Brief History of the " Belle of Round Top”
Known in Ellinger as the Meyer-Fritsch Home
Charles John Henry Meyer married Miss Elizabeth Ehlinger on October 27,1874. Their home was built in 1881 of hand selected, heart-pine and cypress wood that was then cured for one year. Square nails were used in the construction. The windows were etched with a French Fleur-de-lis design as Elizabeth's family came from Alsace France and the town of Ellinger is named for her grandfather.
Their seven children filled the elegantly sized 4 bedrooms and played on the upper and lower verandas. 2 boys and 5 girls; Elo , Adelia (known as Dilly to her family married Frank Fritch of LaGrange), Elizabeth (Lizzie) (who married Joe Fritsch of Ellinger), Lillie Bell, Henry J. who became a well-loved Doctor in Hondo, Texas), Hattie and Leera. Another little one, Emma, died at one year of age. Elizabeth passed the home to her daughter Elizabeth upon her death. Elizabeth the 2nd then had five children, (another nephew I met recently also was born there,) so at least thirteen children were raised sliding down banisters and playing under the house. Consequently the house has a very loving and inviting atmosphere!
After 20 years of being occupied only by pigeons, the home was purchased and moved from Ellinger in 1978 by Jim and Diane Holmes of Houston to a location they named Windy Hill on RR253, 2 miles from Fayetteville. They planned to restore it and live there with their 10-year old twin sons. Chris and Andy. Mr. Holmes was a graphics designer and Mrs. Holmes was a custom dress designer. However, sources say they never lived in the home full time, life doesn't always go as planned, the Holmes divorced and the house was sold. An interesting piece of information I've been given by the local appraisal district, is that the house was reported 'stolen' by two wealthy women from the River Oaks area of Houston who went to see why they had stopped receiving payments on a loan they had made to restore the home and the house was gone! They called the Fayette County Sheriff's office who then contacted the Appraisal district. One of their staff began the hunt for the 'stolen house'. It was found in Round Top and somehow I'm sure the new purchaser, Jack Josey, made it right with these two ladies, however, information on this transaction has been hard to gather. I hope perhaps one day, someone who has first hand knowledge will fill me in with "the rest of the story!"
Jack Josey and his wife Gretchen purchased the home and moved the home on the back roads from Fayetteville onto this tract that was originally 75acres and known to locals as the Josey Ranch. They took the restoration to a new level with a complete demolition, numbering every board, to an exquisite restoration utilizing the expertise of a personal friend during their years at University of Texas, architect Wayne Bell. The renovation skillfully added 4 additional bathrooms, 3 fireplaces and walk-in closets in every room without altering the historical design. Locals who knew the Josey's said they treated the home like it was their own version of President Jefferson's "Monticello". The home was featured in Southern Living Magazine when finished and was used occasionally as a weekend retreat. Mr. Josey suffered a stroke , so many of the features for his disability were added that are a welcome gift to those guests who must have easy access to enter and stay here today.
Recently I found the great grandchildren of Elizabeth Ehlinger Meyer and Charles J.H. Meyer and invited them to visit their family home. It was the first time since they were children that they had been back, now being in their 70's, and they shared their memories of growing up in this home. Lee Anna Tolbirt and her husband Sam (who courted her here) and Lee Anna's brother Lyttleton Fritsch and his wife Delores.
The recollections they shared as we walked through the house can still be easily envisioned as they shared how the home looked prior to WW2 when they lived there with their Grandparents Joe & Elizabeth Fritsch, (daughter of Charles & Elizabeth.) Hence the name Meyer/Fritsch home as it was known in Ellinger. The last member of the family to own the home was their son Wendal who sold the home to Jim & Diane Holmes.
There was only one bath with a claw-foot tub on the main level where the ½ bath is now. (The same claw-foot tub that is upstairs now in Elizabeth’s Roses room.) What is today the parlor, was shared by the children as a bedroom and had a woodstove on the east wall. A second woodstove was located upstairs in what was then Grandma & Grandpa Fritsch’s bedroom. The kitchen and dining room are the same, however, very different from how it looked back then. Pie safes and a wood-cooking stove instead of the abundant cupboards I enjoy today. My personal favorite memory is the front closet was Grandmother Fritsch’s pantry that was always filled with home-canned fruits, vegetables and jams. (I have begun to fill it with the bounties of my pear trees and lots of jams and jellies.)
The home was framed with 24' long 2' x’ 4' heart pine boards and solid heart pine floor beams. All of the interior and exterior walls are 6" cypress tongue and groove. It was raised high enough up off the ground for the children to walk upright under her, where Grandpa stored his potatoes in the sand. The children spent long hours playing under the house where it was cooler in the summer. There were also swings on both porches where fondly remembered moments of visits occurred with all who passed by. During the war, families moved home while husbands went off to fight. So the house was full of lots of little ones. In the later years, the bedrooms were rented out by Grandmother Fritsch after Grandfather died. LeeAnna recalls a discussion with a 90yr old woman who lived nearby that stated that Elizabeth Ehlinger Meyer was a very pretty woman who sat often on this porch in her rocking chair.
The Meyer’s beautiful contribution to this world lives on to be enjoyed in the 21st century by you and I as we walk the heart-pine floors in her soaring 12ft high rooms, sit in front of the 3 wood-burning fireplaces or sip a cup of peach tea outside in the evergreen wisteria covered Arbor.