Stained Glass

By Robert Proctor
The Cuero Record

A piece of Cuero’s history has been returned to its original home. A stained glass window, dedicated to C.A. Sumners, Sr. at the Knights of Pythias Hall, now the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum (CTHM), will be rededicated April 18.

“We don’t know exactly the date it was installed,” Sumner’s grandson Charlie Sumners stated. “We’re working on trying to find that information. The University of North Texas is researching it for me.”

C.A. Sumners lived a relatively short but meaningful life, serving as Cuero mayor, DeWitt County Judge and superintendent of DeWitt County Schools to name a few. He served as county judge from 1896-1908, passing away in office on April 2, 1908 at 42 years of age.

In September of 1908, there was initial discussion of putting something together in remembrance of Sumners.

“This leads me to believe that they were still raising money at the end of 1908, and this was done at the beginning of 1909,” Charlie said. “What intrigues me particularly about this is that before coming to Cuero I didn’t really know much about my grandfather. To me, this event is not just about the window, but it’s about celebrating a life of a politician who was universally loved. He was a politician, but he was more than that apparently.”

Judge Rudolph Cleburne followed Sumners as county judge and delivered a glowing address at the initial window dedication in 1909.

“The flowery language used by Judge Cleburne in his address at the original window dedication is gone,” Charlie noted. “No one talks that way anymore.”

The window re-dedication will provide an opportunity to come and learn more about this man but also more about early Cuero.

As a member of the Knights of Pythias, C.A. Sumners helped to start a widows and orphans home in Weatherford. He was one of three members of the sight selection committee.

Moving ahead over 50 years, the Knights of Pythias local charter was revoked. When that happened, Art Means was allowed to come in and buy a few things.

“I talked to Mr. Means about the window before he passed away,” CTHM chairman Robert Oliver recalled. “He built that window into his house. I first saw it a couple decades ago.”

Mr. Means passed away about 10 years ago. His son, Art Means, Jr., was left the window. Cindy Means, Art Jr.’s wife, contacted Oliver to see if they had any interest, but Art Jr. did not want to sell it at the time.

“I called her up about a year ago,” Oliver said. “That’s when we brought it up in front of the board to see if the board members would like to contribute to bringing the window back. Everyone was very much in favor of that.”

Chip Dence with East End Lumber restored it and reinstalled it.

“We could tell from historic photographs which one of the arch windows that it went in,” Oliver said.

Charlie never personally knew his grandfather, but since moving to Cuero he’s learned a lot about him.

“It means a great deal, because I know that my grandfather was instrumental in getting the building built,” Charlie stated. “As far as I know, it’s the only stained glass window that they had in the building. Coming back to Cuero and discovering some things about my grandfather, because he died when my father was five-years-old. This is the only thing in Cuero with his name on it. Some people will see it and say, ‘Who was this guy?’ Maybe we can explore a little bit. I think that would be cool.”

During the past century, many historic homes and building have been lost, so Oliver is thankful when a piece of history is saved.

“After World War II, everybody wanted things new,” Oliver said. “There was a lot of demolition of historic buildings. To have this window, we were fortunate enough that a local man bought it and kept it so that when the time came, his family would offer us the opportunity for the window to be repurchased and go back into its original spot.”

Re-dedication of the beautiful C.A. Sumners, Sr. stained glass window at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum is scheduled for Tuesday, April 18 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.