Welcome, Texas

Texas has no shortage of small towns with interesting names — including Welcome, a small unincorporated community in Austin County. Welcome is located on FM 109 between Industry and Brenham, the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. This tiny if-you-blink-you-will-miss-it spot in the road is definitely worth a visit.
Welcome Texas SignThe town was settled in the late 1820‘s but remained nameless until 1852 when a German immigrant named J.F. Schmidt christened the town Welcome — a name that he felt reflected the hospitality of the residents. At its peak, the town boasted a population of no more than a couple hundred folks and a few businesses. Today, a little more than a hundred folks call Welcome their home.

A friend and I drove through New Ulm on our way to Welcome and pulled over to walk through the cemetery, established in 1853. I make it a point to stop by old cemeteries when I travel Texas backroads. You can learn a lot about a place and the folks who settled there by visiting their burial places.
New Ulm CemeteryAs my friend and I walked through the cemetery at New Ulm we headed for the oldest grave markers. That’s when we noticed a pattern — an entire section of graves of children who all died at the turn of the twentieth century. After reading the names and dates on these graves we felt heartsick and wondered what had happened to these children. We talked about how the deaths of these kids must have impacted their families and the New Ulm community in those years.
Welcome StoreWhen we arrived in Welcome we stopped by the Welcome Store, established in 1890 and a Texas Historic Landmark. The original two-story building was damaged by a storm in 1900 and reconfigured as a one-story building with two asymmetrical gables, a wide front porch, and a screened door entry. The building pretty much looks the same today as it did when it was rebuilt after the storm.
Omar at Welcome StoreStepping inside the Welcome Store was like stepping back in time. The place is a fascinating time capsule crammed with tons of interesting details. Leonard and Lynn Wittneben, the current owners, greeted us warmly. This sweet couple raised their family in Welcome and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Welcome CemeteryWhen we told Leonard and Lynn about our visit to the New Ulm cemetery and mentioned the number of graves for kids, Lynn told us that a typhoid epidemic had taken the lives of the children. “You’ll see the same thing at the old Welcome cemetery, the one across the street from the Lutheran church” she said. “There’s a whole section of graves for kids who died during that same epidemic.” Times were hard then.
Welcome Hospital PicLynn motioned to Leonard to get their history album, a collection of old photos and stories  about Welcome crammed into an old notebook. Welcome actually had a hospital in its early days, and a doctor whose methods later came into question and led to his suicide. We sat with Leonard and Lynn for almost an hour and listened to the fascinating history of their beloved community.
Omar w Leonard and LynnWhen we finally exchanged good-byes, our new friends invited us to stop in again sometime. My buddy and I agreed that Leonard and Lynn are true ambassadors for a tiny community named for its hospitality. They indeed made us feel welcome in Welcome.

If you are ever anywhere near the vicinity of Welcome, take a moment to stop by the old Welcome Store, a place that has served travelers and residents for the past 125 years. Leonard and Lynn will welcome you and remind you that good-old Texas hospitality is never out of date. Oh, and while you are there, ask Lynn to tell you the fascinating story about their wedding cake!

Dime Box, Texas

One of the best resources for planning a Texas road trip is a map with lots of detail. That’s how I discovered Dime Box, Texas — a small town located 12-miles northeast of Giddings. When I saw the name of this little town on my map, I knew that I had to go there by way of the most meandering route available.
Gravel RoadDime Box was founded sometime between 1869 and 1877 by a man named Joseph S. Brown who built a sawmill about three miles northwest of the present community. Within a short period, other settlers came to the area and the community became known as Brown’s Mill.
Dime Box DimeBrown’s Mill had no post office in its early days, so settlers placed their outgoing mail and a dime in a box in Brown’s office for weekly delivery to Giddings. However, when the postal service officially opened a post office in Brown’s Mill in 1884, they asked that the community be renamed to avoid confusion between Brown’s Mill and Brownsville. So, the community was renamed Dime Box.
Dime Box Road SignsIn 1913, when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a line three miles from Dime Box, the folks there moved closer to the railroad. The original settlement became known as Old Dime Box and the new town became known as Dime Box. The railroad brought in new settlers and, at its peak, the population of Dime Box grew to five-hundred. The population has since declined to a little more than three-hundred people.
Dime Box StationDime Box had its fifteen-minutes of fame in the 1940’s when a CBS broadcast kicked off the national March of Dimes drive from Dime Box. Today, Dime Box is a quiet little community. I enjoyed driving around the few streets and had a pleasant chat with a local who was out for a walk.
Dime Box ChevyDime Box is certainly not on any destination list you will ever find in the glossy pages of Condé Nast Traveler. But for any backroads adventurer, it is a place worth visiting, if for no other reason than its interesting name and history. The next time you look at a Texas map, pay particular attention to those small out-of-the-way places with interesting names. And the next time you go from here to wherever, take a detour to see those places for yourself.