FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS
From Fayette County, Her History and Her People by F. Lotto, 1902:
Old Settlers of Ross Prairie.
Located on the eastern edge of the rich and fertile Ross Prairie, lies one of the most beautiful little cities of South Texas, the City of Fayetteville. All around Fayetteville lie fertile prairie lands; one mile east of it, postoak begins, about three miles west of it, the timber lands of Cumming's Creek limit the prairie. The substantial farms, the beautiful gardens and the fruit-bearing fields speak of the industry and the wealth of the population and are the delight of the traveler. Fayetteville is situated about twelve miles east of La Grange on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad. Occupying the slopes of a hill, it is of picturesque appearance. In the middle of the large public square stands the court house, which was erected there by the county to serve as the justice's court house. Of the more noticeable buildings may be mentioned the Chromcik school, the Germania school, the Catholic church, the Presbyterian church and the Zapp building, the latter a handsome brick building at the northwest side of the public square.
Fayetteville is a very old place. It used to be called in the early times Sam Alexander's, thus named after the first settler in that country who had come there during the early days of the republic. In the year 1847 it was laid out by P. J. Shaver who owned the land on which it is now situated as a town. The population of the town and surrounding country was at that time mostly American and German, but in the early fifties a large number of Bohemians commenced to come in. The Bohemian element is now in the majority, or, at least, the numerically strongest. The first settlers of Fayetteville were: S. S. Munger, Panchard, Dr. Gregory, Wm. Wade, Dr. Manly, Jno. Flum, Henry Kurtz and Ad. Kauffmann. The oldest settlers now living in Fayetteville are Hugo Zapp, C. Langlotz, J. M. T. Webb, Hon. Max Meitzen, H. Steves and Ed. Sarrazin.
Philip J. Shaver
The people of Fayetteville are a free and open hearted people. They are known throughout the county as a jolly set, and are therefore accordingly popular. The entertainments, balls and festivities which the people of this city arrange have become famous throughout South Texas. The easy manners, the cordiality with which a visitor is received by these generous people are not the least attraction which these festivities offer. The Fayetteville music band furnishes delightful music and has come out victor in more than one band contest. The Fayetteville Saengerbund under the leadership of Prof. J. Hansen has repeatedly received recognition and applause at state "saengerfeasts." A club that deserves favorable mention for the balls and entertainments it arranges is the Germania Verein with Hon. Max Meitzen as president and Mr. H. W. H. Zapp as secretary. The Verein own a fine large two story building which also serves as a school house.
Fayetteville has quite a number of lodges which to the mystically inclined offer chances to be initiated in lodge secrets and degrees and to ride the goat. They are: the Woodmen, A. T. Thanheiser, C. C., Henry Hotmann, clerk; Knights of Pythias, John R. Kubena, C. C., Dr. C. J. Schramm, K. of R. & S.; Masons, Henry Gloeckner, W. M., William Eilers, secretary; Knights of Honor, Max Meitzen, president, William Eilers, secretary; Hermann Sons, Julius Hansen, president, Adolf Zoll, secretary; S. P. J. S. T. (a Bohemian organization), Tom Hruska, president, John Slavik, secretary.
Of the religious side of life two churches, the Catholic with Rev. Father J. Chromcik, and the Presbyterian with Rev. Wenzel Pazdral take care. There are a great many Bohemian Catholic Societies under the auspices of the catholic Church. They have associated themselves to promulgate the teachings of that church and to serve in the interest of humanity and religion. Their names are: St. Joseph's, Father J. Chromcik, president, Valentine Michalsky, secretary, Frank Machala, corresponding secretary; ST. John's , Aug. Pavel, president, Rohdan Kallus, secretary; Bohemian Catholic Workmen Society (Benevolent Association), Rohdan Kallus, president, Ignaz Rek, secretary; Bohemian Catholic Young Men's Society (Stanislaus), Joseph Slansky, president, Louis W. Machala, secretary; Altar Society, Mrs. Mary Wichita, president, Mrs. Agnes Kubena, secretary.
One of the gala days of the Catholic Church and of Fayetteville is Corpus Christi Day. A long procession led by the Catholic priest starts in the morning from the Catholic church, walks around the square and stops at each corner to hold services. Very often thousands come to Fayetteville from far and wide to witness this impressive ceremony. The reader finds a picture of this attractive scene.
Fayetteville has two schools, the Chromcik school and the Germania school. The Chromcik school was founded by Father Chromcik and named after him. It is under the management of Mrs. Wm. Langlotz. The Germania school has been for a number of years under the able management of Prof. Wm. Eilers, a teacher of great reputation; this year it will be taught by Prof. John L. Stierling, former superintendent of the Shiner schools. The school is taught in the building of the Germania Verein, a large two story frame building of which a picture is given in this book.
The business of Fayetteville is mostly merchandising. The city consists of 4 general merchandise stores, 5 groceries, 2 dry goods and notions stories, 4 full saloons, 5 beer saloons, 2 blacksmith and wheelwright shops, 2 furniture and hardware stores, 1 tin and hardware store, 1 saddler, 2 gins, 2 beef markets, 2 beer agencies, 1 livery stable, 2 hotels, 2 drug stores, 5 physicians, 1 lawyer, and 1 lumber yard. Among the business men of Fayetteville the writer especially mentions H. W. H. Zapp, the owner of the oldest and largest mercantile establishment in Fayetteville; Dr. C. J. Schramm, a physician of fine learning and widespread reputation and proprietor of the leading drug store in Fayetteville; August Heinsohn, the proprietor of an immense lumber yard, the largest in Fayette County; Otto A. Vetter, the jovial proprietor of a saddlery; F. Kallus, merchant tailor, equal in skill and workmanship to the best in any city; C. J. Klimicek, F. J. Piwetz and Kubena & Co. are successful business men, they are in the saloon and grocery business. [Each of the above mentioned purchased advertisements in Lotto's book.]
Fayetteville is an energetic town and makes laudable efforts to get out of the ruts. In 1901 a creamery was built in Fayetteville, the same is at present not in operation. People as is always the case have to pay for their experience in business which they do not know. But there is no reason why a creamery under proper management should not prove a success.
Fayetteville is a hustling town. In 1882 it was incorporated for the purpose of improving the town. Hon. Max Meitzen was the first mayor of the town. In October, 1887, the Taylor, Bastrop and Houston railroad - which later on was bought by the Missouri, Kansas & Texas - came into the city, and since then Fayetteville has been on a steady and healthy growth. There is now quite a difference between the city of Fayetteville of to-day - a thriving railroad station of the M., K. & T. - and the sleepy country town of seventeen years ago. The reader will find a picture of Fayetteville seventeen years ago and make the comparison. In 1893 four business houses burned down and elegant, substantial buildings were erected in their stead.
Fayetteville is well protected against fire. A well and windmill and a large water tank have been erected on the public square. Mains have been laid over the largest portion of the town with hydrants at convenient distances. A volunteer fire company under command of Captain Henry Steves is prepared to do efficient service in case of fire.
Below follows a list of the oldest settlers of Fayetteville, prepared by Prof. Wm. Eilers, and a list of the oldest Bohemian settlers, prepared by Judge Tom Hruska. They will no doubt be most acceptable to the readers and recall to a great many of them the memory of their dead friends.
First settlers of the Fayetteville neighborhood: - Jack Crier, was assassinated, when he was over one hundred years old, near Ellinger; Sam Ross, after whom Ross Prairie was named; ___ Grover, son-in-law of Jack Crier; Neil Munn; Klave Jarmon; Jim Gay and R. Gay, after whom Gay's Hill was named; Sidney Gregory; Kidd Clark; W. Cook; the Breeding family which numbered thirty-seven members; Nic. Ware, relatives to Tanner; the Barnetts, near Biegel settlement; Geo. Turner; Jim Groce; ___ Thompson; Markham Hill; Monroe Hill; S. Zeal; J. E. Pearsall; H. Munger; ___ Donathan; J. P. Schaefer; ___ Frels (1848); ___ Beyer; Wash. Cummings, after whom Cumming's Creek was named; G. M. T. Webb; J. F. Johnson; A. B. F. Kerr, a justice of the peace; Jacob F. Dirr; Wilhelm Wiedemann; ___ Ellerbusch; Henry Birkmann; Hermann Hildebrandt; Hillebrandts at Biegel; Hermann Hillmann; Ludwig Hillmann; C. H. Hillmann; Henry Kiesel; ___ Maschek; Wm. Luecke; Chas. Luecke; Capt. Fisher; R. J. Zimmerman; Dr. Benno Matthes. Most of these parties have died or moved away to other places.
First Bohemian settlers: - Tom Batla; deceased, came to Fayetteville in 1853; Vinc. Rypel in 1854; both came from Bohemia; Jos., John and Paul Wychopen, Jos. Lastovica, Jos. Jecmenek, Paul Jecmenek, all deceased, and Jos. Hlawaty, still living, came from Moravia to Fayetteville in 1853; John Hruska, John Odlozelik, Frank Horak, Jos. Horak, the latter still living, came from Moravia to Fayetteville in 1856.
The present officers of Fayetteville are: Henry Tauch, mayor; Conrad Bertsch, marshal; Dr. C. J. Schramm, O. A. Vetter, John R. Kubena, Geo. Zoll and John Helble, aldermen.NOTES
On some of the Old Settlers in the Fayetteville Neighborhood, procured through kindness of Prof. Wm. Eilers.
Hinrich Eilers, born Nov. 24, 1820, in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. He came to Texas in 1845, lived at Warrenton two years and then moved to Ross Prairie where he lived continuously until his death Jan. 23, 1899.Old Settlers of Fayetteville.
H. G. Cook, born March 12, 1824, in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. He came to Fayette County in 1845. He died at his old home in Ross Prairie March 16, 1880.
