West Corner of West Main and North Milam – William Henke Home

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.