FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS
A Footprints of Fayette article by Carolyn Heinsohn:
by Carolyn Heinsohn
The sleepy little village of Ammannsville, Texas, located approximately eleven miles south of La Grange, once was a thriving community filled with a variety of businesses, in addition to a fraternal lodge hall, a Catholic Church and a number of different schools. Intersected by FM Rd. 1383 that meanders from Hwy 77 South through Ammannsville and Dubina to Hwy 90 A, the community now is a mere shadow of its early days, when local farmers brought their cotton to the gins, traded in the stores, gathered together for social events at the lodge hall and worshipped at the church on Sundays.
Surrounded by rolling hills with pastures and an occasional grove of trees, the area just west of Ammannsville was first settled by Andrew Ammann, a native of the Empire of Austria, who received his architectural training and certification in Switzerland. He immigrated to the United States circa 1843 and made his way to La Grange, where he assisted with the design and construction of the first Fayette County jail. In early 1870, he purchased 300 acres of land in the W.A. Hall League between present-day Ammannsville and Swiss Alp. The two communities both owe their names to Ammann – one directly linked to his name, and the other in memory of his place of education.
Immigrant Czech and German settlers looking for suitable farm land began arriving in the area in the 1870s and 1880s. By 1890, Ammannsville, with its predominantly Czech population, had grown into a fairly sizeable community. It was the seat of Precinct 7, had a precinct courthouse, a small jail and was served by ten justices from 1876 to 1950, when the precinct was abolished. The courthouse and jail buildings were later sold and moved.
Since the majority of the settlers were farmers, and cotton was the principal cash crop, a cotton gin was one of the first businesses to be built in the area in 1870. By 1877, three gins were built in the community with the most successful one operated by Theofil Heller, Sr., who was a native of Alsace-Lorraine. The gins changed owners and locations through the years, as well as having progressed from wood-fired steam operations to gasoline engines. The only remaining gin building, that closed its doors in 1960, is the one that was owned and operated by Willie Bohuslav, Sr. – it stands as a silent reminder of the bustling days of ginning when “Cotton was King”.
By 1877, Henry Hoelster had opened a saloon where the present-day KJT Hall is located. The property was eventually sold in 1923 to the KJT fraternal organization for their new lodge hall. The hall not only provided a meeting place for the organization, but also a great venue for a variety of social activities, primarily dances, which were the favorite form of entertainment for the local residents. Weddings, reunions, funeral dinners and the annual church feast held every Father’s Day are still being held in the same hall that has had some renovations and additions.
The oldest general mercantile store, which included a dance platform, was built by Eckert Stuarcke in 1885. He later sold it to Josef Vacek, Jr., who advertised his business in 1902 as the “Oldest General Merchandise Business in Ammannsville with a first class saloon and fine hall for dancing with theatrical performances that have established a reputation in the southern half of Fayette County.” The post office, which was also located in the store, was discontinued in 1906. Thereafter, Ammannsville was a mail route of Weimar until the 1920s, when it was switched to Schulenburg. Today some parts of the area are served by the La Grange post office.
Josef Vacek, Jr. also advertised stud services with his thoroughbred stallion, Boss, and his Kentucky Jack. After selling his business to John F. Cernosek, L.G. Bartos and J.M. Bartos, he moved to Dubina where he farmed until moving to Weimar, Texas. John A. Bartosh (name change), who bought the business from his father in 1927 and became the leading merchant in town, also bought and sold cotton and turkeys. When Mr. Bartosh died in 1984, the business closed, but the building is still standing in relatively good condition.
J.V. Dobrava erected another general merchandise store and dance platform in 1895. It eventually was sold to F.J. Parma, an emerging leader in the community, who later helped found the First State Bank of Ammannsville, which was located next to his store. After Parma’s death, the institution was operated by several other family members until the stock market crash of 1929, when the bank was forced to close. The general merchandise store was eventually purchased by Albert J. Cernosek, who operated it as a grocery store and meat market until 1967. The dilapidated building is still standing, surrounded by encroaching vegetation.
There was a previous meat market operated by Emil and Joe Barta, who also operated a hammer mill at his farm. An automotive garage was built by Adolf J. Kristek in 1916. The last owner was R.B. Jasek, who operated the garage until 1956.
Blacksmiths were an absolute necessity in every community in the earlier days when implements and tools had to be made, and horseshoes were essential. The first village blacksmith was a Mr. Naiser, who sold his business to John Kocurek. Other smithies were owned by John Krupa, John Sumbera, Ed Rabel and Fred Rabel, the last known blacksmith in Ammannsville, who closed his business in 1966.
A two-building business that housed a doctor’s office and drug store on one side and a pool hall on the other was built in Ammannsville in 1917 by J.J. Fietsam. After several owners, the drug store was eventually purchased by Justin V. Bartos, who sold pharmaceuticals, sundries, snacks and tobacco products. The store also had a soda fountain and ornate bar where beer, soft drinks and ice cream were served. The store, which served as a popular gathering place for locals to enjoy pool, dominoes and other games, as well as a nickelodeon, closed in 1985. The two buildings were sold and moved to a location between Weimar and Schulenburg.
