a loaf of bread? Unless you live in a particularly remote area,
a plastic bag of sliced sandwich covers and gravy soppers rests
on the shelf only a few minutes away at a nearby and aptly named
But in the 19th century Texans did not get to enjoy all that much
convenience, especially when it came to shopping.
When Estella Hartmann Orrison self-published a history of her German
immigrant ancestors, “The Eckert Record: Story of Georg Bernhardt
Eckert and His Descendants, 1853-1957,” she told of one of the family
patriarch’s sons, Georg Philipp Eckert. (A thrifty family, the Eckerts
apparently didn’t waste many “e’s” but seem to have been more generous
with their “p’s.”)
Born in Germany on Nov. 10, 1824, Georg “No Second E” Eckert arrived
in Texas as a young man with his family in March 1853. Their ship
made port at Indianola,
where many newcomers arrived in that era. The Eckerts left for the
German town of Fredericksburg,
then well on the western edge of settlement.
They only made it as far as Victoria
before some of them became sick. The family split up, some continuing
on to Fredericksburg
while others stayed behind – either sick or as a caretaker for someone
who was. Georg Eckert remained to nurse a sick brother.
A tall, quiet sort, Eckert soon met and fell in love with 25-year-old
Margareda Vogler. They got married later that spring and moved to
Gillespie County. They soon had a son, the first of a brood of eight
children who lived to adulthood.
Two years later after settling at the county seat, Eckert and a
brother acquired land about 35 miles southwest of Fredericksburg
near the present Hilda
He built a log cabin (replaced by a rock house in 1870) and later
bought more land, running both cattle and sheep on his place. In
addition to tending stock, Eckert did his own carpentry and blacksmith
work. But he also had more delicate skills. He made wine that he
often served with the cookies and cakes he liked to bake. Pastries,
of course, required flour and other ingredients.
being a two-day buggy ride away, Eckert and his family didn’t come
to town very often. In fact, they usually didn’t make the trip but
twice a year.
Eckert’s grandson, Lee Eckert, later recalled that he sometimes
got to make the trip to town with his grandfather:
“Grandfather and I would leave in a buggy. Usually there would be
a five gallon earthenware jug at our feet between us. Particular
attention and care was given to the jug so as not to break it.”
The large jug would hold whiskey, which for posterity’s sake the
grandson hastened to add got consumed “only for medicine by the
he and his grandfather would spend the night with the Dittmar family
Springs on their way to Fredericksburg and again on their way
back to their ranch near Hilda.
they spent one night with relatives before embarking on the return
leg of their trip with a wagon load of staples.
“The six month’s supply of groceries were mainly 200-pound sacks
of flour, 100-pound sacks of sugar, and a 100-pound sack of unroasted
coffee,” he recollected.
Eckerts must have bought salt and pepper and other items, but a
pioneer family with a fenced garden for vegetables, stock for beef
and a rifle or shotgun for game could get by with only a few stables.
Well, and five gallons of whiskey just in case someone took sick
or got snake bit.
the credit of an occasional medicinal snort or just hard work and
good luck, Georg Eckert lived a long and full life. He died Jan.
14, 1908 at 81 and was buried in the Eckert family cemetery near
his old homestead.
Eckert’s descendants and others in Gillespie County don’t have to
travel two days for groceries. And whiskey’s no longer sold from
© Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
November 29, 2007 column
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