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.

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.

Walking Tour – 307 West Schubert – Christian Crenwelge Home

Christian Crenwelge arrived in New Orleans on January 1, 1854, and made his way to Fredericksburg. He was joined later in the year by his younger brother Philipp later in the year. After Christian married Elisabeth Margaretha Mohr in 1860, Philipp sold his half interest in the house to his brother.

Christian had a ten acre lot two miles away, near Cross Mountain. He also owned the land across the street, and had a molasses press and lime kiln by the creek. Christian was also a cabinet maker and raised six children to adulthood.

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.

506 West Main Street – Loeffler-Weber House

Gerhard Rorig built thislog cabin as shelter from the first winter in Fredericksburg in 1846. Johann Loeffler, a local cabinet maker, added the rock and half timber rooms and cooking fireplace around 1867. His son-in-law, J. Charles Weber, added the lean-to on the side. The house stayed in the Leoffler-Weber family for 90 years, when George and Gloria Hill bought the house and restored it. The lean-to was converted into a bath by the Hills in the early 60s.

Notice the front door. Our ancestors were not as tall as Americans are today. Today, the Loeffler-Weber House is a guesthouse, and can be booked through us.

Walking Tour – 408 West Austin – John Walter Home (Austin Street Retreat)

From Cross Mountain, go back towards town, turn right on West Austin Street.

John Walter, a bartender, bought this property in 1867 for $50, and built the log cabin on the right for his family. Behind and to the left of the log cabin was a rock kitchen, connected to the back of the cabin by a durchgang, or enclosed walkway. The addition to the left of the log cabin was built in front of the old kitchen. In 1876, Walter was elected sheriff and tax collector for Gillespie County, a post he held for 10 years. After the county’s third jail burned down in1885, Walter used the kitchen as a jail.

In the 1976, new owners added the faux-fachwerk addition to the left of the log cabin. The walls are made from concrete block and the wood and plaster facade laid over that. Today, the John Walter Home is better known as Austin Street Retreat, Fredericksburg’s premiere guesthouse complex.

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.

Walking Tour – FM 965 – Cross Mountain

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.

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.

Corner of South Acorn and West Main – John Klingelhoefer Home

Johann “John” Klingelhoefer was born in 1802 in Germany and trained as a surveyor. He emigrated to Fredericksburg in 1847. He pitched a tent on this lot while he built the front two rooms of the house, seperated by a durchgang, or breezeway, between them, which was later enclosed as a third room. The half story attic above these rooms was their boys’ bedroom. John was elected Judge in 1851. The house passed through several generations and they added a little more to the home.

Turn right on Main Street and walk to the end of the block