Chapter Seven: Peace and Prosperity 1874 - 1900
The period of 1874 -1900 was one of increased growth in education, politics, religion, agriculture, business and population.
One of the first items on the State's 1873 agenda was the revision of State School Laws. There had been a growing resentment towards the strict centralized control of schools enacted in the 1871 School Laws. It took only a few years for the school systems in the State to revert to a system of private schools.
The new State Constitution of 1876 was written with a view towards undoing what the Reconstruction had done, which had created a strong central government. The Legislature wanted a more decentralized government.
The Office of State Superintendent was abolished and the County Judges became the unofficial Superintendents of Schools. Negro and White Schools were to be kept segregated. Compulsory attendance and all provisions for districting of the counties were eliminated.
Any State funds to be paid towards education were to be paid on the basis of actual enrollment. Parents and guardians who wanted their children educated were allowed to organize a community system, employ a teacher, and conduct a school. Those concerned parents were then to submit a list of children they wished to attend school and submit the list to the County Judge. This resulted in many community schools drawing up their own constitutions so that education could continue to be provided to their children.
To illustrate the scarceness of funds for education, the funds in the county for school year 1875 -1876 reflected a balance of $26.50. By 1879 -1880 only $4,977.49 was available to pay all the teachers in the county.
By 1879 the State budget had dwindled even more and Governor Roberts reduced State available funds for education from one-fourth of the State revenue to one-sixth. Teacher's salaries were contingent upon the attendance of 75 percent of the registered student population. By 1881, enrollment had dropped considerably. The length of the school terms was reduced, and the schools showed signs of disintegration, according to the 1881-1882 County Treasurer's School Register.
However, a number of schools in Seguin would emerge in the 1870s and 1880s. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Emanuel's Lutheran Church opened its doors for education in 1871 and in 1890 the Church decided to build a two-room schoolhouse just west of the parsonage.
The Catholic Jesuits had bought Reverend J.M. Wilson's Female College in 1876 and in 1878 they bought the Male College from J.A. McNeill. In 1877, three nuns from Incarnate Word College had established a school for girls in the rear of the present day Saint James Rectory. With the purchase of the Male College, they moved into the building, naming it Saint Joseph's Convent. Within a few years the Priests sold the Female College to George W. Brackenridge who, with the Colored Baptist Congregation, initiated Guadalupe College for the Black citizens of Seguin and the county.
With the continued scarcity of funds, it was the various congregations who shouldered the burdens of education until the early 1890s.
Mrs. Donegan wrote that "through the efforts of Bishop W.B. Elliot, the Episcopal Church established two schools in Seguin in 1878." Saint Andrew's Academy, a military institute, was built on the block of the present day site of the county jail. The Montgomery Institute was built in the Western part of Seguin. General John R. Jefferson, after the Civil War, donated the land for the site of the Montgomery Institute at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Saunders Street. Montgomery Institute was "a day school for young ladies for their moral, mental, and physical education." Mr. Charles E. Tips bought Montgomery Institute and its boarding room, built in 1881, known as Williams Hall, for his residence when the scool closed in 1887.
That Montgomery Institute was a girls' school is evidenced by an advertisement in the Seguin Record, November 25, 1886:
As a brief aside, the original Jefferson Family School, begun in 1857 by General Jefferson for his daughter, closed in 1867. However, General Jefferson razed the Jefferson Tavern and erected the Jefferson Avenue School whose legacy would eventually be Miss Sue Smith. The original Jefferson Family School, constructed of Dr. Park's concrete, became a residence, and according to a 1951 San Antonio Express Magazine article, the last known inhabitants were Mr. and Mrs. Edward Shelby of Seguin.
Reverend R.K. Mosely, the Presbyterian Minister in 1882, was instrumental in establishing a two room Girls Schoolhouse, and enrolled six young ladies. Later, he also began a Boys School. The church congregation purchased the Henry McCulloch home for use as a boarding school for "out of town pupils." The Girls School was moved to the corner of River and Live Oak Streets. In 1885 the boys were taught in a concrete building which is still standing behind the Vicker's Home on South Goodrich Street. The exact age of the Boy's School is unknown but it is well over 130 years old, for in 1858 Mr. Goodrich advertised it for sale, and he had built the structure.
Not all schools were run by the churches, however.
In 1879, a young lady who had been an associate of Mrs. A.M. Coit at the Guadalupe Female Institute, began her own school. Miss Tennie Rust, drawing $132.00 from the public school funds, began the Rust Community School which would become one of the best known private schools in the area.
Public education for the Blacks had begun in 1871 with the establishment of the Abraham Lincoln School on North Saunders Street. William Baton Ball was the first Principal, and would serve as such until 1893, when he was succeeded by Mr. Spencer Adams. Abraham Lincoln would become a part of the Seguin Public School System in 1892.
In 1884 the Colored Baptists established a school on the site of the old Female Academy, now the site of Joe F. Saegert Middle School. In 1887 it was reorganized as the Guadalupe Colored College. By 1903 a three-story hall had been erected, and because George W. Brackenridge had donated $3,000.00 of the required $15,000.00 building fund, a Chapel was built in 1904 honoring it with his name. In 1905 Colonel Brackenridge was able to purchase the Baker Farm three miles west of Seguin for the College. In 1914 the college completed its new building on the farm and continued successfully until it was destroyed by fire in 1937.
By 1887 the State Legislature had required teachers in public schools to take an examination before they could receive any funds from the public school funds. In September 1887, the teachers' examination was taken by Miss Kitty Hutchinson, J.B. Williams, H.G.A. Gosemann and Miss Marion Dove. Teachers could begin teaching at the age of 16 so long as they passed the test. This is how teachers such as Mary B. Erskine began their long and prominent careers as local educators.
Toward the close of the 1880's much interest was taken in the organization of a common free school for Seguin, in place of the existing schools just described.
In 1891 Seguin, under the leadership of Mayor Joseph Zorn, decided to take charge of the educational system. State events had occurred which made this feasible. As early as 1883, with help from Governor John Ireland and his Seguin colleagues, about whom much will be written soon, an amendment to the Constitution was made favoring a School District System over the Community System and granting the privilege of voting local taxation for the support of the schools. The amendment also granted the schools one-fourth of the income from the State Occupation Tax and a poll tax of one dollar on males, ages 21 to 60. In 1884 the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction was reinstated. It had general supervision over all schools of the Common School System.
Thus, in 1891, sensing a favorable climate, Mayor Zorn, after winning a bond election, authorized the sale of bonds to raise funds for a school site. There was a question as to who should control the school or have management of the school. Initially the city would have management responsibility. Seguin's first Public School Trustee election took place July 28, 1891.
The first task of the trustees was to select a site for the new public school. It was only natural that some citizens wanted the school as close to their neighborhoods as possible: Consequently, offers of private property, with inducements, were certainly made. To please all of their constituents, the trustees accepted an offer from former Governor John Ireland. Even then, the land he offered raised the ire of the Seguinites, for the land was considered too remote, too isolated. Regardless, the trustees stood by their decision and accepted the site where Mary B. Erskine School stands today.
In the spring of 1892 a contract was let for its construction at a cost of $10,000.00. The cornerstone was laid August 12, 1892, and the doors opened October 31, 1892 to 140 students under the Principalship of Professor J.E. Bishop.
