What’s With The Yellow Brick Buildings–Churches, Houses, Stores, & At Least One Beisert Warehouse at Giddings, Texas?
While much of the historic agricultural built environment of Lee County, Texas has been lost to recent generations of apathy, neglect, and ugly replacement, there are still a few old houses—mostly, in town. And if you have ever seen the sprinkling of “yellow brick buildings” in Giddings, Lee County’s seat of government, then you are unknowingly familiar with the brick masonry work of Oskar Herman Beisert (1901-1988), a locally known brick layer. Oskar’s construction abilities were all but inborn, as his German/Wendish forbearers had been “builders” as well as agricultural laborers for generations.
Located in North Orange Street (Highway 141), our specimen property is an L-shaped Ranch style dwelling with an open, two-vehicle car port. While aside from old Beisert’s token yellow brick, the house is normative of the period, its matching brick outbuilding is not. In the mid-20th century, ranches houses in rural areas often replaced older homes accompanying older out buildings, employed wood frame out buildings, or had no ancillary structures at all. A brick house, especially a ranch style house, was to Beisert the symbol of middle class prosperity—he had a shop to match—this building, no doubt, demonstrative of its attachment to a tradesman.
Raised in the Loebau farming community, Beisert was born into a “do-it-yourself,” no-nonsense German Lutheran family eight miles north of Giddings. While the majority of his ancestors were “Wendish,” they would have considered themselves German—or the Prussian equivalent, in their 19th century parlance. Oskar father, John Beisert “turned over” from a heart attack while “fixing fence” on his farm in Loebau—this was “God’s will” just after the birth of his ninth child. Naturally, Oskar and his brothers, Walter and Martin, assisted their mother, Selma (Moerbe) Beisert in providing for the family. Nevertheless, Selma was no charity case, taking from her father, Andrew Moerbe, his “old syrup press,” which she promptly set-up at her place “near the bottom” at Loebau. After Oskar Beisert married Amanda Kasper in 1922, they soon built a wood-frame house on the same property. And when Selma’s brood began to diminish, one after another leaving home, her boys built her a small wood frame bungalow upland and across the lane from the old farm house.
Apparently, picking peanuts didn’t suit Oskar Beisert as he soon sold his little farm house and removed to town, Giddings, Texas—just a mile or two up the road. With this change, Oskar opened a restaurant—the “Hi-way Café”. This too did not suit Beisert, as he was eventually in training to become a brick layer.
The purpose of this article is to highlight this regionally known craftsman, his work, and at least a few of the buildings that represent that career. There are numerous brick buildings throughout and beyond Lee County that represent the masonry work of Oskar Beisert. Not only did he assist in building Immanuel Lutheran Church of Giddings, Texas, he worked on numerous projects throughout the region, employed in the completion of brick masonry work for public, commercial and residential buildings alike. And we don’t know about you, but there is something comforting in the preservation of the “Beisert Warehouse.”