FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS
From Fayette County, Her History and Her People by F. Lotto, 1902:
No city in Texas has a greater reputation for the congeniality of its people than Schulenburg. The free and easy and yet refined manners of its inhabitants never fail to make the stranger feel at home. The splendor and the tasty arrangements of its festivities have made for Schulenburg the name of the festive city of South Texas.
Schulenburg is situated in the southern part of Fayette County on the Southern Pacific Railroad. it is at a distance of eighteen miles from the county seat. It lies in the rich black land Navidad prairie, one of the richest agricultural sections in the state. The elegant farm residences, the beautiful gardens in front of them, the rolling prairie laid out into fertile corn and cotton fields, speak of the industry and energy of its people and leave on the traveler a pleasing impression. The section is traversed by the Navidad and its tributary the Mixen Creek.
One mile southeast of Schulenburg lie the grounds of the Schulenburg Live Stock and Fair Association. The semi-annual races led there attract the sporting element of the whole state. Dr. I. E. Clark, Mr. Wm. Cornelson and Mr. H. Graf may be mentioned as the principal promoters of the races. One mile northwest of Schulenburg is the Eilers Park. The same is not yet finished, but gives promise to become one of the most attractive spots in Texas. A sixteen feet high dam, forty feet wide at the foot and thirty feet wide at the top has been built across a creek. On the lake which this dam will hold, two boats will invite the visitor to take a row along its beautiful banks covered with verdure and interspersed with liveoak groves. This park, the writer predicts, will become a very popular resort for the Schulenburg people and their guests.
Not less attractive than its surroundings is the city itself. A stranger walking through its streets will be impressed by the solid and substantial business houses and the elegant residences. In the fall of the year, the business streets, viz., Main street - which presents quite a metropolitan appearance - and Lyons and Upton Avenues are crowded with wagons, buggies and other vehicles, and give a good idea of the extent of Schulenburg's business. Of the more noticeable buildings may be mentioned the Sengelmann Building, the most elegant saloon in the county; the Perlitz Building; the R. A. Wolters Building; the Russek Bank Building; the Schaefer Building, and the Wolters Business Buildings. The Southern Pacific owns a a fine garden, nicely laid out, in front of the depot.
Schulenburg is named after Louis Schulenburg who owned a four hundred and forty acre farm south of the railroad track which he sold to W. Pierce. Schulenburg stands on the land owned by him, on sixty acres of Mr. Chris. Baumgarten's land, on one hundred acres of Frank and Rosine Stanzel's land, on fifteen acres of John Wittbecker's land and on one and a half acres of Franz and Rosine Stanzel's [F. A. and Therese Stanzel on list of errata] land. All these parties gave one-half of their lands to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company as an inducement to locate the town thereon. Schulenburg was built in 1873. A great many High Hill people moved to Schulenburg on the arrival of the Southern Pacific and built up the latter place. The city grew rapidly; May 24, 1875, it was incorporated.
Sophie and John Wittbecker
Photo contributed by Rox Ann Johnson
Of the old settlers of Schulenburg may be mentioned first Mr. Chris. Baumgarten who by a great many people is called "The Father of Schulenburg," not only on account of his age, but because there was no man who took more interest in building up Schulenburg and promoting its industrial enterprises than he. Other old citizens of Schulenburg are Ernst Baumgarten [who established the first lumber yard in Schulenburg - deleted in list of errata], R. Wolters, sr., the capitalist, M. C. Levey, H. P. Schaefer, Max and Julius Schwartz, I. Russek, H. Graf, W. D. Keuper and a great many others. Of those who have died may be mentioned: Heinrich Schaefer (came to the United States in 1856, first settled at Round Top, came to Schulenburg in 1872, died in 1885); Henry Perlitz [F. W. Ferlitz] and Paul Breymann, sr.
The population of the town is nearly entirely German; with a sprinkling of Americans and Bohemians. Like all towns of South Texas, it has its share of negroes. The population numbers about 1200 inhabitants.
It has been remarked before that Schulenburg has a wide reputation for sociability and splendor of its festivities. People who do not approve of feasts and the drinking incident thereto speak of this city as the "Free Republic of Schulenburg," a name that rather pleases the burghers. If people of a prohibition stamp who condemn such feasts would only once visit a Schulenburg feast, the orderly behavior of the guests, the innocent enjoyment of life with many harmless, humorous incidents would convince the most scrupulous that these feasts are really necessary to build up and independent, contented, happy and strong race of people. The Turn Verein is an ardent promoter of these festivities.
A literary society which owns a fine library attends to the pertaining of a higher education and to elevating the moral tone of Schulenburg society to a higher plane.
The Schulenburg school is under the superintendence of a fine teacher, Prof. M. W. Meyer, who has prepared himself thoroughly for his work.
There are five lodges in Schulenburg: Odd Fellows, Joseph Berger, N. G., M. T. Everton, Secretary; Knights of Pythias, Joseph Stanley, C. C., Gus Ulrich, Secretary; United Workmen (Robert Blum Lodge), M. C. Levey, M. W., Wm. Keuper, jr., recorder; Hermann's Sons, Emil Schulz, President, H. Beniker, Secretary; Masons, Dr. I. E. Clark, W. M., Fred. Ebeling, Secretary.
Most of the people of Schulenburg and neighborhood are communicants of the Catholic church. Schulenburg has a fine Catholic church of which Rev. Father Mathis is the priest. The other denominations: Lutheran, Christian, Methodist, Baptist, etc., own together a church building, called the Union church, in which preachers from other communities explain the scripture of Our Lord and show the audience how to walk the way of righteousness.
Schulenburg, in the center of the richest agricultural section of the county, is a great trading point. Perhaps its merchants do more business than those of any other town in the county. Schulenburg has nine general merchandise stores, four groceries, one hardware store, one jewelry store, two saddleries, two blacksmith shops, one livery stable, two lumber yards, one furniture store, one buggy and wagon business, three building contractors, one joiner, two newspapers, one bank, one opera house, two dancing halls, six full saloons, two beer saloons, two hotels, two restaurants, three meat markets, one bakery, three physicians, two drug stores, one dentist, one photographer, three beer agents, one tailor, three shoemakers, two millineries, three gins, one oil mill and one compress.
The oil mill is the property of Mr. Chris. Baumgarten, sr., and under the able management of his son, Gus. Baumgarten. it is a model oil mill and hardly equaled anywhere in the United States.
Of the business men to whom the writer is obliged for their patronage he names Boettcher Bros. Co., Perliltz Bros., and R. A. Wolters in the general merchandise business, H. P. Schaefer who is the owner of a first-class hardware store, the largest between Houston and San Antonio, Schwartz Bros., the proprietors of a first-class livery stable and successful horse traders, Dr. I. E. Clark, the widely known owner of the Bermuda Valley Stock Farm, a farm as famous as the blue grass region of Kentucky for breeding fine horses, Paul Breymann, the proprietor of a drug store of metropolitan style, O. Kallus, who does a large business in the saddle and harness line, Sengelmann Bros., Beniker Bros., E. J. Gully, Jan Vacek and H. F. Skarke in the saloon business, F. M. Wilks, the popular jeweler of Schulenburg. Wm. Tauch, who makes a fine a photograph of yourself as can be made in any city as large as San Antonio or Houston and not to forget, M. C. Levey, real estate agent, notary public and leading grocer and contributor of original writings to the county papers. The writer found him a well educated gentleman and most interesting talker. In his writings there breathes a spirit of true human kindness that attracts and pleases the reader.
The writer may mention once more the two newspaper men of Schulenburg to whom he is indebted for many interesting hours. With Mr. W. R. King he was in business relations in regard to printing his book which relations have been altogether of the most pleasing nature. The printing entailed a great amount of very particular work and the style in which it is done is a credit to the Sticker and will no doubt meet the approval of the reader as it has met that of the writer.
