Tales from Lavaca County

The following Lavaca County history articles were written by Brenda Lincke Fisseler and printed in the quarterly published by the Victoria County Genealogical Society:

Are You Glad That This is Not Your Family?

Get the Lead Out of Lavaca:
The Navidad Lost Lead Mine

How Much is a Dead Man Worth?
The Story of Charles Debord, Gambler

Forever Divorced

Good and Lawful Men
Lavaca County's First Grand Jury

An On the Home Front Snapshot
January through March 1942

Foster Field and Lavaca County
Partners on the Home Front

In Short Supply
Tire Rationing and Scrap Rubber Drives During WWII

Lavaca County Entries in Baptismal Records of Philadelphia Evangelical Lutheran Church at Swiss Alp, Fayette County and Black Jack Springs Lutheran Church, Fayette County

St. Augustine Catholic Cemetery

Yes In “Deed”!
Adoptions Recorded in Lavaca County Deed Records

Lavaca’s Tax Payers

A Short Sketch of Rachel Louise Baylick

Adoption and Abduction
The Story of John Allen Ellis

Loose Ends in Lavaca County

The Past is Still Visible: the Fey & Braunig Building

The Past is Still Visible: the H. J. Heye Building

The Past is still visible: The Kahn & Stanzel Opera House

The Past is Still Visible: the F. W. Neuhaus Building


Are You Glad That This is Not Your Family?

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler

The next time you hit a "brick wall" or you are discouraged about the way your research is going, just imagine what it would be like if one of the following stories was lurking in your family background.

"A bright little boy of six and a girl of 4 and a baby of five weeks are homeless and their mother is compelled to part with them. Who will give one of them a home?

It is a sad case of destitution, which is reported from the South part of the county. A respectable white woman came to visit a family there and her husband although promising to come or send for them has apparently deserted them and the woman being helpless and the family she has been visiting, being poor, she has asked to be taken care of by the county and signified her reluctant consent to give her children away, if good homes can be found for them. Anyone interested should apply to the county Judge."
Hallettsville Herald, November 15, 1900

"On Monday morning last bright and early an infant was found a few miles from here in a Bohemian's cow-pen wrapped up in a fine blanket and covered with leaves. He was hale and hearty. Some good neighbors took care of the child and were about to adopt it when Mr. Becka came along armed with papers of adoption and took the child to its new home. Mr. Becka had no children in his family and now they fell happy. May the child that was found, not in a manger, but in a cow lot, do well."
Hallettsville Herald, March 3, 1892

"Yoakum, Feb. 3 – A most remarkable funeral occurred here the other day. Felicia Tippins was a colored woman who came here before the war. Thursday morning she died, at the age of 89 years, 9 months and 14 days. The funeral was one of the largest ever seen here, there being quite a number of whites present. The minister who performed the obsequies startled the audience by declaring positively that there were present 268 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the deceased. The minister's declaration created some surprise, but was evidently believed to be substantially correct."
Hallettsville Herald, February 8, 1894
(I shuttered to imagine what the family group sheets looked like!)

"Yorktown, Tex., Dec. 17 – Messages to relatives and friends to Mr. Charles Lenz brought the information that he succeeded in finding his sisters, whom he had long mourned for dead. They left Yorktown over forty-three [years] ago, their whereabouts having been unknown during this period. The girls were 6 and 8 years old, respectively, at the time of their disappearance. Their disappearance and discovery seem like a romance. Mr. Lenz is expected home from Cape Girardeau, MO and all relatives and friends are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Mr. Lenz to learn full particulars."
New Era Herald, December 24, 1909

"Mr. G. P. Cody, about 27 years of age, arrived in Halletsville a few days ago in search of his mother or information leading to her discovery. Nineteen years ago Cody, then a mere boy, went to the Indian Territory and had lived there in the meanwhile up to a short time since. His mother, whose family name is Mansfield, lived some miles west of town and near what is called the Foster place. Since his departure no letter or other communication has passed between mother and son. J. J. Mansfield, his step-father, was for several years engaged in the business of hauling freight between Hallettsville and Schulenburg. Any information leading to the whereabouts of the Mansfields will be gratefully received by Mr. Cody, whose address is Flatonia."
Hallettsville Herald, February 16, 1893

Last but certainly not least, the old "stolen by gypsies" tale.

"Kosse, Texas Aug. 5 – Henry Orum, who lives near here, had the misfortune to lose his little child, a girl, 18 months old, on February 25, 1873, and the good fortune to find her last week in Yoakum, married to a Mr. McCarty. She now has three children. The day the child was lost a band of gypsies passed his house, and it was supposed they took the child. A large crowd followed and brought the gypsies back and tried to force them to tell where the child was, but to no purpose. Nothing further was heard of the child until a gentleman who knew of the circumstances was in Yoakum and made the acquaintance of Mrs. McCarty and learned that she was an orphan with a mystery surrounding her since birth. He wrote to Mr. Orum, who went immediately to see the lady and is satisfied she is the lost child.

She cannot remember her early life, only what has been told her, but everything corresponds to well that all doubts are removed. her mother died not long after the child was lost, with a broken heart. Mrs. McCarty will in a few days pay her aged father her first visit. Mr. Orum thinks the gypsies got scared and gave the child away. She was raised by a Mr. Nelson and wife. Nelson was a railroad man and lived in several states. He lived some time in Hearne, Texas. He is dead and his wife did not tell Mr. Orum where they got the child. She says she was given to them. Mr. Orum is happy to find his child at last."
Hallettsville Herald, August 10, 1893

Feeling any better about your own family research? I thought you might!

Get the Lead Out of Lavaca: The Navidad Lost Lead Mine

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler

When one reads the history of Lavaca and /or Jackson County a story is often told about the appearance and subsequent disappearance of the Navidad lead mine. In his book The Cavalcade of Jackson County by I.T. Taylor, published in 1938, Mr. Taylor relates the following story.

Around 1850, when Lavaca County was only about four years old, near the Wallace Bridge there lived an old Dutchman by the name of Frank Vanlitsen. Mr. Vanlitsen was a recluse who no one knew very much about. But, the neighbors tolerated Vanlitsens' odd ways for one very important reason. The old Dutchman was able to supply them with a form of lead that could be used without being refined. The neighbors never could locate Vanlitsens' source of the lead; he was known to be very sly and the area was heavily timbered and sparsely populated. This arrangement continued for about three years until the day Vanlitsen was discovered in his log cabin with a bullet in his head. The popular opinion was that the odd man had committed suicide and no one questioned the circumstances of his death.

It wasn't until the beginning of the Civil War that lead was again discovered in the area. While the old timers had not forgotten about the mine, its location had remained a mystery since the death of Vanlitsen. The story goes that one day in either 1861 or 1862, a horse thief, who was evading arrest from the local authorities, stumbled upon a small gully that was a tributary of the Lavaca River. In that gully, he found a lead vein.

The horse thief had a brother living in the area, near the Navidad Community, who helped him evade arrest. However the authorities soon were getting too close for comfort so the thief told his brother the location of the long lost mine before he fled to safety. During the 1860s the locals used the lead from the vein to make bullets for battle as well as hunting.

About 1870, a torrent of rain fell on the area causing flooding on area rivers and streams. The story states that the overflow of the flood filled the gully and obliterated all evidence of the lead vein. After the waters receded, the local citizens, armed with picks and shovels, attempted to locate the vein, but were unsuccessful.

When Taylor related this story in his book, only one individual, a man by the name of E. B. Keith, was living who had actually visited the lead mine. Mr. Keith stated that he had visited the mine with his father in about 1863 when he was about twelve years old.

While the Navidad Lost Lead Mine has never been rediscovered, in the 1890s another discovery focused attention on Lavaca County. This time the spotlight was on a small community in the southern part of Lavaca county called Hope. And what everyone "hoped" for was gold.

How Much is a Dead Man Worth?
The Story of Charles Debord, Gambler

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler

Charles Debord was dead. The letter, postmarked Fort Worth, Texas, arrived in Hallettsville during the first week of February of 1907 informing R. D. Zumwalt that Debord, a native of Lavaca County, had died several weeks earlier in Alaska. The letter contained even more surprising news. Debord a professional gambler, had left Lavaca County about 1887 and had last been seen by Byrd Kelly about 1897 in New Mexico. Debord was one of the many natives of Lavaca County who had moved to Alaska when the Klondike gold rush broke out and had remained there until his death at age 45.

The reason for the letter was twofold. First, was to inform Zumwalt of the death. Second, the letter was a plea for help. It appeared that Debord had amassed a considerable fortune during his lifetime from either investments, gambling or both. His estate consisted mainly of mining property valued at over $20,000.00. The letter was part of an effort to ascertain the whereabouts of Debord's mother, Mrs. Lucretia (Zumwalt) Debord, originally from the Mossy Grove area south of Hallettsville, and his sister, Ada, who were the heirs to the estate, as Charles was unmarried.

