Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

THIS OLD HOUSE

Post by Betty Barlow

When we were growing up, my daddy’s sister Maribelle would sing a song to us made popular by Rosemary Clooney called “This Ole House."  All of Aunt Maribelle’s nieces and nephews sang it together for one last time at her gravesite in Brownwood, Texas in 2008.  That song best describes the place I have called home since 1999.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nstn4Wscl1w 
Come Onto My House (Clooney)

The story of our house starts back in the early months of 1906 in D’Hanis, Texas, New D’Hanis, that is.  You see, D’Hanis was the fourth and final settlement of Alsatian immigrants brought from the old country by Henri Castro to settle Texas in the mid-1800s, and my husband’s family was one of the original 29 Alsatian families to settle this small community.   D’Hanis, now called Old Town, was set on Parkers Creek about 50 miles west of San Antonio.  By the late 1800s, the railroad crossed Medina County, bypassing the small community.  New D’Hanis, sprung up around the railroad’s loading dock, a mile or so to the northwest.  This is where my story begins.

In 1906, this old house was shipped to D’Hanis via the railroad as one of the first pre-fab Craftsman homes sold by the Sears & Roebuck Company out of Chicago.  The “kit”, containing everything needed – from roofing to plumbing, windows with their weights and hardware, every board and brick – was unloaded from the boxcar onto horse drawn wagons and delivered to the construction site. 

The house was built by my husband’s Great Uncle Alf.  It was a wedding present for his cousin, Eddie Koch, and purchase by Eddie's father.  Uncle Alf placed the house on a corner of the property with the front door facing downtown, which was one block to the north.   The family could sit on the front porch and see all that was happening in town. 
Work Order for Uncle Alf to Build the House
The original plans for the house had a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a bedroom. The living room and dining rooms measured 16’x18’ and the bedroom was 14’x16’.  The kitchen was 12’x16’ with cabinets along the west wall and a window above the sink.  The house contained eleven windows, each measuring 36”x 92,” and the walls were six-inch pine planks, placed horizontally, side by side.  There were porches wrapped around the house providing protection from the sun and rain as well as extra room for sleeping.  Transom windows were installed on all outside doors to allow the summer air to pass through the house to keep it cool.  The 12’ ceilings also helped with this. 

The east wall of the kitchen had a door to the porch and a chimney that was shared with the dining room.  The kitchen’s south wall had a door to the southern porch giving easy access to the water well.  There were two doors in the north wall, one leading to the living room and the other to the dining room.  Yes, that’s four doors in one kitchen! 

There was a second chimney in the living room that was shared with the bedroom.  The bedroom was the sleeping room for the whole family and always had as many beds as were needed.  There were two doors on the front porch, one leading to the bedroom, the other to the dining room.   Twenty years after the house was built, the family closed in the south porch to add another bedroom as well as a bathroom.  The new bedroom was the girls’ room while the boys used the east porch as a sleeping porch.

During the great flood of 1935, D’Hanis made the record books by getting 24 inches of rain fall in just under three hours.  Both the Parkers and Seco Creeks rose out of their banks, flooding the town.  The old house was washed off its pier-and-beam foundation and floated several hundred feet until coming to rest against a large oak tree.   The mother and her children huddled on top of the dining table for the entire ride and were rescued by her husband.   After raising the piers and beams two additional feet, the townsmen moved the house back in place using mules and wagons.  This old house has never again had water inside.

The house has only had three owners in her 106 years, all in the family, and hundreds of memories.  When we acquired the house in 1995 from Jim’s uncle, we thought it would be our weekend getaway.  It had been a rental for many years and was in desperate need of repair. The electrical was the old knob-and-tube wiring and needed to be replaced.  Many of the windows were broken and all the original ceramic lighting fixtures had been stolen as well as several of the interior doors.  When the renters wanted to get rid of the old wallpaper, they pulled it off the wall and used a lighter to burn off all the threads left from the cheesecloth backing.  This seemed to be so much fun, they continued to burn two foot initials in each wall.  It seemed like an impossible job to restore this house to its former glory, but we did.

Broken Window Before
Repaired Window After

The house has withstood tornadoes, floods, lightening strikes, droughts, freezes and heat waves.  She has been witness to births, marriages, deaths, and all life has to offer.  Her walls have held laughter and tears, silence and music.  Children have slammed screen doors while running in and out and young people have courted one another.  Mothers and grandmothers have shelled peas, canned, and cooked wonderful things in this house.  Dads and granddads have played moon, pitch, rook, and forty-two on her back porch.  Most of all, she has been a home to many, including me.  I hope she will be around for another hundred plus years.

 



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