Zulch was on the headwaters of Kickapoo Creek near the junction of Farm roads 39 and 1372, eleven miles southwest of Madisonville in southwestern Madison County. Settlement in the vicinity began in the late 1830s when the Robert Moseley family established a homestead in what was then northern Grimes County. About 1850 a young itinerant merchant named Julius Zulch, a recent immigrant from Kassel, Germany, built a log house and general store near a watering hole on the trail from Midway to Boonville, a spot which had been used by travelers for many years as an overnight camping ground. A post office known as Willow Hole was established at the Zulch store in December 1859. Most of the early settlers were migrants from southern states, but the community grew slowly until the late 1870s, when Julius Zulch, by then a prosperous merchant and cotton grower eager to attract labor to make his land yet more productive, began promoting the advantage of Madison County agriculture among farmers in Germany and lending them money for passage to the United States. Considerable numbers of German immigrants, many from the province of Posen, took up residence near Willow Hole in the early 1880s, often farming as tenants on the property of Zulch and other landowners until they had saved enough money to purchase land of their own. Willow Hole soon became a thriving agricultural trade center. By 1884 the town had five churches, three general stores, a school, several steam-powered gristmills and cotton gins, and a population of 150. The population continued to escalate rapidly and by 1890 reached an estimated 500.
Julius Zulch constructed a parochial school offering Lutheran education and German-language instruction, and the building doubled as the site of Lutheran worship until 1893, when the Bethlehem Lutheran Church was erected on land donated by Zulch. By 1896 Willow Hole had an estimated population of 300 and ten businesses, including five general stores and two cotton gins. The town had daily stage service and a common school with an enrollment of sixty-two students. The town and its post office were renamed Zulch in 1906. That year the Houston and Texas Central Railroad constructed its Navasota-Mexia branch line through western Madison County on a route bypassing Zulch to the west. By 1907 when the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway built its Iola-Normangee spur along the same right-of-way parallel to the Houston and Texas Central tracks, most of the residents and businesses had already begun moving from Zulch northward two miles to the rail lines, where the town of North Zulch sprang up. Zulch declined rapidly, and by 1920 its post office had been discontinued. Although there were still 146 pupils enrolled at the Zulch School as late as 1935, in the early 1940s the school was consolidated with North Zulch and Madisonville districts, and the schoolhouse was demolished. By 1949 the town's population had dropped to an estimated fifty and continued to plummet. By the 1960s only the Willow Hole Church and Cemetery on Farm Road 1372 remained to mark the former townsite. Half a mile west on Farm Road 39, built in the early 1930s on the abandoned route of the Houston and Texas Central's Mexia Cut-Off, a historical marker commemorates the vanished town.