Vanishing Texas Vernacular Architecture


When Luckenbach, Texas is mentioned, what comes to most peoples’ minds is Waylon Jennings’ song “Back to the Basics of Love” – with its famous lyrics “Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas, with Waylon, Willie and the boys…”.  But long before the town was made famous in song and became a hangout for country music fans, Luckenbach was a community settled by German farmers – among them brothers Jacob Luckenbach and August Luckenbach.

The first post office opened in 1854 under the name of South Grape Creek. Mrs. Albert Luckenbach, nee Minnie Engel, established a store and saloon.  A dance hall, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith shop were in existence by the late 1800s. A number of family cemeteries and a Catholic cemetery were also established. The growing population supported a primary school and a Methodist church. Residents in addition to Methodists included in roughly equal numbers Lutherans and Catholics. One local schoolmaster, Jacob F. Brodbeck, designed and tested an airplane in this community, but a major demonstration flight in 1865 terminated in a crash.   Sometime in the later 1800s the post office closed. When it reopened in 1886, August Engel served as postmaster and renamed the town Luckenbach. William Engel became the next postmaster and opened the general store, which remains today in its original building. In 1896 the population was 150. It increased to a high of 492 in 1904 but declined dramatically in the first half of the twentieth century. From the 1920s to the 1950s Luckenbach had a population of twenty.

On July 22, 1855, two acres of land along Grape Creek was purchased from Peter Pehl for $4. After the land was acquired, the men in the community gathered to build a 16′X15′ log cabin schoolhouse.  During the 1860′s, a one-room stone teacherage was built. The floors were made of 16″ wide planks from Indianola, and the rafters were hand-hewn. Another room was later added to join the teacher’s house to the school.  Another room was later added to join the teacher’s house to the school.  Due to an increase in the student population by 1881, the building became too small to accommodate all the children, so a 10′ addition of native limestone was built.  The Luckenbach School was designated as District #3. Families who settled in the community paid one dollar per year for their children to attend school.  Many of these families are still represented in the area today.

An old-fashioned school bell summoned the children to class, with the boys lining up on the left and the girls on the right. Older students would help the younger ones with grammar and math. Some of the creative games played during recess were Andy-over, stink base, dodge ball, drop the hankie, and kick the can.  At 4:00 pm, at the end of the day, the older boys had to bring in firewood for the stove, and the girls had to sweep the floor. First graders were responsible for cleaning the erasers.

In 1949, due to the passage of the Gilmer-Aiken Law, which limited the number of students per teacher, Luckenbach became a two-teacher school, with grades one through eight.  During that year, another room, measuring 18′X24′, and constructed of hollow tile, was added to the school building.  In 1964, the Luckenbach School District was consolidated with the Fredericksburg School District.

REFERENCES:  Glen E. Lich and Brandy Schnautz, “LUCKENBACH, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 21, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  The Friends of Gillespie County Schools;

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