The first school trustees were Joseph Zorn, Jr., Dr. T.W. Moore, J.F. Harris, P.S. Sowell, A.M. Erskine, Theo Koch and Edgar Nolte. Supporting the school from Seguin's City Government were Joseph Zorn, Jr., Mayor; J.M. Blanks, Eugene Nolte, Charles Bruns and A. Sonka, all Aldermen.
School budgets, salaries, and rules have changed drastically since the early days of public schools in Seguin, but several things have not changed - the students and their parents who want them to have an education, the teachers who dedicate their lives to the students and the administrators who work with the community and students to ensure a fine education would be provided.
The first budget was $1,780, which included $1,620 in State funds, and $160 in transfers. Consequently, tuition fees for students were levied, payable in advance to the City Treasurer. The tuition was $1.00 for primary grades, $2.00 for the intermediate grades and $2.50 for the high school grades. The Superintendent received, in 1892, $85.00 a month and the teachers and administrators would receive a salary so long as the funds lasted. When the funds were depleted the schools would close down for a few months until sufficient funds could be obtained to reopen the doors.
Rules for the teachers and students were no more strict then they are today, except perhaps, there was more teacher autonomy in the classroom. Teachers had the right to informally suspend, for cause, pupils from their respective rooms, and the suspended student had to immediately report to the Superintendent for appropriate action; any teacher who had a disorderly classroom and failed to exert appropriate discipline was to be remanded to the School Board. Students who were general nuisances and required constant reprimanding could be suspended or otherwise disciplined after consultation with the parents or guardians. Students who committed overt acts of mischief such as stoning people, cursing or otherwise offending the morality of the school, or who fought, or damaged property at school or on the way home, could be suspended as well.
Initially, in 1872, there were four teachers and nine grades. Since that time the city school system has enjoyed a steady and rapid rate of progress. By 1899 some of the leading contributors to public education in Seguin, at both Abraham Lincoln and Seguin Schools, were John E. Bishop, H.B. Griffin, William Pape, W.A. Luftmann, Spencer Adams, W.B. Ball, Misses Emily Arbuckle, Marion Dove, Mary B. Erskine, Pattie Ray, Mrs. Addie Barbow, and Mrs. H.B. Griffin. The list would continue until, by 1988, seven schools would be named in honor of a Seguin educator.
As education and religion have always played dominant roles in the life of Seguin, so too have politics and taxes. Seguin's long list of Representatives and Senators to the Republic and State of Texas has been a proud tradition. Someday, perhaps, a list of all these statesmen can be assembled and shared with the public. Until then some Statesmen will unfortunately be overlooked and perhaps not receive their due. This is no intended slight nor oversight. It just hasn't been done. But those whom we do know about have been recognized.
Perhaps one of the most colorful and controversial Statesmen from Seguin was Governor John Ireland. His stubbornness, tough political skin and keen sense of timing earned him many friends and enemies, not only in Seguin but in the Legislature as well. He was an outspoken gentleman who fought what he considered unfair and supported wholeheartedly those issues he felt would benefit the State and his community. His positions on public education, Texas land sales and railroads were his legacies to the State and her citizens. The word "legacies" is used because the people of Texas still benefit from the fruits of his labors.
John Ireland was born January 21, 1827, in Hart County, Kentucky. He was one of fourteen children. His family was poor. His early education was very limited and when he was old enough he became Deputy Sheriff and Constable of Hart County. While serving in this capacity he studied law and was admitted to the State Bar.
He came to Seguin in 1853 where he studied law in Colonel Andrew Neill's office on Gravel Street, between Center and Market Streets (Nolte). While studying law, he married Matilda Wicks Faircloth who was often referred to as 'Mattie.' One child was born to the Irelands and then his wife died. In 1854, he was Secretary of Guadalupe Lodge 109. In 1857, he married Anne Maria Penn, one of the staunchest Methodists Seguin ever knew, according to Mrs. Weinert. John Ireland was Presbyterian.
In 1858, he began a long, illustrious political career. Although the City Secretary's Minutes do not reflect that Ireland was Mayor of Seguin in 1858, June Rayfeld Welch's research and book on The Texas Governors, and The Handbook of Texas, reflect he was Mayor of Seguin in 1858. It could be that he may have served out the recorded 1857-1859 term of Joseph Johnson. In 1861, he was elected a member of the Secessionist Convention.
In the Civil War, he enlisted as a Private, was promoted to Captain and commanded Company K under Colonel A.M. Hobby's Eighth Texas Infantry, X.B. DeBray's Brigade. By war's end he was a Lieutenant Colonel. All of his duty was along the Texas Gulf Coast where he gained notoriety in capturing Yankee gunboats. His men were nicknamed the "Horse Marines."
Returning to Seguin in 1865, he continued his law practice. In 1866, Ireland was a member of the Constitutional Convention and served as District Judge from 1866 to 1867. He must have been good at what he was doing for General Philip Sheridan of the Union Occupational Forces removed Ireland from his position.
He returned home where he again became involved in community affairs. The controversies he was involved in helped shape some legal landmark decisions in Texas.
One particular issue that irked John Ireland was the issue of taxation. He was joined by such local stalwarts as William M. Rust, W.E. Goodrich, John F. White, Alexander Henderson, William H. Burges, and W.T. Douglass in opposing many of the policies of the Reconstruction Governor, E.J. Davis.
A law that Governor Davis had passed was a radical education bill on April 24, 1871. It provided for the imposition of a school tax of one dollar on the hundred dollar valuation and strove to centralize the control of education at the State level. Ireland and his colleagues opposed the bill and struck at its weakest point, the taxation clause. He challenged the constitutionality of taxation without representation and refused to pay the tax. He won his case in district court but it was overturned by the State Supreme Court. The property he refused to pay taxes on was seized and sold.
Undaunted, he continued his fight for fair taxation. Perhaps, locally, his most controversial fight was with County Judge Henry Maney.
Judge Maney threatened to dismiss C.L. Arbuckle as Deputy County Clerk if he didn't levy taxes on some cattle owned by Ireland. Ireland initiated a lawsuit against Maney, contending that Maney's order was null and void, for it was issued when the Court was not in session. Ireland, along with his attorneys, was held in contempt of court and fined $100.00. He refused to pay, was arrested and put in jail for six days. He then sued Judge Maney for damages resulting from false imprisonment.
Timing was on Ireland's side. The state repealed the objectionable tax clause and eventually the suits against Maney were dismissed, at Maney's cost.
Ireland's other local contests have become legendary. He sued the City of Seguin for building the calaboose in Central Park in 1872. One of his contentions was "if the calaboose was on any other lot in the town would the witness give as much for an adjacent lot?" He won his point. The city was required to pay John Ireland one dollar plus the cost of the suit.
He also sued the City of Seguin for cutting down a tree that had shaded his law office. No doubt John Ireland enjoyed practicing the legalities of life.
His zest for involvement, and his dislike of Governor Davis' policies earned him a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1872. In 1874, he was elected State Senator. During his Legislative stint he became respected by his enemies for his sincerity in opposing monopoly and special privilege. But he also gained notoriety in opposing the granting of land and subsidies to the railroads. His work against the grant to the International Great Northern Railroad won him the title of "Ox Cart John." His opponents said that wagons and beasts of burden were destined to be Texas' only form of transportation if Ireland had his way.
