The queen and princess of buildings around Main Plaza

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

If the Comal County Courthouse is the “queen” of buildings around the Main Plaza, then the Plaza Hotel is the “princess”. In this case, the princess is actually fifty years older than the queen. Just think about what these two buildings could tell us about our past in New Braunfels. Our Main Plaza is truly the hub of the town, a distinction that many towns don’t have.

Here’s what we know about the princess: In 1853 Adolph Nauendorf purchased a 55 foot frontage lot on the Main Plaza from J.J. von Coll. Von Coll operated a saloon next to this piece of property where Nauendorf would build a two-story building. In 1853 when the County was looking for property for a courthouse, Nauendorf offered to sell this property for $3,500, but the County turned down the offer. They instead purchased the property also on the Main Plaza where the Chase Bank now stands.

The building was purchased from Neuendorf in 1857 by Jacob Schmitz for $1,500. Jacob Schmitz was one of the immigrants that came to Texas on the ship “Ocean” in 1843 with several other immigrants that had signed up with Henri Castro to be part of the Castro colony. Castro was unable to fulfill his obligation to these immigrants and they were abandoned. Prince Carl encountered them in San Antonio where about 20 of them were stranded. These immigrants asked to join Prince Carl and the Adelsverein, Schmitz being one of them. They joined the Verein as laborers and some enlisted in the mounted company to guard against the Indians in their trip inland.

Schmitz is listed as a New Braunfels First Founder and was present when the drawing out of a hat of town lots took place in April of 1845. As an immigrant, he received Lot #61 located on Seguin Street between Coll and Garden Streets. In the Comal County census of 1850, he is listed as a 36-year-old hotel operator along with his 39-year-old wife, Catherine, and a two year old daughter, Pauline.

Schmitz built a hotel on his property on Seguin St. and called it the Guadalupe Hotel. A description of the interior of the Guadalupe Hotel that Schmitz owned on Seguin Street was provided by famous writer Frederick Olmstead who was a guest at the hotel. He described the hotel as reminding him of the inns in the Rhineland where all details were addressed. He described the main rooms as having pink walls with stenciled panels and scroll ornaments in crimson. There were framed lithographic prints on the side walls, and a sofa covered in pink calico with small vine patterns. The table was of dark oak with oak benches at the side. Chairs were chiseled oak. In one corner was a stove and in another, a mahogany cupboard with pitcher and glassware. Olmstead’s room was painted blue with roses over the outside of the large windows. There were books, a porcelain statuette, plants in pots, a brass study lamp and ample linens. Dinner consisted of soup, two meat courses, two vegetables, salad, compote of peaches, coffee with milk, wheat bread and beautiful sweet butter. Olmstead’s room was in a cottage in back where walls were blue and contained oak furniture. At that time there were no indoor bathrooms.

Back to the two-story building on Main Plaza that was the one that Nauendorf sold to Schmitz in 1857 for $1,500. Schmitz also named this building the Guadalupe Hotel like his Seguin St. hotel. In 1873 he added a third floor and a balcony. The hotel was a popular stage stop until the arrival of the railroad in New Braunfels in 1880.The hotel, then called the Schmitz Hotel, provided a popular stop during the daylong ride from San Antonio to Austin.

The Schmitz Hotel register that is at the Sophienburg Museum shows a host of illustrious people of the South. The register was rescued from a trash fire in 1910 by the Roth family who had a jewelry store next door. In the register was the name of the former president of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston. Guests during the Civil War were the names of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, H.H. Sibley, Gen. B. Magruder and staff, Col. James Reiley, Col. Tom Green, Major R.J. Brownrigg and wife and Capt. H. Ragsdale.

Jacob Schmitz died in 1874 and was buried in the New Braunfels cemetery. Mrs. Schmitz conveyed the numerous properties owned by her husband to her daughter, Mrs. Paula Claessen. She leased the hotel to Emil Braun for $100 a month for the first two years and $124 a month thereafter. The lease agreement included Braun having a bar and billiard saloon in one of the rooms. It was changed to be the Plaza Hotel.