What the letter writer was unaware of was that about five years after Charles had left, his mother and sister had also departed Lavaca County for parts unknown and had not been heard of since. It was rumored when the women left there were attempting to locate Charles and were unsuccessful.

R. D., a second cousin of Lucretia, joined by T. R. Zumwalt sent a letter to the last known address of Lucretia and Ada in the border town of Del Rio, Texas informing them of the circumstances of Charles' death. About one month later, Zumwalt received a telegram from Lucretia and Ada from Montezuma, Mexico. The Del Rio letter had been forwarded to them in Mexico where Ada, who was now Mrs. J. W. Douthitt, was married to a railroad man and Lucretia was staying with them. The telegram, which was followed by a letter, asked Zumwalt for further particulars as to the death of their son and brother. Zumwalt answered with another letter giving all the known details about the death and the value of the estate.

In his second letter, Zumwalt included a second interesting piece of information concerning additional money. Zumwalt informed Lucretia that due to the publicity that was generated for the search, it had been discovered that she was eligible for a pension of $8.00 per month and a back-pension of $500.00 from the federal government. Lucretia's deceased husband, Ruben Debord, was a private in Co. C. of Captain Henry's Mounted U. S. Rangers organized in Lavaca County in the early 1850s for service against the Indians. Ruben later served in the Civil War and died previous to 1870. Zumwalt informed her that the government had, for the previous five years, been paying pensions to all survivors, or their widows, of federal ranger troops who fought Indians previous to the Civil War.

He wrote Lucretia that F. W. Neuhaus of Hallettsville, C. H. Floyd, Cullen Mims and J. H. Debord of Ezzell (Ruben's brother) as well as others were also members of Henry's ranger company and all were drawing pensions, except Mims, who had to that point steadfastly refused to apply for the money.

The entire Debord "drama" was being played out in articles printed in The New Era and The Hallettsville Herald both local newspapers and the story was beginning to snowball. In April, Cullen Mims, informed the local newspaper that only after reading the item in The New Era the previous month in reference to Mrs. Lucretia Debord, did he learn that he too was entitled to the United States ranger pension of $8.00 per month. And like Debord, he too was entitled to the back pension in the tidy amount of $500.00. Mims stated that the statement that he had refused the pension was inaccurate. In fact, he knew nothing of the pension, but had previously refused to apply for a Confederate pension because he believed all old soldiers should be eligible or none at all. The newspaper stated that Mims had made application for the ranger pension and would soon receive his first payment.

As a side bar to the Mims story, the newspaper had learned that James Walker also later organized another ranger company on the public square of Hallettsville in the spring of 1861. However, it was discovered that the ranger pension act did not apply to the members of this company whose surviving members included W. H. Turk and John Buchanan of Hallettsville, Ed. Tarkington of Williamsburg, John Jacobs and George Debord of Ezzell. It was later reported that J. A. Koehler of near Hallettsville, Fritz Turner of Schulenburg, Wm. Wheeler of Flatonia and John Pulham of Oklahoma were also surviving members of Walker's Company.

After April of 1907, interest in the Debord saga waned in both the local gossip circles and the newspapers. On July 22, 1907, Lucretia did file to receive Ruben's ranger pension and most likely she and her daughter made the necessary arrangement to receive the inheritance left them by Charles Debord.

How much is a dead man worth? Ask Lucretia Debord, Ada Douthitt and Cullen Mims.

Hallettsville Herald: February 7, March 21 and April 4, 1907
New Era: February 8, March 15, April 12 and April 19, 1907
1870 Lavaca County Census, p. 352

Forever Divorced

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler

"Through fear of some great bodily injury and that he might kill her, she was compelled to leave his house and seek protection from him elsewhere . . . she feels that she would not be safe in person to meet with him anywhere much less to live with him."

Elenor Brown wanted out of her marriage. On July 12, 1849, she appeared before Spencer Townsend, Clerk of the district Court, in the Lavaca County Courthouse in Petersburg and filed a petition of divorce. In the petition, Elenor relates that he husband, Henry H. Brown, "has so often been guilty of the said and other cruel treatment and outrages toward her that is of of such a nature and their being together is rendered insupportable, that he is wholly destitute of the feeling and affections of a husband toward her.".

Elenor tells Townsend that she and Brown had been married on the 20th day of July in the year of 1840 in the state of Missouri and that she had lived with him there until they immigrated to Texas in 1847. She relates that ever since they were married she had "lived with and served him and performed all the duties of a good and faithful wife" until January of 1849.

In January, Elenor left her home and sought legal protection from her husband. On April 23rd, Elenor appeared before J. J. Foster, Justice of the Peace of Lavaca County, and filed an Oath of Complaint. In the Oath she stated that Brown had "repeatedly threatened to deprive her of life, and at one time drew and presented a large butcher knife at her swearing that he would cut her throat". This was followed by another incident where Brown had "threatened to split her head open with an axe having an axe in his hands at the time". Their neighbor Isham Tate witnessed this threat.

Because of these threats and Brown's general behavior over the past ten days, Elenor stated that she was "in continued dread and fear that the said Henry Brown will take her life or greatly injure her person and that she desired to have protection by law". After hearing Elenor's pleas, that very day Foster issued a warrant to Thos. F. Saunders, Lavaca County Sheriff, for the apprehension of Henry H. Brown.

Once Saunders found Brown, he was to arrest him and bring him before Foster. Foster could then hear Brown's side of the story and decide if Brown should be required to post a recognizance bond, complete with good and sufficient secure, i.e. money, to insure Brown's good behavior toward the public in general and Elenor in particular. The sheriff executed the warrant on April 27th and on the 29th, Henry appeared before Foster.

Considering the situation, Foster ruled that Henry should post a bond of $150.00. Henry put up $100.00 of the amount while a neighbor, George miller, covered the remaining $50.00. By putting their respective marks on this document, both Brown and miller agreed that, if Brown defaulted on his bond, they would have to sell whatever property, etc. they owned to pay the $150.00 bond.

The conditions of the bond were that, Brown would personally appear at the next District Court to be held at Petersburg to answer to the complaint filed against him by Elenor. Second, he would not depart said court without license (permission). Third, between now and his court date, Brown was to "keep the peace and be of good behavior toward the citizens of the county aforesaid and especially toward the said Elenor Brown". If Henry behaved himself and followed the rules, the bond would be declared null and void.

But Elenor was not yet through with Henry. In her divorce petition of July 12, 1849, Elenor stated that Brown used "the most abusive, offensive language whereby he attempts to degrade and defame her with the community showing an utter want of respect, regard of affection for her". Along with the threats of bodily harm and verbal abuse, Brown had also failed and refused to provide Elenor with "the necessities of life" and that she was then forced to acquire such necessities with "her own exertions". Elenor viewed Brown as the most "virulent enemy she has".

Elenor states in the petition that through their "mutual exertions" since their emigration to Texas, she and Brown had acquired the following property: 100 acres of land in the John Letcher Headright worth $100.00 purchased on June 17, 1849, two dun horses, six cows and calves, two 2 year old steers, six yearlings, one two-horse wagon and 100 head of hogs.

She ends her petition with the statement that she has no children by the defendant and prays that the court issue a citation to Brown to appear at the next term of the District court. She asks that a decree be awarded her that "whereby she be forever divorced from her husband and from the bond of marriage with him".

Since her husband currently controlled all the personal property of the marriage, Elenor asked that a writ of sequestration be issued. To obtain such a writ, the plaintiff (Elenor) must provide security. The security must be set at an amount sufficient to compensate the defendant (Henry) for any damages sustained and/or for any loss of revenue incurred due to the sequestration if the court would later rule that the writ was wrongfully issued. In this case, the amount of the security required was set at $550.00. Elenor along with J. B. Arnold and Ira McDonald provided this security.

The writ, issued by Spencer Townsend on July 13th, 1849 to Sheriff Thos. F. Sanders, authorized Sanders to take into his possession all of the real and personal property jointly owned by Henry and Elenor and keep it in his possession subject to the future order of the court. By law, Sanders was to make proper arrangements for care of the property while in his possession and would be entitled to receive compensation for doing so.

After Sanders had sequestered the property pursuant to the order of the court, he was instructed to report to the court on the first day of the next term the manner in which the order was executed and an inventory of the property sequestered.

Three months later, on Thursday, October 11, 1849, Criminal Case #11, the State of Texas vs. Henry H. Brown was on the docket of the Lavaca County District Court. Henry appeared at the courthouse at Petersburg to answer to the charges filed against him by Elenor. The case was called and the defendant (Henry) was discharged and ordered, "to go hence without delay". When Henry appeared at court, the $150.00 recognizance bond posted by Brown and George Miller became null and void freeing both men from financial responsibility.

