PaperCity Magazine

Round Top Summer 2022

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sake. I said we wanted to be no more than 45 minutes from Houston!" The realtor just kept going. Finally he stopped in front of this house. The grass was high, and the house had not been painted, and the porch needed to be fixed. But we pull up, and my mother looks at it and says, "This is it." We bought it from the original family. Love at first sight. GEW: We trooped in, and it was great. It had so much potential. Nothing had been done to it. All we did was repair windows and small things like that. We painted it yellow with dark green trim, so it melded into the countryside. We wanted to preserve the frontier look. It was — and still is — relatively small. We decided we would restore it so that we could come up every weekend. And that's what we did for at least 40 years, because my mother continued coming after my father died in '99. Even when my father had Parkinson's, we had weekend nurses who came up 24/7. There were times when he'd look out into the countryside and say, "Is this England?" It was so comfortable and so lovely, and we continued to work on the house and the gardens. We didn't have air conditioning or a heater because mom wanted to keep everything in its authentic time period. On the farm's German heritage. GEW: Victor Witte came over from Germany with his sons and bought several plots of land. This plot was originally 300 acres — when we bought it, it was 112 acres. The house was built around 1872 by Victor Witte and his son Armin. Geography. GEW: The post office says we're in Burton, Texas, which is 15 miles from here as the crow flies. However, we are 1.6 miles from Winedale and six miles from Round Top. We're out in the country. There's not anything except for an old post office and the house next door, which belonged to the Wittes. The stagecoach between Houston and Austin used to stop here for passengers to get a drink of water. The log kitchen. GEW: Originally the kitchen was on a neighboring property, and was built around the same time as the main house, or slightly before. There was a creek that the wagon had to cross, and it would stop at the log cabin. It was pulled by oxen; they'd feed the oxen, have dinner, then go on. Your parents' romance. GEW: My father met my mother during the war, and they corresponded for three years. When the war was over and my father was back in England, my father's father said, "Robin, you need to get yourself out of England because you're the second son, not the first son — the first son gets everything. You need to go to America and make yourself big there." He wanted to track down my mother, whom he had met in Greenville, Texas, when he was stationed there during the war. My grandmother and grandfather lived in Greenville — my mother's parents — because my grandfather was a ground captain in the army. So, one night my grandfather brought these English flyers home. My father asked my mother for a glass of water and followed her into the kitchen, and the rest is history. Your folks as collectors. GEW: My father had a wonderful tool collection, and mother had an early American cookware collection. When they first bought this place, friends in the area would say, "Oh, we have something in our hay barn you might be interested in." They found a lot of wonderful old metal tools and implements, which now hang on the wall in the log kitchen and the toolshed. They're mostly from around here or made in the area. Also, my father was great friends with fellow collector [the late] Ray Hankamer; they used to go around on weekends, visiting old-timers in the area to see if they would part with some of their furniture or implements that might be gathering dust in a barn. When my parents bought Walnut Hill Farm, this was about the time the Round Top Antiques Fair began [founded 1968], when Emma Lee Turney held it in the Round Top Rifle Hall. Texas primitive furniture was just being discovered, and Miss Hogg was preserving Winedale. So my parents also acquired many finds at the early antiques fair — most of which came from this area. There was a stonemason nearby — he was Ginny Elverson Welch on the porch of the log kitchen. She shares life at Walnut Hill Farm with daughter Lizzy Welch.

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