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"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

Lange's Mill

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

Roy Bedicheck, well-known Texas naturalist and foodie, once turned down an invitation to have lunch in Fredericksburg saying he much preferred to dine on peaches and freshly baked bread in the shade of the cypress trees at Lange's Mill.

The story of Lange's Mill, 2 miles north of Doss in Gillespie County, began when brothers John and Thomas Doss, along with their slaves, came to the Texas Hill Country from Virginia around 1850. More brothers came later.

Gillespie County TX - Lange's Mill
Lange's Mill
July 2019 Photo © Michael Barr

Thomas Doss, a miller by trade, was a friend to C. H. Guenther who built a mill on Live Oak Creek south of Fredericksburg.

After months of searching, Thomas Doss found a place to build his own mill in a secluded valley 23 miles northwest of Fredericksburg, at the site of an old distillery, where spring water gushed from the side of a hill above Threadgill Creek.

When Thomas discovered that the property was in the public domain, he and brother John each claimed 160 acres around the spring. They built a house on a hill above the creek.

Under the supervision of August Steiners (sometimes spelled Steiness), slaves began work on a dam to impound the water and a millhouse just below the spring near a cliff decorated with Indian pictographs. Within a year sparkling clear water rushed through the mill race and spilled over the wooden water wheel.

In 1856 Thomas Doss, John Doss and William Thomas formed a partnership to operate a saw mill, a grist mill and a distillery under the name T. C. Doss and Co. William Thomas sold his interest in the business back to Thomas and John Doss in 1857.

The Doss Brothers, true to their Virginia roots, were Confederates all the way. When John Doss died in 1863 his will directed that his interest in the mill be sold and the proceeds invested in Confederate Bonds. It was not the best decision he ever made.

Then in 1864 Thomas Doss sold the mill to August Steiners, for $10,000 Confederate money. By the following summer all that Confederate cash was practically worthless.

After selling the mill the remaining Doss brothers, carrying a large sack of Confederate wall paper, left Doss Valley, leaving only their name behind.

Meanwhile August Steiners made improvements at the mill. He expanded the operation to grind both flour and corn meal. He added a room at the house to serve as a post office for the mail that came over weekly from Cherry Spring.

To pay for the improvements, Steiners borrowed money using the mill as collateral. He died in 1865, heavily in debt to his brother-in-law, F. W. Lange of Bexar County.

After a hearing in probate court Mary Steiners, August's widow, deeded the mill and the property to her brother, F. W. Lange for $200 US currency.

Lange, a barrel maker by trade, was born in Germany. He immigrated to San Antonio in the mid-1800s. Before moving to Doss Valley, he made beer barrels for the brewery at the Menger Hotel.

F. W. Lange replaced the mill's overshot water wheel with a turbine. He built a new dam below the original one, but the water pressure was too great. The dam broke just one day after water backed up behind it.

The replacement dam, built of rock masonry with dirt fill, was about 30 feet high and 150 feet long. It was 30 feet wide at the top and 90 feet wide at the bottom.

F. W. Lange operated the mill until his death in 1877. His son Julius operated the mill until 1888.

Lange's Mill was one of the last of the old burr mills in Texas. It ground corn and wheat between mill stones with grooves also called "burrs." The corn meal and flour from Lange's Mill was considered the finest in the region.

Then slowly the importance of the mill declined. Modern roller mills replaced the old burr mills.

By the 20th century Lange's Mill was a lonely relic of the past but still a darned good place to enjoy peaches and freshly baked bread in the shade of a cypress tree.

Gillespie County TX - Lange's Mill Centennial Marker
Lange's Mill Centennial Marker
Click on image for close up
July 2019 Photo © Michael Barr
More Texas Centennial Markers

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" August 16, 2019 Column

Sources:
"News of Our Neighbors," Llano News, November 19, 1936.
"Texas Heritage," Kerrville Mountain Sun, September 26, 1981
"Picturesque Lange's Mill Played A Key Role In Area's Development," Fredericksburg Standard, April 28, 1971.
"History of F. W. Lange," Fredericksburg Standard, September 17, 1936.
"History of F. W. Lange, cont.," Fredericksburg Standard, September 24, 1936.


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