Henry must have taken the order to "go hence without delay" quite literally because two days later, on Saturday, October 13th, when Civil Case #31, Elenor Brown vs. Henry H. Brown, was called for trial, Henry was no where to be found. Despite Henry's absence, the jury heard the evidence, including the testimony by two witnesses for the plaintiff David Phelps and Isham Tate. After considering the matter, the jury rendered the following verdict: "that the said plaintiff and defendant be and they are divorced that the bonds of matrimony that existed between them be and they are abrogated and annulled and the right and responsibilities that existed between them as husband and wife are forever dissolved".

It was then ordered and decreed that all the property jointed owned by the couple as of July 3, 1849 would be divided equally between the two parties. J. B. Arnold, Isham Tate and the Sheriff Thos. F. Sanders were appointed commissioners to divide the property. This involved three steps, first the property would have to be appraised and divided between the two parties. Second the commissioners would make sure that each party actually received their half of the property and third file any necessary papers, i.e. deeds to make sure the division was recorded.

Next, the court ruled that the cost of said suit should also be divided equally between the two parties. On November 8th, when the bill for each party was finalized, Elenor's bill totaled $23.23 1/2 while Henry's bill was for $30.34 1/2. The court costs for each party was exactly $16.57 a/s. The difference in the two amounts was the bill presented by J. B. Arnold for care of the property while the county sequestered it. Arnold charged Elenor for 10 days care, while Henry was charged for 20 days care.

In the summer of 1850, when the first Lavaca County Census was taken, 30-year-old divorcee Elenor Brown was living in the county seat of Petersburg two houses down from Arthur Sherrill's inn. She was employed as a seamstress and was sharing her home with 15-year-old Mary Felps [Phelps].

Almost a year to the day that the divorce was granted, on October 10, 1850, the final report of the appointed commissioners was presented to the court. In the settlement, Elenor was to receive the entire 100 acres of land, seventy-five head of hogs, six yearlings and one cow and calf all valued at $213.50. Henry received five cows and calves, two two-year-old steers, two dun horses, one two-horse wagon and twenty-five head of hogs valued at $213.50.

The court confirmed and ratified the report and Thos. F. Sanders and J. B. Arnold were ordered to make deeds to the parties accordingly. As before, the court ordered that the two parties each pay half of the cost incurred in dividing the property. The court then ordered that twenty-five head of hogs belonging to Henry H. Brown be sold to satisfy his bill.

What became of this history making couple is a mystery. The last documented appearance of Henry H. Brown in Lavaca County is when he appeared in District Court on October 11, 1849. Elenor Brown is last documented in the county in the 1850 Lavaca County Census. Neither Elenor nor Henry appears in the 1860 Lavaca County Census or in any tax rolls. The property they received in the divorce settlement is never transferred or deeded to either of them. Elenor does not remarry in the county and neither individual appears in cemetery indexes or probate records for the county. Apparently, after they divorced each other, they divorced Lavaca County.

Lavaca County Criminal Case #11 The STate of Texas vs. Henry H. Brown
Lavaca County Civil Case #31 Elenor Brown vs. Henry H. Brown
Lavaca County District Court Minutes Vol. A pp. 47, 73
Lavaca County Deed Vol. A p. 305 John Letcher to Henry H. Brown
Lavaca County 1850 Census

Good and Lawful Men
Lavaca County's First Grand Jury

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler

On March 24, 1847, Lavaca County District Clerk David Laughlin, Lavaca County Clerk Josiah Dowling and Justice of the Peace S. A. Long, drew the names of "thirty six good and lawful men, citizens of the county" to serve as potential jurors at the District Court to be held in the town of Petersburg on Monday, the 26th day of April, 1847.

The true list of jurors as drawn were:

1. Isaac Mitchell
2. John Letcher
3. John Clark
4. Wm. W. Williams
5. William Smothers
6. A.M. Dodd
7. Benedict Manning
8. Hiram Harlis
9. Edward Moore
10. William Bias
11. Jas. C. Moore
12. Jas. Watts
13. George Mudd
14. Wm. Boatright
15. Rufus Brown
16. Wm. Hudgins
17. John J. Laughlin
18. A. W. Hicks
19. John Calahan
20. William Thompson
21. William Kelly
22. Stephen Best
23. William Mays
24. Stephen Bennett
25. Patrick Daugherty
26. George Miller
27. George Guthrie
28. H. H. Greenwood
29. John Arnold
30. Rudolph R. Walton
31. William Charles
32. James Brown
33. Charles Bradley
34. Francis Mudd
35. Gideon Blackburn
36. Wm. Tandy

The jurors assembled at the courthouse in Petersburg on the morning of Monday, April 26th, Tuesday, April 27th and Wednesday, April 28th only to be adjourned by Sheriff Nicklas J. Ryan due to "no judge appearing".

Finally, on Thursday morning, April 29, the Honorable Willliam E. Jones District Judge of the Second Judicial District and John A. Green, District Attorney, were present and Sheriff Ryan and District Clerk Laughlin presented the list of the summoned jurors to the court.

Out of those summoned and appearing in obedience to said summons, the following men were selected for the grand jury for the present term of the court:

1. Isaac Mitchell, Foreman
2. Wm. Hudgins
3. A. W. Hicks
4. William Kelly
5. Charles Bradley
6. Stephen Best
7. George Miller
8. H. A. Greenwood
9. James Brown
10. William Tandy
11. Hiram Harlis
12. Patrick Daughterty
13. William Bias
14. William Mays

A grand jury is a panel of citizen called together to hear evidence and determine if criminal charges should be initiated. If the grand jury determines that criminal proceedings should be initiated, it returns what is called an indictment.

After the grand jury had been selected, the following jurors were empanelled to serve on the petit jury for the present term of the court: John Clark, Edward Moore, James Watts, Rudolph R. Walton, William Smothers, Francis Mudd and William Boatright. John Arnold, Thomas Chaudoin, W. P. Bass, J. W. Hinch and E. B. Fowlkes joined them. These men were added to the petit jury due tothe absence of several of the summoned jurors.

Over the next two days, the empanelled grand jury was presented with the following docket.

Civil Docket
#1 Patrick Doherty vs. Williams Smother, Covenant Broker
#2 Philip Howard and wife vs. Stephen Hicks, Ejectment
#3 Allen Brooks vs. Patrick Doherty, Appeal from a Justice Court
#4 William Smothers vs. Mary H. Smothers and John H. Brown, Appeal from Probate Court
#5 Sarah Ann Braches and Charles Braches vs. Arthur Sherrill, Covenant Broken
#6 Hamlet Ferguson vs. John Greenwood, Debt
#7 State of Texas vs. William P. Bass, Debt
#8 William Reed vs. Elizabeth Hinckley and Walter Hinckley, Debt

Criminal Docket
#1 State of Texas vs. David Laughlin and John Chaney, Affray

In other court business, Gabriel Zumwalt, appraiser and collector of the county of Lavaca, appeared and presented a written report of the names of persons pursuing vocations upon which a tax is imposed by law, without having obtained a license. This report ws ordered by the court to be filed in the office of the clerk of the court.

Then the matter of the absentee jurors was brought before the court. The court was informed that A. M. Dodd, Rufus E. Brown, John J. Laughlin, John Calahan, Stephen Bennett, George Guthries, William Charles and Gideon Blackburn had failed to appear in obedience to the summons. The court ordered that a fine of ten dollars each be imposed on each of said defaulting jurors and each absentee juror was given until the next term of the court to explain why the fine should not be made a final judgment of the court against each of them.

It was ordered by the court that all cases on the docket not otherwise disposed of be continued until the next term of the court.

Before adjournment, the court ordered that a sufficient amount of fund out of the county treasury be appropriated to purchase for the court a seal and such office furniture as may be necessary to preserve the records and papers of the court.

"It is ordered that the Court do now adjourn sine die."

William E. Jones
District Judge of the Second Judicial District

Minutes of the District Court of Lavaca County Book A pp. 6-10.

Yes In “Deed”!
Adoptions Recorded in Lavaca County Deed Records

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler


The following are four known adoptions recorded in the Lavaca County Deed Records located at the Lavaca County Courthouse in Hallettsville, Texas.  These four adoptions took place between 1864 and 1877.  In upcoming quarterlies, I will follow the trail of these four adoptions starting with the earliest recorded adoption in 1864. 

Volume I p. 74

Know all men by these present that we Josias Power and Elizabeth A. Power of the State and County afore said have adopted, and by these present do adopt Rachel Louvisa natural Daughter of ______ Baylick and his wife ______ Baylick as our legal heir, and we do hereby acknowledge and declare the said Rachel Louvisa Baylick entitled to all the rights and privileges both in law and equity of a legal heir- witnessed our hands and scrawls for seals this 3rd day of March A D 1864.

