The following story about Bonnie View appeared in the Victoria Advocate online version of January 23, 2002, and is reprinted below with the written permission of the author. Many thanks to Mr. Delaney for stirring up old memories.
A town filled with memories
January 23, 2002
By TIM DELANEY
Advocate Web Editor
The sun-bleached boards that make up the old general store stand sentinel along Farm Road 629 in southern Refugio County.
They don't creak, sway or demand much attention from passersby. In fact, it's mostly silent here, except for the occasional gust of wind or a car or truck swishing past.
The old boards seem to have no comment about the 21st century, and they stand in quiet defiance of the passing time, even after almost a century.
But in another era, the old store, with its herringbone-design doors, tin roof and Old West façade, was a busy place. In fact, it was a focal point for folks from miles around, particularly farmers.
It was built in 1908 as the community of Bonnie View sprang to life, also raising up a cotton gin and a pretty brick schoolhouse. "The land in this part was opened up by Burton and Danforth, promoters who'd arrived with the railroad," said Glenn Harsdorff, justice of the peace, whose Precinct 2 in Refugio County includes Bonnie View.
"They'd purchased land from rancher Col. John Wood. They broke it up into (farm) tracts, and a lot of Germans moved in."
Harsdorff owns about 25 acres in Bonnie View. "It was mostly plains and prairie," he said. The mesquite trees there today began when the railroad brought in cattle, which spread seeds through droppings.
Bonnie View is not without its colorful history. One tale in particular survives generation after generation.
It seems that way back when a Mr. Joe Michna owned the general store (his brother J.F. owned the cotton gin and auto repair garage), a Ms. Emma Michna often worked behind the counter. Now, Emma was known as a stern, no-nonsense type of woman. She was also a teacher, and the mother-in-law of the sheriff at that time, Ruben Michael "BuBu" Harsdorff. Anyway, the story goes that a migrant worker walked into the store one day. "Seems like it happened during the ginning season," said Harsdorff, who is 78. Everybody was at the store having lunch at the time. "Lady, I want your money," they quoted the migrant worker as saying.
Well Emma had no patience with such interlopers, and her reply was, "Don't you take another step toward me or I'll shoot you!"
The migrant worker must have thought Emma was all talk, because he did take another step. So Emma shot him.
The migrant worker toppled to the floor of the store, and although he wasn't mortally wounded, Emma complained that he was messing up her floor. "I've never seen so much blood in all my life," she said.
The lunch crowd at the Bonnie View general store never forgot that day's noon excitement.
The gin at Bonnie View, which once stood near the store, is long gone. O.D. Bell, 80, said the gin was sold at an auction conducted on the Refugio County Courthouse steps to pay a debt to a Victoria bank in 1973.
"It was taken down and moved to Louisiana. Somebody bought it at the bankruptcy auction," Bell said. He remembers that Randy Farenthold of Corpus Christi had bid on the gin. Farenthold later was found killed. Somebody had set his feet in concrete and thrown him in a bay.
"They thought it was some kind of Mafia thing. (Farenthold's) family had big holdings in Nueces County - lots and lots of farmland. I'd guess he planned on taking that gin down there," Bell said.
When the gin was moved, Bell bought the land it had sat on. He's lived and farmed in Bonnie View for 50 years now. And he used to own the old store, but he sold that a year ago to Doug and Terry Meissner of Bonnie View.
Like the gin, the old brick schoolhouse down the road a bit is gone, the victim of Hurricane Carla in September 1961. "I remember a beautiful school there. It was red brick and it had a basement in it. When we (in Woodsboro) had a play that's where we'd go. Bonnie View had a great stage," Harsdorff said.
When former Refugio County Commissioner Ron Hicks moved to the area in 1961, he got to see the old school in its glory. Hicks, 68, had his commissioner's office from 1991 to 1998 in the county's Precinct 2 barn, located in Bonnie View.
"The old school was a two- or three-story brick school - nice gymnasium there, too. Hurricane Carla damaged it so bad that it was torn down," Hicks said.
Harsdorff remembers the superintendent there, too. "His name was Albert Frickie. His brother owned a store in Woodsboro. I remember him wearing gloves all the time. He seemed to be a disciplinarian. I don't think he's remembered fondly, but he is remembered."
Hicks said there used to be a large, one-story house by the school that was used for teachers' lodging. Refugio County bought the house and moved it off to the Palm Lakes area nearby on Farm Road 1360.
Hicks said an old waste station was located at Bonnie View, too. "The flies were terrible and the smell was terrible." Hicks helped to get the station moved away to a secluded area "where nobody lives."
But the newest structure in Bonnie View is the park pavilion Hicks got built in May 1994, when he was a commissioner.
"When the school was there, an area that is now a park is the area where students tied their horses," Hicks said. "There was nothing there but a little shed 8 by 8 feet and a brick barbecue all broken down."
Little by little, Hicks began building a pavilion. Then, with the help of Rindle Wilson, he got a $5,000 grant to finish the structure.
"Family reunions have been held in the park. And when it was finished, I had a lot of people who were real pleased with the pavilion."
The pavilion's foundation is signed by all the county workers who helped construct it, and the park was officially named the Hugo Geistman Park, after a former commissioner who, combined with his wife Clara's tenure, held the commissioner's post for 40 years.
Today, Bonnie View has an estimated population of 25. The population has remained low because of the larger farm tracts available, but now smaller tracts have become available and families are once again moving to the area.
And the old store remains one of the last structures from the old days. New owners Doug and Terry Meissner said they plan to restore and re-open it some day.
It's locked up tight now, mostly sitting in silence, holding on to the secrets and stories of the past.
"It's closed," Harsdorff said, "but if it could tell stories ..."
Tim Delaney is the Web Editor for the online newspaper at The Victoria Advocate. You can contact him by phoning 361-580-6313. (March 2002)
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