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"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

Looking back at:

Cross Mountain
- Ageless Sentinel

Michael Barr
Fredericksburg TX looking up at Cross Mountain
Looking up at Cross Mountain
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
Quite a few Texas hills have crosses on top, but few of those places can match the history and the legend of Cross Mountain just north of Fredericksburg. Cross Mountain was a landmark for travelers long before the first German settlers came into the Pedernales River Valley.

The Pinta Trail was an old Indian path that guided Spanish missionaries and soldiers from San Antonio to the San Saba mission and presidio near present-day Menard in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The path was not clearly marked, so missionaries planted crosses on hilltops along the way to guide travelers.
Fredericksburg TX Cross Mountain from a distance
Cross Mountain from a distance
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
The trail generally ran from San Antonio through present-day Boerne and Sisterdale. After crossing West Sister Creek, the trail continued to the northwest crossing the Pedernales River near the future town of Fredericksburg.

John Christian Durst, whose family came to the Texas Hill Country from Germany in 1847, received a land grant consisting of a town lot and 10 acres of grazing land just north of Fredericksburg. His land grant included a chalky hill where he found the decomposed wood fragments of an old Spanish cross.

When Father George Menzel arrived in Fredericksburg in the summer of 1848, he planted a new wooden cross on the hill. The place has been called Kruezberg, Cross Mountain in English, ever since.
Fredericksburg TX Christian Durst Marker on top of Cross Mountain
Fredericksburg Texas as seen from Cross Mountain
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
Looking out from the summit of Cross Mountain I can't help but feel I'm standing on a place of some importance. According to legend Native Americans used the hill to signal each other at the approach of intruders. Spanish missionaries held religious services here for Native Americans, Spanish soldiers, adventurers and other travelers on the Pinta Trail. Early German settlers used the hill as a lookout.

From the top of Cross Mountain I can see for miles. To the south and east the entire village of Fredericksburg is at my feet, while to the north and west I see every possible route into town. No other hill in the area has such a commanding view or preferred location.
Fredericksburg TX - the nature trail marker at Cross Mountain
The nature trail marker at Cross Mountain
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
The earliest settlers of Fredericksburg quarried rock at Cross Mountain. The rock, mostly limestone, is called "weichen stein," soft stone in English. It is easier to quarry than the hard rock in the surrounding hills.

Stone masons used limestone blocks quarried at Cross Mountain to build the Friederich Kiehne House at 405 W. Main in Fredericksburg - one of the earliest rock houses in Gillespie County.

If you climb Cross Mountain today you can still see the ledge where workers quarried the rock. Generations of young people carved their initials in that limestone ledge.

Cross Mountain is covered in cedar, oak, mesquite, prickly pear and grasses of many varieties. Just about every plant native to the Texas Hill Country grows on its chalky slopes.

Hubert Nixon, long time science teacher at Fredericksburg High School, used Cross Mountain as a science classroom. Mr. Nixon taught his students the names of over 100 plants that grow there - from ash juniper to Tickle Tongue.

Over the years various organizations made improvements at Cross Mountain. In 1921, on the Diamond Jubilee of St. Mary's Parish, the church replaced the old wooden cross with one made of reinforced concrete.
Fredericksburg TX l- the cross at Cross Mountain
The cross
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
At the suggestion of Fredericksburg lawyer Arthur Stehling, city officials ran electricity to Cross Mountain and illuminated the cross in time for the 1946 Fredericksburg Centennial celebration.

In 1952, the Gillespie County Historical Society bought the 14 acre site to preserve it as an historical landmark.

In 1963 the Army Reserve built a winding road to the top of Cross Mountain.

In 1977 the Texas Historical Commission erected an historical marker at the foot of Cross Mountain. Descendants of John Christian Durst took part in the dedication ceremony.
Fredericksburg TX Christian Durst Marker on top of Cross Mountain
Christian Durst Marker on top of Cross Mountain
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
Fredericksburg TX - the Entrance sign at Cross Mountain
The Entrance sign at Cross Mountain
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2018
Each year at Easter a large fire pops and sizzles on top of Cross Mountain as part of the Easter Fires Pageant. The Easter sunrise services sometimes held there are breezy and beautiful. The view is spectacular.

The footprints of history are all over Cross Mountain. The Fredericksburg Standard once described it as an "Ageless Sentinel Over the City."
Michael Barr
"Hindsights" September 1, 2018 Column

Sources:
"Cross Mountain One of City's Early Landmarks," Fredericksburg Standard, April 28, 1971.
"Gillespie Bicentennial Minutes," Fredericksburg Standard, May 26, 1976.
"Cross Mountain Ageless Sentinel Over the City," Fredericksburg Standard, July 30, 1975.

"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

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    "Hindsights" by Michael Barr

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