Walking Tour – Marktplatz

Vereins Kirche
(People’s Church)

The original Vereins Kirche was one of the first buildings in Fredericksburg, built in 1847.  It served as a community hall, school house, church and, occasionally, a fort.  Built in the middle of Main Street, the Vereins Kirche was used until 1897, when it was demolished.

In 1935, the citizens of Fredericksburg decided to reconstruct the building 300 feet from it’s original location, in the center of Marktplatz.  The new building was finished in time for the state Centennial celebration in 1936.

Today, the Vereins Kirche is in the care of the Gillespie County  Historical Society and houses rotating history exhibits.

John O. Meusebach

At the entance of Marktplatz, facing Main Street is a bust of John O. Meusebach, the founder of Fredericksburg.  Meusebach was born Baron Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach, on May 26, 1812, at Dillenburg, Germany.  As he grew, Meusebach attended the finest schools and could read five languages, and he spoke English fluently.

In 1845 the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, the Adelsverein, appointed Meusebach to succeed Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels as its commissioner general in Texas. Meusebach, who had dropped his noble title and assumed the name John O.,  arrived in New Braunfels, Texas in May of 1845, and took up his duties, only to learn that the Adelsverein was in serious financial trouble.

Besides a huge debt and a severe lack of funds, the Adelsverein had too many colonist to settle.  There was a shortage of carts and wagons to take the colonists to the interior—most of the wagons had been taken by the United States Army who was fighting the Mexican War.  Despite all the difficulties, Meusebach managed to found Fredericksburg, Castell, and Leiningen with the settles.

In 1846, Meusebach realized that in order to settle the Fisher-Miller Grant, he had to reach an agreement with the Comanche Indians.  In May of 1847, Indian leaders signed a treaty, which is the only unbroken treaty between white settlers and Native Americans.  Satisfied with his achievement, Meusebach resigned as administrator.  In 1851, Meusebach was elected a Texas Senator, and was instrumental in establishing Texas’ public school system.

Meusebach retired to his farm in Loyal Valley in 1869 where he and his wife raised seven children to adulthood.  He died at Loyal Valley on May 27, 1897, and is buried at Cherry Spring, near Fredericksburg.

Jacob Brodbeck – Texas’ Father of Manned Flight

Also on Marktplatz is a monument to Jacob Brodbeck.  Jacob Brodbeck was born in the duchy of Württemberg on October 13, 1821. He sailed for Texas with his brother George on August 25, 1846. He reached Fredericksburg, Texas in March 1847, where he became a teacher. Brodbeck eventually became the county surveyor, district school supervisor, and county commissioner. But he is most famous for his attempts at powered flight almost forty years before the famous success of Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Brodbeck worked on his design for twenty years. In 1863, he built a scale model of the craft with a rudder, wings, and a propeller powered by coiled springs. He would show the model at various county fairs.  Bouyed by the success of the model,  he began looking for funding to build a full scale version.

Brodbeck wrote about his design:

“I’ll give a few ideas indicating generally the character of the air ship, and what it will be able to accomplish. The air ship consists of three main parts:

“1. The lower suspended portion, formed like a ship with a short prow to cut the air; it serves to hold the aeronaut, and also the power of producing engine with all the steering apparatus. This portion is shut up all around to prevent the rapid motion from affecting the breathing of the man within. In this, as low as possible, lies the center of gravity of the whole structure, so as to steady the motion. At the back end of the ship, there is a propeller screw which will make it possible to navigate in the water, in case by any accident the aeronaut should have to descend while he is above water. In this case, the ship can be detached from the flying apparatus.

“2. The upper portion, or flying apparatus, which makes use of the resistance of the air, consists of wings, partly movable, partly immovable, presenting the appearance of horizontal sails, but having functions entirely different from the sails of vessels.

“3. The portion producing the forward motion consists of two screws, which can be revolved with equal or unequal motion, as to serve the purpose of lateral steering, or of wings of a peculiar construction. The preference to be given to one or the other depends on the nature of the motive power.

“Another apparatus regulates the ascending motion. The material is so selected as to combine the greatest strength with the least weight. When the air ship is in motion, the aeronaut has in each hand a crank, one to guide the ascending and descending action, the other the lateral steerage. Immediately in front of him is the compass, while a barometer with a scale made for the purpose, shows him the approximate height. Another apparatus, similar to the ball regulator of a steam engine, shows him the velocity, as well as the distance passed over. It is self-evident that the speed of the air depends upon motive power and on the direction of the winds; according to my experiments and calculations it will be from 30 to 100 miles per hour.”

It depends on who you talk to as to what happened next.

Some say that Brodbeck made his first attempt in Luckenbach, Texas. Some folks say that he made his first flight in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck commemorates the event.  But everyone agrees that the flight wasn’t successful.  The reports indicate that the craft got twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the springs unwound completely and the machine crashed to the ground.

After the crash, Brodbeck couldn’t find any local investors, so he began a US tour to raise funds to continue his work. But his papers were stolen in Michigan, and he couldn’t persuade anyone to invest in his airship without them.

Brodbeck returned to his home near Luckenbach, where he died in 1910, and was buried on the farm. No copies of his plans have ever been found.

Meusebach-Comanche Treaty

Behind the Vereins Kirche is a statue commemorating the treaty between the German settlers and the Comanche Indians.

