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The notorious Haengerbande tree next to the Nimitz Hotel, where lynch mob leader J.P. Waldrip finally was cornered by respectable Fredericksburg settlers. There are still bullets from that fatal gunfight lodged in the tree trunk, as described by Derek Spence (right) on a Fredericksburg Ghost Tour. Photo by Phil Houseal

Even when it’s not Halloween, there is a spooky-ooky history surrounding this part of Fredericksburg.

Back in the late 1800s, a Gillespie County desperado named J.P. Waldrip roamed the Texas Hill Country. This outlaw led a group of 60-odd men who claimed to be Confederate soldiers. But according to historian Michael Barr, they were really rustlers, bandits, and murderers. They made up the dreaded Haengerbande, a lynch mob that targeted anyone they suspected of being Union sympathizers, pulling them from their homes and hanging them from the nearest oak without a trial or proof.

Derek Spence, who leads Fredericksburg Ghost Tours, tells the tale of Waldrip’s demise, when local citizens finally rose up and shot him in the shadow of the Nimitz Hotel. There are conflicting stories of who fired the shot and what happened to the body. But Spence’s research shows that Waldrip was buried in an unmarked grave along Baron’s Creek, not far from this location. Bill Petmecky, our landlord, whose family at the time owned the entire property from Main Street to Highway Street, confirms that the outlaw was buried somewhere on the original lot. It is claimed the body was dug up by scavengers–of the animal kind–and was then reburied in the vicinity of Lochte Feed, just around the corner. The family took pains to keep the exact location secret to prevent desecration by the families of those wrongly hanged.

This is just one of the ghost stories attached to nearly every building in Fredericksburg’s commercial district, and, like those stories, based on very real historical events. To hear more tales, be sure to check out Fredericksburg Ghost Tours.

And don’t fret–shopping at Gathered & Good is guaranteed ghost-free! Despite his horrible acts, no one has seen anything of J.P. Waldrip since 1867.