Fredericksburg Walking Tour – A Brief History of Fredericksburg

The German Emigration Company, or Adelsverein, was organized in 1842 in Germany to establish a “New Germany on Texas Soil,” between the Llano and Colorado rivers. The first settlers arrived in December of 1844, and the city of New Braunfels was founded as the first in a planned series of German settlements in Texas. On May 8, John Meusebach arrived in Texas and began setting up the new settlement sixty miles northwest of New Braunfels, where two streams met four miles above the Pedernales River.

The first wagon train of 120 settlers arrived from New Braunfels on May 8, 1846, after a sixteen-day journey, and Meusebach named the new settlement Fredericksburg after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Each settler received one town lot and ten acres of farmland nearby. The town was laid out with one long, wide main street roughly paralleling Town Creek. It was wide enough that a team of oxen could be turned around easily.

Within two years Fredericksburg had grown into a thriving town of almost 1,000, despite an cholera epidemic that killed between 100 and 150 residents in the summer and fall of 1846. In those two years a wagon road between Fredericksburg and Austin opened; the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty was signed which made the area sager; the Vereins-Kirche—a combination church, school, fortress, and meeting hall—was built; Gillespie County was organized by the Texas legislature, and Fredericksburg named the county seat; the Nimitz Hotel was built; and the United States Army established Fort Martin Scott, two miles east of town. Fredericksburg also benefited from its location as the last town before El Paso on the Emigrant or Upper El Paso Road.

Religion played an important part in the lives of the German settlers of Gillespie County. Devout farmers drove as much as twenty miles into town for religious services. Since it was a long trip back home, they built Fredericksburg’s characteristic Sunday houses for use on weekends and religious holidays. They would come into town on Saturday to do their shopping for the week. On Sunday morning they would attend church. On Sunday afternoons, they would visit with their friends and neighbors before returning back to the farm.

Fredericksburg, like many of the German communities in south central Texas, generally supported the Union in the Civil War. And the people of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County suffered under Confederate martial law, imposed in 1862, and from the depredations of such outlaws as James P. Waldrip, who was shot by an unknown assassin beneath a live oak tree outside the Nimitz Hotel in 1867.

After the war, the Germans tried to maintain their independence by steadfastly refusing to learn or use English. As English speaking settlers arrived, tensions between the groups grew. In neighboring Mason County, those tensions broke out into the HooDoo War, or Mason County War, that pitted Germans and Anglos. It wasn’t until after 1900 that purely English-speaking teachers were employed in Fredericksburg’s public schools.

During World War I, the Germans were looked on with suspicion, so the local papers started publishing in English. (The Fredericksburg Germans weren’t alone in the suspicions. American Brewers, who were predominantly of German descent were also suspected of sympathy for the enemy. The brewing association publications also switched over to English. The widow Adolphus Busch who founded America’s iconic Anheuser-Busch brewery, was in Germany when the war broke out, and the United States government refused to allow her back into country, fearing she, and her family, were German spies.) Fortunately that same fear and suspicion of Germans didn’t occur during World War II. Fredericksburg’s own Chester Nimitz became Commander in Chief of the Pacific forces during World War II.

After the war, Fredericksburg began to grow as a farming community. When Lyndon Johnson became President after John Kennedy’s assisination, the area began to attract tourists eager to experience the region’s German heritage. Today, it is one of Texas’ most visited destinations.

If you would like to explore Fredericksburg and its history, follow along on the walking tour. Start wherever you like, and go as long as you like.

Walking Tour – 307 West Schubert – Christian Crenwelge Home

Christian Crenwelge arrived in New Orleans on January 1, 1854, and made his way to Fredericksburg. He was joined later in the year by his younger brother Philipp later in the year. After Christian married Elisabeth Margaretha Mohr in 1860, Philipp sold his half interest in the house to his brother.

Christian had a ten acre lot two miles away, near Cross Mountain. He also owned the land across the street, and had a molasses press and lime kiln by the creek. Christian was also a cabinet maker and raised six children to adulthood.

Walking Tour – 312 West Schubert – The Christian Crenwelge Place

Christian Crenwelge, who owned the property across the street, purchased this land in 1872 and operated a molasses press. In 1903, Crenwelge built the frame house on the corner for his daughter and her husband, but sold the house in 1906. The property changed hands many times until McAdoo White bought in 1974 and began landscaping the grounds, creating a beautiful creekside patio.

