Lindheimer, Father of Texas Botany

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

How many times have you said or thought, “I wish I could remember what my grandmother told me about that.” If you have letters or a diary from your family, you are one of the fortunate ones. Our history of New Braunfels is almost totally based on the writings of Prince Carl, Hermann Seele, Ferdinand Roemer, Ferdinand Lindheimer and all those who told us our history because they were here. From them we learned what the town looked like, what people were doing, what they ate, how they felt, and what they thought. Even from the Spanish period in Texas we are told about routes along the Camino Real through the Comal Springs and about the missions established along the routes and how the explorers lived.

We live in what is called the communication age but you have to wonder how much of our “communication” today will be left for future generations to discover where we were and who we were. Remember that when you hit “delete” on your computer or cell text. Wonder if there is some kind of “cyber diary” out there that will be tapped in the future or will it all just be transported into outer space?

In 2013, I wrote an article about the life of Ferdinand Lindheimer, however, recently I read again A Life Among the Texas Flora by Minetta Altgelt Goyne, and decided to write more about this exceptional man. The book is a compilation of letters from Lindheimer to botanist George Engelmann.

Dr. Goyne, a descendant from some old New Braunfels families (Altgelt and Coreth), was teaching at the University of Texas at Arlington and could translate the old German script. She also knew a lot about New Braunfels history, Lindheimer and the history of Germany, all contributing to her insightful analysis published alongside the letters. The original letters are housed at the Missouri Botanical Garden at St. Louis. In 1979, the president of the New Braunfels Conservation Society approached Dr. Goyne to translate the letters. Copies of the letters had been acquired from Carlos Lindheimer, great-grandnephew of Lindheimer and native of Argentina.

Lindheimer came to New Braunfels in 1845 with Prince Carl at the age of 43. He did not travel to Texas on the ships with the first contingency of immigrants. He was already here in Texas. He was born and raised near Frankfurt, came to the United States in 1834, entering at New York. He traveled to Belleville, Illinois to the Hilgard Farm where he joined friends that had already emigrated from Germany. One of the friends was George Engelmann. Engelmann had studied medicine in Germany and had a practice in St. Louis but continued his plant studies. Engelmann and Lindheimer had studied botany together in Germany.

In the fall of 1834, Lindheimer set out from Illinois to travel south. His destination was Texas but it was considered dangerous to travel south directly into Texas from the northern route. He decided to travel to Mexico and then enter Texas from the south. He took a steamboat from Illinois down the Mississippi and arrived in New Orleans. then took a schooner to Veracruz, Mexico. He traveled to a German colony not far from Veracruz that he considered one of the most beautiful areas on earth. The German colony grew and exported sugarcane, coffee and tobacco. Lindheimer stayed there for a period of time working and observing the plantation. At that point, he thought he wanted to be a farmer.

We know that he left Mexico and enlisted in the Army of Texas, arriving with his company at San Jacinto one day too late. He received an honorable discharge at Houston on December 5, 1837. Apparently his commanding officers allowed him to collect botanical specimens while his fellow soldiers were performing drills. In 1939, he purchased a ten-acre farm near Houston not far from White Oak Bayou.

The letters to Engelmann beginning in 1841, indicate that he was accumulating equipment for his first botanizing in Texas. In 1835, while in Mexico, Lindheimer wrote to Engelmann about his interest in plants. Now in Texas, he was going to be paid to collect plant specimens and ship them to Engelmann in St. Louis.

Engelmann later organized the St. Louis Academy of Science in 1856 and what is now called the Missouri Botanical Garden. The archives house Engelmann’s plant collections and papers which include the Lindheimer letters. Many of the plant specimens collected by Lindheimer were also be sent to the famous botanist Asa Gray and actually all over the world. The Texas plants had never been collected and catalogued so completely before this time.

In the early 1840s, Lindheimer collected plants in the Houston and Galveston area, making little use of his home and living in a tent. His equipment consisted of paper, plant pressing equipment, magnifying glasses and botany textbooks. Specimens were shipped to St. Louis in wooden crates. Engelmann and Gray paid Lindheimer eight dollars per 100 specimens.

In 1842, Lindheimer wrote to Engelmann from Houston concerning the “Texas Star” flower (Lindheimeria texensis), “Did you write my name among the stars with this little Asteroid? Did I serve botany in that way? Not by knowledge of it but rather by love of this sleeping, dreaming daughter of Flora.” He continues, “So, if I die childless, then I shall nevertheless leave a little immortal daughter, the Lindheimer texensis!”