To Mr. Frank Miller the writer is obliged for repeated kind mention in that lively paper, the Schulenburg Sun, of his book on Fayette County. It would be hard to find a more accommodating and pleasing gentleman than Mr. Miller.
Schulenburg is on a steady growth. It numbers about 1200 inhabitants. Its business is steadily spreading out in an enlarging circle.
Schulenburg has for fire protection seven wells and water-tanks. It has a fire department with one engine company and tone hook and ladder company, consisting of about 36 members. The officers are Henry Eilers, President and Gus. Depmore, Chief. The latter is a very experience fire-man, having been for a number of years chief of the Columbus fire department and having served also in the St. Louis and Galveston fire departments. The city voted to issue $11,500 in bonds for erecting a stand-pipe and laying mains through Schulenburg for its protection against fire. The proposition carried and the bonds have been approved by the Attorney General. As soon as they are sold the work will start. This thriving little city will then be protected against fire as few cities in the state.
The city officers are: Mayor, Theo. Wolters; Marshal, Hy. Eilers; Aldermen, H. Bohlmann, Dr. I. E. Clark, Chas. Windel, F. F. Schaefer, serving also as city secretary and R. A. Wolters, serving also as city treasurer; W. R. King, City Attorney.
These histories were written by members of the Fayette County Historical Commission. They first appeared in the weekly column, "Footprints of Fayette," which is published in local newspapers.
The Birth of Schulenburgby Norman C. Krischke
Prior to the Civil War the railroad had been built to Alleyton on the East Side of the Colorado River, near Columbus. After the war, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railroad continued its construction westward to San Antonio under the guidance of Colonel Thomas W. Peirce. In 1870, the legislature approved changing the name to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad.
In March of 1873, Peirce purchased the 450-acre farm of Louis and Johanna Schulenburg for $8,000; other acreage that was to make up the future town was also bought. Surveyors went to work laying out streets, blocks, and lots. James Converse, Chief Engineer of the G.H. & S.A. Railroad, certified and filed the map of Schulenburg in the Fayette County Courthouse on October 30, 1873 and the town's framework formally came into existence. At first, railroad officials wanted to name the town Baumgarten, after Christian Baumgarten, because he had done so much in logistics to help the railroad in establishing the town. But Baumgarten suggested that the accurate name should be Schulenburg, since the depot was on land formerly owned by Mr. Schulenburg.
Railroad work crews were building track steadily from the similarly established town of Weimar. The rail bed was graded by cutting through the hills and filling in the low places by the use of horse drawn fresnoes and scrapers. The wooded areas surrounding Schulenburg supplied the raw material for the railroad ties. The ties were laid on the railbed about five feet apart (today, they're eight inches) and the 39 foot rail sections were then coupled together. At this time, the rails weighed 18 pounds per foot versus the 38 pounds per foot today. The workers were paid with tokens that could be redeemed at the railroad store.
The passenger and freight depots opened for business on December 8, 1873 with Lawrence Kellett as the temporary stationmaster. In 1874, Kellett was crushed between two boxcars and was buried in the Old High Hill cemetery, as no cemetery had been established yet. Charles Rose and his new bride, who took up residence in the old Schulenburg farmhouse, replaced him. On December 31, 1873, the first passenger train rolled across the Navidad River Prairie and entered the new town. The history of Schulenburg had begun.
Schulenburg in 1877by Norman C. Krischke and Gary E. McKee
Schulenburg was two years old in 1877 and needed to grow. This glowing description of the new town appeared in The Schulenburg Argus and was probably written by the first Chamber of Commerce employee.
The site occupied by Schulenburg cannot be surpassed for beauty of natural scenery. The town corporation is one square mile and contains a population of one thousand souls most of whom are Germans who own most of the business houses of the place. The business transacted here is larger than any other town between Houston and San Antonio. Cotton, buffalo and cattle hides and cottonseed are shipped from this place daily. There are between 40 and 50 business houses and saloons in town, three hotels, the Masons and Odd Fellows Lodge in their recently built two-story lodge hall, the First Baptist Church, and St. James Missionary Baptist Church, one bakery, two meat markets, one livery stable, two blacksmith shops, three lumber yards, one cabinet shop, one grist mill, one planing mill, one cotton gin, one tobacco store, one musical instrument store, the Germania Hall, three physicians, daily train arrivals and departures and the telegraph. The population within a 20-mile radius is 3000 and the local farmland is the richest in the state. There is no drunkenness and do disturbances to mar the good feelings that pervade the community. Schulenburg should, in the near future, become one of the most desirable and attractive places in the state.
Around 1880, a humor columnist, Alex Sweet passed through Schulenburg. The following was published in his book, On a Mexican Mustang through Texas.
Schulenberg (sic) is a small town on the railroad. Almost all the inhabitants are Germans,thrifty, hard-working people, who attend to their own business with more enthusiasm than the native American can ever be accused of doing.
They have a mayor and a board of aldermen in Schulenberg, and the aldermen make city ordinances,. Vagrant hogs, stray cows, and inebriated cowboys break those that are not vetoed by the mayor. There is a newspaper published in Schulenberg. Its columns are devoted to the mayor's proclamations, the railroad timetable, patent medicine advertisements, and reports of aldermanic discussions on municipal affairs. The absorbing topic at Schulenberg, when we were there, was, "Shall we continue to employ our present efficient police-force?"
The "efficient police-force" consisted of a large man, whose clothes had apparently been made for a smaller policeman. He was armed with a very large revolver. His trousers did not quite reach his ankles; there had evidently been pulled before they were ripe.
Two different perspectives on Schulenburg, both probably fairly accurate.
125 Year Old News Schulenburgby Norman C. Krischke
Interesting news reported by P. E. Edmondson, editor of the Schulenburg Argus, first newspaper in Schulenburg:
The Fayette Commissioners Court appointed A. D. Paulus Justice of the Peace, Beat 8, Schulenburg, March 26, 1877 upon the death of Edgar Merrem.
At the election of town officers for Flatonia on April 2, 1877, Mr. Grey Moore was elected Mayor and Mr. Shropshire, Marshall.
Fayette County's Census of School Children for 1876 was white children - 3902, black children - 1732. There were 67 white schools and 28 black schools in the county.
The average price of good land in the county is 2 to 5 dollars per acre. Some lands are sold as high as 10 to 20 dollars per acre. Schulenburg is on the Galveston, Houston & San Antonio Rail Line that opened for trade on December 8th, 1973 and town lots sell for $200 to $250 each. Town population is about 1200.
Baseball score between the Hallettsville Local Options and Schulenburg Schulenburgers in late May 1877 was 52 runs for Schulenburg and 28 for Halletsville.
The High Hill Turn-Verein (gymnastics club) celebrated their 11th anniversary on May 20, 1877.
A firkin of butter weights six pounds, a tub of butter, 84 pounds. Sixty drops make a drachma, eight drachmas an ounce. Four ounces make a gill. A generation is fifteen years. Average life span is thirty-one years.
A man named Rumley was in town on Wednesday and imbibed in too much "Tanglefoot". He was arrested on a charge of "drunk and down". Mayor Henderson fined him $15.00 and costs.
We noticed a novel team on the street a few days ago; an ox and a horse walking side by side pulling a wagon.
DISTRICT COURT Proceedings: Ben Urdry-Theft of a hog, 1-year penitentiary. Sol Freeman-Theft of cattle, 2 years. Joseph Schrameck-Murder, 3 years, Jon Beaumont-Arson, 7 years.
R. P. Kirk, a schoolteacher, was fined $2.50 and costs for refusing to work rural roads. He refused because he paid taxes to have city streets maintained.
