Surviving the “Hängerbande” Times: The Murder of the German Unionists in Fredericksburg

These German immigrants remained true to their first oath to the United States and also stood against slavery. It cost them their lives.

By AnnElise Makin

In Fredericksburg, Texas, many old-timers still speak German. This pretty Hill Country town, named after Prince Frederick of Prussia, has a remarkable survival story. You may call it “the hardiest little German town in Texas.”

You can’t pass through Fredericksburg (population ca. 10,500) without stopping in one of the cute cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. Highway 290 takes you straight there from Austin (90 miles) or Highway 87 from San Antonio (85 miles). Enjoy an overnight stay in one of the old-fashioned bed and breakfasts.
This quaint Hill Country town, sometimes called “Fritzburg,” was founded by a wagon trek of rugged immigrants on May 8, 1846. Despite the immigration company’s (Mainzer Adelsverein) mismanagement, natural hazards and personal tragedies, the Germans quickly set roots in the Edwards Plateau. Soon the small town became a success story of thrift and industry. Ten years into its pioneer life, Fredericksburg was known as the jewel of the Hill Country. The stately Nimitz Hotel proudly proclaimed it had the “last hot tub before the West Coast.” Fredericksburg was also an outpost to Indian Country. Quickly city father John Otfried von Meusebach made a successful peace treaty with the Comanche, as the settlers were by far outnumbered by natives.

The worst challenge to the community, however, did not come from the Indians but from marauding vigilante groups, the so-called Partisan Rangers, during the Civil War. These self-proclaimed keepers of the Southern cause roamed the Hill Country hunting for German “traitors.”

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