This is the stage on which important bits of my mother’s family’s history played out in the late 1800’s. It’s not a lot of land. On the left was the property belonging to the Schieges where a large farm house, a smaller farm house, a cigar factory and its attendant buildings stand.
In the distance on the right is the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. It and the manse (pictured at left) were both built in 1866. The manse would have been on the right in the foreground if it were still standing. It was a 2-1/2 story house that not only housed Pastor Neuthard and his wife and (eventually) 6 children, but also some 20 children boarding at Neuthard’s school.
Neuthard’s wife, Emma Rummel Neuthard was the granddaughter of Carl Siegismund Bauer, a stonemason by trade. (He supervised the building of the manse and the church) In 1848, Bauer, four of his nine children including his daughter Carolina and son-in-law Carl William Rummel and their (then) four children (including 6 year old Emma and her baby sister Minna), emigrated from their native Saxony to Texas and settled near Spring Branch, joining his second son August, who had emigrated the year before. Ten months after their arrival, Bauer’s wife of 37 years, Christiana Malzer Bauer succumbed to malaria and died. Emma’s baby sister Mina also died that year, aged two.
Bauer’s son Carl Ehrgott and his daughter Wilhemina both married and moved inland to Round Top. In 1851, Bauer turned his Spring Branch property over to his son August and joined them. In 1852, Bauer built this house (at left) in Round Top for his daughter Wilhelmina and son-in-law Conrad Schueddemagen where he lived with them until his death. Emma’s father, Carl William Rummel later sold his property in Spring Branch and also settled in Round Top, opening a gin. Unhappily, August Bauer and his wife, who remained in Spring Branch, both died leaving orphaned children, two of whom, Ottilie and John, lived at the manse with their first cousin, Emma Rummel Neuthard (in addition to the Neuthards, their children and the 20 boarding school boys!). The Schueddemagen house is only about a 5 minutes’ walk from the church.
On the corner of the block which contains Schiege’s property (grey building in the picture below), sits the stone building Johann Traugott Wandke built in 1863 for himself and his wife, and to use as his workshop. Wandke, his wife Christiane and two daughters immigrated from Prussia in 1855, and came to Round Top in 1860. He was a machinist and cabinet maker, as well as an organ builder. Wandke’s daughter Karoline married Zoellistin Pochmann, in 1857, who bought this corner lot in 1860. Pochmann died in 1862 of snake bite at the age of 26, leaving a 16-month-old son.
Some of the historic houses in Round Top sit where they were built. Others have been moved in from elsewhere and resited around the town square. As I have mentioned, the weather was not cooperative, and it rained off and on all day, and what pictures I have of the rest of the town were taken from the car window. I can’t identify them or tell you who built them and when, but I offer a selection of them below to give you a feel for this picturesque little farming community. The roads are paved, and the houses now have lights and telephones, but other than that, it’s still a lot like it was 150 years ago when my family’s history was playing out across it.
Round Top is built at the edge of a valley, nestled in the Texas Hill Country about 40 miles southwest of Brenham. It’s beautiful land, rich and fertile. Many of the huge live oak trees that dot the area are at least 150 years old and many are older. They have shaded five generations of my mother’s family, including, albeit only briefly, me.
I took this little video the morning we left to return home. Genuine Texas accent included at no extra charge.