Reflections 2015
Series 3
February 25
Texas II: Texas Hill Country – Johnson City - Fredericksburg - Austin


Texas Hill Country    After spending much of the morning south of San Antonio at the four missions, we continue north through town and on to the Texas Hill Country. For this posting, you'll again want to copy and paste this link for the map of Texas:


There are two triangles of interest here. The larger one is between San Antonio, Dallas (with Fort Worth) and Houston, connected by Interstates 35, 45, and 10. We'll have more to say about this triangle after we visit the Hill Country. The hills (Photo by Zereshk) referred to are visible on the map to the northwest of San Antonio, although this picture is from west of the city. This is a more romantic view on a more rural road southwest of Austin (Photo by CMBJ). Michelin suggests that the Texas Hill Country is best in the spring, when the iconic Texas bluebonnet, the state flower, is in bloom (Both photos by Dave Whitinger), and in the fall, which brings out the color of Spanish oak and sumac, but it's the end of October and we'll have to do without those embellishments.


The smaller triangle on the map is inverted, and adjoins the larger one. Trace the east-west road between Fredericksburg, Johnson City, and Austin. Connect the ends of this road to San Antonio, and you'll see a perfectly viable drive over a couple of days around this smaller triangle. However, we're making it into a T. We left San Antonio north to Johnson City. After our day visit there to the two LBJ sites, we'll go west to Fredericksburg for two nights, then retrace the top of the T to Austin for a quick day visit. We'll then join the large triangle. Copy and paste this map for more precise information:


Our T is in the center, and you'll see that the distances are not far. We left San Antonio on 281 to Johnson City, will then go west on 290 to Fredericksburg, then back east to Austin.


Johnson City    Johnson City was the hometown of President Lyndon B Johnson, who was born, and had his ranch, in nearby Stonewall TX, to the west. The city is not named for him personally, but for his uncle, James Polk Johnson. As shown on the above map, Lyndon B Johnson National Historic Park is located in two segments, in town, and at the ranch. It's very easy to visit both. Copy and paste this map of Johnson City:


Once again, it's unfortunately upside down, so note that north is over our left shoulder. You are seeing the entire town. We come up 281 from the south at the upper left, and turn onto Main Street (8th Street), which continues through town to the ranch in Stonewall and to Fredericksburg. Click to see where we turn left just one block on G Street over to 9th Street and the Johnson Boyhood Home (Photo by Zereshk).


It's easy to remember that we arrive at the house at 1:00 PM—thus the time was well allotted to see the four missions and to drive here--because the guide is just finishing her lunch break and is reopening the house for the afternoon. As it turns out, no one else shows up and it's a private tour, and she answers questions as we breeze through the rooms. Johnson lived here from age five—here he is at age seven in 1915--to his marriage at age 26. The house is restored to its look in the 1920s and is furnished with family heirlooms.


The other activity is to walk over to the so-called Johnson settlement, which dates back to his grandfather's time. There's a log house dating to the 1860s, which served as headquarters for the cattle droving business established here. There are also two stone barns, then the windmill, water tank, and cooler house so important to early ranching ventures. Just beyond here, though, is the most interesting stop. There was talk of longhorn cattle nearby, and right here, behind a rail fence, a juvenile and a full-grown bull were chomping away at the trough not an arm's length away. The bull's horns went from HERE to HERE. Honestly.


This is a (rather poor) picture of Texas longhorn cattle grazing on Johnson property, which prompts further research. It seems that the characteristic horns can extend, tip to tip, to 2 m (7 ft) for steers and exceptional cows—here's a Texas Longhorn cow (Photo by Ed Schipul)--and from under a meter/yard to two meters/yards for bulls. They are known for their diverse coloring, as they can be of any color or mix of colors, although dark red and white mixes are the most dominant.


Their history is also interesting. Genetic analyses show the Longhorn originated from an Iberian hybrid of two lineages of the ancient, and now extinct, aurochs, a type of long-horned cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa, that is the ancestor of domestic cattle. The last recorded aurochs died in Poland in 1627. The original Texas Longhorns descend from the first cattle in the New World, brought by Columbus in 1493 to Hispaniola, with more brought by Spanish colonists through 1512.


The LBJ Ranch    It's about a 15-20-minute drive west to the LBJ Ranch. The route follows the Pedernales River that was frequently mentioned in the news in the Johnson years. Copy and paste this map:


It flows across the Hill Country from the west, swings south of Fredericksburg, and passes by the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall (name partially obscured), then swings north of Johnson City and ends in a lake drained by another river. I've learned two facts I like about the name of this river. A pedernal (pe.der.NAL) in Spanish is a piece of flint, so pedernales are pieces of flint, since flint rocks are apparently characteristic of the riverbed. Thus, the name could be translated as the Flint River. The other fact is the unusual pronunciation, which involves metathesis. As you may now, metathesis is the reversal of two sounds, such as the frequently heard "aks" for "ask", "jewlery" for "jewelry", "relator" for "realtor'. The two sounds needn't be adjacent, such as the pronunciation "revelant" for "relevant" (VEL for LEV). Often, a change due to metathesis becomes part of the language. The fact that "three" (ÞRI) developed into "thir[ty]" (ÞIR-), shows IR for RI, and indicates that metathesis took place at one point historically, and the change stuck. The point here is that the Pedernales has come to be pronounced Perdenales, with a metathesis of DR to RD, plus a movement of the vowel.


