Moving up the road from “South Zulch”

Posted 1/14/20

Most readers here should be familiar with North Zulch, which I usually hear and say as “Nor’ Zulch.” In research, I recently saw mention of “South Zulch” and I feel that needs explanation.

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Moving up the road from “South Zulch”

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Most readers here should be familiar with North Zulch, which I usually hear and say as “Nor’ Zulch.” In research, I recently saw mention of “South Zulch” and I feel that needs explanation.

Madison County was organized in 1854 by taking land from Grimes, Walker, and Leon Counties. The Texas State Historical Association purports that before that, in the late 1830s, the Robert Moseley or Mosley family established a homestead 11 miles southwest of what is now Madisonville, in what was then northern Grimes County. It may have been in the 1840s, as the Robert Moseley (1827-1884) for whom I located a grave in Bethel Cemetery was born in Alabama where his parents are both buried. I can’t imagine him settling much anywhere until he was at least 13.

Early visitors and then settlers there enjoyed a spring-fed water hole surrounded by willow trees, and that place soon became known as Willow Hole. About 1850 a young German immigrant named Julius Zulch (1832-1900) built a log home and later, a general store near that watering hole. A post office established there in 1859 was officially known as Willowhole, TX, sometimes written as Willow Hole.

During the Civil War, Zulch was a wagoner, and afterwards, he acquired an interest in stock raising and farming. He acquired a great deal of real estate, purchasing some for fifty cents an acre. He saw that the future of his community lay in bringing emigrants to clear and farm the land he had bought. He advertised in his homeland, Germany, detailing the advantages of Madison County for farmers, and he arranged passage money through a Galveston bank. From 1880 to 1882, the population of the area increased rapidly, since a number of German immigrants took advantage of his offer and took up residence in the area. They lived as tenants until they could purchase property. By 1890, the population of Willowhole was estimated as 500. In 1906, the post office was renamed Zulch.

The year 1906 heralded another important change. That year the Texas Central Railroad built its Navasota-Mexia Branch through western Madison County, but the route bypassed the town of Zulch to the west. By 1907, when the same railroad built its Iola-Normangee spur along the same right-of-way parallel to the other tracks, most residents and businesses had already begun moving northward from Zulch two miles to rail lines, where the town of North Zulch sprang up and prospered. The original Zulch declined rapidly, and by 1920 its post office was discontinued. As late as 1935, there was a school at Zulch, but it soon consolidated with North Zulch and Madisonville districts. By the 1960s, only the Willowhole Church and Cemetery on Farm Road 1372 remained to mark the former townsite of Zulch.

Faye Blount Andrews (1917-2018) was born in North Zulch to O. A. Dolphus Blount and Emma Rasco Blount. She and Forrest Andrews (1917-1965) were close friends by sixth grade. After high school, he was employed on a pipeline construction job, and he and Faye soon married. Soon he went to welding school, and that training got him better pipeline jobs. The couple traveled a lot, and that continued when he remained stateside in the military in World War II. After that, he returned to oilfield construction. North Zulch was always home, and they bought a house there but spent lots of time on the road.

When Forrest suddenly died just days shy of his 48th birthday, Faye’s life changed overnight. She outlived him 53 years.

Mrs. Andrews didn’t idle. In 1967, she entered Sam Houston State University as a freshman and graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She then did graduate studies, first at Texas A&M University and then at the University of Texas in Austin. Next, she built a home in Normangee and stayed busy with Church of Christ activities.

Mrs. Andrews was capable and vivacious, and she liked to get things done. Recently in the museum here, I found a piece she composed, “Historical Reminiscence”, consisting of 17 pages plus photos, all about her youth. Some of my favorite portions are included below. I feel it is better reading left in first person, but please remember that the stories and details are hers.

