Chapter Eight: Twentieth Century
At the dawn of the 20th century Seguin had established itself as a trading center. Aided by the railroad and a road system to nearby communities, it offered those communities and its people a structured community which provided an outlet for their products, law and order, mercantile establishment and a place to worship. The Spanish-American War had had little effect, for its men never left the U.S. for combat and was over quickly. It was a relatively quick war with few casualties.
Part of Seguin's proud heritage is embedded in quiet patriotism. This was reflected in the early, confusing days of the Texas Revolution and early post-revolution period. The men, supported by their women, fought for the very freedom of their existence and the livelihood of the Republic and State. Seguinites served and were killed or wounded in the 1830s and the 1840s, to include the 1846 war with Mexico. Later the disastrous Civil War claimed more lives and devastated more families than Seguin would like to remember. Teddy Roosevelt's San Antonio recruitment for the Rough Riders in the 1898 Spanish-American War resulted in Seguin's young men again responding to the clarion call. John Moore provided some horses, one which would be named Seguin. Fortunately, for the town of Seguin, not one man was lost in battle, for none made it to Cuba. The men made it as far as Florida. The battles were over before they could be dispatched to Cuba.
But that was the only war of the 1800s in which Seguin would suffer no losses. The twentieth century would touch every corner of Seguin and Guadalupe County. The rich, the poor, the Hispanic, the Negro, the White would finally see that all blood is red. Sadly it was the battlefields of World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam that would bring all groups of people together.
When the Great War broke out in Europe very little was written about it in the local newspapers. Occasionally there was an article a week in the Guadalupe-Gazette, and what was written read more like a treatise on global perspectives rather than a cumbersome, awful, stalemated war where as many would die from disease in the trenches than from hostile bullets. It wasn't until late 1917, early 1918 that a feeling of immediacy began to creep into the newspaper and be felt by the citizens of Seguin.
There were weekly articles about Camp Travis and Camp Bowie. These were the camps where the men of Seguin were usually sent to for training. Camp Travis was the home of the Texas Ninetieth Infantry while Camp Bowie was more of a training camp for the in-ductees and also a holding area for support units. The December 27, 1918, issue of the Guadalupe-Gazette, for example, carried advice for new arrivals.
One thing that caught the nation, state and community off guard was the demand for nurses. All wars are nasty, but World War I was especially so with the stalemate of trench warfare and charging over the top into solid walls of steel erected by the new watercooled automatic machine guns. The need for battlefield nurses had never been greater. Red Cross Nurse's Aides couldn't be sent overseas, thus creating a wartime shortage of nurses. The United States' solution was to muster Registered Nurses and send them to Europe. Unfortunately this created a stateside shortage of trained nurses. To encourage women to enter a nursing career, an energetic advertising campaign was begun. For instance, it was advertised that Private Nurses could earn $25.00 to $35.00 per week while Public Nurses could earn $75.00 to $125.00 per month.
A February 1, 1918, edition of the Guadalupe-Gazette gave an insight into the demands the war effort was making on food. There was an article on war emergency food and food needs. In Seguin the meat markets of Schmidt and Buerger, William Brodt, and W. L. Davenport announced "on account of high price and fat cattle, we are compelled to raise the price of our meats ... ."
Another article offered instructions to those left behind on how to ship packages to their loved ones: "Packages intended for soldiers in France should not be sent direct to them; it should be addressed to the unit to which they are attached, care of the American Expeditionary Force." In the same issue it was announced that Dr. W. H. Starcke took command of a Dental Unit at Newport News, Virginia. It was also reported that the community of Staples set up a home guard of seventy-two men with J. W. Howard as Captain; B. W. Carlisle, First Lieutenant; H. F. Tuttle, Second Lieutenant; N. D. Tuttle, First Sergeant; A. W. Slaughter, Second Sergeant.
March 1918, saw an increased reporting of the war and some of the effects it had on the citizens of Seguin. The response was the same as for the wars of the 1800s. The March 1, 1918 edition of the Guadalupe-Gazette reported: "An urgent call for volunteers for men above and below the draft age has been made." In the same issue it was reported that allotments by the government were being offered to take care of the soldier's dependents. For example, : "A married man with a wife dependent, $15.00; with wife and one child, $25.00; with wife and two children, $32.50." Also reported, and reflecting community care for her young men at war, was that fifty-three citizens contributed $1.00 each "to the commission for the welfare of Lutheran Soldiers and Sailors. Sam Lillard sailed and arrived safely in France."
