The Pinta Trail from the Guadalupe
The portion of the Pinta Trail between the Guadalupe River and Fredericksburg was particularly important between 1840
and 1870 because it was part of the route taken by the German Immigrants as
they traveled from New Braunfels to Fredericksburg, and on to the Fisher-Miller grant.
The diagram above of Indian trails and early roads in the
area between Comfort, Sisterdale, and Fredericksburg
is based on a drawing of the railroad right of ways between 1870 and 1913.
The Pinta Trail originated at San Pedro springs in San
Antonio, and proceeded in a generally northwesterly
direction through the Hill Country to the vicinity of the San Saba Mission in
Menard. The Pinta Trail was in use by the Indians for hundreds, or possibly
thousands, of years before European settlement of the area began. Only the
faintest traces of the old Pinta Trail still exist today in scattered
locations, but in many areas its route can be fairly well established from
historical accounts, old maps, land records, and local traditions.
When European settlement of the Hill Country began, first by
the Spaniards and later by the Americans, Germans, and other nationalities,
many of the existing Indian trails were used by the settlers as primitive roads.
As the population of the Hill Country increased and modes of travel evolved,
some of the trails were widened, to accommodate wagons. With the advent of the
automobile, some portions of the Indian trails were widened further to
accommodate motor vehicles, and sometime new roads were built that roughly
paralleled the original Indian trails. This is certainly the case with the
Pinta Trail between Sisterdale and Fredericksburg.
It is pretty well established that the trail had an eastern branch and a
western branch in the area around Sisterdale and Comfort respectively in the
south and Fredericksburg in the
north. Today, FM 1376 approximates the path of the eastern branch of the Pinta
Trail between Sisterdale and a point just north of Luckenbach. FM 473 and the Old
San Antonio Road (Old No. 9) approximate the path
of the western branch of the Pinta Trail between Comfort and Fredericksburg.
Trying to establish the original routes of the Indian trails
requires careful review of historical records, collection of local traditions,
and analyses of the terrain and topography. Indian trails were fundamentally
foot and horse trails, and no real consideration was given to the steepness of
the trail other than trying to find the easiest route to the desired location. Cost
of construction was unimportant to the Indians because there was no real cost. Little
thought was given to the length of the trail, and wide local diversions could
occur in the path of the trail to take advantage of gentle slopes, particularly
at the divisions between watersheds. Where possible, the Indian trails followed
creeks and rivers, to take advantage of the availability of water and also of
game. Generally, the trails were not in the creek beds themselves but somewhat
to the side of the creek or river, in the flood plains where the ground tended
to be more level.
The Eastern Branch of
the Pinta Trail
It is pretty well established that the eastern branch of the
Pinta Trail crossed the Guadalupe River
near the point where West Sister Creek joins the river. This point is a few
miles south of Sisterdale, and FM 1376 crosses the river near this location.
There are remains of an old low water bridge across the Guadalupe
River just east of the present FM
1376 bridge, and this is likely to be the place where the Pinta Trail crossed
the river. The Guadalupe River
is very shallow at this point and there are some limestone shelves under the water
which would favor the location as a ford. Historical accounts place the Battle
of Walker Creek in this general area, and some think that “Walker
Creek” was actually West Sister
Creek, but it was called “Walker Creek
in honor of Samuel Walker, a Texas Ranger who was wounded by a Comanche lance
during the battle.
crossing the Guadalupe River,
the eastern branch of the Pinta Trail followed the valley
of West Sister Creek northward for
about eight miles and then diverged to the west in a rather large arc near the
origin of that branch of the creek, just below the divide between the Guadalupe
River and Pedernales
River watersheds. FM 1376 lies
approximately ½ mile east of the Pinta Trail and roughly parallels it for the
first eight miles north of Sisterdale. There the terrain becomes pretty steep,
but there is a relatively moderate slope leading northwestward from West Sister
Creek toward the divide between the Guadalupe River and Pedernales river
watersheds at “the Big Hill” (Mount Alamo). It is thought that the Pinta Trail
left the West Sister Creek valley at this point and ascended over this relatively
moderate slope to a series of hills that led to the divide. Those hills mark
the division between the valley of West
Sister Creek and the valley
of Jung Creek, which may have been
part of the route of the Lower Emigrant trail. At the divide, the Pinta Trail
turned eastward again and returned to the present location of FM1376
approximately 9.1 miles north of Sisterdale.