The J. V. Bartos Drug Store in Ammannsville, Texas;
from “The History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Ammannsville, Texas 1890-1990”
The community was served by at least eight different physicians, beginning with Dr. Holman and ending with Dr. Lewis. Although some practiced in their homes, and others took care of patients in the doctor’s office in Ammannsville, they all made house calls. An advertisement in 1902 in F. Lotto’s history on Fayette County stated: “Dr. John S. Zvesper, Ammannsville, Texas, is prepared to treat cases of alcoholism and diseases of women at his residence….telephone connection with all points in county and state.”
There were also midwives in the area, including Magdalena Vacek, wife of Josef Vacek. She delivered a fairly large number of babies in the community from the time of her arrival in 1876 until old age affected her ability to continue.
Two brothers, Louis and Innoc Tofel, now deceased, opened the last remaining commercial business in Ammannsville in 1949. Known as Tofel’s Place, the beer joint has been a popular place to quench one’s thirst or play a game of dominoes. The original building was sold and moved to a private farm; however, due to popular demand, Innoc purchased another similar building and re-opened his business, which is currently being operated by George Tofel.
The Fietsam family operated a molasses press for the local farmers for three generations. Joseph J. and wife, Ida, started their mule-driven operation in 1914. Their son, Arnold, continued operating the business with his wife, Irma, until they retired in 1970. However, they updated the system for cooking molasses several times throughout the years. It was not uncommon for them to cook approximately 3,000 gallons of molasses every year during sorghum cane season. They were occasionally assisted by their grown children in later years.
Regardless of which approach is chosen to enter Ammannsville, the first landmark that one sees is the steeple of the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which is the only church in the community. Ammannsville is one of four totally Catholic communities in Fayette County. The other three are Praha, Hostyn and Dubina. The present church is the third at that location.
The early Catholic settlers attended services at Bluff (Hostyn) or Dubina. In 1889, the area Catholics decided to build their own church. Eleven and one-quarter acres of land were donated by Peregrin Fiser, Josef Vacek, Sr. and Theofil Heller for a church, school and cemetery. The small church, which was completed in 1890, was demolished by an inland hurricane in 1909. Wood salvaged from the church was used to construct a rectory for the priest, and a new church was erected by November 1910. Disaster struck again when that church was completely destroyed by fire in October 1917. Six statues and a crucifix fortunately were rescued by area residents. Those items were placed in a newly-constructed church that was dedicated in December 1919. The beautiful Gothic-Revival church with its intricately painted decorative interior is now included in the popular “Painted Churches Tour”.
The adjacent cemetery has a number of artistic metal crosses and old ornate tombstones, many of which have Czech inscriptions that include the villages of origin of early immigrant settlers. The old rectory is now being renovated to be used as a venue for church-related activities.
There were a number of schools in Ammannsville, including public schools, a German school, a Czech school and Catholic parochial schools, all for grades 1-8. In the earlier days, older students rarely attended high school, because they were needed to help on the farms. A student would have had to leave home and board with someone in a larger town in order to attend high school. The schools were operational at different times depending upon the number of students attending and the financial backing. The school terms were based on planting and harvesting seasons. An interesting practice in the Ammannsville schools was the use of Catholic nuns in the public school for many years. The last school that existed was the Catholic parochial school that burned in 1954. Thereafter, the majority of the local children were bussed to St. Edward’s Catholic School in Dubina for five years until it closed in 1959, and thereafter to St. Rose Catholic School in Schulenburg. By that time, higher education was considered to be more of a necessity, so teenagers attended Bishop Forrest Catholic High School or the public high school in Schulenburg. Those living closer to La Grange attended high school there.
Today, any activity in Ammannsville revolves around the Catholic Church, the cemetery, the KJT Hall and Tofel’s Place. There are still a few local residents who enjoy their choice of a rural lifestyle in this quiet setting—a one stop-sign village seemingly caught in a time-warp.
“Centennial History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Ammannsville 1890-1990”. The Schulenburg Sticker; 1990.
Lotto, F. Fayette County Her History and Her People; Sticker Steam Press, Schulenburg, Texas, 1902.
16 Feb 1882, page 2
COURT HOUSE BURNED.—On Monday night Justice Smith's court house at Ammansville [sic.] was burned down and the dockets, records, and all court papers completely destroyed. It is at present unknown who set it on fire, but no one doubts that it was the work of an incendiary. The store of Mr. L. Shrubar, which was near the burnt building, and was saved only by the most heroic efforts.—Journal.