Both Mrs. Schmitz and her daughter were widows and so they returned to Germany. They sold the hotel in 1910 to Charles Koch. A local bank purchased the structure and converted the rooms into apartments, closing its use as a hotel.

In 1969 The New Braunfels Conservation Society purchased the hotel and began work restoring the building. Over the years, the hotel had been under many owners. Many alterations were made throughout its history. One owner removed the exterior columns and added wrought iron. These drastic changes were removed and the original facade was restored by the Conservation Society.

The project was not completed and in 1982 after four years of vacancy, W.A. Myers and Lee Lybrand bought the hotel with the hope of converting the building to gift shops, antiques, business offices and possible hotel suites. Much work needed to be done due to the vandalism that had taken place during the vacancy. Four years later, George Bokorney, representative and managing partner, purchased the hotel.

Then in 1995 a group of investors purchased the building for the purpose of restoration. The main investor was a woman from New York. An open house took place showing two reclaimed apartments and retail shops. The biggest structural change at this time was moving the staircase to the front entrance.

The Conservation Society was able to qualify the hotel site in a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. Also the City of New Braunfels gave the hotel a Historic Landmark distinction. Presently the multi-purpose hotel is a remodeled landmark available to lease for days, weeks, or months and the bottom floor contains small businesses. It’s now known as “The Schmitz”, honoring Jacob Schmitz, who first owned this beautiful building as a hotel.

Plaza Hotel in 1937 located on Main Plaza. Notice the cannon on the Plaza. It was donated to the war effort as scrap iron during WWII.

Plaza Hotel in 1937 located on Main Plaza. Notice the cannon on the Plaza. It was donated to the war effort as scrap iron during WWII.

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Background of Bracken Bowling

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

“Rip Van Winkle” is a short story written by Washington Irving. Rip lives in a village by the Catskill Mountains. He is an easygoing, henpecked husband. One day he wanders into the mountains to go hunting and he meets and drinks with Henry Hudson’s legendary sailing crew. They are bowling 9-Pin. Rip falls asleep and sleeps for 20 years. He wakes up to the sound of crashing 9-Pins. Everything has changed. Irving uses 9-Pin bowling as an example of change. Bowling was very popular in Europe, then Germany, and now small settlements in Central Texas, the Comal County community of Bracken being one of them.

Bracken goes back to 1850 when Kentuckian William Bracken came to Texas to buy land. He was successful at getting a patent for 11 labors of land (177.1 acres per labor) from Texas Governor Peter Bell. This land was located on the Cibolo Creek where the El Camino Real crosses the creek. Two years later Bracken died and his children inherited the land. Twenty years later, 1,114 acres were sold to George and Christopher Pfeuffer who, in turn, sold 300 acres of the property to William Davenport. Davenport sold 54.7 acres to the I&GN Railroad Company that built a railroad on 12 acres of his property. The railroad sold the rest of the land to John Barnes and Jacob Wetmore. These two developed their land into the town of Davenport consisting of seven blocks. They initially named their community Davenport, but the name was denied by the U.S. Post Office because another town in north Texas already had that name. Therefore, they named the town Bracken in honor of the man who first purchased this land.

Now we get to the Bracken 9-Pin Bowling Club that celebrated 100 years of Kegeln (bowling) this year. It’s a 9-Pin bowling club which is different from a 10-Pin club. Pins for 9-Pin are set up manually, whereas pins for 10-Pin are set mechanically. Many of the small communities around New Braunfels have 9-Pin bowling alleys because the German immigrants brought the practice with them.

Most historians believe that the sport of bowling has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The act of knocking down pins or bottles, or anything that will stand up, with a round object, whether it be a rock or a ball, has been a sport enjoyed by all ages.

Bowling balls and pins have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. The Polynesians bowled on lanes 60 feet long, the same length as modern alleys. There is evidence that English kings bowled and also monks like Martin Luther.

