Frey-Benignus House
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Raven
N 29° 58.666 W 095° 58.418
15R E 213071 N 3320044
Quick Description: A marker on Blinka Road in the center of rural Waller county, denoting the location of a 100-year old agricultural homestead that is still in the hands of the original owners' ancestors to this day.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 2/2/2015 1:53:52 PM
Waymark Code: WMNAVD
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
Views: 0

Long Description:
A detailed historical account of the homestead and its owners, per the original marker application petitioned by a family member in 1989 and available through the Portal to Texas History website:

By: Betty Benignus Rheman
Route I Box 267
Waller, Texas 77484

John Frey (Johannes Frei) was born in the Community of Biberstein, the District of Aarar in Kanton Aargau Switzerland on Oct. 28, 1857. As a lad, he worked for the Riggi Railroad, the largest in Switzerland at the time. He emigrated to the United States of America, arriving at the Port of New York on August 20, 1877 and settled in the area of Industry, Texas in Austin County.

Mary Baethe was born August 16, 1862 at Bural Germany. She came to America at the age of eight with her parents, Gotlieb and Henrietta Baethe from Anhalt Germany settling at Nelsonville, Texas in Austin County.

On Feb. 9, 1879, John Frey and Mary Baethe were married. After their marriage, they made their home in Travis, Texas in Austin County (Travis is located near what is now Kenny, Texas). They lived here for ten years.

Records from the Waller County Courthouse show that John Stefka was granted in accordance with the laws of the State of Texas, 640 acres of land known as Survey No. #30 on Oct. 25, 1888, as surveyed by the H & T C Ry Co. Cert. #215 on the waters of the Brazos River about 10% miles South, 35E from Hempstead. This 640 acre tract was purchased from John Stefka by John Frey and Fritz Wawarofsky of Austin County, State of Texas for the sum of $3200.00 or $5.00 per acre on Dec. 7, 1888. Dec. 16, 1889, the Southern one-half of the 640 acre tract or 320 acres was conveyed to Fritz Wawarofsky, the Northern 320 acres to John Frey. Shortly after Christmas in 1889, John and Mary decided to make their home in Waller County on the 320 acres that had been purchased. The house was built just off Blinka Road where it stands today.

At the time the Family Homestead consisted of two rooms. A smokehouse and barn was built about the same time as the house. Frank Wawarofsky was the builder. The house is built of pine which was cut near Hockley, Texas and hauled by wagon to the Homestead site.

Opportunities seem to beckon in this area. As time passed they endured many joys and sorrows. To this couple were born fifteen children, five boys and ten girls. Six children were born in Austin County, nine in Waller County. There is twenty-five years difference between the age of the oldest child and the youngest. The children walked approximately two miles to attend Highland Home School.

As the family grew in size it was necessary to add on to the house. The room on the South East corner, the hall and stairs was built next. Then a bedroom on the Northwest corner and the parlor on the Southwest corner was built last by Morris Metteke. That is when he fell in love with Rosa, a daughter and married her. The room on the Southeast corner was Mary's bedroom, John slept on a bed that was in the hall which connected with her bedroom. The room on the Northwest corner was the girls' bedroom. There was never more than four girls at home at any one time and they all slept in this bedroom together. They did their courting in the parlour [sic]. The boys slept above the wine cellar which was located to the East of the house.

The Frey family is found on the 1900 US Census. They are listed near the Fritz Wawarofsky and Edward Wollgast families who were neighbors. Dec. 21, 1902, the family was sadden with the loss of an infant daughter, Annie. It was at this time the Frey Cemetery was started approximately one-half mile from the Family Homestead.

Other tragedies followed. In 1904, at the age of three, Julia, a daughter was running and playing and stepped on a yarn needle which broke off in her foot. John (Johnnie) was thrown from a horse and lay unconscious for six months. A daughter, Ida, burned to death from an accident at the Homestead on Nov. 6, 1912.

The family farmed corn and cotton. They raised cows, sheep, hogs, chickens and their own vegetables. There were several fruit orchards of pears, apples, pecans, mulberries, dewberries, oranges, etc. They were members of the Lutheran church in Waller, Texas. Mary was known as a humble person, a good cook, she talked German mostly, hardly ever spoke English. John was known to be honest and a good business man. He told those that worked for him, that out of every "one dollar" you earn, put at least one nickel back and save it. Every morning before breakfast he would sit and read the Almanac.

As time marched on the children married and established homes of their own. The youngest daughter, Margarete (Maggie) married Louis Benignus on Dec. 28, 1922 at the Zion Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas. The newly married couple made their home with John and Mary Frey in the Family Homestead. On April 9, 1924, their first daughter, Ruby Marie was born. John Frey died from a self inflficted gunshot wound, contributory was cancer, on June 20, 1925 and is buried in the Frey Cemetery. Margarete (Maggie), Louis and Ruby continued to live with Mary until the fall of 1926, when they moved to 6219 Westcott Ave., Houston, Texas to live for eighteen months. Louis worked as a mechanic at this time. During this time a son, Irven Clinton (Sam) was born on Dec. 26, 1926. Moving back to Waller County, they lived in the Ralston rent house which was located approximately two miles from the Homestead and farmed for one year. During this time a son, Fritz and his wife Sophia lived with Mary Frey.

