Day Trips: Gillespie County Country Schools

Take a trip back in education history while enjoying the Hill Country scenery


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Driving trails to the historic schools of Gillespie County follow scenic backroads around Fredericksburg and provide a peek into rural Texas education.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s German farmers organized one-room "neighborhood" schools. At its peak, there were 44 rural schools in and around Fredericksburg. In 1949, the Legislature consolidated independent schools into districts, which forced the schools to close. Some schoolhouses were preserved as community centers; others were sold and allowed to fade into history.


The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools (www.historicschools.org) maintains a history of a dozen of the schools and a map to 17. Once a month, before the coronavirus pandemic, former students would hold open houses at selected schools. 

The self-driving tour map on the Friends' website is broken down into four trails. Each trail takes around 2.5 hours, depending on stops. All of the schools are closed to visitors, but most allow access to the grounds and peeking through the windows. 


The construction of the schoolhouses ranged from stout limestone walls to tin siding now streaked with rust. The schools were originally heated by wood-burning stoves, drew water with hand pumps, had outhouses, and didn't have electricity. The Willow City School is the only two-story schoolhouse. 

Generally, one teacher instructed grades one through eight. German was the first language for many of the students, but the classes were often multicultural. The Meusebach Creek School had five students whose parents were freed slaves. President Lyndon Johnson attended the Williams Creek (Albert) School

The four driving trails converge in Fredericksburg but can be joined at other points. Each trail includes three or four historic schoolhouses and miles of Hill Country scenery.


1,500th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a weekly travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Day Trips
Day Trips: Polly's Chapel, Bandera
Day Trips: Polly's Chapel, Bandera
Frontier chapel survives 140 years in the woods

Gerald E. McLeod, June 5, 2020

Day Trips: Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
Day Trips: Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
A National Wildlife Refuge in our midst

Gerald E. McLeod, May 29, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools, Willow City School, Meusebach Creek School, President Lyndon Johnson, Fredericksburg, Hill Country, Williams Creek (Albert) School

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle