History of Fredericksburg, Texas

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The Bavarian Inn in Fredericksburg

The History of Fredericksburg, Texas dates back to its founding in 1846. It was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of Texas German, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English. Fredericksburg shares many cultural characteristics with New Braunfels, which had been established by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels the previous year.

19th Century[edit]

Fredericksburg (German: Friedrichsburg) was founded in 1846 by Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach, new Commissioner General of the "Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas", also known as the "Noblemen's Society" (in German: Mainzer Adelsverein).[1][2] The emigration was in part the liberal, educated Germans fleeing the social, political and economic conditions that later resulted in the Revolution of 1848, and in part working-class Germans.[3][4] Baron von Meusebach renounced his noble title and became known in Texas as John O. Meusebach.[5] The area's Barons Creek was named in Meusebach's honor.[6]

Meusebach-Comanche Treaty[edit]

Bust of Baron von Meusebach in Fredericksburg Town Square

The reddish-blonde haired John O. Meusebach was named El Sol Colorado (The Red Sun) by Penateka Comanche Chief Ketemoczy (Katemcy), who had encountered Meusebach and his group in the area of present-day Mason.[7][8][9] Meusebach, accompanied by geologist Ferdinand von Roemer, Special Agent Robert Neighbors, F. Shubbert, Jean Jacques von Coll, trader John F. Torrey[10] and interpreter Anton Felix Hans Hellmuth von Blücher[11] (aka Felix A. von Blücher), brokered the 1847 Treaty between the Comanche and the German Immigration Company. The treaty was unique in that it did not take away the rights of the Penateka Comanche, but was an agreement that the Comanche and settlers would mutually share the land, co-existing in peace and friendship. Meusebach paid the Penateka Comanches $3,000, slightly less than $70,000 in today's money, in food, gifts and other commodities for their participation in the signing of the agreement. The native American signers of the treaty were only from the Penateka band. It is one of the very few treaties with native American tribes that was never broken.[12][13][14]

Easter Fires[edit]

The Easter Fires pageant in Fredericksburg draws from two beginnings. In Germany and the Catholic Church, there have been variations on the custom of lighting hilltop evening bonfires in close proximity of Easter to celebrate the coming of spring.[15][16]

The Fredericksburg variation is a living history event which celebrates the signing of the 1847 Meusebach-Comanche Treaty.[17] While the Treaty was signed after Easter, the final negotiations were completed on March 1 and 2, with Easter of 1847 occurring on April 3. The Fredericksburg Easter Fires legend has it that Penateka Comanches signaled each other about the progress of the treaty negotiations by lighting huge fires on the hills. Settler mothers calmed their children by giving a twist on the traditional German story of Easter fires, and telling children the fires on the hills were lit by bunnies who were boiling water to make eggs for Easter morning. In some versions of the story, the Comanches lit the fires to celebrate the signing of the treaty, and the bunnies were boiling Texas wildflowers to make the colors for the eggs.[18]

The pageant is held traditionally the Saturday before Easter and recreates the signing of the treaty with bunny-dressed participants of all ages lighting the fires on surrounding hillsides. The show has been a big tourist draw since 1946. The pageant was suspended in recent years due to cost and logistics, but a group of citizens is trying to revive it.[19][20]

Town founding[edit]

One of the older buildings along E. Austin Street.

In 1845, Meusebach set out from New Braunfels, traveling 60 miles (97 km) northwest to select the second settlement of the Fisher-Miller Land Grant.[21][22] He opted for a valley situated between two creeks, which are now known as Barons Creek and Town Creek, and surrounded by seven hills. He named it in honor of Prince Frederick of Prussia, the highest-ranking member of the Mainzer Adelsverein and nephew of King Frederick William III of Prussia. For the settlement, he purchased 10,000 acres (40 km2) on credit, for an allotment per settler of one town lot, plus 10 acres (40,000 m2) of farmland.[23][24]

In December 1845, on orders from Meusebach, Lieutenant Louis (Ludwig) Bene, along with lead surveyor Johann Jacob Groos[25] and crew, constructed a road from New Braunfels to the site of Fredericksburg.[26] The town was laid out by surveyor Herman Wilke.[27] On April 23, 1846, the first wagon train of settlers left New Braunfels, encountering friendly Delaware Indians en route, and arrived at the Fredericksburg site on May 8, 1846.[28] The first colonists immediately set about to plant a garden and build a storehouse out of logs, and a stockade and a blockhouse.[27]

