12 December 1914: In the first decades of the 20th century, Houston grew at an astounding pace, roughly doubling from 1900 (45,000) to 1910 (79,000), doubling again by 1920 (138,000), and yet again by 1930 (292,000). To accommodate this growth, the residential districts expanded into what is now called Midtown south of Pierce, and as this district filled, further south and west with the addition of Westmoreland [LINK], Courtlandt Place, and Avondale. Streets were built on undeveloped land and houses erected beside them at a dizzying pace. The house in the foreground at 106 Hathaway in the Avondale addition was the home of Charles James Robertson (1880-1955), proprietor of Robertson-McDonald Lumber Company with offices at 105 Carter Building [LINK]. He was from Chicago, and learned the lumber business in Mexico 1900-1902. From Mexico he came to Chambers County, TX working for C. R. Cummings Export Company, then to Houston in 1906, taking this residence soon after..
28 March 2013: Residential expansion continued through the 20th century with more Houston developments, in particular, Montrose and River Oaks. By the 1950’s most new housing was in suburbs accessible by freeway, but well-built homes in the Montrose, Westmoreland, Courtlandt Place, and Avondale retained their value. Some were subdivided into apartments for the artistic and counter-culture elements of society by the 1980’s when these areas became somewhat of a Bohemian haven. Hathaway Street became “Lower” Westheimer, Baldwin was subsumed into Brazos Street as downtown thoroughfares became feeders for daily flight into the suburbs on Highway 59 [now Interstate 69]. Lower Westheimer became more commercial, and by 2013 when this photograph was taken a strip center had replaced homes on the eastern half of the block. In more recent years even the relics that remained were bulldozed and the strip center came to occupy the entire block to Helena. Further west only a few of the old houses remained, and those have turned commercial.
Postmarked: 12 December 1914; Houston, Texas “D”
Stamp: 1c Green George Washington #405
To: Miss Lucy Winkler
Texas Box 34
Dear sis.:- I will just write a card today. I am still doing as usually. In that collection the Lepague has to get up give Fred Kattner credit for twenty-five cents. No one else had paid me anything. I may stay here over Xmas. With regards to all from Otto
The Grove was a small community in Coryell County, TX named for an impressive grove of Live Oaks near the town when it was founded in 1859. Otto and his older sister Lucy were children of Charles August Winker and Katerina Louise Schott who immigrated to Texas in 1859 from Weigersdorf, Germany southwest of Berlin near the Czech border. Though German by citizenship, they were members of a distinct ethnic group of West Slavs, the Wends, a relic of an extensive medieval Slavic population. As the German states in the second half of the 19th century coalesced into a nation-state, laws were enacted to Germanize ethnic populations and unify the country. The Wends spoke a distinct Slavic language with German and Polish influences, and when it began to be banned, many Wends immigrated in groups to Texas for religious and linguistic freedom.
When he sent his postcard Otto was a young man of 25 and his sister Lucy 30. He indicated that he might stay in Houston another few weeks, so clearly he still had some unfinished business there. He credits a 25 cent donation to Fred Kattner, and since he later became a minister, perhaps the money was a donation for a church-related philanthropy. Kattner was, in fact, a relative through his marriage to Clara Urbantke, sister to two of the Winkler brothers’ wives, John Henry Winkler’s wife Cora and Andrew Winkler’s wife Hulda. The large Winkler family consisted of nine children: Andrew J. (1876), Charles Herman (1878), Herman August (1881), Anna Marie (1882), “Lucy” Louise Katherine (1884), John Henry (1887), Otto August (1889), Joseph Fredrick (1892), and Albert J. (1894).
Since he was in is mid-twenties when he visited Houston, perhaps Otto’s visit to Houston was in search of employment. Census records indicate that he had two years of college, but where and what course of study he followed isn’t clear. In 1917 he was working at Farmer’s Bank in McGregor, McLennan County, TX about 15 miles north of The Grove, but in 1918 he joined a Medical Detachment of the 36th Division of the 141st Infantry Regiment and served overseas. This unit saw action in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, though it is not certain whether Otto would have been at Verdun. His tour ended 3 July 1919 and he returned to The Grove to live with his sister Lucy and their parents.
Otto was nearly 30 when he married Ella Schmidt, 6th of 12 children of Louis Schmidt and Malinda Wiese of White Hall in adjacent Bell County. In those days travel to The Grove was an eight or nine mile trip, but nowadays Belton Reservoir, impounded in 1954, makes for a longer trip across a causeway on Highway 36. Otto and Ella would have five children over the next 18 years: Milton Otto (1922), Homer (1924), Bernie (1926), James (1928), Lawrence (1939), and Gerald (1940). Otto’s land was in Coryell County where he made a good living as a livestock farmer.
Lucy remained unmarried, though she seems to have kept a close relationship to Otto. When she died in 1972 in Temple, Ella Winkler was the informant on her death certificate. Many of the Winkler, Schmidt, and Urbantke families are buried in Buckhorn (Moody-Leon) Cemetery in Bell County: Louise Winkler (1884-1972); Otto August Winkler (1889-1962), Ella Rose Schmidt Winkler (1897-1988), and their children, Homer Winkler (1924-1925 at 5 months), Bernie Arthur Winkler (1926-1990), James Carl Winkler (1927-2001), Gerald Sidney Winkler (1937-1949 at 12 years); Ella’s parents Louis Schmidt (1864-1938) and Malinda Wiese Schmidt (1869-1958), and Ella’s siblings Louis Henry Schmidt (1890-1967), Paul August Schmidt (1894-1971), Henry Carl Schmidt (1902-1994), Walter William Schmidt (1904-1994); Otto’s parents Charles August Winkler (1844-1931) and Kathrina L. Schott Winkler (1852-1943); Otto’s brothers and their wives, John Henry Winkler (1887-1920) & Ida Minnie Cora Urbantke (1892-1978) and Andrew Winkler (1876-1958) & Hulda Magdalene Urbantke (1885-1961). Reverend Otto Fred Kattner (1887-1973) & Clara Elenor Urbantke (1889-1961) are buried in Monthalia United Methodist Cemetery in Monthalia, Gonzales County, TX.
Otto and Ella’s sons Milton and Lawrence attended college and moved from the area to establish independent lives. Milton Otto Winkler attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX and obtained a BA in Sociology with a minor in Bible in 1944. He became a preacher in Southern California where he died in 2006. Lawrence Edward “Wink” Winkler attended Texas A&M University and became an Agricultural Extension Agent in Albany, TX. He died in 2012 in Abilene and is buried in Buckhorn Cemetery near his parents and family.
The Grove lost population through the 20th century until it became a virtual ghost town by the 1960’s. In 1972 National Guard Lt. Col. Chester Moody Anderson (1928-2017) bought the town and created a museum with artifacts from the 1985 mini-series Lonesome Dove, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the Coen Brothers reprise of True Grit (despite some hype to the contrary, none of those were filmed at The Grove). A documentary film, The Grove, was made in 2014 about the psychological and emotional interactions between Moody Anderson, forced to auction off the town, and the young auctioneer in charge of the sale.
The first impetus for the Texas State Park System was initiated in the area by Isabella E. Neff, mother of Pat M. Neff, governor of Texas 1921-1925, who donated the land for what became Mother Neff State Park. A part of that now well-developed system is Winkler Park, a small primitive campground on the northern shore of Belton Lake named for the Winkler family described above.