One young man who had grown up on Mill Creek, where the Gonzales Road crossed it (Old Highway 3-A), Joe Ramage, lost an arm while in combat in France, March 8, 1918.
And it was in March 1918, that advertisements began to reflect the mood of the nation by having war advertisements urging all citizens to do their part. In the local media, advertisements such as "save a loaf a week - help win the war," soon became commonplace.
Some Seguinites may remember the Ireland Flying Field. It was located just west of Seguin near present day Lake Placid. When Army aviation began in San Antonio, regional practice fields were needed. Seguin offered a site and named it the Ireland Flying Field. One of the first recorded crash landings at the airfield occurred March 15, 1918: "Cadet Burtrell crash landed at the Ireland Flying Field just west of Seguin on a final test flight before becoming a Lieutenant. He was treated by Dr. N. A. Poth in Seguin and returned to San Antonio on the evening train."
Urb Wood wrote an article for the Gazette Bulletin on March 22, 1918, about the Guadalupe County National Guard, which was organized in the summer of 1917. He followed a platoon during a day of its training at Camp Bowie. The men had an "early morning rising" and did fifteen minutes of sitting up exercises. Breakfast followed at 8:15. An one-hour hike followed breakfast and then there were bayonet drills from 11:30 to noon. Lunch was eaten at 1:00. Following lunch there was physical exercise, instruction in musketry (while there, 10,000 new Enfield rifles arrived). Hand grenade practice, close order drill, and extended order drill lasted until 4:30. The men stood retreat at 5:00 and supper was served at 6:00. The men listed in the newspaper as having served their country is incomplete. However, those found are herein honored:
The March 29 issue reflected that Negroes were being drafted from Seguin and the county. Initially, forty-one Negroes were to be drafted with twenty-five more to be called up later. Their training was to take place at Camp Travis.
Another major event occurred that same week of 1918. Seguin's Mule Street Railway System was torn down. An era of transportation passed almost unnoticed. The age of the automobile was quickly coming.
The month of April 1918, saw an increase in community support for the war effort. Liberty Bonds went on sale with $129,000 sold the first week. Texas wheat grain was stored for the war effort and a nationwide rationing plan went into effect on meat, bread, flour, sugar, and butter. An honor roll for those buying Liberty Bonds was published in the paper.
Also, County Judge J. M. Woods became Captain in the National Guard and would recruit fifty-one men for the First Texas Cavalry. Others serving in World War I were:
In May 1918, a man in Luling was tarred and feathered for making disparaging remarks to Red Cross solicitors. After being tarred and feathered he was given twelve hours to get out of town.
October 1918, saw Mrs. J. B. Dibrell appointed as chairman of the United War Work Campaign, overseeing the district of Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales, Wilson, and Karnes Counties.
C. H. Donegan became county chairman for the National War Savings Committee. He was assisted by fifty-eight men including Charles Bruns, Frank D. Brawner, Julius Naumann, Harry Bruns, Erwin Ewald, Amado Caseres, Edwin Forshage, and Albert Traeger.
And then, finally, it was over. The November 15, 1918 newspaper reported the biggest celebration Seguin ever had. "Every available device that would produce noise was used."
For a few years Seguin could rest from yet another war in her history.
The twenties and thirties were good years for Seguin, in spite of the depression. The twenties was stability, growth, and inflation. Yet Seguin seemed unbothered by it all. She was concerned about her schools, government, church, and businesses. Streets began to be paved, electric lights appeared with underground cables, and fairs and horse racing were the order of the day. With the advent of the automobile came a conflict of cultures. Collisions between buggies and cars were not uncommon. Horses and mules spooked easily and the drivers of both parties were always in the right. Automobile dealerships began to appear, and long trips to Detroit received lively news coverage. The livery stables and blacksmith shops were soon to become a thing of the past. The twenties, rather than the turn of the century, was the period that would see the end of the frontier era. Yet a new frontier loomed almost immediately after the close of the twenties. This new frontier saved Seguin and the county from the worst aspects of the depression.
That frontier was the era of oil, one of the economic foundations of the state. Banner headlines showed that Seguin was in the center of Texas' second largest oil field. Some wells were almost immediately pumping up to 4000 bbls. in the Darst field, east and south of Kingsbury. Derricks went up so fast that at one point a count was lost on production. Business prospered.