Dietrich Hattermann came to Ross Prairie from the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg in 1845. He died at his old home.
Henry William Luecke came to Ross Prairie from Westfeld, Hanover, in 1845. He died there two years after his arrival.
Jacob Laferre was born in Germany Sept. 23, 1828. He came to Ross Prairie in 1847. Left for the gold fields in California in 1849, returning to Ross Prairie after an absence of several years, and lived there to the time of his death, Aug. 28, 1901.
Joseph F. M. Sarrazin came to Cat Spring, Austin County, in 1834, from Westphalia. He moved to Ross Prairie in 1843 and lived there up to the time of his death.
John H. Meyer settled in Ross Prairie in 1842. He came from Hanover and lived there until his demise.
John F. Meyer arrived from Hanover in 1850, settling in Ross Prairie and living there to the time of his death.
Henry Kurtz came to Ross Prairie from Germany in 1847. He died at Fayetteville in 1901.
Other old settlers ___ Neimann, ___ Neumann, ___ Wacker, ___ Baumbach, ___ Sommer, Anton Sommer, G. Mueller, ___ Doni, August Beyer, ___ Girndt, ___ Zedlitz, and ___ Dirr.
Sigbert Frank Steves, born at Crefeld, Kreis Geldern, Prussia, in 1808. Came to Fayetteville in 1853. Died there.
Chas. Aug. Langlotz was born at Schoenfeld, Saxony, Feb. 23, 1826. He came to Houston in 1848, and moved from there to Fayetteville in 1850, where he still lives.
Other old settlers were: ___ Brandt, ___ Wink, ___ Kaufmann, Hugo Zapp, Sr., ___ Dietrich, ___ Meyer, ___ Kirsch, ___ Gloeckner, ___ Schaefer, Dr. ___ Mathis, ___ Donaldson, and ___ Donath.
Old settlers in the Fayetteville vicinity: ___ Meitzen, ___ Meitzen, ___ Stelzig, Dr. ___ Shaw.
Old settlers of Biegel P. O.: Mr. B. Scherer came to Biegel in 1834 from Switzerland.
John Christodemus Helble settled at Biegel in 1844. He left for the gold fields in California in 1849 and returned in 1851. He died some years ago over, 80 years of age.
Other old settlers were: ___ Biegel, ___ Andre, ___ Meyer, ___ Tschiedel (still living).
Czech Moravian Brethren Church - ca 1894
Now Fayetteville Brethren Church Rev. Jindrich Juren in center of doorway. Jan Hruska on right in doorway.
Can you identify others? Click on photo for enlarged view.
See Ross Prairie for more information regarding this church.
Submitted by Lillie Mae Brightwell
Footprints of Fayette article by Irene Polansky:
History of Fayetteville as of 1938
The history of Fayetteville was written by L. J. Piwetz, Senior of 1937-1938 Fayetteville High School, which was put in the first Fayetteville School Annual, entitled "Bluebonnet".
Away back in the days of the trails and stagecoach, started the growth of the nucleus that now is the beautiful city of Fayetteville. The famous Spanish trail passed through this part of the country; through rolling hills which are fertile prairies of the south. People immigrated, moved on and ontill groups settled here and there. One group soon started settling on a part of 525 acres of land of Phillip J. Shaver and wife Mary Ann, who acquired this land from Alex Thompson January 29, 1850. Thompson received this land from the Mexican government June 20, 1832.
The first lot sold was S. S. Munger, on March 12, 1852, which was followed by: David Wade, June 10, 1850; S. S. Munger, on March 12, 1852; James T. Rose, March 20, 1851; and others
As immigrants came there was a need to educate the young. A two-story Masonic Hall was built in 1858. In that year, school was first taught in the upper story by a Mr. Bishop. In later years, about 1865, two teachers were employed to teach the ever increasing group of children. After twenty five years of teaching in this Masonic Hall, teaching was resumed in the now historic Germania Hall.
The city was ever increasing in population and so were the school. Finally in 1912, a new site was found where our magnificent Fayetteville High and Grammar School buildings now stand.
There was talk of incorporating the town. In March 1882, a petition was circulated, asking the Commissioners court to hold an election with regards to incorporation of the town. Thirty-one citizens signed this petition. An election was held in April, 1882, and thirty-one votes were cast for incorporating, none against. The county judge ordered the election for one Mayor, five aldermen and a marshal. The following were elected: Max Meitzen, Mayor; W.C. Steves, F. J. Spacek, Henry Kurtz, Ignatz Sladek and Henry Forres, alderman, and Charlie Vetter, marshal. Henry Forres was appointed secretary. The first official meeting was held on April 28, 1882, at three o'clock p.m.
It was decided to have one meeting each month beginning on the first Wednesday of each month at 3 o'clock p.m. The meetings are still held on the first Wednesday of each month, but at eight o'clock. The council worked under the old Charter of the Town and Village Act until November 4, 1926. Under this Charter, the town was not allowed to collect a tax of over 25 cents to the one hundred dollars assessed valuation.
In 1925 the Legislature passed an Act permitting all towns and villages to adopt a new Charter. The Town and City Charter, providing the Town had six hundred or more inhabitants, or had one or more manufacturing establishments; the required number of inhabitants the town did not have, but it had six factories. It had a light plant, soda water factory, broom factory, ice cream and an ice factory. This Charter permitted the City Council to levey a tax not to exceed one dollar and fifty cents on the one hundred assessed valuation without the vote of the citizens.
The city immediately ordered bond election for the $35,000.00 water works system and fire protection. The election was held on December 30, 1926, and carried a large majority. The East and West No. 159 Highway enables all to go anywhere anytimerain or shine. The$1,500.00 city clock was donated by the "Do Your Duty" (D.Y.D.). A $35,000.00 sewage system is installed. For these accomplishments, the present city council, with the aid of the citizens is responsible. The council is composed of: W.C. Langlotz, Mayor, Lee Heinsohn, alderman and secretary. Emil Zapalac, alderman and treasurer, R.C. Sladek, Emil Chalupa, and Ed Zarrazin, alderman, Emil Wunderlich, water works superintendent; and Dr. Gus Levin, city health officer.
Footprints of Fayette article by Kathy Carter:
Circus Day at Fayetteville
The Haight & Chambers Circus arrived in Fayetteville on Saturday January 4, 1866. They came by wagon and soon the one-ring main tent and two sideshow tents were up.
Fayetteville was filled with people that had not seen a circus in years, as the Civil War had just ended. The showmen came expecting to reap a rich harvest, even though their "stupendous menagerie of ferocious beasts" turned out to consist of one baby elephant, two lean lions and some flea-bitten monkeys. Their "glorious galaxy of aerial artists" were not as glorious as the promises of the circus poster but the show was good enough to satisfy nearly all who saw it.
However, five young Confederates just back from the war were looking to stir up some excitement. They were rather wild and mischievous and did not like "Yankee" showmen. The leader of the group was older than the rest and had been drinking. The boys made their first move when the circus band began to play and a rider in a white uniform started to prance around the ring. One of the five rolled a ball of black mud and pitched it at the white clad rider hitting him squarely in the back leaving a round black spot. This tickled the crowd very much.
The circus act continued all the while enduring the catcalls of the five even when they shouted "Yankee Humbugs" at them. Apparently the five decided that the show was proceeding to slowly since they were used to the livelier scenes of war and carnage. They pulled their cap-and-ball six shooters out and began firing at the kerosene chandelier lights.
As soon as the shooting began the tent sides came down as the stampeding crowd raced to get away. The mayhem continued as one of the five chased a showman around the tent until finally knocking him down with his pistol. A clown climbed on the back of the baby elephant and was tearing thorough the night when one of the boys took a pot shot at the fleeing elephant.
A circus man pulled his four-barreled derringer and shot at the leader of the group who was on his horse egging on the devilment. He was not hurt and quick as a flash he drew his gun and fired at the circus man, but being drunk, he overshot.
By that the time most of the residents of Fayetteville were in cellars or other bulletproof places waiting for the battle to cease. The circus men had packed their tents and formed a ring around their wagons. They were stationed behind these breastworks, ready to fight until the Yankee troops came. A runner had been sent to Round Top to secure some of the Federal soldiers stationed there.
The "Five Musketeers" decided it was time for them to go while the going was still good but they didn't know if their drunken leader had made it out of town. He had not and the circus men found him and the shooting began again. This time he was shot in the leg, back, and his little finger was shot off causing him to drop his weapon. He spurred his horse and got safely home. He and the other boys made themselves scarce until the trouble blew over and later became good citizens.
In those rough and tumble times an affair such as this was not unusual. The people of Fayetteville all agreed that the "Five Musketeers" had staged the best show of the two, and so nothing came of it after the soldiers went away.
The worst thing, however, that befell the unfortunate showmen was that in the confusion someone made off with their cash box containing about $2000. It was never known who stole it. Perhaps a show employee was the thief; perhaps not.
Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Fayetteville Courthouse Cases, Late 19th Century
Here are some cases taken from the records of Fayetteville Court House Precinct #2. The Justices of the Peace during that time (1898-1904) were Conrad Bertsch and Thomas Hruska. The Constable was F.C. Knippel.
Cases: # 1041 1475
Records include the following information:Precinct Judge, County Attorney, date, case number, complaint by, complaint against, the charge, warrants issued, and fines plus charges assessed.
Charges included: Unlawful carrying knuckles made of hard substances (fine $44.75) (1), theft of a horse, fighting in a public place, refusing to work a public road, beingintoxicated, disturbing the peace, obstructing of a public road with a dead horse, assault and battery, indecent exposure of a person, or using violent abusive language. Most fines were from $1.00 to $15.00.