The City of Flatonia is building wooden sidewalks in front of all business houses.
Mr. C. B. P. Medlenka, editor of the La Grange German newspaper, "NEUE AERA" was in Schulenburg last week.
Watermelons have become a drug on the market. The best can be had for $10.
The Citizens of Flatonia organized a Hook and Ladder Company on August 10, 1877 that should prove a success. The officers were President George Robinson, Vice President W. W. Sloan, Secretary F. P. Yeager and Treasurer W. W. Yeager.
DISTRICT COURT: John G. Ellis charged with kidnapping, found guilty, fined fifty cents. Beth Townsend charged with assault with intent to kill. Verdict "Guilty" and fined $1.00.
Commissioners Court ordered a stock law election be held on October 9, 1877 to prohibit the running at large of hogs, sheep and goats in Fayette County.
A Schulenburg Argus subscription is $1.50 per year.
Marshall Secrest of Weimar killed a large chicken snake recently containing a large blowing horn eleven inches in length.
Fayette County Assessment for the year 1877: $5,195,475.00
Taxes collected: $47,406.55
Early Baseball in Schulenburgby Norman C. Krischke
A March 30, 1877 Schulenburg Argus newspaper article tells about the first game played in Schulenburg: "The Schulenburg Baseball Club, called the "Schulenburgers", met on the grounds last Sunday evening and played their second game; first played March 23, instant. First nine commanded by Captain H.C. Finch; second nine by Giles E. Malona. After playing nine innings, the score stood 33 to 20, giving the second nine a majority of 13 tallies. From the number of spectators present, the Argus thinks the game is appreciated by our citizens and hopes the young men will continue to practice and make their game a perfect source of enjoyment."
On the following Sunday, another game was played and the score was 68 to 42. The Schulenburgers played the Coloradoes, the Columbus team, on April 26, 1877 with H.C. Finch as Captain and catcher, G.E. Malona pitcher, T.A. Cook 1st base, Joseph Wessendorf 2nd base, S.M. Cunnings 3rd base, Hl. Laegle shortstop, Lamar Overbay rights field, M. Laidley center field and R. Boykin left field. The score was Coloradoes 27 and Schulenburgers 14.
The uniforms worn, as described in the Schulenburg Argus, were: "Coloradoes: everyday trousers, undershirt, pants tucking into red and white "barber pole" stockings, fancy belts on which they hooked on suspenders. Schulenburgers: everyday dress, caps and belts and one or two had white stockings into which they stuffed their pants. The game was called because of rain."
After each game played in Schulenburg a dance was given at Baring's Hall on the northeast corner of Lyons and North Main where the trophy was presented to the winning team, usually a ball and bat.
Other area towns formed teams and the Schulenburgers were soon testing their skill against Hallettsville's Local Options, the Middle Creek Post Oaks, the Oakland Oaklands, and the North Grove Lavacas. La Grange, Flatonia and Weimar also formed teams but the paper did not mention their names. The Argus also never mentioned the location of the baseball field.
In 1900, the Schulenburg team was called the "Town Team". The Schulenburg Sticker ran an article in May of 1915 that stated the "The Schulenburg Giants have played 17 games for the season, won 14 and lost 3. They are at the top of the league." Adolph Kehrer provided the ball diamond in his pasture at the East End of North Main and was manager and grounds keeper.
Baseball fever continued throughout the last century with the Schulenburg Merchants playing for many years and the large slow pitch softball competition for men and women during the Schulenburg Festival.
Schulenburg Fire Departmentby Florence Farek
A group of citizens met in April 1877, to discuss forming a Fire Company. A committee of three men was appointed to contact the town council and request a vote on an ad valorem tax for the purpose of purchasing a $600.00 hand pump engine. The proposal was defeated by a vote of 44-5.
The lack of water was another concern. The town council was requested to have four 500-gallon cisterns built and placed in key locations around town to catch rainwater from the roofs.
Later, a contract was signed with P.T. Shields to have two water wells dug. These were completed in May. Two more were completed in October. The water from these wells had to be drawn by hand with buckets.
The first hand pump, an 1873 model, was purchased in 1881. This pump, along with the bucket brigade, was used in the great fire of October 10, 1893. On that day, twenty downtown buildings were destroyed or damaged by fire. The brick building that housed the Breyman's Drug Store stopped the fire from spreading to the east. The pump and bucket brigade was only effective in wetting down the walls and roofs of the buildings that were saved.
The Fire Company met on January 15, 1902 to report a profit of $12.00 on a Supper and Ball. The money was used to purchase a ledger, secretary's minute book and a draft book. An effort was made at this meeting to organize the Schulenburg Fire Department. Officers elected were Henry Eilers, president; F.W. Matula, vice president; G.G. Tansey, secretary; H.A. Vogelsang, treasurer and Gus Depmore, chief.
In April 1903, a boiler maker began construction of a water storage tank on the corner of Paulus and Upton Streets. It became known as the standpipe. Once the water lines were in place they had the necessary pressure to fight fires.
In September 1903, the Schulenburg Fire Department met once more to organize a Fire Company. It was suggested that the old roll be called and abandoned to organize a new company. New officers elected were Rudolph Nordhausen, president; Alex Hirsch, vice president; Dr. G.G. Tansey, secretary, Hy Grube, treasurer and Gus Depmore, chief.
Forty-one charter members signed up. The president appointed Gus Depmore, Max Ruhmann and Gul Ulrich to draft By-laws.
The men were assigned to two companies, the Hook-and-Ladder Company and the Hose Company. By 1903, Schulenburg's population had grown to 1,400.
The first years were difficult for the department. They had very little equipment or money, and drills were often postponed due to lack of water or muddy streets.
The meeting of their first anniversary was adjourned "To partake of a fireman's luncheon composed of many good things, including a keg of beer." The keg cost $2.50.
A lantern with a red globe was purchased to signal the hydrant man. In 1909 the city donated seven more lanterns to the department.
The foreman of the hook and ladder company reported, "The men are climbing the ladders like squirrels."
An inventory list of the department as of January, 1912 showed: uniforms, one lock and three keys, three hose carts, one hook and ladder truck and one hand pumper.
The minutes of November 1912 show that the chief suggested a change of date for the next practice on account of a possum hunt on the regular practice night.
By 1913 a chemical engine had been purchased. It contained a mixture of soda, acid and water.
In August 1916 a committee was appointed to decide whether to have a feast or picnic as a fundraiser. A postponement was recommended, because the red bugs and ticks were too bad.
Local craftsmen built most of the early equipment. In 1917 C.A. Vogt offered to use a Chevrolet car to build a hose truck. His price was $459.00, without windshield. A truck body was purchased from La Franc Company instead. The pneumatic tires on the new truck had a tendency to blow out from lack of use and hitting the railroad crossing with too heavy loads. They changed from the truck chassis to a touring car chassis.
In early 1920 a bad fire occurred in the McClung's Store, which originally belonged to Cranz and Kessler. It was custom for the night watchman to fire three shots in the air when he spotted a fire. That night he fired six shots.
The La Grange Journal Visits Schulenburg in 1892by Gary E. McKee
P. E. Edmondson, Editor and Proprietor of the La Grange Journal wrote this article in 1892:
The editor took a run over to Schulenburg a few days ago. The country between here and there presented its usual inviting appearance. Its topographical appearance reminds one very much of the Blue Grass region of Kentucky. Chiefly industrious and energetic German farmers who, as a rule, are in independent circumstances inhabit it. Their farms are well tilled and their houses and adjacent grounds are kept in neat order. All their surroundings denote thrift and competency.