So that we can now enter the ranch, copy and paste this link:


We drive in from the right on 290 to the Main Park Entrance and note how nicely parallel to the highway the Pedernales flows, west to east. We also note that the river, curiously, separates two different parks, a state one and a federal one. And, of course, therein lies a tale. Johnson was in office from 1963 to 1969. During that period, friends of Johnson bought the long strip of land between the river and highway and in 1965, donated the land to the state of Texas in honor of LBJ. The park, called the Lyndon B Johnson State Park and Historic Site, opened in 1970. It seems to me that this means that until LBJ's death in 1973 at age 64 (Lady Bird Johnson died in 2007 at 94), the family at the ranch had gawkers across the narrow Pedernales.


On the other hand, the ranch was named a National Historic Site in 1969 and redesignated Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park in 1980 in the two sections in town and at the ranch. The Johnson family divided the ranch property, retaining the back lands as an actual working ranch while donating the front property, as in the map, to the National Historical Park. (Exception: the family retained the rights to the Johnson Family Cemetery near the river.) This is Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, at his ranch in 1972. While he was President, the LBJ Ranch was known as the Texas White House because he spent about 20% of his time in office there.


At the ranch, the state and federal parks work in tandem. Other than the Sauer-Beckmann farm, which we'll discuss later, the state park encompasses only the Visitor Center, where it's required to stop to get a free ticket for one's dashboard to be allowed to self-drive around the park (see map). Otherwise, everything of note is on federal grounds. Let's take our drive.


The route is one-way counterclockwise and prescribed. We first have a pleasant drive east along the river, then cross over the bridge at the east end of the map and come immediately to the Junction School (Photo by Billy Hathorn), a one-room schoolhouse briefly attended by LBJ at age four where he learned to read. He returned here as President to sign an education act. As the sign says, the entrance is in the back, and it's a typical schoolhouse of the time, and is very similar to the Redstone Schoolhouse I saw near the Wayside Inn in Massachusetts (2011/22). What struck me as unusual, was the siding. Many are familiar with the so-called tin ceilings of the era, which today are prized architectural artifacts. The side of the schoolhouse (click), as was very apparent, was probably wood, but covered with the same material as the tin ceilings, yet formed to look like stonework, and painted gray. You can see where the panels join.


Next down the road is a reconstruction of the Johnson Birthplace, where he was born in 1908. It was explained that when at the ranch in 1964, he wanted a guesthouse, so had this rebuilt to serve as one. The next stop is the Johnson Family Cemetery, which remains private, and where the family has requested that no on go past the fence. For that reason, this picture of the graves (Photo by Billy Hathorn) is at about the distance that one actually sees them, among the graves of many other family members. However, large blowup pictures of the tombstones and their inscriptions are posted at the fence. But of course, all we have to do now is to click to read the original stones. The scene under the trees is very peaceful.


Approaching the house, one is diverted way to the back of the property, where a few head of cattle are grazing on the roadside. Back there is the show barn, meant to illustrate that this property had been a working ranch, just as the back area still is. There were one or two head of cattle in stalls, with explanations of what went on there. It is also obvious that there is a landing strip for the President's arrivals and departures by plane, one of which is located near the house.


The ranch house is the final stop, and I found it underwhelming. While the Park has no admission fee, there is a charge for the house tour, but that confuses me, since it's only $3, a trivial amount that is way below contemporary prices for museum visits. I just didn't understand it. Another negative is that one approaches the house from behind and around the west side, but never gets to really be able to stand back and see the façade. We entered that side add-on to the left, and only in this picture do I get to see what the whole house looks like.


It is, as the name implies, an early-to-mid-century ranch-style house, with all rooms on the ground floor, including the bedrooms (there are some extra bedrooms upstairs, which is closed to the public). LBJ had bought the house from his aunt early in their marriage. In that add-on is his office, then one proceeds to the living room with three TVs, since he liked to watch the news on all three major networks, and phone which ever one he wanted to make a comment to. The kitchen was a 1960s kitchen—which already looks so dated—avocado appliances, anyone? The small dining room is typical LBJ. All the chairs around the long table are normal, but at the end is a La-Z-Boy with an emergency telephone attached, and you are asked to guess where LBJ sat. They had separate bedrooms, and you can see where LBJ suffered his heart attack in 1973, called the Secret Service compound behind the house, and where he was found with the phone still in his hand. He was flown to a hospital in San Antonio, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

 Johnson died two days after Richard Nixon's second inauguration. He was the second ex-President to die then in a short period of time. Harry S Truman died on 26 December 1972, making LBJ the oldest living ex-President, but only for a period of 27 days, until he himself died on 22 January 1973. At that point, the US had no living ex-Presidents, since these two had been the only ones since Dwight D Eisenhower's death in 1969.

The tour never saw the front of the house, but left by a door on the east side. And I did not care for the tour, which was a group of about a dozen. I'd have much preferred to have gone through the house on my own, as I'd done in Johnson City, or with the dozen on our own, because the young man who guided this tour, aside from being too wordy, was one of those who felt he had to be an entertainer. I have one example. LBJ bought the house from his aunt, then came home and told his wife about it. Any logical thinker would find that wrong, but when the guide told that story, he played it to the women, as though the men wouldn't think doing that to be just as reprehensible as the women would. I find that a sexist attitude, and for me, it was a downer aspect of the tour.


On the map, that small road at the bottom of the airfield actually continues to an intersection, so that one retraces ones route via the school and then back along the river. I tried at a couple of places on the road along the river to get a good view of the house, but even from there you could not see the front well at all because of the trees, as in this picture. I then tried to stop at the Sauer-Beckmann farm, but it was just closing at the end of the afternoon. As it turned out, I had time the next day to come back, so we'll discuss it then, since it fits more into German Fredericksburg than into the LBJ story. And on to Fredericksburg.

