Fort Martin Scott was the first frontier fort built in Texas. For me the fort holds special meaning as it’s part of my heritage, but more on that later. The fort has a long and interesting history, one that surprised even me when I began doing more research.
|Fort Knox, Maine by Seth Eastman Oil on canvas, 1870-1875|
Behold a painting of an early American scene. The depiction of Fort Knox was rendered by Brigadier General Seth Eastman sometime between 1870 – 1875 and about twenty-two years after he is believed by many to have established Camp Houston in Fredericksburg, Texas in 1847. Some believe the fort to have its original roots in 1845 when Texas Rangers patrolled the area. In 1849 the camp would be called Fort Martin Scott. Though Seth was an artist at heart and gave America many such wondrous scenes of life on the frontier, he was also an officer in the United States Army. Prior to his time in the hill country of Texas, he served at Fort Snelling where he married a Dakota chief’s daughter who bore him a daughter. When he was asked to return to West Point in 1832, he had his marriage annulled. Later he would marry Mary Eastman.
Of interesting note, his grandson from his first marriage, Dr. Charles Eastman, became the first Native American to become a certified doctor and was also the co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America. Seth’s second wife, Mary Eastman is also well known for her literary works. She authored Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is (1852), one of the most popular of the anti – Uncle Tom’s Cabin books.
But let’s get back to Fort Martin Scott. The Fort served as a base of operations for troops serving the Perdernales, Guadalupe, Llano and San Saba River Basins. While there existed a very important treaty between the German community and the Penaketas Comanches, other Native Americans in the vicinity, including other Comanches, Apaches and Tenawas, did not recognize the document and proved a serious threat to the settlers. Originally established to help protect settlers in the surrounding area against Indian problems, the fort was deemed unnecessary as a troop post in 1853. This was due in part to the peaceful nature of the Germans who lived in Fredericksburg, their willingness to get along with the Native Americans in the area and the Fort Martin Scott Treaty (1850), an unratified treaty between several Indian tribes and the U.S. However, the fort became a supply depot for government trains travelling westward to other forts as they made regular stops in need of corn and hay.
After 1853, the Texas Rangers would also use the fort’s facilities when needed and when the Civil War broke out, confederate troops would also make use of the property on occasion though they never officially occupied the fort. Darkness hovered over the establishment when Quantrill’s men and Duff’s Partisan Rangers operated out of the fort for a short time. Both entities were bent on “discouraging” Union sympathizers by often cruel and violent methods. After the Civil War, the army saw a need to protect the nearby citizens from Indian difficulties and occupied the fort for a short period of time during 1866 but by December of that year, the fort was once again abandoned. Some of the buildings were torn apart to provide materials for other settlers.
|The original deed. Note the lined paper.|
Interestingly, it is thought that the property on which the fort was built was never owned by the army but was instead leased from a Mr. Twohig which makes sense because Twohig’s name is on the bill of sale. On March 12, 1870, papers were filed, the sum of $1600 in gold paid, and Johann Braeutigam took possession of the fort properties. He, his wife and nine children moved into one of the two remaining buildings. He then built a store and saloon. Braeutigam’s Gardens also boasted grapevines, hackberries, native trees and a racetrack for horses. He’d turned the property into a place to come “play” and in 1881, the first Gillespie County Fair was held on these grounds. The property served as a huge entertainment center where weddings took place, dances occurred in the dance hall and horse races commenced.
On September 3, 1884, four men came into the saloon and demanded the owner turn over his cash box. Johann took exception and went for his musket. The shots from Colts could be heard all the way to the main house. The men took off after stealing only a small amount of cash from the cash box. Johann’s ten-year-old son, Henry discovered the body. The townsfolk of Fredericksburg were outraged, Johann and his wife being well loved by all. Texas Ranger, Ira Aten and his men began a hunt that resulted in the apprehension of three suspects and then, later a fourth. However, the man suspected of firing the killing shot, James “Jim” Fannon (or Fannin), alluded authorities and was never apprehended. To hear more about Ira Aten’s involvement in bringing the murders to justice, come visit my blog post on Sweethearts of the West.
Of course, in researching this part of the story, author Bob Alexander offered another version, one I'd never heard. In the footnotes of his book, Rawhide Ranger; Ira Aten: Enforcing Law on the Western Frontier, Alexander found a written version that differs from the one the family always told. Since the property had horse racing, Wes Collier from a neighboring town decided to try his luck. He supposedly won the race and a huge pot of money which made the locals upset. Since it was late, the locals decided to put the money in Braeutigam's store for safe keeping until they could figure a way from having to give it all to Collier. The next morning, he went to retrieve the money, an argument ensued and Braeutigam was killed. The family has always maintained that it was Fannin who did the actual killing so who knows which version is more factual.
|The Guardhouse, one of the only original structures left. |
This became the living area from the Braeutigams.
After the tragedy, Christine continued to raise her eleven children at the homestead. When he came of age, Henry took over the running of the farm. He married Clara Gold (yeah, she was the inspiration for my pen name, she and my daughter’s friend, Ciara) and together they had seven children. Their oldest child, Hortense, was born at the fort and lived there until she married. Her two sons, Edward and John, spent summers staying with their grandparents and playing on the old fort site.
And now as Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story; Johann Braeutigam was my great, great grandfather. Henry was my great grandfather. When I was just out of college, my father and I snooped about the property before the city started reconstruction. This past fall, my mom and I went to the site and gathered pictures though at the time, the buildings weren’t open for us to look inside.
|My father and me in front of one of the buildings, circa 1980.|
|The top photo is circa 1908, the Braeutigam family with Henry on the left, Christine Braeutigam in the center with Hortense behind her. The photo was taken in front of the smokehouse/cellar, the building with the wagon in front.|