"Out of Our Past"
by LaDawn Garland, Bosque County News
April 25, 2001
Earlier this month I related some of the stories told by Reverend Wilhelm Estrem, of his ministry, at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Bosque County, in the early 1900's compiled by his grandaughter, this week I would like to share what he had to say on social customs of the area and time.
"One of my outstanding recollections from those eight years in Texas was the church attendance." Rev. Estrem states, "Sunday was the big day in the community. When weather permitted, the church was generally well filled, and those parents took their children with them. Baptisms were usually in church. Families were quite large and often came to services in a body. More than once I registered the parents and up to six or seven of their children together for Communion. It was very encouraging and inspiring for a pastor.
Rev. Estrem goes on to tell, "I never saw a community where the boys took their girls to church as they did here. When a boy was confirmed, he usually was given a buggy to use behind the saddle horse he had ridden to confirmation instruction. That was before the common use of automobiles."
It seems that once a young man had a horse and buggy, he was eligible to begin taking the girls home for Sunday evening "Singings", later superceded by the Luther League and evening services. Once the young man had selected a steady partner he would drive across the entire settlement to take his girl to church. One after the other would drive up to church in their nice looking rigs, tie their horses to a hitching rail and gallantly escort their young ladies up to the church door. She would go in, and he would join the large group of boys assembled on the south side of the church in the wintertime and on the north side in summertime. There they would pass the time visiting and exchanging news until the bell rang.
The Reverend states that "at first I thought that the boys started toting the girls around rather young, but I soon learned to appreciate the sight of those young boys and girls coming together to church on a Sunday morning. They did not chase from one to another until they knew not whom they really wanted. When they started coming to church together in broad daylight, it often meant a wedding before long and that meant a new family in the congregation. I called it our Church Extension Department. Those weddings lasted. Divorces were almost unknown in that congregation and community in those days.
One of the first projects undertaken by Reverend Estem, just a month after being installed by Rev. P.E. Thorson of Clifton, was the organization of a Luther League. On November 13, 1912 , Rev. and Mrs. Estrem invited the young people of the congregation to meet at the parsonage for organization. A very large crowd assembled.
The Reverend goes on to say, "There was a custom of that day, derived no doubt from the Sunday evening "Singings" and the fact that there was usually too little room in the homes, so most of the boys stayed outside on the porch, smoking cigarettes and teasing each other about girls. The girls came into the house. That evening, however, we managed to get many of the boys in, too, so the house was certainly packed. There and then we organized, and that Luther League has operated successfully ever since. It has been an important factor in the growth and life of St. Olaf congregation these thirty five years. But it did take a great deal of patience and perseverance and tact to get the boys out of that old ingrained habit of staying out on the gallery during the programs."
I have so enjoyed reading and sharing these memories of Reverend Estrem and these earlier years here in the county, I will include more in upcoming columns.
I learned the sad news this week that Lucian LaNoy Collins had passed away earlier this month. Mr. Collins had previously contributed some wonderful stories of his early memories of Kimball and history of the Bateman family to this column. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family, there will be a memorial service held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, at the Kimball Bend Cemetery.
Bruce Wiland recently sent me the information on a book available for purchase at the Bosque County Collections, entitled TEXAS CENTRAL HEADQUARTERS: WALNUT SPRINGS by Bryan E. Sowell. A brief description of the book states "Although more than a century has passed since the Houston and Texas Central Railway Company dedicated the streets of Walnut Springs, vivid memories of that once-flourishing community still linger in the minds of many local citizens. Stories of the railroad shops, college, hospital, and trade days revive the echo of that familiar cry, "All aboard, Central." This book relates the events in Walnut Springs' history, beginning with the arrival of the first pioneers in the mid-1850's. Over 120 biographies of these early settlers provide valuable historical and genealogical information. Numerous photographs highlight the text. In his three years of research, Sowell could consult no single source, since virtually all of the community's records were destroyed by fires around the turn of the century. Consequently, he has united fragments taken from newspaper clippings, personal interviews, and local histories into the most comprehensive image of Walnut Springs' heyday." This sounds like a wonderful book and I can't wait to get a copy, if you would like information on purchasing one yourself, call the Bosque County Collections at 254-435-6182 or visit their website at
Week before last, included in this column, was a great story on the Hudson Brothers, this and other wonderful stories come from the book In Rememberance of Our Ancestors by Mrs. Ella Osborne. I have learned from members of her family that this is a book she compiled on early memories of Walnut Springs and the families there. I understand that the book is out of print, but was lucky enough to talk with a family member who knows of one extra copy she is going to try and get to me. I am thrilled and can't wait to read it. From everything I have heard it sounds like such a wonderful book.
I already found my family, total thanks to your column. They are Henry and Fannie Smith of Temple. My only query would be if any one knows them and wants to send tidbits of information on them, things they did, the family, etc. I will add it to our family tree with gratitude to all. Connie Courtney, firstname.lastname@example.org