Overview / Summary

Government Canyon/Bexar County, TX; 12861 Galm Road, San Antonio, TX 78254

OWNER: State of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department 4200 Smith Road Austin, TX 78744



The Zizelmann house, built in 1882 by Christian Zizelmann, is located in the historically significant Government Canyon just off the Joe Johnston trail. The house is located deep into Government Canyon and is accessible by an approximate two hour hike on an extremely rocky trail from the entry point of the state natural area. 

Probably the first humans to use the trail that runs through the canyon were the Cibola Indians who specialized in bison hunting.  The Cibola’s followed the waterways through the canyon, one of which led to San Pedro Springs.  The Apaches displaced the Cibola’s and began frequent raids into San Antonio, stealing stock and robbing homes. It has been reported that the Spanish governor ordered General Manuel Bandera to initiate a campaign to stop the Apache raids.  The general is said to have marched his troops to San Antonio and followed the trail of the Apaches to their village in the hills.  What has been called the Battle of Bandera Pass lasted three days and resulted in the defeat of the Apaches.  The estimated date of this battle is 1720.  After the Apaches, came the Comanches who named it “Wonder Place” for its natural beauty.

In 1849, Lt. Col. Joseph Eggleston (1807-1891), chief topographical engineer of the Dept. of Texas from 1848-1853, was in charge of identifying possible routes from San Antonio to a series of forts in Texas as far west as El Paso.  This included the route traveled by Lt. W.H.C. Whiting across Texas which cut through Bandera Pass.  A government survey crew of 20 men are believed to have camped alongside what is now called Government Canyon Creek which was known for its good water supply.  The crew stayed for about 4 months.  Eventually, the area became known simply as Government Canyon.  A stage line was also reported to have run through the canyon.

Original surveys of the property were patented to men as payment for military service to Texas. Paulino De La Garza, who participated in the storming of Bexar, patented land for service to the Republic from Oct. 3, 1835 to Feb. 21, 1836.  Justo Rodriguez, who also participated in the storming of Bexar was also issued a land patent in the Government Canyon area.  J.B. McMichael and William Rounsaval were both awarded Confederate Script for their service during the Civil War.  Their tracts also were patented in the Government Canyon area.  

The property has also been referred to as the remains of Wildcat Canyon Historic Ranch.  In the 1950s and the early 60s, the tract was known as the W.J. Lytle Ranch.  A Hondo rancher, E.G. Pope leased 8,500 acres of the ranch in 1956 and grazed it with sheep and opened it for day hunting.  E.G. Pope ran angora goats on the place and sometimes made more on the goats than he did on the opportunity hunt.  Hunters, who were tired of waiting for deer to appear, would sometimes shoot a goat intentionally.  Pope, who usually got only $5.00 for a goat, would charge a hunter anywhere from $50 to $75 per goat depending on how contrite the hunter acted when he explained how the goat got shot.

In the 1970s, the San Antonio Ranch New Town Corporation purchased the ranch to build a community with a proposed population of more than 80,000 residents.  The property continued to be leased for ranch as the northeast corner along Highway16 (Bandera Road) was being developed.  However, in the late 1980’s, the corporation failed during the collapse of the savings and loans associations and the property was taken over by the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC). RTC put the property up for auction for other developers.  However, it was saved through the action of the Government Canyon Coalition (GCC), a group of civic and environment organizations led by Kyle Cunningham and Danielle Milam.  The support of the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) was enlisted and a deal for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was facilitated.  Due to the fund shortages of TPWD, TPC and GCC convinced the City of San Antonio and the Edwards Underground Water District to pay 75% of the purchase price while TPWD maintained the title and management of the property.

In 2008, the Zizelmann House was designated a City Landmark by the City of San Antonio.


The Zizelmann name has been spelled several ways including ZITZELMANN, ZELMAN, and ZIZELMANN. Early records seem to favor the spelling with the “t” although in later records the “t” had been dropped.