Thinking about the North Zulch of my childhood, I think about playhouses. My younger sister, Burma, and I entertained ourselves for hours. We would sweep an outdoor area clean and imagine it as rooms in a house, furnishing it with discarded items from our household. We cut paper dolls from mail order catalogs. Using scrap material from Mother’s sewing basket, we made mattresses for our doll beds, sewing the pieces together in filling them with hay.

We often played in the two-story barn behind our house. For snacks, we picked peanuts from the peanut hay that had been purchased to feed the cows and horses. We played hopscotch and croquet. We built and walked on stilts which were called “Tom-Walkers”. We swam in the reservoirs, both in South Zulch and North Zulch. The railroads had built those reservoirs to furnish water for the train’s steam engines. After summer rains, we waded in the branches behind our home.

While we played, we watched for hickory nuts, huckleberries, and black haws. We picked out the “meat” of hickory nuts, and Mother used it to make delicious muffins or cakes. We gathered mustang grapes which Mother used to make jelly and jam.

Sometimes we crayfished in the stock tanks. After catching crayfish, we gathered bricks on which to put sticks and build a fire. We then got a skillet and lard from the house and fried and ate the crayfish tails.

I remember hearing stories from Grandmother Rasco and my dad. She regaled us with stories of her trip to Texas from Illinois, and those included Indian stories. One story I remember from Dad was about a mountain lion having jumped onto a horse Dad was riding.

In my youth (which would have been 1920s-1930s), North Zulch had many businesses. We had four doctors, Dr. Barlow, Dr. Burney, Dr. Williams, and Dr. Zulch. We had Guaranty Bond State Bank, and Simpson’s Dry Goods, which sold sewing needs. There was McLeod’s Grocery, Frank Bell’s Grocery, and of course the post office. Tom May had a furniture store, and he also sold caskets. Taylor Mercantile was a two-story building, with groceries in back of the first floor, fabric and sewing supplies up front, and furniture for sale upstairs. There was a blacksmith shop, and Mr. Hibbetts had a tin shop where he made water cisterns which all families had back then. Mitt Andrews had a meat market and at one time a café. Crit Davis sold men’s clothing, and Jack and Sally Zulch had an ice cream parlor. There was a tailor shop where one could order a suit, custom-made to fit measurements taken. Lee Ford sold lumber and there was a café that had chili on the menu. Otto Bethke had a car dealership. There was a barber shop where not only my dad and bothers had their hair cut, but girls also had haircuts there too. There was a local hotel owned by the Wolf family, and a telephone office. George Ellis had a Red & White Store, where groceries and a meat market were located.

I especially liked Stell’s Drug Store, which I especially remember for the Valentine cards. We thought Mr. Stell was special because he was blind. We respected him because he was able to walk from his home to the Drug Store without any help. The Drug Store also sold ice cream. I always admired the big mirror and stand located behind the ice cream containers. I liked that area, because we could buy an ice cream cone for five cents.

Trains have always been a big part of life in North Zulch. My brother Alex was part of the crowd that met the train. That was a big event, to go to the Depot and meet the train when it arrived. That same group always went kodaking (taking photographs). I especially remember pictures made at the round house, or what was to be the turning point for the train. It was never completed, but the remnants are still there. (someone tell Laura Cannon if this is so!) Trains were a big part of our lives. Not only was that how freight and mail were delivered, trains served as transportation for the community to places like Houston, Dallas, and other points. The Depot was large, with a bulletin board giving arrival and departure times. There was also a telegraph, from which to send telegrams, and a large area where freight was placed. Mr. Cantey moved lots of the freight to businesses in his dray wagons. He also delivered mail from the Depot to the Post Office.

Now I’m back in my author’s voice. I hope you too enjoyed reading the words of Mrs. Faye Blount Andrews. Maybe they will inspire some of you to write memories.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison Street, is usually open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Right now, we have some lovely quilts on display. For the time being, there is no curator, but hopefully that will change before another Musings is published. You may wish to support the Museum by giving your time as a volunteer or with a monetary donation (P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864).

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