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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

How Hallettsville Became
Seat of Lavaca County

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
I have always been of the opinion that if you want to know the truth about things of a historic nature; you should go to the source.

That “source” for me is old newspapers, personal journals, and when possible communicating with folks who actually were there or know of historic events from things told to them by their ancestors. In 1972, an older gentleman by the name of C.E. Munson recalled some of his memories of Hallettsville and how it became the seat of Lavaca County. His story was published in the Lavaca County Tribune-Herald and gives a personal explanation of things that happened in this county long ago.

Mr. Munson was living in Corpus Christi when he wrote this article – it is unedited and appears as it did when first published.

How Hallettsville Became Seat of Lavaca County
(Lavaca County Tribune – Jan. 4, 1972)

By C.E. Munson

I can give a more accurate account of what happened when they moved the County Site of Lavaca County, Texas, from Petersburg to Hallettsville, than any account I have ever read. And I have more first-hand information, on the early history of Hallettsville, than any printed information I have ever seen.

When a “teen age” boy some seventy to eighty years ago, I lived near neighbor Danridge Bradley, who was born in Richmond or in Fort Bend County, but was an early resident of what was later Hallettsville. He delighted in telling interesting things that happened in those “pioneer” days.

They used post oak logs and clapboard shingles to build the first store, and when the walls were finished, they had no planks for building a door, so they used a dry cowhide for a door and called it Hidesville. When a post office was established they called it The Ives Post Office, until the Halletts took over, and then they changed the name to Hallettsville.

After Mr. Hallett’s death, his wife, daughter and two living sons had charge of the store and Post Office. The two sons went with their wagons and teams to Indianola to get supplies to replenish their stock in the store. They disappeared and no one ever knew what became of them. Sometime after they had gone the Indians made a raid on the store and robbed it of everything they could get away with. Mrs. Hallett and daughter heard them coming and ran, fearing the Indians might kill them.

After Lavaca County was organized in 1846 and the village had grown to considerable size, her citizens called for a county-wide election, asking for the County Site to be moved from Petersburg, to Hallettsville, about six miles north of its present location. The majority of votes favored the move, but the people of Petersburg refused to give up the records and threatened to shoot anyone who tried to move them.

The citizens of Hallettsville organized a force of about 200 men and sent word they were coming on a certain day to take the records. They were armed and ready to fight if necessary to get them. The opposing force organized about 200 men, butchered several yearlings, and barbecued the meat, the night before the other force were to come, aiming to have a real barbecue feast when they had destroyed or driven the other force away. When the Hallettsville force came near enough to see a part of the opposing force were inside the Court House walls, and they were almost surrounded by men in other hiding places, they said, “Let’s see if we can’t talk them into giving up the records without any bloodshed.”

They chose one man, who tied a white handkerchief around a pole and he went on foot to where the leaders of the other force were. And said: “Let’s not have any bloodshed over this matter. The majority of voters have voted to move the records, now let’s abide by the majority vote.”

After hearing his plea, the leaders of the other force called their men out from their hiding places. And after discussing thoroughly what they should do, they decided to give up the records, and the amazing act was to invite the Hallettsville force to come and help them eat the barbecue they had prepared. When they had eaten their fill, and thanked the good Petersburg people for their kindness, they went on their way rejoicing back to Hallettsville.

I rendered eight years of service in the Sheriff’s Office in Lavaca County, from 1902 through 1910. Back in horse and buggy days when roads were muddy and times were rough, I traveled every public road and “cow trail” in the county.

There was a time when I knew every man in the county, where he lived, and whether he owned a home, or was a renter. I talked with men who had grown old, but were members of those armed forces, and each one told practically the same story about what happened when the records were moved. They certainly deserve credit for settling without bloodshed and the friendly way by which they settled the matter.

Another interesting thing, relative to the Hallett family, happened while I was living at Hallettsville. The firm of Rheinstrom & Greenabaum, were using teams and scrapers to fill a gully, where they intended building a “mule barn” – the workers were scraping dirt out of the same gully, down near where it ran into the Lavaca River. And after scraping up quite a bit of dirt, they uncovered two human skeletons. It seemed that no one could account for them being there. The thought came to me; those are the remains of the two Hallett boys.

I have reason to believe, those boys came in while the Indians were robbing the store, and they killed these men, stripped them of all their possessions and pitched their dead bodies in the muddy waters of this gully and escaped with their horses and wagon loads of supplies for the store.

It’s reasonable to believe this accounts for the disappearance of the two men and their possessions.

© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary July 28, 2014 column
See Hallettsville

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