History

Fredericksburg’s Secret Place: Cross Mountain

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In the year 1757, a group of Spanish priests seeking to share the glory of the Christian God traveled through the Texas Hill Country to the San Saba River, following a conquistador and his soldiers in search of the glory of gold and silver. They paused in their trek to erect a wooden cross on a lonely hilltop.

Almost a hundred years later, in 1847, German immigrant John Christian Durst arrived in Fredericksburg and was assigned a town lot and a 10-acre plot including that 120 foot high hill. When Durst pushed though the brush to the top, he discovered the remains of that wooden cross. Durst named the hill Kreuzburg.

Locals will tell you that in the spring of that year, when the leader of the colony and many of the men were near San Saba negotiating peace with the Comanche, Indians lit fires on the hilltops surrounding the settlement. To keep the children from being afraid, mothers said the fires were bunnies boiling up wildflowers for color and decorating eggs for the coming Easter celebration. For many years the story was fondly reenacted as the Easter Fires Pageant by adults in sweaty bunny costumes, including a bonfire on top of Cross Mountain. A hundred years later, members of the local Catholic Church erected a large steel cross, complete with lights, celebrating Fredericksburg, the city under the cross.

Cross Mountain
Photo: Robert C Deming

The property came up for sale in the 1970s, but didn’t find a buyer, so local preservationist Doctor Hardin Perry, at the insistence of his preservationist-minded wife Victoria, and seeing the promise the hill held for future generations, purchased the hill and give it to the Gillespie County Historical Society, owners of the Pioneer Museum.

The high school Ecology Club built a nature trail to the top in 1979, but the Historical Society did not have the resources to do anything with it, and the hill was seldom climbed. Then a small miracle happened: the City decommissioned a water tower on West Main Street and traded the lot to the credit union for a building site; the credit union gave their building and lot, which cut into the Pioneer Museum site, to the Historical Society; and the Historical Society traded Cross Mountain to the City.

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