SONS OF DEWITT
© 1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Guadalupe River at Hochheim | Hochheim School and Masonic Lodge
VOLENTINE HOCH ROCK HOUSE AT HOCHHEIM BUILT IN 1856
HOCH ARRIVES IN TEXAS FROM GERMANY IN 1838
LANDS AT OLD INDIANOLA WHERE HIS WIFE, DIES AND WAS BURIED.
From the Yoakum Newspaper, 3 September 1936. Hochheim, "the home of the Hochs", is now a thriving little town, sprung up on the ground once surveyed by Volentine Hoch from a neighboring hill top nearly a century past. When the lonely German traveler came to the rolling rocky hills and the wooded hollows of this uninhabited spot, he pulled his old gray horse to a halt and said to his son, August, "Here we shall build our home." That was in 1848. Today, an old stone house stands on the old Hochheim-Cuero road, about a mile and a half out of Hochheim, and about a mile from the Guadalupe river, with its ancient roof beaten by the rains and buffeted by the winds of eighty years, and its still sturdy walls holding memories of the heart-aches and disappointments, the joys and achievements, the births, marriages, and deaths, of three generations of Hochs who made it their home. It is a small two-story house, with an attic for the boys; a second story for the girls, and the ground floor, always occupied by the older people. Over the front door is carved in the stone, "V. Hoch--1856". On the back is carved the name of the man who helped to build the house and the date "1857", marking the time of its completion. It took more than a year, however, to finish this home of the Hochs. There were no modern tools, no giant crane to lift the heavy stones, no one to quarry the stone from the Guadalupe river banks, except Volentine himself, who had been a stone worker by trade in the old country. So Volentine Hoch spent several years quarrying his stone and bringing his material to the spot where his house was to stand. Many of these pioneering people came to this wild land with a doubt in their hearts as to its ability to hold them. They built small, temporary houses, wondering if they were to remain. But few of the German immigrants, a crew of whom came over at about the same time that Hoch came, ever went back. They came to stay. They built houses to last -- permanent, strong houses that might hold their families for a hundred years or more.
Volentine Hoch was a small dark man, with snapping black eyes and a swarthy complexion. He came from the disputed German-French country of Alsace-Lorraine, and though he was of German blood, his descendants say that there was a possibility that a tinge of French blood was in his veins. It was in his home in Southern Germany that Volentine bought the land in DeWitt county, three thousand miles away in the frontier state of Texas, sight unseen, from one of the land agents sent over to the old countries to bring in settlers. Paper preparations for the long hazardous voyage began. Volentine and his wife planned carefully the number of the household utensils they would need, the kind of clothing, what staple foods were absolutely essential. Tools, of course, were necessary, in the taming of the wilderness that Indians had recently vacated. Bravely, they prepared themselves and their children, August, Fredericka, Minda and the baby, for the ocean voyage that would take them away from Germany forever. Then, as everything was ready, and the household goods were being packed and stowed away, the last days of their stay in the land of their birth were darkened by tragedy. The baby sickened and died. So when farewells were said, the most heart rending of all was the goodbye to a child that might have grown up to play in the yet unseen yards of the newly purchased home. Sadly, the family sailed, from a southern Germany port to a place marked on the map as Indianola, Texas. It was a long and tedious journey, and the thoughts of the mother kept going back across the ever-widening expanse of water to the lonely grave of the baby. A granddaughter of Mrs. Volentine Hoch says, in telling the story ninety years later, "It broke her heart. Somehow, she managed to live until the ship anchored at Indianola, and they carried her ashore, but there she died." The bustling little city of Indianola, built upon a coral reef near the present city of Port Lavaca, was more concerned with the immediate and insistent demands of the living than the needs of the dead. There were stores where food, clothing, implements and supplies could be bought, but each family had to bury its own dead. There was no place to buy a casket. So Volentine Hoch made a wooden box in which to lay his wife away; and they buried her in Indianola. The father and three children came to the present site of Hochheim. Other families were settling nearby--the Crawfords, Helms, Humphreys, Steens (Scotch-Irish people who had dropped the "O" part of their native name "O'Steen"), the Morrisses, the Times, the Schwabs. The Schwabs had a general store and later a gin, and the little settlement called Hochheim rapidly developed into a trade center between Indianola and Austin, and a regular stage line connected it with both these places. The Hoch family had quite a problem on its hands. The father had duties that kept his time completely occupied, without the additional trouble of attempting to bring up three small children. A neighbor came to him one day and said, "Volentine, you need a housekeeper, I hear that there is a lady stranded at Indianola who would probably come to work for you. She has two children and has recently lost her husband. You might see if you can get her to come." So Volentine went to see the lady, a Mrs. Fleming, who had come to the new country with the same high hopes and plans that Volentine had hold, only to become hopelessly bewildered when death took the husband and father of the family. What arrangements they made concerning their respective families were not known, but Volentine returned in a few days with the blond, young German widow, and her two children, Ann and Julian Fleming. The mother's name, however, had been recently changed to Mrs. Volentine Hoch. History relates that with no more courtship than that, they were married.
They were evidently quite happy together, and the big stone house came to shelter, besides the first Hoch children and the two Fleming children, three others, Molly, Emma, and Theodore, children of Volentine and the former Mrs. Fleming. The house remained in the Hoch family until recently when Mrs. Booth of Gonzales bought the property, with the intention of restoring it and making a sort of museum of it. Mrs. Booth is the daughter of one of the neighbors who used often to visit with the Hoch family, Mr. Blackwell. Descendants of Volentine Hoch did not wander far from the first home, for at a recent family reunion. eighty-seven members of the immediate Hoch family were present, and most of them are now residents of Lavaca, DeWitt, or Gonzales counties. They have grown up and intermarried with people of this immediate vicinity until there are very few of the older settlers who have not become in some way related to this first old family. After the father's death, Theodore lived for some time in the old house, and others from time to time made it their home, but it is in a state of dilapidation that makes it now almost untenable. A storm in 1934 did considerable damage to the old home of the Hochs, and it has not yet been completely repaired. It is thought that somewhere in the cellar is still left intact the old oven that Volentine made, and in which he baked his own bread doing the job personally and doing it well. A blackened spot over the fire-place marks the place where butcher knives were sharpened on the stone. And over the front door the inscription is still clearly decipherable,"V. Hoch - 1856.
Volentine Hoch's house remained in the family for many years and was then sold to Valentine Bennet. Lucille Bennet Boothe restored the house to its original condition in 1953 and it was awarded a medallion by the Texas Historical Society where it currently stands on Highway 183 near current Hochheim and the Guadalupe River.
SONS OF DEWITT
© 1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved