1938 Arson, Remembering Victims of Lynching, and Antioch City

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 2, 520, 797 steps

Location: Luling, Lockhart, Buda, and Dripping Springs, TX

Churches: Church of the Annunciation, Emmanuel, St. Elizabeth’s, and Church of the Holy Spirit

 

Opening Prayer

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious

favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our

works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify

thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting

life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP p. 832

 

Welcome to Luling, Lockhart, Buda, and Dripping Springs, TX!

Luling

Luling has a population of 6,000 and rests along the San Marcos river, in both Caldwell and Guadalupe counties. Sources vary on how Luling came by its name: one said that it was named for a Chinese worker; a second, that it was named for a Judge Luling; and a third, that Luling was the maiden name of the wife of the man who built the railroad. The discovery of the Luling oilfield in 1922 created rapid growth in the community, and the town has remained prosperous since. In the 1950s local farmers began to expand their crops, including watermelon. To this day the Watermelon Thump Festival is an annual community celebration that attracts visitors from around Texas and beyond. Visitors can enjoy various farmer’s markets for some of the freshest produce around. There are multiple boat ramps and put-ins for paddling down the San Marcos river, and their downtown contains shops and dining for all to enjoy. History fans can take in the oil museum, Foundation Farm, built-in 1927 to educate local county farmers on best practices and innovative agricultural techniques.

The first service of what would become Church of the Annunciation began in a passenger train car when Bp. Elliot, Bishop of the Missionary District of Western Texas traveled through the eight-month-old town of Luling. The year was 1874, and by 1876 Luling had its own Vicar who worked hard to see a chapel building completed. The chapel was completed in 1877 and remodeled in 1938 and 1965 to include a parish hall, kitchen, bathrooms, and air conditioning. Church of the Annunciation continues to meet in its original building, with vibrant ministries that feed both church members and the community alike.

Every Sunday they serve breakfast before worship, with bible study to follow. On Wednesday evenings they host a community dinner for any and all to attend, no strings attached! They use the curriculum Godly Play for their children’s program on Sunday mornings, and children return to the larger worship service to join their parents afterward. They are currently served by The Rev. Mark C. Bigley, Rector.

The town of Luling has a rich history dating back to its founding in the early 1870s as a workstation for the Southern Pacific railroad. Over time dozens of historic and meaningful buildings would be constructed which in a way helped preserve the history of the town. We as Episcopalians know how important our historic buildings are, with many of the Churches in our Diocese representing not only architectural achievements of the past, but also contain the stories of countless parishioners who have gone before us. In June of 2000, the residents of Luling lost a great deal of their history to the work of an arsonist who in a night set much of the historic downtown ablaze. The ensuing blaze would destroy five businesses and damage five others before the firefighters of Luling and eleven surrounding towns were able to tame the blaze. However, this is not the first incident of arson in Lulings history, and it is to a blaze in 1938 that we find that fire was harnessed as a tool to continue the marginalization of one group by another. But in the story of the blaze at the First Baptist Church of Luling that we also find that the actions that caused individuals to start a fire can be applauded and serve as examples of how to bring all who wish to worship together.

Texas of the 1930s was a State that while practicing the notion of “separate but equal” was anything but equal. Jim Crow was the law of the land with many towns deeply segregated with many minority groups having a lack of access to basic necessities and when access was available it was inferior to what their Anglo neighbors had access to. The town of Luling was similar to many Texas towns in this regard, with different high schools based on one’s ethnicity and a notion that African Americans and Hispanics should not “step out of line” lest violence is used for further marginalization. However, there were exceptions in the town and a drive among some residents to begin integrating, even if it was at just a low level at first. In a first for the town, the leaders of the First Baptist Church, an Anglo congregation agreed to allow one of the African American parishes to use its baptistry for a service on a Sunday night. While this seems to us a simple deed of sharing one’s worship space it was truly challenging for much of the social order of the time. But as we have seen we know this opening of a worship space did not take place as the Church would burn to the ground that Sunday afternoon. As the firefighters began to go through the rubble of the historic parish, it was found that the space heater jet was turned fully on, filling the Church full of gas. In the official reports filed by investigators, it was stated that a pilot light was the source of the blaze, but many residents of the town believed that the fire was a deliberate message from segments of the town who wished to keep the social order. As we have seen before in other instances of violence being used as a tool of intimidation, while the names of those who committed the act were generally known by many of the town’s citizens, no individuals would face prosecution for the blaze and it would be several decades before an Anglo parish would share its worship space with an African American congregation.

While it is truly disheartening to hear the tale of a fire being used as a tool to perpetuate racial segregation and for the purpose of terror, we can also learn from those parishioners who had wished to share their worship space. As followers of Christ, we are taught to open our doors and go out into the world as we are reminded at every dismissal. The beautiful red doors of the Episcopal Church are truly open for all and as followers, it is for us to ensure that all who enter feel welcomed and are free to worship free of marginalization.

