Having never been to Texas, I have to admit I fell into the trap of making stereotypical assumptions about what I would find during the five weeks I spent in the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg.
I expected cattle (beef and BBQ) and cowboys and Tex-Mex (salsa and hot peppers). And there was all of that, to be sure. But it was the town’s German beginnings that surprised me most. The truth of this area sat squarely outside of my idea of what a Texas community would be. More surprising still, some 172 years after it began, the German influence endures. You cannot throw a stone without seeing a German word. It is in the literature and in business names, in the food and in the celebrations.
It’s even on their welcome sign. Willkommen.
Fredericksburg was founded in 1846 by German immigrants. The town’s founder, John O. Meusebach named the community after the Prince Frederick of Prussia. Residents received 10 acres out of town to plant crops and a small parcel in town.
On the parcels in town, people built small houses called Sunday Houses. The name arose because people would come into town on Sundays for church, to get supplies and to socialize. I visited several still-standing Sunday Houses during my time in Fredericksburg. In the 1850 census, the town boasted more than 750 residents.
Ten months after settling Fredericksburg, Meusebach met with several tribes of Comanche Indians and brokered a Peace Treaty. The treaty allowed townsfolk to farm the land and, in return, the Indians were allowed in town anytime. It even went further by promising mutual assistance in times of hunger. The townsfolk would provide grain they’d grown to the Indians and in exchange the Indians would give townsfolk game, honey and bear fat.
After the terms of the Peace Treaty were agreed upon, a peace pipe was smoked. This historic moment is commemorated with a statue in the town square, Marketplatz. It’s behind the Vereins Kirche Museum, a replica of an octagonal-shaped community building built in 1847 to serve as the school, church and a meeting place. Along the front path leading to the museum is a bust of Meusebach. Some people call the museum the “coffee grinder” because of its unique shape.
The coolest part of the Peace Treaty story is that it’s the only such treaty between Indians and the US government that was not later broken.
In 1848, the US government established Fort Martin Scott (more on this historical site next week). The purpose of the fort was to provide protection from the Native Americans. When the fort closed in 1853, it did so without a single recorded negative encounter with Native Americans.
Maybe that Peace Treaty had something to do with it?
Getting a Lay of the Land
My first full day in Fredericksburg, I stopped at the Visitor’s Center. I watched an informational video about the history of the town and what it offers today. I loved the history part. The rest was a bit heavy-handed in promoting the myriad of ways for visitors to spend their tourist dollars.
Then I walked around their center and picked up tons of brochures. I love this part. Seeing the front of a brochure or magazine before peeking inside and either putting it back (because I don’t want to kill a tree unnecessarily) or adding it to my stack.
But the real treasure happens when I get back to my RV. I love spending the evening over wine or coffee going through my heist. I’m looking for the gems. The places and activities that reach out and grab me, that say you must not miss this. I write all over the brochures, circling things. Writing questions.
Later I’ll go to the internet because, if they have a website, that will usually be packed with more information than can fit in a slick brochure designed to whet your appetite. One thing I appreciate about websites is when they mention dogs. A lot of them do and it’s so helpful in making my plans. Places that with both outdoor and indoor areas often say dogs are allowed on a leash outside, but not in the buildings. It was a great way to be a tourist and give my pup her daily walk.
My final step is to write down the places I want to visit in my notebook, including the address and hours. I’ll also make note of how many miles away it is. Then over the course of my days and weeks in the area, I’ll start visiting those places.
That’s been my process so far.
When I arrive at a specific adventure destination, I first drive around the place to get a feel for it before I park to begin the adventure. I talked about this in one of my first adventure posts.
In a way, getting a feel for an entire area is similar. I start on the macro level and then drill down to the micro. It may seem like a lot of unnecessary time and effort to some of you. But I enjoy the process. I enjoy reading the brochures and the articles in the visitor magazines. I enjoy exploring websites. And, most importantly, it provides me a sense of security and comfort in my new environment that is so critical to me.
The Johnson Confusion
President Lyndon B. Johnson grew up in Johnson City (named after its founder who was LBJ’s uncle), just 35 miles down the road from Fredericksburg . Stonewall, half way between Johnson City and Fredericksburg is where the LBJ ranch, often referred to as the Texas White House, is located.
His wife, Lady Bird, who got her name from a nanny who commented she was as cute as a Lady Bird (a ladybug) when she was about two. I always assumed it came later in life and was an homage to her love of the nature world.
I tell you this to say: there is a lot of things named Johnson in the area. And it can be confusing.
It was for me at first, anyway. It was further confusing because in some of the brochures, there was two separating listings for what is, essentially, one place to visit with two different things to do. Similarly, the LBJ National Historic Park is in two different places (there is the boyhood home in Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall). I only got it sorted out once I’d visited these places.
Because I had studied a few of the brochures I’d picked up at my campground, my confusion existed before I walked into the Visitor’s Center so I was armed with my questions as I tried to sort it out.
I told the woman who helped me that her area would be easier to figure out if less things were named Johnson. I’m pretty sure she didn’t appreciate that one.
Why I Was in Fredericksburg
Like my time in Walla Walla, I didn’t actively choose to go to Fredericksburg. And, like Wallla Walla, I feel so lucky that I ended up there because it was a fantastic area to explore.
A few months before hitting the road, I signed up to attend a conference in Fredericksburg. The conference catered to working RVers, full-timers trying to earn a living while enjoying location independence. It was the 2nd annual RV Entrepreneur Summit. I wrote about my resulting Mastermind Group a few weeks back.
Where I Stayed in Fredericksburg
On the list of the things I want to do next time I’m in Frederickburg is spend more time in the quaint downtown area. Just wandering around.
I actually spent little time in Fredericksburg itself because the place where I stayed, Texas Wine Country Jellystone RV Park, is 10 miles outside of town. Technically it is still Fredericksburg so maybe I should say it is 10 miles outside the main part of town.
There is so much to do at a Jellystone, I didn’t even mind being so far out of town. Much of it is geared for families and kids but it still made our daily dog walk both enjoyable and varied. There was a pool with a hot tub, a game room, a big tv room, a workout room, a splash park, a giant jumping pillow, miniature golf, a place for volleyball, a basketball hoop, an outside theater. And a dog park.
Jellystone’s Snack Shack provided food. It was open during our entire conference though the rest of the time I was there, it was only open on Saturdays. And, in the spirit of new experiences, I tried Fried Pickles.
I have to admit, until I saw their menu, I never even heard of Fried Pickles. And I love pickles. They were good. I’d definitely order them again. Seriously, Fried Pickles with ranch dressing. How can you not like that?
Fredericksburg in Texas Hill Country
You might be wondering what Hill Country means. Basically, it’s a swath in the south central part of the state. It’s hard to accurately label sections of the state because it’s such an odd shape. You can easily see the area in Wikipedia. Texas Hill Country is the entry. I met a man on one of my adventures who told me Hill Country was 120 miles by 80 miles, but I couldn’t confirm his information.
As you drive the area, you can see why it’s called Hill Country. Rolling hills are continuous. They reach up to 500 feet above the surrounding plains and valleys. It’s so easy to travel pulling the trailer. You get beautiful scenery without the strain on the tow vehicle of a mountain pass.
Fredericksburg is in eastern Hill Country. It has more than 10,000 residents but is host to tens of thousands of visitors each year. This is evident in the number of things there are to do in the area. Join me next week when I’ll share the details of what I did and saw (the adventures) while I was there.
Have you ever been to Fredericksburg? Would love to know your impressions of the place.
Links to Referenced SSL Blog Posts Above: