was a little boy and lost his leg, they buried his leg.

Rob Sawyer: Right and he was reunited.

Ramsey Russell: That’s amazing. Whatever became of Mabel?

Rob Sawyer: So she was not covered very often. She moved to Miami and she died 10 or 15 years later.

Ramsey Russell: She was cut out of the estate by a sister.

Rob Sawyer: Yes. She was cut out and they did a settlement and the settlement was okay. But look at that estate.

Ramsey Russell: Well, I mean, as a wedding gift, getting the largest boat in the world, right? I don’t know how it could have been, I mean, it might have been okay to get by home, but it couldn’t have been, she could not have had the life after that she had while Ned green was alive. I mean she had rail cars and boats and ships and blimps and everything else named after her. All the toys and all the conveniences and all the modern of anybody. But then the sister, who we didn’t talk much about, maybe not much known about her. She, apparently, Ned’s mama kind of pretty much hemmed up that estate. So to keep it in the family.

Rob Sawyer: She kept it in the family.

Ramsey Russell: Did she ever marry, the sister?

Rob Sawyer: Sister did. She married well and had one of the first prenups.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah. Mama taught her well.

Rob Sawyer: So it’s interesting you look at that estate. Mama didn’t want it to go to anybody else. So, no blue blood lineages ever evolved from the 2 children. And 100 million from Hetty, Eddie Green was thought to be worth 80 mil. After bought all his toys, he was probably worth about 40 mil. And then when the sister died –

Ramsey Russell: Which is a whole lot of money back in 1900.

Rob Sawyer: Oh, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Early 1900s.

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, it was, when the sister died, the money was all just given to charity.

Ramsey Russell: You are kidding.

Rob Sawyer: It was all given away.

Ramsey Russell: What a great story. What threw the Tarpon Club up on your radar? Why this book?

Rob Sawyer: Largely because of Jim Maloney, I had uncovered the opulence, the importance to the sporting world as part of the waterfowl history of Texas. But Jim Maloney said, there’s just so much more to this. He said, look at his mother, look at all the books written on the mother. There’s 1 or 2, 3 or 4, maybe, that mention the son, but there’s got to be a whole 3 dimensional story of which the Tarpon Club is a piece and he said that, that story could be interesting. And I think you and I agree, it turned out interesting.

Ramsey Russell: I read that, I got into reading that book thinking it was going to be about the Tarpon Club and it was. It was an amazing glimpse into the absolute top one percenters of the gilded age of American outdoors. But it was also about the adventures and exploits of E. H Green. And that was what, somebody I had never heard of in my life. How can you not have heard about this guy? How is he not, as you say, JP Morgan, we all know who he is. You say Rockefeller, we all know who he is. How have you never heard of this guy?

Rob Sawyer: That’s a great question.

Ramsey Russell: He was the absolute, he was a gatsby.

Rob Sawyer: Correct, a very good analogy.

Ramsey Russell: He was the partier, he absolutely lived like we all want to live like a rock star.

Rob Sawyer: An early rock star with the hunting and fishing club.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Rob Sawyer: And I think that’s part of the reason, perhaps because he didn’t hide that the, whatever you want to call it, the rock star or the seedy side of his life. He didn’t try to hide it and this was a different America.

Ramsey Russell: Made no apologies.

Rob Sawyer: And as such, I think America tried to sweep him away and I’ve uncovered him to a large degree and found a fascinating man with huge contributions to things we never think of today and we discussed those. And those enormous flaws, I had an interesting conversation where one of the previous hunting clubs, there was about a dozen people lined up on chairs. When I was talking about the one legged son of the witch of Wall Street who loved women and opened this great hunting club, they said, this is a movie.

Ramsey Russell: It is a movie.

Rob Sawyer: And so here I am, traditionally writing about waterfowl hunting and I go off onto these all new areas and I tried very hard to do them justice because this was an amazing man with an amazing story.

Ramsey Russell: Texas has a lot of interesting history, doesn’t it?

Rob Sawyer: Yeah, it does.

Ramsey Russell: Beyond just waterfowl, Joe told some stories in the blind today. I mean, every time you’re down here, you hear those kinds of stories about stuff like that. But I just cannot imagine taking my private rail and getting on my private yacht and going 8 miles to a 12,000sqft luxurious house, better than 99.9% of all Americans even lived at the time. That was a very inhospitable place. There’d been settlements in the past had been rubbed off and boom, we’re going to put it right here.