Lockhart

Lockhart has a population of 12,700 and is located 30 miles southeast of Austin. European settlers made their home in the area in the 1840s, and by the early 1850s, Lockhart had a newspaper, Masonic Lodge, a school, and five churches. By the 1890s Lockhart had electricity, waterworks, streetcars, and a national bank. The beginning of the 20th century saw the opening of the Eugene Clark Library, said to be the state’s longest continually operating library. Lockhart is known as the capital of Barbeque and many pilgrims make their way to Black’s, Smitty’s, and Kreuz BBQ joints throughout the year. Visitors can also enjoy taking in the sites at the historic courthouse, Caldwell County Jail Museum, and the Eugene Clark Library. Lockhart State Park offers walking, biking, and hiking trails, golf, water activities, and more. The historic Ellison House acts as a Hotel for those staying overnight, and you may just encounter one of the house’s ghosts while you’re there. Lockhart also boasts several local coffee houses and cocktail bars.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church held its first service in a local schoolhouse in Lockhart in 1853 under The Rev. Joseph Dunn. Four parishioners helped donate to the building of a church building that was completed in 1856. The structure is the oldest known unaltered church building in use by Protestants in Texas. In 1899 the exterior walls were stuccoed to resemble stone. The same year a memorial stained-glass window was donated by the people of Lockhart in honor of “Grandma” Elizabeth Head. Since that time all the windows have been replaced with stained-glass memorials. Dunn’s Bible and Prayer Book are displayed in a glass cubicle.

Emmanuel holds two services of Holy Eucharist on Sunday mornings, and one on Wednesday evening. They hold fellowship and Christian Formation for all ages between services on Sunday and are involved in a variety of outreach programs throughout the week. They are served by The Rev. Karen Morris.

With the weeks of summer quickly coming to a close, so too does our journey of social justice through the diocese of West Texas come ever closer to the end. Together we have traveled far and logged many steps, and we have heard many stories of the past that have caused us to pause and see some of the injustices that have taken place across our State. One of the most common forms of social injustice and one we have certainly covered in our pilgrimage has been the violence of lynchings. We have read about a multitude of attacks in the night, of terror being brought upon those disenfranchised and marginalized due to the color of their skin. In many of the instances that we have previously read about we did not always have the victims of these extrajudicial crimes names. But as we find ourselves in Lockhart we have an opportunity to know the names of three victims of the crime of lynching and to know the stories of who these individuals are. Below are three lynchings that occurred in or near Lockhart, and let us learn the names of those whose lives were cut short and know their stories.

Sam Brown: January 22nd, 1884
We know very little about Sam Brown, aside from the way in which he was murdered. Newspapers of the time state that Brown who was African American was being held in the local jail for the murder of an “old man Morton” from the previous summer. During the night of the 22nd, a group of masked men described as a mob broke into the jail and forcibly removed Brown. The following day Brown’s body would be found shot and as several newspapers describe his body was “mangled” beyond recognition. We also learn from the newspapers that the telegraph wire was cut a mile outside town and that many in the community knew the identities of those in the mob, though in the end no one would be charged for Brown’s murder.
Carlos Munoz: February 16th, 1905
As in the case of Brown, we know little of Carlos Munoz aside from his name and that he was a local Hispanic farmer who was accused of attacking the wife of a prominent Anglo farmer in the town. Munoz while being transported by the local sheriff and his deputies would be forcibly removed from their protection by a mob ranging from 40 to over 100 individuals. The sheriff and his “posse” had attempted to drive back the mob but shots were fired at the sheriff and Munoz would be both hanged and shot. Again in the case of this lynching many of the local residents knew who the members of the mob were, but no individuals would be charged in the crime of murdering Munoz.
Jonathan Larremore: July 27th, 1904
The murder of Jonathan Larremore is different from the other lynchings mentioned in that Larremore was not the first target of the group who lynched him, but was the second individual attacked that night. Newspapers from the time describe a mob of “whitecappers” setting out on a ride of racial terror first attacking and severely beating another African American Tom Coperton nearly to death. Whitecappers is a term that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe groups of farmers who formed extrajudicial organizations. However, these groups quickly became a group similar to the KKK in use of terror and violence to intimidate and oppress African Americans. Once the whitecappers had finished beating Coperton, they moved to the home of Larremore who was a well known local politician and teacher in the African American community. As the group attempted to enter Larremore’s home, Jonathan’s wife fired a pistol at the group who returned fire, riddling the house with bullets and killing Jonathan. As in the previous cases, no individuals would be charged in his death despite many knowing who had made up the group of whitecappers.
The use of terror as a form of intimidation has long been utilized to further keep groups disenfranchised throughout the history of the State. It is important for us as students of history to know the names of these victims so that the purpose of these terrorist attacks are not fully realized and these individuals can be remembered. Everyone who walks this fragile island home of ours has meant something to someone, and it is as much for those who cared about these individuals that we remember their names and their stories.