In 1903, under Judge Thomas Hruska, five men were charged with unlawfully boarding a freight train. They all pleaded guilty. Each paid $16.10 to $17.10(2). Judge Thomas Hruska was a tall man, approximately 6 foot, 5 inches. He is pictured in the Fayetteville museum in Louis Pochyla’s Saloon along with Alois Polansky and others(3). On another case a defendant was charged with carrying a pistol (4). The jury included: Helmuth Scharnberg, Fr. Stelzig, F. Tiemann, Ferd Kubala, Fritz Eilers and Otto Scharnberg. The jury found the defendant not guilty and charged $1.00. Under Judge Conrad Bertsch, the defendant was charged with theft of 34 house blocks. (5) “Defendant appeared and waived examination and was bound over to the County Court, by the court. It is therefore ordered adjudged and decreed by the court that the defendant enter into a bond in the sum of one hundred dollars for his personal appearance before the County Court of Fayette County to be held in the city of LaGrange.Then and there to answer into the State of Texas to a charge of theft and in default of said bond to be committed to jail for safe keeping.”
Constable Fritz Knippel, Sr. was a bootlegger during the Depression. He also had a feed store, a rooming and boarding house (6). When the constable left his bar to tend to some business, he left his son in charge. Liquor was .05 for the small glass and .10 for the larger glass. “Do not let Mr. Smith have any liquor, he has the shakes.” When Mr. Smith came in and Jr. told him there was no whiskey. Up came Mr. Smith’s stick, frightening Jr., then Mr. Smith helped himself to the whiskey(7).
(1) Case # 1058
(2) Cases # 1367-1370
(3) Fayette County History Volume I, page 387 and Fayetteville Museum
(4) Case # 1267
(5) Case # 1375
(6) Fayette County History V II, page 474, F 1107, (under Iris, Sury)
(7) Personal conversation with Fred Knippel, Jr., constable’s son
Footprints of Fayette article by Irene Polansky:
From the December 15, 1892 Fayette County Record, headlined THAT FIRE.
"On Saturday night, December 10, 1892, about 12 o'clock a fire broke out in the rear part of C. G. Vetter's store, making such headway that the entire block on the east side of the Fayetteville square was reduced to ashes in just about 2 small hours, and let it be said that the sight was as pitiful as one seldom witnesses in a small townWomen with babies in their arms were hurried out of their houses, while the men did everything possible to save that which could be taken out, which however, was very little, the time for work being too short. All in all, everybody did heroic work and it was such only, in connection with the favorable wind, that saved the almost new and elegant Gloeckner Hotel, which as times seemed an unavoidable prey to the raging flames, but escaped with only slight damage caused by the scorching heat.
At this time the amount of losses have not been ascertained, but the following houses and stocks are a total loss: A. J. Polansky, house and stock; C. G. Vetter, saloon and stock of groceries, Otto Vetter, house and stock of saddlery; P. J. Shaver, house and stock of tinware, L. Pivetz; house, saloon and groceries. On all of above not one dollar of insurance was carried, only Pivetz saving a part of his stock, Otto Vetter saved 2 saddles and Parma, 2 stoves, with these exceptions little else was saved. The Bohemian club lost about $200.00 as damages in tearing down part of their property, so as to prevent a further and still greater conflagration, which would have followed, but for a lucky turn of the wind."
As a result of the "Fayetteville Fire of 1892" the Fayetteville Fire Engine No. 1, a hand-pumper, was purchased. It is now proudly displayed at the Fayetteville Area Heritage Museum, courtesy of the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department.
Ninety-seven years later, another large fire on a very cold icy December day, 1989, at Keilers Restaurant on the north side of the town Square, caused great concern for the Fayetteville community. However, thanks to the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department and surrounding VFD's, the disaster of 1892 was avoided. The VFD's, using their specialized knowledge of putting out this type of fire, and use of protective suits and equipment, were able to put out the fire and prevented it from spreading to the adjoining wooden buildings.
Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Medicine Women and Men to Doctors of Fayetteville, Texas
In the 1800s medicine was a family affair. Women were expected to take care of the sick, and only in life threatening illnesses were doctors summoned. Midwifery was a common profession for women. Disease was thought to be caused by too much or too little intake of fluids. The healing power of hot, cold, dry and wet preparations, and a variety of plants and herbs was highly regarded. When needed, people called on “bone-setters” and surgeons, most of whom had no formal training.
In a Footprints of Fayette article titled “Medicine Men of Fayette County” by Sandra K. Briones, she covered the practice of medicine in the early 1800s and forward. “Faith Healer, Henry Charles Loehr” by Gary E. McKee explained faith healing.
F. Lotto, in 1902, stated that the first settlers in Fayetteville included Dr. David G. Gregory and Dr. Abner P. Manly, Dr. Benno Mathews and Dr. C. J. Schramm (a physician of fine learning and widespread reputation and a proprietor of the leading drug store in Fayetteville). Dr. Gregory was also a Methodist minister and a Mason, served as the editor of the La Grange Record and was a noted horticulturist. Lotto stated there were five physicians in town (he did not name a fifth - it was probably Dr. Smith). Dr. Mathis and Dr. Shaw were here in the 1850s with the Germans, but moved on.
The best of all and oldest was Dr. William Smith, born in 1795, who is buried in the Fayetteville City Cemetery. He was a Post Surgeon of an established Army post and a Regimental Surgeon with the Army on the march. At any time, he would deliver a baby, help a citizen who was sick or had accidentally gotten shot. He was a practicing physician of considerable renown, especially in the line of surgery cases. He and Dr. A. P. Manly were both doctors, both Methodist preachers, both members of the same Masonic Lodge, both educators, and both lived in Fayetteville at one time.
According to Houston Wade, the author of a book on Fayette County history, Dr. Manly was the first person to practice medicine in what is now Fayette County. He, along with Dr. Ruter and eight others, organized and built the Rutersville College. The first Methodist Conference in Fayette County was held in Manly’s home. He was also in charge of a group of refugees leaving the Fayetteville area in 1836 during “The Runaway Scrape”. During the years, we had a great number of notable doctors and medicine people in Fayetteville.
Due to the excessive labor of trying to make a living from daylight to dark, Alois Polansky contracted some type of lung disease in the late 1870s, possibly tuberculosis, and was told by a local doctor that he only had a short time to live. Remembering that in his homeland of Moravia, this type of ailment was cured by a particular remedy, he wrote and got a recipe for a cure for his problem. Within seven months, he was back in the fields. After WWI, Alois and his wife, Johanna Chovanec Polansky, went to California to treat soldiers for lung ailments. After returning to Fayetteville, he provided treatments for many years to patients who came from all over the area. The recipe for his treatment was never shared and went to the grave with him when he died at age 94 years in 1944.
photo by Lilliemae Brightwell,
original in Fayetteville Museum
photo courtesy of her granddaughter
Mrs. Antonia Zelesky, a midwife, brought Eugene Michalsky, Buddy Polansky, Val Cufr and me into the world, as well as many others. She charged a pint of cream for each birth for fifty cents to a dollar. Dr. Charles Kaderka had an office next to what is now Orsaks Café. Della Wormely helped with piles (hemorrhoids).
Dr. Leo Krenek removed warts and was a faith healer. Dr. Andres, also a faith healer, had a lot of customers waiting to see him every day. A young man’s parents were cooking molasses and he walked over the hot coals. His feet were burnt and he was in terrific pain. He was put into the Model “T” and driven to see Dr. Andres, who put him to sleep. When the young man woke up, he had no pain. A six year old girl had a headache. Dr. Andres rubbed her forehead and whispered something that did not make sense to her. The charge was fifty cents. By the time they got home her headache was gone.
Mary Novosad was a “bone-setter” and helped with bruises, performing what seemed like miracles. She had a family recipe for homemade salve that she used for bruises. Cattle men in the area who were hurt by handling cattle were also at Mary’s door for some of that ointment to help heal their wounds. It was a prescription that Frank Gerik, who played in the Baca Band, brought to Texas from Moravia. Alice Novosad Whiteman said her mother saved all her bacon grease and lard to make the ointment. People gave her castor beans, which she dried in her back yard. The seeds were ground up in in the corn sheller and mixed with the grease. When Alice was 10, she broke her arm while skating. Mary set the arm using the ointment and splints made from grapefruit and orange crates. Alice was made to stay quiet for a week and was kept out of school. X rays years later showed it was a perfect heal.
Mary was also a hospice type person. She would go to farms, cook and take care of the sick. During the war, she would stay and help with the newborns of the wives of soldiers at war. Her dream was to be a nurse. She also helped Dr. Levin by housing his patients at her house if they were too sick to go home. Another daughter, Lillian, was in the Coast Guard during the war – her picture is in the Fayetteville museum.
Dr. Millie Petrovolsky treated gallstones (hardened deposits of cholesterol, calcium salts and bile pigments in the digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder). Margaret Michalsky lived with her as she finished her last year in high school. Sometimes a gallstone treatment for a patient took all day – Dr. Petrovolsky used bitter weed tea, hot water bottles and Castor Oil. She only took free will donations. Because of the bitter weeds, which she picked in the fields, her home always smelled odd. Her formula was given to her by the Western Indians, and she would not disclose her secret. People in the area also brought her chamomiles (a daisy like plant) – warm chamomile porridge compresses or ground flaxseed compresses on the abdomen and olive oil taken in divided doses were other remedies for gallstones. Chamomile tea was also used for various ailments, both in humans and animals.
In 1926 Dr. Gus Levin became the city health officer. In the 1940s I stepped on a needle, and he tried to get the needle out of my foot. His office was on the square. People could hear me screaming all over town with pain, so I was taken to the hospital in La Grange where they put me to sleep and removed the needle.