He served as Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court until 1876 and was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1876. It was during this period that he was successful in repealing much of what Governor Davis had done in education.
Ireland suffered defeats in 1876 and 1878 for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
Again he returned home to resume his law practice. Although he was a controversial citizen in the early 1870's in Seguin, he had increased popularity for his Legislative successes and his position on "giving" land away. Still bitten by the political bug, he yearned to return to Austin.
At the Democratic convention in 1882 one of his long time colleagues, William H. Burges, nominated Ireland for Governor.
As the Republican Party was barely surviving at that time they elected not to nominate a candidate. There was an Independent Party, however. They nominated "Wash" Jones who had previously been a Whig, Know-Nothing, Democrat and Greenbacker. Ireland barely defeated Jones, beating him 150,809 to 102,501 votes.
Dancing was on the agenda for the Inaugural Ball, something that Mrs. Ireland was vehemently opposed to. A friend wrote to Mrs. Ireland offering to represent her in the Grand March, to which the Governor's wife responded - "If you represent me, you will stay at home; that is what I am doing."
Ireland replaced Governor Roberts. The biggest disagreement between the two was the disposition of State land. Governor Ireland wanted to keep each acre until an advantageous price could be realized through sales. Roberts had wanted to sell right away. Ireland pointed out that one million acres had been set aside for the University of Texas, some had been set aside for State Institutions for the deaf, insane, blind and orphans, and thirty million acres set aside for public schools. Proceeds from the sale of those lands would go into the Institution's permanent funds and he demanded that minimum prices be set for each parcel and that sales be made on the highest bid. His foresight has enabled Texas' higher education to continue solidly towards the end of the twentieth century.
Ireland and Roberts also disagreed on public education. Governor Roberts had campaigned to begin development of the new State University immediately. Ireland dug his heels in and refused to risk reductions in public school support to benefit higher education. One particular issue that increased Governor Ireland's popularity during his first term of office was the issue of fencing and wire cutting.
The cattle empire expanded greatly when the Plains Indian era closed. More land was available than ever before and the cattle empire shifted from South and East Texas to the High Plains and West Texas. European and Northern market demands pushed the prices of cattle up 500% between 1870 and 1884.
Then fencing from Illinois came in 1875 with its start in Gaines ville. Many cattlemen were "free grass" ranchers. That is, they owned cattle but no land. Fencing hurt them. Additionally, many men turned from ranching to farming, for fencing would now keep the cattle out. On top of this, previous open roads were now fenced out and, in some cases, detours of up to fifty miles to reach a previously accessible town had to be made.
Upset over the fencing, war was declared on the fences by out-of work cowboys and "free grass" men. In two years some twenty million dollars of damages was done to fences. Brown County suffered at least one million dollars in damages. Although the fence cutters had become somewhat of a folk hero cult, the populace began to demand some sort of action.
Governor Ireland called a Special Session of the Legislature in 1884. Wire cutting became a felony. Fence builders had to provide gates every three miles and not close off public roads. Following his success in the Special Session, John Ireland decided to run for re-election.
His win was overwhelming. The next issue he faced was that of the development of the railroad. His reputation for fighting monopolies and the abuses of discriminatory rates and rebates was well known. Yet he believed in the development of the railroad and its benefits in tying Texas together. His approach to the railroads was cautious, but he did suggest a Railroad Commission, which the Legislature failed to act on.
As a brief aside on railroads and John Ireland, one of his contributions to the people of Seguin was the location of the train depot. Because of his actions as a State Legislator from 1872 - 1876, Seguin's train depot is closer to town than it would have been had the Railroad Company had its way.
Reverend Fitzsimon wrote that "long before the Civil War there were prospects of a railroad through Seguin on the route of a proposed San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad, connecting San Antonio with Indianola by way of Seguin, Gonzales and Victoria. The war ended all hopes for that road." There were several other creative plans by the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway Company and the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railways. In July, 1873, the citizens of San Antonio raised a subsidy of $500,000 and offered it if the railroad would come to San Antonio by March 1875. The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railroad changed its name to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway and took up the offer. By 1874 the tracks had been laid through Luling to the San Marcos River. By Spring 1875 the tracks had crossed the San Marcos River and headed towards Seguin. Every six miles a switch or sub-station was established. The first switch was the Sullivan Switch, and then a station was established at Kingsbury in the summer of 1876. The next switch was at Ilka, six miles west of Kingsbury, and then there was Seguin. However, the Railway Company wanted the tracks to run much farther north of Seguin than where the depot is located today, at North Austin and New Braunfels.
John Ireland, then in the Texas Legislature had lobbied successfully in passing a law which regulated the laying of tracks in relation to the distances from the courthouses of the State's counties. The Railway Company was thus compelled to comply with the law or suffer the consequences. The law required the stations to be not more than one mile from the county courthouses. The Railway Company complied and it is exactly one mile from the county courthouse to the depot.
Little known, but fun to know about, was Governor Ireland's role in the construction of the new State Capitol building. In Welch's Book on Texas Governors he quoted Lubbock:
The cornerstone was laid on March 2, 1885. The dedication took place in 1888. Reverend Thrall of the Methodist Church in Seguin gave the invocation at the laying of the cornerstone.
Upon completing his Governorship, John Ireland made one last attempt to run for the Senate, but he failed. He returned to Seguin where he practiced law until his death on March 15, 1896. His spirited approach to politics and political shrewdness did not die with him. F.C. Weinert, John P. White, J.B. Dibrell would also become prominent in their time, each contributing to societal reform and hoping to make life a little better for the citizens of their community and State.
To continue and conclude the story of the railroad linking Seguin with San Antonio and Gonzales to Houston, there was the problem of getting the people and freight to and from the station. Austin Street was a dusty dirt road when it wasn't raining and a very fragrant quagmire when it rained.
When W.R. Neal was Mayor in 1878, he devoted his efforts to im-proving Austin Street. With the help of H.Y. LeGette, John L. Stevenson, William Dunn, D.M. Jarrett, H. Krezdorn, Henry Terrell, D.C. Bledsoe, P.J. Burges, and E.F. Batte, all obtainable funds were raised to upgrade Austin Street. There were times when it was impassable for weeks and on more than a few occasions circuitous routes across the prairie had to be taken just to get the mail in and out via the train. Even the Galveston, Houston and San Antonio Railway offered monies toward solving the problem.
Finally the business community came together to solve the problem and by 1886 the downtown area was linked to the train depot. Miss Leonie Pape's vivid description of this solution cannot be outdone, so her story is included here:
Needless to say the coming of the railroad resulted in a considerable increase in the county's population. Reverend Fitzsimon reflected that in the 1870s and 1880s immigration was widely promoted by both railroad and steamship companies and that many people from various European countries entered the United States. In order to compensate for the influx of immigrants, the Galveston, Houston and San Antonio Railroad actually established an Immigration Bureau in Seguin. Sam Neel was the agent. An "Immigration Home" was opened at the northeast corner of Austin and Gonzales Streets. No doubt the railroad was a boon to the growth of Seguin.