Five banks were in Seguin in 1930. First National, Citizens State, Farmer's State, Nolte Bank, and Seguin State Bank and Trust. The Chamber of Commerce reported that the economic picture of Seguin was "rosy." With the oil boom it was projected that the population of 7,500 would double within five years. Even two Handy Andy grocery stores and one Piggly Wiggly store located in Seguin.
Seguin's Darst oil field was reported to be the largest in Southwest Texas. The times were not to be as bad as in the industrial east or agricultural south. Ads in the papers at various stores, however, gave an indication of the depressed value of the dollar.
At Clarence Saunders' grocery stores a dozen eggs cost $.20; coffee was $1.25 a pound. Lux for delicate fabrics was $.09 a box; apples, $.29 per dozen; Ipana tooth paste $.29; and boiled ham was $.48 per pound.
Other ads reflected that an Atwater Kent Radio Cabinet model could be bought for $132.00. At the Seguin Motor Company a new six cylinder Chevrolet could be purchased for $495.00. The Red Rocket Pontiac could be purchased for $745.00 at Smith Motor Sales, and a Ford Coupe cost $435.00 at the Lovett Motor Company.
The State Centennial was celebrated in 1936 and the City's Centennial in 1938. Perhaps the 1938 Centennial was the one people remembered the best. Reverend Fitzsimon's History of Seguin was published, Starcke Park became a reality, the outdoor Mass of Saint James was held, and a tremendous parade that the Fire Department won with its float entry was held.
And yet, not all was "rosy" during the thirties in Seguin. Many professionals found themselves unemployed. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) came to Seguin and performed many long term services for Seguin. Several achievements were the inventory of the county archives, the construction of the present-day courthouse and city hall, and various street projects.
As the decade closed Seguin was by no means poor, but not everything was bright. In the background of the nation's depression, distant echoes of the past began to be heard, faintly.
Germany was violating the Treaty of Versailles with reckless abandon, and had unleashed its pent-up fury with the Anschluss in Austria. Italy invaded Ethiopia, and quietly, Japan forged her war machine. By 1940 the world teetered on the edge of yet another war. Again Seguin would answer the call.
The most devastating war in America's history was World War II. Again Seguin responded in her ever patriotic way, a way that was established 106 years earlier in the Texas Revolution.
Seguin's entire citizenry became totally involved in the war effort. Red Cross drives, war bond drives, victory gardens, blackout practices, rationing, scrap metal drives, anything to win the war. Every family, in some way, contributed to winning the war.
The young men did not protest the draft. It was their duty, and duty they did, from Privates to Colonels.
N. B. Tate was the Chief Air Raid warden for Seguin. In the January 8, 1942 issue of the Guadalupe-Gazette he issued a call for the auxiliary police and firewatchers to meet in the district court room. One hundred fifty men and women needed to be recruited for the Civil Defense effort.
Mrs. Thomas Mosheim, Mrs. W. F. Lovett, Mrs. Byran Brawner, and Mrs. Sam Freeman established a nurse's first aid corps. They set up four sections to conduct ten classes on Mondays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, in the Municipal Auditorium. The instructors were Charles Ehrhardt, J. K. Jones, Arthur Thiele, and Kermit McGee. Assisting them was Dr. Allen Heinen.
Dr. G. B. Friday also set up Negro first aid classes. The Negro citizens met at the courthouse for classes. Dr. Friday was assisted by S. T. Toney, Negro County Agriculture Agent.
The tire-rationing committee was made up of J. F. Fisher, Adolph Weinert, and William Mosheim. Their job was to review applications for tires. For example, Sheriff Saegert's certificate allowed him four tires, four tubes; W. C. Sellingsloh was allowed the same but Frank Vickers could only get three tires, no tubes.
Some advice to families on how to conserve rubber was published in the January 1942 edition of the Guadalupe-Gazette: "In multi-car families use only one car; pleasure trips should be abandoned and take up walking; ladies should do their grocery shopping twice a week instead of every day; and if you live close to the marketing area, walk and take your own basket; finally, watch the speed you drive to save rubber on your tires."
Later in the war effort, the University Interscholastic League contests were discontinued in order to help save rubber and petroleum.