An old Czech remedy for blood poisoning was ground fresh red beets placed on a sore that would draw the poison out. Another one for infections or boils was shredded potatoes wrapped in cheesecloth that was applied to a sore. Those were just two of many different types of remedies that were used or recommended by non-professional medical practitioners.
Medical treatments have evolved from homeopathic type remedies to sophisticated methods often involving expensive pharmaceuticals, biomedical technology and surgeries. However, a few of the old-fashioned remedies can still provide temporary relief. The ingredients listed on the labels of many over-the-counter medications indicate that plant-based substances that were used in the remedies of the past are still being used today.
“Alois Polansky” by Louis J. Polansky; Fayette County, Texas Heritage, Vol. II; Curtis Media, 1996
“An Early History of Fayette County” by Leonie Rummel Weyand and Houston Wade; 1936
“Best Small Town of Fayetteville”, Texas History, on line
Conversation with Alice Novosad Whiteman (Mary Novosad’s daughter); 5-7-2014
Conversation with Margaret Michalsky; 5-8-2014
“Czech Reflections, Recipes, Memories & History” by McClennan-Hill Chapter of the Czech Heritage Society; 1994
“Dr. Abner P. Manly” from the Freytag Files, Fayette County Public Library Archives
“Fayette County, Her History and Her People” by F, Lotto; 1902
Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Fayetteville Post Office
Before 1836, mail was delivered by boat from Galveston to San Felipe where it was picked up at dockside and carried overland to Industry and elsewhere. The road used became a stagecoach route thru Fayetteville where tired horses were exchanged for fresh ones and where fatigued passengers rested.
In 1835-1838 mail stops in Fayetteville were called "Wade's Post Office", "Alexander's Voting Place", and " Lickskillet".
The Fayetteville Post Office was established on 10-30-1850, and was always located on the Public Square. Sylvester S. Munger was our first established Postmaster. James P. Ellis started on June 11,1853 and John H. Ujffy on February 18, 1854.
The Munger Store was built in 1855 and was used as a Post Office today it is a landmark known as the "The Red & White Store".
Starting July 12, 1861, we had a Confederate Postmaster by the name of W. W. Wade. Some of the deliveries came to the Scheige Building. Reiner J. Zimmermann replaced W.W. Wade as Postmaster on January 26,1866.
Hugo Zapp (Zapp Store) was Postmaster on December 1, 1873.
When Hermann W. H. Zapp (old Zapp store) started as Postmaster on February 26, 1883, the Post Office was at the Pagel Tire Shop, today the corner of Orsak's Café at Fayette and Washington Street.
Henry C. Steves started as Postmaster on June 10, 1889. The Post Office was moved into the Steve Building. The Steve Building is at Fayette & Live Oak Streets on the North East of the square.
The Gloeckner Hotel was built in 1890 on the corner of Main and Live Oak. Henry A. Gloeckner started as Postmaster on September 1, 1893. The Post Office was in his hotel lobby. Gloeckner sold the hotel in 1922 and it became known as the Johnson Hotel. Mr.& Mrs. Sam Knippel torn down the hotel and built their home on that same corner.
Julius Hansen started as Postmaster December 22, 1898 in the Vetter Bldg Saddle Shop, which is today's "Yesterday's Past", located at 112 W Live Oak Street. Judy and Corky Rackley now own the building. The original lobby of the old Post office can be viewed as well as the original wall. The wire cage above the wooden wall is still at the top. The "Parcel Post" and the "Stamp" windows are still there. The drop window with bars is open so a person can view the lobby from the middle room where mail was sorted. The original Post Office boxes are now at the Fayetteville Area Heritage Museum.
William Hotmann started as Postmaster on December 6, 1910 followed by Charles H. Cmajdalka. Rudolph R. Kubena who's Father-in-law, R. B. Spacek was a congressman, started on March 3, 1937. During the time Rudolph R. Kubena was Postmaster the Post Office was moved to the corner of Washington and Fayette Street into a building owned by the Fayetteville Bank. Rudolph married Spacek's daughter Minnie Mae, grandmother to today's city mayor, Ronnie Pflughaupt.
In 1975, a new Post Office was built replacing the Chalupa Cotton Gin at 212 E Main. In the past there were four rural carriers serving the community with a little over a hundred miles of rural routes. Today, two carriers serve approximately 700 families over a distance of over two hundred miles. There are 2 sub-carriers, one clerk, and the Postmistress. The Lower Colorado River Authority's Fayette Power Project, only two miles west of the City, made some changes to the delivery routes for the Post Office.
Ludvik M. Chovanec started as Postmaster on November 13, 1971. Jerry Kubala started on June 18, 1979. Our present Postmistress is Carol Ortiz who started in February 2001 and the postal service still uses the 212 E Main Street location.
Some of the carriers of mail in the past were Leo Knippel, Sam Knippel, Chester Cordes and Alfred Cordes Sr., and Jesse Gresser.
The story goes that one sub carrier got two tires to deliver and since he had a lot of mail that day, put them into the trunk of his car. Weeks later, the person who ordered the tires called the shipper and complained that the tires never were delivered. The insurance company replaced the tires. When the sub carrier traded his car for a new car a year later, he checked the trunk and to his embarrassment he found the two original tires.
Anything can happen in photography, I guess that is true in the postal business too.
Footprints of Fayette article by Linda J. Dennis:
Fayetteville’s Water Tower
It was with great anticipation the residents of Fayetteville welcomed the construction of a new modern water tower in the early 1930’s. It still stands tall and can be seen as you approach this lovely historic town which boasts somewhere between 261 and 283 residents, depending on the sign you read based on your entrance to town.
When the water tower was erected, it sat next door to Emil Chalupa’s Cotton Gin and less than a block from the railroad tracks. Years ago, the old Cotton Gin was moved away and replaced by a new brick Post Office but the water tower remains intact. In 2008 it received a shiny new paint job and once again proudly offers those who read it a cheerful “Welcome to Fayetteville.” In 2009 it received a new pump and continues to serve the city well.
Those who are still with us since the building of the tower have shared events associated with it that are somewhat unique. You may find their remembrances interesting and sometimes sad.
Shortly after the tower was built, the city initiated a sewer project that was completed in 1937. I daresay that without the tower, this project could not have gone forward.
Shortly after the tower was erected, the town experienced a hard freeze. As a result, the water in the tower froze and water leaked from it creating huge dangerous icicles. It was discovered that the water in the tower was not being circulated and a pump system was installed to prevent it from happening again. It was reported that the icicles were over six feet long.
Hundreds of birds hit the tower years later and were killed. Yet again, tragedy stuck the tower as a young man took a dare from his friends and scaled the beckoning tower. He fell to his death as a result.
Something as beautiful and innocent as a tower that offers life giving waters has also been tragic for others. Look for this landmark the next time you visit Fayetteville.
Sources: Vlasta “Vee” Chalupa Rajcevich and Kermit Heinsohn
Photo by Linda J. Dennis
Footprints of Fayette article by Irene Polansky:
Cotton Gins in Fayetteville
Located at the intersection of Main and Church Streets in Fayetteville was one of the first cotton gins in Fayetteville owned and operated by Konstantin Chovanec; later it was owned by Alois and Johanna Polansky. It was a big, two-story building made of tin siding. On one side was a drive-through area with a scale and a pipe that would suck up the cotton into the gin. On the front of the gin was a platform where cotton bales were rolled out and then picked up by the farmer. On the back of the gin was another “drive-through” area where cotton seed could be picked up. Adjoining it was a room in which cotton seed bought by the gin was stored. The other parts of the gin on the ground floor included a room that was used to grind meal and feed and a room where the gin motor was kept. The rest of the ground floor housed a bunch of belts and pulleys, including the hydraulic system for the cotton press.
The second floor consisted of an area where the cotton first came from the trailer and then was sifted through a cotton cleaner. The cotton then went into a row of gin stands where the cotton lint and seed were separated by a bunch of round saws with millions of teeth. Many ginners got their hands or fingers cut off trying to un-jam these saws.
The cotton then went by conveyors toward the front of the gin, and the cotton lint fell into a cotton press. As the cotton fell into the press box, it was compacted by a platform that would go up and down, so that the cotton would fit into the press box. This was probably the most important job in the gin, as the press man had to know when to shut off the conveyor of cotton and get it turned into a new box, as another bale was starting to get ginned. The press man would also have to look out for fires in the cotton as the lint fell into the hole. When cotton burns, it turns black and just smolders. Sometimes a tiny pebble in the raw cotton would hit a saw blade and start the cotton burning.
When the bale was ginned, the cotton stopped coming to the press, and there was a turntable that had an identical press box on the other side. The table was turned, and the bale of cotton was now in a position to be pressed and bound by metal ties. There was a lever which, when tripped, would make a belt slide onto another pulley, which would start the process of making the bottom of the press come up, pressing the bale. When the bale came up to a point where one could see the bottom through slots which had bagging over it, the press was stopped, and metal ties were inserted around the pressed bale. These were tied by a buckle, and after all of the ties were intact, the press doors were opened, and as the press floor went down slowly, the bale was pushed out of the press onto the floor.
There was a large scale there, and the bale was weighed. After the bale was weighed, a sample of the cotton was cut from either side of the bale, and this was given to the farmer to show the buyer what kind of cotton lint he had in the bale.
Also on the second floor was the large gin trailer scale control used to weigh the cotton as it came in. The farmer would drive the loaded wagon onto the scale, and the trailer was weighed with all of the cotton in it. After the trailer was emptied, the trailer was weighed again, and the difference in weight was the amount of raw cotton that had been delivered to the gin. After the bale was made, it also was weighed, and the difference between the weight of the bale and the raw cotton represented the weight of the cotton seed, which the farmer could sell to the ginner, or keep for cow feed.