The Weimar Mercury
Ammannsville is situated about half way between Weimar and La Grange in Fayette county. It is a flourishing settlement. The land in Ammannsville and vicinity is rather hilly, but very fertile. To prove this I mention but the one fact that Mr. Joe [Fietsam] gathered about 55 bushels of corn per acre. The population of the village consists mainly of Germans and Bohemians, the latter having an overwhelming majority. There are but few Americans. Ammannsville has two stores. One is owned by Messrs. E. Sturecke and Chas. Kipple. This store has a selected and assorted stock of goods and is a great convenience to the farmers around here who do not care for traveling ten miles by going to Weimar or LaGrange. Right near the store is a commodious hall 35 X 60 feet used for dancing and social purposes.
Messrs. Sturcke and Kipple also keep a saloon. They are very accommodating, enterprising and steady young men and are bound to succeed. The other store is owned by John Karlisek, who is very popular around here. There is also a barroom connected with his store. As to mechanics [Ammannsville] can show up carpenters innumerable, for a good many farmers know how to build and erect a house.
Besides there are two blacksmiths, John [Kruppa] and Loals Ruffel. The latter has traveled around a good deal and at last concluded to locate here. He is an excellent hand to shoe a horse. In this respect everybody must highly recommend him.
Two gins and mills are next in order. One is owned by Mr. Theophil Heller, one of the most wealthy men in Fayette county, and the other by Messrs. Mewes and Koenig. The former has been elected Squire recently, and is an energetic young man who is not afraid of anybody, metes out justice without fear and partiality.
We have three molasses presses owned respectively by Messrs Joe [Fietsam], Sobotik and Pratka. The former is well known in the Prairie City, having his parents, brother, brother-in-law and other relatives there. Fresh meat is served and sold every week by our efficient and pollie[sic.] butchers, Joe Munke and Peter Varek.
People that want to have shoes mended and repaired find a good and cheap cobbler in the person of Chas. Genser. Mr. Genser does his work thoroughly and tends to his business.
Last, but not least, it is my duty to mention Frank Zrubek. He is a miller and baker by profession. But this did not satisfy his ambition, he wanted to rise higher. He is now land agent and sells land from $5 to $10 per acre. The land is situated in several of the northern counties. Mr. Zrubek, is in perpetual motion, always active and always talking about the thousands (?) of acres he has for sale. He mostly travels on foot and sometimes exhibits advertisements concerning the sale of land tied with a pin to the back of his coat. Strangers who chance to come to Ammannsville are earnestly requested to call on our important land agent.
The Ammansville school is kept in a building formerly used as a residence by Mr. Smith. The house is well coiled and contains two rooms. As the schoolhouse is very close and commodious and besides has two stoves in it, the children and tutors do not suffer in any way from the cold. The pupils — 100 are on the list — are instructed by Messrs. John Drozd and Emil Juergens. The teaching is conducted in English, but the children have also an opportunity to study German and Bohemian. The school commenced the 20th of October last and will be closed about the middle of April. Three Josephs constitute the trustee board, viz: Messrs. Jos. Bartos, Jos. Fietsam and Jos. Vacek. All three have a good reputation in this community and have been honored with the office because they are well qualified to protect and advance the interests of both teachers and scholars. And so mote it be!
The son of Mr. Vacek is Constable for this beat. He is well fitted for the office on account of his integrity, pluck and energy. If you meet Joe, you take him for being to[sic.] good-humored and polite as Constable. But you must by no means think that he does not understand to preserve orders. I have seen him last summer how he subdued and handcuffed in the twinkling of an eye an evil-doer who was kicking against the peace and dignity of the State of Texas.
As farmers can do nothing in the fields at present several young men enjoyed themselves by going hunting. The most persevering nimrod of all is our young, polite merchant, Eckhardt Stuercke who went on a fox hunt every day last week. We wish Eckhardt much success in capturing the rare game. To the line of curiosities which are to be seen in Ammansville belong several large bones and teeth that were found in Mr. Joe Fietsam's pasture. They seem to me to be mastodon bones and teeth. The esteemed reader will get an idea of the volume of the teeth if I assure that there are some which weigh 5 lbs. and others even 20 lbs. A nice weight, indeed, for a single tooth! Mr. Fietsam is willing to sell some of the bones and teeth if he can get a fair price. I must add that most of those found are in good order.
From Fayette County, Her History and Her People by F. Lotto, 1902:
Ammannsville, the seat of the justice court of precinct No. 7, Fayette County, is one of the most thriving little country towns in the county. It is situated in a rich blackland prairie on the Fayette County school lands, about eleven miles south of La Grange. It is a nice handsome place; the population is German and Bohemian and as liberal and generous as can be found in the county. Most of the people are communicants of the Catholic Church. They own a fine church building in which their resident priest, Rev. Joe Szimanski, preaches to large and attentive audiences. The town has two schools, one under the management of Prof. A. Pastusek, the other under the management of Miss M. Vrazel. Ammannsville does a considerable business. It has three stores and saloons, two blacksmith shops, one drugstore, one physician and two gins. The business men of Ammannsville showed themselves most liberal in their patronage of the work of the writer, and the latter, therefore, wishes them abundant success which in every way they merit. The writer had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Dr. John S. Zvesper, a learned Bohemian physician; Mr. J. J. Vacek the jovial postmaster of Ammansville; F. J. Parma, one of the most successful pushing business men in the county; Joseph Vacek, Jr., owner of fine thoroughbred stallions; F. F. Ohnheiser, the Ammannsville architect; T. R. Heller, J. P. Heller and J. J. Munke, the popular ginners, of solid standing and reliability; F. A. Ganzer, the blacksmith whom it would be hard to beat in his line of work.
Josph. J. Munke is pictured on the left at his cotton gin & saw mill. Click on the photo to get a larger view. Photo contributed by Jon Todd Koenig. The building no longer exists.
Ammannsville was located on the Fayette County school lands, which became settled in the early seventies. The place was named after old man A. Ammann, one of the oldest settlers of the county, a man who was widely known as an excellent architect. Other old settlers were F. Kossa, Sr., J. Vacek, Sr., F. Sobolik, deceased, J. Heller, deceased, P. Fiser, Jno. Stefek, Aug. Pauler, J. J. Fietsam, Jos. Munke, Chas. Munke, Jno. Lewis, deceased, Jos. Bartas and his brother and Henry Holster.
|The Weimar Mercury
8 Nov 1935
History of Ammannsville
ACCUMULATED FROM VARIOUS RECORDS AND FROM PIONEERS WHO FOUNDED AND RESIDED IN AMMANNSVILLE, TEXAS.
It's Early Settlement.
AMMANNSVILLE, a village in the southeastern part of Fayette county, Texas, according to best available records, was founded in the year 1870. Andres Ammann was the first to settle and start a permanent home here and the settlement was later named in his honor. The first to follow Mr. Ammann into this community were a man name Runnels, Rudolph Snajstrla and family. Chas. Munke and family, J. J. Holloway and the Duve family, all of whom came during the [latter] part of 1870.
In 1872 Frank Kossa, who had resided in the Bluff, now Hostyn, section since 1856, moved to the Ammannsville community. The next year found the following emigrants settling in this section: The family of Frank Sobotik, Frank Barta, Kristian Koether, Frank Horak, Jos. R. Bartos, Joseph Kneitz and Alois Filip. The following emigrants came in 1874: The mother of Jos. R. Bartos and two of his brothers, Roman and Valentin. In 1876 the families of Martin and Valentin Srubar, Peregrin Fisher, Joseph Vacek, Jos. Munke, Jos. Muzny, Ignac Muzny, Tom Smith, John Steffek and Theofil Heller came to this section. The year 1877 added J. J. Fietsam, Fritz Brandes, Mr. Warrenken [Warnken?], Mr. Schumacher and Paul Farek. The year 1879 found the village rapidly growing, especially in number of Czech and German families.
The hardships to which these early settlers were subjected are almost unbelievable to the present generations. Especially so are their tales of long trips made with oxen to more distant places. A round trip to Houston usually required a month or more.
About 1876 Henry Holster founded the first place of business here. He sold out to Valentin Srubar, who in turn sold the business to Paul Farek and Valentin Kadlecka. This partnership business was bought out later by Joseph Stavinoha. Mr. Stavinoha rebuilt and enlarged the building, which was made to include a dance hall. Illness caused him to sell out to Jos. F. Lidiak. Later Peter Jurasek bought the business from Mr. Lidiak. He in turn sold out to Joseph Anders. Harry Knebel now a merchant at Weimar, bought the business from Mr. Anders. Mr. Knebel sold out to John Barta, Sr., who in turn sold to his son-in-law, Jos. Barton. In 1924 Mr. Barton sold the building to the K. J. T. and K. J. Z. T. lodges. The lodges tore down the old structure and built the present K. J. T. and K. J. Z. T. Hall.
Another place of business was started in 1878. It was established by Mr. Duve, who in 18?? sold the business to Theofil Heller. Mr. Heller sold out the merchandise and rented the building to Fritz Munke. Mr. Munke remained in business for two years and then retired. The building was later moved and business in it was discontinued.
In 1885 Eckert Stuercke erected a larger business [establishment], including a dance platform. After several years he sold out to J. J. Vacek and Chas. Rippel. Later Mr. Vacek became sole owner, but we bought out by John F. Cernosek. The latter in turn disposed of the business to L. G. Bartos. In 1912 Mr. Bartos sold out to his brother, John M. Bartos, who in 1927 sold the business to his son. John A. Bartos, the present merchant.
The year 1895 found J. V. Dobrava [Doubrave?] erecting a new building, which provided a business place and dance platform. Mr. Dobrava conducted the business for several years. He sold out to F. J. Parma, who was a popular leader of the people of this community. His business prospered and he had to build several additions to his establishment. Mr. Parma's untimely death in 1915 was a great loss to the community. After his passing the business was managed by Mrs. Parma with the aid of her children. F. J. Parma Jr. bought the business from his mother, later selling to the present owner, Willie Bohuslav.