The practice of throwing a ball to hit down 9-Pins instead of the traditional 10-Pins was brought to the U.S. by the Germans. In the 4th century, bowling was part of a religious ceremony. The belief was that if you could knock down all the pins you were thought to be of good character. Those who missed the pins had to do some kind of penance. I wonder what happened when people kept on failing to knock the pins down.

Most ancient Germans carried what was known as a “Kegel” or club used for protection as well as sport. The Kegel would represent a heathen and if it could be knocked down with a stone ball the bowler would be cleansed of his sins. I suppose you could say that the more a person bowled, the more sins they had. Teddy Roosevelt, being of German heritage, probably said “Trust everyone but always carry a big Kegel.” Just kidding.

The Germans, English, and Dutch all brought their own version of bowling to the colonies. This 9-pin sport was banned in Connecticut in 1841 because of the gambling and crime associated with it. Supposedly the people in Connecticut just added another pin making it 10-Pin bowling, circumventing the law and that solved that problem.

Curt Schmidt, author of the book, “Oma and Opa” tells of the importance of 9-Pin bowling to our early settlers. Bowling has survived as a popular sport here even today. He described 9-Pin Kegeln this way: “A team game with four to seven players. Pins are set up and then each team rolls two balls at the set-up. Then if the team member knocks all down with the first ball, the pins are set up again. And he rolls again. If a bowler leaves any pins standing except the King pin in the middle, it counts 12 points. If any pins are left standing, then the next bowler rolls it at them and so on until they are all down. The captain calls the member of the team who is likely to ‘clean up’ the alley. There are full house bowlers, left side and right side bowlers and clean up bowlers.”

In Comal County there are still many 9-Pin leagues. Bracken Bowling Club is one. Bernice Friesenhahn researched and compiled information on the bowling alley with Karly Friesenhahn formatting the information into a booklet for the celebration of their 100th year. Bracken Bowling Club was founded in 1914 by a group of men who enjoyed 9-Pin bowling. The club was built on the Bose brothers land. E.H. and Albert Bose and their wives gave the property of 1/3 acre. In 1977, a new eight lane facility was built on 1 ½ acres of land across from the old alley.

Rubin Moeller who was the secretary of the club for many years researched the minutes that were written in German. The original two lanes had a cost of five cents a game to bowl. Family member names of some of the founders were Bose, Bremer, Forshage, Friesenhahn, Gebhardt, Haag, Heitkamp, Hoffmann, Jonas, Marbach, Moeller, Reeh, Rosenburg and Wuest.

Women eventually became part of the bowling scene. Accordingly in almost all cases, the husband was a member of the club and his wife was allowed to bowl. If the husband died, his membership passed on to the wife and she continued to pay.

Washington Irving in “Rip Van Winkle” contends that change is inevitable, but sometimes it is slow. Bowling has been hanging around in Bracken for over 100 years with few changes.

1975 Bracken #1 Trophy Team in the old bowling alley.  L-R Olga Potchernick, Dotti Wilson, Clarine Syamken, Cherlyn Koehler, Jeanne Classen and Joyce Foster.

1975 Bracken #1 Trophy Team in the old bowling alley. L-R Olga Potchernick, Dotti Wilson, Clarine Syamken, Cherlyn Koehler, Jeanne Classen and Joyce Foster.

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Weihnachtsmarkt opens this Friday at the Civic Center

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

You have to admit that in South Texas it’s sometimes hard to get in the Christmas spirit. Where is the snow and the one-horse open sleigh, ho, ho, ho? The Sophienburg Museum and Archives tries its best to create the Christmas atmosphere in the Civic Center during its fund-raising Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).

Every year for the last 25 years, the decorating committee would strive to decorate with something a little bit different and this year they hit the jackpot. Both of the halls will be decorated as usual, but look at the small ballroom stage! Donna and Cody Debner and Beverly and Clark Wigley came up with the idea for decorating the stage behind Sophie’s Café with something that they knew a great deal about. They would create a miniature Neuremburg Christkindlesmarkt.

