The Big Fight-Sisterdale

Jack Hays’ Big Fight at Walker’s Creek

In Sisterdale, on Sunday June 8th, historical enthusiasts from across Kendall County and beyond are observing the 170th anniversary of the battle of Walker’s Creek – Jack Hays’ Big fight at the Sisterdale Dance Hall.

Jack Hays came to Texas late in 1836, worked as a surveyor, and commanded a roving Ranger company based in San Antonio in the 1840s. The Big Fight on Walker Creek made his name; one of the many brush-fire fights between Hays’ Rangers and Comanche raiders, who came down from the Southern Plains to make free with any horses, captives and portable loot they could carry away. In the summer of 1844, Captain Hays took a patrol of fourteen volunteers into the hills, looking for Indian raiding parties. One of his men was a Yankee from Maryland – Sam Walker, who had survived the Texian raid on Mier, the Black Bean Draw and an escapee from a stint in a Mexican prison. They were returning along an old trail between San Antonio and the deserted San Saba presidio. Near Sisterdale, a little short of where the trail crossed the Guadalupe River, they were about to set up camp for the night, when one of the Rangers spotted a honey-bee hive. The temptation of something sweet couldn’t be resisted, but when he shinnied up the tree, he looked back along the trail and saw they were followed by a dozen Comanche warriors.

The Rangers saddled up; seeing they had been spotted, the Indians turned away, heading off towards a timber-lined ravine nearby … obviously hoping to draw the Ranger troop into an ambush. Jack Hays held fast, and within minutes more than seventy impatient Comanche boiled out of the tree-line and the Rangers advanced. Likely the Comanche were surprised and unnerved; they fell back across the ravine and gathered on the summit of a low hill, where they dismounted and taunted the Rangers in Spanish – a language that Comanche and Texian had in common.

They had the high ground but the Rangers had a secret weapon – the newly-invented patent Colt Paterson 5-shot repeating pistols. Most had two, and Jack Hays had drilled them well. He led his troop around the knoll, and up another ravine, announcing themselves with a shout and a volley of rifle-fire. The Comanche rallied around their leader; Yellow Wolf, experienced in the customary way of war, in which they waited to draw fire from single-shot weapons, and counter-attacked in a flurry of arrows as the Texians reloaded. This process could take as long as a minute. But the Rangers threw aside their single-shot long guns and charged with their pistols. It turned into a bitter running fight at such close quarters that many participants were branded with powder burns. Jack Hays had trained and drilled tirelessly. It was a rout for the Comanche, faced with a weapon where the attacker had as many bullets to command as fingers on a hand. At the moment when the Rangers were about out of time and gunpowder, a fortunate shot by the only Ranger with a loaded rifle dropped Yellow Wolf. The survivors of his war party turned and ran.

Two years later, that skirmish was immortalized in the annals of American invention. At the start of the American war with Mexico, Sam Walker was back east, consulting with his fellow Yankee inventor Sam Colt about a redesign of the revolving pistol. Sam Walker wanted a heavier, sturdier, and less-complicated version – it would eventually be called the Walker Colt. At the urging of Sam Colt, Walker did a sketch of skirmish on the hills above Sisterdale and eventually it was embossed on the barrel of the improved revolver. And that’s the way it was, in the summer of 1844.

When the Railway Came to Town

Choo choo ch’boogie

by Celia Hayes

From the earliest days, San Antonio was strategically located at the meeting of two major roads – the Camino Real, the roughly east-west road between Monclova and Mexico City and Natchitoches in Louisiana, and the Camino Del Norte, roughly a north/south route with many variations, but generally running between San Antonio and Laredo and points south. Strategic indeed, in the days of mule trains, ox-drawn freight wagons, horse-drawn stages and messengers on horseback, with goods and settlers arriving by sail and steam in coastal ports in Mexico, along the Texas and Louisiana gulf coast.

