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.

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.

West Corner of West Main and North Milam – William Henke Home

Carved in the limestone rock above the doorway of the old William C. Henke home is “1886,” the year this house was built. The townlot was originally granted to P. Friess, and the next townlot to the west was granted to Peter Behrens, who later acquired the corner lot. He sold it to Julius Splittgerber, who took out a mortgage from Sophie Spaeth. They defaulted and the land passed into the Spaeth’s hands. Sophie’s husband, Ludwig, was killed by Indians in 1870 at age 39 while working in the fields on his place near Enchanted Rock. Sophie sold the corner lot to William Henke, son of Heinrich Henke who ran a meat market on Main and Llano Streets. William founded the Uptown Henke Meat Market. (William’s sister, Anna, was Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s mother.) William ran his market from the front porch, originally. The butchering was done at different locations around town and the finsihed products were sold here. The porch was enclosed with Laden, or shutters, that made the porch an ideal spot to sell meat. Henke later added a frame structure over a back cellar and moved the shop into it. When he passed away, his children built the concrete building next door and that became the butcher shop, which closed in 1949. While the Henke’s lived here, the parents slept in at the back of the south side of the building, and their 10 children used the three rooms upstairs.

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 – 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.

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.

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.

Northwest Corner of Orange and Saint Mary’s Street – St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Mariekirche, or the Old St. Mary’s church is one of old Fredericksburg’s landmarks. When the building next door was built in 1906, the original church was remodeled to be a parochial school. When the new school building was built across the street, the old church fell empty once again. For several years, restoration funds were collected through Wild Game Dinners and Damenfests.

St. Mary’s history goes back almost to the city’s founding. The Catholics, who were among the first settlers, worshipped in the Vereins Kirche, and in the home of John Leyendecker, a schoolteacher. In 1847, Fr. Dubois, a Frenchman who later became bishop of Galveston, and Fr. Salazar, a Spaniard, arrived here to hold mass, the first Holy Mass in Fredericksburg. Although they were only here for two weeks, the local Catholics were inspired to build their own church.

The original townlot was granted to Gerhard Rehmann, who, in 1854, conveyed the lot to members of the Roman Catholic Church for $18 cash. Included in the conveyance were the lots where the St. Mary’s Elementary School now stands. For many years this was where the St. Mary’s rectory stood. In the summer of 1849, Fr. Menzel, a native of what is now Czechoslovakia, arrived as minister. Since the church had not been finished, services were held in the Rectory. When he returned to his homeland and year and a half later, he had left behind a large wooden cross to replace the ones left by Spanish missionaries.

In 1853, Bishop Odin of Galveston, who was later transferred to New Orleans, administered the first sacrament of confirmation in the city. In 1859, a popular Jesuit priest, Fr. Weinninger, spent three weeks here. A popular missionary of the day, the parishioners pleaded for him to return. He asked that a church be built as a condition of his return. Work on the Marienkirche started in 1860 and was finished during the early days of the Civil War. The Church’s most distinctive feature is its stone spire, a strong reflection of the homeland Gothic. It has recently been restored. “New” St. Mary’s supplanted the Marienkirche in 1906, more finely detailed and delicate in appearance but equally Gothic, and is one of Texas famed Painted Churches.

314 West Creek – Ahrens-Langehennig Home

After an Indian attack that killed Conrad Ahrens’ father, Dorthea, his mother, moved the family from their farm into town. The oldest part of the house is on the west side, a two-room rock house. The family once used the front room as their bedroom and parlor—a common practice at the time. The kitchen was in the back room. Above the front room is an attic, with a laden, or opening, in the west wall, but there was no outside stairway. Two bedrooms were added to the old house, with a front door in each opening onto the porch and one window flanking each door in the front wall. Later owners, the Langerhennigs, remodeled these rooms to include a bathroom and a small storage and laundry area.

Turn left on Crockett street, then turn left on San Antonio Street.

Walking Tour – 408 West Austin – John Walter Home (Austin Street Retreat)

From Cross Mountain, go back towards town, turn right on West Austin Street.

John Walter, a bartender, bought this property in 1867 for $50, and built the log cabin on the right for his family. Behind and to the left of the log cabin was a rock kitchen, connected to the back of the cabin by a durchgang, or enclosed walkway. The addition to the left of the log cabin was built in front of the old kitchen. In 1876, Walter was elected sheriff and tax collector for Gillespie County, a post he held for 10 years. After the county’s third jail burned down in1885, Walter used the kitchen as a jail.

In the 1976, new owners added the faux-fachwerk addition to the left of the log cabin. The walls are made from concrete block and the wood and plaster facade laid over that. Today, the John Walter Home is better known as Austin Street Retreat, Fredericksburg’s premiere guesthouse complex.