Frelsburg

It’s all Frederick Ernst’s fault! It all started because of Frederick Ernst who acquired a league of land in the Industry, Texas area on April 16, 1831. He was one of the old 300 that settled under the direction of Stephen F. Austin whose office was in San Felipe de Austin on the Brazos River near what is now Sealy, Texas. Herr Ernst arrived in Texas after leaving Varel in Oldenburg which is on the northern area of what is now Germany. He received 4,000 acres on the west bank of Mill Creek and as he sold tracts of land out of his league to settlers, he named the community Industry.

Frederick Ernst was so pleased with his good fortune of discovering Texas where there was freedom and very inexpensive land as well. He had to express his pleasure by sending exuberant letters to his hometown of Varel in Oldenburg. He also wished to sell more of his league at improving prices.

There were several people who became interested in seeing what Ernst was so excited about and so Wilhelm Frels, Robert Kleberg and Louis von Roeder shipped out on the brig Congress to see what this was all about. After they arrived in Galveston, Frels went to Industry to visit with Ernst but within a year, he moved west to what is now Frelsburg. Kleberg and von Roeder settled at a place they called Cat Spring. They went on to gain fame with the development of the King Ranch in South Texas.

Thanks to Jim Kearney, we’ve learned of another gentleman that was interested in Ernst's letter who was Detlef Frederick Jordt (aka Detlef Dunt). Jordt arrived in Texas in 1833 to explore the area and investigate Ernst's claims. He traveled from Galveston to Industry during the rainy season and encountered flooded creek and river crossings but decided that the result was worth all the effort. He also traveled to Frelsburg. After much exploration, he returned to Oldenburg and published a travel book titled "Reise nach Texas" that detailed his adventure but ended with "with hard work, a good family can prosper in Texas!" Jordt published the book using his name and his mother's maiden name as Detlef Dunt as the author because he was not allowed in Oldenburg since he had emigrated and disclaimed his citizenship. (They didn’t want you leaving and then return and sow discontent.) Then, he reported that he returned to Texas and Frelsburg to run a store there. I could not find him in the court records for that period but a man named Jurgens did purchase Frels' store 12/30/1853 and it was said that he owned it while he lived in Columbus, Texas. It's a days’ ride from Frelsburg to Columbus so maybe Jordt (Dunt) managed it for him.



Tempers were flaring all over Texas in 1835. Santa Anna had sadly mistreated Stephen Austin as Austin went to Mexico City to cool things off between the Mexican Government and the settlers from the United States. Santa Anna jailed Austin and embarrassed him even though Austin was an emissary and a representative of the Mexican Government in Tejas as Alcalde (combination mayor / police chief). When Austin was finally released, he was convinced that war was the only option for Texas. He took a contingent of men including Wilhelm Frels to San Antonio where an army force sent by Santa Anna and led by his brother-in-law General Martin Perfecto de Cos was installed. Austin thought that if they could drive the Mexican military out of Texas that that would solve everything. On December 14 1835, Cos was driven out of San Antonio. Sadly, it was not permanent. On the good side, Frels qualified for 320 acres as bounty for his participation. He left San Antonio but then joined Sam Houston to fight Santa Anna at San Jacinto. I could not find his name on the rolls at San Jacinto . TSHA tells us that Frels commanded a company of German volunteers at the battle and attained the rank of Captain. He received another bounty of 320 acres for his contribution in that battle. After the Battle, Frels mustered as a Texas Ranger on July 20, 1836 under Capt. John York and Col. Edward Burleson at Fort Milam and was mustered out on the Colorado on November 20, 1836. He received another bounty of land for his services.