The settlers soon received via courier a belated message from Governor James Pinckney Henderson advising them that uncertain movements by the government of Mexico made it unclear whether Texas could offer protection to the settlers. Governor Henderson advised against moving into the area at that time.[29] The settlers refused to return to New Braunfels.[22]

Meusebach designated Dr. Friedrich A. Schubbert, aka Friedrich Armand Strubberg,[30] as director of the new colony, to lead a second expedition into Fredericksburg in June 1846.[31] Schubbert designed the Vereins Kirche, the first public building in Fredericksburg.[32] Without authorization from Meusebach, in 1846 Schubbert led an armed group of colonists into Comanche territory. Shawnee scouts reported seeing 40,000 to 60,000 Kickapoo at the Llano River, and Schubbert's group retreated to Fredericksburg.[33] Meusebach decided to enter Comanche territory himself, resulting in the treaty with the Penateka.[34]

Ferdinand von Roemer arrived in Fredericksburg in January 1847, and described what he estimated to be a settlement of six hundred people:[35]

The main street, however, did not consist of a continuous row of houses, but of about fifty houses and huts, spaced long distances apart on both sides of the street. Most of the houses were log houses for which the straight trunks of the oak trees growing round about furnished excellent building material. Most of the settlers, however, were not in possession of such homes, since they required so much labor, but they lived in huts, consisting of poles rammed into the ground. The crevices between the poles were filled with clay and moss, while the roof was covered with dry grass. Some even lived in linen tents which proved very inadequate during these winter months.

Roemer described a diet of bear meat, corn and coffee. He reported that dysentery was a common ailment. He also noted the disease of "stomachache" that engulfed the lungs and throat, was treated with citric acid, but still caused daily fatalities.[36]

Schubbert instigated a failed coup d'état against Meusebach. Ninety-five colonists signed a petition urging Meusebach to remain as Commissioner-General.[37] On July 12, 1847, Meusebach sent Schubbert a letter of dismissal from his position as director of Fredericksburg.[38] Jean Jacques von Coll was appointed his successor. Coll was a retired First Lieutenant of the Duchy of Nassau who had been appointed by Prince Solms as the first financial officer of New Braunfels. Coll was later elected mayor of New Braunfels in 1852.[39]

On December 15, 1847, a petition was submitted to create Gillespie County. In 1848, the legislature formed Gillespie County from Bexar and Travis counties.

While the signers were overwhelmingly German immigrants, names also on the petition were Castillo, Pena, Munos, and a handful of non-German Anglo names.

First sheriff of the county was Louis (Ludwig) Martin,[40][41] who emigrated from Erndtebrück North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany with the first Adelsverein group aboard the Johann Detthard in 1844, and moved with the original settlers to Fredericksburg. He was one of the 1847 signers of the petition to create Gillespie County. He became District Clerk in 1850.[42]

Wilhelm Victor Keidel, who emigrated from Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany, became the area's first doctor and the first elected Chief Justice in 1848.[43][44]

Theodore Specht became the first Postmaster of Fredericksburg on December 7, 1848.[45] Specht was from Braunschweig, Germany and emigrated to Fredericksburg with his wife Maria Berger in 1846. The Spechts operated a store out of their home that was frequented by Penateka Comanches.[46] Local Penateka chief Santa Anna brought one of his wives to the store during a cold winter for her to give birth to a son.[47]

Pioneer Flour Mills was founded in Fredericksburg in 1851 by Carl Hilmar Guenther, an immigrant from Weissenfels, Germany. He served as Justice of the Peace in 1856. In 1859, after two years of drought, the Guenther family moved the mills to San Antonio.[48][49]

Fort Martin Scott[edit]

also

On July 1, 1850 an angry mob of fifty Fort Martin Scott soldiers burned down the store-courthouse in Fredericksburg, in a clash with store owner and County Clerk John M. Hunter over refusal to sell whiskey to a soldier. Soldiers also prevented townspeople from saving the county records.[50][51]

Civil War and Reconstruction[edit]

Fredericksburg was primarily part of the Pro-Union Texas resistance during the Civil War, but a portion of the population remained loyal to the Confederacy. While many Germans saw slavery as an evil, the 1860 census showed thirty-three slaves in Gillespie County.[52] Matthew Gaines was a runaway slave from a Robertson County plantation and had been captured in 1863 by the Texas Rangers at Menard. He was taken to Fredericksburg where he was forced to work for the duration of the war. Upon gaining his freedom, he moved to Burton where he was eventually elected as a member of the Texas Senate.[53] In 1877, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church served both as a house of worship and as a school for black families in the area.