After crossing the divide, the eastern branch of the Pinta
Trail pretty much followed the present course of FM 1376, crossing South Grape
Creek at Luckenbach, where there are limestone shelves that would have made an
excellent ford. From there, the eastern branch of the Pinta Trail roughly
followed the present course of FM1376 to its intersection with the Luckenbach-Cain
City road, where it turned west and
joined the Western branch of the Pinta Trail in the vicinity of Cain
City, and then proceeded
northwestward to Fredericksburg.
The Western Branch of
the Pinta Trail
The path of the Western branch of the Pinta Trail is
somewhat clearer, because there is much more historical information about it.
It crossed the Guadalupe River
at Waring where the river is rather shallow and has a firm bottom.
this point, the western branch of the Pinta Trail moved away from the Guadalupe
River and proceeded in a generally northwesterly
direction to the current junction of FM 473 and the Waring-Welfare
Road. That point is on the eastern side of the
Block Creek valley. From there, the Pinta Trail descended gently into the Block
Creek valley and crossed Block Creek near the location of the Old Marquardt
Barn and Railroad stop on the Old San Antonio Road
(Old No. 9). At that point, the western branch of the Pinta Trail turned to the
north and followed the Block Creek valley to the divide between the Guadalupe
River and Pedernales
River watersheds at “the Big Hill”,
which was also called Mount Alamo.
After crossing the divide, the western branch of the Pinta Trail followed the
narrow valley of South Grape Creek, crossing the creek at Grapetown.
From there, the western branch of the Pinta Trail proceeded
northward to the vicinity of Cain City
where there was a gap in the hills, and that was the point where the eastern
and western branches of the Pinta Trail joined.
The Pinta Trail crossed the Pedernales
River southeast of Fredericksburg,
just west of the point where Barons Creek flows into the Pedernales. After
crossing the Pedernales River,
the Pinta Trail followed Barons Creek northwestward through the present city of
Fredericksburg and then northwest
along the present route of US 87 toward Cherry Spring and Mason.
The Old San Antonio Road and the Military Road
The population of Texas
began to increase rapidly following the Mexican War and annexation of the Republic
of Texas by the United
States. Increasing numbers of settlers were
crowded into limited areas, because the majority of the state was controlled by
Indians at that time. In an effort to provide protection for the citizens and to
open new areas to settlement, the United States War Department authorized a
line of army forts in 1848 which would stretch from the Rio
Grande to the Red River.
one of the first United States Army posts on the western frontier of Texas.
was established on December 5, 1848
two miles southeast of Fredericksburg
on Barons Creek. This fort would have been very close to the Pinta Trail, and
it was part of the army's effort to protect Texan settlers and travelers from
Indian depredations. It served to protect the Fredericksburg-San
Antonio Road as well as the local region. Fort
Mason was established on July 6, 1851 on Post Oak Hill near
Comanche and Centennial creeks in Mason to protect the settlers in the
In order to provide rapid movement of troops and supplies
between the forts, the eastern branch of the Pinta Trail was widened and
improved so that it was suitable for cavalry and wagon traffic. At that time,
the Pinta Trail was already being used for travel between Mason, Fredericksburg
Boerne, and San Antonio. So the
western branch of the Pinta Trail was called by various names, including “The
Pinta Trail”, “The San Antonio Road”, and “The Military Road”.
Colonel Robert E. Lee was the commander of Fort
Mason immediately prior to the
outbreak of the Civil War. He was ordered to close down Fort Mason and Camp
Verde to keep them from falling into Confederate hands, and then proceed to San
Antonio and thence to Washington, D.C. where he was offered the command of all
Union forces. On his trip from Fort Mason
to San Antonio, Robert E. Lee
traveled down the Military Road,
which was, in fact, the western branch of the Pinta Trail.
The Wagon Road between
Comfort and Sisterdale
Railroad diagrams between 1870 and 1910 indicate that a road
existed between Comfort
and Sisterdale, and this road almost certainly utilized a previous Indian
Trail. From these diagrams it appears that the first few miles of that road,
proceeding eastward from Comfort, until it intersected the Pinta Trail on the
eastern edge of Block Creek near the current intersection of FM 473 and the Waring-Welfare
Road. At that point the wagon road continued
eastward, roughly paralleling the course of the Guadalupe River, but one or two
miles north of the river. At a point about three miles east of Block Creek, the
Pinta Trail (Old San Antonio Road)
continued to the south and crossed the Guadalupe
River at Waring. Then it proceeded,
along the present course of the Waring-Welfare Road
to Welfare and then on to Boerne and San Antonio.
The present FM 473 between Comfort and Sisterdale would closely
approximate the route of the wagon road between Comfort and Sisterdale. The railroad
diagrams indicate that the road going eastward toward Sisterdale deviated sharply
to the north at two points and then quickly returned its easterly route. It is
thought that these deviations were at the first and second Coffee Hollows,
which would have been difficult to cross with wagons pulled by teams of oxen.
