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Fredericksburg (Gillespie County)

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Fredericksburg was founded in 1845 by John Meusebach, who purchased a ten-thousand-acre tract of land in the Hill Country about eighty miles north of New Braunfels. The town was laid out by Hermann Wilke and named in honor of Prince Frederick of Prussia, a member of the Adelsverein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas). In March 1847, Meusebach was successful in negotiating a treaty with the Comanche that proved to be the only such agreement on the Texas frontier that was largely respected by both parties. The Germans around Fredericksburg and the Comanche enjoyed a lengthy, if sometimes tenuous, peace that permitted settlement of over three million acres of land.

The town's rectangular grid plan is dominated by the great width of Main Street, originally called Hauptstrasse,which served to accommodate the wagons of farmers from the outlying countryside. The town plan called for small urban lots, many of which became the site of the so-called Sunday Houses, with outlying farm lots used for agriculture and livestock. Many of the German immigrant houses were built using fachwerk,often originally covered with stucco or wood siding. Some now have had their construction technique exposed in an effort to emphasize the Germanic heritage of the town. Limestone, though, is the dominant building material in town, with houses built of rubble masonry, randomly placed blocks, and finely coursed stones. The cruder rubble stonework was often covered with what is called “German smear grouting,” that is, mortar which is literally smeared across the surface to cover the irregular gaps between the rubble stone. The use of limestone for wall materials has become somewhat of a regional stylistic feature, with suburban home builders across the state using it in an effort to create an early Texas character, and the practice has even spread to strip malls.

Fredericksburg was made the county seat in 1848, but remained somewhat isolated from the rest of the state in terms of commercial connections until 1913 when the San Antonio, Fredericksburg and Northern Railway arrived. German remained the first language of the town well into the twentieth century, and the town's first newspaper was the German language Wochenblatt,founded in 1877. In recent years, the town has become a flourishing tourist destination, with many of its historic houses converted for use as bed-and-breakfast facilities, and shops becoming gift shop boutiques and antique stores catering to visitors. The Pioneer Museum at 309 W. Main Street includes the Kammlah House with exhibits that give the most historically accurate interpretation of life in Fredericksburg in the mid-nineteenth century.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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