The land between the Llano and Colorado Rivers made up the Fisher-Miller Land Grant to the German Adelsverein for settlers from Germany. However, this land was also the hunting grounds of the Comanche Indians. Government officials weren’t able to guarantee military assistance and surveyors refused to enter the area for fear of being attacked by the Indians. Since the grant required that the land had to be surveyed by the fall of 1847, surveyors had to enter Indian Territory.

On January 22, 1847, a party made up of well-armed Germans, Mexicans, and several American surveyors set out from Fredericksburg. Also in the party was Ferdinand von Roemer, who wrote a detailed report on the expedition. Despite warnings from the governor of Texas, John O. Meusebach, Commissioner of the Adelsverein, made contact with the Indians and began negotiations. The final session took place on March 1 and 2, 1847, at the lower San Saba River, about twenty-five miles from the Colorado River. Comanche chiefs Buffalo Hump, Santa Anna, and others, met with Meusebach (called El Sol Colorado by the Comanches, because of his red flowing beard).

The treaty was officially signed in Fredericksburg a couple months later. The treaty allowed German and Indians to freely go into  each others territory; and allowed the surveyors to survey  lands the San Saba area. The treaty opened more than 3 million acres of land to settlement.

In 1970, Irene Marschall King, John Meusebach’s granddaughter, brought the original Meusebach-Comanche treaty document from Europe in 1970. She presented the document to the Texas State Library in 1972, where it is still on display.

On Memorial Day in 1997, the near-life-size statue called “Gathering, Lasting Friendship, 1847-1997” was dedicated as a part of the city’s 150th anniversary.

Maibaum
(The Maypole)

Another old German tradition was brought to Marktplatz on 1991.  In Germany, Maibaums tell the story of the town. The figures on the pole’s crosspieces symbolize the town’s history and community life: dancing, hunting, farming and ranching. On the bottom crosspiece, Meusebach is depicted negotiating a treaty with the Comanches.

The Maibaum was installed by the Pedernales Creative Arts Alliance, a local group who sponsors the annual Oktoberfest.  Proceeds from the hugely popular event go towards art scholarships, and city beautification.  Marketplatz’ conversion into a true town square was made possible by Oktoberfest.

Fredericksburg’s Oktoberfest is held on the first Friday and Saturday in October.   If you plan to attend, make reservations early.  Most hotels, Bed and Breakfasts and guesthouses book a year in advance!

With the Maibaum in front of you, turn left and walk towards the edge of Marktplatz.


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 – 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.)

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.

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.

Walking Tour – 112 North Crockett Kreuger-Weihmiller House

The original townlot at 112 North Crockett was granted to Ferdinand Wilhelm, but Franz W. Kreuger built the oldest of the two houses, and the fachwerk portion of the house on the north side is the oldest part of the house.

Kreuger operated a drug store here. He died in 1865, and the executor of his estate tried to find a renter for the house. But by 1866, no renter had been found, so the administrator rented the building himself for 6 months to clear the inventory.

The house was sold to Freidrich Weihmiller in January 1867, who operated a blacksmith shop from the older house. The house stayed in the his family until 1938. Later, Richard Tatsch ran a blacksmith shop here. When Tatsch retired, he rented out the property as a restaurant. Later, Reinhold Enderlin operated his Lone Star Beer Distributorship from the building. After Enderlin built a new warehouse, Charlie Svatek operated the Falstaff Distributorship from here.

The houses later served as a liquor store, bed and breakfasts, and a bakery.

Turn to your right, north from Main Street, and walk down to the corner. Turn left and walk down two blocks.

East Corner of West Main and North Milam – Evers Building

Karl Itz and Ludwig Evers, Karl’s brother-in-law, acquired the land from Peter Itz in 1867. When the three lots were partitioned, Ludwig took the corner lot. While Ludwig farmed and ranched in the northwestern part of the county, they moved into town in their old age and settled in the little log and rock house which was adjacent to this place. The floorplan of this building was fairly simple. Downstairs there was one large room, with a thick stone wall dividing it from the smaller back room. Underneath is a large cellar. At one time the steps led up along the east wall on the inside of the building, but these have been removed and an outside stairway put in their place. The upstairs was originally one large room, which was later divided with frame partitions. When the building was renovated, the rock walls in the front were knocked out and the show windows and additional upstairs windows were added. At one time the John Knopp family lived upstairs and he operated a saloon downstairs, selling groceries and some staples. During these years this place also figured in the “beer war.” At the time Frederick Probst was brewing beer on the street behind here and it was selling for 10 cents a glass all over town. Knopp sold Pearl Beer from San Antonio and sold it for 5 cents a glass. Probst closed his brewery a few years afterward. Later a doctor, feeling that goat’s milk would cure most people’s ills occupied the building and kept a lot of goats here to supply the demand. He shortly went out of business. The building has housed a dentist office, a millinery store run by Mrs. Louis Henke, Otto Schneider’s grocery store, Walter Knopp’s grocery store, Haversack Wines, W-K Electric, and now David’s Pit Barbecue.

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.

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.

419 West Main – Crenwelge Rent House

This house was built in the 1860s or early 1870s as a rent house. It was built on property originally granted to Conrad Kolmeier, whose grandson Otto married Dorothea Crenwelge who lived next door. Wilhelm Crenwelge bought the property in 1856 and it stayed in the family until 1960. The property was bought by Erwin Kraus in 1963. The house is still being rented out.