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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Priddy Good Sandwiches

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Being a Baptist preacher and former Texas Ranger, Thomas Jefferson Priddy brooked little foolishness.

In 1858, serving under Lt. John Williams, he and 13 other Rangers and volunteers trailed a party of Comanches who had massacred four members of the Mose Jackson family and stolen two of their surviving children all the way from Mills County to near what is now Sweetwater. Priddy and the others recovered the missing youngsters.

Years later, he must have felt honored to have a town named after him, but chances are he would not have approved of anyone having verbal sport with his last name, as in "Lookit that priddy lady."

Even so, the word "Priddy" begs to be played with worse than a spotted pup, as in "Aside from learning some interesting history, you can get a priddy good sandwich in Priddy." But that's jumping priddy far ahead of the story.

As a minister, the Rev. Priddy tried to keep his flock mindful of where the Good Book said sinners ended up. As a hard-riding Ranger, he had no qualms about shooting the hell out of those proving themselves beyond redemption.

Born on July 29, 1833 in Mississippi, Priddy and his family eventually settled in Brown County. In 1886, the Priddys moved to northeastern Mills County, which had been cut from Brown County. Soon a little community grew near their farm. When it came time to petition Washington for a post office, the new town adopted his name and on March 31, 1891, the federal government approved Priddy as Priddy's first postmaster.

Four years later, the Priddy Post Office was discontinued, with its records moved to Indian Gap in Hamilton County. In 1899, the government re-established the Priddy post office and it's been in service ever since.

Priddy never boomed, but it's held its own over the years. It reached its peak population in 1980, stayed the same in 1990, and dropped slightly in 2000. For years it had a school, cotton gin, general store and a bank. Today Priddy's down to a school, a feed store, an auto shop and a general store.

The store opened for business in 1900. It's had several owners, but much of the time the folks in and around Priddy knew it as the Stegemoller Store.

Roy Stegemoller, like most of Priddy's predominantly German population, came to Mills County for the black soil. Most folks made their living raising cotton, but Stegemoller made his in providing the community with groceries, notions and hardware. During the Depression, he extended credit to his customers.

Rev. Priddy never lived to see those hard times. He died on Oct. 13, 1925 and is buried in the cemetery south of town that bears his name. Of 82 graves, 22 are the final resting place of someone with the last name of Priddy.

Meanwhile, Jean and Walton Hohertz bought the Stegemoller store form Jerry Seider, a kinsman of Stegemoller, in 1980. Being the new owners, they changed the name to Hohertz General Store and Deli.

Her husband died in 1998, but she has kept the store running.

"I get here at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday and close at 7," she said. "We're open from 11 to 5 on Sundays."

Early on, she and her husband converted the store's old egg vault, a screened-in area with a beaded ceiling, into a walk-in freezer. As Mrs. Hohertz explained, the descendants of the original German settlers have retained their taste for beverages made from brewed hops.

"We have the coldest beer anywhere," she said, pointing to the well-supplied vault.

Though the Hohertz' had a new vault, they kept the same old Coke machine that had been in the store for decades along with a vintage ice cream box. And until two years ago, when the shipping charges finally got too high to allow for a profit, the store sold pickled herring.

"We got it from Chicago in wooden barrels," Mrs. Hohertz said. "The fish were about 12 inches long. People took them home, washed off the salt and fixed 'em with onions, cream cheese, vinegar and sugar.

Born and raised in Mills County, until she started school, Mrs. Hohertz spoke only German. She picked up English in the classroom and went on to graduate from Priddy High School in 1950.

In addition to selling local residents the basic items they don't want to have to go to Brownwood, Goldthwaite or Comanche to buy, she cooks.

She makes breakfasts in the morning and then cooks lunch. Wednesday is chicken fried steak day, with catfish on Friday. Mrs. Hohertz also makes sandwiches, including what may be the best ham and cheese sandwich to be found the Lone Star State. To say the least, it is a priddy good sandwich.

Here's the recipe, with a caution that even by using all the ingredients Mrs. Hohertz does, the sandwich won't be nearly as good the ones she makes:

Spread real Mayonnaise on two slices of white bread
Add a layer of shredded lettuce and just enough chopped onion to enhance the flavor without overpowering the other ingredients
Cover that with a big slice of tomato
Add salt and pepper
Lay down a slice of American cheese
Add several slices of deli ham
Add three sliced pickles
Close the sandwich and wrap in white butcher paper (well, that's what she does)

For this, she charges $2.95. Considering the price of fancy, big city franchise-made sandwiches, that's a priddy good deal.

Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" January 26, 2007 column
See Priddy, Texas

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