The writer never goes to Schulenburg that he douse not realize what a grand thing it would be for the farmers of that beautiful portion of the county, if there was an air lieu macadamized road from the top of the bluff to that place. It would enhance the value of the farms of a large scope of country fully 25 percent if it could be established, as it would not only shorten distance but it would save to farmers so much time, wear and tear of teams, wagons &c. But there is little hope of its ever being accomplished.
Schulenburg, THE JOURNAL regrets to say, does not appear to be progressing as in the past, still she enjoys a good trade and her merchants and business men appear to be hopeful. Her city authorities might, by a small expenditure, add to her natural attractions by improving her sidewalks, which are too narrow and uneven. Good pavements and freshly painted fronts to stores and business houses help the looks of a town wonderful and make a favorable impression upon the minds of visitors. As long as a town presents an appearance that impress the stranger with the belief that every one is anxious to sell out and leave, just so long will that town stand still. Nobody cares to locate in a place, which appears to be in a moribund condition.
The citizens of Schulenburg, or at least the businessmen, those whom the writer knows and has had business dealing with for many years, are clever, genial and liberal to a fault. Our business relations with them have, for fifteen years, been very pleasant. Among the principal businessmen very few changes have taken place. Chr. Baumgarten and sons are enterprising gentlemen. Their large oil mill and other branches of business occupy their undivided attention.
Doing a general merchandise business there are Wolters & Graf, Cranz & Kessler, R. Wolters & Sons, Ebeling & Voelkel, Proetzel & Johnson, Neuhaus Bros., M. C. Levey, John Matula and Margolins, who seem to do the bulk of the business.
Paul Breyman, druggist, is still there and doing a good business. I. Russek runs a private bank, which is in a flourishing condition. Mr. Wolters, saddler and harness maker, has a good trade and is doing well. Dr. Zimmermann and Mr. Tauch are the photographers of the town, and are well patronized. Schwartz Bros. and F. W. Turner are the proprietors of the two livery stables and appear to be ding well. Mr. Krook is the proprietor of a large stove and tinware establishment and has an excellent trade. Mr. John Wirtz, who was born and raised in La Grange, has a position with him and is doing very well. Schulenburg has a number of saloons, which, like all Texas saloons, are doing a land office business.
The Schaeffer Brothers, ginners, lumber dealers and undertakers, are doing a good business. Mesdames Zimmermann and Richter are the principal milliners and carry full stocks.
W. Richter and George Johnson are the tonsorial artists of the town. While there, the writer met Drs. Walker, Clark and Burford all of whom said that, with the exception of the grip and a case now and then of pneumonia, the health of the town was never better. Major Wolters, who is always good natured and jolly, was seen and no change in his general style was visible.
It was at Schulenburg 15 years ago the writer started the Schulenburg Argus which he conducted there for one year and the removed to Flatonia. How few faces of those, who were then engaged in business there, remain. The majority have crossed over the river and are resting under the shade.
Mr. Edmondson's column provided a nice snapshot of the business side of the 19-year-old town of Schulenburg. His views also included a need for a "Main Street Program" and the improvement of U.S. 77 between the two towns.
Worms, Dropsy, and Daisy Fly Killers
Schulenburg Sticker Advertising From One Hundred Years Ago
By Gary E. McKee
News reporting in 1915 was quite different then, yet advertising philosophy has changed very little in the last one hundred years. Everything being sold was better, quicker, and the latest compared to similar products.
In the early 1900s, newspapers were the primary source of communication. Fayette County’s declining population of just under 30,000 was mostly agriculturally based, which was reflected in the large quantity of ads for horse drawn implements, feed, seed, and all aspects of the cotton business.
Over the counter medicinal remedies dominated the pages of newspapers. Many ads used testimonials by unknown local citizens, usually with the last name of Johnson, as to the wonderful and miraculous curing of lazy livers, chilblains, and warning that “Death Lurks in a Weak Heart.” Some editors allowed (took money) from some national companies to print ads on the front page disguised as stories that were “localized to the community.” An example follows: “STRAIGHTFORWARD TESTIMONY, MANY SCHULENBURG CITIZENS HAVE PROFITED BY IT.” The three-paragraph story was an ad for Doan’s Kidney Pills that were available at Breymann’s Drug Store and featured a W.A. Johnson stating how they restored his kidneys.
The agriculture community was courted with ads by various companies, such as The Southern Produce Co. listing the price per sack of corn and milo for stock food and suggested you buy alfalfa hay from them to save money. Cranz & Kessler were selling “The Mower That’s Easy on the Team.” The mowers were the side cutters that emphasized efficiency, profit, and “would never gall the neck of your horses.” The Schulenburg Light and Ice Co. was selling smooth white Cedar Posts.
Before the reader would go out on the town, they should stop at The Palace Barber Shop where Steve Klecka, proprietor, invites you to stop by for “Hot & Cold Baths, Cleaning & Pressing Laundry Agency and All Work Guaranteed.”
Then the clean, well-dressed man could head on down to Sengelmann Bros. (saloon) which advertised Edgewood Whiskey with a caricature of a well dressed, rotund man that resembled recent U.S. president W. H. Taft with a strange hat. If Sengelmanns was crowded, he could visit The Sunny South Saloon, Emil Gieptner, proprietor, who urged you to “Make this your Headquarters” where he has “Choice Wines, Liquors, and Cigars along with Fresh Cold Beer on Tap.”
If he was so inclined, the gentleman could take his wife to The Opera House, G.L. Vincent, proprietor, which showing the “Exploits of Elaine” (4 Reels!) with “Good music, ventilation, and ample seating capacity, admission 5¢ and 10¢.”
For the housewife, Wolters’ Mercantile’s special of the week was 75 gallons of pure honey in half-gallon jars for 45¢ each; they reminded you to “make sure your hens lay now with Dr. Hess Stock Food. Money Back Guarantee.” The Newhaus Cash Store purchased a front quarter page ad announcing a sale of household goods. Horse brushes for 30¢; 2 quart school buckets for 10¢; stove cover lifters 10¢; and rolling pins for 15¢ were among the items listed. Vogt & Pratka, Cash Grocers and Produce Dealers, was paying the “highest market price for your turkeys, chickens, and eggs and will take all you have.” V & P also informed you that during Lent, they have a complete line of such goods such as Russian Sardines in pails @ 85¢, Milckers’ Herrings in pails @ $1.25, Apple Jelly in corn syrup pails @ 30¢, and American Sardines @ 5¢ a can. The advertisers were not shy towards females as a bold headline commanded: SICK WOMEN ATTENTION, by which the cure for all feminine problems was to use Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.
This was the era of transition from the horse culture to the gasoline powered vehicle, so H. P. Schaefer was reminding people that their stock of Buck’s Buggies is always complete. F. A. Bezecny & Co. have “Saddles, Harness, Lap Robes,” and reassured folks that “Special Attention Given to Mail Orders.”
For the more affluent, R.C. Boettcher had four seven-passenger tour cars available at $945 each. I.E. Clark was selling the Apperson “Jack Rabbit, The Best Car on the Market Today. Before Buying, Investigate Them.”
The only ad that possibly would have been aimed at children was that Miss Irene Holland was offering piano lessons and theory at her home studio.
For those Schulenburg folks who were traveling: The Sunset Central Line (railroad) advertised oil burning locomotives, steel coaches, heavy rails, and rock ballast. The westbound train for San Antonio was due at 3:58 a.m. and 3:57 p.m. Those travelers heading to Houston were informed that the train was due at 3:19 p.m. and 2:37 a.m.
On a sad note for historians: The Sticker was advertising for sale: “old papers for wrapping, or putting under carpets or matting.” Thankfully this column is the result of Stickers not being stuck under carpets.
