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NORDHEIM, TX

NORDHEIM, TEXAS. Nordheim, seven miles west of Yorktown near the Karnes county line in western DeWitt County, is a German community that was established in 1895 as a siding, known as Weldon Switch, on the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway. The track was built past Pilot Knob, a 447-foot hill, the highest point on the railroad line between Waco, Houston, and San Antonio. This landmark had long served as a lookout and guidepost for Indians and pioneers. Among the locale's earliest settlers were Henry Meyer, A. F. Dahlmann, and George Freude. Much of the area was owned after 1880 by H. Runge and Company of Cuero, which, through the efforts of W. H. Leckie, Simon Kiening, and Herman Fehr, laid out a townsite; the first town block was sold in 1895 to Henry Schlosser, Jr., who opened a store and became first postmaster in 1896. The next year the railroad accepted a suggestion by William Frobese, president of Runge and Company, that the community's name be changed to Nordheim, after Frobese's hometown in Germany.

Nordheim had two stores and a school with twenty-three pupils by 1897. St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1896, a cotton gin was built in 1898, and a passenger depot was added in 1901 to serve a "swank passenger train" called the Davy Crockett, which ran from Houston to San Antonio. Telephone service dates from 1900, telegraph from 1903; the town newspaper, the Nordheim View, was established in 1902 by James Walter Blanton. The first hotel was built in 1902, the first bank in 1906. In the latter year the Cuero Star described Nordheim as an important poultry-raising center and shipper of cotton, truck crops, and lumber, and the citizens of Nordheim as the "better class" of German farmers. Other businesses included small canning and hosiery factories. The town's German social organizations also date from this period-the Schuetzen Verein (shooting club), the Fortschritt (theater club), and a Sons of Hermann Lodge. The Nordheim Brass Band, indicative of another important aspect of German social life (see GERMAN MUSIC IN TEXAS), was founded in 1902, though its origins perhaps date to 1896. The band pavilion, a dance platform, and a park were built on Pilot Knob, which was the focal point of civic entertainment.

Between 1902 and 1915 the town grew dramatically, its estimated population climbing from 122 to 400. Before prohibition this robust population patronized eight saloons, and the most heated election in the town's history was for the position of agent for the San Antonio (Lone Star) Brewery, a lucrative job. Nordheim was incorporated after the state legislature introduced a bill in 1917 providing that only incorporated towns could have saloons. When the Ku Klux Klan from Runge threatened to march in the town's Silver Jubilee celebration in 1922 to protest the presence of home brew and gambling, Nordheim Germans indicated that they would be ready to meet the challenge; the Klan changed its plans. By 1927 the town grew to an estimated 600 people. That same year the Nordheim Independent School District was organized, consolidating many of the surrounding rural schools; the district was fully accredited by 1946. St. Anne's Catholic Church was organized in 1921.

On May 6, 1930, a cyclone hit the town, killing eighteen and injuring others; medical supplies were flown in. The economic downturn of the Great Depression, coupled with this disaster, decimated the town, even though oil and gas were discovered in the area in 1934. The population fell to 400 by 1931, and the number of businesses fell from forty that year to only twenty-five in 1933. By the early 1940s Nordheim was growing slowly; in the early 1950s it had 477 residents and twenty-eight businesses. In 1952 the Nordheim View was renamed the DeWitt County View and moved to Yorktown. The ensuing decades again saw both a decrease in population and in business establishments, until by 1985, 369 residents were supporting a recorded seven businesses, including a bank. The Nordheim gin, the last in the area, closed in 1970. The German heritage that has characterized this small town is still evident. The Schuetzen Verein hall was still active in the late 1980s as a social center, and though shooting matches were no longer held, residents celebrated the May Fest and Harvest Fest annually. The Nordheim Brass Band was called the only continuous pioneer German brass band still playing in Texas until it disbanded after 1972. As a part of the town's sesquicentennial celebration a Nordheim historical museum opened in April 1986 in the fire department building. The Dewitt County View is now printed by the Cuero Record. The movie Paris, Texas, was filmed in Nordheim in 1984. In 1990 the population was 344. The population was 323 in 2000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Alfreda Huck, Our Town, Nordheim, Texas: 75th Anniversary (Nordheim, Texas, 1972). Nellie Murphree, A History of DeWitt County (Victoria, Texas, 1962). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Craig H. Roell

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Craig H. Roell, "NORDHEIM, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hln24), accessed October 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.