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.


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