History of Education in Gillespie County
As many as 44 rural schools were in operation around Fredericksburg, the county seat of Gillespie County, in the early 20th century. German immigrants had poured into the area that became known as the Texas Hill Country in the mid to late 1800's, starting with the settlements of New Braunfels in 1845 and Fredericksburg in 1846.
These Germans brought with them a keen love of education. The first school in Fredericksburg was erected in the Marketplatz (Market Square) in the center of Main Street in 1847. This Vereins Kirche (Community Church), known as the Church of the Society of Nobles, was to serve as church, school, community meeting hall, and fort, if needed. Comanche Indians roamed the area. The Germans had reached the frontier of Texas before the United States Army.
As families moved onto land more distant from town, the earliest rural educational efforts normally involved hiring a teacher to educate the children in private homes. Eventually, land was donated by a family in the area, and a community school was built, taking names descriptive of nearby natural landmarks, such as Cave Creek, Crabapple, Pecan Creek, or Lower South Grape Creek. The German heritage of Gillespie County is evident in other names like Luckenbach, Meusebach Creek, Rheingold, and Nebgen.
Several of the 12 schools now listed on the National Register date from the 1870's and 1880's. The original Rheingold School is the oldest of the rural schools in Gillespie County.
Many of the Gillespie County rural schools offered courses in both in German and English. The end of the school year was celebrated with an all day affair called the Schulprüfung (school examination). The students demonstrated their knowledge in front of family and friends, followed by a picnic and dancing into the night. The original school closing curtain is still on display in four of the schools, with advertisements for early-day Gillespie County merchants. Three of the schools still have the original student desks and teacher's desk.