History

Owners of the Bluebonnet House After Vandeveer: Bluebonnet House 5

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(Read Part 1 of our series here.)

Nathan Alexander Cavin, Builder of the Eastern Addition to the Bluebonnet House.

The fifth owner of the Bluebonnet House was Nathan Alexander Cavin. He bought the property from Emily Vandeveer Christian and her husband, John Campbell Christian, in late 1870. Much of the following information comes from “Burnet County History,” by Darrell Debo.

Nathan was born around 1845 in Alabama, and a Cavin descendant stated that he died in 1908 in Hidalgo County, New Mexico. A check on the internet does indeed show that he is buried in the Rodeo Cemetery, Hidalgo County, New Mexico. He married Sarah Augusta Powers in 1872 in Burnet County. Their five children were all born in the rock house, the dates of their births ranging from 1873 to 1882. Nathan arrived in Bumet County sometime in the 1860s with his father, William Cavin, and several siblings. It appears, however, that Nathan did not occupy the property immediately, and that his uncle, Alexander H. Cavin, did. A. H. Cavin was born in Georgia and was in Burnet County prior to October of 1855, as he married his second wife, Charlotte Barton, in that year as the Burnet County Courthouse records reveal. Charlotte was the daughter of Jefferson Barton, a veteran of the battle of San Jacinto. It was apparently during his tenure in the Bluebonnet House that the Ruthven Masonic Lodge met there. Sometime prior to 1873, A. H. Cavin built a limestone house in the southeast part of the town of Burnet and lived there, probably for the rest of his life. A likely explanation of Nathan’s whereabouts is that shortly after arriving in Burnet County, he joined a cattle drive going west toward the Pecos country to the Navajo Indians. This story was gleaned from Nathan’s obituary. The cowboys numbered from eight to 15 men.

Owners of the Bluebonnet House After Vandeveer: Bluebonnet House 5

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Somewhere along the way, they were set upon by either Apaches or Comanches, and Nathan was severely wounded with an arrow in the hip. Cavin descendants relate how Nathan’s grandchildren were always asking him to show them his wound. The Indians were still quite a problem in Texas. Vinnie Harriet, a child of Nathan’s, told her children and descendants about hiding in the rafters of the Bluebonnet House or in the branches of the oak tree outside, to hide from them on occasion. A Cavin descendant further stated that Nathan was a stonemason and built the third part of the house, the section closest to Highway 281. It is evident that a different mason did indeed build that section, as the lintels are constructed differently and the stones are of a more consistent size. However, Nathan, his father, uncle, and brothers were mainly ranchers. Ranching in the Reconstruction years was a particularly perilous occupation. Cattle thefts ballooned into enormous numbers, and the legal system was overwhelmed.

Further, the Hoo Doo War of Mason County erupted in 1874. It began mainly because law enforcement was not effective and vigilante groups were formed to “take care of business” Inevitably, matters got out of hand. Ethnic Germans of Mason County and Anglos began to face off against each other. One Tim Williamson, who was well known in the Fairland area, was murdered by a German vigilante group in Loyal Valley, Mason County in May 1875. The community of Fairland was shocked, and some decided to do something about it. Thus, Nathan and his male relatives were drawn into the fray. His brother, Ed Cavin, was charged in the murder of Peter Bader, a German of Mason County, and in September of 1876, someone attempted to murder him. Very shortly after that, Ed changed his name to Ed Lamar and left Texas for good. A certain John Peters Ringo was involved and killed one or two men. Ringo left Texas and wound up in Cochise County, Arizona. He is best remembered as Johnny Ringo, the gunslinger who battled the Earp brothers in Tombstone. It has been stated that altogether 12 men were killed in this “war. For further details on these matters, an excellent book, David Johnson’s “The Mason County ‘Hoo Doo’ War, 1874-1902,” is available.

N. A. Cavin sold the Bluebonnet House property to F. H. Holloway in 1889.

Fielding Harper Holloway, Burnet’s Forgotten Entrepreneur.

Deed records show that Fielding Harper Holloway, who went by F.H., owned the Bluebonnet House from 1889 until 1906. If there was ever a person that could be called a true entrepreneur in Burnet County back in the late 188os and early 1901, that would be F.H. Holloway. In January. 1909, the Burnet Bulletin made this comment when F.H. had sold one of his businesses; a mercantile store in Marble Falls, stating that he “has been a resident of this place for many years and the town has not had a more clever, up-right business man! As a salesman he has no superior anywhere!”