In 1843 and 1844, we find Lindheimer collecting specimens in (Wild)Cat Springs, San Felipe, Brazoria, Liverpool, the Brazos basin, Industry and the Chocolate Bayou. Wildcat or Cat Springs was established in 1834 by Robert Justus and Rosalie Roeder Kleberg. The 1831 settlement of Industry where Lindheimer visited is considered the cradle of German settlements in Texas. There was a small influx of German emigrants during most of the Republic of Texas period until the last year, when the major immigration to Texas occurred with Prince Carl.

In January 1845, Lindheimer wrote to Engelmann from the Adelsverein’s camp at Aqua Dulce. Many of the German Texans that had settled in Texas prior to the arrival of Prince Carl, joined with the prince at the coast. Then on April 18, 1845, we find that Lindheimer is writing his letter from the new German settlement on the Comal Springs. Lindheimer writes of New Braunfels, “Flower upon flower, richer than the richest Persian carpet. Fragrances that sometimes remind one of violets, often of vanilla, flow around the wanderer.”

In New Braunfels, Lindheimer reserved a piece of land for his botanical garden of Texas plants, arboretum and agricultural experiments. Under the employ of the Adelsverein, he received this farm and a house. By Christmas, he was living in a cold, poor, open hut and spending so much time on survival that he is having difficulty collecting plants. This situation was remedied when he met Eleanor Reinarz. Lindheimer described her as upright, understanding, diligent, solid, refreshing, generous and chaste. She shared in his interests and helped with his plant collecting. He wrote that in a couple of weeks, his weatherproof house will be ready alleviating the problem of moldy specimens.

From this home-base, Lindheimer traveled to the surrounding areas of San Antonio, Seguin, Austin, San Saba and the Pedernales to collect plant specimens.

Gray and Engelmann issued Plantae Lindheimerianae, Part I in 1845 and Part II in 1850, with many publications to follow. In the early 1850s, Lindheimer’s interests became more local and he spent more time raising his family with wife, Eleanor. New Braunfels was in need of a newspaper and on November 12, 1852, the first issue of the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung was published with Lindheimer as editor. He continued botanizing to the end of his days. He died in 1879, and is buried in the Comal Cemetery. The first log home he built on Comal Avenue is no longer standing but his winterized home stands and is maintained amidst gardens by the New Braunfels Conservation Society.

Without a doubt, the letters establish why Lindheimer is considered the Father of Texas Botany.

Linda Sioux Henley, member of the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, poses next to a clay sculpture she is designing of Lindheimer discovering the Texas Star.

Linda Sioux Henley, member of the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, is designing a clay sculpture Lindheimer discovering the Texas Star.

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The area of Sattler includes many names

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Most of our small settlements in the Texas Hill Country, if they survived, grew up next to rivers and creeks. The Guadalupe River Valley NW of New Braunfels has been hailed by many as the most beautiful area in all of the Hill Country.

Part of the beauty of the valley has to do with the Guadalupe River, 230 miles long, it has a very inauspicious beginning 80 miles north of New Braunfels near Hunt, Texas. Its beginning is not as impressive as our own Comal Springs, but it overcomes stumbling blocks like Canyon Dam to make its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Below New Braunfels, the Comal River gives up its dominance and merges into the Guadalupe.

Native Americans long ago took advantage of these areas along the river valley. Most were nomadic, generally peaceful and lived off the bounty of the land and rivers. Fish, oysters and clams were a few of the many sources of food from the water, and deer, turkeys and rabbits provided food from the land. Berries and nuts grew in abundance along the river valley. Other nomadic tribes were not so peaceful because the area was also the hunting grounds of the Comanche.

The German immigrants were the first Europeans to actually settle in the Guadalupe Valley. One of those settlements about which we will speak became Sattler, named for Wilhelm Sattler.

Alton Rahe and Brenda Anderson-Lindemann have done extensive research on the Sattler area. Notice that I said “Sattler area.” There was not a town of Sattler although there is an area referred to as Sattler. The name of the current location of Sattler was given to the area over 136 years ago after it was relocated from the original Sattler postal station founded over 160 years ago. The area over time has also been referred to and includes Walhalla, Marienthal, Hidden Valley, Mountain Valley and of course, Sattler. Research is hard enough without this confusion. Just remember the Sattler of today includes these other settlements.

Areas frequently became named the same as the postal station established and this is how it happened. Wilhelm Sattler contracted with the US government to operate a postal station. In 1856, he was approved for the postal station and operated out of a log cabin built on his ranch. There is, however, a postal journal owned by the family that records transactions as early as 1849. Wilhelm’s son Heinrich was appointed postmaster in 1856. When Heinrich was killed in the Civil War, it is possible that Wilhelm acted as postmaster in place of Heinrich. The post office is still standing and in remarkable condition. Next to the small structure, Sattler built his home and two other log cabins. One of the log cabins was Wilhelm’s office for bookbinding and bookkeeping and the other was where he officiated as a judge.

