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.

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.

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 – 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 – 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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.