A Treasure of Cuero History Returns Home - April 19, 2017
150th Anniversary of the Chisholm Trail at Capitol - April 19, 2017
Knights of Pythias Hall, Cuero, Texas c 1903. In 1908, a stained-glass window in the memory of Judge Sumners was placed third from left of the front of the building’s second story.
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 Robert Kleberg followed Sumners as county judge and delivered a glowing address at the initial window dedication in 1909.
“The flowery language used by Judge Kleberg 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Moving ahead over 50 years, the Knights of Pythias local charter was revoked.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.
Texas Historical Commission Announces Top Award For Cuero Museum - September 8, 2015
By Robert Proctor
The Cuero Record
Before the oil boom in Texas, cattle was king of the state. The Chisholm Trail was the most notable cattle driving route of the late 1800s, and DeWitt County was on that route. Cuero’s Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum (CTHM) was honored at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Chisholm Trail on Monday, March 27 at the Texas State Capitol.
Those attending the event were Jean and Charles Nagel, Joe Adams, Ted Aven, Candy and Dan Glidden, Patricia and Judd Miller, Roy Johnson, Robert Oliver, Sue Sulsar and Sharon Weber.
A resolution was made from the Texas senate floor, and it named the museum in Cuero. They also honored museum chairman Robert Oliver.
Oliver, the Chairman of the museum said, “It was quite an honor for Mark Wolfe, President of the Texas Historical Commission to include CTHM in the 150th Anniversary Celebration on the grounds of the State Capitol.”
Museum Executive Director Sharon Weber stated, “The 150th Anniversary in Austin was a great day for CTHM and Cuero. It was such an experience with trail bosses Ted and Charles leading the way and being able to share the story of the chuck wagon, the longhorn, the cowboy and the great Chisholm Trail cattle drives.”
Jean and Charles Nagel took their chuck wagon to the ceremony and shared its place in Texas history.
“It was a tremendous honor,” Jean said. “They put us in the most prominent place right there on the Texas star. I’m sure they’ve not had one [a chuck wagon] on the Capitol grounds before, and they probably won’t have one again. It was one of the greatest honors that we have had.”
Before they were even able to get the chuck wagon off the trailer, the Nagels were receiving questions.
“You never know what they might be interested in,” Jean said. “When they [trail drivers] stopped at night, the cook would always point the tongue of the wagon to the North Star, so he would know how to start out the next day.”
People from nine different countries went by to see the chuck wagon.
“Just the fact that the Chisholm Trail Museum was asked to come and participate in the 150th celebration was an honor,” Jean stated. “Charles and I feel like the publicity that the museum got from us being there was tremendous. That’s what we were proudest of is that we could represent them.”
The Nagels have taken their chuck wagon to the Fort Worth Brahman Association, Cowboy Camp, Taste of the Trail and Turkeyfest, but this one was the most down to earth.
“The people that were there came to see the Texas Capitol, so naturally they were interested in Texas history,” Jean recalled.
The economic impact that the chuck wagon and Chisholm Trail had on Texas sticks out to the Nagels.
“The history of the chuck wagon and the Chisholm Trail is just so interesting and so much a part of Texas history that the only way Texas ever recovered from the Civil War was when they drove the longhorns up to the railhead in Kansas, so they could sell their beef in the north,” Jean said. “It was the only way Texas was economically built back up, and it only lasted 20 years.”
“The fact that we happen to have a chuck wagon that could represent the museum which could also represent one of the very first trail drives that happened right here in Cuero, the whole historical package was so meaningful to us,” Jean concluded.
National Trust Awards Planning Grant To The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum - December 15, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CUERO, TEXAS – Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of the Texas Historical Commission, announced this week that the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in Cuero is the 2014 recipient of the John L. Nau, III Award of Excellence in Museums. The Nau Award recognizes an individual or institution in the museum field for significant achievement in the areas of historical interpretation, museum education, conservation of collections, and/or community involvement.
Commenting on the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum’s recent achievement and commitment to excellence by its chairman and board of directors, Wolfe remarked, “as chair of the CTHM, this award recognizes your steadfast dedication and the efforts of so many others to open this exceptional facility in Cuero, Texas.” After a decade of historic preservation planning and action, property development, exhibit design and installation, CTHM opened to the general public on Saturday, November 23, 2013. Since that time, countless visitors from Cuero and the surrounding region, the state of Texas and many other states have made the trip to Cuero to view what many guests have called a first-class museum experience.
Wolfe added, “the interactive exhibits, curation of the world-class Tinker Collection, and the community and youth outreach efforts of CTHM made the museum an ideal candidate for recognition.” Robert Oliver, chairman of CTHM expressed gratitude to the Texas Historical Commission for their stewardship and professional guidance regarding the restoration of Cuero’s Knights of Pythias Hall, which Oliver recognizes as a cornerstone achievement of the organization. “Restoration architects, David Hoffman and Lewis Fisher were integral to the ultimate successful rehabilitation of the turn-of-the-century fraternal hall on Cuero’s main thoroughfare.”
Along with the award certificate, the Nau Award of Excellence in Museums also includes a stipend of $1,000 which will go to the CTHM to continue its interpretation, curation, and outreach efforts. This award comes at the heels of the Museum’s fifth year of hosting Cowboy Camp for local and area youth. Children learn several western crafts and activities, such as roping, leather tooling, horse etiquette, and chuck wagon cooking during a one-week period in August.
Recently, the Museum saved Cuero’s first school from demolition by the City of Cuero by moving the wooden structure on property behind the Museum’s historic building. Once restored, the former English-German School will again be used for education purposes. Oliver concluded, “the work of Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum has no end in sight. We intend to continue our mission to preserve the ranching and western heritage of South Central Texas through interpretive exhibits, research, and educational programs.”
