History of Fayetteville, Texas
Fayetteville developed from a settlement formed by three families of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred—those of John Crier, James Cummins, and James J. Ross. The surrounding area was known as Ross Prairie, after Ross. The developing settlement was on the Old San Felipe to Bastrop road and was a stagecoach stop. In 1834 the Breeding family established nearby the first school in what would become Fayette County; some of James J. Ross's children attended classes there. The settlement was called Wadis Post Office in 1835. Jesse Burnam's ferry across the Colorado River was nearby, and during the Texas Revolution Sam Houston and his army used this ferry and then burned it on their march to San Jacinto. From the area came nine men who fought in the Texas Revolution, among them Jerome B. Alexander; the community was for a time called Alexander's Voting Place after him. It was also known as Lick Skillet (Lickskillet), supposedly for the fact that latecomers to the numerous community festivals who complained that all the food was gone were told to lick the skillet. By the 1830s some German immigrant settlers were arriving in the area. The Congress of the Republic of Texas established Fayette County in 1837, and the community of Fayetteville was officially founded shortly thereafter. It was named Fayetteville in 1844, for the birthplace of Philip J. Shaver of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Shaver surveyed the community, named the streets, and donated lots for the Fayetteville Academy and the multidenominational Union Church. Fayetteville had a post office and postmaster during the Republic of Texas, and as of the early 1990s the town had had continuous postal service since 1850.
In 1853 the first group of Czechs entered Fayette County, and that year Tom Batla settled in Fayetteville, becoming its first permanent Czech resident. This group of immigrants was made up of Protestants, and the first Czech Protestant service in the state of Texas was held near Fayetteville in 1856. In 1856 a second group, this time Czech-Moravians, arrived in Fayette County; these were primarily Catholics who, like the Czech Protestants, had left their homeland because of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's occupation of their land. Fayetteville is known as the "cradle of Czech immigration to Texas" because after the Civil Warqv most Czech immigrants to Texas went to Fayetteville first. By the 1870s nearly all of the Anglo settlers and their families had left Fayetteville, which at that time had a large Czech-Moravian population but no Czech-speaking priest. On December 25, 1872, the first Czech Catholic service there spoken in Czech was held by the first Moravian Catholic priest in Texas, Father Josef Chromcik. By the 1880s the population of Fayetteville was predominantly Czech and German. Its citizens were instrumental in the formation of two of the first Czech insurance and fraternal organizations in the state and in the nation—the the KJT (Katolická jednota texaská) and the SPJST (Slovanská podporující jednota statu Texas, known in English as the Slavic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas). Fayetteville was also the site of the organization of the first Czech band in Texas, organized in 1892 and known as the Baca Family Band.
Fayetteville was incorporated on March 2, 1882. In October 1887 the Taylor, Bastrop and Houston Railway built a line through the town. A fire consumed one side of the town square in 1893, prompting the installation of a city waterworks and the establishment of a fire department. The Schumacher Bank opened in 1900; it eventually merged with another bank to form the Fayetteville Bank. The population of Fayetteville was 356 in the early 1980s, when most local residents were involved in raising beef cattle, corn, grain sorghums, or wheat. In 1986 the community had the post office, five churches, and more than thirty businesses, including a bank and a savings and loan. Fayetteville reported a population of 283 in 1990 and 261 in 2000. The Lickskillet Festival is held there each October. During the early 1990s the town had a number of restaurants, hotels, antique stores, and other specialty stores.
From Fayette County, Her History and Her People by F. Lotto, 1902:
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.
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 that 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 that 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 that also serves as a school house.
Fayetteville has quite a number of lodges that 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 that 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 today - 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.
On some of the Old Settlers in the Fayetteville Neighborhood, procured through kindness of Prof. Wm. Eilers.
Old Settlers of Ross Prairie.
(Ross Prairie lies between Fayetteville and Ellinger.)
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.
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.
Old Settlers of Fayetteville.
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).
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 that are fertile prairies of the south. People immigrated, moved on and on—till 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 levy 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 anytime—rain 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.
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, being intoxicated, 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 town—Women 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:
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 that 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
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 that 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 that 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 I was a global war that 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 9 P.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 news—the 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 that 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 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 with full page advertisements. My mother and I loved shopping in their stores.
The Fayetteville Area Museum has a collection of some of the school annuals.
