The Homeplace. August 2013
I asked my aunt Terry and my grandmother Joan for some help with information on my great grandparent's home in Smithville, Texas. To my delight, they provided me with very detailed answers to my questions on our family and this property. The home, which we call The Home Place, has remained vacant and largely untouched for over 26 years (as of August 2013). Last summer I entered the home for the first time in many, many years to photograph it. These images are deeply personal and full of memories of, and for, my family. Unfortunately, the house has fallen victim to the years and nature has slowly crept in. But even now, in the state it's in, I still find so much beauty inside. I hope these photos will not be seen as reminders of how the home was, but instead, as it is now. The house is scheduled to be inventoried and divided up, so this may be the last time it is photographed with their belongings still inside.
The history dictated below is from my grandmother, as recorded by my aunt Terry. *Please note that Emil (pronounced a-mull, who I was also named after) is my great grandfather, Alma is my great grandmother, Joan (pronouced Joanne) is my grandmother and Rick, her son, is my father. Emil passed away in 1983 and Alma passed in 1987. The following is some history on my family and the town of Smithville, Texas.
Emil (Emil Dietrich Reimers, dob March 15, 1905) and Alma (Alma Lizzie Christine Franz, dob August 15, 1911) Reimers were married on February 10, 1929 in the Paige area. Emil had a job at the Elgin Butler Brick Company in Butler, Texas, where they lived in a small brick home on the company's property. This was where Joan Doris Reimers (my grandmother) was born, March 27, 1931.
Both Emil and Alma were familiar with farming so they decided to move to the Grassyville community to farm (Hemphill place, where Joyce Evelyn Reimers was born, July 4, 1933). Later they moved to the Bright place (where Elizabeth Mae Reimers was born, May 23, 1937). Following that, they moved to the Peschke place. All three places were in Grassyville.
The Pearl Harbor attack was on December 7, 1941. During this time, they were in the process of buying property close to Smithville, Texas, and they moved during that winter. The reason they moved to Smithville is because Alma's sister, Florence Esther Hulda (dob January 7, 1916), and her husband, Howard Smith Burns, lived there. Howard Burns was born and raised in the Smithville community. There was a three-room home on the property. They received a loan from First State Bank on a handshake. Alma's mother, Selma (dob September 29, 1891) and husband Albert Kunkel (dob January 19, late 1800s), and great-grandmother Christine Nakunz (dob September 28, 1871) and her son, Willie, moved at the same time.
They began farming with mules Jane and Alec, and later graduated to a one-row tractor. They both worked extremely hard and had a successful farming and ranching operation, including cotton, corn, maize, hay, cattle, hogs, and turkeys, as well as vegetables (which were supplied to markets in Austin and Smithville). When they originally moved to Smithville, Joan was 10, Joyce was 8, and Elizabeth was 4. Joan and Joyce stayed with their grandparents and completed the school year in Grassyville. Joan began Smithville schools in the 8th grade, Joyce in the 5th grade, and Elizabeth in the 1st grade.
Joan was the valedictorian of her class at the age of 16 (She maintained the highest average for years. Rick thinks she still does. It was something like 98.6. She originally wanted to go into journalism.) They all participated in various activities. Joan and Joyce were in the drill team. Joan played volleyball. Joyce played volleyball, basketball, and softball. Liz was a cheerleader.
The house was remodeled as needed, growing from a kitchen/dining room two bedrooms, and an outhouse, to a kitchen/dining room, den, living area, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms.
The size of Smithville has remained about the same through the years. It started as a railroad community. When the railroad was building through the area, with a roundhouse operation and switch yard (The home place was actually near a switch called Togo.), the community reached over 4,000. When the Taylor, Bastrop, and Houston Railroad came through in 1887, there were only two mercantile stores in town. The Katy line completed its line to Houston in 1893 and established the terminal at Smithville. The Smithville Times newspaper was first published in 1896.
The Reimers family (Emil's dad came over with his sweetheart's family) came over from Germany in the late 1800s and settled in the Paige community. The Reimers had a large family, with two daughters and nine sons. The Reimers were very musically inclined and loved to jam when they got together. Each could play a variety of instruments, including the fiddle, guitar, banjo, accordion, and the harmonica. Emil took confirmation lessons in German around the age of twelve. He was also learning English during this time.
Alma's great grandfather, Peter Fritsche, a Wend, came over with his first wife on the Ben Nevis and also settled in the Serbin area. Her paternal ancestors, Franz, settled in the Paige area. Alma had one sister, Florence, and one half brother, Clifford.
The home place continues as a cattle ranch, with the house still standing.