Where is this Sattler ranch and first post office? It is located just north of FM 306 on Point Creek Road between Point Creek and the Guadalupe River. After Wilhelm Sattler’s death in 1880, community members moved the post office to a more central location in a general store in the area that is now considered Sattler at the crossroad of River Road and FM 2673.

Here is a little more about the Sattler family. Wilhelm Sattler and his wife Sophia arrived in Texas in 1845 from Germany. Sattler drew town lot 230 in New Braunfels. He is on Oscar Haas’ first founder list. The family settled in Comaltown in New Braunfels at an unknown date, however, it is known that he was selected as a city alderman (city councilman) for the Comaltown district in 1849. He was one of the organizers of the Comal Union School located in Comaltown.

In 1853, Sattler bought 320 acres of mountainous land from Texas land agent, Jacob de Cardova. It was on this property that the home, post office and other offices were built. His profession was bookbinding and bookkeeping for prominent New Braunfels men like Hermann Seele, Dr. Theodor Koester, Franz Moreau and Ferdinand Lindheimer. He was a member of Texas Land Commission and worked on and off in Austin. Sattler was educated, spoke several languages, and had an extensive library in his home. Unfortunately, due to a fire in 1925 in the home, the book collection burned but the postal journal survived.

Presently six families that are direct descendants of Wilhelm and Sophia Sattler live on the property. The ranch is not as large as the initial 800+ acre Sattler Ranch but it still maintains the beauty of the Guadalupe River Valley ranch of old. One of the g-g-g-grandsons of Wilhelm Sattler, Ed Walker, was my guide on the ranch recently. The Point Creek, named because of the point formed where the creek joins the Guadalupe River, has two waterfalls on the property. Ed operates the Point Creek Haven Cabins at the confluence of the Point Creek and the Guadalupe River with ¼ mile of river frontage. The cabins are on the outside of the Guadalupe River horseshoe that goes from FM 306 to FM 306. It reminds me of my childhood days on the Guadalupe River experiencing the slow-paced lazy days of summer cooling off in the river.

The old post office is nearby and all manner of animals inhabit the place-peacocks, emus, guineas, a turtle, ducks and Texas longhorns. The Sattler family cemetery is located across Point Creek from the post office and contains the graves of Wilhelm and Sophia Sattler and other family members. The cemetery has been designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery.

The Sattler descendants are very conservation minded and the whole piece of property shows a respect for heritage and a desire for preservation. The Sattler Post Office is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

And now that you are not confused anymore, we can talk about the other names associated with the Sattler area.

The name Walhalla in Norse mythology was the “hall of Odin.” Odin receives the souls of heroes slain in battle. The early settlers named their dance hall after this mythological hall and the Walhalla Singing Society. Four halls were built over time with the same name but in different places. The last hall was next to the VFW Canteen Lounge at the corner of River Road and FM 2673 (or the old Sattler-Cranes Mill Road). It is no longer standing.

Another name in the Sattler area is known as Mountain Valley. The Mountain Creek runs through this valley, therefore possibly the name Mountain Valley. It was the location of the Mountain Valley School that closed in 1957. There is also a Mountain Valley Cemetery located in the area.

Hidden Valley was used to describe an area accessible by only one dead-end road that went from the current Sattler intersection towards the Guadalupe River. It is still there but now mostly covered by Canyon Dam. It is the direction of the South Access Road.

The last but not least area was called Marienthal that means Marie’s Valley. In 1849, New Braunfels merchants Ferguson and Hessler established a farm located where FM 306 crosses the Guadalupe River. It was a 300+ acre farm named after Ferguson’s wife Marie. Use of the name for that location continued into the 1900s.

Near the municipal buildings, there is a Texas historical marker titled “Sattler.” With the Weil-Nowotny-Guenther Store, post office, dance hall, cotton gin and bowling alley, the area served as a gathering place for farm and ranch families. Changes came after the building of Canyon Dam but the heritage of Sattler remains significant in the history of Comal County.

By looking at the different names of mountains and valleys in this area of the Guadalupe Valley one can see why it is still considered one of the most beautiful Texas Hill Country areas.

The Sattler Post Office on the Sattler-Walker Ranch.

The Sattler Post Office on the Sattler-Walker Ranch.

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Faust Hotel has an interesting history

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Once upon a time there were two large Victorian houses sitting side by side on Seguin Ave. next to the First Protestant Church. These two houses belonged to Joseph Faust and his son Walter Faust. Walter Faust’s house was right next to the church and it still stands there. Joseph Faust’s house was right next to Walter’s. That house no longer exists. Well, that’s not exactly true because it was sold and moved a little way down the street. It seems impossible that the large house could be moved, but it was.