Hermann Seele chronicles two trips
along this wagon road between Sisterdale and Comfort in the late 1850’s and
early 1860’s, and his accounts are contained in “The Cypress.”
The Lower Emigrant Trail
On April 23, 1846,
John O. Meusebach led the first group of German immigrants from New
Braunfels to Fredericksburg
along what would later be called the Lower Emigrant Trail. The expedition
included 18 wagons, each pulled by two or three yoke of oxen. A total of 120
people, including the mounted escort, accompanied the wagons, and the trip took
The Lower Emigrant Trail became the primary route by which
thousands of German immigrants traveled between New Braunfels and
Fredericksburg, and then on to the Fisher-Miller Grant beyond the Llano River.
The “Big Hill” at Mount Alamo
would have presented an almost insurmountable barrier for the German
immigrants. They seem to have followed the course of the Guadalupe
River from New
Braunfels to Sisterdale, which was a very important
settlement at the time. Beyond Sisterdale, it is not certain what route was
used by the settlers to get over the “Big Hill”. One possibility is that they
went across the Old San Antonio road to the intersection of that road with the
western branch of the Pinta Trail near Comfort, and then up the valley of Block
Creek. However, that would have added nearly twenty miles to the trip and the
upper portions of the Block Creek valley are very steep. Another alternative
would involve a different trail between Sisterdale and the “Big Hill” or Mount
A Possible Wagon Trail
from Sisterdale to the Emigrant Spring
At this point, the analyses become somewhat speculative.
writer met a man who has lived on the north side of the ridge of the “Big Hill”
in Alamo Springs since the 1970s, and there is an important spring on his
property. He was told by several people, including an old long time resident of
Sisterdale, in the 1970s that his spring had always been called the “Immigrant
Spring” (it was also sometimes called the Kallenberg
Spring). According to these sources, the German immigrants passed through
Sisterdale and then up a valley to the Immigrant Spring where they camped,
rested and got water for themselves and their stock. There is no record of the
spring ever going dry, and in fact it was the only spring in the area that
continued to flow during the extreme drought of the late 1940s and the 1950s.
From the Immigrant Spring, the German settlers proceeded
along the ridge of the “Big Hill” and then went down through the gap at Cain
City and on to Fredericksburg.
From the ridge of the “Big Hill” one can look down a wide valley to the Cain
City Gap, and looking southeast, one can see houses along West Sister Creek,
about five miles from Sisterdale, at the
end of another wide valley. The speculation is that the German settlers passed
from Sisterdale, up the valley to the Immigrant Spring, and then on to Fredericksburg.
There is some evidence of a pre-existing Indian trail that passed up that
valley from Sisterdale to the Immigrant Spring, and an Indian work site,
containing at least three layers of arrowhead and pear point fragments, exists
about 150 yards from the spring.
seems entirely reasonable to believe that the German settlers traveled by this
route from Sisterdale to the “Big Hill”. The Immigrant Spring is on the north side
of the “Big Hill” across from the upper reaches of the Jung
Jung Creek extends from the “Big Hill” to West Sister Creek which it joins
approximately 5.4 miles north of Sisterdale along the route of the eastern
branch of the Pinta Trail. The slope of the Jung Creek valley is quite moderate
except for the last ½ mile where slope becomes somewhat steeper as it rises
toward the summit of the “Big Hill”. At this point there is some evidence of
switchbacks from an old wagon trail.
If this was, in fact, the route used by the German
settlers, they would probably stopped at the Immigrant Spring and then traveled
westward along the ridge of the “Big Hill” to the place where the ridge was
crossed by the western branch of the Pinta Trail. This is the point where the Fredericksburg
and Northern tunnel passed through the “Big Hill.”
At this point, the settlers would have turned north and
traveled along the Pinta Trail to Fredericksburg.
Compiled from various sources by
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The San Antonio, Fredericksburg & Northern
Railway Company 1913 – 1917 in A History of the Texas Shortline
Railroads, May, June, July 1996, Volume 1, Number 1, Page 17.
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v.
(accessed August 8, 2009).
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v.
(accessed August 8, 2009).
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v.
"Fort Martin Scott," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/FF/qbf33.html
(accessed August 8, 2009).
Glen E. Lich, The German Texans (San Antonio: The University of Texas Institute of
Texas Cultures at San Antonio, 1981), 53-54.
Hermann Seele, Edward
C. Breitenkamp, Tr., The Cypress and Other Writings of a German Pioneer in Texas,
(Austin, London: German-Texan Heritage Society, 1979), 157-158.