By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Ranch Road 32 West is worth a drive into a scenic part of Comal County. From New Braunfels, drive out FM 306, right on Purgatory Road, then left at RR 32 over a section called Devil’s Backbone. Probably named for the spine of the devil, it winds and winds and you are sure to get car-sick if you are prone to such an affliction.
At the intersection of RR32 and FM484 you come to a settlement called Fischer. Just to tell you how long this settlement has been there, the area (Hermann Fischer Ranch) received the Texas Department of Agriculture Family Land Heritage 150 year designation in 2004, which is given for continuous agricultural operation in the same family beginning at 100 years.
Hermann Fischer and his wife Anna were the first to settle in the valley on 160 acres where they built the first log cabin in the area. They came to Texas in 1846. Otto Fischer bought land next to Hermann’s, and both brothers were in the cattle business. Otto married Adolfina Schlameus. Other Germans that settled in the area were– Schlameus, Spangenberg, Linnartz, Luehlfing, Sachtleben, Pantermuehl, Kaderli, Haas, Schubert, Wersterfer, Krause and Wiechman. With this many families in the valley, Hermann decided to build a store in 1866 at one end of his log cabin. The store became the center of the community. With a large assortment of merchandise, Hermann soon expanded the store to three buildings selling groceries, farm machinery and household goods.
When the settlement received a post office named Fischer’s Store in 1876, it became well known over Texas. Then the name changed to Fischer Store and then in 1950 to Fischer.
A dance hall, bowling alley, school, blacksmith shop, cotton gin, gristmill, rodeo grounds, grist mill and last, but certainly not least, a cemetery was added.
Not far from the settlement on Ranch Road 32 is a large cemetery that has the earmarks of a caring group of people. This cemetery already is an HISTORIC TEXAS CEMETERY. Many Fischers are buried in that cemetery. Of the almost 500 graves there are other prominent family names.
In 1886 Otto Fischer gave 30 acres of his land to the Fischer’s Store Community for the purpose of building a school for their children. It was on the highest point of this land that the cemetery informally got started. It was appropriately called Fischer’s School Graveyard at Fischer’s Store. The Fischer Cemetery Association was later organized in 1976.
The first burial was the infant son of Monroe and Nettie Smith, nearby landowners and also the cemetery caretaker. Besides family members interred, there are also 21 graves of people whose remains were moved from the area that would become covered by Canyon Lake. Throughout the years, four graves were also moved from the Pantermuehl Ranch and single graves from Dripping Springs, Pleasant Valley, Schlameus Ranch and Suche Ranch.
So what happened to the rest of the 30 acres that was to be used for education? A school was built on this property and still stands. It is now the Fischer Community Center. All the one-room county school houses were consolidated under the Comal County Rural School which led to the current Comal Independent School District. Under this consolidation, the district claimed ownership of the land given by Otto Fischer. In 1976 the CISD transferred 3.851 acres of the original 30 acres to the Fischer Cemetery Association. The association divided the land into 1170 burial plots.
Leaving the cemetery, turn right on RR32 which leads you into the Fischer settlement. Located in the old Fischer Store is the Fischer Store Museum. There is so much history in that museum and so many genuine old things that tell the history of the Fischer community. One relict of interest to me was the old telephone booth that was located inside the store. It is beautifully constructed of wood. Inside the booth was a phone and at one time there were 16 parties on this one line. I even remember when there were two party lines in the city of New Braunfels. But 16?
The old cotton gin ledgers are there and their liquor license #84. The shelving and tables are all authentic to the store. Another interesting relic was a large cabbage slicer. Guess what that was used for. Right. It was used to make sauerkraut. Many people that live in the country still make sauerkraut.
Just down the road from the museum is the old dance hall. Private dances and receptions are still held and a public dance once a year. Next to the dance hall is the bowling alley where, to this day, nine pin bowling takes place.
Did you know that Fischer Store had a polo team? In the museum are homemade mallets made of a type of bamboo and wood. The open grass field measuring 300 feet long and 160 yards wide is still there across from the dance hall. The game was played with four players. One game lasted six chukkers or periods of 7 ½ minutes each. Cecil Smith who died in 1999 is given credit for starting the polo team at Fischer Store. Smith bought horses from the ranchers and trained them to be polo ponies. Polo ponies cannot be used as ranch horses once they are trained to be polo ponies. These trained ponies were temperamental and had a mind of their own. Part of the sport was the pony trying to throw off the rider.
The Comal County Fair will be this next week, Sept 24 to 28. There won’t be a polo game, but there once was. Back in 1932, the fair was reeling from the Depression, trying to stay afloat. They asked for local talent and the Fischer Store polo team challenged the New Braunfels team. The Fischer Store team was made up of Bill Fischer, Raymond Fischer, J.W. Bode, Bubie Vollmering, Reagan Calhoun and —Pape. The New Braunfels team was E.A. Maier, Hilmar Staats, Clifford Startz, Tommie Specht, Dickie Tausch, Roy Meredith, R.R. Coreth, Jackie Bergfeld, and Herbert Marion.
Between chukkers, a burlesque polo team from New Braunfels put on a comedy act. That team was made up of Ernst Stein, Charles Scruggs, Paul Jahn, Pete Nuhn, Coach Rode, “Red” Babel, Barney Koepp, Dr. Rennie Wright and Jack Eiband. What a sight that must have been!
Even without a polo game, see you at the Fair!