419 West San Antonio – Hoffman-Keller House

In February 1869, Johann Hoffman built the house of solid limestone with two rooms on the first floor, and a large bedroom and storage room on the second floor. The front room, larger in size, was the combination bedroom and sitting room. The smaller room behind it was the kitchen. Originally there was a narrow, ladder-like stairway that led out of the kitchen into the storage room (or rumpelkammer) at the back of the second floor. A small window in the east wall lit the stairway. Martin Keller, a Cain City farmer, bought the house when he retired. By 1938, the Kellers had died, and the family sold the home. It passed through several hands and many of the changes seen today were made, perhaps including the removal of the plaster that originally covered the limestone walls.

Continue down San Antonio to Edison Street and turn right, towards Main Street.

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.

Texas History Day – February 16

Fredericksburg based Former Texas Ranger Foundation has partnered with the Gillespie County Historical Society and the Texas Heritage Music Foundation of Kerrville, to produce “Texas History Day”, a truly unique event that will be presented at the Pioneer Museum, 325 West Main Street, in Fredericksburg on Saturday, March 16, 2013. The event is scheduled during Spring Break as an outreach program aimed at the youth of Texas to present messages of Texas History and Texas Values.

Daytime programming will focus on character education by presenting the Five Character Traits of the Texas Ranger (courage – determination – dedication – integrity – respect), while being wrapped in the theme of Frontier Texas, through presentations of song, storytelling, magic and field reenactments. An estimated 2,000 – 2,500 people are expected for the outdoor staging portion of the event from 10:00 AM through 5:00 PM, and will culminate that evening with a catered dinner and concert by award- winning Texas author and singer Mike Blakely. Seating for the evening dinner and concert is limited to 200 patrons.

Admission for the daytime activities is $5 for adults, $3 for children age 7 to 17, and children under 7 are free. The evening dinner show is $40. All proceeds will benefit the Pioneer Museum and Texas Heritage Music Foundation.

Make plans to attend this family oriented, entertaining yet educational event …………
WHERE TEXAS HISTORY and TEXAS VALUES COME TOGETHER for TEXAS YOUTH.

For tickets and information contact Evelyn Weinheimer, Event Coordinator, at the Pioneer Museum (830) 990-8441.

Walking Tour – 309 West Schubert – John Joseph Knopp House

The land on which this house sits once belonged to Christian Crenwelge, who sold the corner lot to John Knopp on December 8, 1871. Knopp was a stonemason and built the house. He had a farm a mile from here that his wife and children worked. Knopp died in 1917. In 1929, Albert Keidel, who owned the old Crenwelge home next door, purchased the property and began renovation. After many sales over the years, the stone building between the two larger houses is a part of both properties, the property line runs down a dividing wall.

Walk to FM 965 and turn right. Go 2 miles until you find the entrance to Cross Mountain Park, on your left, and take a left. (You might want to do this in your car.)

Crabapple School Open House – December 10

The Crabapple Historic School (located off Hwy 965 at 14671 Lower Crabapple Rd.) will be open to the public this Saturday, December 10 from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. as part of the Friends of Gillespie County Historic Country School Trail’s monthly open house and fund-raising promotion. A map to the school, and other schools on the trail, is available at the Fredericksburg Visitor Information Center at 302 E. Austin St. Admission is by donation. For more information, call the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau at 830-997-6523.

Corner of North Bowie and West Schubert – John Peter Tatsch House

Turn right on Bowie, and stop at West Schubert Street.

The Tatsch Haus, made from local stone by John Peter Tatsch in 1856, is one of the most widely known historic homes in Fredericksburg. Tatsch was a “Tischler” or cabinetmaker and turner. The front two rooms are the original section of the house with the kitchen, fireplace and oven being added later. In 1965 the house was dedicated with a Texas Historic Landmark located on the front of the house. This home is a favorite subject for many history books and detailed floor plans can be found in the Library of Congress. The authenticity of this pioneer home gives you a true feeling of what life was like in Fredericksburg.