 I really have to add an aside at this point about visiting Presidents' graves. When I found that, as part of the Texas trip, I was going to visit LBJ's grave, I went to my paper file—remember paper files?—and took out an older typewritten sheet—remember typewritten sheets, where periods and commas often pushed through a Braille pattern on the back side? This sheet was an old list of Presidents' graves Beverly and I had visited.

I remember it started when I was a young teenager and my father drove the whole family up to Hyde Park NY to see the FDR home, Springwood, and his library and grave. Then I had Grant's Tomb in New York, and Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill on Long Island. Anyone who goes to Washington sees Kennedy's grave, and nearby Virginia has Mount Vernon with Washington and Charlottesville with Jefferson's Montecello, and Madison. It can add up so quickly. Adams and Quincy Adams are next to each other in Massachusetts, Jackson at the Hermitage in Nashville, and more. As we drove around the US, Beverly and I over the years made it a hobby to visit even the more obscure presidential graves. At one point we decided to make a list, to see where we stood. It was pre-internet, so I assume we consulted an almanac for locations, and the typewritten list emerged. But when I pulled it out when planning Texas, it only went up to Nixon, which tells you how long it had been that we'd had nothing to add. I looked up and updated the missing information up to the present.

Which ones have I seen? It's easier to list the ones I'm still lacking. In the older group, I'm lacking seven. Although I've been to Ohio, I've never visited any of the five presidential graves there: Garfield, Harding, WH Harrison, Hayes, McKinley. The remaining two are scattered: Fillmore in Buffalo NY, and B Harrison in Indianapolis IN.

Post-WWII I'm lacking five: Truman in Independence MO, Eisenhower in Abilene KS, Nixon in Yorba Linda CA, Ford in Grand Rapids MI, and Reagan in Simi Valley CA. It's a bit frustrating, since we visited the Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon Libraries years ago, where their graves are now located, but all were still alive at the time.

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the US, but only 43 individuals have held the office, since, in the 1880's and 1890's, Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms and was both the 22nd and 24th President, with Benjamin Harrison in between. Of the 43 individuals, five are still alive, leaving 38 graves, and LBJ's is now the 26th I've been to. 26 out of 38 is 68%. I'm not at all planning on completing this list. But now that I've almost accidentally started it up again, an opportunity is expected to open up later this year to go back and add on Truman and Eisenhower, bringing the total to 28, or 74%, almost three-quarters. It would be a pleasant victory, since I've already been to their libraries. We'll see.

Ethnicity & German Texans    If you check the map with the smaller triangle again, you'll see that the upper left angle is at Fredericksburg, one of the areas settled by Germans in Texas, the other being New Braunfels, not shown, but lying between San Antonio and San Marcos on that same map. In the interest of further exploring the Hill Country and also seeing Fredericksburg and its German heritage, that's our next stop.


As for ethnicity in the US in general, this map based on the 2000 census is most revealing. Since we'll have a few things to say about it, it might be easier to copy and paste this link to open it in another window:


These are reported ancestries by plurality in each area. Click to enlarge. First look at the top right, with the tiny inset of Alaska, broken down by state. No surprises: lilac in the Southwest for Mexican-Americans, purple in the South for African-Americans, dark blue in the Middle Atlantic for Italian-Americans, plus two tones for Irish-Americans and English-Americans in New England. And then the light blue for German-American across the country, plus Florida and Alaska. Over 50 million Americans claim German ancestry, which makes them the largest single ethnic group in the United States. (The white areas in the Southern Mountains and Hawaii report as "American" because of long-standing blending of multiple ethnicities there.)


But pluralities by state are rather heavy-handed, since you miss so many subtleties, so now move first to the Alaska map on the left. This makes more sense—the counties showing Aleut/Eskimo and American Indian pluralities are more honestly indicative, and the more populous areas—still German-reporting—don't skew the results.


Now review the rest of the country and we see that measuring by counties is subtler, and much more informative. Study the legend carefully, then note how now the French areas in southern Louisiana (light blue) stand out; how the Italian-Americans in the Northeast are concentrated in the New York metropolitan area, and were also skewing statewide results. Light blue for French is again apparent along the Québec border, including the Acadians in northeastern Maine we discussed earlier. Dutch and Finns appear in Michigan, and Norwegians in North Dakota and adjacent areas. Large areas of American Indian (gold) now appear. Also check out in the legend the "Other" category to find single counties where smaller groups are in a plurality. Fascinating.


But now let's concentrate on Texas. The state map on top showed the plurality as Mexican, but the county map reveals a more precise truth. The "Mexican" counties are along the Mexican border. There's a significant number of counties showing African-American (purple) and "American" (white). And then we come to the German Texans in light blue. You see a larger circle right in the middle—these counties are around Fredericksburg—and another circle to its southeast, indicating New Braunfels.


It's also noteworthy that German-Americans in Texas don't always use that term, but call themselves, as I just did, German Texans. You may scratch your head, but, well, this is Texas. However, there's another point about the mix of ethnicities in the Texas Hill Country, where there is some blending in food, beer, architecture, and music. For instance, cultural exposure to German settlers in the 19C popularized the use of the accordion in Tejano music of central and southern Texas.


Rhine River Origins of German Texans    Before going to Fredericksburg I was aware of its German background, but was surprised when there, and since, about the details of how it came about. I found out while still there, that the movement to Texas came about from the Rhine River area, but have been surprised in research since the involvement of the Mainz area, where I studied. (By the way, I've used that name a lot, and some might not be aware of its pronunciation. Mainz rhymes with "pints".) The materials I saw in English shortened the organization's name. It's only when I looked up the topic in German Wikipedia that I saw the word "Mainz" in the title of the organization, as well as "Biebrich", which meant stopping where I was and looking further into THAT aspect.


