the 1860s a round trip between Fredericksburg
and San Antonio in
a freight wagon took 3 weeks on the average, if the weather cooperated
and the creek didn't get out. By 1960, Basse Express diesel trucks
made the 70 mile one-way trip from San
Antonio to Fredericksburg
in a couple of hours hauling everything from thumb tacks to toilet
Basse Express was one of the most recognizable businesses in the Texas
Hill Country. The name on the side of the truck was like a rolling
| Basse Express
Photo courtesy Gillespie County Historical Society
| Robert Lee Basse
had been fascinated by internal combustion engines since he was old
enough to twist a wrench. He served as an army mechanic in Europe
during WWI. His job was
to keep the quartermaster trucks rolling between the supply depot
and the forward areas.
After his discharge in 1919, Basse came home to Fredericksburg.
He went into the produce business, but he never lost his love for
tinkering with engines.
The Fredericksburg Railroad
had taken over the shipping business from the old teamster wagons
in the early 20th century, but delays and derailments made rail service
unreliable. Local businesses needed a quick dependable shipping service
and San Antonio, but
the railroad wasn't the answer.
Robert Basse knew what trucks could do. He had watched them haul supplies
to the front during the war. In 1927 he bought a used truck and went
into business hauling freight between Fredericksburg
and San Antonio.
The company offices in Fredericksburg
were at 315 East Main Street (today Fischer and Wieser on Main). The
San Antonio terminal
was at 1311 S. Flores, 2 miles south of the Alamo.
In the early days the road between Fredericksburg and San Antonio
was not paved. Trucks had to ford the creeks and rivers. A one-way
trip took most of a day.
Over time the roads and bridges improved. Diesel engines gave trucks
more power. Travel time between Fredericksburg
and San Antonio dropped
to a few hours.
By 1937, Basse Express offered overnight service between Fredericksburg
and San Antonio, 30
years before Federal Express took the idea nationwide. Basse Express
was one of the most recognized freight lines in this part of Texas.
Then in September 1937, Robert Basse died at age 39. The future of
the company was up in the air until Robert's wife Alma (Hopf) took
Basse Express grew under Alma's leadership. Soon the company extended
the freight route to Llano
and then to San
By the end of WWII,
Basse Express trucks were a part of Fredericksburg's
lifeline. Almost all of the food, clothing and consumer goods sold
in Fredericksburg came to town in a steady stream of trucks.
Fredericksburg was an isolated community for much of its history.
Basse Express trucks connected the town more solidly to the nation's
In 1949 a business arrangement turned daily operations of Basse Express
over to Ruben Rode, owner of Rode Freight Lines in Mason.
The local terminal was located at 215 East Park Street (formerly the
Peanut Warehouse). Rode ran Basse Express until Alma Basse and her
second husband Elgin Herbort resumed operating the company in 1951.
By 1956 Basse Express shipped from Fredericksburg
to San Antonio, Mason,
and Lampasas. In 1964
Basse Express began freight services 3 days a week (Monday Wednesday
and Friday) to Harper. The
company offered 24-hour delivery service to any of its shipping points.
Alma Basse Herbort, ran the company until the family sold Basse Express
to Southwest Motor Transport of San Antonio in 1970.
These days most of us take trucks for granted. About the only time
I think of trucks is when I'm driving down a crowded I-10 in my compact
car and the bumper of an angry Peterbuilt suddenly fills my rear-view
At those anxious moments I have to remind myself that the American
economy would screech to a halt without trucks. Everything I eat and
everything I wear comes to town in a truck. Hill Country life as we
know it could not exist without trucks.