local news items in the Fredericksburg Standard from a century
ago included some unusual stories and a few familiar themes among
the everyday reports of living and dying in Gillespie
The news of 1920 began with a dreamy description of the recent holiday
season. "Christmas was celebrated in Fredericksburg
in the loveliest manner," the editor wrote, "and the charm of yuletide
enhanced by beautiful clear weather. Christmas trees were a feature
in all the churches and appropriate services were held. The Social
Turnverein held its usual Christmas tree festival Sunday night. New
Years was ushered in by the tolling of all the church bells and some
shooting of large fireworks. Balls were going on in the two big halls
of the town and were enjoyed by the young people."
Citizens partied particularly hard that holiday season knowing the
very nature of public celebrations was about to change. Prohibition
became the law of the land in 1919. January 17, 1920 was the deadline
to remove all legally purchased booze from stores. After February
1 any liquor found in places other than private dwellings and government-bonded
warehouses was subject to seizure.
Railroad was in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. The train
had trouble staying on the track.
On December 28, 1919, the locomotive and coal car derailed at the
Fredericksburg Junction. The next day 4 cars jumped the track 7 miles
this side of the junction near the Tatsch place. That wreck put the
railroad out of commission for 3 days. Then on the second day of January
the train "came to grief again at the bridge across Grape Creek near
Three cars jumped the track."
Rail service along the 24-mile route between Fredericksburg
and the junction near Waring
was famously unreliable. The problem was so bad that in January 1920
the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce voted to void the railroad's
mail contract and establish a daily auto mail service between Fredericksburg
The businessmen were sorry to take the mail contract from the financially-strapped
railroad but felt they had no choice.
February the Fredericksburg High School boys and girls basketball
teams played in Kerrville.
The 24 mile trip by automobile took several hours. The caravan left
mid-morning for the afternoon games. Following the usual practice
of the day the group stopped on the way for a picnic lunch at Wolf
Creek and then stopped again at Wolf Creek on the return trip for
The Spanish Flu epidemic was still raging. In February the Commissioners
Court ordered a quarantine. Deputies stopped cars at the county line.
Schools and churches closed, and public gatherings were prohibited.
An inspector for the State Department of Education reported that the
small amount of school tax levied in Fredericksburg
was barely enough to support the school for seven months. Private
subscriptions paid for the remaining two months of the school term.
Facilities were less than satisfactory. Toilets were outside, unsanitary
and mighty nippy on a cold winter morning. Students and staff used
a chain and crank pump to draw drinking water from a cistern.
Oil companies were punching holes in Gus Gold's pasture near Stonewall
and on the Hayden Ranch southwest of Harper.
The Lanier Literary Society at Fredericksburg High School met in October.
Presentations that night included "What I Think of Women's Suffrage"
and "Chewing Gum as a Face Deformer."
Deer season provided some of the lighter news moments - for everyone
but the deer. The Standard told a whimsical story of a hunter
who illegally "killed a doe and was pulled before the Khadi last week
who improved his eyesight by applying a $20 plaster. The young man
was a stranger in Gillespie
County and came up from the coast country where bucks run around
wild, without horns."
Often when you hunt for one thing you find another. Two deer hunters
found 23 rattlesnakes in a hollow in John Kneese's pasture near Morris
Ranch. The snakes yielded one quart of rattlesnake oil.
What one did with rattlesnake oil, I haven't a clue.