Zulch was on the headwaters of Kickapoo Creek near the junction of Farm roads 39 and 1372, eleven miles southwest of Madisonville in southwestern Madison County. Settlement in the vicinity began in the late 1830s when the Robert Moseley family established a homestead in what was then northern Grimes County. About 1850 a young itinerant merchant named Julius Zulch, a recent immigrant from Kassel, Germany, built a log house and general store near a watering hole on the trail from Midway to Boonville, a spot which had been used by travelers for many years as an overnight camping ground. A post office known as Willow Hole was established at the Zulch store in December 1859. Most of the early settlers were migrants from southern states, but the community grew slowly until the late 1870s, when Julius Zulch, by then a prosperous merchant and cotton grower eager to attract labor to make his land yet more productive, began promoting the advantage of Madison County agriculture among farmers in Germany and lending them money for passage to the United States. Considerable numbers of German immigrants, many from the province of Posen, took up residence near Willow Hole in the early 1880s, often farming as tenants on the property of Zulch and other landowners until they had saved enough money to purchase land of their own. Willow Hole soon became a thriving agricultural trade center. By 1884 the town had five churches, three general stores, a school, several steam-powered gristmills and cotton gins, and a population of 150. The population continued to escalate rapidly and by 1890 reached an estimated 500.
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