FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS
La Grange lies in a big bend of the Colorado River. For about a mile, the Colorado runs due south until it strikes the Bluff mount, opposite La Grange; here its course is turned eastward so that it encloses in this angle the city. West and south of La Grange rises the Bluff, north of La Grange abruptly rises a high plateau, while towards the east the land rises gradually. La Grange, therefore, lies in a deep basin, sheltered on all sides against storms. It is said that the Indians always built their camps in storm-proof localities and for this reason the present site of La Grange was the former location of an Indian camp.
La Grange is a beautiful city. The best view of it may be had from the Bluff. Two hundred feet below, at the feet of the spectator, flow the red waters of the Colorado, enclosing from two sides a fertile bottom checkered by corn and cotton fields, a beautiful foreground for a picture of the city. The court house, the steeples of churches and the red roofs of some larger residences break pleasantly through the green of liveoak groves. To the left the bridges and waterworks, to the right the compress and the railroad wagon park give this picture a fitting termination. The high wood-covered hills rising black of La Grange form an appropriate background with Chalk Bluff to the left and the town of Rutersville to the right as a close of the background. What strikes most, is the harmony and symmetry of the picture. An artist could not arrange his subject more artistically than nature has done here. Fitting foreground and background for the main picture of the city, with appropriate beginning and end.
The principal streets of La Grange are those leading from the public square. most of the streets are nicely graded and graveled. The residences are elegant, with beautiful gardens and lawns in front. What strikes the stranger most upon visiting La Grange is the great number of large and beautiful liveoak trees, veterans of the wood that reach back into past centuries. Of the more noticeable buildings may be mentioned the courthouse, the jail, the First National Bank Building, the Schuhmacher Bank building, the Heintze building, the Rosenberg building, the Myenburg building, the Casino, the Opera House, the school and the compress.
La Grange was settled in the latter part of the twenties on land granted to John H. Moore. It was for a long time a very inconsiderable place. The first settlers had come from Tennessee and named their new home after their old home, La Grange in Tennessee. (La Grange is French, the name of La Fayette's estate, and means "the mansion.")
The Census of 1900 gives La Grange 2400 inhabitants. Its population is American, German, and Bohemian. About one-third of the population are negroes.
La Grange is an independent school district; it has two schools, one for white and one for colored pupils. The school for white pupils is managed by Prof. C. A. Brown with the assistance of an able corps of teachers and visited by 251 pupils. The colored school is visited by 196 pupils and managed by Prof. ___ Jefferson. The city levies a district school tax.
The lodge brother has a large choice of lodges to join to. There are not less than nine lodges in La Grange: Odd Fellows, Knights of Honor, Knights and Ladies of Honor, Free Masons, Knights of Pythias, United Workmen, Sons of Hermann, Fraternal Mystic Circle and A. L. of H. Some of these lodges insure the lives of their members, others aid them in case of illness. Besides these lodges, the Fayette County German Mutual Aid Society pursues the same object.
The city of La Grange has made a reputation for sociability over the whole State. The principal gathering place is the Casino. Here the whole town, enforced by a great many outsiders, gathers on festive occasions. The building is owned by a club, the Casino Club. Another club that contributes its share to entertainment is called "the La Grange Froesch," a German singing club which repeatedly has earned applause at feasts by their songs. Traveling theater troops generally find large audiences in this social city.
La Grange has a fertile surrounding country that contributes to its trade. It has the rich Colorado bottom land northwest and southeast of it, the fertile Rutersville prairie to the northeast and the rich Navidad prairie to the southwest. Only very little land around La Grange is not fit for cultivation. The county being one of the oldest in the State, one of the original counties, a great many small places in the county sprang up before the arrival of the railroads. The stores and shops in these places are a great convenience for their neighborhoods, but impair the otherwise brilliant business prospects of La Grange.
La Grange is situated on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad and on a branch of the Southern Pacific from Columbus. There are two express companies in La Grange, the American and the Wells Fargo. By telegraph it is connected with the outside world through the Western Union and the Postal Telegraph Cable Company. La Grange is the headquarters of the Southwestern Telephone Company, a local system.
The main pursuit of the citizens of La Grange is the mercantile business, supplying the farmers of the neighborhood and purchasing their products. There is one wholesale grocery business in La grange; there are 7 general merchandise stores, 4 groceries, 5 dry goods stores, 3 hardware stores, 3 furniture houses, two saddleries, 2 jewelry stores, 3 drugstores, 11 barrooms, 2 beer agents, 3 blacksmith shops, 3 shoemakers, 2 tailors, 1 millinery, 2 restaurants, 3 hotels, 1 lumberyard, 2 livery stables, 2 granaries, 1 marble yard, 1 English, 1 German and 1 Bohemian newspaper, 16 lawyers, 2 dentists, 5 physicians, 2 banks, 2 meat markets and two photograph galleries in La Grange.
