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Time calls for change in roads

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Are you one who thinks that John Meusebach led the group that founded Fredericksburg up Fredericksburg Road, out Highway 46 and then straight on to Fredericksburg? I know that’s what I thought, but it’s not true.

I ran across evidence that this more recent pathway from New Braunfels to Fredericksburg wasn’t the way the group traveled. I enlisted directional help in interpreting Dr. Ferdinand Roemer’s description of the early 1840s route from retired TxDOT archaeologist Al McGraw. Roemer states that there was only one possible road to Fredericksburg from New Braunfels due to the accessibility of water for the animals and because of geographic conditions for wagons.

The road ran in a southwesterly direction from NB toward Fredericksburg just past the Cibolo along the Old San Antonio Road. The route includes a portion of old Nacogdoches Road that is designated as a National Historic Trail of the Camino Real. At this point it takes a straight northwesterly course intersecting and then following an old Indian trail running northward from San Antonio called the Pinto Trail (Pinta). The route continues to the valley of the Salado and then to a higher elevation and several miles above this point to Meusebach’s Comanche Springs. One would then descend into the Guadalupe valley to the banks of the Guadalupe River near modern Sisterdale where wagons could cross. Finally, travel to a high, broad plateau and continue north to Fredericksburg.

The route has few rough places or steep inclines, and is free of swamp and muddy river crossings. Apparently the Adelsverein helped maintain this route, as Roemer notes that he met a crew of 20 Adelsverein men working on the road near the Salado.

After resigning from the Adelsverein, Meusebach settled at Comanche Springs (now in the vicinity of Camp Bullis), established a livestock operation and an inn. The date is thought to be before 1852. Later when the route to Fredericksburg changed to the north, Meusebach sold his land at Comanche Springs and moved to Loyal Valley on Cherry Springs near Fredericksburg.

Today if you would travel the same general route, you would take Hwy. 482 from NB, continue on the Nacogdoches Road towards San Antonio, go past Rolling Oaks Mall, turn west onto 1604 and then take IH10 towards Fredericksburg.

Texas early roads often followed Indian trails. Some people think that these trails were created by long 12 foot tent poles dragged behind horses as they moved their tents from one spot to another. When the Spanish explorers moved into Texas, they reported seeing large herds of wild animals roaming the trails. The Spanish brought horses of Arabian stock and mustangs were their descendants. With time, the Comanche in particular had mastered the mustang for traveling the trails. Later, the Caminos were roadways blazed by expeditions connecting towns and missions.

When Comal County was created in 1846, the Commissioners Court had the power to lay out new roads and discontinue old ones. The court appointed local overseers to supervise maintenance of the roads. It required all able-bodied males between 21 and 45 to perform road duties several days a year. Also all people convicted of misdemeanors and those who owed unpaid fines were compelled to work out the amount in roadwork.

Laurie Jasinski in her book “Hill Country Backroads”about the origin of Comal County roads, stated that the commissioners declared Seguin and San Antonio Sts. to be the first highway roads in the county. By the latter 1800s some established routes were Smithsons Valley-Boerne Rd., Cranes Mill Rd., Bear Creek Rd .,Boerne-San Antonio Rd., Purgatory Rd., and Mountain Valley Rd.

By the turn of the century, in the United States, two million miles of roads stretched across the country, but most were pitted rocky trails or soggy mud-holes. Jasinski found that in 1895, there were four autos registered in the US, and by 1899, three thousand.

In 1907, Harry Landa was one of the earliest auto owners. Change was taking place. As more autos were being purchased, local merchants converted the farmer wagon yards to parking lots. Hitching posts were removed.

Around 1910, crews improved city streets by a process of graveling called macadamizing, which was a process of packing down the roads with layers of progressively smaller rocks until the top layer consisted of crushed stones called screening, no larger than two inches in diameter. The roads caused so much dust that a sprinkling cart had to sprinkle down the roads every day.

1850s map of early route to Fredericksburg

1850s map of early route to Fredericksburg

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In the next column we will look at how touring cars contributed to the tourist industry and Joe Sanders helped that happen.