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McDade, O'Grady, Kasmiersky families leave legacy with Subdivision, Historic Tree, law office
By Brad Meyer, Contributing writer

“I’m very proud of what my father accomplished and to have known Lillie. They were both people who cared about Conroe and the people who lived here. They really did make a difference.”

Steve Kasmiersky Jr.

The Lillie McDade O'Grady home at 104 West Davis in Conroe in 1965. The home has been renovated and now serves the law office of attorney Pat Green

Like many structures built in the city’s early development, the home of one of Conroe’s earliest civic-minded families has been repurposed as a commercial business in the downtown area. That home is a touchstone to the growth and expansion that defines the city.

Pat Green’s law office at 104 W. Davis was once the home of Joseph and Lillie McDade O’Grady. Built in the mid-to late-1920s, the home was occupied by Lillie, a well-known philanthropist, until the early 1970s.

James McDade at his cotton gin, standing with son,
Charles, and employees of the mill circa 1915.

Her father, James McDade, grew cotton, owned a local electric company, was president of the local chamber of commerce and was a successful Conroe business man who homesteaded land that is now known as McDade estates. A deeply religious man, McDade donated land for construction of Sacred Heart Catholic Church as well.

Loading cotton in Conroe with James McDade,
John Wahrenberger and Mr. Nugent circa 1915.

A highlight of his home adjacent to the San Jacinto River, three miles west of the then small town of Conroe, was a magnificent specimen of a magnolia tree. It’s a tree that still stands on FM 2854 at the entrance to the McDade Subdivision.

James McDade and son, Charles, ca 1915

Local gossip at the time had it that Native American Indians had hidden gold and silver near the McDade property and that a fortune was still buried there. Many sought treasure there, but none was found.

The tombstone of James McDade in Oakwood Cemetery
at 10th Street and Texas 105 in Conroe.

James McDade
August 13, 1869
July 17, 1932

When James McDade died in 1932, the property passed to Lillie and her sister, Elisa Marie, who became a Catholic nun. The property was used for cattle grazing. When the state was surveying for construction of FM 2854, the original plans put the roadway very close to the magnolia tree at the entrance to her property. Lillie was adamantly opposed to the idea and threatened to withhold right of way if the tree was to be harmed.

A young Lillie McDade O'Grady in 1924. She married Joseph A. O'Grady, a civil engineer on Sept. 10, 1924

“Whatever happened, she didn’t want anything to happen to that tree,” said Robin Bartholet, a close friend. “She was the sweetest woman in the world, but if she perceived a threat to that tree, it got her Irish up.”

After moving to Conroe in 1955, businessman Steve Kasmiersky and his wife, Gerry, built a home in River Plantation. On a drive, Gerry, stopped to admire the magnolia tree on FM 2854 - telling her husband it would be a beautiful location for a new home. Kasmiersky agreed and sought out Lilly O’Grady to acquire the property. She agreed, on the condition that she be allowed to live next door to the Kasmiersky family.

“A lot of people thought the property was too far out for a successful real estate project,” recalled Steve Kasmiersky Jr. “But there was a lot of interest right off the bat. It was a big success.”

So was the relationship between Lillie and the Kasmiersky family. Lillie was like part of the family, said Steve. She was friendly, personable and above all charitable. She and her sister donated land and money for an expansion of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe.

“She also made great cookies,” added Bartholet. “Her oatmeal raisin cookies were the best. She never had kids, but she was like the best grandmother you could imagine.”

The 148-acre parcel of land that would become McDade estates included a 20-acre section that was donated for a park: McDade Park, adjacent to McDade Estates.

The home Lillie had sold prior to moving to McDade Estates, had not fared well, however. At one point, the property housed a fortune-telling business - something that bothered Lillie and her sister greatly.

“When I bought the property and renovated it around 1980, Lillie and her sister wanted to come and take a tour,” said Pat Green. “They were very glad it was no longer in the hands of the fortune teller. It was very emotional experience for them touring the property and recalling childhood memories.”

Lillie McDade O'Grady ca 1985.
She Died on Oct. 19, 1992 at age 99.

Lillie McDade O’Grady died in October 1992, according to Larry Forester, chairman of the Montgomery County Historical Commission, but her legacy continues. The same is true of Steve Kasmiersky Sr.

“I’m very proud of what my father accomplished and to have known Lillie,” said Steve Kasmiersky Jr. “They were both people who cared about Conroe and the people who lived here. They really did make a difference.”

And because of the efforts of Lillie McDade O’Grady - and with the help of Steve Kasmiersky - that magnolia tree, one of the biggest in the state of Texas, still stands at the entrance to McDade Estates off FM 2854 in Conroe.

Click to see, McDade’s Majestic Magnolia.


Conroe Courier

January 11, 2015


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