By Gary E. McKee
This last summer the Bastrop area was in a minor turmoil over the announcement of a military training operation named Jade Helm. The press reports fueled conspiracy theorists and rumors of a government takeover by the Army that caused the Governor of Texas to take action. After the exercise was declared to be over, the citizens of Central Texas had not seen anything that even justified raising an eyebrow. This non-event brings to mind two phrases: “much ado about nothing” and “history repeats itself.”
However, seventy-two years ago, things were different as the Schulenburg Sticker’s April 2, 1943 issue had the headline: Army Moves 800 Men Into the Schulenburg Area. For the record, more space was devoted to the headline concerning the Fat Stock and Dairy Show. The following is a paraphrased and quoted version of their reporting of the event.
During World War II, the U.S. Army had come to Schulenburg for training maneuvers. “An anti-aircraft battalion is stationed over an area of some 350 square miles [the majority of which were on private property.] Men may be found [encamped] from Weimar on the east, to Flatonia on the west, and from Swiss Alp on the north to Hackberry on the south…they did not bring any of their heavier guns, but they did have their searchlights and anti-aircraft sound detectors. The men will in all probability do quite a bit of work in camouflage. Most of the groups will be stationed where you will be not notice them, unless you are looking for them. Planes will fly over and if a group is spotted, the plane will more than likely drop some articles denoting that the men or the equipment may be seen from the air.” Portions of the men were encamped on the Klesel property immediately southeast of Schulenburg.
“Schulenburg will be used as headquarters… Do not be surprised to see the sky lighted up at night with beams from the high powered searchlights trying to spot the airplanes as they fly through the air several thousands of feet above.”
“We will probably not see so very many soldiers on the streets in the daytime but we do believe that the boys will come to town after they get off duty in the afternoon.”
“We understand that a hospital has been set up near town and that the battalion comes equipped for anything that might happen. There will be plenty of Military Policeman about town to take care of the boys [when] the boys will come to town after their time off, and would like to have a little fun and recreation.”
At least two events were held; one was a well attended baseball game between the soldiers; and in Weimar a dance was held for the soldier boys at city hall, some eighty odd soldiers got leave of absence and attended.” Two army jeeps were wrecked afterwards.
April 9, 1943: “The people of Schulenburg were aroused Monday about midnight when the fire siren sounded its wail and haunting sound. Shortly thereafter the four short blasts from the Carnation [milk plant] whistle denoted that members of the home defense guard were being called to man their positions in case of an air raid.”
“The soldiers that are staying here on maneuvers invaded the town, and in a few minutes had all off the strategic positions captured.”
“The soldiers carried revolvers loaded with blank cartridges. In the sham exhibition several people were shot and a large number captured. The railroad office, the electric substation, the water plant, Frank’s Place, and a number of other buildings were taken over by the soldiers.”
“When talking with members of the Army on Tuesday morning, some [local] folks made the statement that the local people were not prepared for the attack.” The army’s answer was “If the enemy comes, do you think that they are going to send you a message and tell you that they are going to come and capture your town?”
“This was called a surprise attack and those who were out on their posts no doubt will be better informed the next time that practice raid is staged. For some reason or another a good many of the members of the Home Defense Guard [citizens] did not come out. A number replied that they did not hear the siren or the Carnation whistle or the shooting on the streets, which lasted for nearly an hour.”
“Nurses and doctors on their way to the posts, civilians on the streets, cars passing along the highways were stopped by the so-called invaders.”
An army spokesman reported: “All in all the mock raid was called successful as it has put the local people on guard for what might some day in the future be the real thing.”
A headline directly below the previous story: “Army Expected to Leave Soon: Rumors about town state that it is believed that before long the 800 soldiers who have been stationed here for the past ten days will go back to camp. The officers and me, so far report that the Schulenburg hospitality has been grand and that they have enjoyed every minute of their stay.”
“In return the people of Schulenburg have no complaint of any kind to offer. The men were well behaved and gentlemen in every sense of the word. They will be welcome to come back here at any time.”
The following week, the Sticker reported Mr. H. R. Clark, apparently the head of the Home Defense Guard, stating that a blackout (no lights in the area will be visible from the air) will be held in several weeks to help prevent the “real thing”. He said, “This is no foolishness. We must be prepared for anything…” However, the blackout was not held, as orders were received from Austin that any blackout would have to be held over several counties.If this military exercise would have happened last summer, well, the results would be one for the history books.
H.P. Schaefer Memorial Observatory
by Florence Farek
H. P. Schaefer’s youngest son, Edison (also known as Rip) knew his father was fascinated by the moon and stars because he spent many nights pointing out the different constellations to his six sons. He was a well read man and had a great interest in science and the stars. Edison made his father an offer. “If you furnish the building, I’ll build a telescope for you.”
H.P. lost no time in contracting with the Bohlmann Brothers to construct a galvanized metal dome about 12 feet in diameter. It was built to revolve 360 degrees on a manually operated pipe track. There was a 30-inch sliding door that opened for viewing. The dome rested on an 8’X8’ wooden beam framework about 13 feet off the ground. The total height of the observatory was about 27 feet. Entry was from beneath through a trapdoor via a stairway. It took about three years to complete the observatory.
Meanwhile the Schaefer boys got busy in the tin shop in back of the hardware store constructing the telescope. Twelve-gage aluminum was used to form the 72 inch tube, 12 inches in diameter at the open end and 11 inches at speculum end. Edison ordered the lens from the Pyrex Company. He placed the 10-inch mirror on a lube barrel and ground it by hand, going around and around on the barrel and scraping. Due to his miscalculation, the first lens had only half the power he planned, so he ground another. However, the first one turned out to be excellent for taking pictures, so not all was lost. Edison stated that with the second lens he could count the shingle nails on the roof of the Catholic Church about a half mile away.
School children came from miles around to observe the stars. Eventually the many visitors became a problem and Edison started charging fifty-cents per person for a look at the moon.
The observatory remained in the Schaefer back lot until 1991 when it was moved to Schulenburg ISD campus. Some restoration work was done, and the original telescope was brought in.
In May, 2008 it was moved to the Schulenburg Blinn College Campus. It was bolted to a concrete slab and completely restored to its original splendor. The observatory was dedicated on August 1, 2009 and will be open for star gazing and astronomy classes.
The Schaefer descendents have successfully preserved a reminder of their family’s ingenuity and the Schaefer’s contribution to the town. The observatory can now become an avenue of knowledge for our children and adults of this area.
H.P. Schaefer’s parents immigrated from the Providence of Hessen, Germany. They landed in Galveston in 1856 with their four children, Augusta, Leonard, Bertha and S.T. Their friends who had preceded them had established themselves under a tree in Round Top, Texas, and the Schaefer family traveled by ox drawn-wagon from Galveston to join them. After numerous moves over several years, and the birth of four more children, H.P., Lena, Fritz and a daughter, who was still-born. The family settled in Lyonsville in 1873. This settlement was located about three miles south of the present day town of Schulenburg. They purchased a 100 acre farm from Will McKennon, which included a cotton gin. The gin was powered by eight mules, four on each side. Grandpa Schaefer was industrious and believed in replacing old equipment with more modern machinery, so he invested in a steam engine to run the gin and turned it over to Leonard and S.T., including H.P as a laborer. Leonard sold his part of the gin to Anton Foerster. S.T. and Anton added a lumber yard to their business, and when H.P. sold his farm to Anton, he joined the business and added a funeral parlor.
H.P. Schaefer purchased the Ruhmann Hardware Store in 1893 and operated with the motto: “Quality remains long after the price is forgotten.” Many of the buggies, implements, wood cook stoves, and windmills sold by the store were assembled by the Schaefer boys after school. H.P.’s son Elmo took over management when H.P. retired and kept the business open until 1976.