A Short-Lived Dream: The Club’s Five-Year Existence.

You also made a wonderful analogy, when you leave your giant city and take your private rail car, your private boat to your private clubhouse.

Rob Sawyer: Right. Excellent points again, I mean, if you look at that location, first it was Curacao Indians. Next kind of semi permanent settlement was the few sailors who survived after John Lafitte’s shipwrecks and privateering. They said, we like this place, they had a settlement there. Hurricanes come and go, settlements came and went. Eddie Green was the 3rd or 4th establishment in that part of St. Jose Island. When they dismantled the club, it was nothing but scrub and sand again. You also made a wonderful analogy, when you leave your giant city and take your private rail car, your private boat to your private clubhouse. That took a tremendous amount of money and it took a tremendous amount of energy and organization and it was gone after 5 years.

Ramsey Russell: Was it purely a annual membership, $50 a year or did they have to buy equity?

Rob Sawyer: Nope. $50 a year.

Ramsey Russell: God, that’s nothing.

Rob Sawyer: Right.

Ramsey Russell: But it doesn’t even seem like a lot back in those days.

Rob Sawyer: Right, but this was, Eddie wasn’t trying to make money. He was bringing this, he had this idea.

Ramsey Russell: So it probably wasn’t open to just anybody. You said when there was applicants, he probably scrunched real well, which 400 people he wanted in there.

Rob Sawyer: 1 out of 3 made it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. No matter how much money you had, if you weren’t politically connected, no chance.

Rob Sawyer: Right. And think about it, if he’d gone ahead and become a Democrat, clubhouse would still be here today.

Ramsey Russell: Probably.

Rob Sawyer: And he would have been a governor of Texas, regardless –

Ramsey Russell: Did you just stumbled across why, I mean, was it just because he was from New York City, which has always been progressive relative to the rest of the world, the flyover country? Is that why his politics were like they were?

Rob Sawyer: I think it was largely because where you were in New York and who was in DC were men who he and his mother knew not so much socially, but God knows she never donated to their campaign funds. But he really believed in those national politics, naive about southern politics. That’s, republicanism drove New England. It drove financiers like his family. Everything they believed in, he comes to a state, doesn’t do his homework.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, he was blindsided. And one of the most interesting things to me, mama didn’t want him to marry. So he may not have married, but with the means and the capability and everything else, that he married Mabel or that he spent his whole life with that one woman who was a prostitute, who would have, I just, I’m just guessing she loved him no more than she loved any other customers. But he could have married anybody.

Rob Sawyer: If he married a blue blood, you’d have found him with the Vanderbilts and the Morgan’s and the other. The Rockefellers.

Ramsey Russell: That just isn’t who he was.

Rob Sawyer: No, indeed. That’s why I think Eddie Green is a footnote in history.

Ramsey Russell: Great book. Really great read. Very interesting read. It’s one of those books, every now and again you pick up a book and it might take me a month to read it off and on. I picked that book up, read it cover to cover as quick as I could. It was a very interesting read about a very interesting time in America about interesting places and especially Mr. E. H Green, who was fascinating. It was just, he’s a very interesting character. Where can listeners find this book?

Rob Sawyer: So Jim Maloney, out of Corpus Christi, has a company called Nueces Press and he keeps these wonderful histories of that part of the world alive. That’s how he, and as a collector, he collected every photograph that ever came available of the Tarpon Club. Without him, they would already have disappeared. So if you look up Nueces Press, you’ll see Jim’s books and you’ll see this book, the Tarpon Club and the Genius of E. H. R Green as his latest publication.

Ramsey Russell: Nueces is a Texas word. N u e c e s.

Rob Sawyer: N u e c e s.

Ramsey Russell: Nueces Press or probably just google the Tarpon Club.

Rob Sawyer: It may come up that way or you may end up getting stuck with one of my earlier books.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Folks, get a copy. I really think you all enjoy it. I promise you, we didn’t hit nothing but the highlights and we miss a lot of real interesting stuff about an interesting time and interesting places and a very probably one of the most interesting Americans I’ve ever talked about on this podcast. Thank you, Rob.

Rob Sawyer: Thank you, Ramsey. It’s always a pleasure to see you.

Ramsey Russell: Looking forward to shooting some more teal with you tomorrow, too.

Rob Sawyer: We are, we got the spot.

Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of MOJO’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast, we’ll see you next time.

[End of Audio]

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It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks