Round Top Footprints of Fayette Articles

FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS


These brief 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 the Fayette County Record, Banner Press, Flatonia Argus, Schulenburg Sticker, and Weimar Mercury newspapers. A new article appears weekly. See index of all Footprints of Fayette articles.

 

Schiege Cigar Factory

by Donna Green

Charles Schiege and his family immigrated to Fayette County, from Hanover Germany in the early 1870's.

In the town of Round Top stands a picturesque house and grounds just off of Washington Street. Charles Schiege Jr. built the house along with a small building behind the house that was home to his thriving business, the Schiege Cigar Factory.

Charles Jr’s cigar factory was built in 1882 and it continued to operate until the 1930's. During the years that he operated the factory he used tobacco grown in the area as well as tobacco brought in from Missouri and Ohio. The tobacco was carefully hand-rolled into cigars and distributed to San Antonio, Houston and Austin. Schiege's products carried colorful names such as "Texas Star", "Great Sport", "LaRosa Suprema" and the most popular, "Boss". In 1932 special 50th Anniversary boxes of the "Boss" cigars were put out by the Schiege Cigar Factory. The wooden boxes had the words "light" and "mild" in Spanish stamped on the side. The boxes also carried the dates 1882-1932 on them and featured a photograph of Charles Schiege on the box tops.

Remarkably the building where Schiege made his cigars still stands. It is a one-story frame building of native lumber. Inside the factory the fixtures consisted of a curved counter separating the working area from the office. Huge tobacco bins held raw cigar materials. At the height of his business seven workstations were attached to the walls for operators. Schiege provided on-site accommodations for his employees. Single men slept in the attic of his house. There were no stairs leading to the attic, so the workers had to climb a ladder to their quarters. The employees ate their meals with the Schiege family. A sign over the factory doorway read "Segars and Tobacco". "Segars" was a standard spelling of the word in the nineteenth century. Today most of the buildings in his complex bear historical markers.

In a 1985 article in the La Grange Journal, Charles Schiege’s daughter, Mrs. Frieda Schiege Franke, related a story of how she and her brother would sneak into the factory and learn how to make cigars from the workers. At the time of the article she still owned many pieces from the factory including specially made cigar cutters.

Charles was also a cabinetmaker and served as a justice of the peace. Schiege died in March 1935 and is buried at Florida Chapel Cemetery.

Photo of C. H. Schiege cigar box from Clarissa Newman

 

Connersville Primitive Baptist Church African American Museum

by David L. Collins, Sr.

Since the beginning of my search for our family history, I have visited many grave sites. This adventure for the true meaning of my African American history has carried me through many cemeteries in Lee County and Fayette County, Texas.  The cemeteries in Lee County include Jones Colony, Globe Hill, Salem, Sweet Home, Antioch, Sandy Point, Pilgrim Rest, Post Oak, Sandy Point Church Cemetery, Leo, Copperas, Scott, and several others.  The cemeteries in Fayette County include Connersville Primitive Baptist Church and Spring Hill.

These cemeteries were named after communities founded by African Americans, known as Freedom Colonies, which were autonomous settlements founded entirely by freed African American slaves. Many of these settlements continue to thrive today. There were two Freedom Colonies in Fayette County, Texas, brought to my attention by Carolyn Heinsohn of the Fayette County Historical Commission, which include Armstrong Colony and Cozy Corner.

When I found Connersville Cemetery, the first graves I came upon were the graves of L.D. Craft, A. J. Craft, E. C. Craft, Loraine Cole, George Craft, and next to their graves was the grave of Emma Rivers, one of my relatives.  The most striking thing about my discovery was the inscription on one of the headstones.  The inscription read “In the Back Woods We Lay”, which I thought was rather striking.  What came to mind after all the research that I have done is that this is where much of our African American history is at rest and in many cases lost – in the “back woods”.

THE CONNERSVILLE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH HISTORY

Sometime between the date of December 10, 1883 and November 10, 1885, when a man by the name of Thomas Cooper owned eleven and one-quarter acres of land adjacent to the “Old School Presbyterian Church and Round Top Academy” land (today the vicinity of Richter Cemetery on FM 1457), he gave permission for the black community to build a church - the Primitive Baptist Church.

Thomas Cooper sold ten and a half acres of land to William Zander (FCDR 26/62) on November 10, 1885.  Note that this sale reduces the original acreage by three-quarters of an acre. On September 29, 1893, Thomas Cooper deeded over the land to the Primitive Baptist Church (FCDR 50/242) for $1.00.  The deed gives no metes and bounds description, but merely states, “immediately surrounding the present site of the Primitive Baptist Church”.  It is not known when the members of the Primitive Baptist Church ceased using the church facilities as there is no known recorded history of this.

Connersville Primitive Baptist Church before restorationIn an apparent desire to build a church, a group of individuals, possibly descendents of earlier ancestry, purchased 65/100 of an acre tract of land from Richard and Hannah Wagner (FCDR 296/492).  It is interesting to note that part of this same tract of land was previously owned by the Primitive Baptist Church with no record of it ever being sold.  The survey of deed 296/492 indicates a total of 0.65 acres and places it fronting FM 1457 adjacent to Richter Cemetery.  This was deeded to the Connersville Primitive Baptist Church on May 20, 1957, for $243.00.  The officers to which the deed is given and to be held in trust were J.J. Ferguson, Shelley Ferguson and Beatrice Breedlove.

J. Joseph Ferguson was pastor of the Connersville Baptist Church.  He is interred in the Connersville Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, which is situated on the same land.  One of the earliest graves in the cemetery is George Craft who died on March 1, 1904.

ROUND TOP AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

In the late 1990s, I visited every town north of Hwy 71 in Fayette County, starting with La Grange, Texas.  I also visited every church and cemetery that I could locate - many of the cemeteries are on private land.  As I continued my research, I happened to stop by the Round Top Area Historical Society’s (which was founded May 10, 1993) main office on Hwy 237 to review all of the historical information that the Society had collected.  I was amazed by the amount of information the Society had collected over the years.  I recall that back in 1997 or 1998, I met Georgia Tubbs, who gave me a complete overview of the history of Round Top, Texas and all of the information the Society had collected over the years.  In one corner of the building, she also had some history on African Americans/Educators in the area. Some of the names I had heard about, and some I had not.

During this same visit, I met Mr. Herbert L. Diers, who was Secretary of the Board at the time; his family had settled in La Grange over a 115 years ago.  He had been working on Fayette County/Round Top history for many years.  He gave me a thorough review of the history he had collected.  He also pointed out that he had collected a great deal of history on German settlements, white settlements, and European settlements; however, he did not have much on African Americans, other than what Georgia had collected.  We continued to meet over the next several months, and after we got to know each other, he asked me if I would consider being a Board Member of the RTAHS.  I indicated that I would let him know in a month.  I called him in about two weeks and indicated that it would be a pleasure.  This began my relationship with RTAHS.

When I initially joined, the Board the members included:  Mrs. Georgia Etzel-Tubbs,  Mrs.Francis Harris, Mr. Bobby Banik, Mr. Cordell Levein, Mayor Dave Nagel ( his wife took his place after he passed), Mr. Ronny Sacks, Mrs. Charlotte Hellbolt, Mr. Butler McCauley, Mrs. Pamela Schwartz, Mrs. Barbara Smith, Mr. Herman Weigelt, Mr. Herbert L. Diers, Mr. Gene Menking, Ruth Fricke-Menking, Mrs. Deloise Etzel-McGill, Ms. Dottie Etzel, Mrs. Rose Diers,  Mrs.Pat Woods, and several others, which I can’t remember at this time.  What I do remember is that all of the original founders of RTAHS were descendents of Fayette County pioneers, dedicated to preserving the interesting history of Fayette County, Texas.  One of the Board Members, Mrs. Pat Wood, donated 1.0 acre of land to develop a historical campus for that purpose.

After I was approved to become a Board Member of the Round Top Area Historical Society, Herb Diers, in behalf of the Board, gave me an assignment to assist them in finding someone to give permission to RTAHS to move the old Connersville Primitive Baptist Church to the Wood Annex, as it was called at the time.  The Board wanted to develop it into an African American Museum.

This was an easy assignment, because the Moderator was Herman Ferguson who married my Great Uncle David River’s daughter, Juanita Rivers-Ferguson, who lived in Galveston, Texas at the time.  She and my Aunt Katie Taylor-Griffin were the best of friends; Katie was my Great-Grandmother’s namesake (Katie Rivers-Taylor, who married my Great-Grandfather, John Wesley Taylor).

MR. HERBERT L. DIERS, FAYETTE COUNTY HISTORIAN

Herb Diers dedicated his life to developing the history of Round Top (Fayette County), Texas along with Georgia Tubbs and the RTAHS Board.  He had a vision of a complete historical campus on the land donated by Mrs. Pat Wood.  With that in mind, he asked me with the approval of the Board to develop a Master Plan for the Wood Annex.

When I joined the Board there was one building on the Wood Annex site - the Krause House.  We walked the site and he indicated that he had a vision of a gazebo in the center, the church on the northeast corner, with other buildings moving toward the front with a parking lot on the south.

With the above in mind, we developed the following:

  1. A complete Master Plan for the Wood Annex that was submitted to the Town of Round Top in 2003 for approval.
  2. The town of Round Top approved the Master Plan.
  3. The Round Top Area Historical Society Received permission from the Ferguson family to move the Connersville Primitive Baptist Church to the Wood Annex to become an African American Museum.
  4. The RTAHS Board approved submitting a grant to LCRA for $25,000 for the renovation of Connersville.  After two tries, the Board received a $25,000 grant, a dedication was held, and renovation began.
  5. Next, we were asked by the Board to develop plans for a gazebo (the Pavilion as it is called today).  Plans were developed and submitted to the town of Round Top and approved.
  6. Sketches were developed, as well as site plan alternatives and renovation plans for the relocation of the Noack House to the Wood Annex.  Plans were approved by the town of Round Top, and the Noack House was moved to the Wood Annex, where it would serve as a community museum.
  7. A site plan and sketches for the location of a log cabin were developed; the cabin was relocated to the Wood Annex and its renovation was coordinated under the direction of the Board.
  8. Jack Elvig was assisted in preparing a grant application to the Meadows Foundation ($18k) for the completion of The Connersville Primitive Baptist Church African Museum. 

Connersvile Church after restorationAll of this planning resulted in the old church being relocated by the Round Top Area Historical Society in 2002 from its previous location to the graciously-donated Wood Annex in Round Top, Texas and its renovation into an African American Museum. This is how the Connersville Primitive Baptist Church African American Museum began and the rest is history.  All of this effort occurred between 1998 and 2008, and today the Carroll A. Wood Museum Complex is fully operational with tours provided to the public.

Sources:
Census records for 1860, 1870, & 1880, 1900 & 1910 from Clayton Library in Houston, Texas
Deed Records, Fayette County, Texas County Clerk
Personal Research & Family History
Herbert L. Diers & Georgia Etzel-Tubbs of Round Top, Texas

 

Running the Rings

by Donna Green

During the late 1800's and early 1900's the small community of Round Top was the scene of one of the more interesting sporting events ever to take place in Fayette County. It was known as a "running of the rings" tournament. The event had a medieval theme in which men on horseback competed against each other in a variety of contests. The participants dressed in extravagantly detailed and flashy costumes. Often the costumes reflected the celebration of a particular holiday or were adorned with family crests. The costumes were brightly colored and often featured gold or silver trim with feathers or other decorations. The horses were usually decorated as elaborately as the riders were. The riders had to be expertly trained and skilled. The horses also had to be trained and skilled to work closely with the riders. Spear throwing, lance making, jousting and horse racing were contested throughout the day. However, it was the main event that gave the competition its name and decided the overall winner of the competition. The main event featured competitors using a spear or long lance to snag rings from a target. Those competing in the day's events were referred to as "knights." The "running of the rings" was just part of the celebration that usually began with a parade headed by a Grand Marshall. All the "knights" and their mounts paraded in front of the large crowd of spectators that always gathered. After the events of the day a picnic and dance would be held. According to the La Grange Journal some of the more prominent local citizens known to have participated in the Round Top events were: H. Becker, A. Becker, Fayette County Sheriffs J.T. Rankin and B. L. Zapp (both who served during this time period), K. Neese, Alex von Rosenberg (businessman and land owner), H. Amberg, and J. Robison.

The origins of the celebration remain somewhat of a mystery although several people have researched it. Most researchers agree that the event probably began as an attempt by the large German population to bring some of the culture of their homeland to the area. The area around Round Top was purchased by a German cousin of Queen Victoria and intended to encourage German colonization in Texas. It is likely that the settlers brought this tradition with them when they emigrated.

 

German Festival Planned

Transcribed by Connie F. Sneed from the October 4, 1968 Dallas Morning News:

Round Top, Texas - Reviving and bringing to Texas a tradition that began in Munich, Germany in 1810 will be the first annual Oktoberfest Saturday and Sunday. This Texas German community of 124 in Fayette County will present an Antiques Fair and celebration in the Rifle Association Building.

Like the original, it will commemorate the wedding of Prince Ludwig.  Along with antique dealers’ booths there will be vignettes with early Texas Pioneer furnishings and a one woman art show by Trudy Sween of Houston, who will present her Fantasy Flowers.

On the grounds will be a German Biergarten and the local German Oompah band will play.  Restored buildings in the area open for the Oktoberfest will include Mrs. Hazel Ledbetter’s little “Yellow” house with furniture made in Round Top by early settlers and the Segar factory with some of the original labels and purchase orders for cigars distributed to Southwest Texas.

Hackberry Hill, a complex restored by Mr. and Mrs. Harvin C. Moore of Houston, will also be open for tours.

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