Fulshear philanthropist Carole McCann wants to talk about two things: family and Fulshear. McCann is owner of the beautiful Bar O Ranch in downtown Fulshear. The land is part of a larger parcel once owned by husband Michael McCann’s parents. The house on the ranch was built in 1963 at the location of an old ranch house, and Michael, a veterinarian who owned Lakeside Animal Clinic in Houston, took over that part of the property in 1994 when his parents Kenneth “Red” McCann and Anna Ruth passed.
McCann, born Carole Owens, was born and raised in the Richmond/Rosenberg area. She grew up in a close-knit family, where extended family all went to the First Presbyterian Church her grandparents helped start. She attended the first elementary school in Rosenberg, and went to Lamar High School. Carole said she and Michael McCann were “high school sweethearts.” They met at Fort Bend County Fair, and she was immediately attracted to him because “he was different, being from Houston.” They married while he was in the veterinary school at Texas A&M, and Carole worked for a time as an X-ray tech before leaving her job to take care of Michele, the first of three children. Soon to follow were daughters Kristi and Monty.
Family members have fond memories of time on the ranch with Carole and Michael, and with the elder McCanns. Daughter Kristi Stephens “spent many a weekend stay and holidays with my grandparents in the Fulshear area…driving around the property and pastures with my grandfather, Kenneth ‘Red’ McCann, as he checked on cattle. First stopping off at Dozier’s or Meier’s for an ice cream treat of some sort to keep me from talking too much as he counted. Or the late afternoon car rides through town as my grandmother Anna Ruth honked through the streets waving at friends on their porches. I always sensed my father’s desire to one day be back in Fulshear.” Carole McCann speaks wistfully of the years before the early death in 2007 of her husband Michael McCann when family would gather for every event and travel extensively together. The grandkids, McCann, Jackson, and Turner Stephens and Grayson and Langley Guidry, refer to Michael and Carole as “Cappy” and “Gammy.” “Michael was able to see all his grandkids born, and he really liked both his son-in-laws (John Stephens and Jason Guidry),” men Carole describes as “amazing.” Family members do all they can with the grandkids to “keep Mike’s memory alive.”
In 1997, Michael and Carole McCann planted what became the first commercial vineyard in Fort Bend County on the Bar O. The vineyard, called Union Chappel, produces two different grapes, Blanc du Bois white and Black Spanish, a red, and each summer grapes are harvested and taken to the Haak Winery in Santa Fe for processing.
Carole still remembers the early grape-picking events at Union Chappel Vineyards. More than 200 people would show up to pick, including the extended family on both the Owens and the McCann side. “My mom would make kolaches,” Carole recalls, famed barbecue establishment The Swinging Door provided lunch, and the family would have a band and margarita machine to entertain guests.Carole’s years of philanthropic service began after the children were born. She served with various organizations, including Fort Bend County Mental Health, Calvary Episcopal School, and was President of the Fort Bend County Museum where she organized the second Lone Star Stomp to raise money for the museum. Today, Carole and her family give thousands of dollars every year to various causes in the Fulshear area.
Like her husband Michael, Carole McCann worries that the history of Fulshear will be lost as the town develops. According to Carole, “Michael envisioned a quaint, historical little town, but unfortunately there are so few buildings.” But, she added, “the land itself is our history, and we can’t let it go.”
So six years ago the family established the Michael McCann Foundation and began an annual charity bike ride to fund the foundation. Each year, hundreds of riders participate, and the event has become one of the top bike rides in the state. Funds raised at the event serve local groups and help maintain the historical integrity and small-town feel of the city, from fences and trees at local cemeteries, to town signage, to books for the local library. “Being able to donate our proceeds in support of programs directly in Fulshear is definitely gratifying whether it be the library, Arts Fulshear, Faith-FULL Kids at Huggins Elementary, the Volunteer Fire Department, the Police Department, the Brookwood Community, local Boy and Girl Scout troops, or the newly formed Family Hope,” Kristi said.McCann, like her husband before her, has endeared herself to residents of Fulshear, many who have known her since the ‘60s, in part because of her efforts to keep the town and its history alive. Linda Newsome Johnson describes Carole as “a lady with a great heart.” McCann “embraces all people. She cares about the Fort Bend community and most especially, Fulshear. She is always seeking ways to be inclusive of all people. It is important to note that [through Bike for Mike] she is making a difference in the lives of countless children and families through her donations to the local library and area school. “
Carole’s not concerned that the family won’t carry on the tradition; all three daughters and John and Jason are committed to perpetuating the family legacy. “As long as we continue to have the strong community involvement and support, the ride will go on!” vows Kristi. “My father never met a stranger, and it’s always wonderful to open up our home to other cyclists celebrating his memory and the Fulshear community.
One issue I see, however, is that as Fulshear grows rapidly, the country roads are no longer country, and that growth might limit the safety of our cyclists. We have accomplished so much during the 6 years thus far of the event. Between the vineyard setting, and the hospitality of our incredible volunteers, rest stops and police support, we’ve gained wide popularity, although we do hope to keep it under 1,000 participants to ensure all can enjoy.”
Carole McCann would love to see a Fulshear Historical Museum to maintain the history and integrity of the families who figure into the town’s growth – the Doziers, Helwigs, Huggins, Bentleys, McCanns, and more. She wishes her friend Sethora West, local teacher and historian, were still alive to help preserve that history. “Sethora was a great lady,” McCann said, “and it’s sad that we are losing so many of the families who are part of our rich history.”
But first comes her own family. And for Kristi McCann Stephens, her sisters Monty and Michele, their spouses and their children, Carole Owens McCann has established her own legacy. Kristi believes that “for us as her children, our mother’s legacy will be of the countless sacrifices, strong commitment, and the unconditional love and support she’s always given.”