County Sheriff Alfred Klaerner was making a turn on one of those crazy
streets in downtown San
Antonio when an excited policeman came running towards the car,
waving his arms and shouting "Hey mister, you can't make a left turn
here." The sheriff, not wanting to contradict a fellow peace officer
but considering himself a pretty fair judge of distance, calmly leaned
out the window and said "Yeah, I believe I can make it all right."
Alfred Klaerner was Gillespie
County sheriff from 1918 to 1920 and from 1924 to 1942. He is
not to be confused with his brother John Klaerner who was sheriff
from 1900 to 1910 or son Hugo Klaerner who was sheriff from 1950 to
1980. Add that up and you'll see that a Klaerner was sheriff of Gillespie
County for 3/5ths of the 20th century.
|The image of
Sheriff Klaerner standing by the buggy was taken at an Old Teamster's
Reunion at Klaerner Park outside Fredericksburg. The men in the buggy
are Albert Kott, age 88,and John Stehling, age 86.
Photo courtesy Gillespie County Historical Society, Dietel Collection.
could not have turned up a more fitting symbol of law and order than
Alfred Klaerner. He wore boots and wide-brimmed hat with his badge
pinned prominently to the lapel of his coat.
He was colorful and eccentric, and he played his role to the hilt.
He rode his horse at the head of the 4th of July Parade in Fredericksburg
with a shotgun across his lap. Every so often along the parade route
he would raise his weapon in the air and blast away, providing his
in his younger days, at the head of the 4th of July Parade in Fredericksburg,
shotgun across his lap.
Photo courtesy Fredericksburg Standard.
| Bill Petmecky
described his friend Sheriff Klaerner as tough, fearless, practical
and folksy. His quaint logic, mannerisms and speech were legendary
all over South and West Texas.
He operated in a different time and in ways that are no longer possible.
As Bill Petmecky explained "It may not have been legal to administer
a few hard slaps to a wayward youngster, but it brought home some
good lessons and saved the family from paying a fine for which the
money might have to be deducted from the food bill."
More than once Sheriff Klaerner poured out bootleg liquor rather than
send a man to prison which would have been hard on the family.
The 1920s and 30s were precarious times for law enforcement. I could
write of Sheriff Klaerner's wild car chases and shootouts, of which
there were plenty, but I offer instead the story of Dan Hoerster's
day while Dan Hoerster had lunch at the Ostrow Hotel in Fredericksburg
(today the Fredericksburg Winery parking lot - the old Knopp and Metzgers),
someone stole his new Stetson. Hoerster marched straight to the sheriff's
office where an APB went out for the thief, believed to be headed
east in a maroon car.
When Blanco County
Sheriff J. S. Casparis (another legendary character) stopped the car
City, Sheriff Klaerner hurried to Blanco
County, searched the car, found the hat and brought the thief
back to Fredericksburg
where Justice of the Peace Adolf Mergenthaler set the price for Stetson
swiping at $23. The thief paid the fine and left town, a poorer but
In his off duty hours, Sheriff Klaerner ran a store and a bar at Klaerner's
Park, 4 miles out the Harper Road on Live Oak Creek (today the Lone
Star Bar and Grill). He was a good singer. He played the fiddle and
the cornet. He conducted the Bunkusville Band.
Sheriff Klaerner was one of the founders of the Gillespie County Old
Teamsters Reunion. He hosted many of their gatherings at Klaerner's
He was tough as grandpa's toenails, but he had a sneaky sense of humor.
His friend Ernst Zenner claimed Sheriff Klaerner originated the famous
"blind horse" story.
sheriff loved horses. He was especially fond of a dappled blue animal
raised on his Live Oak Creek farm.
A man who fancied himself an expert horse trader wanted to buy the
animal, but Sheriff Klaerner refused, saying the horse "didn't look
The man was confused. "He looks all right to me," he said, but Sheriff
Klaerner insisted again the horse "didn't look so good."
The man, growing impatient, said he wanted that horse no matter how
he looked and offered $80.
He bought himself a blind horse.
"Alfred Klaerner Rites Held Sunday Afternoon," Fredericksburg
Standard, November 23, 1966.
"Sheriff Recovers Stolen Hat," Burnet Bulletin, November 4, 1937.
"July 4th Always Gala Day in City, First Race Meet in 1948," Fredericksburg
Standard, July 3, 1974.
"Houston Post Columnist Tells of Ernst Zenner's Experiences," Fredericksburg
Standard, July 2, 1975.