The Schulenburg Sticker
The Houston Post Leon Hale
The Schaefer family history
Photo by Gary McKee
The Schulenburg Library
by Noreen Stavinoha and Bettye Allen
In the Schulenburg chapter of F. Lotto's 1902 book, Fayette County, Her History and her People, there is the following passage: "A literary society which owns a fine library attends to the pertaining of a higher education and to elevating the moral tone of Schulenburg society to a higher plane." Unfortunately, there are no details about where the library was located or how long it had been in existence. So it stands alone as the first reference by anyone of the existence of a public library in Schulenburg.
In 1927 the Literary Society and Study Club was formed by several Schulenburg ladies who wanted to continue their own education by acquiring books on all manner of topics, and then to promote the education of others by sharing those books with the public. At first, they operated the library in their homes lending books they purchased or that were given to them. The name was shortened to The Schulenburg Literary Club by 1929.
In the 30s and 40s, various merchants donated space in their stores for the lending library to operate. In the 50s the library was moved to a local lodge hall on Anderson Street. The Schulenburg High School donated a wire "Library Cage" formerly used to secure the books of the school library. Placed in the Lodge Hall, it was maintained and opened on a weekly schedule by Club officers
In 1957-58 the City built a new city hall and other facilities. The "Community Library" was offered space in the new City Hall, where it remained for many years. Librarian services were still provided by members of the Literary Club. The only Literary Club member who had a degree in Library Science, Myrtle Isensee, catalogued the books in the 60s.
Also in the 50s, Charles Matula and his sister, Emma, expressed the hope that their new home would house the library when it was no longer needed by them. Charles died in 1960, and when Emma passed away in 1974, their wish for the house to become the library was realized. The added space was sorely needed by then.
The City of Schulenburg eventually took over the operation of the library, and the volunteer librarian was replaced by one hired by the City in this new facility. The years have changed the library in some important ways. Computers have been introduced where patrons can do research, primarily for school projects. Book shelves are bursting from the donations and purchased books added to its inventory. The once spacious location has become too small.
The City of Schulenburg and the Literary Club are again working hand-in-hand to make sure the Library remains a viable part of Schulenburg's future as well as her past. That description in 1902 of a library that "attends to the pertaining of a higher education and to elevating the moral tone of Schulenburg society to a higher plane" is still a worthy goal.
The Wandering Shul: Temple Israel
by Sandra Cernota Briones
In the late eighteen hundreds nestled in the middle of the Germans and Czechs, there resided a congregation of Jews known to some as the wandering shul. They had no painted churches with steeples that looked like they could touch the heavens. Their orthodox services were held privately inside homes near Columbus, Texas. By 1903 Jewish families extended into the Tri – County area consisting of Colorado, Fayette and Lavaca Counties.
Wandering from home to home with a Torah that had been moved around more than the congregation itself, it became necessary in 1905 for the wandering shul to settle down. The congregation leased the first floor of the Odd Fellows Hall in Hallettsville, Texas, and the Temple acquired the name Beth Asher. It was named after the man who contributed the most money towards the expenses of the new congregation. The Torah was stored in Hallettsville’s Fink Hotel. Beth Asher’s first Bar Mitzvah was celebrated in 1907. The Golden Rule Sunday School began in 1932, and the first confirmation took place in 1938.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that the Jewish Reform movement had spread to small Texas towns. Succeeding generations of Jewish families gradually leaned away from their former orthodox traditions. In 1945 the congregation wrote a new constitution and bylaws based on those of a Reform congregation in Houston. The newly-formed group met on April 19, 1946 and chose to replace the disliked Beth Asher name to Temple Israel.
When the Odd Fellows sold their building in Hallettsville in 1946, the Temple once again was a wandering shul. A meeting took place on Dec. 9, 1946 at the American Legion Hall in Schulenburg where the congregation discussed a temple of their very own. A vote was in favor to relocate and erect a synagogue in the center of the scattered Jewish community, Schulenburg, Texas located in Fayette County. Thirty-five thousand dollars was spent on a post World War II modern, red brick building designed by the architectural firm of N. Strauss Nayfach & Company. When Mr. Nayfach died in 1950, Leonard Gabert of Houston completed the Temple. The Torah finally had a permanent home.
The Temple Israel celebrated its dedication on September 16, 1951. Leader Hymann Ettlinger, a University of Texas mathematics professor, said that one day archaeologists studying this area would discover the Jewish star mounted on the Temple Israel’s western wall and realize “Jews were here” too.
History of Temple Israel – 1951 to present
by L. David Vogel
Note: Sandra Cernota Briones wrote a brief history of Temple Israel, published in the December 4, 2012 Fayette County Record, covering the period from the founding of the congregation in the 1870’s to 1951, when the congregation moved into its first, and current, permanent home at 201 Baumgarten in Schulenburg.
Following the dedication of the synagogue in Schulenburg, the congregation of long-time Jewish Texans known as Temple Israel of Schulenburg continued to prosper through the decade of the 1960’s. The new temple had become established as the geographic, as well as the spiritual and social center of the Jewish community covering about a five county region.
Jews continued during this time to serve as business and community leaders in many small cities in the area. Hirsch Schwartz, who along with his sister Amy Schwartz Lake, had donated the land for the new temple building, served as Mayor of Schulenburg until his death. Schwartz was the second Jewish mayor in Schulenburg’s history.
The children of long-time member families grew up and left the small cities of South Central Texas for college, then pursued careers in the big cities, becoming doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, art museum directors, and more.
Temple Israel membership declined from its peak of about 50 member households with growing children, to a handful of aging, empty nest members.
Temple Israel continued to hold High Holy Day services in the fall on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, conducted by visiting student rabbis and for many years by Rabbi Jerome Sherman, who traveled from Houston to lead services. The congregation also continued to gather annually for a Passover community seder. Occasional golden wedding anniversaries and funerals also brought temple members, families and friends back to Temple Israel.
By 1994, the local Jewish population had declined to just a few long-time members, including Leslie and Sarah Lippman, who continued to own and operate the family dry goods store, Ike Lippman and Son, in downtown Schulenburg. Sarah Lippman remained the driving force holding the congregation together, planning and hosting every occasion for the congregation to gather at Temple Israel.
In the fall of 1994, L. David Vogel was elected to serve as president of the congregation. Vickie Vogel was elected secretary-treasurer. The congregation faced a number of challenges at that time, including declining membership and physical decline of the building.
The remaining 18 dues paying member households and descendants of long time member families supported plans to replace the leaking roof. A number of grown children of members responded to the challenge to become supporting members of Temple Israel, and membership grew a bit and stabilized, providing sufficient funds to continue operating and to make annual improvements to the aging synagogue.
The old Star of David on the west wall, referenced in Part 1 of this story, had badly deteriorated and was replaced with a gleaming new stainless steel model. Interior walls and exterior trim were repainted. The 1951 upholstery on the pew seats was replaced, and new carpet was installed. Venetian blinds were repaired or replaced with new ones. A new refrigerator was purchased.
In 2001, Temple Israel celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Rabbi Roy Walter and Cantor Vadim Tunitsky of Houston’s Temple Emanuel led the commemorative service, which was attended by many.
Thanks to an influx of Jewish weekend landowners, by 2010 the congregation had grown to 40 member households. New officers could now be elected for the first time in 16 years. Vogel retired as president, and John Landa, a Houston attorney and weekend Fayette County farmer, was elected president. Sandy Meyerson, long-time local residential and commercial building contractor, was elected vice-president. Christy Cave, local retiree, took over as secretary. David Vogel stayed on as treasurer.
Since about 1997, all services have been lay-led. Rick Stein, son-in-law of Hirsh and Felice Schwartz, has led the Rosh Hashanah service, and David and Vickie Vogel have led Yom Kippur services for many years. Members participate by reading portions of the service, presenting sermons, blowing the shofar, and chanting from the Torah. Lifelong member Isyjean Korenek serves as cantorial soloist for the High Holy Days.