              Josias Power

              Elizabeth Power

Volume P p. 687

Know all men by these present that I David Hughes of the State of Texas and County of Lavaca for and in consideration of the love and affection which I have unto my two stepsons John Allen Ellis and Josiah Dow Ellis the first about twelve years of age the second about nine years of age and both now residing with me in said State and County Do by these present adopt the said John Allen Ellis and Josiah Dow Ellis afore said as my legal heirs and I do further declare by these present that the said John Allen Ellis and Josiah Dow Ellis shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges  both in law and equity of my legal heirs and shall stand on the same footing in this respect with the children of my own body.  In testimony where of I here unto set my hand and seal using scrall for seal this 3rd day of March A D 1874.

              David Hughes

 Volume T p. 360

Know all men by these present that we Ruben B. White and Charlotte W. White his wife of the State and County above written do by these present state affirm and declare that we have this day adopted Mary Jane Lakey and Louisa Robert Crawford Lakey, children of Henry and Martha Lakey decd, as legal heirs, and we do hereby invest the said Mary Jane and Louisa Lakey with the same right to take hold and inherit our estates at our demise, the same as they were our own children.  Witness our hands and scrawls for seals this the 16th day of Octb. A D one  thousand eight hundred and seventy four.

              R. B. White

              C. W. White

 Volume U p. 233

Know all men by these present that I J. C. Benthall, a resident citizen of the County of Lavaca in the State of Texas have adopted, and do by these present adopt as my legal heir Lella Shoemake, aged eight years, the daughter of P.B. Shoemake who resides in the afore said County of Lavaca in the State aforesaid.  In testimony where of I hereunto affix my hand using scrawl for seal at Hallettsville Lavaca County Texas this 17th day of Dec. A D 1877.

              J. C. Benthall

Lavaca’s Tax Payers

by Brenda Lincke Fisseler

On the front page of the August 30, 1900 issue of the Hallettsville Herald, the editors published a list of individuals whose tax assessment exceeded five thousand dollars. The opening paragraph made the following statement: “Assessments of property in Lavaca County are made on the very conservative estimate one-third the actual value so the following named tax payers, compiled from the rolls of 1900, may be safely rated as owning property to three times the amount placed opposite their names.”

R.B. Allen      

Wm. Appelt       

Louis Appelt          

A. Appelt Estate       

Alb. Arnim           

Ferd. Arnim           

N. Avant          

Wm. Appelt Sons      

W. J. Beasley         

J. W. Bennett           

Ed. Boehm             

Mrs. M. A. Blackburn

Building & Loan Assn

B. Brown          

Dr. H. S. Clark     

S. A. Clark           

R. J. Clark             

Mrs. M. A. Clark       

G. B. Crane

J. L. Culpepper 

S. Devall’s Sons      

Geo. Douglas            

Henry Dreyer Sr.  

Joe F. Elstner

Mrs. A. Eschenburg  

Mrs. E. Etlinger

F.A. & E.O. Farley  

F. T. Fehrenkamp 

Fey & Braunig     

Chas. H. Flato

D. Garbade            

Garner Bros.         

Wm. Green            

Green & Flato        

A. F. Groeber

A. Gilmer 

G. W. Hughes (Kerrville)

Hallettsville Hotel Co.

Wm. Helwig Sr.         

Dr. J. Y. Hicks     

T. A. Hill &  Son      

Hy. Hollmann         

Jno. F. Houchins    

Rud. Jaeggli          

Kahn & Stanzel        

Chas, Karney      

Kinkler & Houchins   

Kokernutt Bros.      

Jno. Kolar         

A. J. Kopecky    

Mrs. N. Kroschel       

A. Kuehn Sr.             

F. Ladewig            

J. A. Lander           

Lavaca Co. Oil Mill     

Lavaca Co. National Bank

Dr. J. E. Lay 

D. A. A. Ledbetter

F. Lindenberg      

Martin, W.L.

Martin, M.R. Mrs.

Mergenthal & Stelzel

Mertz, A. Mrs.

Mikeska, Peter

































































Miller, Hy. Jr.

Miller, R.B.

Mitchell & Hemmi

Mixon, J.O.

Moore, A.V.

Moore, L.E. Mrs.

Moore, W.J. & S. B. Est.

Miller, A.G.

Moore, W.J. Jr.

McCutchan, W.R. Mrs.

McMurry, S.F. Mrs.

Neuhaus, L.E.

Neuhaus, E.C.

Neuhaus, F.W.

Nieman, J.A.

Nieman, Chas.

Nolen, J.W.

O’Brien, E. Mrs.

Pagel, Chas.

Patton, S.C.

Patton, A.G.

Patton, C.B.

Patton, C.P.

Quota, Henry

Ragsdale, S.P. Mrs.

Roos Bros.

Rosenberg Bros.

Samusch, I.

Shiner Oil Mill

Simpson, D.B.

Smothers, John

Speary, M. Mrs.

Stankiewicz, A.

Strattmann, B.

Smith, P.D.

Trautwein, & Wolters

Turner, Louis

Vagner, Frank

Vollentine, Jim

Welhausen, Chas.

Welhausen, C.B.

Weller, A. H.

Williams, C.L.

Williams, Jno.

Windell, Chris

Wolters, E.F.

Wolters Bros.

Wunderlich, F. Sr.

Yoakum Impr. Co.

Non Residents

Bennett, J. M., San Antonio

Hahuke, Wm., Schulenburg

McHarris, Mrs., San Antonio

Huth, Jno., Yoakum

Kessler, C.A., Schulenburg

Sibley, E., Victoria

Shiner, H.B., San Antonio

Woods, Jno., San Antonio

Woods, Daisy, San Antonio

Woods, Hettie, San Antonio

Rabb, E.M. Dr., San Antonio

Woods, Hix A., Flatonia

S.A. & A.P. Ry. Co.































































The previous article was spread over two quarterlies.

A Short Sketch of Rachel Louise Baylick

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

On March 3, 1864 the first recorded adoption took place in Lavaca County, Texas when childless Josiah and Elizabeth Power adopted Rachel Louise Baylick.  Very, very little information is available about Rachel prior to her adoption by the Powers.  According to different sources, Rachel was born on January 1, 1860 or 1861 in Texas.  The names of her parents are unknown.  Depending on either the 1860 or 1861 birth date, Rachel was three or four years old when she was adopted by the Powers.  For the remainder of the story, the 1861 date will be used.

A few months before Rachel turned nine years old, her adopted mother, Elizabeth Power, died in Lavaca County on September 9, 1868.  On August 12, 1869, Rachel’s third mother entered her young life when the widower Josiah Power married Martha A. McGee in Lavaca County, Texas.

According to the 1870 federal census, nine-year-old Rachel was listed as living with forty four year old Josiah and thirty eight year old Martha in Lavaca County.  However, when Josiah died on December 20, 1876, his probate states that he died in neighboring Fayette County, Texas.  In January of 1877, Rachel L. Baylick was named in the probate court as the only legal heir of Josiah and Elizabeth Power.  She was at the time a minor over the age of 14 years and she petitioned the court to name Goldsmith Walker as her guardian.

A year later, just eleven days after her seventeenth birthday, Rachel Louise Ballac (Baylick) married Thomas Baker Jr. the third child of Thomas and Eliza Winn Baker in Gonzales County, Texas on January 12, 1878.

Over the next eighteen years, Thomas and Rachel had five children, Elizabeth Franklin “Dovie” born 1879, Caleb W. “Buster” born in 1882, Keturah “Kittie” Baker born in 1889, Fred Power Baker born in 1891 and Ruby Keadle Baker born in 1896.  During their married life, Thomas and Rachel lived in Gonzales County and Uvalde County, Texas. 

While the exact date of Thomas’s death is unknown, by 1930, the widow Rachel had returned to Yoakum, Texas and was living with her daughters Elizabeth Burke and Kittie Baker.  On October 6, 1935, Rachel Baylick Power Baker died and is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery between her husband Thomas and her youngest daughter Ruby Baker.

Gonzales County Historical Commission, The History of Gonzales County, Texas. 3rd. Dallas, TX: Curtis Media Corporation, 1995.
Lavaca County Deed Record Vol. I p. 74.
Lavaca County Marriage Record Vol. C p. 38.
Lavaca County Probate Record #504 Estate of Rachel L. Baylick Minor.
Lavaca County Probate Record #507 Estate of Josias Power.
Tise, Sammy. Lavaca Co., Texas Cemetery Records Vol. II. Hallettsville, TX: Old Homestead, 1985.
Year: 1860; Census Place: Lavaca, Lavaca, Texas; Roll: M653_1299; Page: 195; Image: 398.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Lavaca, Texas; Roll: M593_1595; Page: 470; Image: 169.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Gonzales, Texas; Roll: T9_1306; Family History Film: 1255306; Page:    512.1000; Enumeration District: 71;.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Justice Precinct 2, Uvalde, Texas; Roll: T624_1593; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 134; Image: 913.
Year: 1930; Census Place: Yoakum, Dewitt, Texas; Roll: 2324; Page:5B; Enumeration District:17; Image: 982.0.