Of industial [sic.] establishments of greater importance are the waterworks and electric light plant, a cotton oil mill, a cotton compress, a soda and ice factory and two gins.
The writer will now mention some of the business men of La Grange to whom he is obliged for patronage of his book. It may be said that these gentlemen take some pride and interest in their county and do not look only on dollars and cents, but are public spirited enough to give their support to a worthy enterprise. In the writer's judgment, such men who feel an interest in their county are worthier to be patronized than those who do not, who live only in the county to accumulate all the dollars they can, who show no other interest for the people among whom they live as gathering from them dollars first, last and all the time. A man who deals with people to whom he presents only dollars and cents never will receive as fair treatment from them as from men who, on account of their station in life, feel obliged to evince an interest in the advancement of the community where they live. it is only natural for the writer to wish that the latter may reap benefits from their liberality towards him and he takes this occasion to bespeak the patronage of the friends of this book for those business men who enabled him by their support to get out this work.
Judge A. Haidusek, the owner of the Svoboda and the president of the First National Bank of La Grange, has established a reputation for liberality throughout the state. There never has come a literary man or printer who solicited his aid and who did not receive his hearty support. There is no man who takes greater pride in Fayette County than the judge and it was most natural that he gave his aid to this writer in getting out this book. The writer only hopes that his work may meet his expectations. [See 1880 Slovan Czech newspaper advertisment for Augustin Haidusek's law firm at Institute of Texan Cultures website.]
The first National Bank of La Grange with Judge A. Haidusek as president and John B. Holloway as cashier is the most solid financial institution in the county and deservedly enjoys the full confidence of the people. The Schuhmacher Bank is the other financial institution of La Grange and shares with the First National Bank the patronage of the capitalists of the county.
Of the merchants of La Grange August Heintze, jr., is undoubtedly the leading one. There is not a more liberal , more energetic and more accommodating merchant living in La Grange than he. Since he has opened his large department store, a great many faces of people who traded before elsewhere have appeared again to trade in that city. He carries an immense stock of goods.
Rosenberg & Co. are the owners of an elegant store and carry an immense stock of goods. In the dry goods line Carl Mosig is up-to date and keeps up with the fashion. Friedberger & Johnson are their able competitors.
Frank Reichert and A. Harigel have well stocked furniture stores and treat their customers liberally. Aug. Streithoff and Connell & Holloway are the hardware firms in La Grange and also do first-class work in roofing, guttering, etc.
The marble yard of O. E. Stolz has a reputation for turning out masterpieces of art in the monumental line, well established throughout South and Central Texas, and is assisted by a corps of able agents.
The most popular saloons are the County Seat Saloon owned by Chas. Schaefer & Son, and the Diamond Saloon owned by Hackebeil & Wessels.
In the hotel business Joe Kainer ranks in the front as well for accommodations as for liberal rates. No hotel in South Texas furnishes its patrons so many accommodations as telephone, bathrooms, electric lights, etc., at such liberal rates. The rooms and the board cannot be surpassed.
B. White, Wm. Hermes, jr., and J. Meyenberg, jr., are engaged in the drug business and share the patronage of La Grange and neighborhood with each other.
Drs. T. W. Moore and R. A. McKinney have a large practice and are known for their liberal rates. They do not cure a man first to kill him with their bills for medical attendance afterward.
Dr. Jno. Baur, an erstwhile pupil of the writer, is a consciencious young man, engaged in the practice of dentistry.
Louis Rice is engaged in photography and turns out first class pictures.
The lawyers of La Grange are a class any city may be proud of. The writer refers the reader to their biographies.
The history of the La Grange Journal, the Svoboda and the La Grange Deutsche Zeitung will be found under the head of "Newspaper Press of the County."
La Grange is well protected against fire. As stated before, it has a good waterworks system. A volunteer fire company does efficient service in case of fire.
While La Grange has not increased very rapidly in population, it has been on a constant, steady growth. While in 1836 there were only two storehouses on the public square, in 1850 it was large enough to be incorporated. During the last decade its population increased thirty-five percent. In 1890 it had according to the U. S. census 1800 inhabitants, now their number is 2400. The increase of its business kept pace with the increase of its population.