On March 25, 1843, Willhelm Frels purchased a 102 acre tract on the east side of the James Cummins Upper Hacienda Survey from Peter Piper. Two years later, when a road was laid out from Columbus to Brenham(later to be FM 109), it went through the eastern edge of the Frels tract. By the summer of 1846, Frels had established a store on the west side of the new road. On August 31, 1847, the Cummins Creek post office, of which Frels had been postmaster since it had been established in 1842, went out of existence. Three weeks later, on September 22, 1847, Frels was named the postmaster of the new post office in the area. The new post office was named Frelsburg. Frels, however, did not remain a storekeeper for long. He now had over 3,000 acres and a substantial inventory of livestock and farm produce. On January 24, 1850, he sold Friedrich Jürgens fifteen acres which included the store and house.

The next mention of Wm. Frels is that he deeded 3.7 acres of land to the Trinity Lutheran Church for a church and cemetery in 1857. His wife, Louisa Frerichs Frels was the first person interred in 1859.

Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church purchased 61 acres of land in 1848 for their parish from Peter Peiper, I believe.

Frederick Jurgens sold the property to Edwin Kollman on 9/10/1860. These were challenging times for Frelsburg. The Germanics that settled all around Frelsburg, Mentz, Cat Spring, Fayetteville, Industry, Welcome, Warrenton, Shelby, Brenham and all places in between wanted no truck with the Confederacy. Desperate men do desperate things.

In 1860 the county voted in favor of secession by a vote of 584 to 330. The predominantly Germanic town of Frelsburg voted against the secession proposal 154 to 22. Secession votes also failed in the neighboring communities of Mentz, Bernardo and Fayetteville by similar margins.

The emigrants had come for land and when the United States annexed Texas that made the land much more valuable. Mexico was unlikely to take it back and the United States had proven it was a place where hardworking folks could be successful. I believe that the Germanics took a critical eye to the situation and could not see how an agrarian nation could stand against an industrial one. They certainly did not want to invest their son's lives in a failed effort.

There is an illustration of this. Later in the war, the Confederacy was running out of soldiers to fight the war and it was suspected that there were young men in the German communities that would reap the benefits of winning the war without participating in its success. Certainly families who lost fathers and sons in the conflict could not help but feel bitter.

Eventually, a confederate leader in Columbus decided to send conscription troops to Frelsburg to press some of these young men into the army. They traveled north and came to the settlement of Zimmerscheidt- about three miles south of Frelsburg. They inquired where the young men were that must be somewhere around. The response was typical. They're in the army, of course. But the troops had no record of men from the area being in the army.

There was a large wooded area east of the community where the young men could go when there was a threat. It was relatively safe since the other side of the wooded area was the Germanic community of Mentz. They would warn and protect that front. The conscription troops were warned by their leader that if they did not return with conscripted young men for the army, THEY would take their place at Antietam or Atlanta. A death sentence! They had no choice so they went into the woods to get the young men... but they never came back. They simply disappeared. There was apparently a civil war right there. And, there was never a return of conscription troops to the Frelsburg area.

Frelsburg had a large population of Germanics and was surrounded by many more. At one time there were rumors of 1,000 armed Germans meeting in the Frelsburg area. That’s probably stretching it but it cautioned the more fanatical rebel supporters from doing what others did to 170 Czech people in Moulton when there was a confrontation. The Czech people were all herded into a barn and it was set on fire. Whole families of men, women and children died, horribly. As I learned of this and thought about it, I am not the supporter of the Confederacy as I once was.

Alleyton was at the end of the Confederate railroad. At this time, there was no railroad bridge over the Colorado River. Since the Yankees had blockaded all of the Confederate ports, there was no place to sell the cotton from the whole South except at Matamoras, Mexico. This was relatively safe since the North did not want to violate Mexican sovereignty mainly because Mexico had a treaty with England and the United States didn't see a need for a second front on the east coast with England. Because of this, there was a great need for teamsters to haul the cotton to Matamoras and to pick up goods that were not made in the South. Here was a way for Edwin Kollman from the store in Frelsburg to get needed inventory and be paid to do it.