The citizenry dealt with the spread of lawlessness during and after the war years. School teacher Louis Scheutze was kidnapped from his home and hanged, an act suspected to have been carried out by James P. Waldrip in response to Scheutze's vocal opposition to Confederate rule. Waldrip was alleged to have been part of the notorious Die Haengebande[54] (Hanging Band) that handed out vigilante justice in the Hill Country. He was also a convicted thief and generally feared and disliked by people of the area.[55] In 1867, Waldrip was shot by an unknown person outside the Nimitz Hotel.[56] He was buried in secret, so as to prevent desecration of his grave.[22][57]

20th and 21st Centuries[edit]

Der Lindenbaum reflects the German heritage of Fredericksburg.

Estimated Fredericksburg population for 1904 was 1,632.[22] Frank Stein built the town's first ice factory in 1907.[58] From 1913 to 1942, the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway connected Fredericksburg to Waring.[59] Fredericksburg was incorporated as a city in 1928.[60]

During the first half of the 20th Century, Fredericksburg remained much like other Texas Hill County farm and ranch communities of German heritage, isolated from the commercialization of their culture. The most notable influx of outsiders were sporadic visitors during events like the Easter Fires, the county fair, and hunting season. But the population and its growth remained anchored to its roots.

Things began to change when Lyndon B. Johnson became Vice President of the United States. Possibly the most momentous event in modern Fredericksburg happened on Sunday, April 16, 1961, when Johnson, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and the first Chancellor of West Germany Konrad Adenauer helicoptered in to the Fredericksburg fairgrounds racetrack for a reception.[61] They were joined onstage by U.S. Congressman O. C. Fisher and John O. Meusebach's only surviving offspring, 95-year-old Mrs. Ernest Marschall of Llano. Crowd estimates were between 7,000 and 10,000. The 1960 population of Fredericksburg was only 4,629.[22] Accompanying the dignitaries was an entourage of family members, German state officials, multiple security forces, and the national media. Speeches were in English (Nimitz, LBJ), and in German (everyone else) with no translation needed. The Austin Recording Company was on hand to tape the saengerfest segment of the program. The fest featured the Marychorale Choir of St. Mary's Catholic Church and Felix Pehl directing the Arlon Männerchor. Chancellor Adenauer sang along with the Kinderchor portion of the fest, which was directed by Erna Dietel Heinan. The Fredericksburg High School Band entertained and appeared the following day at an Austin parade honoring the Chancellor. The Fredericksburg event was capped by a 10-car caravan tour of Fredericksburg, while Nimitz instead visited his relatives.[62]

On November 22, 1963 when Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States, global attention focused upon the Texas White House at nearby Stonewall. The Nimitz Hotel served as headquarters for the media who intertwined their favorable impressions of the area with their reporting on the President.[63] The Johnsons attended church in Fredericksburg. Dignitaries and were escorted around Fredericksburg by the President. West Germany Chancellor Ludwig Erhard visited Fredericksburg in 1963 and was greeted with "Herzlich Wilkommen" and heard a sermon in German at Bethany Lutheran Church.[64][65][66] Throughout LBJ's vice presidency and presidency, Fredericksburg prospered from the tourism trade, and it changed from an isolated community into one catering to the tourist dollar.[67]

Main Street (Hauptstrasse)

Fredericksburg has profited from spill-over tourism of nearby Luckenbach ever since a couple of events propelled the little town with a population of three to global fame. Jerry Jeff Walker recorded his landmark 1973 Viva Terlingua album at the Luckenbach dance hall. In 1977, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson recorded their hit Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).[68] Additionally, the National Museum of the Pacific War has become a big draw to military history buffs.[69] Fredericksburg has become attractive to retirees and people looking to relocate to a simpler way of life.[67] Real estate became a prime business as prices rose.[63][70] The city has become a weekend destination for people in Central Texas, specifically those from Austin and San Antonio.[71]