The Debners and the Wigleys met in Germany in 1977 when both husbands were in the Air Force. The two couples traveled together in the early 2000s and Christmas markets were their favorite destination, particularly in Neuremburg. Christmas markets go way back in Germany and the Neuremburg Market started in 1628. All kinds of craftsmen brought their goods to the market to sell and over the years the market moved to various places. In 1933 it moved to the Main Market Square in the town.

During WWII there was no market held in Neuremburg. It was one of the most bombed- out areas in Germany, but after the war in 1948, the custom was revived and held in the destroyed Old Town among the ruins. Even today, each vendor creates a small area with a red and white striped awning over it. The red and white awnings are actually the colors of the flag of the city of Neuremburg.

The stage at the Civic Center will be adorned with large examples of German Folk Art called Schwibbögen. Perhaps you have seen these arches and didn’t know what they were. Here’s the explanation:

In the Erzgebirge Mountains (Ore Mountains), on the border with Czechoslovakia, is an area of silver and iron mines. A long-standing tradition of that area is construction of small arches to put in windows of the homes. These arches were made of iron and contained seven candles across the arch. The tradition of these objects in the windows was to welcome home the miners at Christmas. The light of the candles represented the only time that work stopped for the miners and so it was a happy time.

As the miners made their way through the snow, they were welcomed home by these candle-lit arches. During Christmas, large Schwibbögen are set up in churches and public buildings. They are decorated with many scenes such as the Nativity, family, hunters, houses and German scenery. For many years the Schwibbögen were hand carved of a very soft wood. Some of them are painted, but most are left to the natural beauty of the wood.

There will be two Schwibbögen five feet tall and nine feet wide on the stage with a traditional Christmas tree between the two. This tree will be decorated with candles (electric) and German straw ornaments. The Germans are not the only people who claim that they originated the Christmas tree, although Martin Luther is the person who has gotten the most credit. The story is that he looked at the night star-filled sky and decided to decorate his indoor tree with candles representing the stars. It seems that the only prerequisite for a Christmas tree is that it has to still be green in December. When the immigrants came to New Braunfels and were looking around for a green tree, preferably a fir tree, they found the cedar. What do we find now? An artificial tree, mostly green, but sometimes even pink. In the late 1800s Sears and Roebuck offered artificial Christmas trees sold by the number of limbs, 33 limbs for $.50 and 55 limbs for $1.00.

Are you familiar with the Weihnachtspyramiden (Christmas pyramid)? It is a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree made of finely carved wood with candles at the base that make the top spin. These were quite popular when trees were brought inside. They are beautiful works of art and most are very expensive.

The Schwibbögen on the stage will be left in their original wood and decorated with a wintry mountain scene in Germany. Quaint miniature houses will overlook a festively decorated Christmas market complete with red and white awnings. The arches were designed and drawn by Wilfred Schlather and constructed and decorated by the Wigleys and Debners. Schlather is a devoted volunteer at the Sophienburg besides writing a book about the Civil War in Comal County. It can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.

The tables in Sophie’s Café in front of the stage allows one to sit and rest, eat German food, and then get up and shop again. The lantern centerpieces decorated by Donna Debner can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.

Weihnachtsmarkt is organized by the staff at the Sophienburg with Linda Dietert as Executive Director. Hundreds of volunteers give of their time and hundreds contribute, but the Museum and Archives needs you to help their large mission of keeping history alive in New Braunfels.

Weihnachtsmarkt is the largest money-making event that the Sophienburg has. Other fundraisers are the Sophie’s Shop at Wurstfest and a brand new upcoming event on Februray 28, 2015. It is called “Braunfest” on the grounds of the Sophienburg. Watch for details of this new event.

Weihnachtsmark will open its doors at 10 a.m. this Friday and will run through Sunday. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside, you will immediately get that cold winter feeling.

Beverly Wigley, Donna Debner and Wilfred Schlather with one of the artistic creations that will decorate Weihnachtsmarkt.

Beverly Wigley, Donna Debner and Wilfred Schlather with one of the artistic creations that will decorate Weihnachtsmarkt.

