No history of the Pedernales River Valley would be complete without the recipe for Pedernales River Chili from the kitchen of President L.B. Johnson's cook, Mrs. Zephyr Wright. The recipe below was published in A Bowl of Red by Frank X Tolbert.
As a public service, variation of the Wright recipe was printed on a card by Lady Bird Johnson while L.B.J. was President. "It has been almost as popular as the government pamphlet on the care and feeding of children." Tolbert quoted Lady Bird.
4 lbs. chili meat (venison)
Combine the meat, onion and garlic in a large skillet and sear to lightly brown.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer (covered) for one hour. Skim off grease. Serves 12.
Note: Renowned chili cook Rick Fowler refrigerates his chili overnight to "seal in the spices." After removing from the refrigerator, skim off remaining grease.
FULL MOON INN
For over 10,000 years The Pedernales* River Valley has been appreciated for its natural beauty, abundant wildlife and fertile soil. Flowing from deep springs in southeastern corner of Kimble County toward the northeast for 106 miles The Pedernales River crosses Gillespie, Blanco, and Hays counties, to its mouth on Lake Travis. The name Pedernales River translates from the Spanish as River of Flint due to the abundance of flint rocks found in the riverbed and frequently quarried by Native Americans to fashion flint tools.
On the basis of Paleo-Indian projectile points, or arrowheads, archaeological evidence human habitation in the Pedernales River Valley can be traced back at least 12,000 years. The names of the original tribes in the area are not known. The first written records, dating from the sixteenth century, are of the Tonkawa. In the early 1700s the Apache displaced the Tonkawa and by the end of the century the Comanche had displaced the Apache. During this period the Spanish were increasingly concerned about incursions into Texas by the French, who were supplying arms to the Comanche. In an effort to expand control of what the Spanish considered their territory to the north, they sent expeditionary forces into The Lomeria or Hill Country in search of a suitable site for a mission which was expected to serve several purposes. Apart from establishing an outpost in this unknown frontier, it would be the primary mission for converting the Lipan Apache to Christianity.
The mission, with its Apache warriors, would also be a buffer against Comanche attacks further south, particularly on the settlement in San Antonio. In 1750 the Spanish government proposed the establishment of a new mission among the Lipan Apache Indians who lived along the Pedernales River. Led by Lieutenant Juan Galvan from the Presidio de San Antonio de Bejar, the regions around the Pedernales and Llano Rivers were explored but lacked the fertile soil, timber and abundant water necessary to support a mission and a presidio. The presidio alone would be home to almost four hundred inhabitants, including women and children. Finally, along the San Saba River they found what they had been seeking; fertile soil, timber and abundant water.
Also on the minds of the Spanish authorities were rumors of abundant veins of gold and silver in Hill Country. On February 17, 1756 Bernardo de Miranda y Flores departed San Antonio with twenty-three men with instructions to locate an already legendary silver mine, Cerro del Almagre or Hill of Red Ochre. Eight days later, having endured torrential rains, flooded rivers, and rocky terrain, they arrived at the Almagre. Within the hill Miranda claimed to have found a tremendous stratum of silver-bearing ore. "The mines which are in the Cerro del Almagre," Miranda reported, "are so numerous that I guarantee to give every settler in the province of Texas a full claim " The Amalgre fostered numerous legends of lost silver mines which attracted speculators for over a century.
INTO THE 19TH CENTURY
The Society of German Immigration was founded in March of 1844 by a group of German noblemen advocating immigration to Texas as a solution to the problems of political unrest and overpopulation facing Germany. The organization soon fell victim to the unscrupulous Texan, Henry Francis Fischer, when it purchased, sight unseen, an interest in the Fisher-Miller Land Grant. Located between the Llano and San Saba Rivers, the four million acre grant was in the very heartland of the legendary lost Spanish mines and Comanche territory.
The fabled silver mines were the financial "ace-in-the-hole" for the Immigration Company. Prince Solms-Braunfels mentions them in his book Texas, 1844-1845: "As to the knowledge of the mountains [the Fisher Miller Grant], most of it is obtained from the Mexicans, who in turn received it from the nomadic Indians. They describe the mountains as rich in ore, especially copper and silver. This statement is also confirmed by the old documents drawn up for the leasing of land. It is likewise well known that Texas as a territory had opened several silver mines, directed by the Spanish government; but these immediately after the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, due partly to the order of the government and partly to the inimical Indian tribes, were destroyed..."
In 1845 the Society's attempt to settle the grant under the inept supervision of Solms-Braunfels, was stalled in New Braunfels with 439 immigrants waiting and, for the most part living at the expense of the Society. Almost immediately upon replacing the prince as commissioner general, John O. Meusebach discovered, to his dismay, the Society was virtually bankrupt due to the financial mismanagement of the prince; and that the settlers, after a year of waiting to relocate to the grant, were understandably impatient. Added to those pressures was the fact that, according to the contract with the Republic of Texas, the grant had to be settled by August 1847. If not, all efforts and investments would have been in vain.
With the deadline looming on the horizon, Meusebach pressed forward on the obligation to settle the frontier. In 1845 Meusebach chose the valley of the Pedernales River for a settlement as it was half way between New Braunfels and the Fisher-Miller Grant.
"Approaching the location within sight of the Pedernales River," Irene Marschall King wrote in John O. Meusebach: German Colonizer in Texas, "Meusebach halted his white horse to survey the land. It was a beautiful valley, with grass knee high and fine trees in abundance, especially along the river. As he came to the water's edge, he found a large pool, in which fish and soft-shelled turtles abounded. A short distance downstream the water cut through high banks to a ten-foot-high waterfall, which spread into a crystal-clear basin. At one point the river was one hundred feet wide, Grapevines festooned high in the trees..." King continues, "The countryside was covered with abundant pasture grasses, with deep humus underneath, which would produce excellent farm products... Meusebach visualized sugar, indigo, and tobacco crops, noting that the climate was favorable for fruit growing and for horticultural experiments. The native grapes could be used as rootstock for improved varieties. Meusebachs father had previously sent cuttings to be used for grafting." In May 1846 Meusebach founded the community of Fredericksburg and a century or so later it became a major tourist attraction in Texas.
Today the Perdernales River Valley, with its peach orchards and vineyards attest to Meusebachs clear-sighted, if not prophetic, assessment of the area as one favorable for fruit growing and vineyards. The abundance wildflowers in the area continues to be one of the major seasonal attractions in Texas.
The Pedernales River Valley is more than a way-station to Fredericksburg. Located in the Heart of the Hill Country it has become a destination in itself offering quality lodging, fine restaurants, diverse shopping, award-winning wineries, live music venues, near-by state and national parks plus some of the best sight-seeing in the state of Texas.
Pronounced "Purr-DIN-alice" by native Texans
Article written by Ira Kennedy
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UPDATED APRIL 20, 2009