Month: February 2013

Blessing

Blessing is west of the junction of State Highway 35 and Farm Road 616 and twenty miles west of Bay City in northwestern Matagorda County. The town was promoted by Jonathan Edwards Pierce, on whose land it was established. In 1903, when Pierce gave the right-of-way to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, the future of the unnamed settlement seemed assured.  A grateful Pierce hoped to designate the place “Thank God,” but the United States Postal Department rejected his proposal.  As a compromise, the place was named Blessing, and a post office opened in 1903, with James H. Logan as first postmaster.  Between 1903 and 1905 a library building was attached to the train station.  In 1905 the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway also built through Blessing.  D. A. Wheeler’s hotel soon followed.

On September 1, 1907, residents platted the townsite, and the townsite company made provisions for school and church sites.  In 1909 P. Ansley established a local newspaper. B y 1914 Blessing had 500 inhabitants, two churches, a bank, a hotel, a telephone connection, and a weekly newspaper, the Blessing News. In 1925 Blessing’s population was still recorded at 500. In 1931 the town had a population of 450 and twenty-two businesses.  During the 1937–38 school year, nine teachers instructed 251 white students in eleven grades, and two teachers instructed thirty-eight black students in seven grades.  By 1949 the Blessing district had been consolidated with the Tidehaven Independent School District.  In 1945 Blessing’s population had risen to 600, served by thirteen businesses. Though in 1966 the population was reported as 1,250; in 1968 it had dropped to 405. In 1990 the town had 571 residents and twelve businesses.

REFERENCE:  Stephen L. Hardin, “BLESSING, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlb36), accessed December 10, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association

Willow City

Willow City is on Willow Creek 11½ miles northeast of Fredericksburg in northeastern Gillespie County. The earliest recorded settler before the Civil War was a slaveholding Baptist preacher reported to harbor a strong dislike for the neighboring Germans. Sometime after the war a group of settlers-including ranchers Andrew Moore, Jim Renick, William Luckenbach, Bill Hardin, and Pierce Smith, storekeeper Gene Harrison, and miller Bill Ricks-came to Willow Creek and founded one of the few Gillespie County communities settled by English-speakers rather than Germans. These early settlers traded mostly in Austin because they preferred dealing with other Anglo-Americans rather than with the Germans in nearby Fredericksburg. The town prospered and gained an early reputation as a criminal hangout. The post office opened in 1877 and was named Willow until 1887, when it changed to Willow City. The town had two teachers as early as 1881; one was John Warren Hunter, who once had to wrestle a six-gun away from an angry student. In 1885 a Methodist congregation was organized, although a church was not built until 1900, under Rev. T. J. Lassater. From 1892 to 1894 Green Hardin Harrison published the Gillespie County News; later he sold the newspaper to Webster McGinnis, who moved it to Fredericksburg. Willow City received telephone service in 1893. In 1904 the population was estimated at 132, and by 1915 Willow City had three general stores, a drugstore, two blacksmiths, and a cotton gin. The population declined during the first half of the twentieth century, to 100 in 1925 and to forty in 1939.

The Willow City School District #804 was in the northeastern part of Gillespie County, with its northern border extending to the Llano County line.  The first school was a one room log cabin, which also served as a church.  R.C. Roberts, who came to the community in 1876, described the schoolhouse as “a one-room log cabin, no longer new”.  It had split log benches and no floor.  After severe flooding, a two-story frame schoolhouse was constructed in 1890 on higher ground.  This building had two classrooms downstairs and one large classroom upstairs, with an outside stairway.  A bell tower summoned the students to class.  It was early in 1905, when the Willow City District became independent, that it was decided to build a new school.  J.W. Lindeman and J. C. Hardin each donated a plot of ground, and after a bond issue, the new, two-story granite school building became a reality.  It had school rooms on the first floor and one room on the second.  The second floor served as an auditorium and classroom, during the years when there were three teachers.  Improvements were made to the building in 1915, in order to obtain state aid.  Ventilators were added.  A partition was built on the first floor to create an entrance hallway, and blackboard space was added.  The school had no water supply until 1920, when a well was drilled.  Until that time, students brought their own water from home or a resident living close to school supplied water.  In the 1950’s, restrooms were added to the north side of the building.  With three teachers, one for each room, grades one to nine were taught through 1956.  Then in 1957 with two teachers, grades one to eight were taught.  The 9th graders went to Fredericksburg for high school. Willow City Independent School District was consolidated with Fredericksburg ISD in 1961.

