History

Did you know that Fayetteville...

  • has one of the oldest continuously serving Post Offices in Texas - active since 1850

  • has applied for status as an Historical District

  • was the first stop in the U.S. for arriving Czech immigrants

  • has a 19th century courthouse with jail cells on the second floor

  • is the birthplace of the Baca Band

  • is one of the smallest towns in the world with a working four-faced town clock


Baca Band

Aerial View

Beer Distribution

Chamber of Commerce

Ice Plant

Live Oak on Square

Railroad Depot

Red & White Store
1820s and 1830s: First Settlers

The earliest history of the settlement of Fayette County begins with Stephen F. Austin's father, Moses Austin, who received permission from Spain in 1821 to settle in Texas. Prior to that time, it was the native American Toncahua tribe (west of the Colorado River) and the Lipan tribe (east of the Colorado River) who populated the land, fishing and hunting; Comanche and Keechi tribes made excursions around the region. Before Moses Austin could begin his project, however, he became ill and hence asked his son, Stephen F., to carry out his plans. Mexico won independence from Spain that year and in 1823 the Austin land grant was confirmed by the new Mexican government, even as "Anglo" settlers were already moving into the area. Mexico welcomed having Texas populated in part as way of stabilizing the region. Austin's land grant was quite large and he divided the land among the Old (or Original) Three Hundred as such: farmers received "one labor of land" (177 acres) and ranchers raising stock received "one league" or "sitio" (4428 acres). In the 1820s the inhabitants of the area were mostly these Anglos, or "Texians" as Anglos were called; "Tejanos" were Texans of Hispanic descent.

Several of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred settled in the Fayetteville area including John Crier, Captain James J. Ross and Judge James Cummins. Ross and Cummins lent their names to area sites: Ross Prairie and Cummins Creek. James J. Ross arrived in the Austin colony sometime in late 1822 or early 1823. In December 1823 Austin appointed him captain of the militia of the Colorado district. He received title to one league of land in present-day Colorado County on July 19, 1824 and in 1828 purchased another league and a half of land along the Colorado River in southern Fayette County. He built a house near where Ross Creek empties into the Colorado River. He was killed in 1835 and buried near his homestead on a small hill locally known as Ross Cemetery.

Earliest Days in Fayetteville

A road from Old San Felipe to Bastrop via Fayetteville already existed by 1833 and after the revolution, Fayetteville, with its tavern or stage hotel and mercantile stores, was a stop on that stagecoach road. The Munger family was one of earliest settlers and had a Mercantile Store on the Square in Fayetteville as early as the 1830s. (It is the current "Red & White Store.") Dr. A. P. Manley maintained an office and a stock of medicines.

Other early "Anglo" settlers included Green L. and Reddin R. Andrews, E. E. and James Blackwell, 37 members of the Breeding family, Dr. D. C. Gregory and Umbleton Gregory (the latter had fought in the War of 1812), David Wade and others.

Revolutionary War Figures from Fayetteville

At least nine men from Fayetteville served in the fight for Texas independence. They include Jerome B. Alexander who fought at the Battle of San Jacinto and was killed in the Dawson Massacre, and Andrew Crier, son of John, who was camp guard at Harrisburg. Others who fought at San Jacinto include Fidella S. Breeding, Abraham Hill and his son James Monroe Hill and Christian Gotthelf Wertzner, who may have been the first permanent German settler in Fayette County. William P. Smith served as military surgeon.

Early Schools in Fayetteville

In 1834 the Breeding family established the area's first school a few miles west of  Fayetteville in a log house on their land. Children from the Breeding family, the Burnham family, the Alexander family and others attended. (A historical marker located on Hwy 159 west of Fayetteville marks the place.)

Later, from 1849 to 1858, the Fayetteville Academy taught dozens of local area students. (The school was chartered on November 26, 1850; it was known both as Fayette Academy and Fayetteville Academy.) The school's teachers included Baptist minister P. B. Chandler and then later Methodist minister William P. Smith. A historical marker near the City and Catholic Cemeteries, across the railroad tracks, shows the location of the school.

