early German settlers came to the Texas
Hill Country to get as far away as possible from the nasty politics
in Europe only to find themselves up to their eyeballs in the chaos
and anarchy of the American Civil War. The Germans, surrounded by
Confederates, tended to be unionists and unfriendly to slavery.
They became targets of the haengerbande - the hanging bandits, who
rode the mountains, lynching citizens and stealing their property
in the name of the Confederacy.
J. P. Waldrip of Gillespie
County was a desperado and a bushwhacker once described as "a
psychopath with odd colored eyes." He seems to have gotten along
fairly well with his German neighbors before the war, but the toxic
political atmosphere of the 1860s gave him the liberty to act on
his repressed psychopathic tendencies.
Waldrip, wearing his trademark black beaver hat, was a self-styled
frontier militia captain. He led an organization of 60 men at the
peak of his career.
He and his men claimed to be Confederate soldiers assigned to the
Texas frontier as Indian fighters, but they were really rustlers
and bandits who committed murder without thought or remorse and
stole anything that wasn't tied down.
The Waldrip gang had an excellent system for gathering information.
Waldrip had spies all over Gillespie
County. Anyone who criticized him was in danger.
Although Waldrip claimed allegiance to the Confederacy, the outlaw
and his men showed their true colors when they tried to kill Captain
Charles Nimitz, the local Confederate conscription officer and the
grandfather of Admiral Chester Nimitz, after Captain Nimitz tried
to draft them into the regular army. Nimitz narrowly avoided a deadly
dose of lead poisoning.
In 1864 Waldrip and his gang of cutthroats joined up with noted
desperados William Banta and J. W. Caldwell and a band of border
ruffians reportedly linked to Quantrill's raiders. The group went
on a deadly rampage through the hills that culminated in the hanging
of four men who lived on Grape Creek.
One of the victims was John Blank. Reports said the outlaws hung
Blank from the tree that still stands in what is now Luckenbach
long after the Grape Creek lynching a band of outlaws, believed
to be Waldrip's gang, surrounded the house of a school teacher and
local unionist militia captain named Louis Schuetz. The outlaws
ransacked the house, stole $400 cash and lynched Schuetz from a
live oak tree.
Authorities arrested J. P. Waldrip on suspicion of the Schuetz robbery
and murder and placed him in the Gillespie
County Jail. A grand jury indicted Waldrip and 25 other men
for crimes committed during the war, but Waldrip was not prosecuted,
possibly for fear of retribution.
J. P. Waldrip was long on nerve but short on common sense. He left
for a while, but in the spring of 1867 he and J. W. Caldwell rode
into Fredericksburg in broad daylight. They spent a carefree day
drinking whiskey, intimidating citizens and insulting Unionists.
That afternoon Waldrip and Caldwell left a saloon on the west end
of town. As they walked southeast on Main Street, they met Captain
Philip Braubach in front of the courthouse, near the corner of Main
and Crockett Streets. Braubach was the son-in-law of Louis Schuetz,
the man Waldrip was accused of murdering.
In an instant the street in front of the courthouse exploded in
gunfire. Braubach jerked his pistol and squeezed off a few rounds.
Waldrip responded. The shooting did no damage but drew the attention
of Gillespie County
Sheriff Frank Jung and a group of armed citizens.
| Old Nimitz
courtesy Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio
| With the sheriff
and his posse closing in, Waldrip took off down Main Street, running
like a scared rabbit towards the Nimitz Hotel at the far end of town.
At the Nimitz, he busted through the front door and dashed through
As the outlaw walked cautiously out the back door of the Nimitz, Philip
Braubach waited calmly, guns drawn, as still as a tombstone. As Waldip
stepped into the sunlight two shots rang out. Waldrip fell dead near
an oak tree by the stable.
| © Michael
1 , 2018 Column
"Gillespians Had Many Hardships During War Years," Fredericksburg
Standard, May 1, 1946.
Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Violence (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1975), 241-42. www.CeliaHayes.com/archives/tag/jpwaldrip