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Texas | Columns

"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

The News in 1920

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

The local news items in the Fredericksburg Standard from a century ago included some unusual stories and a few familiar themes among the everyday reports of living and dying in Gillespie County.

The news of 1920 began with a dreamy description of the recent holiday season. "Christmas was celebrated in Fredericksburg in the loveliest manner," the editor wrote, "and the charm of yuletide enhanced by beautiful clear weather. Christmas trees were a feature in all the churches and appropriate services were held. The Social Turnverein held its usual Christmas tree festival Sunday night. New Years was ushered in by the tolling of all the church bells and some shooting of large fireworks. Balls were going on in the two big halls of the town and were enjoyed by the young people."

Citizens partied particularly hard that holiday season knowing the very nature of public celebrations was about to change. Prohibition became the law of the land in 1919. January 17, 1920 was the deadline to remove all legally purchased booze from stores. After February 1 any liquor found in places other than private dwellings and government-bonded warehouses was subject to seizure.

The Fredericksburg Railroad was in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. The train had trouble staying on the track.

On December 28, 1919, the locomotive and coal car derailed at the Fredericksburg Junction. The next day 4 cars jumped the track 7 miles this side of the junction near the Tatsch place. That wreck put the railroad out of commission for 3 days. Then on the second day of January the train "came to grief again at the bridge across Grape Creek near Bankersmith. Three cars jumped the track."

Rail service along the 24-mile route between Fredericksburg and the junction near Waring was famously unreliable. The problem was so bad that in January 1920 the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce voted to void the railroad's mail contract and establish a daily auto mail service between Fredericksburg and Comfort. The businessmen were sorry to take the mail contract from the financially-strapped railroad but felt they had no choice.


In February the Fredericksburg High School boys and girls basketball teams played in Kerrville. The 24 mile trip by automobile took several hours. The caravan left Fredericksburg mid-morning for the afternoon games. Following the usual practice of the day the group stopped on the way for a picnic lunch at Wolf Creek and then stopped again at Wolf Creek on the return trip for supper.

The Spanish Flu epidemic was still raging. In February the Commissioners Court ordered a quarantine. Deputies stopped cars at the county line. Schools and churches closed, and public gatherings were prohibited.

An inspector for the State Department of Education reported that the small amount of school tax levied in Fredericksburg was barely enough to support the school for seven months. Private subscriptions paid for the remaining two months of the school term. Facilities were less than satisfactory. Toilets were outside, unsanitary and mighty nippy on a cold winter morning. Students and staff used a chain and crank pump to draw drinking water from a cistern.

Oil companies were punching holes in Gus Gold's pasture near Stonewall and on the Hayden Ranch southwest of Harper.

The Lanier Literary Society at Fredericksburg High School met in October. Presentations that night included "What I Think of Women's Suffrage" and "Chewing Gum as a Face Deformer."

Deer season provided some of the lighter news moments - for everyone but the deer. The Standard told a whimsical story of a hunter who illegally "killed a doe and was pulled before the Khadi last week who improved his eyesight by applying a $20 plaster. The young man was a stranger in Gillespie County and came up from the coast country where bucks run around wild, without horns."

Often when you hunt for one thing you find another. Two deer hunters found 23 rattlesnakes in a hollow in John Kneese's pasture near Morris Ranch. The snakes yielded one quart of rattlesnake oil.

What one did with rattlesnake oil, I haven't a clue.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" November 15, 2020 Column



"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

  • The Tower Drive-In 11-1-20
  • The Domino Parlor 10-15-20
  • Sunny Side Hut 10-1-20
  • Stonewall's Button Factory 9-15-20
  • The Location of Fredericksburg a Twist of Fate 9-1-20

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