In 1870, it was decided that a school of higher learning was needed for the young Germans that were growing up. The Texas legislature authorized a school named Hermann Seminary to be located between Mill Creek in Austin County and Cummins Creek in Colorado County. A board was selected but they were predisposed to form a school that was decidedly Lutheran. There wasn’t enough support. Nothing happened. The legislature then appointed another board from citizens of the area affected and ruled that it may not have a religious affiliation. Wilhelm Frels donated 8 acres for use only for this school but funding never materialized that was sufficient to form the university. Finally in 1879, a schoolhouse was built and it was used as a public school.

Edwin Kollman & his family owned the store until they decided to sell it to Fritz & Robert Heinsohn in 1920. Fritz and Robert were a partnership. (if you were ever in a partnership you know that they don’t work!) After a while, they decided to divide up the assets and Robert took 31 acres of farmland and Fritz took 1 acre with the store. In those days, there was very little inventory. A lot of the trade was in barter. Fritz even had his own script that was only good at Fritz Heinsohn General Merchandise.

Business did well, so well in fact that Fritz and his son Edgar decided that they needed to get out of the log cabin store and build a substantial building. They were fortunate to find an architect in Columbus named A. W. Willrodt who was ready to take on the challenge. The store got to be bigger than it might have been because the Moeckel’s saloon and dancehall across the street was not being used any longer and Frelsburg needed a gathering place and dance hall. They decided that the upstairs dancehall needed to be 60’ x 80’. There were windows every 10 feet all the way around. The roof needed ventilation so a large raised portion had louvers all the way around. A porch was put in front so that folks could get out in the breeze. If you've ever been to a German polka dance in the summer, you'll understand why that's helpful. It was also decided that fans were needed inside the hall. The fans needed power and there was no electric company until 1939 when Fritz sat on the first board of San Bernard Electric Coop and helped bring electricity to town. So instead, he installed a 1932 Ford V8 motor on the porch and ran a drive belt through the window. There was a side benefit to the fan motor. It could generate electricity through a Delco system and dances could go into the night which was a lot cooler. He even ran a line up to the Trinity Lutheran Church for services at night.

Because the dancehall was so large there was a lot of room on the bottom floor even after the store part and the beer joint were marked out. That was good because all merchandise had to be shipped in to the depot in New Ulm and some items were only ordered once a year. New Ulm was 4 miles east via a sand road. It was only safe to drive it after a rain shower or you would bog down in that sugar sand. Oh yeah, watch out for the trees, some were only 10 feet apart. If the rain shower brought wind with it, some of those trees were across the road. Along the side of the road was a telephone line that was maintained by L.H. Brune, Elo Becker and Fritz Heinsohn. It went to a switchboard in New Ulm. In my younger days, I remember going with Albert Noska to find shorts and fix the line. This was quite an adventure for an 8 year old. We had to warn everybody not to use the phone until we got back because it was no fun to be trying to hold up the wire when someone was cranking the generator on the phone.

Early inventory in the store cnsisted of barrels of vinegar, several barrels of sugar and salt. Kegs of nails, saddles, saddle blankets, harness. Tires You could get dishes and oatmeal in the same barrel. But there wasn’t much variety in merchandise in those days. Even later when I was in the store in 1948, only ½ of the center room was sales area, the rest was storage and even open space. One 20’ x 20’ room was stacked 4’ high with 100 lb bags of seed potatoes in the early spring. That was after we sold 100 bushels of apples, oranges and tangerines for Christmas. Almost every family had to have a bushel of apples for Christmas. Most had a bushel of oranges too.

We had a unique sales counter. The top of the counter was made for sales transactions. Below the counter there were drawers. The top drawers were large (they could easily hold 100 lbs of beans) and the lower drawers were half size. In the front of the counter, there were glass containers that we would display the contents of the drawer behind the display. When we remodeled, we sold the counter to Harry Priesmeyer. It is probably in Garwood somewhere.

Since Frelsburg was a jumping off spot during many Germanics' emigration, it was apparently well remembered by lots of families in neighboring towns and communities. I say this because when Dale Heinsohn and Mary Ordner organized a parade to celebrate the Texas Sesquicentennial and Frelsburg’s 150th birthday in 1986. There were over 100 floats from all around. I was amazed. Most larger towns didn’t have that many participants in their parades. Of course, it was a very special time for all of us.

Louis H. Brune purchased a store across the street in 1922. W. E.Pophanken had a store across from the Trinity Lutheran Church. That means there were 3 stores within 100 yds of the intersection downtown. When people had eggs to sell, they often went to at least 2 of the stores. Sometimes they came back after getting a price from us and said that our competitor had offered them 1 cent more than we had offered him. Margins were very slim in those days. What do you do? Do you trust him? Times were tight.



Business was in eggs, milk, cream, hides and pecans. This went on until the 1960’s. Eggs became more important as a commodity. About 30 families were producing eggs commercially and we hauled 150 cases twice a week to Weingartens' in Hallettsville. There was good money in eggs. One of our renters informed us that they were able to buy an Edsel car with the earnings for one year. This was even after paying rent for the chickenhouse. Edsels weren't a cheap car either. When I got out of the Army in 1970, my father said "here ya go, the store is yours". Well, not exactly, he still maintained a presence and things mostly went his way. After all, he had the experience. He was very conservative now and tried to continue in the old ways but it was a time of change. Actions needed to be taken but it's very hard to navagate a ship with two captains. We struggled. The time for rural stores was quickly ending all over the country. The big boxes were dominating the marketplace but we were able to exist until (tada) the internet increased our market area by a millionfold. We were able to market products that were not profitable for the big boxes but were still needed in the marketplace. We will continue to sell those items until something changes again. The Revolution of 1848 made it seem that everyone was trying to take away all the value that they had spent their lives accumulating. Socialism—Sound familiar? The folks in Oldenburg learned from Ernst that there was a place to go that was not doing that. Texas! We are hearing calls for socialism again. If we don’t have a Frelsburg to go to - then we have to fight to keep what's ours!

1850

Fearncamp [Fehrenkamp], Gerard (41, male, blacksmith, 125, Germany, in school [sic]); Wilhelmina (36, female, Germany); Henry (10, male, Germany); Josephine (7, female, Germany); Gerard (4, male, Germany); Hellina (2, female, Texas)

37A, 25, 181, 187 Piper [Pieper], Peter (59, male, farmer, 1300, Germany); Elizabeth (63, female, Germany)

37B, 25, 189, 195 Wieshuhn [Weishuhn], [no first name] (30, male, farmer, Germany); Frau (25, female, Germany); Earnest (6/12, male, Texas); Edward (22, male, Germany)

William Frails [Frels]: 3112 acres, 250 improved, 27 horses, 12 oxen, 100 other cattle, 60 sheep, 50 swine, 3200 bushels of corn, 45 bales of cotton, 200 pounds of wool

1860

154A, 25, 541, 516

Heinsohn, William (46, male, farmer, 2000, 900, Oldenburg); Meta (39, female, Oldenburg); Mary (16, female, Oldenburg); Diedrich (14, male, Oldenburg); Henry (10, male, Oldenburg); Geredena (8, female, Texas); Willie (5, male, Texas); Fred (3, male, Texas); Theodore (1, male, Texas)

159A-159B, 39, 614, 589 Fehrenkamp, G. (50, male, blacksmith, 400, 1145, Oldenburg); Mena (45, female, Oldenburg); Henry (20, male, Oldenburg); Sophia (18, female, Oldenburg); Gard (15, male, Oldenburg); Lena (12, female, Oldenburg); George (9, male, Oldenburg);

Weishuhn, Ernst (36, male, farmer, 500, 3000, Prussia); Fredrica (32, female, Prussia); Ernst (11, male, Texas); Eliz (7, female, Texas); Bertha (3, female, Texas); Louis (6/12, male, Texas);