In 1929, Louis and Margarete (Maggie) moved back into the Family Homestead and lived with Mary until her death on March 8, 1933. She died of acute cholecystilis. After the death of Mary Frey, Margarete (Maggie) and Louis Benignus inherited 100 acres of land which included the Family Homestead as their share of the estate which they lived on and farmed.

On Feb. 17, 1936, a second daughter, Betty Jean was born and a second son, Douglas Marvin (Joe) was born on June 25, 1943. Nov. 21, 1949, Ruby Marie married Edgar B. (Andy) Anderson.

Louis, Margarete (Maggie), lrven (Sam), Betty and Douglas (Joe) continued to live in the Family Homestead until 1950 when they moved to Cypress, Texas for a period of ten years at which time they lived on the Harold Longenbaugh place and farmed rice. During this ten years, the Family Homestead was rented to Mrs. Kostak, the McDonalds and the Ben Frey's. Oct. 14, 1955, Irven Clinton (Sam) married Marjorie Motley. Some repairs were made to the Homestead in 1956 by Connie Marshall of Houston, Texas. In 1960 repairs were made by Boettcher Lumber Company, Waller, Texas at which time the Benignus family moved back to the Family Homestead. Betty and Douglas (Joe) lived with their parents at this time.

September 1961, hurricane Carla damaged the house considerably, blowing down many trees and some outbuildings. Many hours and days were spent cleaning and fixing the damages.

July 10, 1962 the family was sadden with the death of Louis Benignus who died at 2:05 PM in his bed while asleep from cardiac arrest. He is buried at Memorial Oaks Cemetery, Houston, Texas. Several weeks later a tornado struck. However; it only did minor damage to the Homestead.

As time marched on Douglas Marvin (Joe) married Janette Biesert on May 8, 1965. Margarete (Maggie) and Betty continued to live in the Family Homestead. June 5, 1971, Betty married Stanley Rheman leaving Margarete (Maggie) to live by herself in the Homestead.

As a Christmas gift to their Mother in December 1973, her children had the wallpaper replaced by paneling, new drapes hung and shelves built in the closets in two rooms of the Homestead.

Julia Schmidt, Margarete (Maggie) Benignus and Ruth Karisch Connett took the Big Bend Mini-Tour with Lone Star Travel, Houston, Texas, on October 26 thru 30, 1977. On the morning of October 30, 1977, the tour was headed homeward. Margarete (Maggie) became ill. When the tour stopped in San Antonio, Ruth and Julia called Margarete (Maggie's) daughter, Betty that lived in Columbus, Texas and suggested that she meet the bus in Columbus and get her Mother due to her illness. That night Betty took her Mother to the hospital in Brenham, Texas. She suffered a stroke leaving her left side paralyzed. She was unable to return to the Homestead. Nov. 1977, she was moved to a Convalescent Home in Columbus, Texas. She died March 28, 1981 in the Columbus Community Hospital at 4:30 AM from a diabetic coma.

After her death, Betty Benignus Rheman inherited 25 acres of land which included the Homestead. Four rooms were sheetrocked [sic] in 1982 and minor repairs were made to the barn and smoke house. June 1983, she purchased 25 acres of land from her brother, Douglas Marvin (Joe) that connected to her property. Today the Family Homestead stands on its original location, along with the barn, smoke house and one cement watering trough.

The Frey-Benignus Homestead was listed as one of the nine Historic Homes in the Texas Sesquicentennial Homes Tour sponsored by the Waller County Historical Commission and Society in 1986. The family has been accepted into the Texas Department of Agriculture's Family Land Heritage program for 1989. This Family Land Heritage Program is designed to honor those farms and ranches which have been in continuous agricultural production at the hands of one family for 100 years or more. Betty Benignus Rheman currently owns and maintains the Family Homestead and 50 acres of the original 320 acres purchased in 1889. Texas State Genealogical Society "Gone to Texas Pioneer Certificate" for those whose ancestors were in Texas prior to 1886 has currently been applied for.

I beleive [sic], therefore, that the Frey-Benignus Homestead as it marks its 100th birthday this year if worthy of a historical marker because of its growth and development, the family has kept alive the German-Swiss-American culture in the area.

Dated Oct. 23, 1989"

The original marker application also includes some old pictures of the homestead in question: Page 21, Page 19, Page 23, Page 25.
Marker Number: 9384

Marker Text:
Swiss immigrant John Frey (1857-1925) and his German-born wife Mary (1862-1933) moved to Waller County in late 1889. They built a small two-room house, a barn, and smokehouse, and began a family farm. The couple eventually had fifteen children and added rooms to their home as their family grew. Now standing as an excellent example of a late 19th-century farmhouse, the house features fine milled wood details. Following the deaths of John and Mary Frey, the house became the property of their daughter, Margarete, and her husband Louis Benignus. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1990

Visit Instructions:
Please include a picture in your log. You and your GPS receiver do not need to be in the picture. We encourage additional information about your visit (comments about the surrounding area, how you ended up near the marker, etc.) in the log.
Search for... Google Map
Google Maps
Bing Maps
Nearest Waymarks
Nearest Texas Historical Markers
Nearest Geocaches
Nearest Benchmarks
Create a scavenger hunt using this waymark as the center point
Recent Visits/Logs:
Date Logged Log  
Raven visited Frey-Benignus House 1/30/2015 Raven visited it