Blackout drills were conducted by A. C. Linne. There were eight blasts from the fire station siren for beginning the blackout. One long blast on the siren ended the blackout. Church bells and school bells were also to be used and street lights were to be turned out.
There were also rigid restrictions on the civilian use of steel, brass, copper and aluminum. Even toothpaste tubes could be recycled. It was announced in the paper that "nothing is junk - save all scrap metal so it can be recycled."
Nothing was sacred for the war effort. In a March 2, 1944 advertisement by C. C. Baker the following was published:
In Red Cross fund drives not one community around Seguin failed to help. Schertz, Cibolo, McQueeney, Schumannsville, Tiemann School, Geronimo, Barbarossa, Dugger School, Eden, the Brickyard, Red Mill, Seguin Colored Citizens, Staples, Sweet Home, Capote Colored School, Concrete, Cordova, Scheffel School, Latin Americans, Zorn, and Galle were but a few who contributed.
The January 29, 1942 Guadalupe Bulletin reported that the third draft registration would be held February 16 in each precinct. The first draft registration was October 16, 1940. Ultimately, in the third draft registration, 1,499 men between the ages of 20 and 45 were registered.
H.. H. Starcke was chairman of the Guadalupe County Defense Bond Drive in 1942, and in the same issue of the paper it was reported that Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Weinert would buy $24,000 in defense bonds to help the county achieve its goals.
The defense bond drive efforts were very well organized. Teams were set up to sell the bonds and the city was organized thusly:
The February 26, 1942 paper reported that Captain Alvin J. Mueller received the Distinguished Service Cross for action "somewhere in Java. His plane was hit twice by anti-aircraft fire and attacked by ten Japanese airplanes. He maintained his position in the formation and managed to land safely, even with damaged controls."
Later Alvin Mueller would be a part of the famous Jimmy Doolittle air raid over Tokyo. Returning in 1942 to his hometown, Alvin Mueller received a hero's welcome when he disembarked at the train station. Throngs awaited him. He and his wife were taken in a convertible for a parade downtown.
Seguin's efforts toward winning the war were rewarded March 12, 1942. The Guadalupe-Gazette stated that KTSA Radio Station was going to give Seguin a victory salute on that day: "to let the South Central Texas area know of its contributions to the war effort."
Even the coeds at TLC did their part by giving up silk hose and dresses for the war effort. In place of those garments they wore Texas cotton overalls and dresses. On March 5, 1942, the Negro community staged a meat show in the Charles Bruns building next to the Harris Cafe on West Court Street. Proudly they displayed the nation's slogan - "Food will win the war and write the peace."
Sugar rationing began in Seguin in April 1942, and according to the paper, "families who fail to register will have to wait an additional two weeks before becoming eligible for a rationing book."
In the May 5, 1942 edition of the Gazette Bulletin it was reported that H. F. Bargfrede had been selected as Chairman of the USO for Seguin and Guadalupe County. He appointed a Committee to help raise $2,559.60, which was the quota. Assisting him were A. P. Mueller, E. E. Draeger, Oscar Rosenbush, L. K. McDaniel, H. H. Weinert, H. Donegan, D. D. Baker, and many other concerned citizens.
In the rest of the May 1942 edition of the paper, it was evident that not everything was war effort driven. Seguin's citizens also took time out for a little recreation. Women's golf was apparently a big event in the 1940s. There was a column, almost weekly, entitled "Golf Gossip" which covered the match play of the women and the tournaments in which they played, such as the Texas Women's Public Links Golf Championships. In the May 5 edition of 1942, it was announced that Bert and Lady Keller, with Lefty Stackhouse, planned to go to Texarkana to play in the "Texas P. G. A. Championship."
Interestingly, Seguinites who paid their newspaper subscriptions had their names printed.
The war's need for able-bodied men and women took its toll in the labor area. Mexico agreed it would do what it could to help. The Guadalupe-Gazette Bulletin published an article from Dallas about the labor shortage and how Mexico and the U. S. were working on an agreement to allow the Mexican laborer to legally work in the U.S. However two conditions had to be agreed upon - first, the temporary immigrant could not be subject to the draft and secondly, the laborers should not be exploited as in the past.
For the next two years, until 1944, Seguinites were every bit in the war effort. Finally, in June 1944, the nation's citizens, towns, and communities began to reap the benefits of their home front sacrifices. The June 8, 1944 edition of the Seguin-Gazette-Bulletin headlined: "Invasion of Europe On!" All citizens were encouraged to redouble their efforts to bring the war to an end.