F.H. was born in Mississippi in 1848. At the age of 13, he joined the Confederate army as a volunteer. Even though he was too young to be enlisted, he fought alongside much older soldiers for three years. At the age of 16, he enlisted in the 16th Mississippi regiment and fought until the Civil War was over. As the war ended, Holloway and 28 others decided to try to escape before they had to surrender. They were attempting to go from Mississippi to Tennessee when they were captured and held as prisoners until the Confederate armies were disbanded. He had no money whatsoever but managed to make his way back to his home in Mississippi to find, like thousands of others in the South, that it was basically destroyed. Soon after, he married Louisa Deer, and they moved to Texas and settled in Goliad County. Louisa died shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Ella. F.H. and Ella returned to Mississippi, where they remained for three years. While there, he married a second wife and decided to move back to Texas, this time landing in Washington County in 1870.

 

Owners of the Bluebonnet House After Vandeveer: Bluebonnet House 5

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He didn’t have a lot of money at the time and decided to try his luck in buying cotton and wool and reselling for a profit. To say this turned out to be a successful decision is an understatement. In time, he ended up selling millions of pounds of wool and thousands of bales of cotton per year in all parts of Texas. Around 1882 he decided to move to Burnet County and call that home. He then settled in Fairland.

The things that he achieved put him on the list of some of the most important figures in the county’s history, along with the likes of Logan Vandeveer, Peter Kerr, Sam Holland, and Gen. Adam R. Johnson to name a few. In addition to his own success, he had gained property over time in the amount of $175,000, which was huge in those days. He also engaged in many projects that gave significant value to the public of Burnet and Burnet County. Examples include putting up the first telephone and telegraph lines from Burnet to Austin and Marble Falls, expanding the railroad track which connected Austin to Burnet and continued on to Granite Mountain and Marble Falls, and building a large tannery and boot factory in Marble Falls, actually, the first one in the state.

Amidst the success F.H. Holloway had accomplished since he arrived in Burnet, there was sadness. In 1884, his daughter Ella married Thomas Leech. Thomas worked as a cotton clerk, and in 1887, he, Ella, and their two daughters, made a trip from Burnet to Monroe, Louisiana for him to purchase cotton. While there, Ella became ill and passed away. F.H. went by train to bring her body back to Burnet, where she was buried, exact location unknown. She was 20 years old. F.H. became ill in 1911 and died in 1913 at the age of 64. He is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Burnet.

Ernest Herman Odiorne, Marble Falls Rancher who Died Young.

Ernest Herman, E.H. Odiorne as he was called, was born in Blanco, Texas in 1872. He married Ottilie Pauline Kuhnel in 1905 in Marble Falls. He purchased the Bluebonnet House in 1906. There is very little information available about E.H. other than his obituary found on the internet. It states that he was a rancher. He and Ottilie had five children, three sons and two daughters. His death came suddenly and unexpectedly. On April 6, 1916, at the age of only 44, he accidentally shot himself with his own gun while trying to get through a barbed wire fence. He is buried in Marble Falls.

James Eben Odiorne, The Business Man, Banker, and Rancher.

James Eben Odiorne who went by J.E., could loan you money and sell you insurance or cattle. He purchased the Bluebonnet House from his brother E.H. in 1908. J.E. was born in Blanco, Texas in 1876. He married Pauline Wilhelmine Richter from Marble Falls and they had seven children, three of whom died at very young ages, a three-year-old son from diphtheria, a 16-year old daughter who drowned, and an 18-year old son who fell ill in Austin while attending school. In 1902, ads in the Burnet Bulletin show J.E. as an insurance agent for the Mutual Life Insurance Company in Marble Falls. In 1903, he was also shown to be an agent for the American Bonding Company. In 1904, a comment in the Bulletin under a list of Marble Falls News mentioned an “attack of illness” to J.E. but no details. In 1905, he states, “I have gotten a company that makes long time loans in Burnet County on lands. If you want to borrow cheap money, write me” and was referred to as “the rustling land and loan agent in Marble Falls.” J.E. and family moved to San Saba in 1912. He became cashier and manager of the San Saba National Bank and also had what was called an “extensive cattle ranch.”He worked at the bank for five years, but retired in 1916 for what the San Saba Newspaper reported as “health reasons” required by his physician. A year later, he and his family moved to Lampasas to make it their home but ended up returning to San Saba only one year later. When his wife Pauline died in 1942, they were living in Austin where J.E. was working at the Capitol National Bank. They had also previously resided in San Antonio. Her body was transferred to San Saba where their three children were buried. J.E. passed away eight years later in Austin and is also buried in San Saba. The graveyard was moved to build a football field years later, and the Odiome’s graves have not been found. They might be buried under the field.

