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.

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.

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 – 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 – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

410 West Main Street – Knopp Building

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