The Flavor of German Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas, one of the towns I used as inspiration for Blue Falls. Fredericksburg was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Photo credit: By Photolitherland Chris Litherland (Own work My own photo) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever done any traveling in Central Texas, roughly from the coastal plains near Houston over to San Antonio and Austin and up through the Hill Country, chances are you’ve at least seen a sign for a German bakery. Texas might seem an odd place to find so many German bakeries, but there’s a historical reason for their existence.

German migration to Stephen Austin’s colony of Texas began in the 1830s, following in the footsteps of Friedrich Dierks, who became known in Texas as Johanna Friedrich Ernst. He’d come to America planning to settle in Missouri but changed his mind when he heard about large land grants in Texas. He applied for and received a grant of some 4,000 acres in what is now Austin County, west of Houston. This became the heart of the German Belt in the years to come. Ernst wrote back to friends about Texas, and his letters became widely publicized. In the years following Ernst’s arrival, thousands more Germans immigrated to Texas. During the 1850s, the population of German-born Texans reached then passed 20,000. After the Civil War — and thus the Union blockade of Confederate ports — ended, ships loaded with Germans started arriving again.

Apple strudel. Photo credit: By che (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

German culture in Texas took a hit because of anti-German sentiment brought about by the World Wars and continued to decline afterward from its peak in the 1890s. However, the rich history of German immigration can still be seen throughout Central Texas in particular. Towns with names such as Fredericksburg, Gruene (pronounced “Green”), New Braunfels and Weimar; the King William Historic District in San Antonio, named after Wilhelm I, King of Prussia; enthusiastic celebrations of Oktoberfest; and the aforementioned German bakeries all stand as testament to the rich German heritage that has German still identified as the third-largest national-origin group in the state behind Hispanic per the 1990 Census.

It’s because of this German history and the fact that my fictional Hill Country town of Blue Falls, Texas needed a bakery that I created the Mehlerhaus Bakery, operated by Keri Mehler Teague. Characters in every book seem to end up at the bakery for delicious treats such as cookies, cakes and German sweets such as strudel. I even throw in some kolaches, Czech pastries, since Central Texas has a history of immigration from what is now the Czech Republic as well. The Mehlerhaus Bakery is part of the Main Street shopping district that is popular with locals and the growing tourist business as well. Keri and the bakery really came on the scene in The Cowboy Sheriff, the third book in my Teagues of Texas trilogy, which introduced the town of Blue Falls. But her business is so integral to the town that she and her sweet treats have continued to appear in the 12 Blue Falls stories that have come out since then and will continue to appear in the books to come.

Trish Milburn
Trish Milburn is the author of nearly 40 romance, suspense, paranormal, women's fiction and young adult titles. She's a two-time winner of the Golden Heart Award and the recipient of Romance Writers of America's top award for service, the Emma Merritt Award. She's a big sci-fi geek girl, loves seeing new places, and has been known to cosplay on occasion. She's always loved westerns, so considering her other love is sci-fi it's no wonder her all-time favorite TV show is Firefly, which blends the two genres. Check out her books, links to various social media and sign up for her newsletter at http://www.trishmilburn.com/
Updated: July 2, 2017 — 6:51 pm

14 Comments

  1. I always wanted to visit Fredericksburg. And I know i could eat my weight in pastries.

    1. It’s a neat town with lots of cool shops I’ve used for inspiration for Blue Falls. The inspiration for the lake comes from the town of Marble Falls, and the inspiration for the dance/music hall comes from the one in Gruene, the oldest such establishment in Texas.

  2. I visited this area. My husband loves the food.

    1. There are lots of yummy things to eat, that’s for sure. So far, Blue Falls as the bakery, a Mexican place called La Cantina, the Primrose Cafe, Gia’s Pizza, and will have Brazos Baker Barbecue in an upcoming book.

  3. Good morning, Trish! I don’t think there’s anything prettier than the Texas Hill Country. So lush and green, which is quite a departure from where I live in the Panhandle. I always love going through Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. The German influence is everywhere. Their bakeries are the best and they draw me like flies to honey. Oh man! They make good pastries. We do have a huge population of Germans who sought the same things we did. Great blog!

    Your book looks fantastic! That sheriff is pretty darn cute and that baby is so sweet. Congrats on this Teagues of Texas series! Wishing you much success.

    1. Thanks, Linda. When I was looking up those Teagues books yesterday, it was wild how long it’s been since they came out — 2011 and 2012. Time flies!

  4. You forgot Boerne (Bernie)! I love the mix of Mexican/German heritage of my hometown. And yes- they make great fictional settings.

    1. True! I forgot about that one. I’m sure there are lots of others as well, like Heidelberg, Elmendorf, Schulenberg, etc.

  5. Hi Trish! Enjoyed your post! I’ve been down to that area to visit relatives and to see my son graduate from Basic Training at Lackland AFB years ago. We had quite a time at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels. Really enjoyed that since it was August and HOT. It is a lovely area. Now that you have mentioned all that food, I wish I had had a chance to test some of it while I was there!

    1. Oh, yeah, even the water park has a German name! 🙂 My favorite restaurant when I visit the area is the Guenther House in San Antonio. They have the best biscuits and gravy and enormous pastries.

  6. I read about the German influence in the Hill Country area and made sure we took advantage of it when we visited. Unfortunately I didn’t find any bakeries. Probably just as well. Almost 4 weeks on the road really wrecked the diet. I love trying the local foods when we travel. It tells much about the area’s history and influences. It also makes for a good, varied selection of meals along the way.

    1. You’re right about travel eating wrecking diets, especially in states that are really known for their food.

  7. Interesting area. Strudel looks so good.

    1. It does look yummy, doesn’t it? Especially since I’ve largely given up sweets (wah!).

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