A Historical Column From The Fayette County Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office
The Peter Family of Dubina – Part III
By Carolyn Heinsohn
Joseph Jr. eventually acquired over 1,000 acres of land where as many as 20 families lived as either farm hands or tenants. His first home burned before the 1912 fire, so he eventually built a home adjacent to his new store.
He also took the initial step toward building a permanent church building by donating five acres of land to the San Antonio Diocese for the church and cemetery. The iron cross that was placed on top of the steeple of the first church was crafted by Tom Lee, a former slave, in Joseph Jr’s. blacksmith shop. After an inland hurricane destroyed the church in 1909, the undamaged cross was rescued and placed on the new church.
Joseph Jr. and his wife had 10 children, eight of whom lived to maturity: Frances (Riebe), Mary (Sobotik), Emil, Emilie (Vacek), Josephine (Mikeska), Leo J., Julius and Wilhelmina (Miculka).
Joseph died in March 1924 at age 78 of pneumonia and pleuresy after being exposed to cold, wet weather in his fields. His funeral was one of the largest ever held in that area of Fayette County with an estimated attendance of 750 to 1,000 persons. Barbora died in 1938 at age 84. Both are buried in the Catholic cemetery at Dubina.
Their fourth child and oldest son, Emil, became an outstanding musician, first learning to play the piano and violin at the Catholic school in Dubina. When his father went to Austin to serve in the Legislature, Emil, age 14, went along to attend Capitol Business College and continue his music lessons. He then attended St. Edward’s College where he took organ, piano, violin, cornet and vocal lessons. Upon returning to Dubina, Emil began playing the organ in the Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church in 1896 and continued to do so for 54 years.
He also served as the cornetist for the Army band with the Texas National Guard in Brenham from 1904-07. During his enlistment, he traveled to Manassas, Va. to play in a concert with 40 Army bands as well as for President Theodore Roosevelt. He was invited to join the John Phillip Sousa Band as a cornetist, but unfortunately he developed an infection in his jaw, which necessitated surgery to remove part of his jaw that was replaced with a metal plate. This ended his career as a cornetist.
Like his father, Emil served as the postmaster of Dubina for five years until a rural mail route was established, requiring his resignation. He and his wife, Adriana Miculka, had two children, Rose (Filip) and Edwin.
The seventh child and second son was Leo J. Peter, who became a prominent physician in Schulenburg and served the people of that community for over 50 years. He was among the first four graduates of Schulenburg High School in 1905. The family decided that Leo would attend St. Edward’s College in Austin and study for the priesthood. However, Leo decided instead that he wanted to become a doctor.
After graduating from medical school in 1909 at age 21, he completed his training under Dr. I.E. Clark in Schulenburg, in lieu of a traditional internship, until he moved into his own practice.
Dr. Leo, as he liked to be called, had a large practice that continued to grow because of his ability to communicate in four or five languages, plus the fact that he was an excellent diagnostician. He was especially proud of the fact that he delivered over 2,500 babies in the area, and with his excellent memory, could recall the time of delivery and the details of each event in the last 25 years of his practice.
His interest in new technology led to the study of radiology and the acquisition of the first X-ray machine between San Antonio and Houston.
He was the recipient of the Texas Family Doctor of the Year Award in 1951 and was one of the first four recipients of the Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumni Awards from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1965. In addition, he was a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Schulenburg for 44 years.
Dr. Peter and his wife, Alma Baumgarten, had two children: Leo J. Peter Jr. and Hazel Peter Shaller.
From their meager beginnings in a log cabin, members of the Peter family became successful, contributing citizens in Fayette County. They were like so many other emigrants who came to America seeking freedoms that were not available in their countries of origin. Because of their willingness to work and their faith in God, they were able to overcome great odds and eventually reaped the rewards of their efforts.
Fayette County Deed Records, Vol. L, pp. 408-416.
Fayette County, Texas Heritage Vol. II. The Fayette County History Book Committee; Curtis Media, Inc., 1996.
“Historical Sketch of One of This Section’s Oldest and Most Respected Families (The Peter Family)”. Weimar Mercury, March 25, 1938, pp 1-2.
History of Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, Dubina, TX, Second Edition. Dubina Church Committee; John Janacek, Publisher; 1979
Hudson, Estelle and Maresh, Dr. Henry R. The Czech Pioneers of the Southwest; Western Lithograph, Houston; reprinted 1996
The Schulenburg Sticker, Vol. 30, No. 30, Ed. 1; Friday, April 4, 1924
Welch, Millie Jean Pechacek. Country Cousins; self-published, Farmers Branch; 1997 Read more