History

Fredericksburg History – A Small Texas Town with a Rich Past

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Historic Fredericksburg draws tourists and travelers each year, but few realize just how many stories this town has to tell. Travel back in time to see how this town went from a German outpost in Texas to its own place as an icon of Texas Hill Country heritage. Discovering Fredericksburg history will make a trip to this Hill Country town even more meaningful.

Founding

Fredericksburg history includes sites such as the vereins kirche This is a replica of one of the churchs built in the town in 1847

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Fredericksburg history begins with the town’s founding. In 1846, John O. Meusebach created Fredericksburg, then called Friedrichsburg, as the second of a pair of settlements for those brought to Texas by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, also known as the Adelsverein. The city was named for Prince Frederick of Prussia, who was the highest member of the Adelsverein. The townsite was situated perfectly in a well-timbered area between Barton and Town Creeks, which would provide the supplies for the settlement to get started. Those who came to the area largely were German immigrants from intellectual, liberal classes, but worship services remained an integral part of their lives. The Vereins Kirche was the hub of the community, and this building served as the church, community center, and school.

The Civil War

Fredericksburg history includes its role in the Civil War

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though Texas joined the Confederacy in the Civil War, bastions of dissidents remained in the German towns, including Fredericksburg. German immigrants generally did not have plantations and many morally opposed slavery. As such, these groups sided with the Union, but still, a large group of Gillespie County residents supported the South. Among these was Charles H. Nimitz, grandfather of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who got together the group the Gillespie Rifles in support of the CSA. Another group called the Fredericksburg Southern Aid Society collected more than $5,000 worth of clothing and food supplies for the Confederacy.

The 20th Century

Fredericksburg history National Museum of the Pacific War

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thankfully, Texas did not feel the same devastation the rest of the South did in Reconstruction. That does not mean life was easy, but the biggest result was a tightening of the German community in retaining its culture and cohesion. The German language newspaper, Wochenblatt, premiered in 1877. Even today, you will see street signs in German. Just after the turn of the 20th century, the San Antonio, Fredericksburg, and Northern Railway created a stop in the town in 1913. This would expand the influence of the outside world on this tiny, though growing, German outpost. During World War II, Admiral Chester Nimitz, a multigeneration Fredericksburgian, led the United States to victory on the Pacific front. You can see his story and learn more about the Pacific theater at the National War of the Pacific Museum in Fredericksburg. While in town, also take a step back in time to get a taste of a 1940s diner at the Airport Diner. This century also saw the rise of Fredericksburg as a tourist destination. A theme that would continue into the new millennium.

Modern Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg history Downtown Fredericksburg during the holidays

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Today, Fredericksburg strives to remain connected to its German origins while making strides into the future. Its historic district gives visitors and new generations a peek into Fredericksburg history, so they can continue to keep the past alive. Tourism is still a large part of the economy, and fewer people speak German than ever, but this town remains a genuine piece of Texas history, that changes with the times, keeping relevant while preserving its past.

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