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Easter Fires of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg’s famous Easter Fires story was written in this building.

December 2018–When you step into Gathered & Good, you are stepping back in history.

That’s because the building and the family that lived here played key roles in making Fredericksburg the welcoming community it has become.

The home was built in 1937 by William Petmecky, Sr., and his wife, Emma, on family land granted by the German Immigration Company. With its stately architecture and prominent porch it created a distinctive appearance on one of the main highways into town. But more striking were the inhabitants.

William Petmecky, Sr., was a prominent citizen. His grandfather Gottfried Petmecky was an original immigrant in 1845; his father A.W. Petmecky was a stonemason who created the enigmatic white elephant on the White Elephant Saloon on Main Street.

Plaque

Plaque honoring William Petmecky, Sr., for his civic leadership.

William, Sr., served as the county tax assessor-collector, postmaster, and head of almost every community service organization, from the Gillespie County Fair Association to the Chamber of Commerce. He was influential enough to receive calls from favorite son Lyndon B. Johnson after he became President of the United States.

The Fredericksburg resident was also among the leaders to take steps to recognize the priceless German heritage. He was one of the first to set in motion the preservation of the old rock houses in Fredericksburg, noting that someday they will be a treasure to us. He created Night in Old Fredericksburg, and was instrumental in pushing for the formation of a historical society.

But his most original contribution was creating the Easter Fires Pageant. Petmecky was Chair of the committee to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Fredericksburg in 1946. Working with a local history teacher, Petmecky decided to capture the oft-told tale from pioneer times, when a young mother soothed her frightened children by telling them the Indian War Fires on the hills were built by the Easter Rabbit to cook and dye Easter eggs.

clipping

Clipping from an old “Around the Square.”

For the celebration, they turned this tale into an outdoor pageant. It was a massive production, with a role for nearly everyone in town. The response was so favorable that Petmecky decided to condense it. He reworked the story, and two years later, in 1948, the Historical Society and the Fair Association put on the first production. It lasted for more than 50 years, and is being revived to share with the legions of visitors who come to appreciate that Fredericksburg heritage.

That enduring story was written in this very building, according to his son, Bill, Jr., “on an old fashioned manual typewriter, using Dad’s four finger typing style that he used over the years to write news articles about Fredericksburg for a number of papers throughout the state.” (He still has the typewriter!)

And that is why it is called Easter Haus.

But current owner Bill Petmecky, Jr. knew it as his boyhood home that was “just a wonderful place to live.”

So many good things happened here: community meetings, Saturday night parties, informal get-togethers with beer, sausage, and gemutlichkeit. He fondly remembers gatherings of Cub Scouts and Gillespie County Fair Queens.

He is happy that the home where he was raised continues to be part of the life and commerce of Fredericksburg. Gathered & Good is proud to continue the Petmecky tradition of being a place for family to gather and do good things together.

We are pleased that you will help us continue writing the story of Easter Haus.

 

Bill Petmecky

Current owner Bill Petmecky, Jr., has fond memories of growing up in Easter Haus.