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Henne Hardware survives 148 years downtown

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

I walked into Henne Hardware and the bell rang above the door alerting the clerk that someone had entered. I was immediately greeted by two cats named Clifford and Eugene, so named by owner of the store, Paul Martinka. These cats, or at least their names, will bring back memories to those of you who remember the Henne family. Clifford and Eugene were the last of that family to own the business and that was years ago. Perhaps Paul named the cats after the Hennes to remind him of the roots of that store. Cliffy and Gene certainly brought memories to me and it will to a lot of you that were hanging around in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

The roots of Henne Hardware, as were so many of the stores that have local roots, began in Germany. Johann Henne, his wife, Henrietta Deppen, and their five children boarded the ship Hercules with 152 other passengers from Germany and arrived in Galveston in August of 1845. From there they were taken by schooner to Indianola where they engaged wagons to move inland to New Braunfels. They were fortunate to have survived the first Texas winter that took so many lives on the coast, on the inland trek, and in New Braunfels.

Johann was a tinsmith and in 1846 he bought a lot on San Antonio St. for which he paid $120. He opened a tinsmith shop and had a thriving business. Electricity wasn’t in homes and streets until after the 1900s, two years after Harry Landa introduced electricity to NB. Until that time there was a big demand for tin oil lanterns inside and outside. Just imagine San Antonio St. without any electric lights or lights from the inside of buildings. Repairs on the Austin, San Antonio Stage Co. coach lamps were made at Hennes. Tin roofing was made a necessity in 1893 after a city ordinance was passed requiring tin roofing in the city.

In 1857 Johann died and when he did, his son, Louis Henne, took over the tinsmith business. He was only 17 years old at the time, but it became his responsibility to take over the business and support his mother and siblings. He was the only child of Johann and Henrietta that married. Louis then named the business Louis Henne Co., Tin and Sheet Iron Ware, Stoves, House Furnishing Goods and Mitchell Wagons.

With time, Louis Henne began other businesses such as a lumberyard on the corner of Castell and Coll Sts. and a plumbing business. In 1893, right next to where the tinsmith shop was located, Louis built a beautiful Victorian-style business building sitting right in the middle of the business district where it remains today. It was built by contractor Christian Herry. Herry came from Germany to New York after serving two years in the German army during the Franco-Prussian war. He had the reputation of being a master at building trusses of cathedrals, building them on the ground and raising them completed into place. He came to New Braunfels in 1881 and one of the first projects was the addition of frame wings to the limestone New Braunfels Academy.

The building still retains much of its original décor, inside and outside. The walls are brick, the flooring is oak and the ceiling is pressed tin. The inside of the store is ornate, as the Victorian architecture called for. Still on hand are some original display cases and nail bins. There are revolving cabinets for small articles. The shelves containing merchandise reach from floor to ceiling. Way up at the top, next to the ceiling, the original old shelves hold antique items and then under those shelves are newer items. The sliding ladders are still there in order to reach the top shelves. The ladders slide on steel runners. Near the cast-iron cookware section, you can look up and you can also see some wooden water pipes used in early New Braunfels. Now where else can you see that?

Before banks were well established, mercantile stores provided those services. The office area at the back of the building with its large built-in safe is a reminder of this practice. Cash registers were not used. Still visible are the remnants of the money trolleys.

There is also an elevator going upstairs and downstairs into the basement. Many of the immediate downtown buildings have basements. I had heard that the basement at Hennes was a favorite spot for card-playing men. Going down a steep set of stairs into the basement, I can see how a secluded area, half the size of the building, would be an intriguing place to get together to socialize. Glass tiles from the sidewalk let in a small bit of light. In the basement is a well about 25 feet deep that fills with water according to the amount of rain. Paul Matinka pointed out it reflects the water table and when there was lots of rain, the well would fill up and even spill over. The well was dug before the building was built.