History of Fayette County
Fayette County (L-18) is on Interstate Highway 10 sixty miles southeast of Austin in the Blackland Prairies region of south central Texas. The center of the county lies at 29°55' north latitude and 96°55' west longitude. La Grange is the county seat and largest community. In addition to Interstate 10, transportation needs are served by U.S. highways 77, 90, and 290 and State highways 71, 95, 159, and 237. The county's terrain varies from level land to steep slopes, with altitude ranging from 200 to 600 feet. The Colorado River, which bisects the county from northwest to southeast, is fed by several major creeks: Rabb's, Cedar, and Baylor on the east and Buckner's and Williams on the west. Cummins Creek flows through the eastern part of the county and the East and West Navidad rivers through the southern part. Potable groundwater is readily available from the Carrizo-Wilcox and Catahoula-Oakville aquifers at relatively shallow depths. The county covers 950 square miles and is composed of three land resource areas—Blackland Prairies (63 percent), the Post Oak Belt (30 percent), and the Colorado River bottom (7 percent). Within the Blackland Prairie on the uplands are the clayey blacklands and loamy claypen areas. The bottomlands contain dark loamy and clayey soils. The Post Oak Belt contains the Texas Claypan Area with uplands of gray, slightly acid sandy loam and sandy to clayey bottomland soils. Scattered outcrops of the Willis Formation form gravelly ridges along the Colorado River and large areas of gravelly soils in the northern half of the county. The vegetation is a mixture of the post oak savannah and Blackland Prairie region, with tall grasses, oak, and elms predominating. Also commonly found are eastern red cedars, pecans, cottonwoods, and sycamores. Some hickory, walnut, mesquite, and yaupon grow in diverse areas. The north central section is forested by loblolly pine, a continuation of the Lost Pine Forestqv of neighboring Bastrop County. Whitetail deer are native to the area, especially in the timbered areas, and raccoon, beaver, and possum live along the many creeks. Coyotes are so numerous that a control program has been instigated. Game species found in this district include squirrel, quail, dove, and water fowl. Southern bald eagles traverse the county, particularly along the Colorado River. Natural resources include timber, lignite, sand, gravel, bleaching clays, volcanic ash, oil, and gas. The climate is subtropical humid, with hot summers and mild winters. The average annual precipitation is thirty-six inches. Temperatures range from an average low of 41° F in January to an average high of 96° in July, and the average growing season is 277 days. Flooding is common along the Colorado River; major floods in 1869, 1870, 1900, 1938, and 1992 caused considerable damage to crops and property.
Prior to European settlement Lipan Apaches and Tonkawa Indians inhabited parts of what is now Fayette County. Many Indian artifacts have been found, especially along the Colorado River and near Round Top. A few miles north of the Colorado River, above Little Pin Oak Creek, a stratified multicomponent campsite was found, with Clovis, Plainview, and other later artifacts. In the early eighteenth century Spanish explorers passed through the area. La Bahía Road, which ran southwest to northeast and crossed the river at the site of present La Grange, was the major route for travel during the Mexican period. The area was part of Stephen F. Austin's first colony, but the earliest known white settlers, Aylett C. Buckner and Peter Powell, arrived earlier and lived on La Bahía Road west of La Grange, where they ran a trading post. Formal settlement began in 1822 with the arrival of the Austin colonists. From 1824 to 1828 ten members of the Old Three Hundred received title to their land grants in the fertile Colorado River valley; William Rabb received four leagues in order to build a mill. A total of ninety-two Mexican land grants were granted in the area that is now Fayette County. The earliest settlers gathered at Wood's Fort, Moore's Fort (La Grange), the James Ross home, and Jesse Burnam's blockhouse, twelve miles below La Grange. Burnam's Ferry on the Colorado River provided a cutoff route from La Bahía Road to San Felipe. Prior to Texas independence, the area above La Bahía Road was in the Mina Municipality and the area below in the Municipality of Colorado. Gotier's Trace, the Wilbarger Trace, and the La Grange-San Felipe road intersected La Bahía Road. Ferries were used to cross the Colorado River until the first bridge was built at La Grange by private subscription in 1883. On December 14, 1837, upon petition of the citizens, the Congress of the Republic of Texas established the county of Fayette, named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette. La Grange, the name of the chateau to which Lafayette retired, was designated the county seat. The citizens organized the county government on January 18, 1838, and the southwestern boundary of the county was extended westward on May 3, 1838. The county lost territory in the south to Lavaca County in 1854 and in the north to Lee County in 1874.