Adoption and Abduction
The Story of John Allen Ellis 

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

Recorded adoptions in early Lavaca County were few and far between.  According to the Lavaca County deed records only four adoptions were recorded between 1864 and 1877.  The second of these four adoptions took place on March 3, 1874 when David Hughes of Lavaca County, Texas legally adopted his two stepsons 12 year old John Allen Ellis and 9 year old Josiah Dow Ellis.  The boy’s mother, Mrs. Frances (Allen) Ellis had married David Hughes on April 16, 1866.  The Hughes family home was on a 100 acre tract of land in the G. W. Scott Headright located in the northeast part of the county.

While the particulars of the Hughes family life is not recorded and so unavailable for our inspection, it is known that the lives of the two brothers took radically different paths after the adoption took place.  While Josiah Dow remained in Lavaca County until his early death in Hackberry in September of 1898, the older boy, John Allen Ellis, with the help of his uncle, John G. Ellis, decided to leave the Hughes household.

On June 15, 1874, John Allen and his uncle, accompanied by Lite Townsend, met at a pre-arraigned location and rode off on horseback.  According to Lavaca County historian, the late Paul C. Boethel, the two had known each other for years and the plan was a mutual undertaking.

While the abduction may have been agreed upon by the involved parties, the law did not view the incident lightly.  On July 13, 1874, John G. Ellis and Lite Townsend were indicted on the charge of willfully and unlawfully kidnapping of John Allen Ellis a minor of the age of twelve years.

For the next two years, John G. and John Allen skirted the law.  Sheriff returns sent to Kerr, Hays, Milam and Comanche counties were returned unserved.  Almost two years passed after the kidnapping before the elder Ellis was eventually taken into custody and returned to Lavaca County.  No mention is ever made if the younger Ellis returned to Lavaca County with this uncle at this point or not. As for Lite Townsend, his indictment was not served until August 2, 1879

On May 9, 1876, John G. Ellis made bond of $500.00.   August 11, 1877, Ellis appeared in person in court and pled not guilty to the charge leveled against him.  The jury, however, disagreed, found him guilty and assessed a fine of fifty cents.  On August 13th, Ellis’ attorney filed a motion for a new trial which was overruled.  Surprisingly, Ellis appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals in Galveston.  On February 15, 1879, the higher court heard Ellis’ case and the appeal was dismissed.   

After the dismissal, on December 1, 1882, a capias pro fine was issued that John G. Ellis be found and kept in custody until payment of his fine and court costs amounting to $134.58.  An effort was made to serve him in Menard County, Texas to no avail.  Since Ellis was not to be found, his bondsmen on his appeal, John W. Page and D.M. Cummings were summoned to court and ultimately held financially responsible for his failure to appear.

While this was the end of the story as far as the kidnapping was concerned, the lives of the parties involved continued on for many years.  

David Hughes, the step-father of John and Josiah Ellis remained in Lavaca County until his death on October 14, 1899 at the age of 75.  At the time of his death, Hughes had been living at his home in Hackberry and had been sick for a period of time with typhoid fever.

Frances P. Hughes, the mother of the two Ellis boys, died in West Hallettsville on July 18, 1897.  Frances had reached the age of 54 years and six months.  Before her death, Frances had twelve children with Hughes, seven of which survived her.  In her will dated October 5, 1877, it is obvious that Frances held out little or no hope for her errant son.  In the will she mentioned the children of David Hughes from a previous wife, her son Josiah D. Ellis and her children with Hughes but due to what she termed as undutiful conduct by her son John Allen Ellis, it was her stated intention to disinherit her son.

The younger Ellis boy, Josiah Dow Ellis, married Mary Ann Baker in Lavaca County on October 31, 1883.  In a newspaper article in the September 15, 1898 issue of the Hallettsville Herald, the writer is lamenting the situation of his old friend David Hughes.  The writer informs the reader that Hughes has suffered the death of his wife and a grown son in the previous year.  In the past week, Hughes learned of the death of his step-son Joe (Josiah) Ellis and the death of Ellis’ six-year-old daughter from typhoid fever and received a telegram informing him that another son, Charlie, was dying at his home near Columbus, Texas.  By October of 1904, Josiah’s widow, Mary Ellis, had moved to Jack County, Texas and in a deed dated October 26th of that year, sold to J. E. Greer any rights she held in the estate, both real and personal, belonging to her as an heir of her deceased husband, Jos. Ellis, as inherited by him from David Hughes and Francis Hughes deceased.

Last, but certainly not least, is our runaway John Allen Ellis.  There exists no written documentation that John ever returned to Lavaca County. John A. Ellis married a P.R. Glasscock in Menard County Texas on March 31, 1884.  According to the 1990 United States Federal census, John A. Ellis and his wife Percilla R. Ellis were living in Sutton County, Texas with their seven children.  In 1910, John, Priscille and family were living in Menard County, Texas. The subject of our tale, John Allen Ellis, died in Menard County on September 25, 1918 and is buried beside his wife in the Pioneer Rest Cemetery in Menard County.

Ancestry.com. Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
Boethel, Paul C.. Free State of Lavaca. 1st.. Austin, TX: Weddle Publication, 1977.
Brown, Alicia. "Menard County Texas Pioneer Rest Cemetery Index." Menard County GenWeb <http://www.aliciasniche.com/txmenard/cem/pioneer/cempio.thm>.
David Hughes." Hallettsville Herald 19 Oct 1899: A1.
Francis P. Hughes." Hallettsville Herald 22 July 1897: 5.
Lavaca County Civil Record #2133 State of Texas vs. John G. Ellis.
Lavaca County Criminal Record #1333 State of Texas vs. John G. Ellis and Light Townsend.
Lavaca County Deed Record Vol. 43 p. 282.
Lavaca County Probate #1068 Estate of Frances P. Hughes.
Menard County Death Certificate #34941 John Allen Ellis
Our Old Friend." Hallettsville Herald 15 Sept 1898: 8.
Waldrop, Carol Ann. "Our Waldrops and their branches." Rootsweb. 10 01 2007. 5 Nov 2008 <http://www.rootsweb.com>.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Justice Precinct 4, Sutton, Texas; Roll: T623 1670; Page: 18A; Enumeration District : 70.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Justice Precinct 2, Menard, Texas; Roll: T624_1574; Page 3A; Enumeration District: 161; Image 1299.


Loose Ends in Lavaca County

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

Whenever I write a column for this quarterly my goal is to provide the readers with at least an interesting story or provide information that will be useful to a researcher or family genealogist.

This article, however, is taking a different approach.  For those of you who do not know me, my day job is working at the Friench Simpson Memorial Library in Hallettsville, Texas.  I cheerfully and willing field local history and genealogy questions about Lavaca County and the surrounding area on a daily basis.  I use the library resources as well as records from the Lavaca County courthouse to provide answers to a wide range of questions about people, places and events in Lavaca County.

However, with deep regret, I must admit that on my desk resides a folder full of questions for which I have no answers even after untold hours of research.  So I am appealing to my readers, on virtual bended knee, to read the following scenarios and contact me if you have any information and/or ideas.  You will have my undying gratitude and I will have one less folder on my desk.

Case #1: Ludtke Family

In the 1880 Lavaca County census is listed the Ludtke family, Joseph, Minna, Emma, Otto, Anna and William.  The Ludtke family was living in the Sublime area of Lavaca County.  I have documented information on the family up to that date.  The next records I have on the family are that Minnie Ludtke (Widow of Joseph) is listed in the 1887 Houston City Directory.  I can also account for Emma, Otto and Williams.  However, I cannot locate any information on what happened to Joseph or the daughter Anna.  *This is one of my ancestors so my gratitude will know no bounds if anyone can help.

Case #2: Mary Varnell

Mary Varnell died between 1900 and 1910 and is supposedly buried in the Hallettsville City Cemetery in an unmarked grave with her daughter and son-in-law Minnie Varnell Timm and August Otto Timm.  I cannot locate Mary’s date of death.

Case #3: Sovjak/Soviak Family

I need any information on siblings Joseph and Johanna Sovjak, children of Frank Sovjak and Barbora (Pavelec) Sovjak Drizga.  Joseph is living in Karnes County in 1930 and Johanna is living in Lavaca County in 1910 and possibly died in Karnes County.

Case #4: Antonia Anna Schaefer

Antonia Anna Schaefer was born in 1878 and died on October 18, 1885.  She is supposedly buried in the Mixon Creek Cemetery in Lavaca County, Texas.  I cannot locate any information on Antonia or even the existence of a Mixon Creek Cemetery.

Case #5: Stanley Charles Polansky

Stanley was born in Lavaca County on November 16, 1902.  Family story says that in 1919, at the ages of 17, Stanley ran away from home and the family never heard from him again.  The family heard from a third party that Stanley had changed his name to Bill Davis, married a woman named Lucille and was last living in a boarding house in Houston, Texas in 1934.  Stanley could be going by the name Stanley Polansky or Bill Davis.