The large double wooden doors lead into the bedroom where a double size bed owned by Richard Tatsch was the family’s pride and joy because of the fact it was “factory made”. The living room is adjacent to the bedroom. An inside stairway was a real novelty in its day as most homes only had outside stairways. An authentic kitchen has the original fireplace and cooking pots demonstrating how cooking was done….including a baker’s oven–now sealed. The shutters and the back door are solid with no openings or outside handles designed as a safety measure against the Indians.

Walking Tour – FM 965 – Cross Mountain

At 1951 feet above sea level, the peak of Cross Mountain was once a place Indian signaled news of the advancing white settlers. John Christian Durst arrived in Fredericksburg in 1847 and received a town lot and 10 acres of land, including this hill. He found a timber cross on the hilltop, suggesting that Spanish missionaries had used it as a landmark on the path from San Antonio to Mission San Saba. Durst named the hill “Kruezberg,” or Cross Mountain.

In 1849, Father George Menzel, replaced the first cross with a larger one. For almost 100 years afterward, Easter services were held on the hill. In 1946, St. Mary’s Catholic Church built a larger metal and concrete cross decorated with lights.

Cross Mountain was also a big part of the annual Easter Fires celebration in Fredericksburg.

On the Saturday evening preceding Easter, bonfires were lit atop as many as twenty-two specified hills flanking the town. At the appointed hour the church bells of the town tolled, and the hilltops burst into flame.
The fires, dating from the first Easter celebration in 1847, are almost as old as the town itself. According to local tradition, the custom originated when Comanche Indian scouts lit signal fires in the night to communicate with their chiefs, who were negotiating a treaty with German leader John O. Meusebach many miles to the north, beyond the Llano River. The scouts presumably were informing their chiefs concerning the movements of the town’s inhabitants.

According to this tradition, the signal fires terrified some German children in Fredericksburg, prompting one imaginative mother to tell her children that the Easter Rabbit and his helpers had lit the fires to cook eggs before decorating and distributing them among the children on Easter morning. As a result, many residents believe the Easter Fires are a custom linked to the founding of their town.

However, the Easter Fires have a much more ancient history. The people of northwestern Germany, especially in the provinces of Westphalia and Lower Saxony, practice an identical custom of lighting Easter-eve fires on specified hills. The practice originated in pre-Christian times as part of a spring festival and, along with the rabbit and egg, represents pagan customs that passed intact into Teutonic Christianity. The German provinces where Easter Fires occur contributed almost half of the settlers who came to the Texas Hill Country. The most likely sources of the story were Hanoverians, one of the two largest groups in early Fredericksburg.

More damaging to the signal-fire story, is that the Meusebach-Comanche negotiations occurred on March 1 and 2, 1847, while Easter eve in that year fell on April 3. Perhaps these two major events in Fredericksburg’s first spring later merged in the popular mind, or possibly the initial Easter Fires frightened German children from Hesse or some other southern province where the custom was unknown. In any case, the Old World origin of the fires is incontestable.

The City of Fredericksburg, which owns the property, has plans to develop the park and add facilities in the future. A master plan has been developed, but its implementation has not yet been funded and may still be a few years away. It is accessible to the public free of charge. There are nature trails at the base of the hill, and several trails that lead to the top where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the town. There is a paved parking area a short distance from the entrance (but currently no restroom facilities).

The Fredericksburg Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas conducts field trips to Cross Mountain several times a year, and some members visit the park on a regular basis, and has compiled a list of plants found in the park and so far have identified over 130 species.

Go back towards town, turn right on West Austin Street.

Walking Tour – 314 West Austin Street – The Probst Brewery and Home

After the Civil War, one of the things served in the Nimitz Hotel Saloon was, more than likely, a locally produced weissbeir brewed by Frederick Probst. As life returned to normal across the country, there was a brewing boom. Hundreds of breweries opened. In Fredericksburg, as in other German communities in Texas, life was unimaginable without beer.