I suppose you can say it all began with the Revolutions of 1848 (Map by Dahn), the democratic uprisings in many countries in Europe that, unfortunately, were all eventually put down by reactionary forces. Notice on the map that the red dotted circles indicating areas with trouble fomenting before 1848 include central Germany and the Rhine area. Also notice what the blue dot and red star mean for Paris. If you're familiar with the uprising and the barricades in Les Misérables, then you know more about 1848 than perhaps you thought you did. It was in the era just before those revolutions started, but building up to them, that the movement for abandoning Germany for Texas took hold.


Let's look at the area. Copy and paste this map of Mainz and Wiesbaden:


Clicking doesn't enlarge it too much. Beverly and I and friend Rita studied here in the early '60s; in the mid-'70s friend Jonathan was in the US military here; in the mid-'80s friend Allan also studied here; so this is my Gang of Five, people I know associated with Mainz. We studied at the Johannes Gutenberg University, which in the lower center in purple; downtown Mainz is to its right, at the bridge over the Rhine, the northern suburb of Mainz-Mombach is the uppermost part of Mainz facing Wiesbaden across the Rhine at the top. The suburb of Wiesbaden-Biebrich is on the river, and the Biebrich Castle Park is very visible in green. Another copy and paste will bring it closer:


Clicking in this case works wonders. This closeup clearly shows Mainz-Mombach at the bottom and, in the center of Biebrich opposite, the Schlosspark Biebrich/Biebrich Castle Park. THIS is where the German communities in Texas started. At that time, Biebrich was a separate city (for that matter, so was Mombach; smaller towns were attached to cities in the 20C). I find it also interesting to know that this was not a middle-class venture, although everyday people certainly participated later on.


On 20 April 1842 a meeting took place in the 1792 Baroque Biebrich Castle (Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm), which lies directly on the Rhine opposite Mainz-Mombach. It was a group that called itself the "Rat deutscher Fürsten und adeliger Herren" / Council of German Princes and Noble Gentlemen. (You can see immediately this was not a grass-roots group.) It was this group that formulated the idea of establishing an overseas settlement, a new Germany in Texas, peopled by mass emigration. It was largely the liberal, educated Germans fleeing the social, political, and economic conditions leading up to the Revolutions of 1848, but also including working-class Germans. The group worked under the name Verein zum Schutze deutscher Einwanderer in Texas/ Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, using this logo.

 Now at this point, we're not talking about the United States, we're still talking about the Republic of Texas, which didn't become a state until the end of 1845. I pose the question: could it be that that star on the logo is the Lone Star of Texas? Does the bundle of arrows (Indian arrows?) represent the fasces, the traditional symbol of power? I don't know, I'm just laying the question on the table.

A month later, on 25 March 1844, a corporation was formed across the river in central Mainz to embody the organization formed, which then had its seat in Mainz. This is Founder's Stock Certificate No 4, for 4,000 guilders, issued on 1 July 1846 to the governing Duke Bernhard von Sachsen-Meiningen. As you can see, the 21 members and stockholders of the Society were exclusively members of the nobility. For that reason, the name was and is usually informally shortened to the Mainzer Adelsverein, the Mainz Society of Nobles.


The basis for this was that the Republic of Texas had issued colonization land grants of over 1.8 million hectares (over 4.5 million acres). They were conditional upon settlements being established in given areas of Texas over a certain time limit, and the Adelsverein had invested in these.


But except for a couple of successes with settlements, the entire venture was a money-losing flop. The first commissioner general of the Adelsverein was appointed in 1844 to lead its colony in Texas. He was Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Ludwig Georg Alfred Alexander Prinz zu Solms-Braunfels, referred to in English as Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. (German Wikipedia tells us he was nicknamed Texas-Carl.) The group arrived that same year and moved to land grants acquired from the Republic of Texas where Prince Solms named the colony New Braunfels after his home area, and indirectly, after himself. But note that, the deed done, he then returned to Germany.


The next year, 1845, the second commissioner general of the Adelsverein was appointed. He was Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach / Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach, and in 1846, he founded, along with some 120 settlers, what would have been in German Friedrichsburg but what was anglicized to Fredericksburg. I'd been wondering who it was named after, thinking perhaps Frederick the Great, but that wasn't the case. It was named after a certain Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig von Preussen, known as Prince Frederick of Prussia, who, notably, was one of the 21 members of the Adelsverein.


Quite differently from "Texas-Carl" in New Braunfels, Baron von Meusebach not only stayed in Fredericksburg, he renounced his noble title, translated "Hans" to "John" and became known in Texas as John O Meusebach. (The name is MOI.ze.bakh, but I cannot begin to imagine how it might have been mangled in Texas. Actually, unfortunately, I can.) He became an American farmer, then politician, and later served in the Texas Senate. Of all the people associated with the immigration movement in this period, he stands out head and shoulders.


In a park in the center of Fredericksburg is an impressive statue of Meusebach kneeling on the ground, offering a peace pipe to a seated Comanche chief. We've heard about how much trouble early settlers in Texas had with the Comanches. It was because of them that the Alamo and other missions had walls around them. We also heard that in the Mexican War, many Mexican settlers further west didn't overly object to US troops coming in, since they afforded them protection from the Comanches. Well, in order to peacefully settle the land grant, which was in Comanche territory, Meusebach successfully negotiated a private, non-government peace treaty with the Penateka Comanche in 1847. At the statue it was proudly claimed that this was the only peace treaty between settlers and Native Americans that was never broken. It was officially recognized by the US government, but not until 1936. Now that I know the earlier history, I see that Meusebach's handling of the Comanche situation is another major feather in his cap.


