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DIETERT, CHRISTIAN

DIETERT, CHRISTIAN (1827–1902). Christian Dietert, a German master miller and millwright in the Hill Country and an early developer of Kerrville, was born on August 24, 1827 in Theessen, near Magdeburg, the son of Friedrich Dietert. Christian Dietert came to Texas on the Franziska in 1854 with his parents and four grown siblings and settled in the new township of Comfort, where in 1855 he married and where he and Nicolaus Zink were commissioned by Ernst Hermann Altgelt to build Perseverance Mill on the Cypress Creek, half a mile above the confluence with the Guadalupe River. This mill was destroyed almost immediately by a flood, and the replacement that Dietert rebuilt was thereafter idled by months of drought. A wiser Dietert later built another mill near Fredericksburg before he, his family, and a newly arrived assistant named Balthasar Lich removed to the new shingle-camp and settlement of Kerr(s)ville in 1857. At Kerrville, Dietert and Lich, also a German millwright, designed a mill, Dietert's fourth mill in Texas, high on a bluff over the Guadalupe; their low, diagonal dam across a wide part of the river that never went dry eliminated the need for a traditional millrace and thereby maximized the power attainable at the wheel from even low water levels. This grist and saw mill and the subsidiary businesses attached to it formed the mercantile backbone of the new town, along with Charles Schreiner's general store and bank and Lich's freighting operations that linked early Kerrville with San Angelo, San Antonio, and Mexico. Between 1867 and 1882 Dietert also served as the local postmaster and during part of Reconstruction as Kerr County judge; during this time, too, he helped his brother Wilhelm establish a water mill at Boerne. Dietert and his wife Rosalie Hess Dietert (1833–1929), the assistant postmistress, also contributed to the town's social development by holding dances. Local history credits them with having introduced the waltz and the Christmas tree to the town. The Kerrville mill was sold to Schreiner in 1880, and parts of the operation continued for nearly a century, never once idled by drought or damaged by frequent and violent floods. Dietert died on May 27, 1902, in Kerrville, survived by his wife and eleven children. He was interred in Glen Rest Cemetery in Kerrville. A state historical marker was erected in 1981, and the mill was commemorated in an historical painting entitled Guadalupe Meditations by Austin artist Bill Barrick in the same year.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Francis Edward Abernethy, Built in Texas, Publications of the Texas Folklore Society 42 (Waco: E-Heart Press, 1979). Bob Bennett, Kerr County, Texas, 1856–1956 (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956; bicentennial ed., rev. by Clara Watkins: Kerr County, Texas, 1856–1976, Kerrville, Texas: Hill Country Preservation Society, 1975). Guido E. Ransleben, A Hundred Years of Comfort in Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1954; rev. ed. 1974).

Glen E. Lich

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Glen E. Lich, "DIETERT, CHRISTIAN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdi24), accessed August 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.