Before we get to that almost impossible story, let’s look at the history of hotels in New Braunfels. Hotels, earlier called inns have been popular forever. A traveler getting a good night’s sleep, food, drink and good fellowship was essential to a mobile population. The first inn known in New Braunfels was that of Count Henkel von Donnersmark located across the street from the present McAdoos Restaurant. Von Donnersmark catered to those immigrants newly arrived who had money to spend and still nowhere to stay. Supposedly this inn did a big liquor business. It even became the post office.

Soon to follow were inns on the Main Plaza such as the Millett Hotel on the property where the courthouse is located. Also the Guadalupe Hotel which still stands. The Guadalupe became the Schmitz Hotel in 1855. This was the most well-known hotel because it was also the stopping place of the pony express.

Down East San Antonio St. was the Comal Hotel or Eggeling Hotel built in 1899 (Prince Solms Inn). By the time trains came to NB, passengers were picked up at the train station and taken to the hotel.

Now we get to the granddaddy of them all, the Faust Hotel. What prompted the building of this big downtown hotel was interest in attracting the early 1900s tourist. Paul Jahn with the Chamber of Commerce reported that a committee had been formed to promote the idea of a hotel. The New Braunfels Hotel Company Inc. organized and it was decided to form a stock company of local citizens.

At the first meeting of stockholders, Emil Fischer was elected president, Walter Faust, vice-president, and B.W. Nuhn, secretary-treasurer. An offer was made by the Joseph Faust Estate to place a hotel on the Joseph Faust property where his house was. It was moved off the lot and sold to the Drs. Frueholz. It is cattycornered to the church where it still stands. The story of that move can be found in the column on 11-30-2010. The Walter Faust house was eventually purchased by the First Protestant Church.

Although primarily an agricultural community, because of the rivers, New Braunfels was also tourist town. With the coming of the railroad, the town was becoming more well known. After a severe drought in the early 1920s, the community recovered and saw a need for hotels. Salesmen called drummers were flocking to town to sell their goods. They not only needed a room to stay in, but also a temporary room to set up their products. This practice was very important to the mercantile business. The New Braunfels Hotel Company would build a hotel called the Travelers Hotel.

My husband, Glyn, grew up living in the Goff Hotel in Kenedy and remembers the salesmen that stopped at the only hotel between San Antonio and Corpus Christi. The 65 room hotel was owned by his grandparents, P.R. and Ida Goff. Stories about this hotel are very similar to the stories of the Faust and they were both built about the same time.

Bids for the four-story Travelers Hotel were requested and the total was to be $120,000 for the building only. Architect was Harvey P. Smith of San Antonio and contractor was Walter Sippel.

After completion in 1929, the hotel was leased to Nagel & Wuest of San Antonio for 15 years. About the time of opening, Nagel & Wuest who agreed to pay for some of the furnishings could not pay for what they had agreed. Since several conventions were already scheduled, First National Bank of New Braunfels agreed to pay the suppliers until they would be reimbursed. That never happened. A grand opening celebration was held Oct. 12, 1929 in spite of the trouble. It was quite an affair with over 2,000 people attending. Who didn’t show was the governor, Dan Moody, even after sending in his RSVP accepting.

A few years after opening, the hotel was turned back to the Hotel Company ending the contract with the Nagel and Wuest. They released the building with all bills pending. The Board turned down future lease offers because they wanted to sell the building.

Upon the death of Walter Faust, Hanno Faust was elected president of the company and he was given full power to operate the hotel in 1933. The hotel was renamed the Faust Hotel after the Faust family. Milton Dietz was the executor of the will of Walter Faust. In 1946, Dietz became president of the company and also became general manager of the Faust Hotel. In 1947, the hotel was purchased by local businessman Arlon Krueger who retained ownership until 1977. Hotel businesses everywhere were being replaced by motels that were more accessible and less expensive. By this time the grand old building was showing its age. The exterior had blackened, windows had broken, squirrels had moved in, and water had damaged the inside.

In 1977, Jackson and Houser purchased the building out of an interest in old hotels. They began the restoration process. Over time with several owners and several restorations, the once-beautiful hotel returned. Eight years ago, the hotel was sold to Vance and Priscilla Hinton.

The outdoor patio had been closed and now houses the Faust Brewing Co. while maintaining the 1920s atmosphere. Brewmaster Ray Mitteldorf who had extensive experience with several other breweries was hired to brew the beer. Making beer takes time and everything brewed in the Faust has to be sold there and can’t be sold at another outlet. This will be taken care of soon, as the Faust is opening the Faust Brewing Company on the corner of Butcher and Castell. Bottled beer and kegs will be manufactured and sold. An outdoor beergarten is planned to open in the future. The owners and brewmaster knew that something had to be done to manufacture more of their popular beer.