In the building years of young communities, there are organizations that almost became a social order unto themselves. Many organizations are founded to allow people with similar values and philosophies a chance to come together and share those sentiments without outside interference. Many organizations enjoy a sense of commitment to their community and demonstrate this commitment by donating time, or money, or effort to the community.
Perhaps no other public service organization in Seguin has enjoyed such an honored, early, and contemporary history as the Seguin Fire Department. Its origins were during this period of 1874-1900, and its service is as proud today as it was over 100 years ago.
Much of the following material is excerpted from Mrs. Weinert's 1949 Commemorative Booklet of The Seguin Fire Department.
According to the City Minutes of February 1, 1877, John A. Neill made a motion that the City of Seguin appropriate $100.00 to assist in paying the cost of the hook and ladder truck, and equipment. This motion established the fact that Seguin had a Fire Department of sorts as early as 1877, if not sooner.
The first fire station was built of wood with wide boards and was located on the southeast corner of Austin and Gonzales Street where Lippe Architect stands today. The station had a bell above its structure. According to Mr. Henry Bartholomae, a member of the Fire Department in 1883, the bell could be heard for two miles if rung properly.
Mr. C. E. Tips, who had come from Germany in 1846, stated that for their water supply there were two underground cisterns from which the water was pulled by the hand-operated pumper. The cisterns were not located at the fire station, however. Instead they were located on each side of the courthouse, where they had been installed in 1881. They were on the east and west side of the building. The engine was drawn up to and across the cistern and the hose dropped in the cistern. The firemen then pumped the water up with the use of the long handles of the engine which folded back when not in use. Oftentimes it took from five to six firemen at a time to operate each handle.
Perhaps one of the proudest possessions of the original Reliance Fire Department was its original charter of August 26, 1882.
The Fire Department received its official charter from T.H. Bowman, Secretary of State, in Austin. The original "Body Corporate" of the Reliance Fire Company were George Rust, G.A. Neill, C.M. Baker, Dan Erkel, William Thompson, John C. Eringhaus, F. Reich, F. Nolte, A.G. Swope, William Fritz, Sam Maney, Ferd Klein, J.W. Gregory, A.G. Green, M.E. Maney, L.J. Wassenich, J.W. Baker, W.H. Kishbaugh, Phil Vivroux, William McConnell, William Dunn, Albert Bruns, P.J. Burges, and A.G. Kredell.
One of their first orders of business was to adopt a motto, which they did - "Always ready, depend on us."
One interesting story goes that Miss Amilia Erkel was made the first honorary member of the Reliance Fire Company for her heroic assistance in an early fire that tested the reliance of the new Fire Company.
The roof of the old Moore House in the western part of town had caught on fire. While Mr. Jesse LeGette rode to the fire station to sound the alarm, Miss Erkel placed a "rickety" old ladder against the wall of the house. She then climbed the ladder with pails of water, trying to douse the fire.
In the meantime, Mr. LeGette alerted Mr. Henry Bartholomae who was on duty at the time. Bartholomae grabbed hold of the tongue of the hook and ladder truck while Mr. LeGette tied a rope to the front of the tongue and to the horn of his saddle. As the horse pulled the fire wagon towards the old Moore House other off-duty firemen gathered quickly and found places along the tongue. It wasn't long before Miss Erkel was relieved of her strenuous efforts.
With a tremendous growth in population between 1870 and 1887 the demands on the Fire Company became ever greater. As the city grew, so did the need for more water. Requests for a new water system had been made and in 1886 the city government began to take action.
The new water system was completed by May 28, 1887.
Perhaps one of the more sentimental and treasured objects of the Reliance Fire Company was their trumpet. The trumpet was used in directing fire fighters to the more dangerous areas of the fires. It was twenty-two and one-half inches in height, nine inches across the base. It was silver on the outside, and lined with gold. The decorations were wreaths of long suckle leaves, a fireman's tower of ancient Italian design, and the Roman torch used in the Fireman's Hall of ancient Rome.
The trumpet was lost during Chief George Kempen's tenure. It had been left on a shelf above a show window in a business house many years prior to his death. In that it had probably discolored due to a lack of use, it probably wouldn't look the same, even if located. As luck would have it, the trumpet was somehow found and restored as quickly as possible.
Men who perform visible, brave, noticeable deeds in the service of their community draw the awe of young boys. The young boys are drawn to the men not because the men are big but because they work well as a team, performing Herculean tasks no mere mortal can do. In the youthful spring of boys' lives these are the years of magic.
Mr. P.J. (Pick) Burges was alert to the fact that there was an increasing number of boys beginning to hang around the firemen. Trying to imitate the men, they never missed a drill practice if they could help it. Chief Burges began to call the boys "heel flies" because they stuck so close to the firemen. Soon Chief Burges was instrumental in gaining recognition of the "heel flies" by letting them become an unofficial youth group of the Fire Department. They were dignified with the title of the Little Hook and Ladder Company. It wasn't long before they were competing in events and learning the art of the fireman's duties, within their capabilities. These eleven to fourteen-year-old boys, some fifteen to twenty in number, also drilled for all the firemen's celebrations as determinedly as did the real firemen. They were as keen as the firemen in scaling a wall and perhaps even more agile.
Some of the early members of the "heel flies" were Owen Riley, Sam Blanks, Will Blanks, August Weinert, Oscar Weinert, Will Fennell, Little Pick Burges, Ed Burges, Dudley Baker, Jim Riley, Ed Zorn, Alex Greenwood, and Travis Sowell.
Although the exact date when the "heel flies" were first entered in the traditional May 6 firemen's celebration festivities is not known, they did appear in the Fourteenth Anniversary Celebration in 1891. Seven "heel flies" were selected to be the racing team that year. They were to race two-thirds the distance of the real firemen and at the end, place a ladder up against a building. The race was not over until they were on top of the building. The course for the race was the block west of the courthouse square and they were to run from south to north to the Serger Drug Store (then called "O1d Man Rice's Store"). The ladder was to be thrown up the east side of the 1891 one-story building, in record time.
Rising to the occasion, the seven "heel flies" did exactly that with a "two flat" time. Receiving congratulations from Chief Burges and Mr. Emil Weinert, the boys were told they could select whatever they wanted in "O1d Man Rice's Store." To a boy they had the largest cream soda available.
By 1895 there were two wings of the Fire Department. One wing was the Hose Company. The other was the Hook and Ladder Company. By 1900 the May 6 celebration had become an institution. Even the public schools would get a public holiday through 1911 so that the students could participate as parade viewers. The Seguin-Enterprise reported the 1900 festivities thus:
As the Reliance Fire Company of May 6, 1877, would become an institution in Seguin, so would the Guadalupe County Fair. In this 150th year of Seguin's history the County Fair will be 105 years old, one of the oldest organized County Fairs in the state.
According to One Hundred Years - The County Fair, the Guada-lupe County Fair traces its roots to October 13, 1859, on the city square. Although there was no formal Fair Association then, there was an agenda for the day's activities. In the morning there was a livestock show. In the afternoon there was a town meeting for the purpose of organizing a stock raising and agricultural organization. In the evening the youthful ladies of the Female College gave a concert.
No records indicate another organized county fair until well after the Civil War and Reconstruction Years. In 1883, an official fair was organized.