During the time of Polansky’s ownership, the gin was powered by burning wood. Polansky sold the gin to Emil Chalupa on October 6, 1910. About the same time, the gin was destroyed by a hurricane during harvest time, with a large smoke stack falling towards the house (Chalupa residence), but it did no damage to the house. The farmers then got together and rebuilt the gin in time to bale the same harvest.
Some of the workers at the gin were: Emil and Frank Chalupa, Arnold Knipple, Ed Kubala, John Michalsky, Pete Michalsky and Ed Patterson.
The gin was changed to operate on electricity and later to diesel power. Each day, two men arrived at the gin about 4 AM to fire the boilers, so the operation was ready to begin by 7 AM. In the later years of operation, the gin was open during season until late at night.
Dinnertime for the workers was announced by a whistle with the serving of a delicious meal, which was prepared by Mary Chalupa. Ice Cream was also served to workers and children. Snacks and an afternoon lunch were served at 3 PM.
During the day, the gin was always filled with wagons and trailers. The bales of cotton were stored on the platform that was located behind the present residence of Linda Dennis and adjacent to the home of Jim and Kay Baker.
The gin discontinued operation in the mid-1960s, because people quit growing cotton and planted other crops which brought better prices, such as corn and other grains. The Fayetteville Post Office is now located at the site of this gin.
Another of the popular gins of the time was the Mazel-Renner gin. In operation before 1890, the gin did good business until a fire (probably started by sparks from a passenger train) started in the gin, destroying it. Frank Mazel, co-owner of the first gin, rebuilt the second gin. This gin was wood fire-powered during the complete time of operation with six to eight people working there; the children of Frank Mazel also assisted at the gin.
The price to gin a bale was about $1.50, and the ties were 85 cents. About 40 bales were ginned in a day. The gin was sold to Joe Kovar about 1917. Soon afterward, this gin also burned. After this gin burned down, the towns of Biegel and Clear Creek got the ginning business from Fayetteville.
Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Federal Agents Invade Fayetteville in 1918
Immigration is a hot topic in our country now, just as it was in the early 1900's here in Fayette County.
Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on immigrants and being an American in 1907 were as follows: "In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
World War Iwas a global war which took place primarily in Europe from 1914 to 1918. Over 40 million casualties resulted, including approximately 20 million military and civilian deaths. Over 60 million European soldiers were mobilized from 1914 to 1918.
Our immigrants in Fayette county were from Germany, Bohemia and Moravia in the Empire of Austria and Alsace-Lorraine and all loved their native lands whatever their reason for coming to America. During World War I the German flag was hoisted at the Germania club in Fayetteville three times during the last year of the war in spite of the Sedition Act of 1918.The hoisting of the Kaiser’s emblem was an error, according to the version given by W. C. Langlotz, mayor of Fayetteville. Langlotz explained to newspapermen, that having been sick for some time the secretary of the club had instructed the clerk, Walter Drawe, simply to hoist the flag. Drawe, in carrying out the orders, went to the club and picked the first flag he saw.
Deputy Marshal E. T. Herring and Special Agent E. B. Sisk were undeterred by this, and because they could not otherwise remove the flag made it their business to go to the gallery of the club and chop down the mast, splinter it from head to base and tear off the flag. A small crowd of townspeople gathered in the street, but knew not at that time what the federal men were up to, though other citizens of Fayetteville had resented the act and had kept the Houston authorities “wise” of the club men’s actions.
The Germania club was a two-story building equipped with a barroom at W. Fayette & N. Rusk. After the federal agents had removed the flag, they arrested six persons. They secured them in the Fayetteville post office. In the meantime they conducted a further investigation and had warrants issued for five more alleged to have been implicated. They arrested Mayor Langlotz at his blacksmith shop. In all they had directors and officers of the club, figures of municipal interest besides the mayor and other alleged to have been guilty of unpatriotic actions, but who denied what the federal agents lay against them in their united plea of “not guilty”.
Later Tuesday afternoon, February 12, 1918, the federal agents made ready to bring their prisoners to Houston. The train arrived shortly before 10 P.M., and the feds brought with them the flag. A patrol automobile greeted them at the Katy station and the load of accused was conveyed to jail. Assigned to a cell in the Harris county jail the offenders were held all night and were brought to the federal building shortly after 9P.M. Wednesday morning to face United States Commissioner Jackson.
They were arraigned a few at a time before the commissioners. The charges of violating sections of the espionage act were read to them by District Attorney Green. They pleaded not guilty in all except one case, with a waiving of examination. However, a few of those arraigned were slated for “preliminaries” by Mr. Green. “If you make any attempt to find out who informed the government of your actions you may have to face more serious charges then those now against you.”
Bonds aggregating $69,000 were furnished Wednesday afternoon by 11 residents of Fayetteville, following the men’s hearing before United States Commissioner A. L. Jackson, when each was held for the federal grand jury, for further examination, under individual bail ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 for the raising of the German flag from the gallery of the Fayetteville Germania club Tuesday morning for the third time in 1918.
[Note: The charges were eventually dropped.]
Footprints of Fayette article by Connie F. Sneed:
Mayor Pleads Not Guilty
A previous article told about the display of the German flag in Fayetteville during World War I. Here are two different accounts of the incident’s aftermath.
Paper: Pueblo Chieftain
Houston, Texas, Feb.13 - W.C. Langlotz, Mayor, and ten citizens of Fayetteville, near here, pleaded not guilty here today before the United States Commissioner to charges of espionage. They were held under bonds totaling under $69,000. Their arrest followed the display over the entry of the Germania Club in Fayetteville of the German flag. Federal officials made the arrests, removed the flag and the flag pole and brought the prisoners here. Mayor Langlotz, in court, said that the German flag was displayed by mistake. With one exception all are American born citizens.
EDITOR OF LA GRANGE JOURNAL’S REMARKS
Having started to publish the Fayetteville newsthe arrest of those good citizens who were obliged to enter the United States court, result of the German flag being displayed upon the Germania hall to announce the monthly or other dance, I have tried, without comment, to give the matter in full as it appeared in the Houston Post, and in this issue give the Post’s report of the examining trial and the release of some of the citizens. In publishing this report, as well as publishing the others, I have refrained from any comment, believing that such comment, either in print or on the street corners was ill-timed.
Now that the news is published that Mayor Langlotz, and others have been given a clean bill, and the case against them has been dismissed, it is pardonable if I say, I thought it would be. I have known the mayor and his friends for many years, and while knowing them does not make them immunes, I felt that they could not be guilty of the crime of flaunting the German flag in the face of anyone at this time. Motherly teaching, or the knowledge of a good old mother love would not make men like Otto Vetter, F. J. Piwetz and Will Langlotz forget that this is America and that at this time more so than at any other, the stars and stripes should precede everything. And bless you, the minutes of the club’s last meeting show that the members were not going to raise that flag, but instead, the stars and stripes whenever dances are held.
What a bitter disappointment it must have been to those who believed that “the excuses offered by the parties arrested were about the flimsiest that possibly could be conceived, and that those most responsible will be lucky if they only escape with a prison sentence.” Sorry to note that such should have come from one who has so long been an acquaintance of mine, and whose friendship I have prized. I will suggest, however, that the writer of those quoted remarks, his experience as a newspaper man to the contrary not withstanding, first consider the effects his remarks would have on the families of these good citizens, and secondly, whether these men were guilty of willful criminal negligence.
Further, my friend, it is not only Fayetteville, but it is Fayette county as well that suffers. These men whom the United States District Attorney caused to be released and the cases against them dismissed, are men who stand high in the estimation of honorable citizens, real loyal Americans, and not men who profess their loyalty. From LaGrange alone, there was a contingent which went to Houston and stood ready to convince the district attorney that there was an error. And I am referring only to those who were charged with displaying the flag or having it displayed, or knowing that it was displayed, as charged. It is not my fight neighbor, but it’s the insulting way in which you refer to my friends that hurts. And now that you have heard of their discharge and the dismissal of the cases against them, show your loyal Americans spirit by penning just as strong an editorial admitting that your first comment was the result of blinded prejudice. As this will reach you anyway, it is necessary to state that your paper is not published many miles from LaGrange. I am still glad to call those Fayetteville citizens my friends. I am referring to the men who were discharged this week.
Footprints of Fayette article by Gesine Tschiedel Koether:
Fayetteville Basketball and the Dance Hall
by Gesine (Tschiedel) Koether
After my article about the early schools of Fayette County a few months ago, I remembered an interesting story that Al Cordes, Jr. told me about his brother, Chester, and the Fayetteville Lions High School basketball team of 1941-42. The following is his recollection:
“Basketball at Fayetteville High was played at the SPJST dance hall until 1947 when the new school gym was built after WWII.
The SPJST dance hall had been modified somewhat by raising the ceiling [rafters] and striping in a ball court with the back court overlapping to the free throw line of the opposite end. It was, of course, much better than the dirt court that we had at the school yard.
Our most famous player was Henry Chovanec, who lettered at Texas [U.T.]. He was a bomber pilot in WWII and unfortunately died when he tried to fly in a very battle-damaged plane that fell apart as he started to climb into the sky for another mission.
Johnny Sommerlatte was a very good player as he was big and fast. His sister told me that he broke through the floor when he jumped for a rebound. In 1938, B. E. Todd, the new Ag teacher, saw the eighth-grade boys playing in the school yard. He came over and started coaching them and stated that if they kept playing together, they would have a very good team in high school.
The boys were Joe Rek, Dennis Rudloff, Emmit Moellenberg, Elbert Cassell, Donald Gresser, Pete Treybig, Melvin Wolff, Benny Vasek and Chester Cordes. Of course, he was right; they went to the finals in the 1941-42 school year. Unfortunately, Chester broke his ankle right before the half, and Dennis told me that really hurt their chances. Chester made All-State, and most of the team was back the next year. The dance hall had no heat, and several weeks before the Regionals in the 1942-43 school year, a really cold spell kept the team from practice. As a result, the Fayetteville Lions won the first game, but the lack of practice showed up in the second game, and they did not make it to the state tournament.
