Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture


Grapetown School

One of the pleasures of driving the backroads is chance encounters with places like Grapetown.  What made this encounter even better was that, though abandoned, the remaining buildings of Grapetown had been preserved in what appears to be original condition.  It’s always heartening to see that people still care about preserving even the smallest examples of the state’s architectural history.

Water Pump

The first landholder was John Hemphill, who received the deed to a site on the Fredericksburg-San Antonio road in 1848. Eight other settlers, including several freight drivers who carried produce from Fredericksburg to San Antonio and thence to Indianola, received deeds to land in the area in 1854. In 1860 Friedrich Wilhelm Doebbler opened Grapetown’s first business establishment, a general store and hostelry called Doebbler’s Inn. Grapetown became a ranching center of some importance; many local ranchers sold their cattle to Charles Schreiner of Kerrville.  Most of the people of Grapetown sided with the Union during the Civil War, and many paid the price for their loyalty. Two local men, August Hoffman and Heinrich Rausch, survived the battle of the Nueces and eventually returned to Grapetown, where they spent the duration of the conflict hiding in the hills from the Confederate patrols. The first school in Grapetown was held in 1859 in Doebbler’s home; the teacher was a Scot named Louis Hartwig. Grapetown Line School opened in 1882; local children had previously attended school in Fredericksburg. About 1870 a nine-to-ten-month school was opened in Grapetown; it was moved several times. Parents paid the teacher. In 1880 a stone structure was built as a school for the first seven grades. In 1885 a post office was established in Doebbler’s Inn; the office closed three years later. A local singing club and a shooting club were combined in 1887, and Grapetown was the site of the first annual Gillespie County Schuetzenfest (shooting festival), at which 140 kegs of beer were consumed in four days.  One can only imagine how this affected their shooting.

In 1913 the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway built through the Grapetown area, and the neighboring community of Bankersmith was founded. Also around this time the Mountain Townsite Company of San Antonio bought a tract of land on Doebbler’s Hill and planned a town to be called Mount Alamo. Ten years later, however, the company was dissolved and the land restored to its former owner, Otto Cowan.  Cowan, the grandson of Friedrich Doebbler, had closed Doebbler’s Inn in 1915. In 1932 State Highway 87 was rerouted through Comfort, and Grapetown suffered a decline in trade. The last Grapetown school was consolidated with the Rocky Hill school in 1944. From 1967 to 1978 the area school had one teacher and about twenty pupils. The old schoolhouse was purchased by the community and in 1989 was still being used as a Community Club.

See other Grapetown photographs HERE.  Grapetown, TX is located on Old San Antonio Road southeast of Fredericksburg.
REFERENCES:  Martin Donell Kohout, “GRAPETOWN, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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