Industry, on State Highway 159 in northwest Austin County, was the first permanent German settlement in Texas, gaining the title “Cradle of German Settlement in Texas.”
Its first residents were Johann Friedrich Ernst and his family, who had come from Germany, briefly resided in New York, and enroute to Missouri learned about free land available in Texas.
The Mexican government granted Ernst a league of land on April 16, 1831, and Charles Fordtran, who had accompanied the family to Texas, received a quarter of it as payment for surveying the entire tract. Ernst established his home on the eastern part of his league, near the main road from San Felipe to Bastrop. “Ernst’s Place” established a reputation as a resting place for immigrants and travelers. Ernst planted fruit trees and began to grow crops, including tobacco, which he made into cigars and sold in San Felipe, Houston, and Galveston.
Early residents were described as very industrious, and the cigar industry is purported to be the source for the name of the town. In December 1837, the Republic of Texas authorized a post office. In 1838, Ernst laid out lots on his land for the town of Industry and advertised them for sale.
Between 1846 and 1850, Ernst F. G. Knolle and his brother Frederick purchased 3,000 acres of the John F. Pettus league, adjacent to and southeast of the Ernst league. By the time Friedrich Ernst died in 1848, Industry was experiencing modest growth. By the 1850s, cotton was the area’s major crop. In 1857, Knolle, aided by Andreas Buenger, built the town’s first cotton gin, and by the 1890s, twelve gins were in operation in the vicinity. Germans, Czechs, and African Americans steadily settled in the Industry area from the 1850s until the 1890s, although growth slowed briefly during the Civil War.
Between the late 1920s and the 1960s, the population declined. Farming and cotton production were the major sources of income in the Industry area until the 1950s. After that, ranching dominated the economy. In 1985, churches, clubs, and civic organizations remained active. The town had a school, post office, bank, public park, twenty-seven businesses, and a population of 600. A substantial number of residents commuted to jobs outside the town. In 1990, the population was 475.
Today, Industry is again a booming hotspot for country living in Texas. Many of the names may have changed, but the pioneer spirit of living close to this great land is as strong as ever in a new breed of settlers.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831-1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). Terry G. Jordan, German Seed in Texas Soil: Immigrant Farmers in Nineteenth-Century Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966). Ann and James Lindemann, eds., Historical Accounts of Industry, Texas (New Ulm, Texas, 1986).
James and Ann Lindemann
The history of New Ulm dates back to the 1840s. It was founded in 1841 as Duff’s Settlement, names for James C. Duff, who purchased the original land on which the town was built. This community sat approximately one mile north of the present New Ulm site. By the mid-1840s, the area grew as an influx of German-speaking settlers arrived from nearby communities, such as Industry, Shelby, and Nassau Farm.
After petitioning the government for a post office, one opened in 1852 under the name of New Ulm in commemoration of the well-known German city of Ulm, as many of the settlers came from that area.
During the 1850s, New Ulm had six general stores, five blacksmiths, and three breweries. In 1867, a church building that doubled as a schoolhouse was built. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad purchased farm land owned by local resident Franz Pille for a line extension, and it arrived in 1892, further stimulating New Ulm’s economy.
An estimated 225 people were living in the community in 1898. At that time, a variety of businesses operated in New Ulm, including five general merchandise stores, a drug store, a saddlery business, some cabinet shops, and a soda water factory. A bank opened in 1906, and a newspaper, the New Ulm Enterprise, began publishing in 1910.
On April 11, 1916, twenty-one men in the community met for the purpose of securing a fire apparatus to protect local property. This led to the formation of the New Ulm Fire Company (now known as the New Ulm Volunteer Fire Department). A fire engine was purchased at a cost of $137.50.
By 1930, New Ulm’s population stood at around 500 with forty businesses operating in the community. The number of residents had fallen to 390 by 1950, but growth resumed during the 1960s. In 1968, the population was estimated at 600. That figure had risen to 650 by 1990 and remained at that level through 2000. New Ulm has an active Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, and post office with the zip code of 78950.
Columbus was established in 1821 on the legendary site of Montezuma’s Indian Village by members of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. Colonists Robert H. Kuykendall, his brother Joseph, and Daniel Gilleland had arrived in the area of Columbus by late December 1821. In 1822, settler Benjamin Beason began operating a ferry across the Colorado River known as Beason’s Ferry. In 1823, the area was surveyed and platted by some of the original 300 families of the Stephen F. Austin Colony. In 1835, it was officially renamed Columbus in honor of residents from Columbus, Ohio.
During the following March, the Alamo fell, Fannin’s men were massacred at Goliad, and General Sam Houston’s Texas army was forced to retreat from Gonzales with the Mexican army in close pursuit. The Texans camped on the east bank and the Mexicans on the west bank of the Colorado River near Columbus. Both armies remained in these positions for five or six days, until Houston, over the opposition of many of his men, ordered a withdrawal.
Many of the Colorado River settlers fled east before the armies in what became known as the “Runaway Scrape.” However, after Houston’s army defeated the Mexican army at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the settlers slowly returned to their homes, many of which had been burned to the ground.
The work of organizing Colorado County was completed in 1837. In later years, portions of the county were used in the creation of Fayette, Lavaca, and other adjoining counties.
In the early 1850s, Columbus became a substantial place, with many brick and concrete buildings. One millionaire cattleman, Robert E. Stafford, built an expensive and well-appointed theater, the Stafford Opera House, on the courthouse square. In the few years after it opened in 1887, the opera house hosted several first-rate performers. In the early twentieth century, the sand and gravel industry and rice farming became important cogs in the local economy. Later, steady production of oil and gas brought more money into the county.
In 1923, Columbus marked its centennial. It was followed by the Columbus Sesquicentennial in 1973 and the Columbus Terquasquicentennial in 1998.