early settlement of the German Hill Country was no orderly process
but was often confused, arbitrary and disorganized. The accomplishment
was as much a product of spur-of-the-moment decisions and seat-of-the-pants
improvisation as forethought, coordination and long-term strategic
planning. That Fredericksburg
is on Barons Creek, and not someplace on the San Saba River, is as
much a twist of fate as anything else.
After Texas became
an independent country in 1836, there were millions of acres of
unoccupied public land west of the Colorado. That land was of little
use to Texas as a wilderness. It needed to be occupied, owned and
taxed. The taxing part was especially important since Texas had maybe
50 bucks in the treasury.
So the Texas government, following the pattern of the Spanish and
Mexican governments, granted huge tracts of unclaimed land to agents
for colonization purposes.
0n 1842 the Texas government granted Henry Francis Fisher and Burchard
Miller, representing the San Saba Colonization Company, more than
3 million acres of wild, unoccupied territory between the Llano
and the Colorado Rivers. In their contract with the Republic
of Texas, Fisher and Miller agreed to bring in 1,000 families
or single men. Each family would get 320 acres, and each single man
would get 160 acres. The empresarios would get title to thousands
of additional acres once the contract was completed.
Fisher and Miller then went to work signing up settlers. The process
was slow, so the empresarios and their agents ramped up the advertising
process. Some agents made claims that stretched the truth from here
to San Antone. Colorful stories and splashy newspaper ads made western
Texas sound like a Mediterranean paradise where fish jumped into the
boat, hunters killed all the game they could eat without leaving the
front porch and "grain leaped from the ground in floods of golden
But Western Texas was no paradise. It was hot, dry and desolate. The
Fisher-Miller grant was 300 miles from the coast and 150 miles beyond
the frontier line. It was the hunting ground of the Comanches.
Then in 1844 the San Saba Colonization Company got a boost when the
Republic of Texas
appointed Henry Fisher as consul to Bremen in the German States. It
was an opportunity for Fisher to serve the interest or Texas and help
himself at the same time.
It was also about this time that a revolt broke out in Germany. The
revolt was in response to, among other things, authoritarianism, heavy
taxation and political censorship. But the revolution failed, and
many Germans on the losing side wanted to start a new life in America.
Henry Fisher could spot economic opportunity in a dark closet. He
formed a partnership with the Adelsverein - the German immigration
company, to bring German settlers to his land grant north of the Llano
Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels came to Texas to represent the Adelsverein,
and it wasn't long before the Prince learned the cold, hard truth
- that the land promised to the Germans for settlement was a remote
and dangerous region, with no roads and already claimed by the Comanches.
The immediate problem was that several thousand German immigrants
had already set sail for the Promised Land.
So Prince Carl improvised. He bought a strip of land closer to civilization
on the Comal River - enough land to give each settler a few acres
and a city lot. But Prince Carl also saw a storm coming. He went back
to Europe, leaving the colony in the capable hands of John
By this time everyone was pretty disillusioned with the whole idea
of Texas immigration, but that ship had sailed. Thousands more German
immigrants would be in Texas by 1846. Something had to be done and
So Meusebach bought another strip of land in the Hill
Country northwest of New
Braunfels. He called it the "most beautiful section of the entire
land." The new arrivals made their way to the Pedernales River Valley
and founded the town of Fredericksburg
on Baron's Creek.
A lucky twist of fate as it turned out.
| © Michael
September 1, 2020 Column
Ray A. Billington, America's Frontier Culture, Three Essays
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press), 89.
"The Story of Mason," The Mason County News, August 19, 1971.
"Landa Park: A treaty reached with the Comanches that made a difference,"
New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, December 4, 2016.
The Handbook of Texas, Fisher-Miller Land Grant.
"Why Menard isn't Called Fredericksburg or New Braunfels," Fredericksburg
Standard, March 18, 1937.