Christian Friederich Zizelmann was born on Nov. 1,1841 in Cleebronn, Wurtemberg, Germany, the son of Karl Friedrich Zizelmann and Margarethe Dorothee Walderich.  He died on August 27, 1891 in San Antonio, TX and is buried in the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery, Old, located at 966 Center Street, San Antonio, TX

Christian Zizelmann registered to vote in Bexar County on Nov. 25, 1869. He stated he was living in San Antonio at the time and had been in the City and County for 14 years (1855).  He further stated he was born in Germany and had become a naturalized citizen “by minority,” indicating he was a child when his parents became naturalized citizens.  In the 1860 U.S. Census for Bexar County, Christian “Zelman” was shows living in the 1st ward in a household headed by Jacob Waelder, a 35 yr. old lawyer.  Christian was 19 years of age and listed as a servant.  (The Jacob Waelder family was comprised of his 30 year old wife, Eliza, daughter, M. Jane, age 9, Frances Lamb, age 60 and Mary Abat, age 16.)

On January 20, 1872, Christian Zitzelmann married Emilie Tausch (born: June 13, 1853, Comal County, TX) the daughter of Johann Friedrich Tausch and Anna Frietz.  Witnesses to the marriage were William Zitzelmann and E. Wisenberg (Bexar County Marriage Book E, Certificate #4044).  On May 27, 1915, Emilie Tausch Zizelmann died while living in the home of her daughter, Agnes.  She is buried in the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery, Old, located at 966 Center Street, San Antonio, TX.

Two children were born of the marriage of Christian Zizelmann and Emilie Tausch:  Agnes Zizelmann (born: Nov. 8, 1872) and Emilie Pauline Zizelmann (born: January 16, 1874).  Agnes married Fredrick W. Pflaughaupt on May 26, 1897 and Emilie married (1) Charles Eberhardt on March 25, 1893 and (2) Charles Andrew Minnich in Sept. 1899.

On Sept. 14, 1875, Christian Zizelmann purchased a lot in San Antonio on the southeast corner of West Houston and North Flores (formerly Rivas Street).(BCDR: Vol. 1,p.480).  The purchase was for $1,000 from Catherine Mueller, the daughter of Susanna Hoffman, who was deceased.  This is the location where Christian Zizelmann operated a successful bakery and established a residence for his family. Both the 1877 and the 1879 City Directories for San Antonio indicate this location as being the residence and the bakery for Christian Zizelmann. (This area is now encompassed by the downtown Frost Bank headquarters, having been sold to T.C. Frost in 1891 – BCDR: Vol. 100, p355, for $5,000.)

On May 18, 1880, Christian Zizelmann purchased 160 acres of land on Culebra Creek (BCDR: Vol. 15, p.175-176) from Caroline and Jacob Hoffman.   On that same day Zizelmann gave water rights to the Hoffmans, as stated: the “privilege of using the water on same acres for any and all water in said place” for as long as needed. (BCDR: Vol. 15, p.200).   This land makes up a portion of Government Canyon and is the location of what is known as the Zizelmann House.

It is questionable as to whether the Zizelmann family ever lived on a regular basis at the House in Government Canyon.  The 1885 San Antonio City Directory indicates that Christian Zizelmann had a bakery and a grocery store at 38 North Flores at the corner of West Houston, which was also the Zizelmann residence. Apparently, the bakery must have closed shortly after the death of Christian Zizelmann as in 1892 and 1893 San Antonio City Directories indicate the family lived at 515 Goliad and then subsequently on South Pine Street. On June 20, 1893, Emilie Zizelmann and her two daughters, Agnes Zizelmann and Emilie Zizelmann Pflaughaupt, sold the bulk of the land that had been acquired by Christian Zizelmann.  The $1800 sale was to Jacob Hoffman for 6 parcels of land, comprising 1401 acres.  Many years later in 1928, C.A. Goeth, Independent Executor of the Estate of Karolina Hoffmann, (deceased), sold the property to W.C. Lytle for $75,667.00. (BCDR: Vol 1021, pgs.351+)



The Zizelmann house is an L-shaped structure with the long axis east/west and the short leg running north from the main body on the west end.  A basement occurs under the north end of the structure.  The house is built with hundreds of blocks of hand-hewn limestone, possibly quarried from the Gugger quarry which opened in the same time period. The house, although built for habitation, may not have been occupied on a regular basis.  The north room appears to have functioned as a bedroom, the west room as a living room with its fireplace and the main east room may have functioned as a storage room, a general meeting room or a family room.  Stairs lead to a possible loft or storage attic that no longer exists.  Walls are plastered on the inside and in some areas are covered with carvings (graffiti) of the names of visitors over the years.

The Zizelmann house is not open to the public but can be viewed through a chain link fence by hikers on the Joe Johnston trail at Government Canyon.  

Compiled by:  Pat Ezell, Historic Farm and Ranch Complexes Committee, October 2016.