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W.B. & CLARA (Hodges) WETSEL

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W. B. AND CLARA WETSEL (Page 393-394)
At the time of his death in 1982, W. B. (Dub) Wetsel (born 1899) was the oldest native-born resident of Sweetwater.  “Dub” spent most of his early life in the saddle on the Barron Ranch in Fisher County and developed a lifelong love for ranching and rodeos.  He wore only shop-made boots for 67 years and was one of the first participants in the Stamford Cowboy contests.  The ranch world in which W. B. grew up was in many ways that of the 19th century.  Toward the end of his life, when asked to name the biggest change he had seen in a lifetime, he replied without hesitation:  “barbed wire”.
At the Hodges ranch on Christmas Day in 1919, W. B. married Clara Hodges (born 1901), daughter of George Palmer (1879-1939) and Lula Cranston Hodges (1881-1905).  Mr. Hodges had left Cotton Valley, Louisiana, in 1888 with his father, Alex, settled in Jones County and bought land in Fisher County in the 1890’s.  Clara’s mother, Lula, was the daughter of Jones County rancher, William David Cranston, who emigrated as a boy of eight to Pennsylvania from Scotland.  He brought the first registered Hereford cattle to West Texas from Missouri.  The herd was purchased by the Largent Ranch at the time of his death in 1907. 
His daughter, Lula, had died in 1906, leaving two children:  Clara and Cranston (1903-1940).  In 1908, Palmer Hodges married Rachel Lambert Murray.  Their three daughters, Rachel, Hazel and M. E., grew up with Clara on the Hodges Ranch.  Mr. Hodges, long remembered for sharing his automobile, the first in the area, with neighbors in need, installed telephone lines from his ranch to Roby, Rotan and Sweetwater.  He organized an annual rabbit drive, furnishing bar-b-que and ammunition to hunters from Sweetwater and Fisher County.
Clara graduated from Capitola Rural High School; her sisters, Rachel (Risinger) (1911-1981), Hazel Baugh (born 1913) and M. E. (Fomby) (born 1916), were graduates of Sweetwater High School.
After their marriage, W. B. and Clara Wetsel lived in Fisher County until 1925 when they moved to the Hodges-Henshaw (now Brooks) Ranch south of Sweetwater.  In 1928, they moved to Sweetwater so that son Buck (born 1922) could start school.  In 1936, they bought the Judge Hamner house at 509 East Third Street.  W. B. continued ranching and Clara opened a beauty shop.  She soon became involved in the campaign to initiate state licensing of the hairdressing profession and served as an officer of the Texas Hairdressers Association.  During the over fifty years of operating Wetsel’s Beauty Shop, she has been active in the Methodist Church and the Business and Professional Women. 
During World War II, Clara was chairman of the U. S. O. Girls and opened her home to servicemen from nearby bases who listened with attention to W. B.’s tall tales of early-day Texas.  In 1981, Clara was named Sweetwater’s Outstanding Citizen in recognition of her religious, business and professional service to the community.
W. B. (Buck) WETSEL (Page 393)
W. B. Wetsel, Jr. (“Buck”), the son of W. B. and Clara Wetsel, was born in 1922 in Fisher County.  He graduated from Sweetwater High School in 1939 and from Southern Methodist University in 1943.  While serving in the U. S. Navy during World War II, he married Elizabeth Heriot Evans (1925-1975), who was working with Army Intelligence in Washington, D. C.  The couple returned to live in Sweetwater in 1946.  “Buck” ranched in Fisher County with his father, was named Outstanding Young Man of the Year in 1953 and worked in personnel relations for the Flintkote Company until his retirement in 1982 after 24 years of service.  He retired from the U. S. Navy after 27 years active and reserve service.  Elizabeth (Libby) Wetsel, a graduate of the University of South Carolina, worked as a journalist (Women’s Page Editor, Sweetwater Reporter) and hosted a daily radio program (“Ad Libs with Libby”) on local station KXOX.
Three sons, William David (born 1949), Roderick Evans (born 1953) and James Torrey (born 1957), graduated from Sweetwater High School and the University of Texas in August.  While attending the University of Texas, David and Rod were elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received Bachelor’s Degrees in Liberal Arts in 1971 and 1975, respectively.  Torrey was also an honor student and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Petroleum Engineering in 1980. 
David received the Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1978 and teaches French literature at the University of Texas at Austin. 
Rod, a graduate of the Law School of the University of Texas, practices law in Sweetwater with the firm of Nunn, Griggs & Wetsel.  In 1972, he married Kathy Jane Gause.  A son, Roderick Evans Wetsel II, was born in 1974.  They divorced in 1975 and the son lives with his mother, Kathy Gause Morrell in Alexandria, Virginia. 
Torrey, who works as a petroleum engineer for Tennaco Oil Company in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, married Jim Lunday in 1983.
W. D. WETSEL (Page 393)
The first of five generations of Wetsels arrived in the county in 1878 with the building of the Texas and Pacific Railroad.  Mathilda Wetsel Beula, whose first husband, David Wetsel (born 1830, Richland County, Ohio), had arrived in Texas in 1868, made her way to the new settlement of Sweetwater in 1878 with her three sons, William David Wetsel, Ross Wetsel and Artie Beula.  She set up tents to lodge railroad workers and later built Sweetwater’s first hotel (the Palace) near the corner of Pecan and Broadway.  Her lodgers included many of the first settlers in the county:  Lang Aycock, R. C. Crane, Tuck Focht, Ben Jones.  Mrs. Beula’s sons Artie Beula worked on the railroad and Ross Wetsel built houses for arriving settlers.  Will (born in 1860, Collin County) drove cattle and horses west to the Pecos country before finally settling in Sweetwater.  Mrs. Beula and her three sons are all buried in Sweetwater Cemetery.
In 1887, William David (Will) married Miss Charlie Barron (born 1872, Hamilton County), daughter of early day rancher Sol Barron and Fannie Cole, orphan sister of the notorious Cole Brothers.  Mr. Barron moved his family to Sweetwater in 1878.  His daughter, Charlie, attended the first public school (the old East Ward), subsequently attended by three generations of Wetsel descendants.  W. B. (Will) Wetsel was one of a group of cowboys who rode out to meet the first train to reach Sweetwater, an event remembered in local lore because a cowboy by the name of Fitzgerald managed to rope the smokestack of the approaching train.  The home of W. D. and Charlie Wetsel was built by his brother, Ross, at the corner of Oak and Fourth Streets.  The house was later sold to Lang Aycock, who had lived at Grandmother Wetsel Beula’s hotel with his young bride, Annie.
The W. D. Wetsels raised ten children – Pearl, Fannie, Willie Gertrude, Nadine, W. B., Joe, Lesa, Lois and Charles – and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1937 at their ranch home in Fisher County.  All ten children survived their parents’ deaths (1949 and 1950), an unusual family record for the times.
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