SSOM Header
June 2013

Never seen a monument erected to a pessimist. Will Harvey

In this July edition of the Sunshine State of Mind we will explore the possibility that Texas could have remained a Mexican territory and never become the 28th state in 1845. Bollocks you say? It is true. There were defining moments in Texas history, that while often over shadowed by the legends of Sam Houston, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, were every bit as important to the eventual independence of the Republic of Texas.

Let's take a ride

We all have our favorite roads. Daydream a little dream with me. Let the memories of your favorite rides come forth. Release those gems and let them flood your consciousness, feel the wind and sun on your face, take note of the season. Making memories, having memories, I suggest this is the essence of why we ride.

When asked what my favorite ride is, I am hard pressed to come up with a single one. There are so many memories of traveling about the Texas countryside, occasionally with intent, and often aimlessly wandering without a destination. However, there is one that often comes to mind. I have approached the area from just about every angle. There are so many stories to be told about La Grange, the surrounding area, and its history, I could easily fill the entire Folly. In this article, I am going to cut off a thin slice and present it for your approval.

A State Historic Site

When you ride through La Grange, you are close to where Spanish explorers made their Colorado River crossing. The trail they blazed became known as El Camino de la Bahia, "The Bay Trail." It stretched from Goliad to Nacogdoches.

Heading south out of La Grange, on US-77, is a long right-hand sweeper that climbs into a mini forest that is totally out of character. You will go from a mostly flat and straight road, then suddenly find yourself in a climbing, twisting, mountainous road, reminiscent of the Ouachita forest. Don't blink too many times; it won't last forever. Do keep your eyes open. Our gem is located at the top of the rise on the west side of the highway, the Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site.
Monument Hill State Park

Monument Hill has much to offer to anyone with an ounce of curiosity or sense of beauty. The park takes up 40 acres of Fayette County, overlooking La Grange and the Colorado River. When you walk into the ranger station for a park map and to offer a donation, you'll find yourself in a mini museum. A knowledgeable Ranger is there to answer your questions. Walking though the mini-museum will give you a sense of perspective and anticipation of what you'll soon discover as you walk through the park.

Ranger Station
The Monument Hill Ranger Station
The Germans

In 1845, thousands of German immigrants were stranded at Indianola due to their agents running out of money. Disease plagued the group and hundreds died. Most tried to walk to their destination of either New Braunfels or Fredericksburg. Doing so infected many settlers along the way, hundred of them died as well. Many of the Germans gave up trying to get to their original settlements and laid down roots wherever they felt it was a good place to stop.

I have not discovered how Heinrich Kreische came to America but come he did, arriving in Fayette County in 1849. He purchased 172 acres on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. This land included the land where the Dawson/Meir tomb is located. He honored the men who gave their lives for the independence of Texas by caring for the tomb his entire life.
Ranger Station

Page 2

The ordinary man is involved in action, the hero acts. An emmense difference - Henry Miller

Heinrich was a master stonemason and was involved in the construction of many homes in and around Fayette County. In 1860, using a ravine with a natural spring, he built an ingenious brewery using a gravity feed water system. When he raised the banner high upon the cliff that said "Frisch Auf" (Freshen Up), members of the community came to the bluff to enjoy a picnic, dancing and a stein or two of Kreische's Bluff Beer.

Ranger Station
Brewery Ruins
Mr. Kreische died in a wagon accident in 1882. In 1884 the brewery was closed.
So Much To See

As you begin your walk, the first thing that catches your eye is a monolith, nestled among the trees and stretching towards the sky. This monument marks the location of the tomb that contains the members of the Dawson Massacre and the Mier Expedition. The tomb was acquired by the State of Texas in 1907. The Archbishop of San Antonio and citizens of Fayette County deeded 3.58 acres to the site in 1949. In 1977, 36 acres, the house and brewery were added. The park opened in 1983.

Behind the monument is a breathtaking view of La Grange and the Colorado River. Turn around and you'll see the house that Heinrich built. Next to it is a Live Oak tree that is over 200 years old. Continue along the path and you'll see the outbuilding and smoke house as well. You can stop for a minute at the overlook to the brewery ruins, or for the more adventurous, you may walk further down the path and see the brewery up close and personal.

The Tomb

Interred at the tomb are men from two groups who engaged the Mexican army at different times.

Captain Dawson embarked on a fierce march to join forces with Captain Caldwell. Dawson's band of 54 never reached Capt. Caldwell. Instead Capt. Dawson found himself in a pincer between two companies of General Woll's Mexican army. Capt. Dawson's position was pounded by Mexican artillery. After a brief meeting, the Texans realized the futility and raised a white flag. Exactly what happened next is unclear but the Mexicans did not stop firing upon the Texan's position. 36 Texans were killed, 3 escaped. Of the 18 remaining, a few died trying to escape, and others died crossing the Rio Grande on their way to Perote Prison. Nine were released from prison in 1843-1844.

The Tomb
The Dawson/Meir Tomb
The ill-fated Meir expedition was ripe for failure. Mixed in with patriots were men from other states looking for adventure and booty. After capture, some tried to escape. That is when Santa Anna proclaims every 10th man was to be executed. Each man picked a bean from the jar. Those who displayed a white been were killed. Hence the infamous "White Bean incident." These two events fueled the indignation that spurred many men of Texas, as well as men from all across the nation, to join the cause for Texas Independence.

Well Buckaroos, we near the end of the second page. I have to stop clicking these keys and go for a ride. Amana has a new front tire so it is time to scuff it up a bit. Y'all think about visiting the Monument Hill Park. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy. Ride safe, ride often, but mostly -
Ride em if ya go em!

That men do not learn very much from history is the most important of all the lessons of history

Colorado River
Overlooking La Grange
The Kreische Home
Rear View
Out Building
The Brewery

Monument Hill
Men Who Drew The Black Bean
Guardian Angel
Guardian Angel