In 1847, Meusebach resigned his position with the Adelsverein. Because of severe financial conditions, his successor had no choice but to declare bankruptcy for the organization, which was formally disbanded in 1848, ironically, the year of the revolutions. It had existed only six years, from 1842 to 1848, but within that time, from 1844 to 1847, had arranged for the emigration of 7,380 Germans to Texas.


Indianola    When in Fredericksburg, I found out that the Germans didn't arrive in what was Texas's major port, Galveston, but in a port called Indianola. I also learned that today, it's a ghost town. This begged for further research.


On our major Texas map, after you check out New Braunfels and Fredericksburg, look southeast past San Antonio and past Victoria to Lavaca on Matagorda Bay. Indianola had been located a little further out than Lavaca. It had been founded under the name Indian Point in 1846, but Prince Carl / Texas-Carl renamed it Carlshafen, translatable as Carlsport, after none other than himself. It was on the basis that this was where the two groups entered Texas, and where it was planned that potential future groups would also arrive. However, some German immigrants didn't go any further and settled there, and, though some still called it Carlshafen, it was renamed Indianola in 1849.


But it's particularly interesting from a cultural standpoint, that Prince Carl chose the more remote Indian Point/Indianola, with its inadequate accommodations as a port of entry, which led further to an isolated route inland, for the specific purpose of keeping Germans from interacting from any Americans at the busier port of Galveston. He didn't want the English language or American customs to have any affect on his colonists. It's an interesting point of view, laughable today, but perhaps understandable for the times and for the mission at hand.


But Indianola grew, and became a major port. By 1875 it had a population of 5,000 and was second only to Galveston as Texas's major port. But later in that year, a huge hurricane struck, killing between 150 and 300 people and almost entirely destroying the town. It was rebuilt, but eleven years later, in 1886, was wiped out again by another hurricane, which was then followed by a fire. The county seat was ten moved up to Port Lavaca, later the post office was closed, and Indianola was declared to be a ghost town. I understand that today, almost nothing remains, and further erosion has put the original site under water.


The destruction of Indianola alarmed the people of Galveston up the coast. Although they called for a seawall, one was never built at that time, and Galveston could have shared Indianola's fate when the famous Galveston Hurricane of 1900 hit the city. But it didn't, a seawall was built after the fact, and . . . But that's why we're going to Galveston later, and we'll talk all about it then.


German Texans & Texas German    So here we have this category of German-Americans who self-identify with term German Texans. In 1990, about 3,000,000 Texans considered themselves as having at least some German ancestry. Some prominent German Texans are pop artist Robert Rauschenberg, TV journalist Bob Schieffer, and Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of US Naval forces in the Pacific during World War II. He was actually from Fredericksburg, and there's a museum there devoted to him and to the Pacific war.


General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, north of Dallas, but moved as a child to Abilene KS, where he's buried. His ancestry was, however, Pennsylvania German, originally from Karlsbrunn on the French border near Saarbrücken. The spelling of the name was anglicized from Eisenhauer, literally "iron hewer", presumably meaning "ironcutter".


Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of Texas German / Texasdeutsch, a dialect spoken by German Texans, most of whom continued to speak German in their homes and communities for several generations after settling in the state. The dialect is near extinction, as it is now spoken almost exclusively by a few elderly German Texans. Not surprisingly, it borrowed a lot of its vocabulary from English, maybe 5-6%. Over a thousand people report speaking German at home in Fredericksburg, which is about 12% of the population.


As we discussed with Acadian French, speakers separated from the main body of speakers, aside from borrowing from the local majority language, will develop slightly differently. I can quote two examples with Texasdeutsch. A skunk is a typically North American animal. Standard German—always VERY descriptive, so hold back on your giggling--calls a skunk a Stinktier, literally "stink animal", but Texasdeutsch has instead developed the form Stinkkatze, or "stink cat". Technology is also a factor. Aviation came after the Texas Germans left Europe. The German word for "(air)plane" is Flugzeug, loosely "flying machine". Texas German, however, developed Luftschiff, literally, "airship". Both make perfect sense, but the quirk here is that Luftschiff actually does exist in standard German, but has the meaning of "dirigible".


Although over 50 million Americans claim German ancestry, which makes them the largest single ethnic group in the US, only around 1.38 million people in the US speak German. However, it's the second most spoken language in North Dakota after English, and in 16 states, it's the third most spoken language after English and Spanish.


Fredericksburg    We now begin our actual visit to Fredericksburg as we drive in from the LBJ Ranch. We'll be using this map—copy and paste the link—for our walking tour:


The main highway comes in from the right, and becomes Main Street. The red line indicates the Fredericksburg Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and covers 83 buildings in its 30 blocks.


The town is quite attractive, particularly architecturally, though not overly cute. The first thing we notice is the incredible width of the main streets, going back to the original platting of the town. Main Street is four wide lanes wide, with a broad turning lane in the middle, and enough space on either side for angular parking. The parallel streets are similar, and, while the perpendicular streets are just two-lane, they have ample parking on the sides. The first impression is of quite a bit of roominess, something one doesn't often see in older towns.