Buda

Buda has a population of 16,500 and has quickly become one of Austin’s biggest suburbs. The area of Buda was originally part of the Mexican land grant and settled in the 1840s. It wasn’t until 1881, with the building of a Great Northern Railroad depot that the town was formally established. The population ebbed and flowed over the years until the 1980s when Austin’s population growth saw an increase in growth for Buda. The community has a cement plant and some craft industries. As late as 2000 the town itself was still fairly rural and residential. For perspective on growth, Buda’s population in 2000 was around 2,500.

Visitors can enjoy farmer’s markets, live theater, and rotating art exhibits through Buda’s Creative Arts Society. Their historic downtown offers shopping, dining, and beautiful hotels. During the year they hold seasonal events, such as the Weiner Dog Races every April, Sip, and Stroll down Mainstreet every Summer, and a Fajita Festival in the Fall.

St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church located in Buda is a mission of the Diocese of West Texas. They worship together every Sunday at 10 am. They use Godly Play curriculum for their children’s program, and pre covid had Lifegroups, small groups for parishioners to support one another in their daily lives. They have a vibrant music ministry and host a number of Girl and Boy Scout troops on their property throughout the week. They hope to reach parish status soon and are served by The Rev. Daniel Strandlund, Vicar.

Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs has a population of 4,700 and is located twenty-five miles west of Austin. Farmers began to settle the area in the 1850s, with the first US Post Office being opened in 1857. By 1884 the town supported several businesses, including a steam gristmill and cotton gin. The settlement’s location on the Austin to Fredericksburg road made it a durable community center, and despite a population decline during the Great Depression, Dripping Springs developed into the principal town in northern Hays County during the twentieth century.

Visitors can enjoy a full day trip, or even a weekend or longer stay in Dripping Springs. There are a variety of wineries, distilleries, and brewpubs in town, as well as shopping and dining. The historic Dr. Pound Farmstead provides a look into the agricultural work of the past, with food and fun for all ages. Dripping Springs also holds yearly events which always draw good crowds, including Pioneer Days, the Dripping Springs Rodeo, and the Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival.

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church serves Dripping Springs and the surrounding area. They have two services a Sunday, with a variety of formation opportunities throughout the week. They have a day school that serves 2-year-olds through Pre-k ages, and many outreach ministries, including Military Ministry and ecumenical efforts to support those who need assistance in Dripping Springs. They are currently served by The Rev. Chris Caddell, Rector, and The Rev. Evan Hierholzer, Curate.

For many of us, a trip through the Texas countryside is a time for us to relax and enjoy the sights and beauty of the wildflowers and landscape. And as we cruise through the countryside individuals will see countless historical markers erected by the Texas Historical Commission (THC) dotting the landscape, often appearing in our vision with not enough time to stop and read. Every year new markers are added to the list and placed at historical locations and buildings that detail the history of the location and help us to bring history to life, with many of the new markers documenting events that in the past were overlooked. In the case of the historical Antioch colony near Buda, it would take until 2011 for the story of this community founded by the formerly enslaved to get the marker they deserved.

With the end of the Civil War and the beginnings of Reconstruction many formerly enslaved individuals would attempt to establish new lives free of the oppression of that original sin of slavery. Many of these individuals would face extreme roadblocks and be disenfranchised as they were forced by unfair practices into working as sharecroppers on land they were not allowed to own. The case of the Antioch story is different in that a group of formerly enslaved individuals was able to carve out a farming community that lasted well into the 20th century, with many descendants of these initial founders remaining on the land of the colony to today. The initial purchase of 490 acres for the colony was made in 1870-71 with a local businessman Joseph F. Rowley who sold the land for $5 an acre. By 1874 a Church and school were established to serve the community, with the school continuing in operation until the desegregation of Texas schools in Buda in 1961. Over the years the colony would grow and establish strong connections with the surrounding communities, allowing the residents to avoid falling to the practices of sharecropping. With the decline in agriculture in the region in the 1940s and ’50s, the population of the colony would decrease with only a few families remaining by the 1970s. However many former residents began to return to the region in the 1980s, and with this revitalization of residents so too did the story of the colony become more well known. The residents of the former Antioch colony have become ambassadors for the history of their ancestors and the stories of freed African Americans who were able to build a life for themselves despite the harsh realities of the Jim Crow South.

Closing Prayer

Ever present God, you called us to be in relationship with one another and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. We pray in faith. Amen.