Case #6: Emil Schmidt

Emil Schmidt died sometime between July 1, 1890 and December 2, 1892.  I need proof of date of death.  Emil owned property in Lavaca County, but it is unknown where he was living when he died.

Case #7: Williford/Lakey

On March 8, 1877, Mary Jane Lakey married A.L. Williford in Lavaca County, Texas.  Mary Jane and Andrew L. are listed in the 1880 census in Lavaca County with their daughter Martha.  I cannot locate any member of this family after 1880.

Case #8: Sandy Gate Cemetery, DeWitt County, Texas

In the Sandy Gate Cemetery there are two graves that I have been unable to locate any information about.  Neither grave has a birth or death date written on the markers.  The first is the stone for a “Baby Remmers” and the second is for “Rudolph Jaeger” I would like any information on either grave.

Case #9: Harms/Harmes Baby

This is by far my most embarrassing failure.  Dietrich Herman Harms/Harmes married Wilhelmine Neumann on November 25, 1888 in Shiner, Texas in the Lutheran Church.  In the 1900 census, the Harmes family is living in Lavaca County, Texas and the census states the family had 6 children, 5 of which were living.  The last living sibling of that family has told me that she was told that a baby was born near Shiner, Texas, died as an infant or young child, and was buried somewhere near Shiner.  I cannot locate the birth or death of this missing child.  The last living sibling is in her 90s and would like to locate the grave.

Thank you for listening to my whining and pleading.   If any of my readers can provide information that results in the location of any of the above individuals (sounds like Crime Stoppers) while I cannot offer you a monetary reward, I will give you abundant credit and sing your praises in an upcoming story.


The Past is Still Visible: the Fey & Braunig Building

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

He paused for a moment before beginning the climb up the stairs to his studio.  He could not remember how many times he had walked up this same flight of stairs over the past forty five years.  Granted, he still loved his work; the opportunity to help people capture a special moment in their lives; the excited faces of a new bride and groom, a cheerful and plump new baby or an event unfolding outside his studio window on the courthouse square below. 

However, while his job never grew old, his body did and after sixty two years behind his trusty Emil Busch camera, he believed the time had come to retire.  “The best laid plans of mice and men”, he thought to himself as his placed his foot on the first step.  He could not bring himself to retire now; America was on the brink of war and he had been bombarded by military enlistees and their families for portraits.  “How can I retire now, who would take these boy’s pictures” he though as he began the climb to his studio. 

Step by step, he climbed up those familiar stairs and reminisced back to 1895 when his in-laws had sold this lot to him and his friend and partner Pius Fey.  He smiled to himself when he remembered how proud they had both been and how proud he still was.  Even today, folks remembered that their building had been the first building west of the mighty Mississippi that was built purposely for use as a photography studio.

Shaking his head as to clear his thoughts, Henry reached the top of the stairs.  Time to get to work; people were waiting….

Henry Jacob Braunig was born in Meyersville, Texas on April 1, 1861.  When Henry was two years old, his father was killed a victim of the Civil War.  His mother remarried Charles W. Nau and Henry was raised in Yorktown, Texas.  Young Henry left home as age 14 and went to work in a dry goods store in Cuero, Texas.  While clerking, Henry met Pius Fey a traveling photographer who headquartered in Cuero.  Fey suggested that Braunig accompanied him on a trip to the hill county as his apprentice and in 1878 a partnership and lifelong friendship was born. 

Fey remained in Cuero, while Braunig set up shop in Hallettsville.   In 1887, their first permanent studio was located one block east of the courthouse square replacing a large tent that served as a temporary site.    This building was located north of the present day Hallettsville Lumber Company.  The lumber for their first studio was hauled from Cuero.  The partnership proved to be so successful that Fey and Braunig decided to erect a new building designed especially for their business. 

In 1890, the partners set their plan in motion.  On March 26th, they purchased part of Lots 2 and 4 in Block 7 from J. P. Morris.  At the time of purchase, the lot was occupied by a rock store building being used by Mr. Price as a bar room.  On March 1, 1895, Fritz Lindenberg and his wife sold part of Lots 2 and 4 in Block 7 to Fey and Braunig.  The Lindenbergs were Braunig’s in-laws; Henry had married their daughter, Mary Ida Lindenberg, on April 10, 1888. 

The local newspaper broke the news that the partners would build a brick store in the spring.  The old rock building  on the lot which was now occupied by Leopold Silber’s saloon, would be torn down and replaced with a two-story brick of handsome design, with a glass front specially arraigned to suite the firm’s stationery and book business.  The upper floor, which would serve as their photographic studio, would have large windows and skylights to take advantage of the natural light. 

The contract for the building was awarded to Mauer & Wesling who had also served as the architects.  It was announced in the local newspaper that the work of removing the old building and laying the foundation of the new would begin in late April or early May 1895.  The front of the building will be Illinois and Elgin fancy red brick with chipped rock trimmings. 

In May, Messrs. Mauer & Wesling let the contract for tearing down the rock building and doing the woodwork for the new Fey & Braunig building to Leopold & Hannig.  Everyone in town knew that another old “landmark” was about to disappear.  The old rock building set for demolition had been built by Fritz Lindenberg in 1876 and was the scene of a number of incidents that belonged to Lavaca County history. 

Work progressed all summer and an announcement was printed in the local newspaper that on or about September 1st, the business house now occupied by Fey & Braunig located one block east of the courthouse would be available for rent.  It was later rented by Mr. M. F. Nau, of Yorktown, a half brother of Braunig.  Nau opened a tin shop and hardware store in the building. 

In early September, after a week of hard labor, Messrs. Fey & Braunig had settled into their elegant new brick building.  The newspaper declared it to be undoubtedly the finest in the city.  It went on to state that the style of architecture was quaint but attractive.  The work reflects credit on Messrs. Mauer & Wesling.  The woodwork was done by Leopold & Hanning and is of a high standard of excellence while the brush work done by Louis Mohrman is artistic.    The counters are being made by Mauer & Wesling are the most artistic pieces of woodwork ever attempted here.  Hallettsville is proud of the Fey & Braunig building and wants more like it. 

From floor to ceiling, under and one the counters, in the garrets, everywhere, every nook was filled with school supplies, stationery, slates, books, pencils, inks etc ready for sale. 

Now, thought Braunig, as his last morning appointment descended the stairs, it is time for a break and a quick bite of lunch while I have a moment to myself.  As the crowd noise from the square filtered up into his studio, Braunig could not help but think of the years that he had shared this building with Pius Fey.   Pius had been his mentor and his best friend.  Even when he and Fey had decided to end their partnership in 1909, after 31 years together, they remained the best of friends. 

After becoming sole proprietor of his business, Braunig continued to be one of the outstanding photographers of his era.  His photography studio and stationary store downstairs operated in the Fey & Braunig building for another 36 years. 

However, when Braunig decided to delay his retirement in 1940, disaster struck when Hallettsville was inundated with floor waters from the swollen Lavaca River.  Until the great flood of July 1940, Braunig had every plate he had ever made properly marked and recorded so that he could make copies at any time. 

As he studied the rays of light dancing in the windows of his studio, it saddened him when he allowed himself to thing about the “flood”.  What a monumental disaster that had been he thought.  All those plates ruined after so many years of work.  I had been so careful to safe and mark each one, and now they where practically all gone.

As the courthouse clock struck one, Braunig eased himself out of his chair.  He stopped for a moment and allowed himself to slowly look around his studio.  Well, Pius, he thought, we did a good job.  This building has served both you and I well and hopefully will remain a part of the courthouse square for many years.  Sometimes, I wonder if anyone will even remember that I was ever here.  No matter, I am here now and my first afternoon appointment is coming up the stairs.  He smiled as the young couple entered his studio….

On December 7, 1945, Henry Jacob Braunig died at the age of 84.  He was still working in the studio just days before his death.  It was reported that as death approached, Braunig told his children “If I had an opportunity to live my life over, I would want it exactly as it was”. 

“Great minds are related to the brief span of time during which they live as great buildings are to a little square in which they stand…”

The Past is Still Visible: the H. J. Heye Building

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

As he walked down Fourth St toward his new building it gave him time to think.  When he really thought about it, he didn’t know what he liked better, saddles, buggies or cars.  Granted, he had been in the saddle and harness business since he was a young man, but he recognized, maybe before a lot of others in town, that cars were the future.  He had known that as early as 1910 when he sold a Firestone-Columbus high wheel to his fellow businessman, T. Y. Hill.  Everyone in town says that was the first automobile sold in Hallettsville and that made him smile.  He liked thinking that he had been the first at something important. 