In 1917 J. J. Fietsam bought a parcel of land from Edward Rabel and constructed two business buildings. One building was used for a doctor's office and drug store, which the other was used for a pool room. The stockholders of the drug store were F. J. Parma, J. J. Fietsam, Dr. Anderson deCalb Lewis and J. M. Bartos. Messrs. Bartos and Parma finally sold their stock to Mr. Fietsam and Dr. Lewis. Later Dr. Lewis sold his half interest to Mr. Fietsam and moved away from Ammannsville. Mr. Fietsam sold a half interest to J. V. Dobrava. Chas. Naiser came along and bought out Mr. Dobrava's interest and later became sole owner by purchasing Mr. Fietsam's share. In 1923 the buildings and land were sold to Matej Bohac and the following year Mr. Naiser sold the drug store business to J. V. Bartosh. The drug store and cold drink business is still carried on in one building by Mr. Bartosh, while the other building is being used by the owner, Mr. Bohac, for a meat market.
|The cotton growing industry was prospering in the Ammannsville community, and soon a cotton gin became necessary. The first gin was built east of Ammannsville by Mr. Hefner in 1870. He operated the gin for several years and then quite the business. In 1872 the community's second gin was constructed northeast of the town by Mr. Lewis, who later also abandoned the enterprise. The third and successful gin was erected in 1877 in Pale's Grove, about a half mile east of Ammannsville, by Theofil Heller, Sr. In 1879 Mr. Heller decided to tear down the old gin and re construct it along more modern lines. He installed the most up-to-date machinery that could be obtained at that time. With the amount of cotton steadily increasing, this gin prospered. However, after Mr. Heller had sold the enterprise to his sons., Theofil Heller, Jr., and John Heller, a fire destroyed it. In 1888 a new gin was erected by the Mewes and Koenig company, and new and modern machinery was installed. It was later sold to Theofil Heller, Jr. and Joseph Munke. After several years of successful operation, they sold the gin to Frank E. Pargac, who also managed it successfullly until it was destroyed by fire. Mr. Pargac sold the premised to Jos. J. Barta. He immediately erected a new gin building and installed modern machinery of the Murray type. After several very successful years, Mr. Barta sold out to his son, John R. Barta, and Willie Bohuslav. The latter subsequently bought out Mr. Barta's interest. Under his ownership the gin still prospers.
The year 1876 found the community in need of a blacksmith. Mr. Naiser became Ammannsville's first blacksmith, building his smithy, not under the spreading chestnut tree, but under a spreading china tree. He later sold out to John Kocurek, who was shot in a mysterious way. The smithy was accordingly abandoned and finally was destroyed. Mr. Kruppa then erected a new smithy, which he sold to Fritz Ganzer. It was destroyed in the storm of 1909. The present smithy was constructed by John Sumbera. Mr. Sumbera sold out to Edward Rabel, who operated the shop until 1926, when he sold his smithy and real estate holdings to Matej Bohac. Mr. Rabel's son, Fred, rented the smithy from Mr. Bohac and became Ammannsville's blacksmith after 1926. Fred Tengler later bought the machinery and tools from Mr. Bohac and Took over the blacksmith business. Mr. Tengler in turn sold the machinery and tools to Mr. Bohac. Mr. Spann was engaged as blacksmith, but was injured in an automobile accident and had to retire, being followed by Mr. Kasmir. Mr. Bohac finally sold out to his son. Adolph Bohac, who is the present blacksmith.
Ammannsville's next establishment was the Ammannsville State Bank. This institution was founded in 1914. It was possible to have the institution mainly through the efforts of George Herder of Weimar, F. J. Parma, J. J. Fietsam, John F. Kossa, John M. Bartos, Jos. W. Kossa and John A. Cernosek. The above mentioned stockholders and numerous minor stockholders accumulated enough capital to start the bank. George Herder served as first president and F. J. Parma was the bank's first cashier. Mr. Parma was followed in that capacity by his sons, Ivan C. Parma, Albert P. Parma and Frank J. Parma. The bank liquidated and the doors were closed in 1929. The building and fixtures were sold.
Establishment of a garage was next in Ammannsville's business history. Adolph J. Kristek erected a building and opened for business in 1916. Being drafted into service during the World War, he sold out to twenty-three stockholders. These stockholders, after a number of years of business, sold out to John A. Cernosek and his son, James A. Cernosek. The latter and his brother, John L. Cernosek, conducted the business for several years and then sold out to R. B. Jasek, the present owner.
Ammannsville since the year 1876 has been the place for holding justice court in this precinct. The following justices of the peace have served: Tom Smith, 1876-1881; Wm. Perry, 1881-1884; E. Hubbard, 1884-18885; W. J. Roberts, 1885-1887; A. J. Knapek, 1886-1899; Frank E. Mews, 1889-1892; Jos. J. Fietsam, 1892-1898; Henry Laturnus, 1898-1901; Peter J. Janacek, 190-1912; J. V. Dobrava, 1912-1931; and J. M. Bartos, 1931, to the present time.