Over the years, Louis Henne acquired more property on the block where the store is located. His family’s two story home was built at the back of the property on Mill St. He also maintained a camp yard for customers who came into town on weekends by wagon. They would camp there and return home the next day. It was one of several such campgrounds complete with wagons and campfires and of course, lit by tin oil lanterns. The large barn-like building behind the store was the lumber storage.

Louis Henne was the only one of his seven brothers and sisters that married. He married Emilie vom Stein and they had five children. He was active in the formation of the Volunteer Firemen’s association. One of Louis’ sons, Adolf, succeeded his father as head of the store when Louis died in 1912. Adolph remodeled the store, adding the show windows and adding interior shelving and display cases. He carried on his father’s interest in fire prevention. When he died in 1945, the business went to his three sons: Clifford, Eugene, and Norman. Clifford and Eugene took over the store and they were the last Hennes to own the store. Clifford became the sole owner in 1962.Ten years later the business was sold to Donald Stott and James Goodbread and then to the Bob Schima family. The present owner bought the business in 1996 and the property in 2000.

Paul Martinka has managed to have merchandise that you can’t find anywhere else and even some that is no longer available. Look for well-made unusual toys for Christmas. There is a very large collection of cast- iron cookware and pottery from Marshall, Texas. Martinka has devoted his time to maintaining historic Henne Hardware.

Interior of Henne Hardware after the 1912 remodel with Louis Henne inset. Photo courtesy of Paul Martinka.

Interior of Henne Hardware after the 1912 remodel with Louis Henne inset. Photo courtesy of Paul Martinka.

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Startz Café receives Texas Treasure Business Award

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Startz Café has the distinction of being one of the only small businesses in Comal County still in operation by the same family for over 50 years. They just received the Texas Treasure Business Award in 2014. They were nominated by Representative Doug Miller. This story is about how the Startz Café in Startzville came to be.

Looking at family trees can be both enlightening and mind-boggling, especially if it traces the Startz family. Their family tree reveals to me that if they had a family reunion of all the descendants, there wouldn’t be a hall big enough to hold them. The Texas story of the Startzs’ began with the arrival of Johann Startz and wife Margarethe Loeffler Startz on the first ship sent by the Adelsverein to Texas, the Johann Dethardt in 1844. Traveling with them were her three children, Katherine Loeffler, Christian Loeffler, and Louise Loeffler and the couple’s children together, Heinrich Startz, Friedricke Startz and Caroline Startz.

Johann Startz received a town lot in New Braunfels on Seguin St. but soon after arriving in New Braunfels settled in the area of Mission Hill and then moved to Smithson Valley. After Margarethe died, Johann married the widow Catherine Wenzel and they had one son together, Ludewig. It is thought that the family then moved to Buffalo Springs Settlement on the upper Guadalupe near the third river crossing.

Johann’s oldest son, Heinrich, moved to an area known as Hillview, near where our story of the Startz Café takes place. Heinrich married Louise Artzt and where they lived would later be known as Startzville. It was 17 miles northwest of New Braunfels near Tom Creek. Startz Hill, originally called Hillview, was changed to Startz Hill to honor Heinrich Startz. With its height of 1,400 feet, it is the highest point in Comal County. Later land owner, Carl D. Allen, donated the hill to Comal County and it is now named Allen Park. It was considered the first county park in Texas. From its summit, one gets a view of Smithsons Valley and a stunning view of Twin Sisters Mountains 32 miles away. Author Laurie Jasinski in “Hill Country Backroads” reveals details of an ancient sea bed which can be viewed at the park providing travelers with interesting fossils and water-formed rocks. The Sanders family found many geodes, some round and some split open revealing their crystalline centers.

This land in the hill country (Bergland in German) is what my grandmother called “the mountains”. Her description of the mountains was any place above the Balcones Escarpment. She had lots of friends in the mountains and it was a long time before I associated this area with mountains. It wasn’t what I learned in school as mountains.