It took more than a decade after the end of the Civil War for San Antonio to be connected by steel rails to the rest of the country. The railway arrived in early 1877, much longed-for and received with much civic rejoicing. San Antonio was the very last major American city left un-served by a railway. The upper mid-west, east of the Mississippi-Missouri rivers had been thickly interconnected, even before the Civil War, the south less well so. Within four years after the war, the steel rails connected east and west, with the driving of the last spike at Promontory Point, Utah. From that year to the end of the century the railways ruled. Travel to far places in the west was made easier, faster, safer and cheaper. Goods and people flowed west – and the change which the railway brought to San Antonio is made clear to me in comparing a pair of city views of San Antonio in a style very popular at that time birds-eye views, half panorama and half city map. The Amon Carter museum has a good collection of such views of Texas cities. Artist and map-maker Agustus Koch made the first map of San Antonio in 1873; I have a copy of it hanging over my desk at this moment. In that year, the River City was what it had been for the previous two decades or so: a tight-packed cluster of Monopoly-shaped houses around Military and Main Plaza, lining a few blocks of Soledad and Flores, much of the length of Commerce street down to Alamo Plaza, where the Long Barracks and the old Alamo chapel are clearly identifiable. All the rest of town is a scattering of more small houses along straight-ruled avenues and open squares, rectangular and triangular plazas, all of them surrounded with gardens, orchards and open meadows. King William is marked out, to the south and east, and the first glimmerings of Southtown are clear; but the town unravels into rural within six or eight blocks in any direction from Commerce.

After the railroad arrived, Agustus Koch returned in 1886 to create an updated map. Those spaces which were gardens and relatively open fields were filled in; the streets presented an aspect of side-by side urban businesses and residences, taller and more imposing than the old single-story or two story structures that once had lined the city streets. A mule-drawn streetcar system connected the railway station on one side of town to the pleasure-grounds around the original San Pedro Springs on the other, shifted the business district north to Houston Street, and allowed residential neighborhoods to spread in every direction. The Army, finding that what remained of the historic presidio and the plaza before it was just too small for their needs, had decamped to a new establishment, Fort Sam Houston, on the low hills north of the city. The 1886 map shows the Quadrangle, and the parade grounds – and most clearly of all, the rail lines which had made all the difference between being a small and rather remote town, and a city of local and national significance.

Back Ways to New Braunfels

The Town That Was – And the Hardware Store That Is

by Celia Hayes

Lately, we’ve taken to getting to New Braunfels by following Nacogdoches road all the way up to where it intersects with FM 482. Just around that intersection we have been intrigued by a range of old buildings – two of them side by side, weathered gray boards, with a false front and a veranda across the front, looking like something on the set of a Western movie. Around the bend in Old Nacogdoches Road, there is an industrial-looking building of yellow buff brick with a tall chimney. The fourth building – the only one still whole and in use is a little way down FM 842 – a charming and totally random brick church; the Catholic Church of St. Joseph. From the evidence of the storefronts, the chimney and the church it seems that there was something there, once.

Last Saturday, when we came up to the corner, there was a middle-aged couple and a teenaged boy chopping the brush in front of the old buildings. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. We parked the car, got out and introduced ourselves, and asked – what was this place? They explained – yes, this was a little crossroads hamlet called Comal. FM 482 was one of the main roads between San Antonio and New Braunfels back in the day … about 1915. The largest building was the feed and hardware stores, the two smaller were the general mercantile and a blacksmith – who turned eventually to being a gas station. The brick building? A cotton gin. The farmers around here all raised cotton; the hardware store and the mercantile were where they gathered at the end of the day to visit with friends. Hard to credit this as cotton country, but it was: Cotton thrived around here – right up until the 1920s, when the boll weevil demolished that crop.

On to New Braunfels, the town that is the home of two local enterprises who have set longevity records; Naegelin’s Bakery is the longest-established, continuously operating bakery in Texas, and from personal experience, the apple strudel and the iced molasses cookies are to die for. The other enterprise, older than Naegelin’s by a decade, is a hardware store: Henne Hardware which is housed in a splendid late Victorian building on Main Street. The building is from the late 19th century, but the business itself was established in 1857 – which as things go is very early, for the Western US.

