Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture

Archive for December, 2011


Home Lumber Company

With a little imagination, you can picture customers of Home Lumber Company walking out of the store with reels of barbed wire, bags of chicken feed, and assorted hardware.  The Massey-Harris dealer next door no doubt sold tractors and other farm implements to many of the same customers.  Businesses like these were the mainstays of rural communities across the State.

Melvin, in the late 1980s the second largest town in McCulloch County, is on Farm Road 2087 just south of U.S. Highway 87, fifteen miles west of Brady. It was named for W. H. Melvin, who built a ranch house in the area in 1874. The townsite was laid out in 1904, and a post office was established in 1906. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway built through Melvin in 1912. By 1914 the town had two cotton gins, two general stores, and seventy-five residents. The Melvin Rustler began publication in 1915, and the Melvin Enterprise was established in 1923 and was still publishing in the 1980s.

Melvin Stores

Melvin had a school system (Melvin Independent School District) serving grades 1 thru 12 through May 1971. In the summer of 1971, the school was officially closed and all students were consolidated into the Brady Independent School District.  The Melvin School system was active in academics, UIL competitions, Future Farmers of America, Future Homemakers of America, junior high and high school sports including football, basketball, volleyball, track, softball, and baseball.  Annual livestock shows were held as well.   Melvin High School was able to field good 11-man football teams until the 1960s.  As the school and town populations shrank in size, the school was moved into the 6-man football districts in which it did very well. The school also had a drill team that performed at all home and away games.  The last senior class to graduate from Melvin High School held their graduation in May 1971.  There were two seniors that year.

By 1931 thirty-eight businesses served a population of 650. Melvin reached its peak population of 925 in 1949; the number of residents declined steadily thereafter. When Melvin was incorporated in the early 1950s, its population was 696. The railroad was abandoned in 1972. In 1988 Melvin reported six businesses and 213 residents, and in 1990, 184 residents. In 2000 the population was 155.

You can see more images from Melvin HERE.

Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “MELVIN, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online ( /handbook/online/articles/hlm56). Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


Grapetown School

One of the pleasures of driving the backroads is chance encounters with places like Grapetown.  What made this encounter even better was that, though abandoned, the remaining buildings of Grapetown had been preserved in what appears to be original condition.  It’s always heartening to see that people still care about preserving even the smallest examples of the state’s architectural history.

Water Pump

The first landholder was John Hemphill, who received the deed to a site on the Fredericksburg-San Antonio road in 1848. Eight other settlers, including several freight drivers who carried produce from Fredericksburg to San Antonio and thence to Indianola, received deeds to land in the area in 1854. In 1860 Friedrich Wilhelm Doebbler opened Grapetown’s first business establishment, a general store and hostelry called Doebbler’s Inn. Grapetown became a ranching center of some importance; many local ranchers sold their cattle to Charles Schreiner of Kerrville.  Most of the people of Grapetown sided with the Union during the Civil War, and many paid the price for their loyalty. Two local men, August Hoffman and Heinrich Rausch, survived the battle of the Nueces and eventually returned to Grapetown, where they spent the duration of the conflict hiding in the hills from the Confederate patrols. The first school in Grapetown was held in 1859 in Doebbler’s home; the teacher was a Scot named Louis Hartwig. Grapetown Line School opened in 1882; local children had previously attended school in Fredericksburg. About 1870 a nine-to-ten-month school was opened in Grapetown; it was moved several times. Parents paid the teacher. In 1880 a stone structure was built as a school for the first seven grades. In 1885 a post office was established in Doebbler’s Inn; the office closed three years later. A local singing club and a shooting club were combined in 1887, and Grapetown was the site of the first annual Gillespie County Schuetzenfest (shooting festival), at which 140 kegs of beer were consumed in four days.  One can only imagine how this affected their shooting.

In 1913 the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway built through the Grapetown area, and the neighboring community of Bankersmith was founded. Also around this time the Mountain Townsite Company of San Antonio bought a tract of land on Doebbler’s Hill and planned a town to be called Mount Alamo. Ten years later, however, the company was dissolved and the land restored to its former owner, Otto Cowan.  Cowan, the grandson of Friedrich Doebbler, had closed Doebbler’s Inn in 1915. In 1932 State Highway 87 was rerouted through Comfort, and Grapetown suffered a decline in trade. The last Grapetown school was consolidated with the Rocky Hill school in 1944. From 1967 to 1978 the area school had one teacher and about twenty pupils. The old schoolhouse was purchased by the community and in 1989 was still being used as a Community Club.

See other Grapetown photographs HERE.  Grapetown, TX is located on Old San Antonio Road southeast of Fredericksburg.
REFERENCES:  Martin Donell Kohout, “GRAPETOWN, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


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