The historic Faust Hotel with its brewery and “brew-pub” food with a “German flair” will continue to be open to the public and “what’s old is new and what’s new is old,” so the saying goes. Look for details of the opening of their additional location.

The Faust Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, and is a New Braunfels Historic Landmark.

The Joseph Faust home as it is being moved off of the lot to its current location down Seguin Avenue to make room for the Travelers Hotel pictured in the postcard.

The Joseph Faust home as it is being moved off of the lot to its current location down Seguin Avenue to make room for the Travelers Hotel pictured in the postcard.

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Waisenhaus Orphanage on the Guadalupe

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Do you believe everything you read? Do you believe everything you hear? If your answer to these two questions is “no,” you must be thinking like an historian. A good historian reads material and thinks “there must be more” and hears information and thinks “where’s the proof?”

One of our best historians is Brenda Anderson Lindemann who has provided us with lots of history of Comal County. Her latest interest is the first orphanage in Texas, the Waisenhaus, located 3.5 miles from New Braunfels, on the Guadalupe River. Most New Braunfelsers know about the origin of the orphanage. There were 76 orphans to begin with that were left stranded here in New Braunfels because their parents either died at the coast, on the way to the colony, or in New Braunfels. Nineteen orphans were not claimed by family or friends and three of these died. The remaining sixteen orphans were raised by Pastor Louis Cachand Ervendberg and his wife, Louisa. We know the “fairytale” version of the orphanage story and how totally happy they all were.

As time has gone by, different historians have added to the knowledge of the orphanage. Brenda is going to tackle a segment of the story that has been little researched and even less written about. She is looking for information about what became of the orphans and who their descendants were.

Brenda has a personal interest in finding out about the orphans because she is the great-great-granddaughter of one of them, Lisette Schmidt. She knows quite a bit already about Lisette from family history. She wants to know the personal stories of the orphans because she is not satisfied with the fairytale version. She wants to know the real human story. Lisette Schmidt came to Texas with her parents, one brother and three sisters. All of the family members died in 1846 except Lisette and her sister, Nathalia. These two sisters were raised at the orphanage by the Ervendbergs.

According to family tradition, Louisa Ervendberg became their second mother. Lisette later married Hans von Specht, who had been hired by the Adelsverein to be the bodyguard for Prince Carl in Texas. Specht became an Indian fighter with the Texas Rangers. In 1853 he married Lisette Schmidt. He leased land at Honey Creek. A flood in 1869-70 destroyed their home and the couple moved to Spring Branch. On their 922-acre ranch, they raised 10 children. The couple was well-known in the Spring Branch area.

The following is a short synopsis of the Waisenhaus story: In the spring of 1846, a cholera epidemic broke out along the coast where the immigrants were waiting to be transported to NB. The conditions were so bad that the disease spread like fire over dry grass. Many headed by foot to the colony, bringing this dreaded disease with them. Hundreds died along the way. Many died in NB and were buried in the New Braunfels or Adelsverein Cemetery in a mass grave. As a result of this highly contagious disease, 76 orphans were left to fend for themselves without parents. Brenda has the names of all of these orphans.

The pastor of the German Protestant Church and his wife were given the responsibility of taking care of the orphans. The Adelsverein built a small log house for the pastor on the property of the present First Protestant Church. The orphans were housed in a large tent next to the pastor’s cabin. This must have been one of those very large supply tents provided by the Adelsverein. All but 19 of the orphans were claimed and in a short time, three more had died. While Louise Ervendberg was taking care of her own children and the orphans, Pastor Ervendburg was busy supervising the construction of a log church for his flock.

In 1848, Ludwig Bene, Hermann Spiess, and Louis Ervendberg incorporated the West Texas Orphans Asylum for the protection and support of orphan children. A piece of property was purchased outside of town and a building to house the orphans was constructed. Early stories of the orphanage were filled with happy fairytale like stories. Here they did have a home, not a tent. There was plenty of food. Family stories of celebrations and happy traditions began. The boys were taught agriculture and the girls learned homemaking skills. Wonderful birthday celebrations and gift giving became a part of their life. They were schooled by the pastor.

Pastor Ervendberg was experiencing financial trouble. When he accepted the position of pastor of the settlers, his salary was to be from the “good will” of the congregation and supplemented by the Adelsverein. But the Adelsverein declared bankruptcy in 1847 and could no longer supplement his salary. In four years, the total amount of congregation money was $200. In 1850 Ervendberg submitted his resignation to the church. By submitting his resignation, perhaps the pastor thought it would help the congregation see the necessity of a steady salary. This did not work.