The early settlers' life revolved around their plantations, but problems with Indians occupied much of their time. Sometimes the settlers felt so threatened that they moved down to the lower Colorado River area. At other times they grouped together, sometimes aided by Lipan Apache and Tonkawa Indians who were friendly to the settlers, to resist marauding bands of Comanches, Wacos, and Kichais. Fayette County men were prominent in the Texas Revolution; more than fifty men participated in the battle of San Jacinto, including Joel Walter Robinson, one of the captors of Antonio López de Santa Anna. The Somervell, Mier, and Dawson expeditions were composed mostly of Fayette County men. In 1848 the remains of the men killed in the Dawson Massacre and in Perote Prison were returned to Fayette County and interred on Monument Hill; in 1933 a granite tomb was dedicated there (see MONUMENT HILL-KREISCHE BREWERY STATE HISTORIC SITE). The historic Muster Oak, still standing on the square, has been a rallying site since the early settlement. William Menefee, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was from Fayette County. A proposal to permanently locate the state capital in Fayette County was approved on April 11, 1838, by an overwhelming majority of the Second Congress. Local citizens arranged for the purchase of the Eblin league on the east side of the Colorado River near La Grange, reserving all vacant lands within a nine-mile radius. The measure was vetoed by Sam Houston, however, and the capital was located upriver in what later became Austin.
The first private schools opened in the county as early as 1834. Academies and institutes were operated in La Grange, Fayetteville, and Round Top in the 1840s. The Methodists founded Rutersville College, one of the first colleges in Texas, in 1840; it consolidated with the Texas Military Institute, Galveston, in 1856. The earliest churches organized in the county were Methodist (1838), Baptist (1839), Presbyterian (1841), and Episcopal (1852). Most of the early settlers were from the Old South, but the Austin Colony also included a few German immigrants. In 1832 Joseph Biegel received title to a league in the area and developed the first German community in the county, Biegel Settlement. In the 1840s many more German immigrants settled in Fayette County. The Adelsverein purchased a league in 1843 and established a plantation called Nassau Farm. During the mid-1850s sizable numbers of Bohemian Czechs also began moving into the county. In the 1856 the first Bohemian settlement in Texas, Dubina, was founded in Fayette County. The county's population grew rapidly, especially after Texas joined the Union; already by 1850 it had 3,756 residents. During the early years the economy was based largely on subsistence farming, but during the late 1840s and 1850s a thriving plantation economy emerged. In the early 1850s plantations were producing impressive quantities of corn and shipping tobacco, wool, and cotton to outside markets. To clear land, harvest crops, and perform other forms of labor, planters brought in increasing numbers of African-American slaves. Between 1840 and 1850 the slave population grew from 206 to 820, and by 1855 the number had reached 2,072. On the eve of the Civil War Fayette County was among the most well-developed areas in the state, with nearly 1,000 farms containing 75,463 improved acres. In 1859 farmers produced 12,683 bales of cotton and 320,580 bushels of corn, placing Fayette County among the state's leaders in both categories. The population of 11,604 was more than three times what it had been only a decade before; the number of slaves alone (3,786) in 1860 exceeded the entire population for 1850. Despite the county's large slave population, however, voters narrowly rejected secession by a margin of forty-six votes (626 against, 528 for), primarily due to the area's numerous German and Bohemian residents, who generally opposed slavery. Despite the result, after the war broke out three volunteer companies were immediately organized, and before the wars end a total of about 800 men had served in the Confederate army.
The Civil War and its aftermath brought profound changes to the county. Although it made only a small material contribution to the war effort, the lack of markets and wild fluctuations in Confederate currency caused hardships for many. The end of the war brought wrenching changes in the economy. For many whites the abolition of slavery meant devastating economic loss. Before the war slaves had constituted more than a third of all taxable property in the county, and their loss coupled with a sharp decline in property values caused a profound disruption for most planters. The county's African Americans fared no better. Although most of the county's black residents remained, many left the farms owned by their former masters to seek better working conditions. For the vast majority, the change brought only marginal improvement in their living and working conditions; most ended up working on the land on shares, receiving one-third or one-half of the crop for their labors.
