1933-1935 – Early Days at Fedor

This article by G. Birkmann first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, Giddings, Texas, sometime in the period 1933-1935.

I am often thinking of my old home in Fedor, Lee County. At first, the neighborhood of Fedor was known as West Yegua, but later some called it Moab (I suppose they had in mind “Mo-erb” – Moerbe). Jacob Moerbe was one of the early settlers at Fedor. The name Fedor was given by Mr. Soder of Paige, who had a store at Paige, and also for some time at Fedor. Soder’s first name was Fedor.

Of this store at Fedor I remember that August Polnick was the first one who started it, about 1877 or 1878. He kept it in a small cabin, only one room, not over twelve feet square. He sold a few groceries, as coffee, sugar, flour, and so on, also kerosene, which was sold at forty cents a gallon, and a five gallon can would cost about $2.25. I think that barbed wire was coming into use at the time. I remember having seen the rolls of barbed wire first at the store. Mr. Polnick also sold “shuse:’ [quote marks suggest that Birkmann is writing the sound of the word as Polnick said it in broken English] and clothing, certainly he had some dry goods. His stock was too small to keep people from going to Lexington or Giddings. Of course, it was convenient for me and some of the other neighbors to patronize Mr. Polnick occasionally, for this would save us the trip to Giddings, which at that time took a whole day going and coming. Mr. Polnick sold his stock to Mr. Soder in 1882 and removed to Thorndale, where he again entered business.

The man who was managing the store at Fedor for Mr. Soder was one Mr. Keuffel. He had come with his family from Austin County. He was a pleasant man and made many friends, doing a pretty good business, and also keeping the post office, the first one we ever had at Fedor, for before this time we had got our mail from Giddings.

The year that Keuffel kept the store – 1883 – ended tragically for him and for all of the people at Fedor. It was on a rainy night in November of this year when at about eight or nine o’clock we heard several pistol shots from the store, which was about one-third a mile distant. We did not feel any alarm at hearing these shots, for we were getting used to hearing such noises at that time. Next morning we were told that Mr. Keuffel and his clerk, Mr. Mros, had both been killed the night before in the store by pistol shots and that the money had been taken from the cash drawer.

A man had loitered in the vicinity for days, repeatedly getting drinks and riding his horse and displaying a pistol, etc. On the night of which we are speaking, he scraped the shutters of the store with his fingers, demanding admittance, and when the door was opened, with the pistol in his hand, he asked Keuffel to hand over the money in the store. Keuffel went behind the counter, opening the cash drawer, and while doing so, was shot in the face and killed instantly. The clerk also was shot, and death resulted immediately. A young fellow was in the store at the time, his name was John Schneider, who ran out of the store and was safe.

Some men took up in the same night the pursuit of the robber. It was said they found some pieces of money on the road to Lexington, and also for some distance could find fresh tracks of a horse, for there had been rain in that night, but the Middle Yegua was up, and perhaps the tracks could not satisfactorily be rediscovered. However, a certain man was brought before the court later on, but he was cleared by various parties swearing that he had been at home that night. Nothing came of the trial.

Two days after, the two victims were buried in the cemetery of Fedor. We were all greatly shocked and heartfelt sympathy went out to the stricken wife. And also to the widowed mother of Mr. Mros, who had but recently left her over in the old country.

Later a Mr. Keuffel of New York, a relative of the Keuffel in Fedor, wrote to parties in Fedor and sent money to erect a fitting memorial over the grave of the murdered man. The Keuffel of New York is, or was, a manufacturer of instruments that are used in aiming cannon on battleships. (These instruments are called in German Präzision-Instrumente.) Mr. Keuffel of New York is said to be the only one in the U.S. who manufactures these instruments.

After Keuffel’s death, the store was first sold to Mr. M. Domann, and the storekeepers were for a time Otto Urban and then Chris. Domann. After that, Chas. Jatzlau bought the store. He was at first in business with one Mr. Schubert, who now lives in…[here at least five or six lines are missing entirely] …summer of 1919 he died while being operated on, in Galveston. His widow followed him in death five years later. He left a very large and fine family of children who are all married, some in Fedor, others in Giddings, and in Three Rivers. I always remember with great pleasure all of this family. Of Jatzlau’s career as a storekeeper it is unnecessary to write now; almost everyone knows of this.