After advertising for a pastor, Gustav Wilhelm Eisenlohr of Ohio submitted his application to the German Protestant Church. At the last minute, Ervendberg submitted his name also as a candidate. The vote was 70 for Eisenlohr and 28 for Ervendberg. Sadly, Pastor Louis Ervendberg left the church that he had founded.

According to family tradition, he took refuge at the Waisenhaus. Now he would have more time to work with his botany experiments. Ervendberg’s longtime friend, Ferdinand Lindheimer ordered silkworm eggs from botanist Asa Gray at Harvard for Ervendberg. As a result, he mastered the technique of producing silk. Another project was growing tobacco and making cigars.

But the fairytale was about to break apart. There was trouble between Louisa and Louis. Louisa noticed that Louis was taking a strong interest in one of the orphans, Franzeska Lange, age 19. When confronted with this possibility, the couple decided that the best course of action they could take was to both leave the orphanage and start life over together. The plan was that Louisa was to take the three girls and travel to Illinois. Louis was to keep the two boys with him, close up their business at the Waisenhaus, and join them in Illinois. While Louisa kept her end of the bargain, Louis left the orphanage with the two boys and took Franzeska with him to Mexico. It was not only an end of the marriage, but an end of the orphanage. So much good can be attributed to both the pastor and his wife, we should honor the positive aspects of their lives.

Brenda Anderson Lindemann will be the featured speaker at the September 10th meeting of the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The meeting is at 9:30am at Forke Store at Conservation Plaza, 1300 Churchill Drive, here in New Braunfels. The meeting is open to the public. She will be speaking about the orphans and would like to meet with anyone who thinks they are descended from one them. Here is the list of the 19 orphans:

Augustine Bitter, Daniel Fromme, Christian Guenther, Wilhelmine Koether, William Kretzer, Heinrich Kreikenbaum, Franzeska Lange, Louise Lange, Lisette Schmidt, Nathalie Schmidt, Carolina Schuessler, Anna Marie Stendebach, Peter Walter, George Walter, Fredrich Walter, Philipp Heinrich Weber, Friedrich Weber, John Wessinger, and Lena? (later Spiess).

This historical project has just begun.

Photo of Lisette Schmidt Specht and Hans von Specht from the Brenda Lindemann photo collection.

Photo of Lisette Schmidt Specht and Hans von Specht from the Brenda Lindemann photo collection.

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First-hand account of the Indianola hurricane

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

New Braunfels loves to celebrate anniversaries, but this date, Friday August 20 in 1886, we can commemorate but not celebrate. It was on this day one hundred thirty years ago (as of yesterday) that a hurricane hit the Gulf Coast. It was so strong that it destroyed the town of Indianola. Traveling with inland winds of 70 miles an hour, it wrecked everything in its path as far as San Antonio. New Braunfels was not spared.

A letter written by Sen. George Pfeuffer to his wife, Susan Gravis Pfeuffer, who had remained in Austin was recently discovered by John Rightmire at an estate sale. The letter was written in New Braunfels by Pfeuffer immediately after the storm hit the town. A letter like this one is a primary source and to have someone at the location at the time of the event provides primary proof. A good example of primary sources are the letters written home to relatives in Germany giving accounts of what was going on and what things looked like back here in Texas. Rightmire’s “find” provides us with a description of what effect the hurricane had on New Braunfels.

George Pfeuffer was a prominent person in New Braunfels and Texas, having established a merchandise store here, and a lumber yard in NB and two other towns. He was politically active. He was a county judge and president of the board of directors of Texas A&M College. He led the fight to obtain state funds for schools as a senator from 1882 to 1884. When he died, the Granite Association of Texas put up a giant obelisk in his memory in the Comal Cemetery. It is made of pink granite, the same as the capitol. He was responsible for the use of the pink granite.

This is information from his letter: At 3:30 in the afternoon on this day, George Pfeuffer took to the streets around Main Plaza. He wrote to his wife that half of the tin covering of their home was gone and that the frame of the new floor addition was also gone. This house was on the corner of San Antonio St. and Comal Ave. facing Comal Ave. where the law office of Brazle and Pfeuffer is now located. (The older home was torn down in 1910 and the bricks used to build the home in the same location but facing San Antonio St. Somers Valentine Pfeuffer, son of George, built this house.)

Next to the Pfeuffer home was the Carl Floege Store on the corner now owned by the New Braunfels Utilities and it was also badly damaged. This building had been the location of the first district court in 1846.

Pfeuffer walked to where his lumber yard was located. That is where the present City Hall is on Castell Ave. The lumber sheds were knocked down as well as the nearby freight depot. Bob Pfeuffer, g-grandson of the senator says that this depot was close to the railroad track behind the lumber yard. Besides the personal loss at the lumber yard, he noticed that most of the roofs in town were gone.

