trip by car from Fredericksburg
to San Antonio in the
early 20th century was not undertaken on a whim. In fact trip was
too simple a word to describe the experience. It was a journey filled
with surprises around every turn, attempted only by eccentric adventurers
who enjoyed living dangerously.
Before WWI most Hill
Country roads were horrible. There were few bridges. Cars were
unreliable and underpowered. One old timer compared a Fredericksburg
to San Antonio excursion
to "roller skating over the Alps."
In December 1916 Robert Penniger, editor of the Fredericksburg
Standard and Wochenblatt, drove from Fredericksburg
to San Antonio in a
Maxwell Touring Car. Penniger described the ordeal for his readers
many of whom had never been beyond their home in the Pedernales Valley.
In those days a smart motorist hoped for the best but prepared for
the worst. For a jaunt over any distance he packed lunch, emergency
food and water, matches, blankets in the winter time, an extra can
of gasoline (remember no gas stations) and all equipment needed to
fix a flat tire.
that cool December morning the Maxwell, anticipating the coming adventure,
fired miraculously on the first crank and editor Penniger rolled out
on Main Street. He splashed across Baron's Creek east of town, motored
past the ruins of old Fort
Martin Scott and then swung south following what would today be
the Old San Antonio Road.
To call it a road was a stretch. It was 2 parallel wagon ruts.
After crossing the Pedernales the editor made good time through the
bottom land, up the hill to Cain City
and on to Grapetown,
but upon reaching Bankersmith
progress slowed dramatically. Recent rains had washed out large chunks
of the road leaving "big muds holes, rivulets and hog wallows." The
car bounced along at a snail's pace, "a-bumping and a-jolting like
a bucking bronco."
Terrible road conditions continued up the High Hill to the Alamo Springs
Railroad Station. At the summit Penniger saw the "polished piece of
the Bear Mountain erected by the Nagel
Bros. as a momento to drive carefully, else you might land in the
grave yard." He hoped it wasn't a sign of things to come.
"From the summit," Penniger continued, "you can look way down into
almost to the county seat, from where help has to come pretty soon
or you never will see these sights again; the slopes of the mountain
getting so bad that you will have to use a burro to get over this
There is a harsh beauty to the land on the back side of High Hill,
but the road there was the roughest part of the journey. It was barely
wide enough for a single vehicle as it zigged and zagged along the
side of a steep, rocky incline.
The Maxwell was "bucking up and down hills, along a precipice that
spells broken limbs if your gas wagon don't keep to the righteous
and narrow path allotted for trespassing. What you can do if you meet
somebody coming toward you, I don't know; luckily I've never had to
Then after fording "Breite Creek, Schindel Creek, Block Creek and
several other young ones that have no names yet you reach the beautiful
Guadalupe River." The crossing was 100 ft. of rushing, swirling water
marked by some dead trees, "and if you don't hit it just right, you
will get stuck and require a foot bath, some replacement of good language
and a mule team to reach August Offer's palace and refreshment emporium
After crossing the Guadalupe in fine shape the editor reached Boerne
at noon where he stopped on the side of the road for lunch. He found
the road in good repair, recently graveled, allowing him to "romp
on the gas" and make good time. He reached his destination at 3 o'clock
in the afternoon. For the 70 mile trip he averaged10 mph.
"Bad roads," the editor concluded, "are propagators of bad language
and are degeneratory to good morals, automobiles, wagons, glassware,
carriages, millinery and derby hats."
| © Michael
July 1, 2020 Column
"Over All Kinds Of Roads To The Cradle Of Liberty Of Texas,"
Fredericksburg Standard, December 9, 1916.