During Reconstruction Fayette County received little attention from federal political or military authorities. Federal troops were stationed there only briefly, and there was little of the violence that many other areas experienced. The economy began to recover in the late 1860s, and by 1870 production levels neared or exceeded the 1860 figures. During the next three decades the county experienced a long period of growth, fueled in large measure by a surge of new German and Slavic residents. Many of the early plantation owners, hard-pressed to make ends meet without their bondsmen, sold their lands to German, Bohemian, or Wendish settlers, who in turn sold portions of it to others. As a result the large plantations that had dominated antebellum Texas were gradually replaced by smaller, more numerous farms. This trend is reflected in the agricultural census of the late nineteenth century, which shows the number of farms increasing from 1,483 in 1870 to 5,189 in 1900. The number of acres under cultivation also grew dramatically during this period, rising from 76,401 to 287,853. Although the new farms were smaller, they tended to be much more productive because of intensive cultivation by the Germans and Bohemians. Most of these small farmers grew cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas, turnips, and peaches, but the leading cash crops remained cotton and corn. In 1880 farmers produced 24,766 bales of cotton and 694,833 bushels of corn; by 1890 cotton output had grown to 37,559 bales, and corn production topped 912,000 bushels.
The influx of German, Czechs, and Wends after the Civil War also gradually altered the cultural face of the county. Although some of the new settlers moved in from other counties, including most of the Wends, many of the settlers were new immigrants who brought their own distinct culture with them. The tide of immigration was particularly strong in the 1880s, as numerous additional German and Bohemian settlers arrived. By 1890 nearly one-fourth of the county's residents (7,856 of 31,481) were foreign-born, with the largest contingents from Germany (3,667) and Austria-Hungary (3,224). As a result, by the late nineteenth century many of the leading businesses and civic organizations were dominated by Germans and Czechs. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries La Grange had two foreign-language newspapers, the Svoboda (Czech) and the La Grange Zeitung (German). The Germans and Czechs formed shooting clubs, poetry groups, and fraternal and religious organizations. The KJT (Czech Catholic Union), the SPJST (a Czech benevolent society), and the Round Top Rifle Association, founded in the nineteenth century, still existed in the early 1990s. Public education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was supplemented by private and parochial schools, which were often taught in German and Czech. Despite the increasing number of white residents, African Americans continued to form a large segment of the population. In 1870 the black population was 5,901, and as late as 1900 blacks still represented about one-third of the population; in spite of these numbers, however, African Americans had little political power. While Fayette County citizens rejected the white primary—largely due to German and populist sentiment against it—African-American voters were often excluded from voting and had little say in the local political structure.
During the early decades of the twentieth century Fayette County continued to grow and prosper. Corn remained an important crop, with cattle and dairy products also providing significant sources of income. But it was cotton that emerged as the single largest cash crop. Cotton production averaged more than 30,000 bales annually between 1900 and 1930, and by 1929 more than half of all of the cropland (118,256 of 196,847 acres) was devoted to cotton. The growth of cotton in turn fueled a steady rise in farm tenancy. By 1920 nearly half of all farmers (2,195 of 4,728) were tenants. During the years of the Great Depression, when nearly all farmers suffered, these tenants found themselves particularly hard pressed. Overproduction, droughts, and boll weevil infestations combined to drive down prices and reduce the crop size. Between 1930 and 1940 the amount of land planted in cotton fell by more than 50 percent (from 118,858 to 50,858 acres), and production was barely a third of what had been during the peak years of the 1920s. After World War II the agricultural emphasis changed. Cotton continued to be grown on a much smaller scale through the early 1950s, but farmers also turned increasingly to cattle raising. By 1987 there were 2,235 milk cows and 110,511 head of cattle in the county, and cotton was no longer being grown. Due to rich soils and abundant surface and ground water, Fayette County remains an important agricultural county. In the late 1980s it ranked among the top three counties in the state in cow and calf production. In 1989 there were 2,476 producers. Leading crops included corn, grain sorghums, peanuts, and pecans. The estimated gross agricultural income for 1988 was $42,427,000—beef cattle 57 percent, grain 10 percent, poultry (eggs) 8 percent, swine 8 percent, hay 8 percent, dairy products 7 percent, pecans 1 percent, and miscellaneous 1 percent. Of the 2,750 farm operators, about half held additional jobs.