He walked to the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and discovered that the steeple of the roof was sticking in the roof, but wrong-side up. Nearly every tree in town had fared badly. He walked by Heinrich Ludwig’s Hotel behind the Phoenix Saloon and saw that it lost its tin roof and bricks from chimneys were scattered everywhere. Pfeuffer described the damage scene at Voelcker’s on Castell Ave. like this: “The entire front looks like the result of a mule’s heels on the dash board of a light wagon.” It could have been the Voelcker Drug Store (Red Stag) or the Voelcker home also on Castell Ave.

Down Seguin Ave. Forke’s Store was gone as was Seele’s tin roof on the new building and the cotton gin roof was gone. The Forke Store building was given to Conservation Plaza much later. He mentions other buildings that were damaged, Bench’s Hall, Podewils, and Rennerts. The building that we know the most about is the already dilapidated building on Sophienburg Hill, once the headquarters of Prince Carl. It finally bit the dust as a result of this hurricane.

Pfeuffer wrote to his wife that he would not be in Austin anytime soon as he had to tend to the damage caused by the storm on the house, the lumber yard, and the store building, although it withstood the “puff,” it needs to be “recommenced.” The letterhead on which the letter was written gives an idea of what the Pfeuffer Store was all about. It was located on the corner of San Antonio St. and Castell Ave. where the Antique Mall is now located. He and his son, S.V. Pfeuffer, dealt in general merchandise, dry goods, groceries, crockery, tobacco, cigars and hardware. Also farm implements, wagons, carriages and they were buyers of cotton, grain and country produce.

As for Indianola, the town itself was created as a direct result of the German emigrants who were brought to the Republic of Texas by the Adelsverein. It was their port of entry after landing in Galveston beginning in 1844. The death of Indianola occurred as a result of its near sea level location on Matagorda Bay. There were two hurricanes, one in 1875 and the big one eleven years later in 1886. In 1886, as a result of a severe drought in Texas, an unusual wind became the subject of discussion and a hurricane had passed south of Key West and into the Gulf of Mexico. The quickly moving hurricane inundated the town with the exception of two buildings, one being the Court House. The once important port city was ultimately destroyed.

Indianola was the home of many beautiful, large homes built by prominent citizens. After the hurricane of 1886, some of these homes were moved to be reconstructed because they were in salvageable condition. Two were moved to Cuero. The Emil Reiffert home was dismantled, numbered and re-assembled. Also in Cuero is the Sheppard home that is now the De Witt County Historical Museum. Three buildings were moved to Victoria, the William Frobese home is now the rectory of Grace Episcopal Church. The home of Henry Huck was dismantled, transported by rail and reassembled. Finally, the D.H. Regan residence was also moved by rail.

Familiarity with storms was not new to the George Pfeuffer family. George Pfeuffer’s father, Johann Georg Pfeuffer, had been a successful tanner in Germany in the 1830s. For some unknown reason in 1845, he sold his businesses and signed on with the German Emigration Co. to leave for Texas. The parents and six children were among the second group to come to Texas. They arrived in Galveston in November 1845. From there they took a schooner to Indianola.

A near tragedy occurred when the schooner was overloaded and sank in the bay outside of Indianola. The family was saved but they lost all of their possessions. They were stuck on the coast along with hundreds of other immigrants waiting for transportation inland. They did not reach New Braunfels until 1848.

Only 26 days after his letter was written, George Pfeuffer died on September 15, 1886. His letter now joins other letters written by early citizens that help us understand our past.

The Newer Pfeuffer home facing San Antonio St. and the early home that faced Comal Ave.

The Newer Pfeuffer home facing San Antonio St. and the early home that faced Comal Ave.

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Margarethe Schertz, pioneer woman

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Margarethe Schertz was only 12 years old when she came to Texas with her parents in 1844. If she were alive today, she could tell us a story and a half about Texas, Comal County, and especially New Braunfels. It’s a unique story of an apparently strong woman.

Just like the Germans that left their homeland for a better life in Texas, another group from Riedisheim, the Alsatian Providence of France, emigrated. Both groups were looking for opportunities in Texas after facing economic problems. Conditions were even worse in Alsacian France, and allegiance to the monarchy was foremost to any idea of freedom.

A book called Schertz compiled by the Schertz Historical Preservation Committee stated that the Industrial Revolution brought wealth to the French upper class but extreme poverty to farmers. Between 1842 and 1869 thousands left the area and came to Texas. Opening new markets was one of the goals that the immigrants hoped would happen as a result of colonization.

