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Texas | Columns

"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

Looking back at
Hedwig's Hill

Michael Barr
Louis (Ludwig) Martin, came to Fredericksburg with the original German settlers. Then in 1853 he moved to a hill just north of the Llano River, 30 miles to the northwest in what would become Mason County. His mother and daughter shared the name Hedwig, and in their honor Louis named his new home Hedwig's Hill.

A branch of the Pinta Trail crossed the Llano River at Hedwig's Hill. Native Americans blazed the Pinta Trail as they traveled through the Hill Country to San Antonio.

When the German pioneers settled along the Pedernales and the Llano, they naturally followed parts of the Pinta Trail, the only road that existed.

Soon the trail became an established road between Fredericksburg and Mason. Hedwig's Hill was a natural stopping point on that road - the other stops being Loyal Valley and Cherry Spring.
TX Mason County 1907 Postal Map
Mason County 1907 postal map (from Texas state map #2090)
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Louis Martin's nephew, Karl Martin, built a store at Hedwig's Hill - the first store west of the Llano.

But the early years were tough for the Germans at Hedwig's Hill. They had no experience with slavery and no sympathy for the Confederacy, and that attitude put them at odds with many of their neighbors. A cattle rustling epidemic in the 1870s deepened resentment between the two groups.

Then in February 1875 a group of Germans broke into the Mason County Jail, drug two suspected cattle thieves from their cell, and lynched them from an oak tree. The Mason County Hoo Doo War had begun.

TX - Mason County jail
Mason County Jail
Photo courtesy Shannan Yarbrough, 2005
More Texas Jails

Six months later a Hoo Doo soldier named George Gladden received a note requesting his presence in Mason. The next morning Gladden rode north from his home in Loyal Valley. A friend, Moses Baird, rode along.

But the note was a trick, delivered by an informant for $50, to lure Gladden into an ambush.

Knowing Gladden would travel through Hedwig's Hill, the main road into Mason County from the south, Sheriff Clark and about 60 German ranchers waited there undercover to see that Gladden never got to his intended destination.

There was an uneasy stillness in Hedwig's Hill when Gladden and Baird rode into town that day. The two men dismounted, tied their horses to the hitching post, and walked in the direction of Keller's Store to refresh themselves.

Hedwig's Hill TX - Kellers Store
Keller's Riverside Store in Hedwig's Hill
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, November 2016
More Texas Stores

When they were about 30 paces from the store, Sheriff Clark stepped out on the porch with his rifle in hand and threw a cartridge into the chamber. Without a word being said "the firing commenced."

Gladden and Baird were caught completely by surprise in a deadly crossfire.

Baird got the worst of it, but Gladden saved him by throwing him over the saddle of the nearest horse and climbing on behind. Thus mounted the two men took off at a gallop.

But the sheriff and his posse caught Gladden and Baird about 4 miles south of Hedwig's Hill, near Hilda at the crossing of Beaver Creek. Baird died on the creek bank - a victim of lead poisoning. George Gladden, with 9 bullet wounds, survived.

Hedwig's Hill TX - Martin Cemetery
Martin Cemetery. At the foot of Hedwig's Hill.
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, November 2016
More Texas Cemeteries

After the Hoo Doo War, a delicate calm settled over Hedwig's Hill like fog on a fall morning. The store, now owned by Karl Martin's widow Anna, prospered. Anna made a killing of her own selling groceries, ammunition, and barbed wire.

For a time Hedwig's Hill was a happening place. It had a store, a church, and a school.

But beginning in the early 20th century, cars, better roads, and cheap gasoline gave country people easier access to bigger stores in larger towns. Business in Hedwig's Hill declined. The population dropped. The post office closed in 1907. By the end of the 20st Century the population was 10.

Hedwig's Hill TX
Hedwig's Hill
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, November 2016

What's left of Hedwig's Hill is just north of the Llano River on Highway 87 between Fredericksburg and Mason. Today motorists barrel through Hedwig's Hill at 70 mph not knowing it was once a place of some importance. Most travelers are unaware they passed through a "place" at all.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights"
December 15, 2016 Column

Related Stories:
  • The Martin House on Hedwig's Hill
  • Anna Martin, Frontier Banker
  • Sources:
    Mason County News, February 5, 1976, "Mason County Roundup," p9.
    Mason County News, December 20, 1979, "Mason County's Unsettled Years, 1860-1880," sec. 2, p50
    David Johnson, The Mason County Hoo Doo War, 1874-1902 (Denton: The University of North Texas Press, 2006).

    See also
  • Texas Small Town Sagas
  • Texas History
  • Texas Hill Country

  • Related Topics:
    Columns | TE Online Magazine |
    Texas Towns | Texas Counties | Texas



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