Doctors who practiced medicine in Ammannsville are: Dr. Holman, Dr. McGee, Dr. J. S. Zvesper, Dr. Shaver, Dr. Byard, Dr. Daehne, Dr. Fuller, and Dr. Anderson deCalb Lewis. Dr. Lewis was the community's last physician.
The community's first public school was erected in 1876, about a quarter of a mile west of Ammannsville. Mr. Brandes and Mr. Fiala were the first teachers. Mr. Fiala resigned and Jos. R. Bartos became Mr. Brandes' assistant. After some time a larger building was bought from Tom Smith and was remodeled into a school building. The first teachers in this school were Tom Smith and J. J. Vacek. They were followed by A. J. Fastusek and Mr. Treptoo.
About this time a new school was built by the German population. This, a two-story building, was completed in 1890. The first floor was used as a school and the second floor was used as a Hermann Sons lodge hall. The successive teachers were as follows: Mr. Treptoo, Mr. Krackler, Miss Latimore, Miss Graves, Miss Vrazel, Miss Moebus, Miss Mary Melchar, Miss Alma Melcher, Miss Vitle, Miss Natie Melchar, and Miss Stastny. The school was damaged by the storm of 1900. However, it was repaired and teaching continued there until 1909, when another storm struck the building, and teaching was discontinued. Miss Stastny was the school's last instructor.
Meanwhile, in the other school, sometimes called the Czech public school, teaching continued. Mr. Treptoo having been employed by the German public school, Alois Kallus followed Mr. Fastisek as teacher, Joseph Drozd followed him and after several years was succeeded by F. J. Parma. Upon the latter's resignation, teaching duties were again placed in charge of Mr. Pastusek, who several years later resigned and moved to Oklahoma. Mr. Juricek was his successor, taught for one year and resigned.
|About 1904 the scholastic population of the Ammannsville district was about 166 pupils. The small building was getting crowded and therefore it was decided to erect a larger one. The old structure was sold to Chas. Bartos and a new building was completed the same year. Catholic nuns were the first teachers in the new school. They served faithfully for a number of years, being followed by Mr. Kulhanek and Mr. Darilek. It was about this time that the German school was discontinued because the building was damaged by storms. Mr. Kulhanek was succeeded by Mr. Hajek as Mr. Darilek's assistant. The latter was followed by Mr. Morkovsky. The teaching staff was then increased to three, with Mr. Morkovsky, Miss Angelina Skripka and Miss Elma Hennige in charge. They were followed by Mr. Adler and Mr. Hilscher, Mr. Bohuslav later replacing Mr. Adler. Miss Ida Trial succeeded Mr. Hilscher and taught with Mr. Bohuslav. Mrs. Bohuslav later succeeded Miss Trial. Mr. and Mrs. Bohuslav served as the last teachers in the public school, as the building was sold to the church in 1925 and was then used for a parochial school, with the nuns as teachers.
That same year a new public school building was erected, thus giving Ammannsville two schools again. Mr. and Mrs. Bohuslav were employed as the teachers, the latter being released later, leaving the duties to Mr. Bohuslav. Miss Olga Kahanek and Marie Fisher next saw service and taught together until an untimely death took away one of the community's best citizens, Miss Fisher, in 1935. She was succeeded by Miss Vlasta Zaruba, who is Miss Kahanek's assistant this year.
Ammannsville's first Catholic settlers attended church services at Bluff. In 1889 the Rev. P. Wronsky conducted the first Catholic services at Ammannsville on the porch of the home of Jos. R. Bartos, which place is no the Chas. Mazoch estate. The first meeting of members for the purpose of erecting a church was held in September, 1889. The result was an agreement to build a church. Peregrin Fisher, Jos. Vasek, Sr., and Theofil Heller donated 11 1/4 acres of land for the church grounds and cemetery. The cornerstone was laid in March, 1890, and a wooden church, 80 X 30 ft., was completed the same year at a cost of $800. Dedication of the new building was held the same year, with the Rev. Bishop Neraz of San Antonio conducting the ceremonies, assisted by a number of priests.
The Ammannsville church was somewhat of a mission church to the Bluff parish. The Rev. Julius Vrana served as the first mission priest until November, 1894. He is still active in Slovanic parishes in Pennsylvania. Rev. C. J. Benes, now of Nada, took over the parish duties in that year and served until 1897. Rev. B. Neubert followed Father Benes, serving until March, 1901. Very Rev. Jos. Szymanski, now of Weimar, was Father Neubert's successor, serving the parish untill 1906. Next in line was Rev. Jos. Horacek, who served until 1903, when he was succeeded by Rev. Emil Schindler, now deceased. Father Schindler and the present pastor, Rev. Alfons Raska, were seminary students together at San Antonio. In 1909 Rev. Father Heckman was assigned to administer to the spiritual wants of the parish, but he remained only a few months. The honor of Monsignor was later conferred upon this minister, who is now stationed in Fredericksburg.