Of the large selection of b&bs in town, we've chosen the Inn on the Creek, at 107 North Washington. It's the second street into the historic district and a right turn off Main, less than a block in, so it's still in the District. It's a modest house, with a nice front porch to relax on. Our room is the first on the right off the entrance hall, as there is no large living room or other public rooms as many places have, just a dining room in the back for breakfast. The back of the house is above Town Creek. It joins the other creek on the right of the map, the other creek being Barons Creek, named after Baron You-Know-Who.


The next day it's time for the walking tour. It's most easily done by parking in the central area of Main Street, walking up and down to see the concentration of sights there, and then taking the car and driving in a circle along Austin and San Antonio Streets to see the other locations.


Sometimes, the heritage (Photo by Pete unseth) is laid on a little thick. No one really needs to see "Hauptstrasse" written on Main Street; it's the only street that does so, and as I recall, not on every sign. But if la Nouvelle Orléans can have every street in the French Quarter named in both English and French, with Spanish signs on the side, I suppose we can walk along the Hauptstrasse in Friedrichsburg. The little picture on the sign shows the Vereins Kirche (sic), which we'll come to shortly.


Another cultural indication is this Biergarten (Photo by Lombana) on the Hauptstrasse. Note the wide street that allows angular parking. Click to see some typical shops catering to the tourist trade. Many will have signs saying Willkommen, only occasionally misspelled, leaving out one L, as in English. A door might say ziehen where you're to push it.


But, as this sidewalk view shows (Photo by Fbgtex), it's the architecture that strikes one most, particularly the buildings made of native limestone (Photo by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0), such as these two--remember Kingston, Ontario in 2014/7, called the Limestone City. Let's move to the left to get a better view of the one with the red-roofed cupola. It's the former Bank of Fredericksburg (Photo by Archinia), #4 on the walking tour map. Click to read the name at the top and to appreciate the fine stonework. The ground floor was the bank, and upstairs was the bank owner's residence. As in most cases in town, buildings are recycled, and this one now contains a real estate office, whose modernized façade unfortunately defaces the lower part of the building. The 1898 building is in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, typified by the massive curved arch over the center window. We'll discuss the style pioneered by HH Richardson when we get to Dallas.


Built by the same architect is the former Gillespie County Courthouse (Photo by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0), #15, now also recycled, as the Fredericksburg Memorial Library. It was built in 1882, but in the Romanesque revival style. It has a couple of the typical arched windows, but they're no where as near as robust as in a Richardson Romanesque building.


Particularly noteworthy is #3, the former White Elephant Saloon of 1888 (Photo by Archinia). Click to see why it's famous for its elephant relief parapet and rich iron cresting. Its current use is for retail.


But the most distinctive building in town, and the most historic, since it was the very first public building in Fredericksburg in 1847, is the Vereinskirche (Photo by Liveon001 ©Travis K. Witt). It's properly written as one word, except for the fact that every reference to it in Fredericksburg writes it as Vereins Kirche. It's #5 on the map, and stands in the middle of a block, surrounded by parkland. The park is called the Marktplatz, even though it's a park and not a Market Square, but let's let that pass.


It was built as a non-denominational church, and also served as a school, town hall, and fort. Its quirkiness is because of its octagonal shape. Each side was 5.5 m (18 ft) square, the roof was 3 m (10 ft) high, and on the top was a 2.1 m (7 ft) octagonal cupola. I say "was" because the original building was torn down in about 1896 at the time of the 50-year anniversary of the town. When I first heard that, I was shocked, but then saw the reason being obvious. Over time, each denomination was able to build its own church, and moved out one by one. The building no longer had a function, historic preservation wasn't then what it is today, and that was the end of the building. Fortunately, 40 years later, in 1936, the Vereins Kirche (sic) was rebuilt, using the cornerstone from the original building.


I've left for last the meaning of the name, and that's because I feel the usual translation is nonsense. Based on the number eins, words in German that incorporate –ein- often correspond to words in English that incorporate –uni-, showing oneness; an Einheit, for instance, is a unit; Einigkeit is unity. It also indicates the idea of many becoming one, and for that reason, a Verein (fer.AIN) can mean a club, or a society, as in the Adelsverein, or Society of Nobles. Now: all around Fredericksburg there are references to the Vereins Kirche (sic) being the Society Church. What society? They certainly weren't referring to the Adelsverein. The building was built for all church denominations to have ONE home, and I strongly feel that the name was meant to mean "Union Church". Make your own decision.


The Marktplatz park around the building includes the impressive bronze statue of Meusebach and the Comanche chief settling the treaty with a peace pipe, which to me is the perfect symbol of German and Texas culture becoming one, as in this link (click):


Also in the park is a typical German tradition. In 1991 the Fredericksburg Maibaum (Maypole) was set up. It's tall, very flat, and made out of metal. This is a drawing of it, which, unfortunately, is the only illustration I could find:


It has eight crosspieces on each side with flat, cutout figures symbolizing the town's dual heritages. The bottom crosspiece is Meusebach negotiating with the Comanches, and the one above it has a cowboy on horseback with a lasso on one side, and people dancing in Dirndls and Lederhosen on the other. The others depict hunting, farming, ranching, the ship, and the Vereins Kirche. The pole itself has blue-and-white spiral stripes along its length.


Mostly off Main Street, in more residential areas, is one rather remarkable feature, unique to the Texas Hill Country, the Sunday House, of which I saw several. I don't think I ever would have guessed what their purpose was if I hadn't read about them. It was the absolute reverse of the old European tradition of living in town, then going out to work the rural farms. These settlers instead, made their main home on the farmland. They would then buy a small lot in town, build a small house on it (a pied-à-terre?) and use it for weekly travel into town for staying overnight on Saturdays. Saturday would be spent buying supplies, and Sunday was for church attendance. Then they were off to the farm again.


The Sunday Houses were meant for limited stays. There would be one or two ground floor rooms, usually with a fireplace and porch, and an upstairs loft for sleeping. Because of space limitations, there were often outside staircases leading up to the loft. There was also secondary use. An older generation would later on use the Sunday House as a retirement house, while the younger generation would inherit, live on, and work the farm. If you look at the legend below the walking tour, you can read about three Sunday houses, #11 up on Austin and #12 and #24 down on San Antonio.


Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead    We said that yesterday there wasn't enough time to see one last thing located in the state park connected with the LBJ Ranch. Since today's walking tour of town didn't require a whole day, there's time to drive back about 20 minutes and visit the Sauer-Beckmann Farm. Once again, check out the location:


The connection here again is German Texans. The Sauer family settled this land in 1869 and raised ten children while working this farm. One of them, Augusta Sauer Lindig, served as midwife at the birth of President Johnson, just across the river. In 1900, the Beckmann family took over the farm. So this farm is not some artificial concoction, nor has it been relocated from somewhere else. These people have always been neighbors to different generations of the Johnson family across the Pedernales. The farm is now part of the state park, and is run as a living history farm showing Texas farm life as of 1918. The park rangers wear period clothing (Photo by Larry D. Moore) and perform the daily routines of life using period tools and techniques.


As things seem to happen, I was the only one there that afternoon. The "man of the house" was working in the large garden that afternoon, so the "woman of the house" showed me the animals, house, cooking techniques, and what was growing in the garden. They even prepare and smoke their own meat. You should really enjoy this well-made YouTube video (2:53) of life on the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead. I enjoyed sitting on that porch swing at the end.


Der Lindenbaum    Back in town, it's time to go to dinner. There is a variety of restaurants in town, but I'll leave the pizza parlors and taco places for the locals. Of the German restaurants in town, Der Lindenbaum (Photo by Fbgtex2) was recommended to me (notice the stone façade). Better still, it was a short walk, only a half-block from the b&b to Main Street, then a half-block west. Couldn't have been better located. I went there both nights. The name is The Linden Tree, although some prefer to translate it as The Lime Tree.

 Allow me to make a request regarding the simple German word der. The woman in Fredericksburg that recommended the restaurant pronounced it to rhyme with "her", which was like nails on a blackboard to me. The native pronunciation is unusual, since the R turns into a vowel and der sounds like "day a" as in "[a] day a [week]". But when anglicizing it, it's OK to put the R back, but please make sure you pronounce derlike the word "dare".

Der Lindenbaum was a modest small-town place, but pleasant, and I enjoyed the food, especially when I noticed that, unusual for German restaurants in the US, they had Königsberger Klopse on the menu (Photo by Rainer Zenz)—say KLOP.seh--a favorite that Beverly and I really enjoyed, enough so that she would make it at home.


They are meatballs, usually made of very finely minced veal and other ingredients. They are simmered in salt water, and the resulting broth is made into a cream sauce, to which capers are added. It's the capers that get to me every time. Wonderful.


Königsberg is the Prussian city in East Prussia, and was the lifelong residence of Immanuel Kant. After WWII when borders were shifted westward, the German inhabitants of Königsberg were expelled as the area became Russian, and they were replaced by Russians. These are the territorial changes involved (Map by Renata3)—we're talking here about the yellow area. The city was renamed Kaliningrad (Map by Andrein) in 1946 after Mikhail Kalinin, one of the original Bolsheviks and a crony of Stalin. But political humor enters the picture. While Königsberger Klopse is one of the highlights of East Prussian cuisine, in East Germany it was forbidden to refer to any of the old German names that had been changed. For that reason, in East Germany the dish was renamed Kochklopse, or "boiled meatballs".

 I find it very interesting that there has been talk of changing the name back to Königsberg, spelled in Cyrillic Кёнигсберг / Kyonigsberg. This would be in keeping with the change back of the names of other cities, most notably Saint Petersburg. Apparently a lot of Russian tourism ads refer to travel to what is nicknamed by the short form "Kyonig". There are a number of other suggestions, most interestingly, Kantgrad, to honor Kant.

Out of the deepest curiosity, I checked on Wikipedia, by switching the entry from German to Russian, to see how you say Königsberger Klopse in Russian. Perhaps those old leaders in East Germany would be surprised that the dish is called Кёнигсбергские клопсы /Kyonigsbergskiye klopsy!

The second night at Der Lindenbaum I chose the old standard, Sauerbraten (Photo by Jameres), literally "sour roast", because the pot roast sits in a marinade for several days before cooking. Sauerbraten is available at any German restaurant, as it's considered one of the national dishes of Germany. It's traditionally served, as in the picture, with Rotkohl/red cabbage and potato dumplings, called either Knödel or Kartoffelklöße, or also Spätzle, the tiny egg-and-flour "noodle". While many German restaurants in the US will serve potato pancakes with Sauerbraten (Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen), this is typical of only a small part of Germany.


Der Lindenbaum / Am Brunnen vor dem Tore    I have to say that I'm sure there were very few diners in the restaurant either evening (most likely just one) who were aware of the meaning behind the name of the place. Most, perhaps even some local German speakers—assuming they even understood it referred to a linden tree--just took it to be pleasant imagery, and missed the interesting cultural "baggage" that comes with the name.


A poet named Wilhelm Müller wrote a cycle of poems in the early 1820s called Die Winterreise / The Winter Trip. In February and in October 1827, Franz Schubert set the cycle to music under the same title, so he's the one associated more with the work. Müller died on 30 September that year at age 33, so he probably never heard it performed. Schubert himself died on 19 November at age 31, so 1827 was not a good year for either one.