In 2012, the congregation decided to replace the aged air conditioning system, and to upgrade the 1951-era kitchen, thus modernizing the facilities and preparing for a continuing presence in Schulenburg for the next generation of area Jews. Vickie Vogel was elected to serve as the first female president of Temple Israel.
Temple Israel carries the distinction of having survived the demographic shift when younger family members left the area for brighter prospects. This marked a period when most small town synagogues were forced to close their doors forever. Many similar congregations were unable to weather such periods of declining membership.With the continuing trend of Jewish weekend farmers and retirees moving to the area, Temple Israel is in a position to continue to serve the now growing Jewish community of South Central Texas. As members sometimes proudly say, “We put the shul in Schulenburg.”
The Two Brothers Saloon
by Eugenia Reeves
Known throughout Fayette County as the “Two Brothers Saloon”, the two-story brick building owned by Charles and Gustav Sengelmann, was quite elegant. The large front hall, with a high ceiling, was supported by massive pillars and visitors dropped in for refreshments, a game of dominoes, billiards or pool or to read county newspapers. The brothers were the first who introduced a fine line of newspapers for their patron’s reading pleasure. In connection with the bar, a short order café was located in the rear which was operated by John and Louise David and later by Fritz Thoelke. A schooner of beer for 5 cents entitled customers to eat all the sandwiches they wanted that were always on the bar.
Many people believed the stove in the café caused Schulenburg’s great fire in 1893. The fire on October 10, 1893 burned a part of the west half of the downtown block along Upton Avenue from North Main to Anderson Street. The fire burned the Rud. Seydler’s “Centennial Hall’ Saloon, Sengelmann’s “Two Brothers” Saloon, Joe Russek’s “Sun-Sea” Saloon, Ignatz Russek’s General Store and Dr. Henry P. Overby’s office and residence and all sheds and warehouses in the back. Paul Breymann’s stone and brick drug store saved the east half of the block.
In 1894, the “Two Brothers” Saloon was rebuilt with an added first-class, second floor which served as a place for public balls, meetings, weddings and theatrical performances. It had an elegant hardwood, polished floor and measured 50 by 85 feet.
Charles and Gustav Sengelmann were leading dealers in choice wines and spirituous liquors. Sons of Hans Henry Sengelmann, Sr., they were both born, reared and educated in Sprenge, Holstein.
Hans Henry Sengelmann, Sr., was born in Germany on October 26, 1820 and died on January 14, 1907. He took an active part in the revolution of 1848 and was one of the five survivors of the war in his locality. He reared five childrenHenry, Johanna, August, Charles and Gustav.
August and Charles immigrated to Texas and first located at Columbus, where they were employed by their uncle, Henry Ilse. They saved their money and in 1876 settled in Schulenburg.
In 1885, August Sengelmann returned to Germany to visit his father and, on returning to America, brought back with him his brother, Gustav, to whom he sold his interest in the business in 1888. He went back to Germany and became proprietor of one of the leading hotels of Kiel, a seaport of Schleswig-Holstein. He carried on a large and profitable business until meeting his death in an automobile accident on July 13, 1905.
Charles Sengelmann married Elizabeth Arnim, native of Moulton, Lavaca County, Texas, daughter of A. A. and Von (Schaste) Arnim. They were the parents of nine children: Henry, Wally, Minnie, Molly, Charles, Lillie, Alexander, Klondike and Hester.
Like his brothers, Gustav Sengelmann received an excellent education in Germany. As previously mentioned, he came to the United States with his brother, August, in 1885, succeeded him in business and became an active member of the firm known as the “Two Brothers.” Gustav Sengelmann’s wife was formerly Bertha Sommer, who was born in Schulenburg and was the daughter of Ferdinand and Augusta Sommer. Her parents were both natives of Germany. Five children were born to Gustav and BerthaGustav, Jr., Silva, Wilbur, Ruth and Eunice.
Both Charles and Gustav Sengelmann were members of the Sons of Hermann and were recognized leaders of Schulenburg society. They stood well socially and financially, and had a high reputation for reliability in the county.
Gustav Senglemann is standing behind the bar, wearing a bowtie. Click on photo for enlarged view.
Excerpts taken from the “Legacies and Legends” column printed in the Schulenburg Sticker and Fayette biographies on this website.
Photographs and family history contributed by: Patricia Cox Marty, Eileen Cox Smith, Hugh and George Cox, grandchildren of Gustav Sengelmann
by Robert Moore and Gary E. McKee
On the southwest side of Schulenburg is a part of town referred to as Sandtown, due to its location in the sandy flood plain of the West Navidad River. This part of town was the home to the majority of the black population of Schulenburg for decades. For the last 60 years, the focal point of the community has been an establishment known as Wright’s Park.
In 1945, Mr. Olton Wright purchased several acres of land at the end of James Avenue. With the idea of a social center/dance hall/club, Mr. Wright and his wife, Josephine, set about to raise money to develop the land into what is now known as Wright’s Park. The plan was that while Olton worked at the Ruhmann’s shovel factory in Schulenburg, Josephine would take her four children to East Bernard and pick cotton for the summer. When the season was over, the Wrights had $500 to work with. Olton bought a building which had been used at the Schaefer Cotton Gin to store cotton seed hulls. With the help of family and friends, the building was dismantled and moved using a horse and wagon. While this was going on, Josephine and the children, using axes, handsaws, and shovels, set about removing the yaupon thicket which covered the land.
The year 1947 saw the construction of a wood frame building sheltered beneath large live oak trees. Juneteenth, 1948 was chosen to be the first day of operation. Juneteenth (June 19th ) is the anniversary date that the proclamation freeing the slaves of Texas was read in Galveston, Texas in 1865.
On June 19, 1948, Wright’s Park opened its doors. People from a 40 mile radius of Schulenburg attended, playing baseball, eating barbeque, and dancing into the night.
The popularity of Wright’s park grew. After a few years, Mr. Wright started the Southern Pacific Picnic. For many years, every 4th of July, a train full of families from San Antonio would ride the Southern Pacific railroad line to Schulenburg. The train would let everyone off at the Carnation plant siding on James Avenue, instead of the downtown depot. The “pilgrims” would walk several blocks to Wright’s Park. Church services would begin at 11:00 a.m. under the live oak trees, followed with dinner being served at noon. The afternoons were spent playing baseball and visiting with old friends and relatives. In the evening, there was always a big dance, with the “pilgrims” catching a late night train back to San Antonio.
With the success of the park, Mr. Wright continued to expand, focusing on the children by starting a zoo. Pens were built, and children got to see raccoons, possums, peacocks, and other local “wild” animals close up. His favorite was a monkey he made into a pet .For the adults; there was always a free sample of homemade wine made from the grapevines growing behind the hall.
When the black school building (J.A. Greene) was being replaced by a new brick one in 1952, classes were held inside of the Wright’s Park building. The dance floor was divided into four sections for the classes.
In 1960, Olton asked his daughter, Ora Mae to help out with the running of the park. Under her guidance, the park became a part of the Chitlin Circuit, the only places that would allow black musicians to play. She booked many acts that are now famous, such as B.B. King, and Albert Collins.
In 1962, Olton and Ora Mae, who was married to Clarence Moore, began their Easter celebration at the park. Every Easter Sunday, after church services, all the kids in the community would rush down to Wright’s Park, trying to get the largest Easter basket. Olton would always buy all the baskets and eggs that the children would hunt.
With the Schulenburg Festival parade becoming well-known, Olton built his first parade float based on the “old lady who lived in the shoe” and filled his float with the children of his neighborhood. The first year, 1972, he won first place. This inspired him to enter parades in surrounding towns, winning many awards.
