decided to immerse myself in Art
in the summer of 1968. Standing in front of the old church, the only sounds I
heard were the buzzing of an insect and the wind. After enjoying that solitude
for a while and taking some pictures, I drove to the Art post office and general
The only one around was O.A. Toeppich, owner of the store and local
postmaster. When he said he had been born less than a mile from where he still
worked more than six decades later, I figured the mystery of Art
would be easy to crack.
After some small talk, I artfully asked the postmaster
how Art came to be
said he did not know why Art
was Art, but he knew
what Art once was.
Until shortly after World War One,
he said, Art’s name was Plehweville, a handle that sounds something like
a sneeze, followed by “ville.”
“Nobody could spell that name,” Toeppich
told me. “And some couldn’t even say it.”
Neither the residents of the
community nor the government liked the name, so it was changed to Art,
he said. But though friendly and helpful, Toeppich’s knowledge of Plehweville
and Art nomenclature
ended there. He did not know for whom Plehweville had been named, nor why Art
had been chosen as Plehweville’s new name.
Even so, I had enough material
to file a story on Art,
though I had been unable to find the real truth in Art.
recently, after coming across a yellowed clipping of my early take on Art,
it took me just a few clicks on the computer keyboard to finally solve the mystery
of Art after all
Turns out that one person who could pronounce the name Plehweville
was Otto Plehwe. In 1886, he had purchased from J.A. Hoerster a one-year-old general
store near the hill top Methodist Church. The area had been settled by German
families in 1856 and they soon built a log church. By 1875, they had raised a
stone church which also served as a school. (And 15 years later, they would build
the church that still stands today.)
Plehwe thought the area needed a
post office as well as a store and the government agreed. Postal officials even
went with Plehwe’s suggested name, one the new post master thought had a nice
ring to it: Plehweville.
Unfortunately, letters to Plehweville, not an
easy name to pronounce, spell or remember, often got lost. Many residents were
not content with the name and neither was the government. Phooey with Plehweville
By 1920, Eli Dechart had taken over as store owner and post
master of Plehweville. Like Plehwe, he envisioned a community named in his honor.
But unlike Plehwe, Dechart had a more practical idea. He recommended the new name
for the post office of Plehweville, Texas be Art,
Texas – Art being the last three letters of Dechart. And so by government
fiat, Plehweville was transformed into Art.
No matter its name, Art
never flourished. In 2000, census enumerators counted 18 residents. You would
think that being only seven miles from Mason
the Art post office would have long since been discontinued by the Postal Service,
but not so. It’s still there at 7866 E. Highway 29, 76820-9817.
gift to Texas geography does demonstrate one quality of Art
© Mike Cox
October 22, 2008 column
More Texas | TE
Online Magazine | Features |Texas
Ranches | Columns |