The Ammannsville church was damaged greatly by a storm which struck the community on June 21, 1909. Shortly afterwards on July 25, a meeting was called by Rev. Frank Machan, who had succeeded Father Heckman, and it was agreed to build a new church at once. The architects and builders were the Matustik brothers. The new church was formally dedicated on November 24, 1910, by Most Rev. Bishop Shaw of San Antonio. At this time confirmation was also administered, 160 receiving the sacrament.
Lumber that was salvaged from the old church was utilized in erecting a rectory. Ammannsville's first resident priest, Father Machann, was the first to occupy it. Later the rectory was sold to Jos. R. Bartos, was moved away and is now the home of John A. Bartosh.
Father Machann made a trip to Europe, but upon his return resumed his pastoral duties at Ammannsville for several years. In 1910 he was transferred to Shiner and Father Neubert returned as his successor. During his stay, in 1916, a new rectory was built, John Bujnoch being the architect and builder. In 1916 Rev. Jos. K. Kopp succeeded Father Neubert as the Ammannsville pastor.
A disastrous fire destroyed the Ammannsville church on October 2, 1917. However, fire insurance was carried on the church in the R. V. O. S. fire insurance company, and this was of material help in building another church. John Bujnoch was architect and builder of the new church, which stands today. Work was started on its immediately and the new building was completed in 1919. On December 22 of that year Most Rev. Archbishop A. J. Drossaerts of San Antonio, assisted by several priests, dedicated the new house of worship. Confirmation was also administered at this time. 85 being confirmed.
In January, 1920, Father Kopp was transferred to Moulton and Father Raska took over the pastoral duties. Still the local pastor, Father Raska has served the parish longer than any previous priest.
A new parochial school was erected and dedicated in 1930, Archbishop Drossaerts participating in the dedication. In April, 1931, Father Raska took leave and went to Europe, Rev. B. M. Heintze taking over the pastoral duties during his absence. Father Heintze is now pastor at Plum.
May Ammannsville prosper further commercially, educationally and spiritually!
Schulenburg Sticker, 5 Oct 1917, page 1
Fire at Ammannsville
Tuesday afternoon about 2:30 smoke was discovered coming from the Catholic church at Ammannsville. Upon entering the building the interior was found full of smoke and the fire evidently between the walls on the south side near the small altar on the left side. A few minutes later the fire broke through and the entire side of the building was a mass of flames. The intense heat set fire to a building owned by the community and used as a store house and from there spread to the home of Prof. Al. Morskovsky [Morkovsky], which was also owned by the community. Within one hour all three buildings were burned to the ground.
The church was built in 1910 and cost over $12,000 with something over $7000 additional for decorating and finishing the interior. It was insured for $10,750 and Father Joe Kopp says will be rebuilt as soon [as] possible. The store building was worth $300 and residence $1000 with no insurance on either. Considerable of the church furnishings were saved by the hard work of the citizens and farmers from the surrounding country and all of Prof. Morskovsky’s household effects were saved.
|The Ammannsville church was destroyed in the 1909 storm and rebuilt stronger and better than ever the following year by those enterprising citizens. Their public spirit was again shown while embers were still glowing by hearing them congratulate themselves that the school house and home of Father Kopp were saved even though very badly scorched, and making plans to rebuild with brick, the church which had been their pride. It was a big loss to the little city, but they are not of the kind that let misfortune lay them out. Would that there were more towns in Texas peopled with citizens just like them.
Transcribed by Matt Cross
A Footprints of Fayette article written by David Knape and submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn:
The Old Ammannsville Drug Store
By David Knape
Submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn
As a kid I can always remember going to the Ammannsville “Drug Store”. I never could figure out why they called it a drug store. It sold no drugs. It was just a beer joint that specialized in beer and dominoes. It was a bare bones type of place, but it had “atmosphere”!
Any time Dad was in Ammannsville, he always figured out a way to make a trip to town and a visit to the drug store. My sister and I would tag along. For us it was exciting because we knew we would get a treat. Dad would always buy us an ice cream cone. Believe it or not, the drug store sold ice cream. They only had three flavors, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Old Justin, the wise sage and owner, would scoop the ice cream out of a canister from a small freezer behind the bar. Then we would sit on the high bar stools by the dark oak wood bar or play on the unique swivel tables. They had some of these old tables that had swivel seats on them. You could swing back and forth and in and out. I remember there were only two of these type tables. They were worn out and rusty, but lots of fun. For us kids, it was like a ride at an amusement park.
There was always a beat up table in the back of the store. It had seen its better days. The legs were chinked and dented. The paint was gone. But this was the domino table, always ready for action. Seems like there was always a game going on. Old Justin would sometimes play as well, in between opening beer bottles. Back then all beer was in bottles (long-necks), and you had to open the bottle with a metal bottle opener or “church key” as they were called. The church key would be on a string behind the bar. Old Justin never got in a hurry. If it was his turn to play during the game and you wanted a beer, you just had to wait. The whole place would smell of smoke and chewing tobacco. Everyone did one or the other back then. There was a spittoon by the domino table. Some would hit, some would miss!