The interior of the store is totally splendid; a classic old-fashioned hardware store; three bays supported by pillars, a high ceiling (adorned with the tin panels that were the standard at the turn of the last century) and a feature that I had read about, but had never seen – a wire-guided pulley system for transferring cash from three points within the store to the office at the back. There appear to have once been three different points-of-sale within the store, but all the cash paid for merchandise was sent in a little wooden jar to the office at the back – and a receipt returned. It’s very curious – the predecessor of those pneumatic tubes at motor-banks. They don’t actually use it any more, and the duty manager whom we talked to confessed that it is a little bit of a pain, when they try and bring in something large – just to get it around the wires. But still, it’s an interesting bit of Americana. And of course, my daughter loves that Henne’s has two official cats on the premises, who lounge about the place as they please, and deign to catch the occasional mouse now and again.

I love retail establishments that have official cats; it’s almost expected that independent bookstores have them, but really – any retail store except maybe a fish market, or a place serving food – is improved by being adorned by the presence of a cat. Or a dog, if necessary; a tutelary spirit, in any case.

Battleship Texas closing for repairs

Battleship Texas Closing for Repairs

News Release
Media Contact: Mike Cox, 512-389-8046,

June 15, 2012

HOUSTON — The Battleship Texas, which has been stabilized since the historic vessel sprang a significant leak a week ago, will be closed to the public starting Monday until repairs can be completed.

“The closure will be for the duration of the salvage company and dive team repairs, a process we hope will take no more than a week,” said Andy Smith, Battleship Texas State Historical Site superintendent.

Currently, the ship is stable with a 1- to 2-degree list to the port and an estimated water inflow rate of less than 100 gallons per minutes. Earlier this week, the rate was 850 gpm, Smith said.

Clean-up of onboard oil residue continues and is in its third phase. Meanwhile, pumping will continue to keep up with incoming flow with all preparations in place to increase capacity as needed up to about 2,500 gpm with a combination of 4-inch electric and 3-inch pneumatic pumps.  These will continue on an around-the-clock basis.

TPWD has been working for some time toward the permanent dry-berthing of the ship, with details of that available at

“If a dry-berth solution that the department can afford cannot be found,” Smith said, “TPWD will shift its efforts to repairing the ship in place. No final decision on the issue has been made, but the department remains committed to preserving this historic vessel. ”

Anyone wishing to make a donation toward the preservation of the 100-year-old battleship may do so at

Nimitz Museum Fredericksburg Texas

Museum of the Pacific – Re-enactor Daze

by Celia Hayes

Among the attractions of Fredericksburg, the queen of the Hill Country is the Museum of the Pacific War. Ever since I started visiting the Hill Country (shortly after coming to settle in a tiny suburban San Antonio home) in 1995, the Museum has been expanding by leaps and bounds. On my very first visit it seemed that everything was pretty much contained within the old Nimitz hotel, the steam-boat shaped edifice at the corner of Main and Washington, with the Japanese peace garden out around in back. At a slightly later date, there was a open-sided shed with sides of chain link, down across Town Creek which contained some large and small relatively indestructible exhibits … but that was it. Until they began the Bush gallery, on an empty lot in back which faced Austin Street, and even that wasn’t very much to look at … at first. First it was completed, and then enlarged – maybe enlarged again. The garden alongside the old hotel was also renovated and landscaped, so that it looked more like it did at the end of the century before last – when the Nimitz Hotel was the social center/assembly room/auditorium/performance space for the area.

There is a picture that I have seen in old histories of the area, of the garden as it was – with roses and hop vines growing up over cedar pergolas. Old Charles Henry Nimitz, Admiral Chester Nimitz’s grandfather had built up the hotel from the four-roomed adobe house which existed on that particular town lot in the 1850s. He was quite a character, C.H. Nimitz – he had a reputation as a prankster and tall-tale-teller, but also was one of the most respected and successful town fathers; in the early days, the garden at the side of the hotel was a kind of beer garden. Now it is a garden again, but a little more ornate than before … and the Bush gallery with all the indoor displays is huge. All the displays and relics which used to be in the old hotel building are there, and expanded upon.