The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum has received several other state-wide awards in the past several months, including the Texas Association of Museum’s most highly coveted award, The President’s Award, in 2014. The Texas Downtown Association awarded the Museum its 2013 Best Renovation / Rehabilitation Award, followed by its People’s Choice Award for Best Renovation of a Historic Structure at its annual conference in Bastrop.
CTHM Acquires, Relocates Historic English-German School - September 5, 2014
Cuero’s historic first school, the English-German school (c. 1877), was saved from a scheduled demolition by the City of Cuero and moved to the Museum grounds in September 2014. The building will be restored and preserved with grant funds and used for Museum functions.
CUERO, TEXAS (December 15, 2014) — The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum is proud to announce the award of a $4,800 planning grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation from the Fondren Preservation Fund. Resources from this grant — generously matched by a private charitable foundation — will be used to prepare the future restoration plans and adapted use for the Registered Texas Historic Landmark, English-German School, saved from demolition earlier this year by the Museum.
“Organizations like the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, help to ensure that communities and towns all across America retain their unique sense of place,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are honored to provide a grant to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, which will use the funds to help preserve an important piece of our shared national heritage.”
Cuero’s historic English-German School (ca. 1877) was gifted to the CTHM by Mr. Richard Mundt of Victoria, the great-grandson of Professor O.E.H. Mundt, who came from Germany in the late 19th-Century to teach English to German immigrants who settled in Cuero. Slated for demolition by the City of Cuero, several CTHM board members teamed together to provide the necessary funding to move the school onto museum property. Cory Boemer, CTHM executive director remarked, “Just as the schoolhouse provided that all-important place for learning, preservation planning grants are essential to determining the sustainable use of an historic structure. A special committee of the Museum’s board members will collaborate with Lewis Fisher—noted restoration architect of San Antonio—to create a roadmap for rehabilitating the school, while establishing a plan for its long-term adaptive use.”
Grants from the National Trust Preservation Funds range from $2,500 to $5,000 and have provided over $15 million since 2003. These matching grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the county to support a wide-range of activities, including consultant services for rehabilitating buildings, technical assistance for tourism that promotes historic resources and the development of materials for education and outreach campaigns.
Inspired leadership, vision and perseverance on the part of the English-German School’s CTHM preservation committee will surely produce yet another local treasure, preserving and portraying a significant piece of Texas’ history. The planning process is scheduled to commence early 2015.
Cuero’s first schoolhouse saved from demolition, Museum developing master plan for building re-purpose.
There’s an expression that applies to daunting, complicated, and long-term projects, which goes something like this, “How do you eat an elephant?” The next phrase that you’ll probably hear is, “One bite at a time!”This certainly applies to saving historic structures, whether one lives in a city full of historic homes and buildings or a small community where historic structures are disappearing at an alarming rate.
The board of directors of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum (CTHM) has been working for over a year trying to save Cuero’s historic (c. 1880) English-German School. Condemned by the City of Cuero and slated for demolition, the Museum’s board expressed concern about the demise of Cuero’s first school and chose to do something about it. Contact was made with the owner, Mr. Richard Mundt of Victoria, who generously offered to gift the structure to the CTHM should funding be secured to move the structure from its former location at the corner of S. Gonzales and Newman Streets. Several board members offered to fund the move and on Thursday, September 4, 2014, Cuero’s English-German School once again made local history.
According to the information that was submitted in the State Marker Committee application In 1965 by Mrs. A.W. Schaffner, Chairman of the DeWitt County Historical Committee, and information from Mr. Frank Sheppard, whose grandmother, Mrs. J.L. Sheppard attended the school, “the English-German School Association was incorporated on March 28, 1877 with its original association members being E. Mugge, H. Buschick, Charles Kleinecke and William Frobese.” Stock certificates were issued at $5.00 per share by the Association in 1877 for the purpose of financing Cuero’s first school — and becoming one of its finest.
On May 22, 1877, the Cuero Land & Immigration Company conveyed this property to the English-German School Association. The Association executed a mortgage on the property on September 10, 1880, (some 134 years ago), where many early residents of Cuero received their education, including instruction in English, German and Latin.
Professor O.E. Mundt, great-grandfather of Mr. Richard Mundt who graciously gifted the structure to CTHM, taught German in summer school, while also teaching in Yorktown and Victoria and serving as principal of the Hawthorne School in Houston. Shortly after the turn of the last century, Mr. Robert Mernitz and family acquired the structure, which had been converted into a residence consisting of eight rooms, including a long screen porch along the rear of the building. In 1965, the structure was still being used as a residence by Robert Mernitz’s widow and her daughter, Mrs. R.E. Mundt.
A master plan for future use by the Museum is currently being developed, while funding requests will be solicited from regional foundations, corporations, and state and federal agencies that support education and historic preservation projects. Lindy Gohmert, CTHM spokesperson and board member who organized the monumental move remarked, “it’s important that today’s youth understand the underpinning of a community’s past, whether that history is told through architecture, educational opportunities in times gone by or by the individuals who have made our community what it is today.” She added, “Without the expert talent of Mr. Anthony Fowler and his moving crew, I’m not certain if this would have been possible. The Fowlers have been moving structures since 1929, which allowed the move of the English-German School to proceed without a hitch.“
“A very special word of thanks also goes out to the City of Cuero and the Cuero Police Department, which contributed an invaluable service to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum and the community as a whole by supervising this historical event.”