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.

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.

117 West San Antonio – Old Gillespie County Jail

Turn left on Crockett street, then turn left on San Antonio Street.

117 West San Antonio – Old Gillespie County Jail

In 1852, the Gillespie County Commissioners authorized construction of the first jail. It was to be 18 by 18 feet wide, with an 8 foot high, two foot thick wall. It was built near where City Hall stands today, on the corner of North Orange and Main Street. The county’s first courthouse was across the street where the old Post Office stands today. But this first jail was not well built, and after a couple of escapes, the second jail was authorized in 1859, and built by Ludwig Schmidt behind the Court House, about where Nimitz Parkway runs. The third jail was built in 1874 on the South Side of the Courthouse. At daybreak January 7, 1885, fire broke out in the jail and a prisoner named William Allison, indicted for the 1884 murder of John Braeutigam, lost his life. According to once source, Allison set the fire himself, hoping to burn his way out of jail, but the fire got out of control.

By this time, the second courthouse, the McDermott building, had been constructed, and the Commissioners authorized a fourth jail to be built by C. F. Priess and Bro. for almost $10,000 on the townlot originally granted to Justus Herber. The contract called for the jail to be 25 feet wide, 35 feet deep, and 20-22 feet high with two stories. The contract also called for “waterclosets, privy, sinks, wash sinks, water tank,” etc., and bids were advertised in the San Antonio Express, Austin Statesman and Friederichsburger Wochenblatt.

The jail was finished in December 1885. Downstairs is a lockup, and jailer’s quarters. The lockup later was used as a women’s cell. Iron steps lead to the upper floor. On the east wall of the second floor are two steel cells, each with a crude lavatory and commode, and at one time steel cots were riveted into the walls. Going through a solid steel door, one reached the back room, or maximum security. Two cells stand in the center of the room with a “run around” around them where prisoners could get exercise. The only heat for the upper floor was a wood heater in the corner of the back room. Prisoners in the front cells were often moved to the back cells in extremely cold weather.

John Dietz built the wall surrounding the jail, complete with glass topping the walls, a crude but effective way to keep prisoners from scaling the wall, and often seen in Mexico.

When the current courthouse with its upstairs jails were built in 1939, the jail was converted into living quarters for William Heimann, the custodian of the new building, and his wife. When they moved out, the building was used for storage. In the late 1970s, Fredericksburg Heritage Foundation funds, matched by Texas Historical Commission dollars, restored the old jail. The sheriff’s office and kitchen are authentically furnished, as are the sheriff’s living quarters. Graffiti decades old still mars the cell walls upstairs.

The building is locked, but the wrought iron gate to the jailyard is kept unlocked so that visitors may examine the building’s exterior. The building is open for tours every year for the Candlelight Tour of Homes, held the second weekend in December.

Walking Tour – 414 West Austin – Strackbein-Roeder Home

When the town was settled, the colonists received 10 acres of land and a lot in town. Many farmers lived on their country property during the week and came into town on Saturday to do their shopping. Rather than drive their wagons back to the farm on Saturday and then return to town on Sunday morning, they built small houses called Sunday Houses on their town lots. As the first settlers became older, they built more substantial homes in town.

Christian Strackbein purchased the lot in 1870 from John Walter. The original floor plan had two rooms downstairs, and a large room upstairs. A frame kitchen was built behind the house. A hand-dug well in the courtyard once provided water for this home and the Vogel Sunday House next door. William Roeder Sr. purchased the house in 1916. After he passed away, his son lived in the house. A more recent addition is a bedroom and bath at the back of the house, and a courtyard to the left.

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 – 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 – 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.)

415 West Main – Wilhelm Crenwelge Home

John Schmidt built a log cabin to the west of the house site in 1850 that has been torn down, then sold it to Jacob Schneider in 1852. In 1860, Schneider, by this time blind, sold the property to Wilhelm Crenwelge. And his heirs lived in this house until the mid-1950s. Wilhelm Crenwelge lived in the log and rock house next door while his parents used the bigger house after it was finished. He and his father were wheelwrights and conducted their business here. The Crenwelges raised a large family on the property.

By the 1930s, Erwin and Paul Kraus who used the building for storing Coca-Cola and Pearl Beer. They ran their business from the building on the corner. They sold the property to Mary Crenwelge, no relation to the previous Crenwelge owners, in 1966, who conveyed it to her son Milton in 1972.

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.

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.