When the heritage society here in town recently offered a tour of the Riverside Cemetery and some of our historic homes, I decided that would be interesting. I didn’t know the half of it. I learned so much about the local area and the people who founded it.
One piece of information that came to light was about a settler named Minnie Mae Adickes. She came to Wichita Falls in 1905 with her husband, Thomas Adickes. They were barely here a year when her husband suddenly died. It left Minnie Mae with five daughters, the youngest only three months old, to raise.
It would’ve been easy for Minnie Mae to accept the help of both her brother and brother-in-law who were the town’s founding fathers and quite well-to-do. But, she turned them down and decided to make her own way. She valued independence over everything. And I’m sure she didn’t want to be a burden on family. The picture here is the Frank Kell family – her brother-in-law, his wife, mother, and seven children. They’re a story of their own.
So spurning family help, in 1906 Minnie Mae entered into the real estate profession and embarked on a career of building houses. Now as a woman, she could not at that time sign a legal document herself. But she built over 300 homes and never lost a dime. Her only contract was a simple handshake that she never regretted. She built homes for the influential and also for the poor that she let pay out in installments. Her buyers always paid her on time. She taught all five of her daughters to record cash payments at their home weekly.
And so, a woman who didn’t seem to have any ability to provide for herself when her husband died ended up building over 300 homes. Her extraordinary efforts helped the city to grow and proper until her death in 1931 at the age of 57.
The image of this late Victorian house is one that she designed and built for her brother-in-law Frank Kell and his family. It’s called the Kell House and is now a museum. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and bears both the Texas State and local landmark designation. The house is 5,500 square feet and it still has a working elevator as well as many original furnishings.
Minnie Mae never married again. She raised her daughters and taught them everything about independence and of the rights of women. During WWI she was chairwoman of the Red Cross canteen division and held parties for officers and men at the local air base. In 1920, Mrs. Adickes was the first woman elected to serve as a member of the school board. I’m sorry I can’t find a photo of her. I hear she was as beautiful as she was intelligent. She’s exactly the kind of woman I want to model the heroines in my books after.
Minnie Mae Adickes was an uncommon woman and way ahead of her time.
Are there any interesting people or history in your area? Do you know of any stories of extraordinary women? Want to share?
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