In 1860, the Fayetteville Male and Female Academy opened as a successor to the Fayetteville Academy with 88 students, some from out-of-town who boarded at the school. Here students attended classes in music as well. The Civil War likely caused the school to close.

German Immigration

By the 1830s, some German immigrants were settling in Fayetteville, one of the first of which was likely Christian Gotthelf Wertzner, who fought in the war for Texas independence. German immigration increased in the 1840s: many German-speaking immigrants were fleeing oppression in the new Austro-Hungarian empire. Among the outstanding early German citizens in Fayetteville are Heinrich Eilers, Joseph F. M. Sarrazin, Henry Kurtz, Charles August Langlotz, William and O. H. Meitzen, Max Meitzen, Sigbert Frank Steves, Hugo W. Zapp and others.

Fayetteville's Prior Names:

Fayetteville had many monikers, names and nicknames in its early years. The settlement was called Wadis Post Office in 1835. In 1837, Jesse H. Cartwright, a sort of early real estate agent, placed an advertisement in the Telegraph and Texas Register selling lots in "Fayetteville," though in early 1838 the town was referred to as "Alexander's voting place" by the Commissioner's Court of Fayette County; Samuel Alexander was Justice of the Peace and Jerome B. Alexander a district clerk. Fayetteville was also known as Lick Skillet (Lickskillet), supposedly for the fact that latecomers to the numerous community festivals who complained that all the food was gone were told to "lick the skillet."

Following the establishment of Fayette County in 1837 by the Congress of the Republic of Texas came the official founding of the community of Fayetteville. Suggestion was likely made that the new town be called "Shaverville" after civic leader Philip J. Shaver. But instead it was named Fayetteville in 1844, for Shaver's birthplace of Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 1847, Shaver systematically surveyed and laid out the streets and blocks. He seems to have bought most of the land still available, donating lots to the Fayetteville Academy, the Union Church and the City Cemetery. Fayetteville was incorporated on March 2, 1882.

Czech Immigration to Fayetteville

In 1853, came the first wave of migrants from Bohemia to the area; Tom Batla is said to be the first permanent Czech resident of Fayetteville. A second wave of immigrants arrived in 1856, many of which were from Moravia as well. Like the German-speaking immigrants, they were fleeing oppression in the new Austro-Hungarian empire. The first Czech-speaking immigrants were largely Protestant and the second group primarily Catholic. Fayetteville is known as the "cradle of Czech immigration to Texas" in that, after the Civil War, most Czech immigrants to the U.S. went to Fayetteville first, helped in part by Frank J. Spacek, who helped them find jobs and housing.

Early Life in Fayetteville.

Dr. William P. Smith describes Fayetteville in 1851 as having two stores (Munger Mercantile), a blacksmith shop, a church, a school (Fayetteville Academy), a Justice of the Peace and a constable. Fayetteville had a post office and a postmaster during the Republic of Texas. In fact, Fayetteville has had continuous postal service since 1850.

During the early years the local economy was based largely on subsistence farming, but during the late 1840s and 1850s a thriving plantation economy emerged. In the early 1850s plantations were producing impressive quantities of corn and shipping tobacco, wool and cotton to outside markets. 

Buildings in Fayetteville from the mid-19th century still standing include: the two-story Red & White Store (corner of W. Main St. and S. Live Oak St.) was built about 1835 by S. S. Munger and is believed to be the oldest commercial building in the area. Munger had his home (112 W. Main St.) built about 1850 with a detached kitchen. In 1847, Henry Steves' home was built at 105 E. Fayette St. Dating to as early as the 1860s is the Compton-Zapp House (corner of N. Washington St. and Market St.) which was occupied by many prominent Fayetteville residents including the Zapp family who lived in the house from 1865 to 1945. Its central hall plan is typical of Texas vernacular homes of the time.

The Sarrazin Mercantile Store (107 N. Washington St.) was built in 1875, the same year as the E. J. Knesek Building (corner of N. Live Oak St. and W. Fayette St.); one of its first owners was Frank J. Spacek, an agent for the newly arrived Czech immigrants. The right part of the building once housed the first town newspaper, Vestnik, printed by the SPJST, then later the Fayetteville Fact newspaper. Also from the 1870s is the Kaderka Building (119 W. Fayette St.). The first occupant was a bakery providing delicious Czech baked goods.

The two-story precinct courthouse was built in 1880, holding its first court on February 17, 1881. The old jail still exists on the second floor, complete with leg irons attached. A calaboose was added in 1887.

Fayetteville in the Late 19th Century

By the 1870s nearly all of the early Anglo settlers had left Fayetteville, and the population of Fayetteville was predominantly Czech and German. Despite a large Czech-Moravian population, there was no Czech-speaking priest until Father Josef Chromcik arrived in the area and celebrated the first Czech Catholic service on December 25, 1872.  Fayetteville's citizens were instrumental in the formation of two of the first Czech insurance and fraternal organizations in the state and in the nation - the KJT (Katolick jednota texask ) and the SPJST (Slovansk podporuj c jednota statu Texas, known in English as the Slavic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas).

Fayetteville was incorporated on March 2, 1882. In October 1887 the Taylor, Bastrop and Houston Railway built a line through the town. 

A fire consumed the east side of the Square in 1893, prompting the installation of a city waterworks and the establishment of a fire department. The Schumacher Bank opened on the east side of the Square in 1900; it eventually merged with another bank to form the Fayetteville Bank.

Fayetteville in the Early 20th Century:

The red, two-story Fayetteville Public School (west Hwy 159 near city limit) was built in 1911: ground was broken on Monday, February 13, 1911 on land purchased from J. R. Kubena and on July 19, 1911, its completion celebrated: all of the businesses closed and the entire town, as well as large crowds from neighboring towns and communities, gathered and processed around the Square and out to the new school building. The opening ceremonies included speeches by the trustees, music by the Baca Band and school children waving flags. Upon the conclusion of the addresses and after a photograph was taken of the assembly, a bountiful supply of BBQ, pickles, bread and cake, and liquid refreshments were served at the Germania School building, down the road. At night, a ball was held which was well attended and greatly enjoyed by everyone.

The Fayetteville Ice Plant and the Power Plant (on E. Main St. near S. Live Oak) were opened in the 20th century. The Power Plant provided electricity for Fayetteville residents for scheduled periods during the day, though in 1920, a petition was signed protesting its air pollution! The Ice Plant continued until the 1960s. The Water Tower (near corner of S. Scott St. and E. Main St.) was built in the 1920s and is one of the best examples of its kind.

The Courthouse Square bandstand gazebo was built in 1932, and the four-faced town clock erected in 1934 by the Fayetteville women's "Do Your Duty" club, in advance of the Texas Centennial. The two granite markers on the west side of the Square commemorate Fayetteville's founders (erected in 1936) and the 1937 sewer project.

Compiled by Katherine Powers. Copyright reserved.

Bibliography:

www.tsha.utexas.edu

Biesele, Rudolph L. The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831-1861. Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; reprint. 1964.

Hewitt, W. Phil. The Czech Texans. San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1983.

Kuykendall, J. H. "Reminiscences of Early Texans." Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 6-7 (January, April, July 1903).

Lotto, Frank. Fayette County: Her History and Her People. Schulenburg, Texas: Sticker Steam Press, 1902; reprint, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Machann, Clinton, and James W. Mendl. Krasna Amerika: A Study of the Texas Czechs, 1851 "1939. Austin: Eakin Press, 1983.

Machann, Clinton, and James W. Mendi, ed. And trans. Czech Voices: Stories from Texas in the Amerikan Narodni Kalendar. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991.

Telegraph and Texas Register, November 6, 1844.

Texas National Register, December 7, 1844.

Travis, William Barret.  Diary. Edited by Robert E. Davis. Waco: Texian, 1966.

Wade, Houston. "Thumbnail History of Fayette County." Frontier Times Magazine 19, no. 5 (February 1942).

Wharton, Clarence R. Texas Under Many Flags. Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1930.

Weyand, Leonie Rummel, and Houston Wade, An Early History of Fayette County. La Grange: La Grange Journal, 1936.