Tracing Our Bosque County Roots
By LaDawn GARLAND
11 July 2001
Every week it seems, I get the chance to stop and talk with at least one person here in the county that shares their memories of Bosque County with me. Things they read in the column and names that they see in print bring back long lost memories. I enjoy hearing the old stories and love to share them with all of you. To me this column is a way to record these memories and stories of families here in the county while there is still time. One
day, if we don’t take the time to record these early tales, they will be gone along with those who have passed on. So, if you read something here in the column that brings back a memory of earlier days, write it down and send it in to share with us all. Don’t worry
about having to have something perfectly written before sending it in, the important thing is what you are sharing not how you write it. If we write our stories down and share them with others, then we have recorded them forever. Years from now, someone will be so thrilled to find these records of our lives there for the reading. This column is here for sharing the
past the way we remember it and making sure it lives on forever.
A Patriotic Family
I thought your readers would be interested to hear a unique story about a very patriotic family from Valley Mills, Of the three children in the family all three served our country—-they were the two sons and daughter of Wilbur Valentine and Willie Compton Burch. The mother Willie died when the children were young so my grandmother Mrs. W. E. (Jim) Compton helped raise the three.
The oldest son, Wilbur V. first joined the English Air Corp before the U.S. entered THE WAR. Then as soon as we became involved he transferred into U.S. Air Corp. and was stationed in Europe during the entire war. His plane was shot down twice behind enemy lines and the French underground help get him to safety. So needless to say we have high regards for them. Wilbur V. retired from the Air Force after serving 25 years part of which was later spent in what was then, Indo-China. He died a tragic death in 1983 contributed to
lead poison, which apparently he got from working on the planes and we did
not know the dangers of lead back then. But he would have done it anyway—–it was “HIS COUNTRY.”
The second son, Kenneth Burch, was also in the Air Force and was at Hickam Field when it was bombed Dec. 7, 1941. His crew had one of the first planes up in the air after ther raid. He was stationed in the South Pacific the entire war—–Battle of Midway, & too many other conflicts to even attempt to mention. He also served during the Korean Conflict. He retired after 25 years as a Lt. Col. But in his mind and heart he was never far from Bosque
County. He died in 1985 while on vacation in Paris, France (a city he loved) and is buried there but on his tomb it says,”from Valley Mills, Bosque Co., Texas”
Their little sister, Mary Louise Burch , was not to be out done by her bothers. She became a WAC, of the over 6000 women who volunteered to serve in the Air Force women’s Corps only 600 were accepted and she was one of the 600. They were trained at Avenger Field in Sweetwater Texas. She flew as many of the ferrying planes as they would allow a woman to do. She is still very active in their organization—puts on her uniform and each year helps
lead the Memorial Day Parade in Columbia, Mo. where she lives.
Their father, Wilbur Valentine “Buddy” Burch, determined not to let his “three” outdo him, went out and bought a plane. So the whole Burch family was flying. Buddy Burch was a rural mail carrier for Valley Mills for over 44 years.
The flags proudly fly at our ranch——We all have so much to THANK all of those who served our country during those trying times. GOD BLESS AMERICA and let us never forget all our service men regardless of how they may have served or where.
Another bit of information: Valley Mills had two boys in the Battle of Midway, Kenneth Burch and Joe Morris and both returned safely. Quite a feat considering the huge number we lost. Neither knew the other was there until in later years.
Ronita De Cordova Miller RonitaDM@aol.com
Now, to share the early history of a few more of our towns here in Bosque County, this week we’ll start with Steiner earlier known as Fowler, the town was established in 1869 as Fowler. After the arrival of the Texas Central Railroad in 1880 the town saw major growth and in 1916 the name was changed to Steiner in honor of Dr. J. M. Steiner, the Post Surgeon at Fort Graham.
John McKissick, a hotel owner from Waco, Albert Barton, a ferry operator on the Brazos River near Fort Graham, R. S. Barnes, a ferry operator, and James Lane, the town founder, were among the early settlers. The Post Office was established in 1880 and Albert G. McMahan was the first postmaster. Fowler at one time had two general stores, a gin, a blacksmith shop, two churches and a school. By 1950 Steiner disappeared when Lake Whitney was completed and the town site became part of the lake’s flood zone.
Walnut Springs early settlers included the families of: William Henderson Russell, Issac Rundell and the Mize family. These families settled in the Steele Creek Valley a mile east of present Walnut Springs in 1860. Nearby lived Texas Frontiersman James Berry. After the Texas Central Railroad was built through northern Bosque County in 1881, Walnut Springs was surveyed as a town. A grove of walnut trees near a spring became the namesake of the town.
The streets of the town were surveyed in 1883 and the town began to rapidly fill with railroad workers and shop owners. Also in 1883 the post office was established. Three churches were organized in 1885 and the Central Texas College opened its doors in 1885 with 108 students. In the late 1880’s due to the railroad boom, Walnut Springs was the largest town between Waco and Ft. Worth. The Texas Central Railroad was acquired by the MKT (Katy) Railroad in 1912 and during WWI over 1500 men worked in the rail yards and Walnut Springs reached a population of 3,500.
The community of Womack was named after Thomas Womack, the second postmaster
in the town of Womack. The first store was built and operated by Hugh S. Anderson, who applied for the establishment of the postoffice in 1879. In January of 1880 the application was granted and Thomas Womack was appointed postmaster in 1881. The rich prairie soil attracted families of German descent who settled along the Childress Creek area in the 1880’s. August Bernhardt, Ludwig Conrad, August Rachuig, August Zuehlke and their families were among the first settlers in 1883.
Chase was the first German community established and was located a little over three miles north of Womack. It included a general store and post office which was established in 1891 with Thomas J. Rhodes as postmaster. In 1891 the German Evangelical Zion Church was established.
With the building of cotton gins and blacksmith shops the town of Womack began to grow. In 1905 the Johles built a general store which they operated until 1918, the building was then relocated and used as a home. In 1925 Argyle Biffle built another store in the same location which he sold in 1926 to Henry Hafer which was in operation until 1961.
In 1890 a three room building was built to serve as a school and a place of worship for all denominations. A community cemetery was located in the corner of the school grounds. In 1929 a new school was built with tree classrooms and a stage. The school was located across the street from the Zion Church and in 1946 it merged with the Clifton School.
I Am seeking information on the children and grandchildren of Edward Spencer New, Jr. and Martha/Mattie Bradley. Will especially appreciate any information on Mattie Bradley! The children I have listed for them are: Minnie New (married James Newton McAdoo), Horatio S. New, Edward New, Laura New (married Unknown Pike), Mattie/Martha New and Harry New.
Linda Baker <email@example.com>
A large collection of old newspapers from Bosque County dating back to the late 1800’s are available for research at the Bosque County Collection in Meridian, as well as an amazing collection of items recording the history of our county.. Don’t forget that the Bosque County Collection is now open on Saturdays for research . For information and a look at some of the wonderful research items available visit their website at
If you are researching your Bosque County families online be sure to visit Bosque Co. TXGenWeb site at http://www.txgenweb5.org/txbosque/ you’ll find a wonderful collection of information provided by other researchers, it’s quite possible you might just find other researchers there researching your same family lines. This column will also be available weekly at this site.
If you would like to submit a story or query about your Bosque County family, as well as information on reunions, to this column please mail them to:
c/o The Bosque County News
P.O. Box 343
Meridian, TX 76665
fax to (254) 435-6335
or email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>