in a Pecan Shell
immigrant Herman Specht married Clara Vogel in Galveston
and invested in land in Wichita
County. Clara was a wealthy widow and the land holdings eventually
exceeded 20,000 acres.
Specht advertised for immigrants already in the US to move to Clara
where he planted a nursery and laid out the town's streets in 1886.
A drought in 1891 wiped out the grain crops and nursery and the Galveston
Storm of 1900 wiped out the couples other investments. The Post
Office closed the following year, but reopened from 1921 to 1925.
The Clara school merged with the one in Burkburnett
and affordable cars took families to work in Wichita
Lutheran Evangelical Church
"Notice the Model T in front of the parsonage. I have no idea
what year this was taken. Maybe early 1930ís. The far building is
the schoolhouse and the next building is the Parsonage and the Church.
I donít remember the yard being this small around the church, but
do remember the fence, which was to climb on and over. The bell in
the bell tower is being used in our church today and weighs over 1000
lbs." - Barbara Van Loh Peterson, March 06, 2006
Today, the Lutheran
Church remains, with few to celebrate its 100th birthday on the year
2000. The rectory is occupied and the cemetery is full of iris.
The cemetery can be reached by the Clara Cemetery Road which is entered
just south of the church driveway on FM 1813 or off of Hwy 240.
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2007
by Barbara Van
Herman Specht did not realize he would help open church doors. These
doors have remained open for 105 years and with the grace of God they
will remain open for another one hundred years.
Mr. Specht left Germany in 1875 to avoid World
War I. He was a man with foresight. He invested his money, purchased
land in Galveston,
Texas and married another Clara Vogel. Mrs. Clara Vogel Specht
had access to more money for Mr. Specht to invest. Thus the Spechtís
began acquiring land in the northern part of Wichita
County. Their land holdings grew to approximately 21,000 acres.
Col. Specht envisioned a town and he wanted this town named after
the love of his life, Clara. Township was established on April 24,
Letters were sent to newspapers (many of them printed in German) in
Missouri, Minnesota and elsewhere for stable and capable German Lutheran
families to come and settle in the town of Clara. My Grandfather,
Charles (Karl) Van Loh (vonLoh) was living in Minnesota at this time
and read this news there. He and his brothers, Walter, Fredrick and
he came to Clara to start a new life. My Grandfather told us he and
his brothers had been beaten up several times when they went to town
in Watseka, Minnesota for being German and at this time it was decided
to change their names to try to reflect they were from Holland and
not Germany. Thus von Loh was changed to Van Loh and my grandfatherís
name changed from Karl to Charles. I do not know what his brotherís
names were prior to being Walter and Fred, but I do know there were
two sisters left in Minnesota and they came to visit when I was a
small girl. I remember they were here on January 1, and the year had
to have been in the Ď40ís, probably in the middle Ď40ís as I was not
yet in school and my younger brothers had not been born at this time.
There were only three of us, my oldest brother Richard James, and
my younger sister Martha Ann and me, Barbara Janelle.
My grandfather came to Clara along with his brothers and was allowed
to homestead land on which to start new lives. My grandfather, after
he had settled and had a house decided he needed a wife and his brother
Walter told him of a young woman who had come from Germany to Missouri
right after he had settled and started farming. This young woman was
to be my grandmother, Martha (Marta Katharina Mueller) Katharine Muller.
They were married for over 50 years before she was taken to live with
God in 1957. They had nine children, my father Victor Henry William
Van Loh, Harold, Mildred Van Loh Counter, Nelda Van Loh Logan, Loretta
Van Loh May, Viola (middle name unknown to me) who was hit by an automobile
in downtown Wichita
Falls, Texas when she was 13 years old and killed instantly, Helen
Van Loh Tollette, Raymond Van Loh and the baby who is the only remaining
sibling, Irene Van Loh Siegley.
The Clara Township grew rapidly as the German families began to arrive.
Among the earliest arrivals was the Ernest E. Goetz family. Goetze
was born in Germany, grew to manhood there and was called to defend
his native country in the two wars mentioned earlier. Determined to
leave the strife torn country, he cast his lot with America and landed
in Texas with his family in 1884. They stopped in Sherman
and came to Wichita
County a year later, where he bought a half section of raw prairie
land and built his home. He later purchased enough land to give each
of his children a farm. His two daughters, Lena and Frieda, who I
knew from the moment I was a small girl remained at home with their
father until his death in 1936. He was a faithful member of Trinity
Lutheran Church and present at practically all services during the
active period of his life.
All young people who belonged to Trinity Lutheran Church belonged
to the young peopleís society, the Walther League. We collected money
for Christmas sacks to be passed out the younger children after the
Christmas Eve church services every year as well as going Christmas
caroling. This was always a special night and we would always save
the Goetze girlís house until the last stop knowing they would have
every kind of candy, cake and cookies with hot chocolate ready for
us to enjoy and that we did. We were the first habitat for humanity,
as we would go to the older peopleís houses and paint their houses;
repair tears in screens and whatever needed doing. This way, we were
always given money at Christmas with which we purchased apples, oranges,
bags of nuts and candy to fill each bag with. If you every to Clara,
there is a basketball, volley ball court in the back of the church
in which my brother Richard and I participated in building.
I hope you enjoy reading this most from my memory and some from the
history of the Clara taken from the history book at Clara.
- Barbara Van Loh Peterson, October 14, 2005
By Ray Johnston and Edith Johnston-Hall.
They grew up in Clara.
Clara Schoolhouse & Church
My Dad went to school in Clara and was one of the students along
with his brother Harold and sister Mildred who were transferred
from the school in Clara when the consolidation with Burk was done.
I can remember my brother and I going to the grocery store just
to the East of where the church now sits, and how it looked. Eventually,
the store was torn down with the help of my Dad, as it was falling
down and us kids would not stay out of there, and I went to Sunday
School in the school house and can remember it well. I also attended
Sunday services in the old church and remember when they actually
got electricity. We kept the old pump organ for a very long time,
you could never estimate when the electricity would go off, and
finally sold it to someone when the new church was built, which
my Dad helped build. My husband and I still attend services there
I remember on Christmas Eve service, while still in the old church,
the electricity went off and there were still oil lanterns along
the walls of the church, so they were lit and even the candles on
the tree were lit, probably not a good idea, but it was forever
stored in my most treasured memories of my years growing up. I can
picture that evening still today.
We still use the originally baptismal bowl that was used in the
old church and is over 100 years old.
I will add memories as I can remember them and send them to you.
I have a picture of a class of students including my Dad, his brother
Harold and my Aunt Mildred taken beside the old school house. It
was taken when my Dad was six and Harold was five and Mildred could
have only been four years old. There is a lot of history at the
church and it is very pleasant to go through it and remember some
of the people I knew and who are buried in the Clara Cemetery.
I hope this information is helpful. It is a pleasure to share this
with someone. - Barbara Van Loh Peterson, Wichita Falls, Texas,
August 08, 2005
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