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 Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary :

One saloon for every editor in old Hallettsville

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
Hallettsville, Texas, grew from rugged beginnings and acquired quite a colorful history, but the hard times were eventually subdued because of the perseverance and toughness of its first inhabitants.

The town had it all – things that would make great material for any Hollywood western. There were gunfighters, gritty sheriffs, and shotgun-touting citizens who would defend their families and property against anyone who would dare threaten them.

The first settlers not only had to deal with Indians and gunmen; they also had to overcome the times of droughts and floods to raise the crops and feed their families – they were very hardy individuals, to say the least.
Well-known Lavaca County historian and writer Paul C. Boethel did a magnificent job of recording the history of Hallettsville and the surrounding area. His books chronicle the life of a people who were determined to survive in the land that would eventually become Lavaca County.

By the early 1900s, the town had gained such a reputation that it would eventually be included in the famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not. According to historian Boethel, in his book The Free State of Lavaca, Ripley reported the following: “Hallettsville with its 1300 people in 1913 had thirteen newspapers, thirteen saloons, thirteen churches, and an empty jail.”
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Boethel pointed out that if Ripley had checked a little closer, he would have discovered that the town also had 13 letters in its name; if it was spelled with two ts – however, it wasn’t always spelled that way. It seems that the local newspaper continue to spell the name with only one t until about 1912.

Many people found it hard to believe that a town of 1300 could support 13 newspapers. However Boethel determined that Ripley was correct and he wrote the following: “The five printing shops in the town published one daily, The Daily Booster; three semiweeklies, Novy Domov, Herald and New Era; five weeklies, Nachtrichten, Rebel, Habt Acht, Decentralizer, and Pazor; three semimonthlies, Vestnik, Obzor, and Buditel; and one monthly, Treue Zeuge.

As for the 13 saloons, Boethel said it was hard to verify if that number was correct. He claimed, however, that it was highly probable because there were five on the square and if you counted the ones near town, such as the “Last Chance Saloon,” it was certainly possible. Many of the town folk claimed there was one saloon for each newspaper editor.

Boethel said that the number of churches could be confirmed as he wrote the following, “The thirteen churches can be verified, considering all the sects and denominations, black and white, the Christian Science chapel and the Jewish synagogue housed in the Odd Fellows’ Hall.”

According to the local historian, Ripley should have left out the part about an empty jail. “The jail was counted among the town’s churches, for here confessions were made, reformations accomplished and tithes paid,” wrote Boethel.

© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary August 29 , 2008 Column

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