The Admiral Nimitz Foundation took over management of the hotel property in 2005, and has never looked back … well, in the archival sense, they have looked back. As for the museum complex? It’s now an excellent addition to Fredericksburg as a destination for sightseeing. The front of the Bush gallery – which seems to be about six times larger than it was on the first time I visited — is adorned with what appears to be a submarine rising up from the depths. The Japanese mini-sub captured at Pearl Harbor, which used to be out in the garden, is now in its own exhibit space in the Bush gallery. Down the road a little way and across Town Creek, the out-of-doors Pacific War Zone is now three acres and change. They have a whole PT boat there, and a vintage hospital operating theater set up in a Quonset hut, and an open-air beachhead exhibit, which is the venue for extensive reenactments throughout the year. The next one is scheduled for the weekend of June 30-July 1. If you miss it, there won’t be another one until the first weekend in September. Which, considering the brutal summer heat of South Texas, is probably a good ideal. Still, I can’t help thinking that the very best thing that you can do for your birthplace is to grow up and become very, very famous.

Pre Statehood Land Grants In Texas History

The Importance of Pre-statehood Land Grants In Texas History, And How It Affects Texas Property Rights and Titling Today

By Misty Barton of Degree Jungle

Texas has a rich and diverse history that is specifically linked to the giving and taking of land within its borders. Texas is the only American state that was ever its own sovereign nation. Understanding how land grants were used to settle and populate Texas before its statehood is essential to understanding modern property ownership and land sectioning in the state.
Spanish Conquest
The Spanish court claimed Texas beginning in 1519, but did not truly show interest in settling the area of assigning land ownership until the late 1600s. The Spanish natives who were inhabiting Mexico viewed Texas as distant, wild, and unfit for habitation. During the 150-year period when Spanish citizens were actively trying to populate and settle Texas, only sixty land grants were claimed, and most of those were assigned to missionary groups attempting to convert the natives to Catholicism. Most of those land titles centered around the Nacogdoches area, with fewer than ten titles granted in the San Antonia Goliad region. Today, roughly four million acres of Texas land are still controlled by the descendants of the original owners of Spanish land grants, and the original Spanish title is still considered a legally binding document.
Mexican Texas
In 1821, Mexico established its independence. Mexican officials decided to colonize Texas in order to dampen Indian activity along the border and discourage American expansion into South and Central America. It was during this period that Stephen Austin came to Mexico and fought for the colonization of Texas. He lobbied for, and was granted, a substantial amount of land under the Colonization Act of 1823. He attracted 300 families to the area between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers and granted each family land to farm. The survey methods used first by Austin at his colony were carried over to the Republic of Texas and used to set the boundaries of many later land grants. The Colonization Act of 1823 was replaced by a new set of laws in 1825, which required settlers to repay the state government for the land grant over a period of six years. A total of 22,000,000 acres wer deeded out by the Mexican government, all of which are legally recognized titles of ownership today.
The Republic of Texas
In 1836 the Republic of Texas established itself as a sovereign state, under the reign of no foreign government. In November of that year the government of Texas awarded land grants of 640 acres to any man who was willing to sign up for two years of service in the Texas regular army. When this did not attract enough volunteers, the land agreement was increased to 800 acres. When war broke out, men were offered 640 acres to serve the full length of the war, and 320 acres were awarded to those who served at least three months. If a man died in service his full tract was awarded to any surviving family member who staked a claim. In 1837, an even more attractive deal was struck promising men 320 acres for every three months of service, for up to 1,280 acres per man. The totals which came from these, and several similar laws that promised land grants for state service, were called “bounty warrants” and “battle donation grants”. A total of 5,354,250 acres were granted through bounty warrants, and 1,162,240 acres were titled through battle donation grants. Acres were also sold to settlers on a multi-year repayment system in order to generate land revenue. In all, during its 10 years as a republic, 41,570,733 acres of Texas land were titled.

This Article was written By Misty Barton, an English Major and History Buff from Missouri. She has a specific interest in the History of Texas’s early Republic period and statehood, including the settlement of the Brazos and Goliad areas. She also freelances for Degree a resource for college students.

