Unique is a funny and over-used word. There are no comparatives for “unique” — no uniquer or uniquest, no more unique or most unique. It means one of a kind, nothing else like it, alone in the universe.
So I’m going out on a limb here and telling you that Fredericksburg, Texas, is unique.
Why is it unique? It’s the home of what is considered to be the only treaty ever made with Native Americans that was never broken: the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty.
The 175th anniversary of that treaty will be celebrated next weekend.
After 1842, when Texas gained its independence from Mexico, efforts were made to bring settlers into the Republic. Due to political conditions in Germany, groups there began looking at Texas as an answer to resettlement.
Among the German groups was one known as the Adelsverein made up of 21 German noblemen. Their first land purchase resulted in the founding of New Braunfels, northeast of San Antonio.
In 1845, John Meusebach chose the site that would become Fredericksburg, northwest of San Antonio. A small party of surveyors arrived in January 1846. The first colonist — approximately 120 men, women and children — arrived in May.
Because the settlement was in the heart of the Comancheria — the traditional homelands of the Comanches — the colonists feared attacks. Early in 1847, Meusebach and a band of 40 rode further into the territory to make contact with the Comanches.
Historian and expert on Indian culture Hoppy Hopkins, who has written extensively on the interactions between the settlers and Native Americans, set me on the trail of Ferdinand Roemer, a German scientist whose diary records details of the meeting.
According to Roemer’s journal, the meeting took place in the main camp of the Penatuka Comanche.
Meusebach’s words of peace and assurances of respect were received favorably and plans were made to consider the terms of peace and to meet again in Fredericksburg in May to finalize the treaty.
On May 9, 1847, the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty was signed.
This year’s observance of the anniversary will be particularly exciting. The first event will be a prayer service in observance of the National Day of Prayer and the anniversary of the Thursday evening.Friday evening will include a “Lasting Friendship” ceremony, cowboy cookout, music and fireworks.
The Saturday schedule includes a parade on Main Street, live history demonstrations and hands-on activities at the nearby Pioneer Museum.
A rare display of the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty will be hosted at the Museum of the Pacific War. In addition, there will be special events, Comanche dancers and Indian Market Day vendors in the Marktplatz.
On that Sunday, there will be a commemoration of the laying of the cornerstone of the Vereins Kirche (a reconstruction of the first permanent building erected in Fredericksburg), a reading of the Treaty and a wreath laying at the bust of John O. Meusebach.
I learned about all this when I was in Fredericksburg two weeks ago. It’s my understanding that there will be Oklahoma Comanches in attendance, but I’ve been unable to confirm what, if any, of their roles will be.
Even if you can’t go to this event, Fredericksburg is a wonderful place to visit any time of year. I highly recommend visiting in May when the first peaches come in (probably late this year). Fredericksburg peaches are the best.
There will be a number of peach stands open in the area, including one at Das Peach Haus. Be sure to go in and check out all the specialty food items produced by Fischer & Wieser.
Most people spend most of their time in the historic downtown district. Here you’ll find shops of all sorts, cool and quirky boutiques, art, antiques and one of my favorite shops: Der Kuchen Laden.
Anything you can think of for the kitchen or cooking, you’ll find here — and lots of things you hadn’t thought of, like onion goggles or a jalapeno pepper corer.
Hungry or thirsty, it’s here, too. Beer, wine, spirits or just plain soda pop, German food, gourmet fare or casual eateries are all found along Main Street.
And if you have a sweet tooth, stop in at Clear River Ice Cream and Bakery for homemade ice cream.
Here’s another unique thing in Fredericksburg: quintessential chocolates. Chocolatier Lecia Duke is the only chocolatier in the US to fill chocolates with wine, liqueurs or juice.
Using a technique she learned in Switzerland — and taking advantage of some interesting chemistry — she is able to encapsulate the liquids in a thin, sugar shell before enrobing them in chocolate.
Expensive, yes. and they must be eaten in one bite. The chocolate filled with cabernet sauvignon that I tried would have tempted Carrie Nation.
Speaking of wine, there are around a hundred wineries within easy driving distance of Fredericksburg. Many people book wine tours so they don’t drink and drive.
As for history and museums, the local trolley tour is outstanding, and the Pioneer Museum, an open-air collection, is fascinating.
I don’t usually like military museums, but the Museum of the Pacific War is one of the best. From the causes of Asian conflict to the bombing of Japan, this place is better than any history book.
Fredericksburg is the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas during World War II.
The Marktplatz in the center of Fredericksburg’s historic district features a sculpture of John Meusebach and Comanche Chief Santanna sharing a peace pipe.
A standing figure represents the nearly two dozen other chiefs who were party to the agreement. The reproduction of the Verein Kirche here has a small museum. And the park is the perfect place to rest or have a picnic.
Outside of town, the LBJ State Park and Historic Site has several components. Arrange for tours of the LBJ Ranch at park headquarters, but don’t miss the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in the park.
Another great stop is Wildseed Farms, southeast of town. This was the only place we could see a field of bluebonnets; the drought has turned the spring landscape brown.
I haven’t even begun to talk about places to stay, but choices are many. They range from individual Sunday Houses (built by German farmers who came to town on the weekend to market and go to church) to elegant inns, boutique hotels and chains.
Fredericksburg is one of my favorite destinations. Go during the week. Weekends can get crowded. But go. You’ll love it. It’s unique.