Fair Association President John Moore, in 1889, was pleased enough to state:
In 1889 the fair was held at "the alliance and grounds at the depot, for two days." The year 1890 saw an even more organized effort on the part of the Fair Association that continues to this day. With F.C. Weinert as President and Edgar Nolte as Secretary, rules, regulations and programs were published for the entrants as well as the spectators.
Committees were established also. Joe B. Dibrell, T.H. Humphries, and Henry Henman were in charge of racing, with an $150 appropriation. Jesse LeGette was in charge of gates and tickets while William Dunn, J.B. Whittaker, F. Nolte and John Moore were the committee on printing.
The prices for admission was for each person, whether on horse, carriage, or on foot, 15¢; children under 8 years of age, 5¢; and each vehicle was allowed entry for 10¢.
The Seguin Enterprise commented that the 1890 fair "mule colt display promises to be the best in the state, that two good bands will supply music throughout the fair and the Seguin Nine has offered a challenge to a team from Gonzales, San Marcos, and Luling, with the odds of two to one."
In addition to the poultry, cattle, horse and swine departments, horse racing, and the ladies' department, there were to be awarded special premiums also. These special premiums were a $5.00 purse for the best racing donkey and the ugliest man on the grounds was to be voted on, each vote costing 5¢. The prize to be awarded on the third day of the fair was a fine Meershaum Pipe, donated by J.D. Fennel. J. Zorn, Jr, offered one elegant water set for the best housekeeper, to be voted for on the grounds at a cost of 5¢ per vote. A vote was made that there would be a voting contest for the most popular young lady. The housekeeper contest applied to married ladies, of course.
After the 1890 Fair, the new officers elected were Jesse LeGette, President, and Frank Nolte, Secretary.
The last fair of record to be held prior to 1911 was the 1891 Fair. The twenty year hiatus may have been due to the economic times, for these were years of recession regionally and for the United States.
During the period 1874 to 1900 the county courthouse would see many changes which would result in her third of four complete reconstructions.
It was determined by the Commissioner's Court, in 1874, that a new plank ceiling was needed in the large room and passage was also needed on the second floor. The stone floor on the lower floor needed to be replaced with plank flooring. The wall plaster needed repairing as well.
Mr. G. Stautzenberger was paid S5.00 to provide 10 benches for the courthouse and a brick vault was built in the courthouse in 1877.
Custodians are the unsung heroes of well-maintained buildings. Without the valuable services of these men and women and their pride in seeing their buildings look presentable, most businesses would be in a quandary. Thus, a salute to the quiet, hardworking custodian Mr. George Coleman, the janitor for the courthouse in the 1870's and 1880's. His salary was $10.00 per month.
The population was growing quickly during the 1870s, especially with the arrival of the railroad. With a growth from 7,263 citizens in 1870 to 12,202 in 1880 in the county, the courthouse became too small to accommodate the citizens.
Consequently, architect Alfred Giles, in August 1882, was awarded $1,000.00 to draw up plans for remodeling and enlarging the courthouse. Steve White won the construction contract of $21,750 in May 1883. One month later Giles returned to the Commissioner's Court with a recommendation that the red clay brick manufactured south of Seguin be used for the new courthouse. The court agreed and authorized an additional $1,700.00 for the project. Other amendments to the contract brought the budget to a total of $30,000.00. J. Miller was appointed to supervise the brick work.
Steve White's task was somewhat of a challenge in the 1880s. He was required to raise the old courthouse four feet. The roof was to be made self-supporting and the frames and casing in the windows of the old section were to be replaced.
In order to help the County Treasury defray the construction expenses, the Court ordered warrants to be issued at the rate of eight percent to be used to pay annually on the $30,000.00 needed for the building. Later, when extra money was available from state school funds, the warrants were cancelled.
In the meantime, while the changes were being made to the court-house, daily transactions had to continue. Having good relations with the community, the same spirit that existed prior to the 1847 courthouse prevailed. Business establishments opened their spare rooms and in some cases, private homes were used for county business.
The Odd Fellows Hall became the temporary home for the Court's offices. This Hall was on the second story of the Joshua Young Store on the northeast corner of Austin and Court Streets. This site would become the site of the First National Bank in 1906, and later the County Tax Office. Additionally, Governor Ireland's office was rented, for he was in Austin at the time, presiding over the State Government, the opening of the University of Texas, and construction of the new State Capitol. Mrs. Koehler's home was used for office space as well as the J.W. Graves home.
By March 1844, the Commissioner's Court accepted the completed courthouse. New furniture was needed and purchased from the J. Hohn Furniture Company. The sum of $79.00 was expended for new chandeliers, and lightning rods were bought from Philip Vivroux. The Joseph Zorn Insurance Company insured the courthouse for $20,000.00.
Salaries for county officials did not remain unaffected at this time either. The County Judge, James Greenwood, received $300, the Sheriff $300, the County Clerk $250.
In 1892, Edward Barth received the contract to paint the inside and outside of the courthouse.
Eighteen ninety-two was the year Seguin's water works system was established by C.M. Holmes. The system was located on the Guadalupe River and the Commissioner's Court contracted with Holmes to lay water lines to the courthouse and jail. However, the two cisterns mentioned earlier would remain in use until 1907.
When the water lines were laid, the Reliance Fire Company was called upon to test the water pressure. Perhaps one of the most treasured photographs in Seguin's history is the one showing the stately and elegant Victorian-styled courthouse, with cupola, the imposing water tower in the background, and the firemen arching the spray of their hoses across the courthouse lawn.
The business community, in Seguin, continued to expand during these years of 1874 to 1900. Although no Chamber of Commerce existed then, and wouldn't until 1921, one can be assured that the business community and their ladies stayed in close touch, for their survival was dependent upon each other.
The first bank in Seguin had actually begun during the Reconstruction period - the Nolte Bank, today's Nolte National Bank. In 1868, Edward Nolte opened the bank with a safe in his general store.
For years he stored gold and currency for his customers' safekeeping. Like his fellow merchants, he granted credit for family operations, sold seed, feed and housewares to the predominantly agricultural community. When the harvested crops went to market he collected the owed monies.
Soon, because of his reputation, the safe became too small. His increasing numbers of customers required that he have a larger place to store their valuables. Thus, with his sons, Walter and Frank, the first bank was established.
Many of his customers, according to the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise, "were veterans of both the Texas fight for Independence and the Civil War. They were the same hard-working pioneers who had helped establish Seguin and form the basis of the present prosperity."
By the late 1890s, the general store could no longer handle the needs of the depositors. In the summer of 1900 the present-day brick and stone building housing Nolte National Bank was built, just across the street from its original home, the Nolte General Store.
In 1876, the Guadalupe Times published a Seguin directory which serves as a basic business barometer of the economic times of that period.
By 1879 the noticeable increase in the business community added to the economic well being of Seguin.
New attorneys in 1879 were E.F. Batte, J.D. Guinn, and Henry Ma-ney. G.W.L. Baker had relocated his business to the Odd Fellows Hall. F. Suchart's business could be found at the Wupperman Stand. J. Kunkel now had a meat market, in addition to the Klein and Bus-chard Meat Market. James Riley and Company opened as Drug-gists, and Peter Gabriers Grocery was in full operation. W.R. Bell was in business as a painter, N.Bennett opened a restaurant, and Charles Ziegenhale opened his bakery. Theo Koch's Saddlery opened and would remain open for many years. Steve White and George McConnell were Carpenters.