Garden Ridge Living

The Beauty of Garden Ridge Real Estate

by Randy Watson

Located about 19 miles north east of downtown San Antonio, Garden Ridge is a serene bedroom community with about 3,250 residents. Situated in Comal County, it has all the amenities of the big city without the hustle and bustle. It is the perfect solution for families seeking a residence in a peaceful area with easy access to the big city. Commuting to the city is a breeze given the proximity of Garden Ridge to Interstate 35 and is a quick trip to the airport. Though only about a little over seven square miles yet still have numerous sub-divisions. Some examples of Garden Ridge real estate include: Georg Ranch, 7 Hills Ranch, Wild Winds, Park Lane Estates, Oak Meadows Estates, Forest Waters Creekview, Ramble Ridge, Wild Wind, Trophy Oaks, Arrowood Estates, Regency Oaks and the Enclave of Garden Ridge.

Home prices start around $300,000 and most homes are situated on spacious lots which afford privacy as well as enough space for even large families. The average household income in Garden Ridge was at $128,000 in 2011. The community is served primarily by Comal Independent School District. The high school is Canyon High School. A new school, Garden Ridge Elementary, has recently started functioning and this institution was recently the recipient of an “exemplary” rating from the Texas Education Agency. (As with any school information, please confirm with the school district the schools that service homes you intend to purchase.)

Garden Ridge has an interesting history which can be traced back to the mid-17th century. Native American Indians, Spanish, and German settlers all made this region their home at some time or the other. The coming of the railroad to the region saw a drastic rise in the development activity in the locality. Garden Ridge was incorporated in 1972 and at the time was populated predominantly by descendants of early German settlers. Many longtime residents have numerous anecdotes to share with newcomers to the community. This is just another way to make people feel welcome.

The community has many churches in the area, including: Triumphant Lutheran Church, Bracken United Methodist, Northeast Bible Church, Garden Ridge Church of Christ, Garden Ridge Community Church and Covenant Baptist Church. Bracken Village and Rolling Oaks Mall are the two major shopping destinations in the vicinity. The former is a haven of small shops and restaurants that remind one of life in the 19th century. Restaurants in the Garden Ridge area cater to a variety of tastes and offer authentic American cuisine along with Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and German specialties. They range from fast food chains to exclusive restaurants with appropriate décor and lighting.

Nature is bountiful in Garden Ridge and this is illustrated at the exquisitely landscaped Paul Davis Park. There is a significant deer population in the area which speaks volumes about the emphasis laid on the need for a green environment in the midst of modern living and development. The open spaces with rolling hills and numerous canyons provide a lot of opportunity for outdoor recreation and family activities.

The Bracken caves, home to the famous Bat Cave, are close by and are home to the world’s largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats The Natural Bridge Caverns are yet another natural attraction just outside of Garden Ridge. Hundreds of calcite formations, that have taken shape over centuries, can be seen here. The Natural Wildlife Ranch is another great place for family outings. Children and adults alike get to experience wild and exotic animals up close and learn more about them.

Numerous annual events are held in Garden Ridge and nearby. These range from the Easter Egg Hunt to the Summer Music Camp to Comal County Fair, Wurstfest and Oktoberfest. Caroling in the Caverns at Natural Bridge Caverns is an event unique to the area. Community participation ensures that bonhomie and camaraderie is rejuvenated on a regular basis.

The community has its own police department and the water company is city-owned. As a courtesy, the Garden Ridge police department will conduct house checks for owners who are going to be out of town and also does home security surveys for home owners. There is also a new community center which can be used for rentals and other community events.

Northeast Methodist Hospital is the biggest medical center in the area. Those with interests in volunteering or civic activities, there are organizations such as the Garden Ridge Lions Club, Garden Ridge Women’s Club, the Garden Ridge Republican Club and the Bracken Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary. The Forest waters Lodge is a good place for families while Awanas Club is for the kids.

