Gustav Schuhmann

Submitted by
Sidney Schuhmann Levesque, Abilene

Gustav Schuhmann was born Dec. 1, 1858 in Waldeck, Fayette County, Texas, to Gotthelf Friedrich Schuhmann and Auguste Werner. He died Dec. 23, 1938 in Rowena, Runnels County, Texas. He was buried in the Rowena Protestant Cemetery. He married Caroline Margaretta Albers on April 16, 1882 in Fayette County, Texas. She was born Sept. 26, 1881 in Texas to Eilert Gerhard Albers and Helene C. Ahlrich. She died Jan. 4, 1926 in Runnels County. She was buried Jan. 6 in the Rowena Protestant Cemetery. They had five children, Walter, Ella, Alma, John and Martha.

In his younger days, Gus was a member of the Schuhmann Band in Waldeck along with his brother, Paul, and other relatives. His wife and Paul’s wife were sisters. At the time Gus married, he was in the mercantile business in Walhalla (a few miles east of Waldeck) with a schoolmate and partner for about four years. After that, he sold his share and went into business for himself. He had good luck and business ability, saved money, and in the fall of 1898, sold out his share at Walhalla and decided to try West Texas.

According to an Abilene Reporter-News article from Nov. 23, 1967, “Gustav Schuhmann got off the Santa Fe train on Feb. 3, 1899, with his wife and three children, Walter, Alma and John. ... John Schuhmann later recalled: ‘We landed here on the coldest day in Texas history. We walked a mile from the railroad before we found a house. The next day, Dad walked 10 miles to Ballinger for a stove.’ Around this same time, P.J. Baron and his wife arrived in this part of Runnels County and laid out the town site. The town originally bore the name of its founder, being called Baronville.”

He bought six sections of school land (3,840 acres) at $1.75 to $2.75 an acre in Runnels County, around the present town of Rowena. Rowena was derived from the Bohemian word meaning “level land.” Gus moved his family to Rowena, which at the time was only a flag stop on the G.C. and Santa Fe Railroad, with a section house and a very large stock pen. In the years of 1899 and 1900, a number of Bohemian and German farmers bought land in the area. In 1900, Gus built a small storehouse on the site of the present depot, then about 400 feet from the stock pen, and put in a general store.

Gus and Caroline owned a home across from the railroad tracks. Granddaughter Irene Schuhmann Jansa recalled bums riding the rails would come knocking on her grandparents’ door asking for a meal. Sometimes, when Caroline wasn’t looking, they snatched something, even taking Gus’ watch once, Irene said. She said Caroline was a kind, trusting person.

The settlers of Rowena applied for a post office about 1900, which was granted. The first postmaster, Gustav Schuhmann, named the place Bolf after a land agent, but that didn't last. The post office took the name of Rowena in 1901, and local residents persuaded Baron to rename the town Rowena in February 1904. Gus was appointed postmaster for life. He gave it up in later years because of pressing personal business. The town was known for a short time as Bolf. Gus was also the depot agent in the absence of a station until one was built. He put in the first telephone in the county and was president of the first bank to open.

Gus prospered in the cattle business and in operating his large scale farming operations. In 1903, he erected a two-story business and sold his general store and continued a hardware store, together with a lumber yard, 1903-06, and gin, 1903-08. In 1910, he, together with his son, Walter, and Mr. Fiest, built a fine brick building 80 feet by 68 feet deep beside a tin shot, sheet iron building 70 feet by 80 feet. Until 1921, these buildings housed grocery, dry goods and hardware stores. Walter was part owner of the business then, as was Gus’ brother, Theodore, who was also interested in the general merchandise business and had charge of the dry goods department from about 1912 to 1921. In later years, the business continued as Schuhmann Hardware Co. operated by Gus’ sons, Walter and John.

Gus was devastated by his wife Caroline’s passing, which dealt his happy life a severe blow. In his later years, he personally suffered heavy losses during the Great Depression. He was known for his keen business ability, quick decision, untiring honesty and activity. He died suddenly after a short illness, a bout with pneumonia.

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