All the boys went into service in WWII. Unfortunately, Melvin Wolff was killed in action. Dennis Rudloff was an Air Force Officer who flew many missions. Chester joined the Navy and served aboard a Troop Transport in the Pacific. While at the San Diego Naval Station, he played on the base basketball team. He was the only high schooler star on the team… all the rest were college stars and pros. After the war, he played basketball at A&M until he decided to devote more time to his studies.”
The following story was found in the La Grange Journal, March 12, 1942, page 3: “Fayetteville Lions at the past week-end accomplished what no Fayette county basketball team has been able to do in the past—advanced to the finals of the State of Texas tournament. Coach Jesse Jochec’s Lions, the surprise team in the Class B tourney, bowled over everything to come its way to go to the finals. Then they met Slidell, a little town north of Dallas. Slidell defeated Fayetteville, 32-22 to win the State B title, with the Fayetteville Lions taking second place. Slidell had a big edge on Fayetteville in height, and capitalized on it to some extent and its ability to cash long shots helped the victors to draw away in the closing minutes. Chester Cordes, string bean center, played a brilliant defensive game for Fayetteville.”
Al’s memories of his older brother, Chester, clearly reflect the pride and love many of us feel about the accomplishments of our family and friends. Our Fayette County schools, both now and in those early years, build strong bonds around memories spent together attaining our common goals.
Fayetteville Lions 1942-1943 Regional VI champs: Top - Oliver Rudloff, Elbert Cassell, Alois Moellenberg, Chester Cordes, Everett Treybig, Gilbert Baca and Jesse J. Jochec, Coach; Bottom - Robert Mynar, Bernard Vasek, Donald Gresser and Edwin Kubala; courtesy of The Fayette County Record, January 16, 1996.
La Grange Journal, March 12, 1942, p. 3
Photo from The Fayette County Record, February 16, 1996, p. 18
Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Memories of Fayetteville, Texas
At one time during the 1930s through the 1950s, Fayetteville, Texas had a cleaner, pharmacy, lawyer, hardware store, liquor store, meat market, Kerrville bus depot, railroad depot, florist, C.P.A. accountant, watch repair shop, musical band, an orchestra, cotton gin,feed store,varied and different cafes and beauty shops, a Western Auto store, Red & White Store, Cufr Dry Goods, Chovanec General Store, a movie theater, three dance halls, full time Dr. Levin, an auto repair shop, a locker plant, the home office for the S.P.J.S.T. Insurance Company, plus two automobile dealerships, etc.
The Cordes Motor Co. was in existence for over 40 years in Fayetteville. It was in the building that now houses Graeter Motor Company. Cordes Motor Company sold new and used Dodge & Plymouth automobiles and trucks, Philco radios, washing machines and refrigerators. The Cordes family lived next door to the business, just like the Graeter family does today - same location, different house. Mrs. Cordes was the secretary and sold parts to my mother that my daddy used for car repairs in his shop. Mr. Cordes always had eggs and bacon for breakfast. He lived a full life, in spite of his diet of “unhealthy food”.
Since I had no pictures from the past, I searched the school annuals for some information. I found the advertisement in “The Bluebonnet 48” that is pictured with this article.
Looking through “The Bluebonnet 48”, published by the seniors of Fayetteville Rural High School, I realized there were things I did not remember, or have not thought about for a long time. Our old elementary school building is gone. We enjoyed so many lunches in the building. I remember one dish served with pride by the cooks. It was a circle of peas, then a circle of mashed potatoes, then in the middle was beef in gravy, all of which was delicious. Before eating, one of my classmates would mix it all up saying, “it all ends up time in the same place, so what difference does it make?”
It was the same lunch program, whose cooks at one time mixed up the salt and sugar. I don’t know how the food was used. Nothing was ever thrown away.
Memories of the faculty made me smile. Pictured were Superintendent Sutherland; my typing instructor, James Parma; Clara Koch, Elementary Principal; Elmo Meyer Voc. Ag.; Jesse J Jochec, Principal and Basketball Coach; Fred Grebe, Mathematics; Mrs. M. Graeter, English; and Frances Kamas, 5th & 6th grades; as well as others. My belated “Thanks” for teaching us so much.
“The Bluebonnet 48” was printed in black & white.Even though it is 62 years old, the pictures are great.
The graduating class included Lois Treybig, L. F. Eilers, Jr., Lou Jean Krebs, Kermit Baca, Vernon Giebel, Bernice Dockal, Verbie V. Dippel, Lillian Piwetz, Pearlie Minarcik, Lillian Vaclavik, Loy D. Kaltwasser, Vernelle Muenzler, Marian Klimek, Dorothy M. Muesse, Alice Pisklak, Leslie Lee Fritsch, Jeanette Seiffert, Clarence Eckermann, Lorine Klimek, Eugene F. Schmidt, May Dell Dierking, Gladys Schneider, Maxine Urbanovsky, & Allan D. Pagel - a wonderful group.
One other item I noticed in the annual was that for several years Lautersteins in La Grange and Bastrop supported the Fayetteville school annuals withfull page advertisements. My mother and I loved shopping in their stores.
The Fayetteville Area Museum has a collection of some of the school annuals.
A Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
The Piwetz Bottling Co. in Fayetteville, Texas
By Lillie Mae Brightwell
Someone told me we had a bottling company in Fayetteville long ago…my first thought - no way! Well here is the story…
In the 1920s, the Piwetz Bottling Co., owned by Frank J. Piwetz, Sr., was located on Bell Street where Ludwig Chovanec’s home sits today. The Piwetz’s two-story wooden home and the tin building that he used for his bottling company were surrounded by a fence with a large guard dog inside. The dog alerted the owners of anyone or anything moving on the street, even barking at the children on their way to the Catholic School. The old Piwetz property occupied the area that today covers the block from 111West Bell through 201West Bell. The Groidanos now own the Piwetz home.
Several local seniors remember the bottling company, one of whom is Frank Stastny, age 97, who walked from Highway 159 every day—about two miles—past the company on his way to St. John the Baptist Catholic School on Bell Street. Everyone walked in those days, because there were very few automobiles; horses or horse-drawn buggies were the primary modes of transportation.
Frank J. Piwetz, Sr. first owned and operated a combination grocery store and saloon before he built his bottling company. He also sold bulk Sinclair gasoline, kerosene and oils. The 1920 census shows Frank J.’s occupation as a retail merchant in a grocery store. He and his wife, Ophelia Bertsch, had three children: Mary, Frank John Jr. and Walter. His occupation is validated in F. Lotto’s 1902 book, “Fayette County, Her History and Her People”, where an ad for his grocery store reads: “F. J. Piwetz - Fayetteville, Texas is the place to go for Groceries….Fine Whiskies and Liquors, Domestic and Imported Cigars and Fresh Beer, It Is The Most Popular Resort of Fayetteville and Neighborhood.” In the description of the businesses in Fayetteville at that time, Lotto mentions that F.J. Piwetz was one of three successful businessmen who were in the saloon and grocery business.
Piwetz’s grocery store and saloon were housed in the old two-story building that sat diagonally across from Orsak’s Café on the square; it was later replaced by the old Fayetteville bank building. When I was in school, the Tiedt Café, known for its wonderful stew, was located in that building. It competed with Minar’s Café on the square, which was known for its delicious chili. Some of us kids would stop at Tiedt’s in the afternoons on our way home to play the slot machines.
There were hotel or boarding rooms upstairs above Tiedt’s Café, as there were during the time that the Piwetz family had their grocery business. Fayetteville was always short of places for people to live. During World War II, many people divided their homes to accommodate another family with living quarters. Before then, they helped people by renting rooms, especially to teachers and rural children who wanted to stay closer to the school.
In The 1930 census, Piwetz is shown as working as a proprietor of a soda factory, so he must have recognized the financial potential of owning a bottling company, which he built sometime in the early 1920s. More than likely, he gave up the operation of the grocery store and saloon at that time.
Frank Piwetz, Jr., his wife, Wilma Westerman, and three children, Donald Lee, Elwood James and Verna Jean, were living next door to his parents. Frank, Jr’s draft registration card for WWI showed that he was a laborer employed by his father, which at that time would have been in the grocery store. By 1930, Frank, Jr. was an oil agent for Magnolia Oil. Locals still recollect seeing Magnolia oil drums stored near the railroad tracks off of FM Rd. 1291.
The tin building for the Piwetz Bottling Company was approximately 80 feet long and 30 feet wide. The front 10 feet of space was used for the office with the mixing room occupying the next 15 feet. Syrups and ingredients were mixed in a large container by hand – there were no special machines for that process. The third part of the building that was about 30 feet long was the area where the bottles were washed, rinsed and sterilized. The bottles were loaded by hand into trays on a big wheel which rotated them through a vat. The clean bottles were then transferred to another machine that held the syrup that was poured into the bottles with the other ingredients to make a non-carbonated soda. Flavors over the years included cola, cream, orange, strawberry and root beer. The actual bottling and capping was done one bottle at a time. After the bottles were capped, a visual inspection was made by holding the bottles upside down, one in each hand, against a light to make sure that they were okay.
The back fourth part of the building was divided. One side held as many as fifty or more cases that each held 24 bottles. Returned bottles waiting to be washed and filled were stored on the other side.
It is not known where or how Frank Piwetz, Sr. obtained the equipment necessary for a bottling company. However, many small towns had bottling companies due to local demand and the problems of long-distance transportation. Sales of his sodas were successful. Restaurants, service stations, saloons and dance halls in Fayetteville, Park, Rutersville, Warrenton, Shelby, Round Top, Willow Springs and Ellinger sold Piwetz sodas. As many as 10 to 50 cases would be ordered for weddings, church celebrations and other events. If there was anything on the Fayetteville public square at any time, there were Piwetz sodas.