Sun City Book Fair

Road Trip: Sun City Book Fair

by Julia Hayden

On the road again, last week for a book festival at Sun City, Texas* . . . which is out on the sun-baked flats of grassland lightly sprinkled with woods, away on the edge of Georgetown, about half an hour’s drive north of Austin. We have heard dire things of Austin’s rush hour, so in order to get there in time, Blondie and I arose at the crack of dawn . . . actually 4:00 AM, plotting to have at least a couple of cups of caffeinated beverage in us and be ready to roll at 5:00 and thus be well-through whatever hellish traffic jams that Austin offered in the morning rush hour. With our luck, we could have given it another hour, for we arrived just before 7:30, to set-up my table in ten minutes flat, and the fair didn’t officially open until 9. Yeah, we could definitely have slept for another hour – except that everyone that we met, setting up in the Sun City community center ballroom assured us that, oh, you just never knew with Austin traffic. If we had delayed leaving until about 6 AM, guaranteed there would have been a terrific pile-up and we would have been delayed well-past time.

Another Texas indy-author told me about the Sun City book-fair, stressing that it was just the kind of event and venue well-worth the time and tank-full of gas needed to get there. Sun City in Georgetown is a active adult planned retirement community, of people who are presumed to have considerable financial security and of an age to be still quite fond of reading books, thank you very much. Blondie still had serious doubts about that, at the wheel of the Montero, and grumbling slightly as we followed the Tom-Tom’s direction – all the way past all the exits for Georgetown and onto a two-lane road apparently leading nowhere in particular. She said at least once that it didn’t look like there was very much out there at all, but pastures and windbreaks, interspersed with the occasional double-wide with the customary rusting accoutrements, but after about three cross-streets, there we were . . . and oh, my.

We followed the directions scrupulously, along an avenue adorned with landscaping, trees and wide paved footpaths that meandered through it, past cottages and mansions artfully set about, so as to give the best appearance and views. There was a distinctly uniform look about them all, though – in general style and color, although not actual design. There were also no fences along property lines – each yard merged gracefully into the next – and then we came to the community center, likewise beautifully landscaped, and Blondie and I agreed that it all looked very much like what a military base would look like, if the powers that be had unlimited funds and no military mission at all. It’s a beautiful community, I’d hasten to admit, and the people seemed very lively and pleased to be a part of it, but it did have very much that centrally-planned look.

I can’t say enough nice things about the organizers, or about the residents who came drifting through, many of whom were eager to talk about books – really, I think my throat was raw from talking so much. I sold enough copies of my various books to make back expenses and then some, there was a considerable uptick in the Kindle and Nook editions afterwards and I met a couple of people who were interested in the Trilogy and involved in the Williamson County historical society who would like to have me come back for other events. Well worth the trip – but I don’t think I got over the exhaustion until today.

*Sun City is the first Dell Webb age restricted community in Texas; for active adults with a passion for life. For recreation you’ll enjoy three championship golf courses, a world-class fitness center with tennis and swimming, plus miles of walking trails. The activity center offers art studios, a woodshop, computer lab, Billiards hall and meeting rooms for clubs and classes. Hill Country Retreat is another such Dell Webb active adult community, but in San Antonio.

Teashop at Bracken Village

Created Saturday, 09 January 2010 21:56

The Teashop in the Village

Yes, there is a tea-shop in the village; Bracken Village that is. A tea-shop, serving fresh-brewed pots of tea, and scones and all of that, in two Victorian-style rooms and on the veranda of a quaint little house, restored lovingly, and sitting among others of like, around a gazebo in a grove of oak trees, out on Nacogdoches Road, beyond 1604 in San Antonio. Originally it was a farmstead, known as the Wiederstein-Burkhardt home-place, a tiny house and a carriage barn, but over the last decade, other historic houses have been moved in, renovated and put to new use as shops and boutiques, an art studio, a salon/day spa and a gymnasium. There are garden plantings in between the houses; in the spring it all looks as gorgeous as the setting for a Disney movie set in a small American town. One place, “Country Gatherings” even holds regular classes in hooking old-fashioned woolen rugs, in what was once the hayloft of a quaint old barn.

Some of the houses are tiny – many are ornate, with deep, generous porches. All are historic, and from the local area. Not a few, including the Borgfeld House, which is in the process of reconstruction, are of a peculiar German style of half-timber construction called fachwork. The framework walls of the house, the openings for windows and doorways are made of heavy beams, fitted and braced – and then the interstices filled in with brick, or cut stone. Sometimes this was plastered over, entirely – or in the case of the Borgfeld house, covered with board siding.