REFERENCES:  Martin Donell Kohout, “WILLOW CITY, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnw51), accessed January 23, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; The Friends of Gillespie County Schools.

Luckenbach

When Luckenbach, Texas is mentioned, what comes to most peoples’ minds is Waylon Jennings’ song “Back to the Basics of Love” – with its famous lyrics “Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas, with Waylon, Willie and the boys…”.  But long before the town was made famous in song and became a hangout for country music fans, Luckenbach was a community settled by German farmers – among them brothers Jacob Luckenbach and August Luckenbach.

The first post office opened in 1854 under the name of South Grape Creek. Mrs. Albert Luckenbach, nee Minnie Engel, established a store and saloon.  A dance hall, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith shop were in existence by the late 1800s. A number of family cemeteries and a Catholic cemetery were also established. The growing population supported a primary school and a Methodist church. Residents in addition to Methodists included in roughly equal numbers Lutherans and Catholics. One local schoolmaster, Jacob F. Brodbeck, designed and tested an airplane in this community, but a major demonstration flight in 1865 terminated in a crash.   Sometime in the later 1800s the post office closed. When it reopened in 1886, August Engel served as postmaster and renamed the town Luckenbach. William Engel became the next postmaster and opened the general store, which remains today in its original building. In 1896 the population was 150. It increased to a high of 492 in 1904 but declined dramatically in the first half of the twentieth century. From the 1920s to the 1950s Luckenbach had a population of twenty.

On July 22, 1855, two acres of land along Grape Creek was purchased from Peter Pehl for $4. After the land was acquired, the men in the community gathered to build a 16’X15′ log cabin schoolhouse.  During the 1860’s, a one-room stone teacherage was built. The floors were made of 16″ wide planks from Indianola, and the rafters were hand-hewn. Another room was later added to join the teacher’s house to the school.  Another room was later added to join the teacher’s house to the school.  Due to an increase in the student population by 1881, the building became too small to accommodate all the children, so a 10′ addition of native limestone was built.  The Luckenbach School was designated as District #3. Families who settled in the community paid one dollar per year for their children to attend school.  Many of these families are still represented in the area today.

An old-fashioned school bell summoned the children to class, with the boys lining up on the left and the girls on the right. Older students would help the younger ones with grammar and math. Some of the creative games played during recess were Andy-over, stink base, dodge ball, drop the hankie, and kick the can.  At 4:00 pm, at the end of the day, the older boys had to bring in firewood for the stove, and the girls had to sweep the floor. First graders were responsible for cleaning the erasers.

In 1949, due to the passage of the Gilmer-Aiken Law, which limited the number of students per teacher, Luckenbach became a two-teacher school, with grades one through eight.  During that year, another room, measuring 18’X24′, and constructed of hollow tile, was added to the school building.  In 1964, the Luckenbach School District was consolidated with the Fredericksburg School District.

REFERENCES:  Glen E. Lich and Brandy Schnautz, “LUCKENBACH, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnl48), accessed January 21, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  The Friends of Gillespie County Schools;

Camp San Saba

Camp San Saba is on Farm Road 1955 and the San Saba River ten miles southeast of Brady in southeastern McCulloch County.  The settlers, who in the early 1860s built the community known as Camp San Saba, were not the first to occupy the region.  John O. Meusebach met with a council of Comanches in 1847 near the present townsite.  A group of Texas Rangers under the command of Captain W. G. O’Brien was stationed in the area in the 1860s to protect settlers from Indian attacks.  O’Brien’s Company of mounted volunteers became the Forty-sixth Texas Cavalry in the Confederate Army.

The community supposedly took its name from this ranger camp. Confederate troops protected the settlers during the Civil War.  Camp San Saba was the principal settlement in McCulloch County until Brady became the county seat in 1876.  A post office opened in Camp San Saba in 1876.  In 1884 the community had three churches, a district school, three stores, and a population of 250.  Area residents shipped wool and livestock.  When the coming of the railroad increased Brady’s importance as a shipping point in 1904, Camp San Saba began a steady decline. The post office was discontinued after the 1930s.

REFERENCE:

Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “CAMP SAN SABA, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrc13), accessed December 10, 2012.  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.