415 West Main – Wilhelm Crenwelge Home

John Schmidt built a log cabin to the west of the house site in 1850 that has been torn down, then sold it to Jacob Schneider in 1852. In 1860, Schneider, by this time blind, sold the property to Wilhelm Crenwelge. And his heirs lived in this house until the mid-1950s. Wilhelm Crenwelge lived in the log and rock house next door while his parents used the bigger house after it was finished. He and his father were wheelwrights and conducted their business here. The Crenwelges raised a large family on the property.

By the 1930s, Erwin and Paul Kraus who used the building for storing Coca-Cola and Pearl Beer. They ran their business from the building on the corner. They sold the property to Mary Crenwelge, no relation to the previous Crenwelge owners, in 1966, who conveyed it to her son Milton in 1972.

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.

105 West San Antonio – John Ruegner Home

This lot was originally deeded to Daniel Weiershausen, and by 1852 had brought rocks to the site. In 1854, he sold the lot to Johannes (John) Ruegner for $200. Ruegner built the original two-room limestone rock home. Ruegner was a stone mason and worked on several projects still standing in Fredericksburg, including the old college building at the Middle School Campus, and the stone wall on the lower side of the oldest part of the cemetery.

The original front room was a combined bedroom/sitting room and the back room was the kitchen/dining room. Later owners divided these two rooms into four. After Ruegner’s death in 1899, his family sold the lot to A. Walter, a pioneer Swiss jeweler who founded the Walter Jewelry firm, lived here until 1904. It was sold to Louis von Hagen, whose children included Else Mayer, wife of prominent Austin jeweler Carl Mayer. It changed hands several times until 1972, when Raymond and Eugena Kneese bought and restored the building. A new addition as made to blend in with the old construction.

Turn around and walk West on San Antonio, cross Orange Street

The Dinosaur Show – September 20

dinosauergerogeOne day only! One of the largest traveling prehistoric exhibits in North America is coming to Fredericksburg! ”Dinosaur George” of the History Channel’s “Jurassic Fight Club” will present an incredible display of dinosaur skulls including one of the largest T-Rex skulls ever found. You’ll see saber tooth tigers, crocodiles and much more. At the Pioneer Pavilion at Lady Bird Johnson Park. Bring your cameras! Program courtesy of the Fredericksburg Rockhounds.

9 am to 6 pm. Free admission. At Lady Bird Park, Pioneer Pavillion.

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.

410 West Main Street – Knopp Building

F. C. Radeleff bought this lot for $650 in 1870, which suggests that some portion of the building was in existence. He ran a store from the front of the building and was elected Sheriff and Tax Collector in 1874. His short-lived term was ended when John Walter was sworn in as sheriff in December of the same year. To make restitution for a deficiency in the office funds, they sold the property to Frederick Probst in January 1875. Probst paid them $500, and assumed payment of $1400 to the County for the deficiency in funds. Probst sold the property to E. Wahrmund in 1896, who turned around and sold it to John Knopp, who ran his general merchandise business in the two-story combination store and home across the street. His son Jacob moved into this house to be near the business. Jacob, who was born in Germany in 1865, and his wife Auguste raised eight children in the house. Jacob died in 1913, and the house was rented to different tenants.

Continue East on Main Street

605 West Creek – Peter Walter Home

Peter Walter was in the first wagon team arriving in Fredericksburg. He started work on this little fachwerk cottage soon after his arrival in 1846, using materials from the immediate neighborhood. A freight hauler, Walter farmed the surrounding land between supply runs to Fort McKavett. St. Barnabas Parish bought the little house in 1952, restoring and consecrating it as a mission in 1954. When President Lyndon Johnson came to Texas to stay at his ranch, he would often worship at this church.

Continue West on Creek 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

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.