County Seat: Fredericksburg * County Population: 24,837 (2010 U.S. Census)
The Gillespie County Courthouse was built in 1939 in a Modern style as designed by Edward Stein. The brick capitol with tile accents is the county’s third temple of justice.
The town of Fredericksburg was founded by John O. Meusebach in May 1846. Once Gillespie was organized some two years later – after being carved from Travis and Bexar counties – Fredericksburg was named the county seat.
In her book, “The Texas Courthouse Revisited,” author June Rayfield Welch describes the county’s early days as follows:
County records were kept in the log cabin store, home and
saloon of John Hunter, the first county clerk. In 1850 he
refused to sell liquor to a soldier and in the course of a
struggle killed the man. The friends of the deceased from
Fort Martin Scott burned Hunter’s building, destroying
everything including the county archives.
In 1854, Henry Beazley and J.H. Doebner designed Gillespie County’s inaugural courthouse, a two-story stone building complete with porches and outside stairways built for some $2,200.
A second county capitol fashioned of native limestone was finished in 1882 for $23,000, as designed by Alfred Giles in an Italianate style. As historians tell it, Giles was robbed while en route to Fredericksburg to supervise the courthouse construction.
According to “The Courthouses of Texas” by Mavis P. Kelsey Sr. and Donald H. Dyal, Giles was one of two who competed for a $50 prize for the best Gillespie County Courthouse design. When Giles was selected as winner, he refused the money and asked that it be awarded to his competitor, F.E. Ruffini, as a tribute to Ruffini’s design talent.
The county remained in its limestone home until 1939; the structure was later restored in 1966 to house the Pioneer Memorial Library and a community hall.
The present-day courthouse was financed with $80,000 in bonds issued by the county and a $65,000 Public Works Administration grant.
Gillespie County is known for its numerous historic sites such as the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Originally named The Admiral Nimitz Museum and housed solely in the historic Nimitz Hotel, the museum is the only institution in the continental United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific Theater battles of World War II. Located on a six-acre site, the museum includes the George Bush Gallery, Admiral Nimitz Museum, Pacific Combat Zone, Plaza of Presidents, Memorial Courtyard, Japanese Garden of Peace, and the Nimitz Education and Research Center.
Gillespie County is home to a host of other attractions, festivals and special events, as detailed at http://www.fredericksburg-texas.com/. H
William A. Roeder
William A. Roeder