There are, at present, two places to eat at Bracken Village – 23 Skadoo, which has Red Hat stuff galore, and does things like soups, salads and sandwiches, and then there is the tea-room, British Sensations, which is in the building which used to house another popular tea-room, Bawdsy Manor. British Sensations also has a stock of imported foods and candies – things like Marmite and the kind of steamed-pudding-inna-can that I remember fondly from a summer spent traveling in England and staying in Youth Hostels. You boil the can in a saucepan full of water for about twenty minutes, then open the can – and yes, this sounds odd, but it was very good. The chocolate puddings were particularly tasty.

The tea-room also offers staple British fare – you know, fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and that sort of solid and hearty fare. Which when it is bad, is pretty awful – but when it is good, is very, very good – even sublime. We tried out the fish-n-chips, and the shepherd’s pie, mostly because we were eating at mid-afternoon, and that was all that was available after the lunch rush; oh, and it was good, too, not interminably held over a steam table or something. The fish was tasty, cooked in a crisp crust, and the chips were fresh, too. Shepherd’s pie can be dreadful, but it also was good; a particularly British variant on meat and potatoes, with the meat pie portion baked with a mashed-potato crust.

And the best part – it’s not even all that far away; just up Nacogdoches Road, past the bridge over Salado Creek.








San Antonio Road Trip to Frontier Fort near Fredericksburg

Created Friday, 20 November 2009 19:06
by Julia Hayden

San Antonio Road Trip to Frontier Fort Martin Scott

I think most people, when they have a mental vision of an Army fort on the far western American frontier, think of a wooden stockade of standing timber – but that was not much the case in Texas. Indians rarely to never attack those forts, so defensive walls were hardly necessary. With or without protection from the Army, the frontier advanced almost too rapidly and too erratically for many of the earlier established forts to remain useful for long. Fort Martin Scott, on the eastern outskirts of Fredericksburg, just off US Route 290 is one such. It was established late in the 1840s, rendered almost redundant by the early 1850s, briefly garrisoned by the returning US Army after the Civil War, and the site of it finally sold to a local leading citizen who transformed it into his family’s homestead.

Most of the buildings present, set out among a scattering of oak trees in a foot-ball field rectangle running from the verge of Rte 290 down to the banks of Baron’s Creek are reconstructions. There are some few foundations left here and there of a sulter’s store and the laundry, set conveniently close to water, down on the creek-bank. There are a few stones left of a huge oven to bake bread for the soldiers, nothing at all left of where the warehouse and post hospital was, nor of the stable for the dragoon’s horses, and the blacksmith’s forge. The approximate position of the commander’s house is merely outlined in stones. The only original building, from the time when it was an active US Army establishment is a thick-walled limestone building with very tiny slit-windows in one end which served as the guardhouse and military jail – when the property was sold to the Brautigam family, it was added onto and became their home, until the site was sold to the city, and restoration of the long-decayed original buildings began.

It wouldn’t have been one of those dramatic forts, in it’s time – no bloody sieges, no great expeditions launched from the little parade-ground, between the whitewashed log, or stone buildings. The front-porches of the officer’s quarters, and the breezeways between the three-pen log enlisted barracks would have looked out on little but the same military garrison routine, day after day. Moving supplies from wagons coming up the road from San Antonio and the coast into the warehouse, shoeing horses and doing laundry, mounting guard and standing retreat at the end of the day – that would have been it, for the soldiers and their officers sent her for a bare handful of years. No doubt many of them spent their time in a quiet backwater of the Texas frontier, hoping that something exciting would happen, something to break up the boredom and routine of peacetime service, something that would bring them glory and renown.

For a good few of them, that supposed wish did come true, in the following decade, when officers who had served at Fort Martin Scott – like James Longstreet – did indeed find glory and renown. Very possibly, they looked back then on their tour of service at a tiny fort on the banks of Baron’s Creek with considerable nostalgia.