Wait, I see my son Walter standing in front of our new building and he waving to get my attention.  I wonder what he needs now.  No, he’s not waving, he’s pointing up toward the front of the building.  Well, what do you know, the sign arrived.  H. J. Heye Auto Co.  I better get over there for a closer look.

Hans Jacob Heye was born on April 2, 1866 in Utterson, Holstein, Germany.  As a teenager, he apprenticed in his father’s saddler business.  At the age of 16, Heye sailed from Hamburg on August 31, 1882 and arrived in New York City.  He then traveled to San Antonio, Texas by rail where he worked in this uncle D. Heye’s saddler business.  He later worked in San Diego, California, Monterey, Mexico and LaGrange, Texas before moving to Hallettsville in December of 1888. 

He established the H. J. Heye saddle business in 1889 and set up shop on the east side of the courthouse square in the old Speary building. 

As Heye walked toward his new building he thought about the original Heye saddle business.  I might have started out small he said to himself, but I had plans.  I wasn’t going to stay in that old Speary building for very long.

On July 1, 1891, Heye purchased part of lots 1 and 3 in block 7 on the south side of the courthouse square from Wm. Von Rosenberg.  By October of 1891, Heye had built a corrugated one story iron building on the lot and reopened his business in the new location.  Heye expanded his business to include buggies and other leather products. 

Those next thirteen years were good ones he thought.  I returned to Germany in 1894 to visit my family and was able to convince my brother to come to America in 1897 and make Hallettsville his home.  I even fell in love again. After losing my dear Letta (Zoller) in 1892 I never thought that would happen, but Emma changed my mind and my life.

Heye married Emma Bonorden in 1896 and they lived out their married life in Hallettsville.  With Emma, Heye had daughter Adele and son Walter.  His daughter, Marie, had been born from his marriage to Letta. 

As he waited for the traffic to clear so that he could cross the dirt road, he suddenly thought about the photographers Fey and Braunig and the jeweler Andrew Stankiewiecz.  You know, he thought I have been really lucky when it came to my neighbors. We ran our businesses side by side; Fey and Braunig to my east and Stankiewiecz to my west.  Later, I had Paul Renger and Michael Saccar’s City Drug store to my west, but they proved to be good neighbors as well.  I don’t know how many folks in town have noticed, but we even share common walls between our businesses. 

On November 20, 1912, Heye purchased what was known as the Stankiewiecz property from Mother Superior Agnes with the Nazareth Academy in Victoria, Texas.  Stankiewiecz had previously sold the property to the Mother Superior in May of 1906. 

Once I had the Stankiewiecz property, I knew I could move forward with my plans.  My business had outgrown my small one story shop so the time had come to expand. 

In April of 1914, work began on the new H. J. Heye two story brick building.  Contractor Howard from Eagle Lake removed the Stankiewiecz building and part of the old Heye building to make way for the new two story brick structure.  The new building would be a two story structure of modern design with fine grade brick, a plate glass window and other furnishings.  In July of that year, the building was nearing completion.  The glass front had been placed, the finishing stucco work was on and the inside steel ceiling was practically complete.  The base for the glass front was beautiful marble furnished by Hallettsville Monument Works.

During the building process, Contractor Howard was able to erect the new building without having to interfere with Heye’s established business, further than it being necessary at the time to move stock from one part of the building to the other.  For example, the cast iron columns that had once graced the exterior of Heye’s original building were part of the interior of the new building. 

Victoria resident Jules Leffland was the architect of the Heye building and also designed the remodel of Heye’s family home on North Main that same year. 

How proud I was of my new building.  I even had an Otis freight elevator installed to haul buggies and later automobiles to the second floor.  And my plate glass windows were so big I could park a car where folks walking by could see it.  I had Braunig take  a picture of my building with all of my employees and I sitting on the sidewalk and you can see the car in the window behind us. 

Heye entered the automobile business in 1916 when he became the local Ford dealership.  His association with Ford was short lived and became a Chevrolet dealer in 1917. 

In July of 1924, Heye sold his saddle, buggy and harness businesses to J. G. (Griff) Traxler and P. L. (Pete) Netardus who operated the shop under the name Traxler & Netardus. 

Talk about two great fellows Heye thought as the carefully crossed Fourth Street.  Griff worked for me for 21 years and Pete for 13 years.  We were like brothers and I was happy to sell the saddle shop to them.  By then, Walter had already been talking to me about coming into the family automobile business.  And so here we are, Heye said quietly, as he finished his walk now standing in front of his building gazing up at the new sign.  H. J. Heye Auto Co. he said out loud.  He nodded his head slowly; he knew automobiles were the future. 

Heye remained in the automobile business until January of 1931 when he sold his interest in the H. J. Motor Company to his son Walter and Anton Zaruba.  The business became Heye-Zaruba Chevrolet Co. 

The two story brick Heye building on the south side of the courthouse square remained in the Heye family until August of 1963 when the family sold the building to William E. and Mary Caldwell Browning. 

“Great minds are related to the brief span of time during which they live as great buildings are to a little square in which they stand…”

Jules Carl Leffland  (1854 – 1924)

Leffland, was born in Denmark in 1854.  He attended the Institute of Technology of Copenhagen where he received his architectural training.  Leffland and his family immigrated to Texas in 1866.  His first jobs involved moving homes from Indianola to Cuero after the hurricane of 1886.  By 1910, from his office in Victoria, Leffland had designed and supervised the construction of at least eighty structures in an area from Wharton to Kingsville.  He designed churches, schools, banks, city halls, hotel and residences.  Victoria, Leffland’s adopted hometown, has numerous examples of the buildings he designed, most located in and around Main Street in the old part of town.  Shortly before his death on October 21, 1924, Leffland became a citizen of the United States.

Source: Handbook of Texas Online

The Past is Still Visible: the F. W. Neuhaus Building

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

F. W. Neuhaus knew what he wanted.  He hadn’t achieved the level of success that he now enjoyed, both financially and socially, without having a plan.  When he looked at the corner of the courthouse square that he was about to purchase, his vision did not include the aging two story wooden building that now rested there.  His building would be made of grander stuff, brick and lots of it, with plate glass windows and a substantial turret on the corner. 

He wasn’t a fool.   He had done his homework.  The roller coaster history of this place did not surprise or alarm him.  Neuhaus did not plan to make the same mistakes that had plagued the past owners.  He would pay cash for this place, $7,000.00 to be exact.  This piece of real estate would be his free and clear.  No liens, notes, court cases or any other such nonsense would derail his plan. 

He saw himself as a fair and honest man.  He wanted this piece of prime real estate, but he did not want to ruin Lindenberg’s livelihood, so as part of their agreement, the current owner Fritz Lindenberg had until May 1st to dismantle and move his hotel to the southeast corner of this same block.  There he could set up shop and continue to serve to the needs of visitors to their fair town.   After all, the Lindenberg family had operated their fine hotel on this spot since 1868.   

Neuhaus knew that the Lindenberg family were the only previous owners that had actually owned the property long enough to be successful.  Since 1854, the property had changed hands so many times that it boggled even his mind.  It has started out simply enough; John Harrell had purchased the property from Josiah Dowling and John W. Kelly and built a two story wooden hotel, complete with a bell, that he called the Harrell House. 

However, financial difficulties soon followed, and after nearly losing the property in court, Harrrell sold the property to Zachariah N. Hanna and the hotel became the Hanna House.  In less that one year, Hanna sold the property to Morehouse Latting.  Latting and his wife operated the hotel, now known as the Latting House, from 1858 to 1863. 

What followed was that very distasteful business with W. R. Davis of Washington County.  What Latting had hoped to accomplished by duping Davis, Neuhaus could neither accept nor condone.  The debt ridden Latting had sold the property in 1863 knowing good and well that he could not provide Davis with a clear title because there was a lien on the property.  Poor Davis did not realize he had been had until he tried to sell the property to Mattias Lindenberg, Fritz’s father.  In the end, after two long and complicated court cases, Lindenberg purchased the property at a sheriff’s sale and Davis was left empty handed. 

So now, he was about to become the new owner of a lot on which he planned to build a beautiful building that he hoped would grace the courthouse square for years to come.  It was Valentines Day 1900 and it was time to stop reminiscing and meet Lindenberg so that he could close the deal.  

On that day in February the Neuhaus building was born.  In March 1900, Neuhaus accepted the plans of Henry Schurbohm.  Schurbohm had recently been involved in the building of the Lavaca County Courthouse.  The plans called for the one two-story and two one-story brick buildings with iron front, plate glass show windows and a tower in the northeast corner of the building.  Bids were opened on March 28 and Allert & Schurbohm were awarded the contract.

 By April 5th the Lindenberg building was removed and work on the foundation began in mid April.  In mid August, Allert and Schurbohm had completed the work on the Neuhaus building and left for Gonzales, Texas.    The first known tenant of the two story corner building was Sam Goldberg who moved his dry goods store into the building which included a millinery and dress making department.  According to the 1900 Sanborn fire maps, the occupants of the two one-story building were a grocery and a saloon.

