Other Views from 1881

Where is Flatonia?

Above: Augustus Koch (1849–?). Bird’s Eye View of Flatonia, Fayette County, Texas, 1881. Toned lithograph, 13.9 x 21.9 in. Courtesy E. A. Arnim Archives and Museum, Flatonia.

Flatonia in 1881

The area around Flatonia was settled by Anglo-Americans prior to the Civil War, but inexpensive land gradually brought German, Bohemian, Greek, Arabian, and Italian immigrants into the region. The city itself was created by the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway as it built west through Fayette County from Schulenburg in April 1874. Residents of old Flatonia, one mile southeast of the new site, and Oso, three miles northeast, loaded their homes and businesses into wagons and moved to this location on the tracks. The city was incorporated in November 1875 and by 1878 had a population of 800. Even so, it may be the smallest city that Augustus Koch documented during his four trips to Texas.

Flatonia is surrounded by agricultural and ranching country and for a time served as the trading center of a fertile stretch of the Blackland Prairie. But as the railroad reached other cities, they, too, developed into trading centers, and Flatonia’s business diminished.[1] That is the town that Augustus Koch depicted, probably in 1881, the same year that he produced views of Schulenburg, about twelve miles to the east, and Luling, about thirty-three miles to the east. The creeks shown flowing from left to right in the view are branches of what is today called Big Fivemile Creek, which rises in Flatonia and flows north and then west to empty into Peach Creek in Gonzales County.

Koch pictured the usual structures: city hall (7 on map), school house (1), churches (2), passenger and freight depots for the railroad (4 and 5), and mills and lumberyards. The streets of Flatonia are roughly aligned with the points of the compass, and Koch depicted the city from a southeastern perspective. The downtown storefronts still look today much as they did when Koch depicted them. The E. A. Arnim Archives and Museum is located in the small building facing Main Street at the corner of Penn Avenue, which is today Highway 95. Today the city is dissected by highways 90 (which runs parallel to the railroad) and 95 (running north and south).