As a child, Goldie Kovar, age 91, remembers that when she was five or six years old, she would ask Mr. Piwetz for a soda water, and of course, he would give her one free of charge. Years later when Goldie was in public school, Mr. Piwetz‘s daughter-in-law, Wilma, was her teacher.
Eugene Michalsky remembers that when his family had a bail of cotton ginned, they were treated to a case of Piwetz’s sodas. Some of the bottle caps had a coupon inside for a free soda.
It is interesting that the flavored drinks made by Mr. Piwetz were called sodas, because they were not carbonated. In the United States, carbonated water was known as “soda water” until World War II, due to the sodium salts it contained. These were added as flavoring and acidity regulators with the intent of mimicking the taste of natural mineral water. During the Great Depression, it was sometimes called "two cents plain", a reference to its being the cheapest drink at soda fountains (i.e. without the addition of three cents-worth of flavored syrup). Before bottling companies, flavored soda water could only be purchased at soda fountains.
In many parts of the U.S., “soda” has come to mean any type of sweetened, flavored carbonated drink. In the mid-western states, people almost invariably will use the term "pop", which is shortened from "soda pop". Modern carbonated water is made by passing pressurized carbon dioxide through water. The pressure increases the solubility and allows more carbon dioxide to dissolve than would be possible under standard atmospheric pressure. When the bottle is opened, the pressure is released, allowing the gas to come out of the solution, forming the characteristic bubbles and creating the “popping sound”; hence the name “soda pop”. In Texas we mostly use the term “soft drink”. In today’s world, Piwetz’s flavored drinks could not be called “sodas”.
Business slowed during World War II due to the shortage of sugar. When Frank, Sr. passed away in 1945, Frank, Jr. took over the business. His mother, Ophelia Piwetz, died in 1949 and was buried next to her husband in the Fayetteville City Cemetery. Frank, Jr. closed the doors of the bottling company in the 1950s and ceased business.
The accompanying photograph shows Michael Krenek’s bottle from Piwetz’s bottling company that was saved by his mother, Hennrietta Krenek, of Ellinger. No maker of the bottle is evident other than the letters FLDOL embossed on the bottom. Piwetz, like owners of most small bottling companies of that era, probably ordered bottles from out-of-state or from some large city in Texas and had them shipped by rail to Fayetteville, where they were unloaded from rail cars onto horse-drawn wagons to his company, which was about five blocks away.
Interviews with Goldie Kovar, Frank Stastny, Mike Krenek, Wayne Schmidt, Eugene Michalsky, Darcia Mucha and Elwood Piwetz
Lotto, F. “Fayette County, Her History and Her People”; Sticker Steam Press, Schulenburg; 1902
On line genealogy: Roots web.ancestry.com/~Piwetz/Second%20Gener
Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia
Picture of bottle by Dybala's Photography on the Square, Fayetteville
A Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Double Curbs in Fayetteville, Texas
Wheels and trains are so important in our lives. The forerunner to the railroad was actually invented in Germany in the 1500s. Primitive railed roads consisted of wooden rails over which horse-drawn wagons or carts moved with greater ease than over dirt roads. Iron replaced the wood in the carts and wheels, but horses still provided all the pulling power. Then flanged wheels were used. The flange was a groove that allowed the wheels to better grip the rail. In 1803 the steam engine replaced the horse-drawn carts on the tramways.
With the revolution behind them, Texans recognized the potential that railroads offered to their vast frontier, so soon railroads began crisscrossing the state, providing passenger, mail and freight services.
Passenger trains in the past brought mail to and from the town of Fayetteville, Texas. If the train did not stop, the outgoing mail was placed in a bag that was hung on a nail at the depot. The engineer would put his arm through the loop and grab the mail as the train passed by.
A mail wagon was built with two iron wheels (like bicycle wheels) that were attached to the middle of the wagon bed. Handles were attached to both ends of the wagon that also had wooden legs that would hold it up when stationary.
A double curbed sidewalk was built on both sides of the street to accommodate the wide wagon and keep it from dumping the mail and packages. Today there are no signs of the double curbs on the west side of South Live Oak Street; however, a small portion of the double curbs, which are pictured here, are still evident on the east side between Main and Franklin Streets. One of the houses on a corner of the street, where part of the last portion of this historical sidewalk still remains, is now for sale, so the life of the sidewalk on this property is questionable and up to the new owners.
For a number of years in the 1950s after he served in the Korean War, R. D. (Richard Dean) Nicholson, a local African American gentleman, pushed or pulled the mail wagon approximately one and a half blocks to and from the old post office on the square and the depot that was located at the end of South Live Oak Street next to the railroad tracks. The old post office is now part of the Yesterday’s Past antique store at 112 North Live Oak Street. Getting the mail to and from the post office to the station was very important. During freezing, rainy, sleeting, snowy, stormy or hot weather, the bills, checks and business mail had to be sent, and letters from friends, family and men in the military had to be delivered.
Quite a few high school students loved helping R. D. push the wagon when they could. I remember Buddy Polansky talking about R. D. with a great deal of personal affection and admiration for the hard job he was doing. The depot was a fun place to hang around if you were a teenager in town with not too much to do. Sometimes auto track rail cars would show up and switch to another track for unloading. Helping pull on the chains to unload the cars was exciting.
The best estimate is that R. D. Nicholson worked for the post office for approximately eight years. After R.D. retired, Sylvester Schmidt, Jr. said that his father, Sylvester Schmidt, Sr., the postmaster at the time, would usually get the mail in his pickup truck, but sometimes he still used the mail wagon.
R. D. and his mother, Martha Nicholson, lived on the Nicholson property just past the baseball field on Hwy 159 east of Fayetteville. Their home was originally a black school called the Nicholson School. R. D., who was adopted by Martha Nicholson, was born on June 13, 1933 in Ellinger, Texas, the son of Autry Jarmon and Katherine Anderson.
The 1940 census shows that Martha Nicholson, her adopted son, R. D., and Andrew Anderson, age 73, were living at that same location in Fayetteville. Martha died in 1967, so at some point, either after his retirement from the post office or after his mother’s death, R.D. moved to Houston, where at age 56, he married Laura A. Jones, age 21, on July 17, 1989. He had one daughter, De Lois, born in 1955.
R.D. died on Jan. 1, 2015 and was buried in the Houston National Cemetery in Houston, Plot: Sect. R, Site 0728. The inscription on his tombstone reads: AB, US Air Force, Korea.
Most domestic mail today is delivered by trucks, whether it’s by the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or Fed EX, although there are a few exceptions. For example, precious ores from the mines in Colorado that were once shipped through the postal service are now handled by the Brinks Company or similar armored vehicle services for obvious security reasons. Also, there is still a daily mule train handling mail in the U.S. – it delivers mail to a small Indian reservation located 3000 feet down on the floor of the Havasu Canyon in Arizona, because there is no other way to get mail or supplies, mostly food, into the canyon. Express mail? They just tie it on a mule and turn him loose, and he runs all the way down.
Thankfully, mail delivery to and from Fayetteville is accomplished in a timely fashion with more modern means of conveyance than a mule train, although the passenger train did provide regular mail service in the past, and the depot was a great hangout place for local teens. Mechanization and progress have brought many changes, but the mail is still delivered everyday like clockwork, although it no longer seems to be a visible part of our community life.
The last remaining evidence of the sidewalk with the double curbs nostalgically reminds us of the dedicated past employees of the local postal service, like R.D. Nicholson, who dutifully pushed the mail wagon to help get the mail to and from our town.
Celebration of Life Honoring R. D. Nicholson
Colorado State Mining Directory Buyers’ Guide 1895
Find a grave website
Railroad history, online sources
Texas Marriage Index 1966-2001
Photo of double curb on South Live Oak Street is courtesy of Lilliemae Brightwell
Fayetteville Depot: R.D. Nicholson – 2nd from left; U.S. Mail wagon on the far right – photo courtesy of Fayette Heritage Library and Archives and Dybala Photography, Fayetteville
A Footprints of Fayette article by Lillie Mae Brightwell:
Bits & Pieces
by Lillie Mae Brightwell
Oftentimes, small bits of history are overlooked or not documented. Here are a few fragments of history - recollections and observations of people, places and events in and around Fayetteville, Texas that deserve to be noted.
Jerry Kunetka recalls that Emil Schley, his Ag Teacher at Fayetteville High School, used to say, “When the going gets tough; the tough get going!” “Losers never win and winners never lose.”
The concrete slab by the Fayetteville Post Office parking lot on Highway 159 held the diesel engine for the Chalupa Cotton Gin. Mary Chalupa prepared lunch for all the workers at the gin and served ice cream and snacks in the afternoon at 3 p.m. for local children and the workers.
Jesse Burnam’s first ferry was built at the lower La Bahia Road crossing of the Colorado River from his land in Holman Valley across the river to the Simon A. Anderson League south of Ellinger. John Chupick and then John Krenek owned the land on the east side of the river where the crossing was located. John Krenek’s grandson, Mike Krenek of Fayetteville, now owns the land where Burnam’s first ferry crossed the river.
There was a Baca’s Bakery on the square, presumably in the same building where the Baca's Confectionary was later located and that is now occupied by Joe's Place. Unfortunately, no one living today seems to remember the bakery. However, its name was imprinted on a wooden box that still exists.
The Baca Band once led funeral processions from St. John’s Catholic Church through town to the cemetery. They also played concerts on Sunday afternoons in the gazebo on the courthouse lawn, led parades and provided musical entertainment for all kinds of celebrations in the community.
Dowsing or divining rods discovered three rows of male bodies buried under the large oak tree across from the City Cemetery that at one time was the Allen Academy property. These were possible yellow fever victims during or before the Civil War.
At the curve of Franklin and Post Oak streets, there was once a black school and church near the railroad tracks. The church was later moved near Rek Hill on Hwy 159.
Eugene Michalsky remembers being told that silent movies were shown in circa 1912 in the building between Pagel’s Tire Shop and Dr. Kaderka’s office. The building is now part of Orsak’s Café.
One Halloween, the boys put a Model T in the hallway of the old red brick High School building. The Union Sunday School met in the school library each Sunday. Imagine their surprise that Sunday morning! Another time, kids filled the library with fuzzy blooms that stuck to our clothing.
East Franklin Street was once the Fayetteville Rockhouse Road and was also called the Old Brenham Road which is now abandoned. Emil Chalupa recalls the local legend that slaves were auctioned on the old road in the 1840s. There were numerous plantations owned by slave owners in the area prior to the Civil War.
Old city records that were recently found at Kermit Heinsohn’s estate sale declared that there should be no blacks on the streets of the city after 6 p.m. Mr. Heinsohn was a city councilman for many years, as well as the Mayor Pro Tem and unofficial town historian. It is not specifically known why Kermit had those old records that were purchased at the estate sale and donated to the city. Alvin, Texas had the same rule in their old city records.
The Cedar of Lebanon Church of God has a new front door. The church was founded in 1923 at Quill's Place where services were held in a brush arbor under some trees. Brush arbor services were a common practice for early congregations prior to their constructing a church building.
During the Depression, my father, Jerry Vavra, would occasionally drive to Houston. He owned the local Chevrolet dealership, so had to attend certain meetings. He saw many people leaving the big city looking for another place to settle. They were living under the bridges and in large culverts. However, we didn’t lack for food during the Depression, because we had a large garden, a cow and a few pigs.
Buddy Polansky always grew a large garden. He gave his produce away to people he knew would enjoy his fresh veggies. His peach tree had loads of small peaches – more skin and seed than peach flesh, but they were delicious. Skip Frances had an apple tree that produced wonderful apples. Unfortunately, the tree was cut down after he died. Eugene and Margaret Michalsky still have a nice orange tree by their old locker plant building.
Local handicapped Eddie Shimek walked to town every day. Mrs. Olivia Baca left him a breakfast meal in the barbeque pit in her backyard. She and her husband owned a nearby store at the corner of Hwy 159 and FM 1291 N.; it was later Krenek’s Store and is now the Fayetteville Store. Eddie stood up to eat his breakfast. Bob Brightwell had learned that Eddie wore the same size shoes as he did, so he gave him several pairs every so often. Eddie was delighted! Upon Eddie’s death, a search was made to find his suit, which was found folded up under a set mouse trap in his home. He had hidden some savings in one ofthe pockets. His friends, Bob, Skip Frances and Larry Sodek made sure that Eddie’s grave in the Catholic Cemetery had a marker.
As children, we walked to school at daylight and played volleyball until we had to go to class. Someone decided that we were unsupervised, so if we got to school early, we had to sit in study hall and wait for a 15 minute break to play before school started at 8 a.m. Mr. Jochec, who was our history teacher and basketball coach, complained that we were always late to school once the new rule was enforced. At that time, there was no penalty for being late. Mr. Jochec ate all of his meals at Minar’s Café and lived on the second floor of the E.J. Knipple Store, which is now the Country Place Hotel.
Mrs. Frances Kamas was our elementary teacher. She lived in the smallest trailer ever on Shimek Street near the Cordes Garage. I remember her teaching us the singing scale – DO, RE, MI….
Temporary altars were built on the four corners of the Precinct Courthouse lawn for the annual Catholic Corpus Christi celebrations; parishioners walked from St. John’s to the square and then participated in the ritual services at each altar.
Eugene Michalsky said that the town trash dump was originally located behind Frank Piwetz, Jr’s Magnolia Oil Storage Tank at the intersection of FM 1291 S. and the railroad track along Franklin Street. Arnold Sladek’s father picked up the trash around town and delivered it to the city dump in a Model A truck. The dump was relocated further down E. Franklin and then later to Columbus Hall Road. Today, Chris Stepan, in spite of being handicapped, diligently helps Earl Schmitt with the trash pick-up.
It used to rain a lot. Dad was on the way to Austin years ago with friends. They were looking forward to a football game at U.T. The road was flooded near Smithville, so they loaded the Model T on the railroad track and pushed it to bypass the flooded area and made the game. As a child, I remember a hub cap floating on the floor board in the car as we were on our way to Houston, so Dad could make a General Motors meeting at the Rice Hotel. He would watch the fences along the road, and if there were no fences, he would get out of the car and walk to feel where the pavement was.
We would all go to see Cummins Creek when it flooded. We also walked to fish at Cummins Creek, fly fished at Pool Branch and crawfished in our pasture. It rained so hard one time and the current was so strong that the ducks drowned.
It seemed that it was always raining in San Marcos, where I went to college, drowning the cars of the parents who were driving us to and from school, requiring them to ride the brakes to dry them out, depending upon the make of the car.
Mary Frances Chupick’s mother used to drive a car full of girls to Coufal’s pasture to teach us to swim in Cummins Creek that bordered the pasture. The pasture was always beautifully groomed, so we had our Church of Christ’s Union Sunday School’s Easter Egg Hunts there every year.
As teens in the late 1940s, we would ride our bikes to Rek Hill to an outdoor dance platform and then ride back to town.
Rev. Henry Beseda, Jr. with the Fayetteville Brethren Church always told the parable about the frog that fell into a can full of milk. He paddled and paddled until the milk became butter. Just like the parable, we all grew up doing what had to be done.Undoubtedly, there are still many more bits and pieces of Fayetteville’s history that should be documented. A follow-up article could include additional nostalgic memories if the town’s older citizens are willing to share their recollections.
Top: a country parade near Fayetteville led presumably by the Baca Band
Bottom: A Corpus Christi celebration on the Fayetteville square in 1905 – both courtesy of Joe Dybala Photography, Fayetteville, TX
The Vavra Chevrolet Company of Fayetteville, Texas
By Lillie Mae Brightwell
My father, Jerry Vavra, purchased the John Kubena Garage in Fayetteville, Texas in 1931. It was during the Depression. Barely anyone had money, but he wanted to become a General Motors “Chevrolet” dealer.
During this period, his father, Thomas J. Vavra, and his brother, Edward G. Vavra, both of Wesley, Texas, tried to collect a debt from Eli Randos, who paid his debt by giving them his whiskey still. Grandfather and Uncle Ed then went into the bootlegging business and found that it was a nice way to make a great deal of money during the Depression. Dad went to them for a loan, and they backed his dealership.
My aunt said that sometime later, “The Feds came to the farm without a search warrant and turned all the barrels of whiskey over. It was a mess.” Grandfather and Uncle Ed spent six months in the “pen”— Latuana in El Paso. It was the end of their whisky-making days, but my father had his dealership.
In 1940, my father purchased Lot #44, which was across from his original location in the Kubena Garage, and built a new building and warehouse. My mother was his secretary and kept all of the records for the company. My father was very humble. He always reminded me that he was a “small” Chevrolet dealer.
Many times new cars would be delivered to various Chevrolet dealers around the state, and I would go with others to help drive cars back to Fayetteville or to help deliver cars to other dealers if the cars came into Fayetteville by train. Dad, late at night, would drive the “surprise” new models to Fayetteville after GMC meetings in Houston with tape across the Chevrolet emblem so that no one could identify the new design until the following day when the car was on the show room floor in its full glory. It was quite exciting! Once my father was stopped by the highway patrol. They just wanted to know what kind of car he was driving!
During his career, my generation was leaving small towns for big cities where there were jobs, and we needed wheels. He provided them new or used. He had several customers from Houston who purchased a new car every year, trading in the old. Many times during the Depression, he traded a used car for pigs, cows or a load of corn. When he traded for corn, if we didn’t have pigs, he bought pigs to raise. Once monies Dad received for a new car came in fruit jars; it was very musty smelling as if it had been buried for a long time.
Each year with the new models came new parts that needed to be inventoried. It was quite a job stocking and inventorying all the parts. Some years, some parts were interchangeable. Inventorying those parts was the job I hated the most. Dad could get a handful of bolts and estimate the number, but I had to count each and every one.
My father attended numerous General Motors training schools and Chevrolet dealer meetings, plus wonderful GMC parties around the state. The dealers were quite proud of their dealerships, and “Body by Fisher” was always the slogan of the day. He also made several trips by train to Ohio to pick up school buses, which he would drive back.
Jerry Vavra was well-liked as a businessman and loyal friend, having been a Chevrolet dealer for approximately 50 years. Upon his retirement in 1972, he sold his dealership building to Fayetteville Air and Appliance. It was the end of a long successful business venture that was never replaced.
Photo caption: Willie Shupack (l.), former WWII combat soldier and amputee veteran, receives title to new 1948 Chevrolet from Jerry Vavra, dealer in Fayetteville, TX. Shupack was one of many amputee veterans who took advantage of a national law at the time that provided new cars to severely disabled soldiers. Courtesy of Greg Gillespie, Fayetteville Heritage Museum
Related articles at the Handbook of Texas Online
at TexasEscapes.com, a tongue-in-cheek look at Fayetteville which includes both current and old photos along with a bit of history.
Late 1970s "Eyes of Texas" Segment on Fayetteville
Converted from VHS to digital and uploaded on YouTube by Brandon Canik
The Hill Family of FayettevilleTypical Texians
address delivered by Geo. A. Hill, Jr. at Fayetteville on December 9, 1936 for the dedication of the Fayetteville Centennial monument