Old Lady On The Square"
by Murray Montgomery
the Christmas season, when it sparkles with decorative lights, you
can see the old structure for miles; a shining beacon from the past
and yet the splendid old courthouse is still serving the people of
over 100 years the folks living in Hallettsville
and the surrounding area have long been accustomed to seeing the dominant
old building on the square. And it's hard to imagine how it must have
looked when it was brand new, but when you think about it, the unique
stone structure hasn't changed much at all.
Thanks to an old newspaper from July of 1899, we can turn back the
hands of time and get a glimpse of how the citizens of Lavaca County
celebrated their brand new courthouse and from the information gathered;
they had one heck of a party, with many people arriving in town on
an "excursion train."
July 6, 1899, issue of the Hallettsville Herald described the
event which coincided with the town's Fourth of July festivities.
According to the aged article, the weather was beautiful and an estimated
5,000 people attended the dedication of what was billed as "the finest
courthouse in South Texas."
Evidently the plumbing of the building was very impressive and the
newspaper paid tribute to Col. W.W. Otter, the Houston plumber who
was responsible for the work. The Herald put it this way: "The
many beautiful wash basins, the very artistic fittings, the convenient
closets and lavatories, the pretty bath rooms with their artistic
fittings and convenient equipments, large bath tubs, marble basins
of the county's temple are a lasting monument to the biggest hearted
man in Texas."
There was a lot of music on that special day as bands came to town
from all around the area to participate. Yoakum sent its Crackerjack
Band and according to the paper, "The Yoakum boys were not expected
and gave us a very agreeable surprise. The members are a jolly set,
with J.N. Fagg as their leader, all those boys need is a nice lot
The Meyersville Brass Band was part of the celebration and a man named
Jutz was their leader. Golden Star Band of Appelt's Hill, lead by
Joseph Appelt, was also there and were wearing their "pretty uniforms."
Other bands came from Yorktown,
Meyersville, and Moulton
to compete against one another. At the end of the contest, the judges
declared the Yorktown Band as the winner and its members took home
the grand prize of $25.
According to the Herald: "The crowning event of the day was
the grand ensemble selection, the 'Darktown Jubilee,' played by the
seven bands at the close of the contest. An old soldier in the audience
wiped tears from his eyes and said: 'That's enough for me. I am going
home. I have never heard such music since the war closed.'"
In addition to the band competition, fire departments from around
the area also held a contest. Units from Cuero,
, and Yoakum went against the Hallettsville Fire Department to see
who could race around a block, connect to a hydrant, put on a nozzle,
and get water. Cuero was the winner at 21 seconds and Shiner was a
close second at 22. The paper reported, "Shiner was marked off a second
and a half on a leak; otherwise they would have won."
Yes, it must have been quite a celebration. According to the paper
there was so much to be said about the courthouse and the celebration
that it couldn't all be done in one issue. They summed it up this
way: "It was grand, it was complete, it was perfect."
The next time you take a look at the courthouse try to visualize that
gorgeous day on the Fourth of July, 1899; 107 years ago when over
5,000 people gathered to celebrate their new courthouse - today we
can still enjoy the beauty of that unique structure that I like to
think of as "the grand old lady on the square."
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October 18, 2006 Column