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.
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.
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
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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
Turn left on Schubert. Go to Acorn Street and Turn left. Head South, towards Main Street.
Another cabinet maker, William Kunz, built the original four room home in the late 1870s.
Continue to main Street and stop.
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.