By 1879, two mills were operating in Seguin. The first mill in Seguin was actually begun by Andrew N. Erskine in 1854, near the ferry just west of Seguin. It was a flour mill and remained so through 1877. The mill's location was such that present-day Court Street, from Guadalupe Street to the river was known as Mill Road. A cotton gin had been added to the Erskine Mill by W.E. Jones and Joseph F. Johnston. Eventually this would become the site of the Seguin Milling and Power Company.
The second mill in 1879 was Henry Troell's Flouring and Corn Mill and Cotton Gin one-half mile east of the courthouse.
L.R. Cockrum was enterprising, and with the arrival of the railroad, was running a stageline to the spa of Sutherland Springs, southwest of Seguin. The stageline ran once a week and was a boon to outlying settlements between Wilson and Gaudalupe Counties, linking them to Seguin.
Also, according to the Guadalupe Times, Jack Ray had quite a reputation not only as a colored barber, but also as a great "tonsorial artist." His career would last for many years in Seguin's community.
The G.H. and S.A. Railroad, by 1879, had increased its stops at Seguin and advertised itself as the "Sunset Route." It offered two stops per day, one east bound, one west bound. The east bound train left San Antonio at 7:45 p.m. and arrived in Seguin at 9:35 p.m. Travel time was less than two hours.
There is an interesting story on the bridge across the Guadalupe River by Max Starcke Park, often referred to as the Starcke Park Bridge. In fact it has two official names - the Thad Miller Bridge and the F.C. Weinert Bridge, named in honor of State Senator Ferdinand C. Weinert. The origin of the bridge was during the period 1874-1900.
Prior to 1875, Thad Miller, an old trail driver, ran a ferry across the river at the present bridge site. During dry times, the Guadalupe River was only 8-9 inches deep at the location. During wet periods it ran much deeper. Miller was a prominent land owner, owning most of the land from his ferry to McKee's hill, just west of present day Saunders Drive, and north of the fairgrounds.
According to the Gazette-Enterprise, W.E. Goodrich, owner of the Seguin Enterprise in 1875, initiated a drive to collect money to build a bridge at the ferry crossing.
Goodrich was able to secure three investors in addition to himself. They were F.A. Vaughan, R.E. Saunders, and T.P. Dimmitt. Goodrich's reason for the bridge was sound. There would be advantages of having a low toll bridge to allow the flow of goods and traffic into Seguin from the outlying areas. At that time, more than four-fifths of Seguin's trade came from south of the river.
The four men contracted C. Baker and Company of St. Joseph, Missouri, for a first class National Truss Bridge at a cost of $8,000, to be paid upon completion.
Thad Miller tried to stop the construction and was ingeniously successful in doing so, for a while. He hired the construction workers away from the firm to work for him, apparently so he could keep his ferry operating, and control the bridge.
Finally the county had to step in. In 1883 the Treasury had $8,000. There was no community or school debt, so timing was right for the bridge. The county fathers agreed to purchase the bridge, in 1884, at a cost of $14,000 and it became a free bridge when the construction was completed. The county fathers recognized the economic benefits the city would realize from such a move.
The wooden roadway bridge was suspended from the main framework, and would remain so until 1938 when the new bridge was constructed by the State Highway Department. Indeed, the Old Miller Bridge had more than served its purpose and will continue to do so well into the twenty-first century.
"Seguin Brick" had its start at the close of the 1800's. Mr. C.F. Blumberg, one of the more enterprising businessmen throughout the Seguin region, was responsible for its beginnings. He came up with the idea in the late 1890s for a brick company due to the rich clay deposits in the area of "Big Mill Road" on F.M. 725, where Acme Brick is located today. By 1900 the brickyard was well in operation. The original bricks were inscribed with the word "Seguin." Many such bricks can be seen on the side walk outside the Muehl and Koebig Insurance Company at the northwest intersection of Gonzales and North River, and in front of the Blumberg Memorial Library on the campus of Texas Lutheran College.
According to local newspapers, by 1884, the local business community had expanded even more. J.B. Dibrell and Emil Mosheim had begun their law firm. S.W.L. Baker joined Henry Terrell in a general store enterprise. Two drugstores, Graves and Vaughan, and Donoho and LeGette were operating downtown. Dr. J.W. Fennell took his son, Dr. J.D. Fennell, into partnership and A.L. Baker joined Thomas Slack in a general store. Sam Maney and W.C. Thomas were carpenters. A.G. Gredell and A.G. Swope offered painting and paperhanging. A.G. Swope's greater contribution, however, was as Fire Chief of the Reliance Fire Company from 1882 to 1889.
By the mid 1880s Seguin had made a remarkable come back from the devastating Civil War and Reconstruction era. Insight, tenacity, and a sense of community spirit and pride kept Seguin together and helped it grow well into the twentieth century.
This is well evidenced by her business establishment's growth, and also by one of the most graceful architectural periods in the history of Seguin and the state. The 1890s would see not only a growth and sophistication in the economic climate, but also the beginnings of a legacy that endures to this day, the charm of Seguin's homes.
First, a look at the expanding business community in 1896 is in order. In that year Seguin had a population of 2,500 and was well on her way to tackling what lay ahead in the twentieth century.
An overview of the economic climate was well presented in the 1896 Homeseeker's Guide:
By 1896 many other businessmen with humble beginnings were either thriving or getting started.
A review of the advertisements in the 1896 Homeseeker's Guide revealed that H. Seligman ran his General Merchandise Store carrying dry goods, notions, boots, shoes, hats, caps, clothing and Gent's furnishing goods. Ed Freienmuth was a Druggist on Court Street in 1896. He sold pure drugs, patent medicines, fancy and toilet articles, hair, cloth, and tooth brushes, paints, oil, etc. Paul Vivroux dealt in hardware, agricultural implements, stoves and tinware. One druggist advertised Weiss Hungarian Vegetable Tonic and Weiss Hungarian Antiseptic as the magic healer for all skin troubles, burns, bruises, cuts, and pimples. By 1896 Mr. C.W. Clark had bought the Seguin Bakery on Court Street from J.R. Bryant. In the Krezdorn Building, Dr. F.B. Tegener practiced dentistry, specializing in gold crown and plate work. Doctors Myers and R.H. Peel had an office adjoining Bergfeld's Drug Store and they even had a telephone to their residence. H. Krezdorn, whose advertisements appeared on the front page of the newspaper for so many years, had established his jewelry store in 1875 and was north of the courthouse in 1896. William Brodt had opened a meat market and promised the choicest of meats for the least possible money. On Austin Street was the Hampton and Burges Druggist and Pharmacy Store with Dr. R.B. Anderson maintaining an office in the drug store. Pedro Fernandez ran a boot and shoe store; he was the maker and offered quality work with satisfaction guaranteed. His competition was on Austin Street, by D. Colunga, who also ran a boot and shoe store; Dr. J.H. Vaughan's Dentist Office was his residence on Court Street, the east side of the courthouse. He promised fresh bread and cakes to his patients. H. Bartholomae's Bottling Works manufactured soda water, syrups, extracts, and ginger ale. There was no such thing as Classic Coca-Cola in Seguin in 1896. The cases for soda were wooden and seemed to weigh a ton when loaded with full bottles.