During the last few years the farmers around La Grange made only little more than half of the usual crop on account of the boll weevil plague. This was a great drawback to the business of La Grange. There also being a large number of prosperous, thriving villages in the immediate vicinity of La Grange, doing a general merchandise business and thereby curtailing that of La Grange, it may be said that for its present population and its tributary country, the mercantile business is overdone in La Grange. La Grange is favorably situated for the manufacturing business. If it shall not remain at a standstill, it must engage in these pursuits. Lately, the establishment of a cotton factory has been much talked about. It should be the time now to start this enterprise, before Texas is overcrowded with establishments of this kind. The conditions for a market of the manufactures may then be less favorable than now. The market may then be overcrowded.
HISTORICAL NOTES.La Grange was built about the year 1828 on land belonging to Jno. H. Moore. In 1838 it had only very few stores. In that year the location of the future capital of the Republic of Texas was considered by congress; La Grange was a competitor for obtaining the seat; the bill make it the capital of Texas carried in congress, but was vetoed by president Houston. In 1850 La Grange was incorporated. [This is incorrect. See note below.] In 1860 the Grand Lodge of Free Masons held its session in La Grange. in 1862 the sale of spirituous liquors was stopped in La Grange by order of the Provost Marshal. In 1867 a yellow fever epidemic broke out in La Grange. In 1869 and 1870 the Colorado River overflowed considerable portions of the city. In 1900 another overflow of the Colorado inundated portions of La Grange. The picture of the street going west towards the river from Mohrhusen's (formerly Wm. Haase's corner) gives an idea as to how far the water went. In 1901 the Grand Lodge of the Order of the Sons of Hermann held its sessions in La Grange. The oldest building in La Grange stands on the northwest corner of the public square. It is a two story building, known as the Fink building and built in 1840.
The following gentlemen constitute the present city government: Robert Sample, mayor; Will Loessin, marshal; Ed. Mattingly, treasurer; Frank Rosenthal; secretary; E. H. Moss, attorney.
Aldermen of the first ward, B. L. Zapp and Wm. McKinney; second ward, L. Rosenthal and Gus Werth; third ward, Chas. Helmcamp and Lothar Rose; and fourth ward, F. H. Wagner and J. M. Byrnes.
Photos: First three postcards from Texas Postcard Project. Photos of Carl Johannes von Rosenberg home from Jon Todd Koenig.
Note: La Grange has two different incorporation dates, but neither was in 1850. The incorporation of the towns of La Grange and Rutersville in Fayette County was approved by the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas on January 26, 1839. After statehood, the incorporation of the town of La Grange in the County of Fayette was approved by the Fifth Legislature of the State of Texas on February 13, 1854. This act clearly laid out the town's metes and bounds.
1880 Bird's-Eye View Map of La Grange
Feature at Amon Carter Museum web site shows all buildings and landscape
Early Businesses in La Grange
Includes La Grange Journal newspaper article from January 27, 1881 with annotations, along with postcards and information about more recent firms
Downtown La Grange
See wonderful old photographs of store fronts and public buildings in downtown La Grange. This historic building survey, which includes histories of the structures, was compiled by the staff of the Fayette Heritage Archives and Museum. It's interesting to compare these photos with the more recent ones in the La Grange Main Street Photo Gallery.
History Lives in La Grange
Suggested tourist itinerary for heritage travel at the Texas Historical Commission web site
Take a look at La Grange, Texas at TexasEscapes.com,
which includes numerous detailed photos of the Fayette County Courthouse as well as area attractions.
Footprints of Fayette Articles
103 North Main Street, La Grange
114 South Main Street, La Grange
The "Airdome"A Unique Theatre
Blizzard of 1888
Flood of 1913
The Heintze Museum - La Grange, Texas
Old La Grange City Library
La Grange Jewish Cemetery
La Grange Live Oaks
La Grange Matress Factory
Celebrating a Natural Resource
Fayette's First Newspaper and Its Offspring
The Original La Grange
La Grange Postal Masters
St. Paul's African-Methodist-Episcopal Church
Yellow Fever Outbreak
Hugh F. Little
The Old Union Church, La Grange, Texas
La Grange Area Cemeteries
La Grange Black Cemetery
Old La Grange Black Cemetery
La Grange City Cemetery
Old La Grange City Cemetery
La Grange Jewish Cemetery
La Grange Poor FarmPaupers Cemetery
James W. Jones Grave
Related Articles at the Handbook of Texas Online
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William Hamilton Ledbetter
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William Graham Webb
John Henry Moore
Lyttleton Wilde Moore
Nathaniel W. Faison
Thomas Washington Cox
Jerome B. Alexander
Waller T. Burns