Now let’s get to the Startz Café. Just down the road from Allen Park (Startz Hill) at the intersection of Cranes Mill and Sattler Road, Bruno and Viola Elbel had a cedar yard and a store in 1939. The Elbels built a house with a small grocery store inside where they sold mostly to the cedar choppers in the area. Cedar chopping was a big business. This home burned down in 1942 and so they built a rock home in its place. This was the building that Curt and Alice Schlameus Startz leased from the Elbels in 1944 and bought in 1946. Curt Startz was the son of Heinrich and Louise Startz.

In addition to the home there was an ice house which still stands, and two gasoline pumps later removed. Ice was in demand even before tourists arrived. Because Startzville was not on the Guadalupe River like other settlements, they had to rely on well water with a windmill. Also standing is a hand pump for kerosene.

Curt and Alice Startz were the sole owners of the store. Alice ran the store after Curt’s death in 1959. The Startz’s son, James Sr. and his wife Lorine, were the next generation to run the store. It was James Startz, Sr. who added the café next to the house.

The area was first called Startzville by Dr. E.J. Duffin who did a painting in 1950 of the front of the store calling it Startzville after the original members of the Startz family. By that time they had lived in the area more than 100 years. His humorous comments painted on the side of the building were: Startzville – Paradise Valley of Comal County; Population, same; Elevation, unchanged; Temperature, delightful; ice, groceries, beer. According to local author and historian, Alton Rahe, Dr. Duffin was possibly a good friend of the Startzs and owned 310 acres of land adjoining the Startz property.

With the building of Canyon Lake and Dam, nearby Cranes Mill and Hancock were submerged. Possibly the only advantage of not being on the Guadalupe River, Startzville remained and the area’s population increased as it became a tourist spot.

After the death of James Sr. and Lorine Startz, their two children assumed ownership of the business. They are James Startz Jr. and Sandra Startz Duncan. A fourth generation member of the Startz family is presently running the thriving café. She is Monica Startz Wetz, daughter of James Startz Jr.

Sandra Startz Duncan has some interesting memories of her grandmother, Alice Startz. Sandra and her brother James spent lots of time with her at the café. Like a few other early business women that I have heard of in Comal County, Alice had her opinions and didn’t mind sharing them. She was strict about a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy. Once she went out with a shotgun during the night when some teenage males were confiscating beer and soda and were putting them in the bed of their truck. She held them at gunpoint and used the pay-phone to call the law.

Sandra remembers activities like domino games and cards with lots of beer. She said her grandmother, although she had a “raw” sense of humor, was well liked.

Café hours are: 6am-2pm Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; 10am-2pm Tuesday; 6am-8pm Thursday and 6am-9pm on Friday. Some of the old time family favorites include such items as Oma Startz’s (Alice) original chili and enchilada recipes, and Mamo’s (Lorine) pies like she made them.

It’s still a family operation with family members helping out. They “stayed put” and “bloomed where they were planted” in Startzville, Comal County, Texas.

Alice and Curt Startz in front of the Startz Store.

Alice and Curt Startz in front of the Startz Store.

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Dr. Wilhelm Remer, early medical doctor with the Adelsverein

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Have you heard of Dr. Wilhelm Remer? He was an early medical doctor with the Adelsverein for the protection of German immigrants in Texas and he was a friend of Hermann Seele. Here is the story of how they met and their lifetime friendship.

First a little reminder of Seele’s arrival in Texas. Twenty one year old Hermann Seele came to Texas in 1843. He didn’t originally join with the Adelsverein, but after two years in the coastal area, he joined the second group of immigrants who eventually arrived in New Braunfels in May of 1845, two months after the very first group crossed the Guadalupe. While at Indian Point a group of Texan teamsters from Victoria arrived to accompany this second group and take freight belonging to the Adelsverein to the new settlement, fifteen miles north of Seguin.

In April 1845 when the group left Indian Point, the whole coastal area was flooded as a result of too much rain, leaving behind mud in the trails. Even on the first day they traveled only 12 miles. It took four weeks to get as far as Seguin. Mud is very hard on oxen pulling wagons full of goods. To give the oxen rest, they were unyoked and turned out to pasture. A roof type tent of sailcloth was set up to prepare a fire to cook cornbread, bacon, and coffee.