By 1906, the dry goods store remained, but the saloon had been replaced by a grocery store and the original grocery story had been replaced by Albert Saft’s Book Store that sold crockery, toys, books and confections.  Before 1912, the dry goods story was replaced by another grocery store.  The buildings also housed offices for the Neuhaus family and the dentist office of C. A. Lee.

In February of 1913, F. W. Neuhaus died followed by his wife Elizabeth Gerdes Neuhaus in November of 1922.  The couple’s substantial estate, including the Neuhaus building, was left to their seven children, daughters Agnes Aschbacher, Faye Rouse, Selma Imrie and Alma Tusa and sons, Ernest, Edward and Frederick Jr. (Fred).  Eventually, Fred Jr. became the owner of the two story building, E. A. owned the one story building in the middle and Agnes Aschbacher owned the one story building on the end next to the building owned by Fey and Braunig.

The tenants of the two story building, owned by Fred Jr., included the Appelt Bros. Grocery in the back and Henry Ahrens in the front.  When F. W. Bucek moved his store into the building in the 1930’s he occupied the entire first floor.  Bucek was followed by the United States Post Office from 1949 to 1959, Tom J. “Percy”Rees’ Place and, for a short time, Rengers Bar.

Ernst A. Neuhaus owned the middle one story building until his death in 1950.  His estate sold the building to its long time tenant Peter J. Brom in 1952.  Brom operated Brom’s Jewelry store in the location for many years.  Brom also sold furniture at that location while his sisters operated a dress shop on the second story balcony overlooking his store on the first floor.  After Brom’s death in 1969, the building was used as a temporary youth center for a couple of years.  In 1971, the Brom estate sold the building to Robert R. Vasek. 

The one story building owned by Aschbacher was the home of P.M. Brown Star Brand Shoes and the City Café, which was operated by several different individuals, including Carrie Wasserbauer.  Wasserbauer, who had first worked at the East Hotel, later formed a partnership with Annie Krenek and they operated the White Café.  The partners later purchased the City Café and merged the two cafes.  Carrie eventually bought out her partner and in 1953, she purchased the building from Aschbacher.  On October 30, 1954, Wasserbauer was found unconscious on the kitchen floor of her café and later died at a local hospital. 

The Wasserbauer estate sold the building to Charles Zavesky in 1960.  Zavesky, and later his son, Charles Jr. operated Charlie’s place, a local barber shop, out of that location until 1994. 

As F. W. had hoped, the Neuhaus building anchored the southeast corner of the courthouse square for over 70 years, but change was coming.  On September 3, 1971, Fred Neuhaus and Marjorie Wallace, the son and daughter of Fred W. Neuhaus, sold the two story building to People’s State Bank.  That same day, Vasek also sold his one story building to People’s State Bank. 

In August of 1972, the old landmark was demolished. First the inside of the buildings were gutted, then a dragline was used to remove the tower tip.  The remainder of the demolition work was carried out by Hobbs Demolishing Inc. of Austin.  Peoples State Bank was then erected on the site.

The remaining one-story building of the Neuhaus complex was not demolished until 1994.  The Zavesky family owned and operated the barbershop in that building until October of 1983 when Charles Zavesky Jr. sold the building to Margaret Hermes.  At the time of the deed, Zavesky was given the right to use the front part of the premises for a period of 10 years from the date of sale.  At the end of such 10 year period or 90 days after his retirement of his death, the premises would convey to Hermes.  So when Hermes sold the building to Peoples State Bank in 1990, the bank honored the agreement with Zavesky. 

One interesting note was that when the barbershop building was torn down for the bank expansion, a well was discovered near the front door which probably dated back to the early hotels on this site. 

“Great minds are related to the brief span of time during which they live as great buildings are to a little square in which they stand…”

Thanks go out to Dorothy Bujnoch, Don Minear, Janice Saunders and Nan Drozd.  

The Past is still visible: The Kahn & Stanzel Opera House

By Brenda Lincke Fisseler

The idea that Hallettsville needed a local opera house was first reported in the Hallettsville Herald as early as 1891.  Mr. Charles S. Eberhardt, representing the firm of Gordon & Laub, San Antonio architects, was in Hallettsville in May of 1891.  During his visit, Eberhardt displayed, in the newspaper office, a drawing of the front elevation of the opera house and double store room which Kahn & Stanzel proposed to erect on the west side of the square. 

For unknown reasons, the actual building of the opera house did not begin until May of 1896 when the existing Kahn and Stanzel building was torn down to make room for the new three story opera house. 

The first building on this site was built in 1858 and housed a drug store owned by Dr. East and James Ballard.  After the Civil War, the site was occupied by Green, Posey and Shoemaker as a general store.  Prior to its destruction, the building had been used for several years as a saloon.

The local newspaper applauded the plucky and enterprising duo of Kahn & Stanzel for taking on the project of providing Hallettsville with a decent opera house.   The Herald was also pleased to note that the contact had been awarded to McKnight Bros. because they were local citizens and M.A. McKnight had worked on the project for months and was instrumental in bringing about its consummation. 

The 70 X 110 ft. three story structure of modern Romanesque style architecture was designed by renowned architect J. Riley Gordon.  The building would cover all the space from the Newbury brick to the narrow walk south of Vesmirovsky & Co., including an alley that was being used for a shooting gallery. 

The first floor would consist of store space with the main entrance to the opera hall in the center.   The Kahn & Stanzel saloon would occupy the rear of the first floor.  The second and third floors would be in one and fitted for a modern theater with gallery, boxes, a large stage and dressing rooms.  Behind the gallery on the second floor would be a tier of offices.  The projected cost for the building was $15,000.00

Work began almost immediately on the building.  Stone was being hauled in by wagon from quarries in nearby Muldoon.  To give citizens an idea of how large the building would be, in August of 1896, the Herald reported that Gottfried Flury, the artist engaged to paint the scenery for the building, had to erect a temporary building 20 X 40 and with 20 foot walls expressly for the work.  The curtains on which Flury was painting the scenery were so large that the high wall was necessary.

In September of 1896, work was progressing slowly.  The portion of the ground floor that would be occupied by J. M Vesmirovsky & Co. was nearing completion while the section on the north side that would be occupied by Wm. Umbach and Kahn & Stanzel was several weeks from completion.  The galley had been placed on the second floor and the offices on the second and third floor, but several weeks of work were still ahead. 

About six weeks later, the Herald announced that the grand opening of the opera house would be held on Monday, October 26, 1896. 

In the October 29, 1896 issue of the Hallettsville Herald, the newspaper announced that the largest audience that ever greeted a show in Hallettsville was assembled at the new opera house Monday night, October 26th, for the formal opening by the Otto H. Krause Comedy Co.  All day long dozens of hands were busy making the final preparations, arranging scenery, placing the handsome opera chairs, testing the lights, etc.  When the audience began to arrive, the four beautifully gilded electric chandeliers lighted the hall.  The handsome curtains, painted by Flury, also were admired and praised. 

The auditorium was 50 X 50 ft. and would comfortably seat four hundred people.  The gallery commanded a fine view of the stage and would seat two hundred.  Along with the chandeliers, the entire building was lighted by electricity including foot and stage lights.  The stage was the full width of the building and the curtain opening 17 X 28 feet. 

The Otto Krause Company was a huge success and played Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the opera house. 

The newspaper closed it article with glowing praise for Kahn & Stanzel’s enterprise. 

In December, 1896, three more massive curtains arrived for the opera house from Flury.  One was a lake scene, one a garden scene and the other a New York street scene showcasing the famous 5th Ave. 

The opera house remained in operation for decades.  In June of 1897, Joe Kahn and Joe Stanzel offered Lavaca County the use of the opera house as an interim courthouse while the new courthouse was being constructed.  After some discussion, Kahn and Stanzel agreed on $65.00 per month for as long as the County needed the facility. 

It was also the site of countless cultural activities such as operas, stage shows, dances and school functions.  Over the years its offices were occupied by lawyers such as Ragsdale, Bagby and Schwartz, dentists, saloons, cafes, drug stores, butcher shops and retail stores such as Perry Bros. and Mikulenka store.  It also housed the Cole Theatre and the first sound movie Wings was shown there.  In 1924, Henry Hruzek bought out Dr. Boethel’s Drug Store which occupied the south half of the first floor. 

The death of the opera house came in November of 1957, when owner Louis Matula Jr. announced that the combined second third floors of the building was being demolished and the remaining one story building would be remodeled.  The second floor of the structure had been condemned as too weak to be safe for any large crowds.  Hruzek Drug Store would remain and Matula would retain the remaining section. 

Today all the remains of the prestigious opera house is the first floor which is occupied by Lavaca County Office Supply and the Safe House Church.

“Great minds are related to the brief span of time during which they live as great buildings are to a little square in which they stand…”