During the 1980s and 1990s the economic development of the county was largely dependent on its natural resources. Construction gravel and sand, grinding pebbles, clays, and fuller's earth were mined. Oil, first discovered in 1943, was an important source of income. Due to new horizontal drilling techniques Fayette County experienced a dramatic rise in oil and gas production in the early 1990s. As a highly active part of the Giddings oilfield of the Austin Chalk trend, the county produced 14,044,733 barrels of oil and 72,469,984 million cubic feet of gas in 1992. Timber is selectively cut for commercial purposes from 28,200 acres of privately owned woodlands. Agribusiness plays a major role in the economy. Light industry includes shops, a cabinet factory, plastic recycling, gas processing, and other manufacturing. The Lower Colorado River Authority Fayette Power Project is the largest employer in the county, with around 500 workers. Other sources of employment are banking, services, retail sales, trucking, government, schools, and drilling and pipeline management.
Beginning in 1872, the development of the railroad system caused the decline of many rural communities and the development of the new towns of Schulenburg and Flatonia. In the 1990s three railroad lines crossed the county—the Missouri, Kansas and Texas from east to west and two branches of the Southern Pacific, one from north to south and the other along the southern boundary. A public airport for light planes was located in La Grange. Fayette County has published English-language newspapers since 1843. Three were published in the early 1990s—the Fayette County Record, the Flatonia Argus, and the Schulenburg Sticker. In the early 1990s there were five independent school districts, one Catholic high school, and two Catholic schools through eighth grade. Although Father Michael Muldoon visited the county under Mexican rule, followed by other visiting priests and Lutheran pastors, the Catholic and Lutheran churches did not flourish until the second half of the nineteenth century under German, Czech, and Wendish influence. On December 25, 1872, Fr. Josef Chromcik arrived at Fayetteville. He was the first Czech priest to serve the county's Moravian and Czech Catholics. In the 1990s there were sixty churches and one Jewish temple; Lutheran and Catholic churches accounted for half the total.
Historically, the majority of county voters have been Democratic or independent, and Democratic candidates have typically received the majority of the county's votes. Populist, Greenback, and other third-party candidates fared well during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In recent years, however, Republicans have been making strong inroads, particularly in presidential and statewide races. Republican presidential candidates won every election between 1968 and 1992, with the exception of 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter eked out a narrow victory. Democratic officials, however, continued to maintain control of most county offices, and as late as 1982, 97 percent of voters in the primary voted Democratic. The population of Fayette County reached an all-time high of 36,542 in 1900 but has been gradually declining. The population was 29,796 in 1910, 29,965 in 1920, 30,708 in 1930, 29,246 in 1940, 24,176 in 1950, 20,384 in 1960, 17,650 in 1970, and 18,832 in 1980. In 1990 the county recorded a small gain, rising to 20,095. The largest communities were La Grange (3,951), Schulenburg (2,455), Flatonia (1,291), and Fayetteville (283). The largest minority groups were African Americans (8.4 percent) and Hispanics (8.5 percent). Most of the residents (80 percent) live in small communities or rural areas. Tourism and recreation are a growing economic resource for Fayette County. The cooling pond of the Fayette Power Project has been developed into a stocked fishing lake of 2,400 surface acres, averaging a depth of thirty feet. It is open to the public and has become especially popular with bass fishermen. Monument Hill-Kristine Brewery State Historic Site, the historic Hinkle Square in Round Top, and Wine dale Historical Center draw visitors year round. Antique fairs, the International Festival-Institute at Round Top, ethnic and town festivals, and the County Fair are popular special events. The "painted churches" at Dubina, Praha, Ammansville, and High Hill offer popular historic-preservation tours, and each of the four major towns has a museum actively preserving county history.
Frank Lotto, Fayette County: Her History and Her People (Schulenburg, Texas: Sticker Steam Press, 1902; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970). Julia Lee Sinks, Chronicles of Fayette (La Grange, Texas, Bicentennial Commission, 1975). Julia Lee Sinks, "Editors and Newspapers of Fayette County," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (July 1897). Houston Wade, comp., The Dawson Men of Fayette County (Houston, 1932). Leonie Rummel Weyand and Houston Wade, An Early History of Fayette County (La Grange, Texas: La Grange Journal, 1936).
Daphne Dalton Garrett