Dr. Adolph Assig was born in Prussia in 1816. Sometime before 1853, Adolph and his wife, Mathilde, arrived in Texas. Friedrich (Frederick) Probst, born in 1831, married Caroline Pahl in Wohlshagen, Germany on May 24,1856. In October 24, 1856, after the birth of their first child, Louise, the newlyweds left for Texas. They arrived in Fredericksburg in the midst of a severe ice storm on January 6, 1857.

In March 1857, Dr. Assig, who owned a house on what is now South Washington Street, borrowed $850 from Frank van der Stucken to purchase “seventy-five barrels and kegs holding from 5 to 40 gallons, one steel mill for grinding malt, one large brass kettle and one of cast iron, four large tubs, one large square vat used as a cooler, and many other utensils,” according to a 1954 Fredericksburg Standard newspaper article. Van der Stucken was to receive one third of the profits of the brewery. According to a newspaper article printed in 1906, the beer was recognized for its quality and purity. Members of visiting singing societies who visited Fredericksburg drank the beer as fast as it could be tapped. Along the north side of the building was a long low addition that may have been a warehouse. A cellar was a few feet away.

According to a 50th Anniversary account, Assig had established his brewery with Probst’s help. In the 1860 census, Assig’s occupation is not listed, and Probst is a cooper. I  assume that Probst was making barrels for Assig’s beer.

For some reason, the partnership ended shortly after the census, for Probst bought property on Austin Street in 1861, and had a brewery with three cellars built there. There could be a dozen reasons for the split between the two. By 1863, when Assig sold the original brewery, he was already living in Blanco County. Maybe Assig thought the climate in pro-Union Fredericksburg was too uncomfortable. Union loyalists suffered attack, theft, and murder at the hand of die Hangerbande, Hanging Band. Perhaps Assig moved to Blanco to be near relatives. Or perhaps, he just liked Blanco.

The brewery moved to 310 West Austin Street, where the three cellars had been built. The walls were two feet thick and had arched rock roofs, which had been plastered with mortar and painted white. The largest cellar was about 14 x 32 feet. The two smaller ones were each about 10 x 15 feet. It is not clear whether or not the brewery continued to operate during the Civil War. Supply shortages had forced Charles Nimitz to close his brewery, after all. If the brewery did not stop operating, its output was surely curtailed. A newspaper article published in 1971 noted that the Probst family suffered greatly during the war.

After the Civil War, business improved, and before long the brewery was making Frederick a good living. The Probsts built a two-story limestone house next door to the brewery in 1870, at 312 West Austin.

No matter how good Probst’s weissbier was, competition from the breweries in San Antonio began to take its toll. At about this time, there were fourteen saloons in Fredericksburg. The Knopp saloon, in the Evers building on the Northeast corner of Main Street and Milam Street fired the opening salvo in a beer war that was remembered for many years. While Probst beer was selling for ten cents a glass, John Knopp imported beer from San Antonio, and began selling it for a nickel a glass. The frugal Germans flocked to Knopp’s saloon in droves. In 1895, Probst closed his brewery.

Frederick and Caroline had eleven children. Four of the girls had died by their parents’ 1906 Golden wedding anniversary.

In 1906, a Golden Wedding party was held at the Probst home in Fredericksburg. Four of the Probst’s surviving children attended. In the afternoon, the choir of the Zion Lutheran Church serenaded the couple. The rest of the afternoon was spent in pleasant conversation. One of the highlights of the party was automobile rides, still a fairly rare sight in Fredericksburg. That evening, the Mannerchor “Concordia,” of which Probst had been a long-time, active member, sang, followed by Klaerner’s Kapelle, a local band.

Frederick Probst died in 1910, shortly after Caroline. They are buried in the old part of the City Cemetery.

Turn right and walk back to Orange Street. Turn left, cross the creek and turn left on Schubert Street. Walk across the creek.

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.