When Texas became a republic in 1836, money and people to settle were scarce. Gen. James Hamilton, land commissioner for the republic, appointed Henri Castro to handle land sales. Castro, a successful French businessman managed a land grant sale. Castro’s ethical business reputation was in question in Texas and France. He recruited all over France but was not successful. Eventually, he signed up the number of colonists to make the trip to Texas from Alsace and Germany. In 1843, the 129 Castro recruits left Antwerp, Belgium on their way to Texas.

Margarethe Schertz, with her father Joseph Schertz and his wife Anna Marie, plus six of her unmarried siblings boarded the ship to Texas. The Schertz family left four of their children in France, to join them later. Margarethe was the youngest child brought along. After a very difficult trip across the seas to Galveston, they were expecting to be met by Henri Castro. He was a no show and they realized they were on their own. They headed for the area of Castro’s land grant west of San Antonio. Many abandoned the group or settled near San Antonio but by spring of 1844, most were living in poverty at the San Antonio mission grounds. Seven members of the group died, including the mother and two children of the Schertz family. They remained camped at the old Alamo site for nearly a year.

Giving up hope of being rescued by Castro, the family decided to return to France. On the way back to the coast, they fatefully ran into Prince Carl, leader of the German Adelsverein group. He had just left San Antonio after purchasing the Comal Tract and he was on his way to the coast to be with the first group of immigrants. The prince was sympathetic to the Castro group and invited two of the families to join him. One of the families was that of Joseph Schertz.

When the Schertz family joined the first group of German immigrants, they were led to the site of New Braunfels by Adelsverein Treasurer Jean Jacques von Coll. He becomes significant in the life of Margarethe Schertz later in the story.

The first founding families that arrived in New Braunfels prompted the drawing of lots. The Schertz family was part of this drawing and the family also bought land in Comal County and at the Cibolo Creek where the creeks separate the county of Bexar from the county of Guadalupe. The word Cibolo means buffalo. The area was a favorite hunting ground of Native American tribes. Eventually the settlement at the Cibolo was called Schertz after the older brother of Margarethe Schertz, Sebastian Schertz. Other family members stayed in NB and the hill country.

How does Jean Jacques von Coll fit into this puzzle? He was chosen to lead the immigrants on their inland trek because he had been trained as a lieutenant in the Duchy of Nassau military before he decided to immigrate to Texas. His military background would help protect the immigrants against Indians. He was singled out by Prince Carl for this leadership role and he was put in charge of the safety of the immigrants. When he crossed the Guadalupe with the founders of the colony, he was considered a founder and given lot #25 on the Main Plaza. Here he built one of only two saloons in the colony. Saloons were very lucrative business. One of the lots he purchased later was an acre lot (30.9 acres) running from San Antonio St. to present Coll St.

I’m guessing that von Coll didn’t pay too much attention to 12-year-old Margarethe Schertz on the trip up from the coast, but five years later he must have noticed her. In 1849, they were married in the German Protestant Church. Two girls were born to the couple, Kathinka and Elizabeth. In 1852, von Coll was elected mayor of NB when tragedy occurred. A disturbed settler came into the saloon complaining about the Adelsverein. In true military fashion, von Coll challenged the man to a dual. When von Coll turned his back to get his weapons, the man grabbed von Coll’s gun and shot him in the back. The settler was tried but not convicted. Margarethe was left with the two girls to raise alone.

A new chapter enters her life in the form of Carl Heinrich Guenther, known as Heinrich Guenther. He was a well-known, established citizen of New Braunfels. Guenther had received a higher education at the University of Halls in Germany. Records say that he came to Texas following some trouble with the church for playing secular music. Heinrich Guenther’s education afforded him the opportunity to teach at the New Braunfels Academy. His love of music prompted him to be one of the early directors of the local singing society, the Germania which was established in 1850. He was very active in the state Saengerbund.

Heinrich Guenther married the widow Margarethe Schertz von Coll. They had six children of their own for a total of eight with her two. The family lived in the house at 624 Coll St. which still stands across the street from Carl Schurz Elementary School.

Heinrich began a brewery at the foot of Bridge St. on the Comal River. Some of the remains are still there today. When he died in 1870, Margarethe took over running the brewery. It is believed that she was the only female brewer in Texas. Both Margarethe and Heinrich are buried in the old New Braunfels Cemetery. On his headstone is a Latin phrase meaning “He was fond of children and a cultivator of the Muses.” A Texas Historical Marker commemorates Carl Heinrich Guenther in the New Braunfels cemetery.

Margarethe Schertz von Coll Guenther was a survivor and a true pioneer woman.

Kathinka von Coll Clemens, daughter of Margarethe Schertz von Coll. Kathinka later married Sen. William Clemens of present Clemens Dam fame.

Kathinka von Coll Clemens, daughter of Margarethe Schertz von Coll. Kathinka later married Sen. William Clemens of present Clemens Dam fame.

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