History – The Willows

The History of Fredericksburg, Texas

German heritage. Texan hospitality.

Settling Fredericksburg Texas can be credited to one man whose vision, tenacity and courage made it possible. That man was John Meusebach who founded Fredericksburg and opened up the Texas frontier to settlement.

There have been times when desperate people in hopeless situations were rescued by someone who arrives on the scene with the perfect combination of character, ability, and dedication. Such was the fortune of the German immigrants in Texas during the 1840’s.

Baron Otfried Han Freiherr von Meusebach relinquished his hereditary title when he left Germany en route to Texas. When he arrived in his new homeland in May 1845 he insisted on being known simply as John O. Meusebach. At the age of thirty three, having left family, friend, and title behind, he was to assume the almost impossible responsibility of commissioner general for the Manizer Adelverein for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas.

Before leaving Germany Meusebach had devoted several years of study to the possibility of immigration, particularly to Texas. Of all materials written about the area, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas (1841), by William Kennedy, British consul in Galveston was the most influential on Meusebach and the Society as well. Of particular interest to the Society was Kennedy’s remarks on the existence of abandoned Spanish silver mines along the Texas frontier. Remarking on the book, Irene Marschall King, granddaughter of Meusebach, wrote in John O. Meusebach: German Colonizer in Texas (1967): “As an official Kennedy described places with exactitude and authority. The very name of one landmark, Enchanted Rock, added to fascination the beckoning land. Meusebach hoped to probe for a scientific explanation of the mysterious sounds that were said to issue at times from the 640 acres of solid granite. He marveled that such an immense outcropping of mountainous rock was located in an area bearing the name “Llano” the Spanish word for “plain”. He wanted to know the reason for this contradiction.”

The Society was founded in March of the previous year by a group of German noblemen advocating immigration to Texas as a solution to the problems of political unrest and overpopulation facing Germany. The organization soon fell victim to the unscrupulous Texan, Henry Francis Fischer, when it purchased, sight unseen, an interest in the Fisher-Miller Land Grant. Located between the Llano and San Saba Rivers, the four million acre grant was in the very heartland of the legendary lost Spanish mines.

Fisher knew that the grant was too far from the coast and inhabited by too many Comanches to be suitable for a settlement. Furthermore, in order to make himself and his partner, Burchard Miller, seem important, he claimed they had already put $60,000 into the project. But as Price Carl zu Solms-Braunfels, the first commissioner general, wrote in his report of the February 8, 1845 to the Society: “Yet every person here, from the President of Texas to the smallest Negro lad, knows that if Messrs. Fisher and Miller both were put under a cotton press, not one dollar, let alone $60,000 could be pressed out of them both.” In a letter dated June 11, 1845, to his successor, Meusebach, the prince stated that Fisher was not worth “the cord it would take to hang him and Miller.”

Written by Ira Kennedy