In 1847, the year after German settlers arrived to found Fredericksburg, a group of about 150 Mormons led by Lyman Wight built a town four miles down the Pedernales River which they named Zodiac. Today nothing remains at the site but the stories and a historical marker. The replica of the Zodiac mill’s water wheel is in Fredericksburg’s MarktPlatz.
Divining the Zodiac Stone
The Founding of a Town
Photo: Kenneth Mays/www.deseretnews.com
This is the Pedernales River near the Zodiac town site. The Story of Fredericksburg and it’s neighbor Zodiac is closely tied with Lyman Wight, also known as the Wild Ram of the Mountains. Originally from New York, at 17 he fought with the U.S. Army in the War of 1812. By 1846, he was a leader in the Mormon Church, which was undergoing both rapid expansion and great turmoil. Wight had been close to founder Joseph Smith, and after Smith’s death continued the plan the two of them had made to create a community in Texas. The new leader, Brigham Young, led Mormons to Utah. Wight refused to follow and instead led 150 followers from Wisconsin to settle in Texas. They floated down the Mississippi River to St. Louis on four large rafts, then by wagon 1,400 miles to old Fort Georgetown in Texas. The 28 Mormon families spent the winter there, and in the spring followed their scouts to build a community four miles down the Pedernales River from Fredericksburg, arriving one year after the German immigrants first settled there.
Photo: Robert C Deming
This model housed in the Kammlah Barn at Fredericksburg’s Pioneer Museum shows what the town of Zodiac must have looked like. The Mormon settlers were very industrious; in six weeks they had a functioning grist mill powered by the Pedernales River. Within only a few months they had built a town and added a sawmill, turning lathe, blacksmith and wagon shop, and homes. The people in Zodiac helped build Fort Martin Scott at the east end of Fredericksburg and also provided seed, flour, furniture, and lumber. The early days in the Fredericksburg colony were grim, and its people might not have survived without the help of the Mormons.
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