By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Rural communities in Comal County outside of the City of New Braunfels formed mostly around land for farming and ranching. Stores, post offices and dance halls sprang up around these farming communities. Around Comal County roughly 30 of these small settlements developed. One of those communities was originally called Fischer’s Store. It was one of the largest and luckily it still exists because it wasn’t swallowed up by Canyon Lake.
One of the reasons for the success of this community was a social but cooperative organization called the Agricultural Society of Fischer’s Store organized in 1875. As you will see, as time goes by, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for this group.
Go back to 1853 when two brothers, Otto and Hermann Fischer emigrated from Germany to Texas and made their land claim. A few other families made their claims in this area in the late 1850s but up to that point, it had no name.
Due to the difficulty of clearing land for agriculture in the hill country, the Fischer brothers started their cattle ranching business. They encountered many hazards, such as Indians, wild weather, wolves, and rustlers. This was a time of open ranges (no fences) and the cattle roamed from the Pedernales to the San Antonio Rivers. During the Civil War, cattlemen had to have a pass to move from one county to another to retrieve lost cattle. Neighbors worked together to round up cattle to send on the trail drives to markets in Kansas. A trip to Kansas took about three months. Trail drives did not last very long due to these hazards.
On their ranch, the Fischer brothers not only raised cattle but also Merino sheep, a breed that was introduced by George Kendall. When fencing became possible, they were able to raise a better brand of cattle. At this same time, Hermann Fischer began a general store and the area became known as Fischer’s Store and finally, just Fischer. Hermann Fischer eventually became a successful mercantile business man and Otto became a successful rancher. This store is still standing at Fischer.
The Fischer Agricultural Society was formed to promote agriculture and animal husbandry and to acquaint families in the area through social activities, like dances. Dances were held outside or in someone’s home. A mixture of alcohol and the ability to carry a fire arm resulted in sometimes violent behavior at the dances. The first incident was an altercation between attendees in 1877 at which time a fiddle player was killed by a stray bullet. Can you just picture the scene? This caused the Agricultural Society to close down.
A few years later, the Society reorganized but in 1892 when a dance was held at the Andrea Kuhn place, a few miles from Fischer’s Store another shooting took place, resulting in the decision for the society to try and find a permanent home.
While Hermann Fischer was busy with the mercantile business, Otto Fischer had become a very successful rancher and he eventually owned over 2,000 acres. Otto’s interest in having an Agricultural Society is easy to understand. He gave a portion of his property to the Society to construct a permanent home which they did in 1897. A building for the dance hall would provide more security for Society activities. Society minutes before the last 1897 tragedy were not found and so the society’s minutes officially began in 1897 even though the Society was much older. A dance hall called Fischer Hall was built and still stands.
It is thought that members built the hall with some outside help. It is positive that most of the lumber was purchased at Henne Hardware in New Braunfels, as that name can be seen stamped on the inside boards. Like other dance halls in the county, this hall was built utilizing a lamination of pine and curved into arches, vaulting the ceiling. The wood for the arches was soaked in water and then bent in the form of an arch.
Immediately, activities and dances were held and in the first two years there was a July 4 Ball with Guenther’s Band providing the music, a costume Ball, an Easter Ball with the Bird’s Band, a Festival Ball and the Fischer Store Band performed.
Everything went well at the dances. Right? Wrong! In 1917, at a society dance a Comal County Sheriff’s deputy was shot by a man named George Burkhardt whom the deputy had suspected of robbing a watch in a recent burglary. Burkhardt had a gun in his boot, pulled it out and shot the deputy. Ironically and sadly, the deputy Alfred O. Fischer was the son of Otto Fischer.
Fast forward. The dance hall didn’t close but became the site of weddings, anniversaries, reunions, plays, school functions and masked balls. Best of all the hall became famous because it was the site of some famous western bands. Adolph Hofner started his career at Fischer Hall and Bob Wills who was named to the Music Hall of Fame in 1968, played there. His songs like “San Antonio Rose”, “Take Me Back to Tulsa”, and “Ida Red”, spilled out of the hall into Comal County.
In 1978, a Texas Crossover artist decided that Hollywood would use the hall in the movie, “Honeysuckle Rose, starring Willie Nelson. Although the scene in the hall was only a few minutes long, everyone enjoyed being entertained by Willie Nelson after shooting the pictures, where he sang for the crowds that had gathered.
In 1897, the Society built a nine-pin bowling alley adjacent to the Fischer Hall. The alley has expanded to four lanes and is still in use today. The dance hall is still used today also.
Bryan Weidner has done extensive research on the Fischer family and the Agricultural Society of Fischer’s Store. He is the son of the late Homuth Weidner and Thelma Fischer Weidner. He lives in the Fischer homestead in Fischer, where his grandfather Arnold B. Fischer lived and his mother, Thelma, grew up.