February, 2012. Fredericksburg, Texas. It’s A Jewel.

Posted on February 26, 2012

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Finding a glittering jewel mixed in with the common stones of asphalt, concrete, fast food, malls and monotony so often found on the road is one of the many joys of traveling.

Fredericksburg is one of those jewels – it’s a small city done right.

Located in the Hill Country not far from the sprawling, metropolitan mayhem of Austin and San Antonio, it’s a perfect getaway destination for the big-city crowd.  There are lots of stress-relievers here.  A wide selection of restaurants, watering holes, wineries, shopping, art and music, all wrapped within a beautifully-photogenic downtown, makes Fredericksburg a perfect place to relax.

Of course, we are not stressed-out corporate types; rather we are relaxed retirees who enjoy staying relaxed by hanging out in places like Fredericksburg.

As we talked about in an earlier post, after Texas separated from Mexico in 1836 and formed a Republic, President Sam Houston kicked off a marketing campaign in various European countries, especially Germany, to lure immigrants to Texas.

This advertising attracted the attention of a group of minor German noblemen, who soon developed a project to colonize German peasants in Texas – the Adelsverein.  They hoped the project would bring them the wealth, power and prestige denied them in their own country, due to their carved-in-stone social status.

And it wasn’t a totally selfish project.  At the time, overpopulation was a problem in rural Germany.  By relocating large number of German farmers to Texas, they would help their native country.  While organizing new settlements in a new country over which they would be the logical leaders, they would help themselves. During the early 1840’s, thousands of Germans emigrants were brought to the new Republic of Texas by similar efforts.

A series of German settlements was planned by the Adelsverein in the Hill Country area – the first was New Braunfels. In March, 1845, Baron Otfrid von Meusebach – now known as John O. Meusebach – left New Braunfels, along with a survey party, to select land for a second settlement. He found the land he wanted, and arranged to buy 10,000 acres on credit.

One hundred twenty settlers arrived with their loaded ox carts the following May – nearly six months after the Republic had been annexed to the United States.  A town was laid out and named “Fredericksburg” after Prince Frederick of Prussia, an influential member of the Adelsverein.

A good example of Fachwerk - timber and stone - construction

Each settler received one town lot and ten acres of farmland nearby. The town was organized like a typical German village, and simple Fachwerk houses were built, many of which stand today.

Of course, the original inhabitants of this land – the Comanche – presented a problem soon solved by Meusebach.

Sculpture in plaza depicting treaty agreement

In March of 1847, he negotiated a peace treaty with 20 Comanche chiefs, the only known treaty with Native Americans in United States history never to be broken.

This agreement kept the settlers safe until 1948, when Fort Martin Lewis was established a few miles east of Fredericksburg.

The summer following the treaty signing, a Vereins Kirche was constructed for use as a church for all denominations, as there were both Catholics and Lutherans in the settlement, and as a school and community building.  The building continued in active use until it was torn down in 1896.

It was razed because it was situated right square in the middle of the main street, with the street curving around it on both sides.  When the cattle drive era arrived, large numbers of cows were driven down Main Street on their way to Austin.

But sometimes the cows didn’t stay on the street – sometimes they ran into the church, trampled the ground around it and left their cow pies everywhere, making the building hard to use for its original intended purpose.

However, the town’s citizens continued to remember the important role this early building played in the history of Fredericksburg.  Therefore, an exact replica of the original was constructed in 1935, but located off the street in the middle of a town plaza.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and today serves as one of several museums in Fredericksburg.

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Posted in: Travel - Texas