As his health declined, Olton continued being a civic leader, with his daughter taking the lead. She has played Santa Claus for the community numerous times for the annual Christmas party for the area. The Class of 1976 of Schulenburg High had their first graduation party there, and the annual event continues today.
After Mr. Wright’s death in 1984, the Moore family remodeled the park and for a decade, the park continued to be open daily. In 1995, the park was scaled back and opened only for receptions, dances, and parties.
In September 1997, Robert Moore, the grandson of Mr. Olton Wright, reopened the park to serve the community. Under Robert’s guidance, Halloween Youth Parties, a Christmas formal and a Red and White Ball on Valentine’s Day have been held at the park; now the yearly Juneteenth Anniversary Celebration is held. Robert has also sponsored cemetery cleanups and trail rides.
From June 16th thought the 19th, come on down to Wrights Park to join in the various festivities, which feature a parade on Sunday afternoon in downtown Schulenburg.
Two Strange Women Cause Excitement
by Gary E. McKee
The author came across this article in a Schulenburg Sticker printed in January of 1927. The headline above was the papers’, not only caught my eye because of its content, but the surrounding headlines on the page were as exciting as: “City Grading Streets,” “City Making Nice Profit On Water,” “To Put Down 300 Ft. More of Gravel ”and “Garage Robbed” (see following story.) The story gives interesting insight into law enforcement procedures of the time, journalistic styles and culture of this county. The story:
“Considerable excitement prevailed here in Town Tuesday due to two strange women who were walking through the Country.
The two women claimed they came from Los Angeles, Calif. They came to Schulenburg early in the morning, drank some coffee at Scheler and Borches then came to the Busy Bee and drank some more coffee, here one embraced a tall strange man, making a date for later in the day. Sheriff Loessin, who was here, was informed of their presence, but they had temporarily disappeared. He ordered that they be detained and searched if they came back, thinking they might be members of the gang who entered Vogt’s Garage and stole $60 and later broke into Blaschke Bros. garage where some small losses were checked up.
At night the women showed up again at the Busy Bee, getting into a fight with a man and creating a rough house in general. They were notified to get out or an officer would be called, they started out. City Marshall Schwenke heard of them again and deputized Chas. Guenther and Frank Tillicek (sic) to assist in locating and arresting them. Schwenke took the Weimar road and the other men the La Grange road. The women were located on the La Grange road about a mile out doing a hurried get-a-way. They were told to stop but instead started cursing and running, after they were caught they got hard and refused to consider themselves under arrest, the younger girl slapped the gun aside, daring the holder to shoot, telling him he was too big a coward to shoot her. They were finally calmed down and brought to town where they were placed in jail and searched. Later they were turned out and carried out of town with orders to keep out. They did.
The author then read the story of the garage being robbed (C.A. Vogt’s Chevrolet) which the paper had deduced that the perpetrator was a local sneak thief that climbed in a back window and got the safe’s combination out the cash register.
The article on the city grading the streets in a rapid manner complimented Mr. Munke and his son doing excellent work and “the City Papas seem anxious to accomplish a lot for our taxpayers now.” The last sentence added that the paper doesn’t think this flurry of activity has anything to do with the upcoming election in three months.
By the way the City of Schulenburg was making a profit of over $100 a month since it took over the water works from a private entity.
And that’s the way it was in January of 1927 in Schulenburg Texas.
Beginning of the dairy business in Schulenburg
by Florence Farek
On April 3, 1929 a Ford Tri-motor plane arrived from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to deliver a handsome 6 month old bull calf with the title of Carnation Badger Aero Lone Star. The plane landed in Ripper’s pasture in High Hill. The bull was wearing a maroon blanket introducing him as “The Flying Bull.”
Schulenburg Mayor Rudolph Nordhausen, City Council Members O.H. Wolters, W.R. Keuper, Alfonse Herzik, O.B. Schwenke, Ernst Russek, Max Schwartz, and Chamber of Commerce Manager, Myke Klein met with community leaders from Fayette and surrounding counties, Carnation Company representatives, local dairy farmers, railroad officials, and farm supply stores to convince them to build its first Texas milk processing plant in Fayette County. Schulenburg was selected as the site for the $500,000. facility which would be processing condensed milk. Land for the plant was purchased from Ernst Baumgarten.
On the morning of April 3rd eight planes brought railway officials, industry officials and politicians to Houston to board one of the ten special trains, which also brought hundreds of Shriners and their bands, the Texas A&M Band, and private cars of politicians.
There were an estimated 20,000 people in attendance for the event. The parade down Main Street prior to the ground breaking included the bands and a herd of Holstein cows. Local pianist, Mrs. Edgar Laas wrote “The Carnation March” to be performed at the parade. Local State Representative, Gus Russek had the honor of introducing Governor, Dan Moody. The activities were filmed by three film studios to be shown as newsreels in movie theaters throughout the nation
The famous “Flying Bull” was one of several bulls imported for breeding a superior herd to improve the milk production.
Carnation sold out to Mid America Dairymen (now Dairy Farmers of America) effective December 1, 1974. The company processed cottage cheese for the State of Texas, individual coffee creamers and sweet and plain condensed milk which was used to make Carnation Ice Cream.
Since 1990, DFA’s Schulenburg plant has been manufacturing shelf-stable cheese dips and salsa for Frito-Lay.
In 2009 the plant underwent a major renovation. The $42 million project, which included adding physical space and new equipment, was expected to add at least 70 new jobs to the community. The city of Schulenburg provided substantial assistance.
A little bull goes a long way!
Note: F.H. Nuttlemann, who manufactured (hand rolled) cigars in his home sold them under the “Flying Bull” brand, supposedly as far away as Chicago.
Courtesy of Schulenburg Historical Museum and The Schulenburg Sticker
14 October 1893, page 3
THE SCHULENBURG FIRE.
The little city of Schulenburg came very near being destroyed by fire Wednesday morning. A fire, supposed to have been of incendiary origin, started in Charley Senglemann's liquor warehouse about 3 o'clock, and in a few moments communicated to the adjoining buildings. Schulenburg is almost without any facilities for fighting fire, and in a few moments after the dreaded alarm rang out it seemed that the entire business part of town was doomed. A young man name Burger (brother of our Louis) roomed over Sengleman's saloon, and when he awoke the flames were creeping upstairs, and he was compelled to jump to save his life. The fire spread rapidly, and soon destroyed Senglemann's saloon, a barber shop, a store owned by a Jew, John Oltmann's saloon, Russek's bank, several residences, and the residence and a photograph gallery of Mr. R. J. Zimmermann. The flames were checked by the big stone buildling occupied by A. Grave's drugstore (the old Breymann & Schulte stand), otherwise the entire business portion of the town would have been destroyed. The people of Schulenburg worked like heroes in fighting the flames, but as they had no fire deparment, they were greatly hampered. The loss will be great. A reporter for THE MERCURY visited Schulenburg Wednesday afternoon, and secured the follwing data in regard to the losses by the fire:
John Oltmann, saloon, loss between $2,000 and $3000.
New Orleans Brewing association, saloon, loss $3000; insured for $1400.
R. J. Zimmermann, loss on dwelling and photograph gallery, $2000; no insurance.
Ignaz Russek, bank; loss unknown.
Crawford, shooting gallery, loss $75.
Chas. Senglemann, saloon, loss $4000; insured for $600.
Emil Werth, groceries, loss about $200.
Green & Co., gnereal merchandie; loss covered by insurance.
F. Wendel, sotorehouse, loss $300.
G. M. Johnson, barber shop, loss $700.
Chas. margolius, gneral merchandise, loss $6000; insurance $1000.
John Matula, warehouse.
Chas. Kessler, three dwelling houses, loss $2000.
Contact Rox Ann if you have old photographs from Schulenburg that you would like to contribute.
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