Sisterdale Dancehall was built sometime between 1867 and 1884. Our team of archaeologists and historians should have an announcement soon on the exact year it was built. Stay tuned for what could be big historical news.
Permanent settlement on the site dates back to the mid 1800's. The property has some of the oldest buildings in Sisterdale. The stone block Fort pre-dates the Civil War. Open gun ports line the foot-thick fortified stone walls. These narrow and angled cut stone openings allowed gunmen a wide range of motion to fight off an Indian attack, and reduced the number of incoming arrows or gunshots. The same design was used in European Medieval castles.
In its early years, the Dancehall was an Opera House, dancehall and community center. Later, it became a full-time dancehall with a community grocery store and post office next door. The Dancehall was the center of musical life for the community. Music of all kinds flooded the Dancehall during its long life-classical opera, folk, rock, Tejano, Americana and country music.
Famous artists performed at the Sisterdale Dancehall over the years. Our Dancehall has been a movie location, and it hosted George Strait in a Bud Light commercial. Brooks and Dunn used our Dancehall while filming their classic hit song, Red Dirt Road.
The rolling green hills, fertile valleys, and clean creeks and rivers have always made Sisterdale a special place to live or just to relax on a sunny day.
To many, this area is the prettiest part of the Texas Hill Country. The grass is a little greener, the rivers and creeks are a little cleaner, the wildlife is more abundant, and the hills are more majestic.
Native American tribes roamed this country for centuries, living off the plentiful wild game and varied vegetation. Abundant, telltale signs of their existence are still here-with flint arrowheads scattered around the many creek banks.
In the 1800's, Europeans settled the Valley of the Sisters, a small valley between the East Sister Creek and the West Sister Creek. The creeks join in Sisterdale to flow into the grand Guadalupe River basin. So, the small dale between the two creeks is Sisterdale.
Pioneers traveled through the area in the early 1800's on their way to settlements in the Fredericksburg area farther north.
But, in 1847, the first known European settler to establish permanent roots in Sisterdale was Nicolaus Zink, an educated German engineer.
Zink fell in love with the area while on a side trip from New Braunfels where Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels hired him to survey and lay out the town of New Braunfels. [See the Prince Solms exhibit at the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels.] Zink, disillusioned with the monarchy rule of Germany, decided to live permanently in the Valley of the Sisters.
About the same time, another German emigrant, Baron Ottmar von Behr, settled in the area. The von Behr family fled Germany because of the ongoing persecution of people who believed that a democratically elected government should replace the existing Monarchy rule.
Nicolaus Zink and Baron von Behr hoped to establish a community of like-minded German emigrants. Over the coming years they got their wish. Many more intellectual libertarians escaped the German revolution of 1848 to settle in the Valley of the Sisters.
These immigrants were not average Texas pioneers. They were highly educated people who spoke several languages, and were proud of the fact that they could both read and write Latin. They were the freethinkers of their time. Well-read in the Classics and in 17th and 18th century Age of Reason writers like Rousseau, Voltaire and Jonathan Swift, they also loved all kinds of music-especially the great composers of classical opera.
Their form of utopia in Sisterdale was to work hard in the fields during the day to earn the necessities of life. At night they gathered together for stimulating, intellectual conversations about literature, music, philosophy and politics. The Sisterdale Dancehall was the center of this activity.
Foremost in their political views was the belief that basic human rights are guaranteed to all people. In 1853, members of their community adopted the following political, social and religious platform:
a. Equal pay for equal work
b. Direct elections for President of the United States
c. Abolition of capital punishment
d. Free schools-including universities-supported by the state
e. Total separation of church and state
Consistent with their social views, they were strict abolitionists. When Texas sided with the Confederacy, more than 30 men from area settlements were executed for refusing to join the Confederate Army and fight for the cause of slave ownership.
Sisterdale is the home of many descendants of these early pioneers. And, like their ancestors, they still love the music that continues in the Sisterdale Dancehall.
So, let the music play! Come on down and enjoy your own piece of Texas history at the Sisterdale Dancehall.
For more information on the philosophical beliefs of the freethinkers who lived in Sisterdale, click below.