Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rangers Heritage Center & Fort Martin Scott, Fredericksburg, Texas

We learned about The Texas Rangers at the Rangers Heritage Center (besides what knowledge we had from watching Walker, Texas Ranger). The Rangers started around 1823.  Their service is marked by the Ranger Ring of Honor, noting the names of those who died in the line of service.  The Gonzales Rangers and also called "The Immortal 32" is dated March 6, 1836; The Dawson Massacre was on September 18, 1842; The Mexican-American War was between 1846-1848.  The last date of dedication is 1865. Respect and Integrity is represented by the five point star of this historic Ranger badge and the Rangers themselves.  Over 500 names are listed on the Ring of Honor to preserve their legacy for all time.

Ring of Honor

Texas Ranger Frontier Battalion 1874-1900

Dedicated on May 1, 1983, as a lasting memorial to honor all Texas Rangers; that special breed of men since 1823. As long as there is a Texas, there will be Texas Rangers.

Attached to the Rangers Heritage Center is Fort Martin Scott, which is in the National Registry of Historic Places. There are a few structures on the property and more are scheduled for restoration.  

Soldiers lived a rough life on the Texas frontier. Even though rank had its privileges, Fort Martin Scott offered little amenities. Private quarters and private privies were the only noticeable luxuries officers enjoyed at the fort. There were six buildings for officers' quarters. They were made of adobe, weatherboard or logs, and stood on the north side of the parade ground facing east towards the enlisted men's barracks. The privies stood behind the row of officers' quarters. 

Bachelor officers shared a single room together while a married officer lived alone with his wife and family. Army life on the frontier often meant traveling light, so furniture was crude and typically constructed at the post out of whatever material was available. When an officer was reassigned to another frontier post, he usually took only what he and his horse could carry.

Most of the commissioned officers assigned to Fort Martin Scott were junior in rank ~ young captains and lieutenants. These junior officers commanded the infantry and dragoon companies stationed at the post. The duties of the officers at Fort Martin Scott included inspecting the enlisted troops, training them in horsemanship and tactics, leading patrols, and enforcing Army discipline.

Jail cell

The Fort was established on December 5, 1848, by Capt. Seth Eastman.  It was the first U.S. Army post on the western frontier. There is evidence that this post may have been used by Texas Rangers prior to that in the 1830s and 1840s.

Braeutigam Family

In 1870, 17 years after the Army decommissioned and abandoned Fort Martin Scott, Johann Wolfgang Braeutigam bought the 640 acre property for $1,650. With several of the original buildings in decline, Braeutigam set about transforming the old fort into his family homestead. They moved into the post's original guardhouse. From salvaged bits of other buildings, they added more rooms as well as front and back porches. 

Additionally, they hand-dug a well, lined with limestone, and planted trees, shrubs, and grapes. Later, they built a saloon across the old parade ground near the road leading into Fredericksburg. They also built the first dancehall in the county, and made oval tracks for horse races. The first Gillespie County Fair was held in 1881 at what the locals called Braeutigam's Garten. 

Tragedy struck in September 1884, when thieves attempted to rob the saloon. Johann resisted and was murdered by the robbers. The family closed the saloon and the remaining children sold their interest in the place to Henry, the youngest son. The property stayed in the Braeutigam family until the City of Fredericksburg purchased the land in 1959.

For one week in May 1986, archaeologists from the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio conducted a dig at Fort Martin Scott to locate foundations of the original buildings. Some of the foundations of the original officers' quarters were visible prior to the survey. For other structures, they relied on an 1853 Army survey of the post that showed building locations. Finding the cut-stone foundation of the fort's bakery oven, as well as the foundation of the laundresses' quarters was cause for celebration. A sweep with a metal detector found the probable location of the blacksmith shop, behind the enlisted men's quarters.

Working under the blistering sun with shovels and trowels, archaeologists unearthed 754 artifacts. The number would have been higher had they excavated trash dumps or privies. The site yielded glass fragments of windows and bottles, and various ceramic shards. Hand-forged square-cut nails, dropped on the ground by the original builders over 130 years before the dig, are also part of the archaeological record. The few military objects found are attributed to the soldiers stationed at Fort Martin Scott from 1848 to 1853.

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