The most famous of the poems in the cycle is Der Lindenbaum. As such it's performed as an art song within the classical repertoire. But oddly, it also became wildly popular as a folk song, and most people who know it today probably remember it that way. As a folk song, it's much better known by its first line, Am Brunnen vor dem Tore / At the Fountain at the Town Gate. I've always only known the first two verses, but have now discovered the entire poem, which shows a moodiness I never fully understood before. But then both Müller and Schubert died in their early thirties.


This is a YouTube video (2:35) of the King's Singers singing Der Lindenbaum. I'm amazed that the pronunciation of a British group singing German is so excellent. You may want to put the video into another window, so you can follow the original text, below, along with my translation, which is, as always, provided only for meaning, and is not rhymed as the original nor does it necessarily fit the meter.

 Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
Da steht ein Lindenbaum:
Ich träumt’ in seinem Schatten
So manchen süßen Traum.

Ich schnitt in seine Rinde
So manches liebe Wort;
Es zog in Freud und Leide
Zu ihm mich immer fort.

Ich mußt’ auch heute wandern
Vorbei in tiefer Nacht,
Da hab’ ich noch im Dunkel
Die Augen zugemacht.

Und seine Zweige rauschten,
Als riefen sie mir zu:
Komm her zu mir, Geselle,
Hier findst Du Deine Ruh’!

Die kalten Winde bliesen
Mir grad’ ins Angesicht;
Der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe,
Ich wendete mich nicht.

Nun bin ich manche Stunde
Entfernt von jenem Ort,
Und immer hör’ ich’s rauschen:
Du fändest Ruhe dort!
At the fountain at the town gate
There stands a linden tree:
In its shadow I used to dream
So many sweet dreams.

I cut into its bark
So many dear words;
I was always drawn there
In happiness and sorrow.

I had to walk by it again today
In the darkness of night,
Even though it was dark
I closed my eyes.

And its twigs rustled,
As though they were calling me:
Come here to me, companion,
Here you'll find peace!

The cold wind was blowing
Right into my face;
My hat flew off my head,
But I didn't turn around.

Now I'm many hours
Away from that town,
And I keep on hearing the rustling:
You'd have found peace there!

We can supplement the picture in the video, which reflects more the beginning of the selection, with this additional illustration, which reflects the rest.


Austin    If you refer back to the "small triangle" map earlier, which we've negotiated in the shape of a T, you'll see that the last stop we'll have on leaving the Hill Country is Austin, the capital of Texas. I'd always wanted to see a bit of Austin, particularly its State Capitol Building, but only passing through for a couple of hours. The drive from Fredericksburg via Johnson City did not take too long, and we were in Austin. Copy and paste this link:


We came in on Highway 1, barely visible on the left, and took one-way 5th Street into town, which acts, along with 6th Street, as a major downtown connector. But the first thing I wanted to quickly see in passing was East 6th Street itself, which involved looping under the Interstate and back.


Look at the nine-block area of 6th Street from I-35 back past Congress Avenue to Lavaca. I'd heard that this had become the major entertainment district of Austin. No, I didn't want to celebrate, I just wanted to drive down the street to get a feeling of its ambiance, especially since it had been landmarked as the 6th Street Historic District (Photo by Airainix). It had been a business district in the 1880s, and boasted Victorian commercial architecture (Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel)—these two buildings are a detail from the previous photo--which landed it on the National Register of Historic Places. The area had declined, but then was revived in the 1970s as an entertainment district.


But then I knew from having studied the maps that a right turn on that centrally located Congress Avenue would bring us in line with an iconic view at its end, from 6th Street, of the Texas State Capitol (Photo by Leon Fu). Click to see how, after Congress Avenue ends, there's a rising pedestrian promenade up to the building called the Great Walk. Signs tell us to drive around to the east side of the complex, where there's a parking garage for visitors that's free for the first two hours.


Austin is the southernmost state capital in the contiguous US, which means only Honolulu is further south. The Renaissance Revival Texas State Capitol (Photo by LoneStarMike), seen here from the southwest (click to see detail), dates from 1888 and contains the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature, and the Office of the Governor. Its height of 94 m (308 ft) makes it one of several state capitol buildings taller than the US Capitol. The grounds and interior—I didn't do a tour—are very attractive. A poll commissioned by the American Institute of Architects rank this building the number-one state capitol. Around the rotunda is a series of portraits of all the Governors of Texas, and I sought out that of Governor Ann Richards (copy and paste):


Next to her was the portrait of Governor George W Bush.


This was really all I wanted to see, but friends said I should go see the LBJ Library & Museum at the University of Texas just north of here and next to an entrance to I-35 (see map). I thought I'd be LBJ'd out, but I gave it a try. I enjoyed seeing the replica of his Oval Office, and also a Great Hall with portraits of all US presidents.


This concluded the tour of the "small inverted triangle". Refer now again to the map of all of Texas. When making plans, all else I really wanted to see was Galveston, even before I'd ever heard of Indianola. I had no interest in the other large cities of Houston, Dallas, or Fort Worth that made up this large triangle with San Antonio. But it bothered me knowing that I'd be getting a fleeting view of the Kennedy assassination site from the Texas Eagle, but still wouldn't be visiting it more completely. So, instead of just dashing across on I-10 to Houston for Galveston, I'd made the decision to drive around the other two-thirds of the triangle, up on I-35 and then down on I-45. It did not turn out to be too bad a long-haul pair of trips, even for a solo driver.

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