story in the San Antonio Daily Express told of a German farmer,
wandering through the Hill
Country in search of a stray yoke of oxen, who stumbled upon
a thriving Mormon village, 4 miles southeast of Frederickburg
on the Pedernales
River. The farmer carried the news of this unknown settlement
back to his neighbors on Baron's Creek.
The Germans were naturally curious people, and soon a group rode
out from Frederickburg
to investigate the mysterious report. Just as the farmer stated
the group found a settlement of 25 families of the Mormon faith
living, working and worshipping on the Texas frontier.
The Mormons came
to the Pedernales
by way of Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism,
led his followers to Western Illinois after clashing with non-Mormons
in Independence, Missouri.
In Illinois, Smith and his group bought the town of Commerce, located
on a bend of the Mississippi River, and renamed it Nauvoo. By 1844
Nauvoo had a population of 12,000 - about the same as Chicago.
The name Nauvoo comes from the Bible - Isaiah 52:7. In the traditional
Hebrew it means "How beautiful upon the mountains" or something
close to that.
After Joseph Smith's death in 1844, many Mormons followed Brigham
Young to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, but a smaller group
of dissenters, led by Lyman Wight, broke with Young and immigrated
The German Hill Country appealed to the Mormons because the Germans
opposed slavery and were tolerant of other religions. Elder Wight
and his followers believed they could practice their religion freely
on the Texas frontier.
called their town Zodiac,
and it was a mecca for Mormon dissenters. By 1848 Zodiac
had a storehouse, a mill, a tabernacle and about 150 people. A series
of communal farms surrounded the village.
The residents of Zodiac
were farmers and carpenters. They helped built Fort
Martin-Scott on Barons Creek in 1848.
By all indications Zodiac was a beautiful place. A visitor wrote
"Everywhere around us we see abundant signs of prosperity. . .The
well-built houses, picket fences and tidy dooryards give the place
a homelike air such as we have not seen before in Texas."
The citizens of Zodiac
got along well with the Germans in Frederickburg.
Voters elected Elder Wight justice of the peace of Gillespie
Then in the 1850s the Pedernales
flooded and damaged the mill. There is also evidence that a land
owner came forward and laid claim to the site of the Mormon village.
The San Antonio Daily Express reported that the claimant
invited the Mormons to stay - as long as they paid him $10 an acre
for the land.
So the Mormons packed their belongings and left for a new home at
Mormon Hill on Hamilton Creek in Burnet
County, but not before Elder Wight presided over one final meeting
at the tabernacle.
Legend says that Elder Wight called down the curse of heaven on
the place, but evidence suggests the Creator ignored Wight's demand.
After the Mormons left Zodiac
the Comanches burned the tabernacle, and a flood destroyed what
was left of the mill. Then a group of English, German and Danish
families moved in.
Just before the Civil War, the old town of Zodiac became a cotton
farm. It is sadly ironic that this place, founded on the principles
for freedom and tolerance, was the site of the only plantation in
to use slave labor. Descendants of the slaves still owned land there
made one final trip to Zodiac. His family buried him there in a
small cemetery after his death in 1858.
Zodiac was mostly forgotten by the turn of the 20th century. After
1885 residents called the area Rocky Hill after the Rocky
The site of Zodiac is on private property near the Intersection
of Hwy 290 and the Old San Antonio Road. The town site and the cemetery
have been plowed over. A granite historical marker is all that's
left to show Zodiac ever existed.
© Michael Barr
October 1, 2017 Column
"Mormonism in Texas-About an Old Mormon Town," The San Antonio Daily
Express, August 31, 1877.
"Mormon News," The Daily Ledger (New Albany, Indiana), March 21,
"Mormons," The Handbook of Texas.
| Related Article:
by Clay Coppedge
If Lyman Wight could have had his way, Texas and not Utah might have
become home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and
the Mormon Church. Wight brought about 150 fellow Mormons across the
Red River into Texas in November of 1845. They spent the winter in
Grayson County and in the spring of 1846 migrated south to a spot
near present-day Webberville.
They chose that site because Wight said the recently-slain Mormon
leader Joseph Smith had told him to build a new colony there, on the
Colorado River where Tom Miller Dam is today. They built a mill but
it was soon washed away by a flood. That, combined with a generally
cool reception from the people in Travis County, led Wight to move
his group to the Pedernales River near Fredericksburg where they founded
the town of Zodiac. more