Also, according to the Guide, J. Serdinko was a photographer whose office was between Nolte's and Blank's Store on Austin Street. It is not known whether the Rose Studio was in operation in 1896, but one of its most famous photographs was that of the original Reliance Fire Company Men, all assembled in their finest. That photo was taken in 1890.
Theo Koch had established himself in 1875 as a saddler and harness maker. By 1896 his store was on Court Street and it was thriving. G.E. Smith ran the livery, feed and sale stable. He boarded horses by the month or by the day. On short notice he could furnish teams. He catered to the drummers or traveling salesmen as a specialty. Perhaps one of the leading drug stores of the time was the Seguin Drug Company, selling everything from drugs, books and stationery to fancy toilet articles.
For tobacco supplies in Seguin one could make purchases from H. Seligmann, Ed Freienmuth, Hampton and Burges, or the Seguin Rug Company as well. Dry goods and notions proprietors were, in addition to those already mentioned, C.L. Martin, J.M. Blanks, C.J. Duggan, N. Friedlander, C.F. Blumberg, J. Forke, and L. Rice. Millinery and fancy goods could be purchased from J.F.W. Schalies or Miss M.T. Moos. The local fire insurance agent was the company of Carolan and Vaughan.
There were five newspapers in Seguin in 1896 - the Seguin Anchor, the Guadalupe Times, the Seguin Mercury, The Seguin Times, and the Seguin Record.
According to the 1898 Homeseeker's Guide two restaurants and a lunch stand were in operation in 1896. One restaurant was owned by William Stones, a colored man, and the other restaurant was owned by Hermann Bulgerin. There was only one undertaker in Seguin in 1896, the N.E. Ferguson and Company Undertakers, who were also colored. They advertised that "orders by mail or telegram will receive prompt attention.
The Homeseeker's Guide also reflected that there were six physicians and three dentists in Seguin in 1896, thus assuring as good a medical climate as possible. Attorneys were eleven in number, including James Greenwood, J.B. Dibrell, T.M. Humphries, Palmer and Wiseman, W.M. Rust, T.L. Johnston, E. Mosheim, C.H. Donegan, W.E. Goodrich, and W.E. Short, thus rounding out the professional services establishment.
Three blacksmiths were well established in their backbreaking business - William Rex, J.R. Neill, and William Evans.
Also, according to the Homeseeker's Guide, the hotels were four in number. Two had rates of $1.00 per day and two at $2.00 per day. These hotels were Mrs. M.C. Schott's Hotel, the Commercial Hotel, Magnolia Hotel, and the Grand Central Hotel. Perhaps Mrs. Schott's Hotel's offerings were most representative of the times. She charged $1.00 per day, $4.00 per week. She had large clean rooms, had the very best table, and catered to the drummer.
In the days of the 1890s, the Commissioner's Court met the second Mondays in February, May, August, and November, as compared to the many meetings that are held almost one hundred years later.
The Seguin Post Office's hours basically were dependent upon the rai1road hours. The eastern mails closed at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. as did the western mails. Mr. A.W. Dibrell was the Postmaster in Seguin in 1896.
The railroad station must have been an exciting place at the turn of the century. There were four stops in Seguin, up two from 1876. The east bound left twice daily at 12:36 p.m. and 11:08 p.m. The west bound left at 3:20 p.m. and 6:12 a.m.
Mr. H.M. Abbott was the agent. Chief Clerk at the depot was W. Suchart and Miss May B. Humphreys was the operator. The train depot had an aura about it that lured young boys.
The hollow echoing sounds of the train whistle as the east and west bound approached, the hiss of steam as the trains came to a bone chilling, squealing stop, and the passengers dismounting onto the platform, their suits and dresses rumpled and sweaty, were a magical ritual to the wide-eyed youths of 1896.
The train's departure was another ritual. Passengers being told by the conductor that the time had come to board: "all aboard," he shouted, "all-aboard," before waving his lantern to the engineer, signaling that all passengers were aboard.
And then the Herculean effort of the train to get going. The very act of its ever rolling forward an inch defied any explanation of how that huge monster could move at all. But it did, somehow.
Her stacks bellowed smoke: the steam registered her strained efforts. Then, the grunts, groans, clattering of the wheels on the tracks. There was a cadence, clack-clack-clack that picked up in intensity, clack-clack-clack, a whistle haunted the airs, the cars groaned as they wobbled to and fro on the tracks, clack-clack, the train was gone. Another ritual was observed, and gone.
By1896, the Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio Railroad came to be known as the Southern Pacific. Although the Homeseeker's Guide advertised that the Sunset Route now enabled Seguinites to travel to New Orleans, California, Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Central America, it did not advertise that connections had to be made with other forms of transportation. Seguin, by the turn of the century, was no longer a small, isolated frontier community.
There were four secret societies that met in Seguin during the 1890s. Each had its own rituals, and each had its own noble goals. The very names of the offices held conjured curiosity and attested to the secrecy the members fostered among themselves.
The K. of P. met every second and fourth Thursday nights in Castle Hall. The Chancellor-Commander was C.E. Tips; Vice-Chancellor-Commander, Edward H. Terrell; Prelate, J. Sumral; Master of Exchequer. W. Suchart; Master of Finances, E.C. Cherry; Master of Arms, W.H. Bryan; Keeper of Records and Seals, T.H. Baker.
The I.O.O.F. met every Monday night in the I.O.O.F. Hall. E. Von Breckman, N.G.; F. Klien, V.G.; Tom Terrell, R.S.; A.E. Wilson, P.S.; A.F. Wilson, Rep. to G.I,.; William Dunn, Alternate; William Dunn, T.
The K. of H. met every second and fourth Saturday of every month in their Hall. J.W. Graves, Dictator; A. Seideman, Vice-Dictator; G.W.L. Baker, Assistant Dictator; Paul Wipprecht, Reporter; Edgar Nolte, Finance Reporter; Henry Terrell, Treasurer; J. Zorn, Chaplain.
The S.F. and A.M. met at the Masonic Hall the first Saturday in each month. W.M., Walter Nolte; S.W.S., H. Caruthers; J.W., George Cook; S.D., J.C. Bump; Secretary, J.B. Williams; Treasurer, Edgar Nolte; Tyler, J.R. Neill; J.D., T. Reese; Stewards, W. Suchart and Dr. Anderson.
As the men ran their businesses, promoted education, fought taxes, and engaged in politics, the women too had developed a culture of their own. The Seguin Record reflected the elegant hospitality that was Seguin towards the end of the century and invited the reader inside the Victorian homes that have become the charm of Seguin.
There was a "Kooking Klub" established by the young ladies of Se-guin. The following is taken from Miss Leonie Pape's chapter in the Bicentennial Minutes:
These parties were reminiscent of the 1880s and 1890s. The settings were often times in the graceful, rambling architectures that have become the pride, the charm of Seguin. The homes are as much a biography of their builders and owners as they are a testament to the styles of the time. Much of the following information has been extracted from the Seguin Conservation Society's Historic Homes, The Charm of Seguin.
