Cuero’s first schoolhouse saved from demolition, Museum developing master plan for building re-purpose.
There’s an expression that applies to daunting, complicated, and long-term projects, which goes something like this, “How do you eat an elephant?” The next phrase that you’ll probably hear is, “One bite at a time!”This certainly applies to saving historic structures, whether one lives in a city full of historic homes and buildings or a small community where historic structures are disappearing at an alarming rate.
The board of directors of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum (CTHM) has been working for over a year trying to save Cuero’s historic (c. 1880) English-German School. Condemned by the City of Cuero and slated for demolition, the Museum’s board expressed concern about the demise of Cuero’s first school and chose to do something about it. Contact was made with the owner, Mr. Richard Mundt of Victoria, who generously offered to gift the structure to the CTHM should funding be secured to move the structure from its former location at the corner of S. Gonzales and Newman Streets. Several board members offered to fund the move and on Thursday, September 4, 2014, Cuero’s English-German School once again made local history.
According to the information that was submitted in the State Marker Committee application In 1965 by Mrs. A.W. Schaffner, Chairman of the DeWitt County Historical Committee, and information from Mr. Frank Sheppard, whose grandmother, Mrs. J.L. Sheppard attended the school, “the English-German School Association was incorporated on March 28, 1877 with its original association members being E. Mugge, H. Buschick, Charles Kleinecke and William Frobese.” Stock certificates were issued at $5.00 per share by the Association in 1877 for the purpose of financing Cuero’s first school — and becoming one of its finest.
On May 22, 1877, the Cuero Land & Immigration Company conveyed this property to the English-German School Association. The Association executed a mortgage on the property on September 10, 1880, (some 134 years ago), where many early residents of Cuero received their education, including instruction in English, German and Latin.
Professor O.E. Mundt, great-grandfather of Mr. Richard Mundt who graciously gifted the structure to CTHM, taught German in summer school, while also teaching in Yorktown and Victoria and serving as principal of the Hawthorne School in Houston. Shortly after the turn of the last century, Mr. Robert Mernitz and family acquired the structure, which had been converted into a residence consisting of eight rooms, including a long screen porch along the rear of the building. In 1965, the structure was still being used as a residence by Robert Mernitz’s widow and her daughter, Mrs. R.E. Mundt.
A master plan for future use by the Museum is currently being developed, while funding requests will be solicited from regional foundations, corporations, and state and federal agencies that support education and historic preservation projects. Lindy Gohmert, CTHM spokesperson and board member who organized the monumental move remarked, “it’s important that today’s youth understand the underpinning of a community’s past, whether that history is told through architecture, educational opportunities in times gone by or by the individuals who have made our community what it is today.” She added, “Without the expert talent of Mr. Anthony Fowler and his moving crew, I’m not certain if this would have been possible. The Fowlers have been moving structures since 1929, which allowed the move of the English-German School to proceed without a hitch.“
“A very special word of thanks also goes out to the City of Cuero and the Cuero Police Department, which contributed an invaluable service to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum and the community as a whole by supervising this historical event.”