Walking Tour – 418 West Austin – Vogel Sunday House

As the town grew, Fredericksburg’s Sunday Houses gradually became more than just a weekend home. Amandus Vogel and his wife, Elizabeth, had a farm at Cave Creek, and a little one room Sunday House with an attic on this lot in 1890. Amandus passed away in 1898. Elizabeth moved to town, and added an identical room and attic on the east side of the house in 1900. Later, the back porch was enclosed to provide indoor plumbing. It was about this time, too, that the metal siding was added to the house. In the 1970s, new owners added an addition at the back of the house. It was recorded as a Texas landmark in 1982.

Corner of North Bowie & West Austin Street – William Bierschwale Home

Alfred Giles was born at in Middlesex, England, on May 23, 1853 . At 17, he apprenticed at an architecture firm in London for two years. In 1873 he emigrated to the United States, settling in Texas in 1875. When he started his own architectural practice in San Antonio in 1876, Reconstruction was coming to an end in Texas, and soon, Giles’ business was booming. Giles designed buildings all across the Hill Country featuring local materials, mainly stone.

The William Bierschwale House was started in 1889. William was County Clerk and a was elected as a Representative to the state Legislature.

Walking Tour – 414 West Austin – Strackbein-Roeder Home

When the town was settled, the colonists received 10 acres of land and a lot in town. Many farmers lived on their country property during the week and came into town on Saturday to do their shopping. Rather than drive their wagons back to the farm on Saturday and then return to town on Sunday morning, they built small houses called Sunday Houses on their town lots. As the first settlers became older, they built more substantial homes in town.

Christian Strackbein purchased the lot in 1870 from John Walter. The original floor plan had two rooms downstairs, and a large room upstairs. A frame kitchen was built behind the house. A hand-dug well in the courtyard once provided water for this home and the Vogel Sunday House next door. William Roeder Sr. purchased the house in 1916. After he passed away, his son lived in the house. A more recent addition is a bedroom and bath at the back of the house, and a courtyard to the left.

512 West Creek – Kreiger-Geyer Haus

George Geyer, a bachelor, and Adam and Eva Kreiger were both deeded these two lots in 1845. They had arrived in Texas on the same ship, the Hamilton, from Bingen Germany. But Geyer never appears in any records after this, so it is possible that he was a casualty of one of the early epidemics that hit the colony. The house sits on the dividing line of the two lots and was probably shared by the three. The oldest part of the house is the West end, and is of fachwerk construction. The east end of the house is rock. The house would have been plastered and the different construction methods hidden. Behind the house is an even older log cabin.

Continue West on Creek Street and Cross Milam Street.

404, 408, 410 West San Antonio – Sunday Houses

Sunday Houses are unique to Fredericksburg. When the settlers arrived, they received ten acres farms and a lot in town. They built these small one-room structures, usually with a sleeping loft or half-story above them reached by an outside stairway, so they would have place to stay when they came for Sunday church services. The families would arrive on Saturdays to shop for needed staples, and to sell their butter and eggs. Saturday night they went visiting or dancing. Sunday evenings they returned to their homes in the country. Families often used them, too, when someone needed to be near a doctor or when children attended confirmation classes. The arrival of automobiles and good roads was the end of usefullness for Sunday Houses. Many found permanent use by older residents who moved to town when they turned their farm or ranch over to their children. (Note: All small houses are not necessarily Sunday Houses.)

Across the street is a Sunday House that has had the front porch enclosed. And around the corner on South Adams in The Yellow House.

Continue West on San Antonio.

Travis’ Letter – Happy Texas Independence Day

Commandancy of the Alamo
Bexar, Feby. 24th 1836

To the People of Texas & all Americans in the world —

Fellow citizens & compatriots —

I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna —

I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man —

The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken —

I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls —

I shall never surrender or retreat.

Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch —

The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country —

Victory or Death.

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.

P.S. The Lord is on our side — When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn — We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 heads of Beeves.
Travis

312 West San Antonio – Gillespie County Historical Society

Continue West on San Antonio Street

The original townlot was granted to H. Spilner in 1849. His widow sold the lot to Heinrich Kuhlmann in 1853, who sold it to Ludolph Meyer in 1854. A few months later it was sold to Peter Imhoff, Frdr. Kneese, Ernest Houy, Gerhard Reinmann, and Jacob Treibs for $50. These gentlemen were trustees of “the M. E. Church South for the Fredericksburg Mission Texas Annual Conference.” The Methodist Episcopal Church had been organized in Kentucky in 1845. The Fredericksburg Methodists originally worshipped in the Vereins Kirche.

In 1855 the first stone structure was built, 40 by 60 feet in size. It was the oldest Methodist Church in the Hill Country. It was remodeled several times: in 1912-14, 1923, and 1948-1949. During the Civil War, the Methodist Church split, and were not reunited until 1970, using the Edison Street facility known as the United Methodist Church.

The Gillespie County Historical Society purchased the property in 1978, and has its office here.