Fredericksburg in the 21st Century is in a state of flux. As each generation of descendants of the original settlers dies away, or moves to new horizons, the authenticity of the rural German farm culture of the Texas Hill Country communities also dies away. It is gradually blending with the customs of newcomers and being replaced by tourist-oriented concepts of both German heritage and the Texas cowboy culture.[63][68] In 1934, the Gillespie County Historical Society was formed and now houses over 300,000 artifacts. Along with like-minded individuals and organizations, the historical society is dedicated to preserving artifacts, architecture and the history of Fredericksburg.[72][73]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Geue, Ethel H (2009). New Homes in a New Land German Immigration to Texas, 1847–1861. Clearfield. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8063-0980-4. 
  2. ^ Brister, Louis E. "Adelsverein". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Sweet, Alexander Edwin (1883). On a Mexican Mustang Through Texas: From the Gulf to the Rio Grande. University of Michigan Library. p. 380. 
  4. ^ Scharf, Edwin E. "Freethinkers of the Early Texas Hill Country". Freethinkers Association of Central Texas. Retrieved 14 Nov 2010.  Freethinkers Association of Central Texas
  5. ^ Smith, Cornelia Marshall; Tetzlaff, Otto W. "Meusebach, John O". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "Baron's Creek". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Histororical Association. 
  7. ^ King (1967) p.112
  8. ^ Morgenthaler (2007) p.66
  9. ^ Powell, Mary Jo (2005). Texas (On-The-Road Histories). Interlink Books. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-1-56656-564-6. 
  10. ^ Armbruster, Henry C. "John Frink Torrey". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  11. ^ Ward, Hortense Warner. "Anton Felix Hans Hellmuth von Blücher". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  12. ^ King (1967) Un-numbered plate
  13. ^ Demallie, Raymond J; Deloria, Vine (1999). Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements and Conventions 1775–1979, Vol 1. University of Oklahoma. pp. 1493–1494. ISBN 0-8061-3118-7. 
  14. ^ Meredith, Howard L. A Short History of the Native Americans in the United States. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company, 2001: 31. ISBN 1-57524-139-0
  15. ^ Grimm, Jacob (1883, reprint 2010). Teutonic Mythology, Vol 2. Nabu Press. p. 615. ISBN 978-1-147-55749-7. 
  16. ^ Dorson, Richard M (1969). Peasant Customs and Savage Myths: Selections from the British Folklorists. University Of Chicago Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-226-15867-9. 
  17. ^ Kownslar, Allan O (2004). The European Texans. TAMU Press. pp. 106, 107. ISBN 978-1-58544-352-9. 
  18. ^ Jordan, Terry G. "Easter Fires". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "Easter Fires: The Story of the German Settlement of the Central Texas Hill Country". Discovering the Little Known Treasures of Texas. Texas Less Traveled. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  20. ^ Slade, Paul. "Show Me the Bunny". Paul Slade. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  21. ^ Weaver PhD, Bobby D (2005). Castro's Colony: Empresario Development in Texas, 1842–1865. TAMU Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-58544-518-9. 
  22. ^ a b c d e Kohout, Martin Donell. "Fredericksburg, Texas". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  23. ^ King (1967) p.73
  24. ^ Hudnall, Sharon; Hudnall, Ken (2005). Spirits of the Border V: The History and Mystery of the Lone Star State. Omega Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-9626087-9-7. 
  25. ^ York, Miriam. "Johann Jacob Groos". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  26. ^ Morgenthaler (2007) p.54,55
  27. ^ a b Morgenthaler (2007) p.58
  28. ^ King (1967) p. 74
  29. ^ King (1967) p.75
  30. ^ King (1967) p.126
  31. ^ King (1967) p.76,91
  32. ^ Morgenthaler (2007) p.60
  33. ^ Morgenthaler (2007) p.59
  34. ^ King (1967) p.105
  35. ^ Morgenthaler (2007) p.62
  36. ^ Morgenthaler (2007) p.64
  37. ^ King (1967) pp.106,107
  38. ^ King (1967) p.127
  39. ^ Solms (2000) p.126