In the evening while sitting around the fire, a tall, strongly built young man with brown hair and beard approached the men around the fire and in German asked, “Guten Abend, meine Herren. Kann ich bei Ihnen bleiben?” (Hello, gentlemen, can I join you?) Although Seele and the others were surprised by the stranger’s arrival, they were very pleased to hear him speak in their native German. The wagoners were American and spoke no German.

The men welcomed this stranger and thus began a lifetime friendship between Hermann Seele and Dr. Wilhelm Remer. From this point on, Seele and Remer were together on their trek inland.

Dr. Remer said that he had arrived in Texas from Breslau, Germany and first practiced medicine in Memphis. From there he went to New Orleans and in April headed back to Texas intending to join the colony. Immediately Remer and Seele began talking about the colonization project and the Adelsverein.

After a terrific thunderstorm, from the north, the group moved on and soon Seele and Remer were witnesses to a barbaric orgy in which a group of Tonkawa Indians had fried and boiled a Waco warrior. Ritual cannibalism was part of their way of life. The Tonkawa squaws felt that if they ate the flesh of the warrior that they admired, that they would pass his good qualities on to their children. For the whole story, see the Sophienburg.com Archives column for August 29, 2008.

As they made their way to the Guadalupe, they were detained because it was impossible to cross the flooding river. All the freight and personal belongings were unloaded. In the distance across the river they could see shimmering white tents of the settlers. On a hill that would later become known to them as the Sophienburg, a black and yellow flag of Germany had been placed there by Prince Carl. At the same time, some of the early settlers had strung up a flag of the Republic of Texas on the area where the Plaza would be. There has been much speculation about the significance of this action.

Waiting on the north side of the Guadalupe until the water had receded, Seele and Remer were finally carried across the river in a canoe hewn from the trunk of a cypress tree by the Smith brothers of Seguin who were cutting cypress shingles. They crossed approximately where the Faust Street Bridge would later be constructed.

They walked into the beginnings of the town and visited with some Germans that they had known in the old country. Remer remained in town and Seele went to pick up meat from the Society’s butcher, H. Burkhart.

According to historian and author Everett Fey, surprisingly Dr. Remer did not receive a town lot. According to others who were First Founders, he should have received a lot since he was a First Founder. Records show that he was listed as an Adelsverein doctor but was not on their payroll. This has caused much speculation especially since he presented a petition to the Colonial Council asking to be treated more fairly. The Council took no action on his request.

During the arrival of thousands of new immigrants in 1845 and 1846, Remer was sent by the Adelsverein to the coastal area to care of the sick immigrants. Dr. Remer eventually set up his medical practice in New Braunfels and married Franciska Kuehn in 1850.

In 1855 a gruesome crime took place in New Braunfels. One of the original founders of NB, Christoph Moeschen, was murdered during the night by his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. Dr. Remer was the doctor called upon to examine the victim and pronounce him dead. According to Hermann Seele, the doctor asked the coroner, “What am I supposed to do now?” to which the coroner replied, “You are to state if the man is dead”. He pronounced that the man was indeed dead and the coroner called for an autopsy right there. After the autopsy, Remer said, “The old man has been murdered. Put the people under arrest.” Seele felt that Remer’s remarks were strange. In the end, mother, daughter, and son-in-law were arrested, tried, and sentenced to nine years in prison. The mother died in prison, the daughter paroled in 1860 and the son-in-law paroled in 1862. For the whole story see Sophienburg.com, Feb 7, 2012.

Not much more is known about Dr. Remer except that he died in 1870. Seele in his writings shows a great deal of respect for the medical profession. Although we don’t have much personal information about Dr. Remer, we can conclude that Seele and he continued a friendship that began in their early days in Texas and lasted throughout their lives.

Dr. Wilhelm Remer confronts a group- of immigrants on their way to New Braunfels.

Dr. Wilhelm Remer confronts a group- of immigrants on their way to New Braunfels. On the right is Hermann Seele. Artist: Patricia S. Arnold.

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