The 1880s, and early 1900s homes of Seguin were constructed of two basic materials. These materials were concrete and lumber, replacing the frontier adobe as evidenced in the Los Nogales Museum, and the log cabins of the 1830s and 1840s. Park's Concrete established concrete as a premier building material in the 1850s. It was complimented by the rich walnut timber in the local area. Bricks from the Sonka Brothers and later the Seguin Brick Company of C.F. Blumberg near McQueeney, would be included with the concrete and lumber materials.
The architecture of the time reflected a combination of Greek simplicity and Victorian complexity. That so many young to middleaged owners of today continue to have many of these almost 100 years old homes restored and rebuilt within the architectural context of the period attests to the beauty of their construction.
Built in 1897, according to Historic Homes, was the Julius M. Abbott home at 907 North Austin Street. Mr. Abbott was involved in oil, and had the first automobile dealership in Seguin, touting the 1906 Maxwell. In 1897 the home was then well out in the country, thus allowing the owners to raise cattle and horses on the property.
Although records do not reflect that Mr. Henry Weiss constructed the gable and turreted three story Abbott home, legend supports that he was the builder. It had two basements and wide porches boasting simple supporting pillars and a gabled entrance way. The present day owners of this Victorian Queen Anne Home are Dr. and Mrs. Kimble Traeger.
Another Victorian Queen Anne Home mentioned in Historic Homes is just three blocks farther north on Austin Street. It is the Weinert Lovett Home at 1207 North Austin. This stately structure was built in 1895 by Ferdinand Carl Weinert, County Commissioner, County Judge, State Representative, State Senator, and Secretary of State of Texas. The home was designed by McAdoo and Wooley who had studied under architect J. Riley Gordon. John Goodrum was the builder.
Mrs. Lovett is the granddaughter of Senator Weinert. Her family has maintained the history of the Weinert-Lovett home by ensuring that the original rust and cream colors are kept fresh, thus highlighting the Queen Anne and Eastern stick form. The turret is three stories and is set off or trimmed with an intricately carved frieze. Along with dormers, gables, a balustraded porch, and a picket fence, the home's graceful appearance is very reminiscent of that slow, even-paced period of Seguin's history.
Historic Homes also presented the simpler style of Queen Anne Victorian architecture in the Kroesche-Koepp Home at 426 North Milam. It is the home of the late Mrs. Julia Koepp, the mother of Seguin's Mayor, Betty Jean Jones. The word "simple" is used to indicate that the home is not as ornate as some of the other homes of turrets, gables, and being three stories in height. Rather, this home struggles to have two stories, with only one room upstairs.
The beauty of the Kroesche-Koepp Home are the detailed windows with intricate transoms above them. The bay view ends of the home offer excellent views up and down Milam Street. There are well maintained period balconies on three sides of the house, which add to the handsome appearance of the home itself.
Perhaps, one of the most well-known homes in Seguin is the Moore House on 703 Johnson Avenue, in the old Guadalupe City section of Seguin, not far from the Jefferson Place.
Quoting from Historic Homes:
Luckily for Seguin and the Conservation Society, Mrs. Micky Moore Frerking has been a long standing member of the Board of Directors of the Seguin Conservation Society. She grew up in the historic Moore House and has grown to see the house recognized by the State of Texas through the commemoration of a State Historical Marker honoring the home itself. In the early 1980s the members of the Seguin Alliance worked with the Seguin Conservation Society in restoring the interior, the furnishings, and the grounds. All of the interior is period furniture, lighting fixtures and flooring. Since the restoration, the home has been highlighted several times in Southern Homes magazine and has, in the last two years, been available to the public for rental. Such occasions as wedding receptions, corporate luncheons, teas, and cocktail parties have revived the spirit of this most elegant and historic home.
No history of Seguin would be complete without mention of the Mosheim-Weyel Home at 409 North Austin. Historic Homes mentions that Emil Mosheim was born in Germany. He came to Seguin in the late 1800s and began his successful law practice. Originally the structure was brick and was surrounded by ornate Victorian porches upstairs and downstairs. The brick structure itself was "supplied with rainwater gutters which drained into a charcoal filtered cistern, covered by a gazebo."
When the wooden balconies were removed is unknown. Regardless, the imposing brickwork, distinct lines and angles of the architecture, make this one of the more stately homes in Seguin.
In 1984, City Councilman Rodger Weyel purchased the Mosheim Home and it presently houses an antique shop.
The stately charms of Seguin's homes, their owner's lives, the gatherings, the parties, have all become a treasure in the lore of Seguin. Their elegance can be shared with the public. Perhaps the best source available to the public, so that they may share in and also be charmed, is Mr. Joe Commingore's Driving and Walking Tour of Seguin. Each booklet is a short but definitive publication that takes the stroller or driver on the historic routes of nineteenth century Seguin.
It is difficult to leave the 1800s and journey into twentieth century Seguin. So much happened in the 1800's that an entire book could be written on that period.
Green De Witt's Colony had expanded so much, prior to the Texas Revolution, that several Anglo settlers made their presence felt amongst the Mexicans and Indians in the Seguin area. They had to return to Gonzales because of isolation during a period of increased tension between Texas and Mexico. They fought and acquitted themselves well in the Texas Revolution, fighting side by side with loyalist Texas Mexicans for freedom. They survived the "Runaway Scrape" and returned to their broken homes, undaunted. With the Ranger Station established under the oaks on Walnut Branch, a sense of security and normalcy returned. Settlers began arriving following the bold investment of a few men and a gamble of 33 shareholders. These frontiersmen and their women forged a community that would never bend to hard times. Together they withstood Mexico's attempts to retake the young Republic. She provided statesmen to the youthful Republic, ran from no battle, and sacrificed her young men in the various fights for survival and Statehood.
Her leaders and people of foresight established a school system that has turned out state and national statesmen, generals, entrepreneurs, esteemed educators, and hard workers. The spiritual nourishment of her people was increased to see all denominations attending to their respective callings. In time of need, during the Civil War, the county and city fathers labored arduously to attend to the needy families whose men had gone off to battle.
Rather than harbor hate following the Civil War, Seguin's citizens turned to each other and provided the moral courage to hold their heads high amidst defeat. The Union occupation of Seguin and carpet bag rule were tolerated but not forgotten.
When the time was right Seguin bounced back, providing an era of leadership in the State Capital few other communities have been able to match.
Slowly, businesses expanded and Seguin became more prosperous. Decentralized government, conservative fiscal policies, moderate and wise foresight saw the expansion of the school system, higher education for Blacks, and the permanent construction of churches.
Public and private services expanded by the end of nineteenth century Seguin. Some of these services were doctors in dentistry and medicine, a proud Fire Department, a street railway system, and the arrival of the railroad. Bridges were built to replace the ferries and Seguin became the economic hub of a wheel that had spokes reaching to the outlying communities.
By century's end there was electricity, telephones had arrived, and a water works was functioning.
Cotton gins, flour mills, bakeries, groceries, brick factories, blacksmiths, hotels, drummers, drugstores, dry goods, opera, stately homes, banks, saddleries, saloons, private clubs, and organizations, all of these pointed to a healthy, vigorous climate. The way pointed to the twentieth century.