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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.