 

Owners of the Bluebonnet House After Vandeveer: Bluebonnet House 5

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Charles F. Konvicka, The Bohemian Farmer with the Car in the Barn.

In 1911, James E. Odiorne sold the Bluebonnet House to Charles F. Konvicka. Charles was born in Austria in 1869, and his wife Anna Mican Konvicka was born in 1870, also in Austria.

The 1900 Lavaca County Census shows Charles as a farmer, the couple’s marriage date as 1891, and they had five children. The 1910 Census, in the same county, shows that they then had 10 children, immigrated into the United States in 1885, and all spoke English except for Anna.

The Konvickas occupied the Bluebonnet House as their homestead as Charles continued his occupation as a farmer. When they in Burnet County, they told their neighbors that they were from Gonzales, Texas. That could be true, despite the 1910 Census information. That area of Texas, including Gonzales and Hallettsville, had a large population of Bohemians and also Czechs.

Charles appears for the last time the 1930 Burnet County Census. He died in September of that year. He was buried south of the Bluebonnet House also where P. L. Hubbard and two of the Cavins lie. Anna died in 1956 and was likewise buried there. Their oldest son, Charles Jr. or Charly, died in 1928, and lies beside his parents. In 1940, Anna along with children Anton, Angeline, and Vincent are listed as occupying the same house together.

It was stated that the Konvickas probably felt a bit isolated from their neighbors, as they were Catholic, and there were very few Catholics in Burnet County at the time. The Catholic Church in Burnet was founded in the late 1930s, and the Catholic Church in Marble Falls was not founded until 1961.

There is one story regarding Charles and his automobile. Sometime, probably in the early 1920s, Charles bought a car but refused to get a driver’s license, nor plates, for the car. So, two of his sons put the car up on blocks in the barn and the tires and wheel rims up in the loft. And there the parts stayed for a good while. The barn now located just north of the old rock house is constructed from the lumber from the old two-story barn, which was located somewhere to the east of the house.

Helen Konvicka Graham from Llano gave the current owner the information about the car in the barn, and also stated that there were two more cabins located on the property, probably somewhere southwest of the main house. Helen died in 1995 and is buried in the Fairland Cemetery, northwest of Marble Falls. Helen stated that some of the family referred to themselves as “the crazy Bohemians.” The last of the family living in the house was Angeline, who never married. After her death in 1973, it appears that the house remained vacant, until the current owner bought it in 1976 at an estate sale.

Gladys Atkinson, The Current Owner.

Gladys Atkinson is the present owner of the Bluebonnet House. She has stated that the current wooden floors, except for the kitchen area, date from about 1910. When she and her late husband bought the property, they did not live in Marble Falls, and they spent many a weekend cleaning out the house. They became the owners of two metal double beds with wheels, made in the Czech Republic. The beds had heavy canvas bags for the mattresses, stuffed with corn shucks.

They also inherited a kitchen cupboard and a pie safe. She removed the P. L. Hubbard tombstone and took it to her residence, as it was weathering very badly. Her current aim is to document the history of the house as completely as possible. She and her children have researched the subject for several years, and interviewed neighbors and anyone who could tell her about the property. She and her family have high hopes of getting the house restored as soon as possible. Her grandchildren want to open the house up to tourists and bluebonnet aficionados and include a gift shop and information about the house and all its owners. There is no doubt that the house and its surroundings have a bright future and a long life ahead.

UPDATE (April 15, 2019): We were deeply sorry to learn about the recent passing of the bluebonnet house’s owner Gladys Atkinson. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.