Even deer don’t like being stuck indoors

Posted 6/9/20

Madison County Historical Commission’s two books of local history are treasure-laden! I wish we could compile another; it would make us a third prize. If we don’t do it soon, some stories and facts will be lost forever.

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Even deer don’t like being stuck indoors

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Madison County Historical Commission’s two books of local history are treasure-laden! I wish we could compile another; it would make us a third prize. If we don’t do it soon, some stories and facts will be lost forever.

Volume 1 contains the fact that Abner Stout Wilson (1828-1909) was born in Marengo County, Alabama, and came to Madison County about 1860. He’s important to me because he’s an ancestor of a number of families around here, including mine. When I have nothing else to fill my time, I read Volumes 1 and 2. A while back I noticed that Marengo County showed up for other families, too. Wayne Lafayette Parten was also born in Marengo County, and came here in 1866. His descendants here include more Partens, Colwells and some of my Cannon cousins.

Family stories say that Omer Elmeller Sheeler may have been born in Germany, but “The Book” states that in 1869 he came to Madison County from Marengo County and settled in Connor community. He only lived 18 months after he got here, but his descendants include Brimberrys and Mahaffeys. According to Page 477 of Volume 1, Lizzie Jane Hawkins Tarpley was born in Marengo County. Her descendants include Sowells, Tarpleys, and Knights. Volume 1, Page 221 states that “All of the Etheridge children were born in Marengo County”, giving it significance to that family plus some Batsons, Parkers, and more. I easily found those mentions of Marengo County in Volume 1. I’ll bet it figures in other local family histories too.

Results of my personal DNA test revealed that many of my forebearers took part in The Southern Diaspora, in which many southerners departed the “Deep South” and headed west in search of better homes, lives, fields, whatever. I assumed that was true for most local families. Volume 1 provided evidence otherwise.

Previously I wrote about Julius Zulch, Sr. (1832-1900), so I won’t go in depth about him now. Born in Germany, he came to the United States in 1848 after a liberal revolution failed in Germany. He probably landed in New York, and family history says he got to Galveston via steamboat. Then, Zulch traveled overland until he liked the looks of a spring surrounded by willows. He settled there. Travelers camped there too, and soon it got the name of Willowhole.

In time, Zulch built a store there, and in 1859, the Willowhole post office was established in his store. He accumulated a good deal of property and decided to make good use of it, with emigrants coming to clear and farm the land he had. He advertised in Germany for farmers and arranged passage money for them through a Galveston bank. From 1880 to 1882, the population in the Willowhole area increased rapidly, with the German settlers living as tenants until they could pay for the land. Zulch built a school, a bank, and ultimately a “one-man town”. When the railroad bypassed Willowhole, wise Zulch moved to take advantage of train travel. The original Zulch has not been forgotten, and many local families carry Zulch genes.

I also covered Fuhlberg family history earlier. I won’t skip it entirely now, since I loved its later generations. Charles Fuhlberg (1817-1889) was born in Germany and came to the United States of course by boat in 1836. He landed in New York, migrated to Georgia first, and next worked in copper mines in Talladega, Alabama where he married Amarintha McCrae. In 1859, the couple came to Texas and to Madison County in 1861. Both are buried in Bethel Cemetery, just across the county line. Their grandchildren, including James Fuhlberg, Winnie Culbreth, Nell Park, Willie Bullard, and Ruth Moore, made growing up in Madison County enjoyable for many of us.

Anton Krohn, Jr. (1864-1931) was born in Germany and came to America in in 1885, disembarking in New York. Next, he went to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked for about a year, earning enough money to pay for third-class passage from Germany for his parents and younger sister and brother. Then, learning that Julius Zulch was recruiting settlers for land in East-Central Texas, young Anton ventured to Madison County to scope out the situation. He must have liked what he saw, because he soon sent for his family. Anton Sr., his wife, Sophie, and their two younger children arrived at Ellis Island in 1886. By that November, the elder Anton. bought a 100-acre farm from Julius Zulch. It took three years to pay it off, and he recorded the legal deed in 1889. There was already a small log cabin on the land, and the whole family moved in, working to build lives raising sheep and cattle. Anton Sr. had been a bootmaker in Germany and continued that here.

Enterprising Anton Jr. opened a small store near where the Jack Zulch farm later was located. Younger brother Joe hauled freight from Bryan to stock that store, helped with the farming, and contracted to haul freight for others. When the railroad depot was constructed farther to the north, Anton Jr. started a bank there, serving as its president until his death in 1937. In 1903 he married Annie Hahn and bought a farm in Bundic. His brother Joe remained on the family farm. Joe had no formal schooling but could add a string of numbers and perform multiplication faster than others could with pencil and paper. He married Mary Fridel and they bought land adjoining the original farm. They had three children, the middle one being another Anton Krohn (1916-1997). He married Peggy Young, now Peggy Krohn, who still resides in North Zulch.

Michael (1856-1942) and Ernestine Utecht (1855-1938) were both born in Germany. When they came to Texas, they first settled in the Kurten area. In 1887, they relocated to Willowhole. During that move, their second daughter, three-year-old Ida, fell out of the wagon and was killed when a wheel ran over her. She was the first Utecht buried in Willowhole Cemetery. The parents raised six more children, many of whom are now among the 16 bearing that name in that cemetery. Michael became a citizen, proudly receiving his naturalization papers in 1892. At one time he worked for the railroad at the pump stations, where trains got water. He also farmed and owned several hundred acres, some of which was sold through the years.

Descendants, including Lori Baker and Brian Baker, still live on parts of the family land.

Joseph Valenta (1827-1898) was born in the Czech Republic, and his wife Annie (1833-1907) in Austria. In 1872 and along with their three children, they landed in Galveston harbor. They settled temporarily in Fayetteville, where their youngest child was born. In 1877, they moved to Madison County, living briefly in a tiny cabin at Shepherd’s Prairie.

The oldest son had vivid memories of a day when the family was cutting wood near that cabin. Dogs were chasing a deer, and in its confusion, the deer ran in the cabin’s open door. Mrs. Valenta slammed that door. Sensing that it was trapped, the animal lunged around the room, trying to escape. It destroyed the cabin’s contents before it was killed.

In 1881, Joseph bought a 100-acre farm from Julius Zulch for $300, payable in five annual installments and financed at 2% interest. The family moved into an old house on the land and began building a new home. With three rooms plus an attic and a root cellar, the new one ultimately had feather beds, handmade quilts, and chairs bottomed with cane or deer hide. A big cast-iron, wood-burning heater provided warmth in the winter.

The family worked together to eke out a living. The three older children married and moved away. The youngest, Joseph Jr. (1875-1949), married and raised five children who all grew up on the old home place. In 1908, he bought his siblings’ share of the farm. His sons had no sons, so the Valenta name disappeared in Madison County. That is, it disappeared except for in Volume 1 of Madison County history, in old records tucked away, and on 14 headstones in Willowhole Cemetery.

I gleaned most of the above information from Volume 1 of our county’s history. Thank God that folks compiled it and Volume 2! What history would you see fit to put in Volume 3?

Madison County Museum is closed now but hopefully that will soon change. The mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. We have a Facebook page by that name that you might enjoy

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