The August 8, 1944 edition reported the best news of the day - "Resistance of Hilter's Supermen completely broken by American brand of 'lightning war' as tanks and infantry burst out of Normandy and headed deep into France."
Rationing, by 1944, had been extended to meats, butter, cheese, and canned milk. The August 17, 1944, paper reported the commissioning of the Liberty Class Ship Juan N. Seguin in Houston. Present for the commissioning were Mayor Roger Moore, Tom Terry, and Mrs. W. M. Weinert.
With the war fully on in Europe and Asia, the newspaper had the unpleasant job of reporting Seguin's youth who were killed in action, missing in action, or were held as prisoners. Hardly an issue, until the end of the war, passed without reporting not only the heroism performed in the face of battle, but also the sad news of the losses of her sons.
The September 1944 Seguin-Gazette-Bulletin reported that "VE-Day" plans were being made for Seguin. "The Ministers Association met at the office of the Chamber of Commerce with representatives from the schools, Chamber of Commerce, and the law enforcement agencies for the purpose of working out a VE-Day program for Seguin."
From that point on more and more news became more locally oriented rather than war oriented.
In the October 12, 1944, edition, it was reported that the "Elks let contract for Warm Springs Foundation Unit. On the morning of October 9, the trustees of the Texas Elks Crippled Children's Institute . . . met in F. E. Knetsch's office in Seguin to open bids for the construction of the foundation. That afternoon they attended the ground breaking ceremonies at Ottine."
It was also reported that a bus line service to connect Seguin to New Braunfels and as far south as Karnes City was to be a reality. Monroe Engbrock and his sister, Dorothy, manager of the Aumont Hotel Coffee Shop, opened a first class eating establishment called Dot's Grill at the former location of Olga's Café.
On November 9, 1944, according to Fire Chief Adolph Solmky, the biggest fire ever in Seguin's history, even larger than the 1922 Blumberg fire, occurred at the Seguin Milling Company's storage house, just behind its city warehouse on Camp Street. Three-fourths of a mile of hose with 36,000 gallons of water over a five-hour period were needed to bring the fire under control.
Finally, the beginning of the end of war in Europe began - the Battle of the Bulge, Germany's last major counter offensive occurred. Associated Press dispatches indicated there were 200,000 Nazis attacking over a sixty-mile front in Belgium. Both sides were paying a heavy price.
In the January 25, 1945 edition of the paper, it was reported that the "Army needs clerks, stenographers, and typists." Also, H. A. Daniels became County Director of the Paralysis Fund Campaign. He stated that . . . "the 1944 epidemic of infantile paralysis was the second worst outbreak of the disease in the history of the U. S. ..."
On April 19, 1945, it was reported that on Thursday, April 12, President Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, Georgia. On May 3, 1945, it was reported that Hitler and Goebbels were dead and Lieutenant Colonel Alvin Mueller was in the first B-29 raid over Tokyo.
With VE-Day passing by on May 8, 1945, the war emphasis turned to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The August 11, 1945, edition of the Gazette-Bulletin reported "the most destructive weapon ever devised by man starts falling on Nips." On August 8, Russia declared war against Japan at the request of China, the U.S., and Britain. The second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.
On August 16, 1945, the Seguin-Gazette-Bulletin reported that Japan surrendered unconditionally. The war was over.
Every man and woman in Seguin, in uniform or not, had once again shown their historic patriotic response to home, state and nation. Her sons had served in every Theater of Operations - from North Africa to Europe to the Aleutian Islands, the Pacific, including the China-Burma-India Theater, ground combat, naval combat, air combat, staff and command jobs, Privates, Sergeants, desk clerks, Medical Corps. Nothing was left unturned in the terrible business of war.
Two more wars awaited Seguin, however. The Korean Conflict and the Vietnam Conflict would touch Seguin in 1950 and again in the 1960s and 1970s. Seguin's youth would patriotically respond, but not in the same numbers as in the two "Great Wars." Newspaper coverage of these two wars was not as extensive as before.
With the advent of strong radio power such as WOAI in San Antonio, the birth of KWED in Seguin, and the technology of television, much of the war news was reported over the air waves. Consequently the smaller town newspapers reported some war news, but not as in the past, as they reverted to their regional coverage.