  40. ^ "Gillespie County Sheriffs". Gillespie County Genealogy Society. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  41. ^ Hayter, Delmer J. "Martin, Louis". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  42. ^ "Signers of Petition to Create Gillespie County December 15, 1847". Gillespie County Historical Society. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  43. ^ Kohout, Martin Donell. "Keidel, Wilhem Victor". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. 
  44. ^ "The County Officers of Gillespie County 1848 – 1869". Tx Gen Web. Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  45. ^ "Jim Wheat's Postmasters & Post Offices of Texas, 1846 – 1930". Roots Web. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  46. ^ Zesch, Scott (2005). The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 38, 39. ISBN 0-312-31789-1. 
  47. ^ Kohout, Martin Donell. "Specht, Theodore". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  48. ^ "Guenther House History". C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  49. ^ Seidel, Jeff. "Pioneer Flour Mills". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  50. ^ "Angry soldiers burn Fredericksburg store, destroying early Gillespie County records". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  51. ^ Beverly, Travis Wooster. "Gillespie County Records Destroyed". Texas Gen Web. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  52. ^ Kohout, Martin Donell. "Gillespie County". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  53. ^ Pitre, Merline. "Matthew Gaines". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  54. ^ Adam, Thomas (2005). Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. ABC-CLIO. p. 384. ISBN 978-1-85109-628-2. 
  55. ^ "Fugutives from Justice". Texas Gen Web. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  56. ^ Brown, Richard Maxwell (1975). Strain of Violence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism. Oxford University Press. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-1950-1943-8. 
  57. ^ Hayes, Celia (15 March 2009). "A Deep-Dyed Villain". True West. 
  58. ^ Cold Storage and Ice Trade (Food Trade Publishing Company, Produce Exchange, New York): 44. February 1907. 
  59. ^ Young, Nancy Beck. "San Antonio, Fredericksburg and Northern Railway Company". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  60. ^ Hellmann, Paul T (2004). Historical Gazetteer of the United States. Routledge. p. 1052. ISBN 978-0-415-93948-5. 
  61. ^ Nimitz, Elmer Potter, pg 468
  62. ^ "Huge Crowd Greets Chancellor Adenauer". The Harper Herald. 21 April 1961. 
  63. ^ a b c Davidson, John (October 1981). "A Little Bit of Heaven". Texas Monthly: 184–192. 
  64. ^ Wicker, Tom (30 December 1963). "Barbecue for Erhard Given German Flavor". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 
  65. ^ Pearson, Drew (30 September 1966). "Erhard Feels at Home in the White House". The Nevada Daily Mail. 
  66. ^ Wicker, To, (January 1986). "Lyndon and Ludwig". Texas Monthly: 116, 206. 
  67. ^ a b Bland, PhD, Warren R (2005). Retire in Style: 60 Outstanding Places Across the USA and Canada. Next Decade, Inc. p. 197. ISBN 978-1-932919-19-6. 
  68. ^ a b Patoski, Joe Nick (December 1990). "Lookin' Back, TX". Texas Monthly: 94, 96. 
  69. ^ Schwieterman, Joseph P. (2004). When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Western United States. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press. p. 243. ISBN 1931112134. OCLC 56968524. 
  70. ^ Fiedler, Sandy. "Fredericksburg, Texas Tourist Attractions". Texas Escapes – Blueprints For Travel, LLC. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  71. ^ Baird, David (2009). Frommer's San Antonio and Austin. Frommers. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-470-43789-6. 
  72. ^ "Mission Statement". Gillespie County Historical Society. Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  73. ^ "Gillespie County Historical Society". Retrieved 26 November 2010. 

References[edit]

  • King, Irene Marschall (1967). John O.Meusebach. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-73656-6. 
  • Solms, Carl; Gish, Theodore G; Von-Maszweski, Wolfram M (2000). Voyage to North America, 1844–45: Prince Carl of Solms' Texas Diary of People, Places, and Events. University of North Texas Press. ISBN 978-1-57441-124-9. 
  • Jefferson, Morgenthaler (2007). The German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country. Mockingbird Books. ISBN 978-1-932801-09-5. 

External links[edit]