Monday, April 13, 2020


 The Texas Hill Country is my home and I love to write about it. In writing my varying series, I have showcased dozens of interesting places, historical landmarks, and scenic landscapes. And I hope to continue until I’ve covered every nook and cranny of this fabulous area. One thing that thrills me is being able to convey the unique beauty, the fascinating history, and the folklore in a way that causes people to look beyond the plot of my stories and be intrigued by the facts and fiber I was able to weave into the tales. It’s an honor to have readers from all over the world make trips to this part of the country just to see the places I’ve written about. When they do, if they let me know they're coming – I will meet them and buy dinner!
One of the places I always recommend people to visit is Fredericksburg. It’s a warm, friendly town full of things to see and do. Even the layout of the streets reinforces that cozy ambiance. Visitors coming into town are met by a string of street junctions where the first letter of each street name spells out ALL WELCOME – Adam Street, Llano, Street, Lincoln…and so on. Going the other way, out of town, the message is COME BACK – Crockett Street, Orange Street, etc. Etc. A bit strange – but neat.
A little over an hour west of Austin, Fredericksburg has been hailed as the ‘new’ Aspen. In recent years, the small town has become one of the places to visit or live. There are dozens of wineries, a shopping area known as the ‘magic mile’ and restaurants owned and operated by renown chefs.  

Not to mention the beauty of the countryside. As a bonus, Enchanted Rock State Park lies just north of the quaint German town

Fredericksburg loves to party – they have over 400 festivals and special events each year – wow. Everything from the Food and Wine Fest, Octoberfest, the Hill Country Film Festival, and the Peach Jamboree and Rodeo – what a combo! Of course – this year is different. Nothing is the same. The wildflowers are blooming in Fredericksburg, but there’s no tourists to see them. This photo is indicative of the dark cloud hovering over everything – not just this beautiful Hill County poppy field. The bluebonnets are here but only locals can enjoy them. 

One of the things I’ll miss this year – and my main topic for this post – is the Easter Fires of Fredericksburg. They are held annually to celebrate an Easter treaty signed between the Comanches and the Germans in the year 1847.
I was planning to attend this year, due to my plan to include the Easter Fires in my most recent book to be released in early June – Reno’s Journey. I just wanted to make sure I got the feel of it right. Reno’s Journey is a time travel western romance and this custom of lighting fires on the hills surrounding Fredericksburg dates back to before the Civil War. So…I wanted to include this in my plot in some way – and I think I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness them firsthand this year – they were canceled because of the coronavirus. I’m sure a few ranchers will carry on the tradition, but the public won’t be allowed to participate – dang it.

Still and all, as my gran used to say, let me tell you a little bit about this interesting celebration.
Much of the Hill Country was originally settled by German immigrants who came from their homeland to Galveston Island. Led by a man named Muesebach, they made their way – with much hardship – to the beauty of the central Texas hills. Things weren’t all roses; the determined people endured a cholera epidemic, drought, and run-ins with the Native Americans who resided on the same land they sought to inhabit. There were conflicts, blood was shed – and in our expanding nation, this was just the beginning of sorrows.
But here in Fredericksburg, those who survived to carve a colony out of the wilderness were the strong ones – strong in mind as well as body – and they were determined to forge a treaty with the Indians, a task that had never been accomplished before in this environment.  An odd agreement was reached by the two groups – the Germans and the Comanche – requiring both to supply representatives to live with the other party. Strangely enough, this was the only treaty in North America to ever be upheld by both sides.
While all’s well that ends well, what I’d like to focus on is what was told about the tense time that led up to this accord. To the Comanches, the Germans seemed different than the other settlers who’d encroached up their homeland. They didn’t treat the natives with the same disdain the way other white people did. A curiosity grew between the two groups. The Comanche decided to watch the intruders carefully.
Tired of living in uncertain fear, the German leader, Mr. Meusebach, and a contingency of men decided to approach the Comanche and make a bid for long term peace. They asked for a meeting with Chief Quannah Parker at his camp on the San Saba River, some ninety miles north.
While the representatives of Fredericksburg traveled to the negotiations, their families and a few men stayed behind. One thing that lay heavy on their minds was how vulnerable to a raid this made them. The hills surrounding the small village were full of war parties keeping watch in case this proved to be a trick on the Germans’ part. As word would travel from the meeting in San Saba to the watchful Comanches encamped around Fredericksburg, the Indians sent smoke signals from hill top to hill top. The new Texans feared that if the talks failed, they would be called up to defend themselves or die fighting.
After the parties negotiated the terms for the treaty, word was sent back by smoke signal. When the message finally reached the war party encamped in the hills above Fredericksburg as the sun was setting, they lit huge fires to celebrate. The settlers weren’t given the news and grew afraid at the intimidating sight.
The tale is told that a young German mother, hearing the cries of her children, told them a story to calm their fear. Remembering the old tradition from her homeland of lighting Easter fires, she told the little ones the blazes they could see in the hills were jack rabbits boiling water to make dye for the Easter eggs they would hide for the children to find the next morning.
Many say this is the beginning of the fabled Easter rabbit tale.
Others say differently. Regardless, the next day the men returned with good news and the celebrating commenced – complete with Easter eggs for the German children to hunt.
This tale has been passed down from generation to generation in Fredericksburg.
So…when the Texas wildflowers begin to bloom, when spring brings warmth and rain – church bells ring and bonfires are set on twenty-two hills surrounding the town to remember a time with the hand of friendship was offered and accepted.
Everyone can find a place in the celebration. Those who want to remember the resurrection can pray at the crosses erected on the hills. Those who want to smile can watch their children as they laugh at the antics of those who come dressed in Easter costume to hand out candy and eggs. And there are others who know the Easter Fires have an ancient history. The ancestors of those first German settlers would’ve lit fires as part of the spring festival of Ostara, they would’ve known that rabbits and eggs were sacred symbols of fertility. So, no matter where you’re coming from, you can find a connection. And while you do, you can marvel at the fact that once this holy season of the year was a time when enemies became friends. Here is a sculpture in Fredericksburg that commemorates the peace forged between Quannah Parker and Meusebach. 
Thank you so much for sparing time to read this. I hope you are all well and safe.
Sable Hunter


Julie Lence said...

What a beautiful legend, and rich history. Thank you so much for sharing.

GiniRifkin said...

Thank you for the very interesting and informative post. Texas sounds so diverse in its landscape and history, it almost seems like a mythical place!

Sable Hunter said...

Thank you Julie and Gini for taking time to read my post. I appreciate you both very much. And yes, Gini, Texas is a wild, weird place. I do so enjoy sharing interesting tidbits of history and folklore almost as much as I love crafting a story - a friend said I ought to go for a job at the state travel bureau. Maybe that's my retirement plan - an RV and Sable will travel.