The old drug store had creaky wooden floors and large windows that were always open. The windows seemed huge to me. Big enough to drive a truck through. It had a door in front and one in the back. The doors were always open so that the place seemed more like a barn than a store. It was always cool inside the drug store. A welcome change from the scorching Texas heat. Yellowjackets would be flying around. Mud daubers would build nests in the corners. A cat might wander up on the porch now and then.
Dad would drink a beer and then have another. He loved his beer. Where he was raised, beer was the beverage of choice, as common as water.
Dad would light up his pipe and have a smoke and visit with whoever was in the store at the time. Everyone knew everyone else. There were no strangers. Most everybody was kin or related. There was never any trouble.
Just farmers shooting the bull!
My sister and I would get bored waiting for Dad, so we would venture outside and look around. We would just wander around and see what we could see. The road in front of the store was pea gravel. It was kind of a dirty orange color and it made a scrunchy sound when you drove over it. The gravel would get in our shoes and hurt our toes. We would always be taking our shoes off to empty the stones. There was no traffic, so you could walk down the middle of the road. No cars came by at all. Well maybe one…an hour!
We would walk down to the dance hall and pick pecans or stroll over to the church playground and ride the see-saws. These were the heaviest see-saws I have ever seen. The boards were like timbers from Noah’s ark.
Thick and heavy. About two feet wide. It was an effort for us just to lift them up. When they hit the ground, they would go BLAM and rattle and reverberate. For fun, we would stand in the middle of the board and try to balance without falling off. Such simple fun back then.
Eventually Dad would come find us and we would all ride back to Grandpa’s place. Everybody was happy with the trip to the Drug Store. Ammannsville memories. Long ago.
Now the history of the drug store and why it was called that. It goes back to 1917 when J.J. Fietsam bought a parcel of land from Edward Rabel and constructed two buildings. One building was used as a doctor’s office and drugstore. The other was a pool room. The drugstore actually had stockholders. They included: F.J. Parma, J.J. Fietsam, Dr. Anderson DeCalb Lewis, and J.M. Bartos. The doctor sold out and moved away. J.V. Dobrava and Charles Naiser later bought out the other shareholders to become sole owners. Then in 1923, the buildings and land were sold to Matej Bohac. In 1924, the business was sold to Justin Bartos.
Justin Bartos is the owner I remember. He was always kind and soft-spoken. He walked slow and talked slow. Never got in a hurry. But he was always so friendly and likeable. Like an old grandpa. He talked in low tones with a Czech accent. He always had time.
Through the years the store sold medicines, soda water, beer, wine and tobacco. There were also some candy, snacks and chips. The store was a favorite meeting place for people after Mass. People visited here and played pool, cards and dominoes. The store at one time had a nickelodeon and….even slot machines once upon a time.
The other building, the pool room was run by Matej Bohac and Sons as a distribution center for the “Meat Club” during World War II. Meat was rationed, and each month a member would take turns donating a calf for butchering. The cuts of meat were then distributed on a rotating basis.
Justin Bartos continued to operate the drugstore for many years. In 1983, he became ill. His wife continued to run the business for another two years. After that the drug store closed.
Come to find out, the Bartos Drug Store was eventually sold and moved from Ammannsville to a site alongside Old Hwy 90 in Colorado County. It was part of a complex of old buildings used for various business purposes. All of those buildings were moved again to unknown destinations and replaced with an RV park.
Even if it is now gone, the store is still there, in my mind. It was a landmark, a restful spot. A place full of memories for me as a young kid. It was the place for people to gather and talk. To tell stories and catch up on gossip and the local news. A meeting place for the whole area. Full of farmers and hardworking people who shared a common ancestry and bond. A place of welcome and good cheer. No frills, but lots of friendliness.
That old drug store will be forever ingrained in my mind as a good memory for me. A place I can return to remember my youth. To relive those innocent days when time was not important, but friends and family were.
For me, it hasn’t changed a bit. The old Ammannsville Drug Store!
Permission to publish given by David Knape, The Woodlands; February 2016.
David and Carolyn are double second cousins; they share two sets of great-grandparents, Peregrin and Filomena Fiser (Fisher) and Jan and Marie Sumbera, early settlers of Ammannsville. David’s mother, Henrietta Fisher Knape, was born in Ammannsville.
For More Information
Fayette County's Precinct Courthouses
Rev. Frank Machan
See Photo of Kossa's Farmers Band, Ammannsville, Texas, 1910.
Related Article at the Handbook of Texas OnlineAmmannsville
Marie L. Albrecht and Joseph J. Munke
Owned cotton gin and saw mill at Ammannsville.
Photo contributed by Jon Todd Koenig