“Spirit of the American Doughboy”

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

For the past few years, artist Jane Felts Mauldin has designed and painted a poster for the Sophienburg for use in advertising. This poster is particularly designed for the Sophienburg’s November event, the German Christmas Market, Weihnachtsmarkt.

Appropriately, Mauldin has depicted historical events in New Braunfels on her posters. Since the poster advertises Weihnachtsmarkt, she has used Christmas icons to fill in the history. Events and businesses have been highlighted. Since 2010, her posters have shown Founders Oak in Landa Park, the Plaza Bandstand, the Courthouse, New Braunfels Bridges, the Ferdinand Lindheimer House, Naegelin’s Bakery and the Brauntex Theater.

The most recent poster advertising Weihnachtsmarkt, shows the Doughboy statue on the Main Plaza. How appropriate since New Braunfels is currently honoring the 100th Anniversary of the United States involvement in World War I. All of Mauldin’s posters plus her other works of art are for sale in Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg. Many people have collected all of the posters and use them as part of their Christmas decorations.

There is an article on the statues on Main Plaza that was printed in the Herald-Zeitung on June 29, 2014 as part of this column. It is also available on page 343 of the book “Around the Sophienburg.”

Statues on plaza honor soldiers’ service

One statue located on the Main Plaza is called “Spirit of the American Doughboy.” Doughboy became a nickname for American soldiers in World War I and it stuck. No one knows where the name comes from but the term supposedly goes back long before the Civil War. In WWI both Americans and British soldiers were called Doughboys. Originally the term was not a compliment. Herman Melville in Moby Dick calls the cabin steward a doughboy suggesting a negative comparison to the sun burnt whalers and harpooners. Later the United States Army cavalry looked down on the infantry calling them Doughboys, referring to the shape of the infantrymen’s buttons on their jackets that looked like dumplings. Whatever, it was not a compliment and mostly mocked the American infantryman. After World War I, Doughboy became a popular name for all American troops. This changed by World War II when American service men were called G.I.s or Yanks. Doughboys are now mostly associated with World War I.

Doughboy (we’ll call the statue that name) was placed on the Main Plaza in 1937 in observance of the 19th anniversary of the Armistice of World War I. It is in full uniform complete with pack, helmet, grenade and rifle. The granite base contains tree stumps and barbed wire. There it remained for 49 years until it was run over by an inebriated driver in 1986. The statue broke into five pieces, losing its head, both arms and half a leg. A clever Herald writer quipped “A farewell to arms.”

When the statue was knocked off of its rather large base, an unexpected tombstone was revealed on which the statue stood. It had an inscription on it: “T. Stokely M. Holmes, born Aug 21, 1828, died July 28, 1905. A kind, affectionate husband, a fond father and a friend to all.” How this tombstone became part of the Doughboy is not known. Looking up that name in Ancestry.com, one finds this person buried in the Tuttle Cemetery in Guadalupe County: “Stokely M. Holmes, b Aug 21, 1828 and d July 28, 1905.” Obviously the Doughboy tombstone was rejected because it had incorrect information. It has rested under Doughboy since 1937.

Who was the sculptor of Doughboy? E.M. Viquesney was the sculptor of the cast zinc statue. He was a “chip off the old block” because his grandfather, Charles Alfred Viquesney was a stone carver in France who came to the United States in 1842. Then Charles Alfred’s son, also Alfred, followed in his father’s trade with a stone carving business, making monuments and carvings of angels, crosses and other figures. These figurines were very popular as early decorations of gravesites. Viquesney, the sculptor of Doughboy, learned the business from his father.

Viquesney designed monuments at Clark’s Monument Works. He went on to design and sculpt many other memorials during his lifetime, too many to name here. They ranged from a Confederate War Memorial to his last sculpture in 1946 titled “Last of the Comrades.” All of his sculptures honored war heroes. Sadly, following completion of “Last of the Comrades,” Visquesney took his own life.

In 1921, the Doughboy sculptor won a national American Legion award for design. With the success of the Doughboy statue he received orders all over the United States for replicas. In Texas alone this Doughboy can be seen in Canyon, Crowell, Ft. Worth, Grosebeck, Lufkin, Sinton, Wichita Falls, Vernon, Texarkana and New Braunfels.

With this success, he produced 12 inch replicas of this statue. This is a common practice for sculptors and he sold as many as 25,000 of these miniatures. One of the miniatures was given by Viquesney to President Warren Harding and one was given to Gen. John J. Pershing. He also made lamps, and candleholders and incense burners in the shape of the statue. The last Doughboy statue was produced in 1942. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there was one of these miniatures in someone’s attic right here in New Braunfels.

Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Clousnitzer had originally presented money in 1937 to the local American Legion to purchase both the Doughboy statue and another statue placed on the south side of the Plaza called “To the Memory of our Fallen Soldiers of the Civil War 1861-65,” honoring all soldiers of that war. The statue actually honors both sides of the Civil War, the Confederacy and the Union, because both sides in this conflict in Comal County lost soldiers in that war.

Another move took place when New Braunfels was getting ready to celebrate its Sesquicentennial in 1996. After refurbishing both statue soldiers and replacing stolen guns, they were placed on the same side of Main Plaza and rededicated in 1997. Both statues are now on the north side of the Plaza. Does this placement seem a little confusing to you? This might help: Hermann Seele said that when Nicholas Zink was plotting out the streets of New Braunfels, he followed the wagon trails, more or less. If you go to Main Plaza with a compass, you will find that North and South Seguin actually go in a northwest and southeast direction and West and East San Antonio go in a southwest and northeast direction. I suggest that you just go down there and find the statues yourself.

Artist Jane Felts Mauldin with her artwork representing the “Spirit of the American Doughboy.”

Artist Jane Felts Mauldin with her artwork representing the “Spirit of the American Doughboy.”

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Keep your eye on the grand old flag

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The words “Keep your eye on the grand old flag” by George M. Cohan comes from Cohan’s song, “It’s a Grand Old Flag,” a stage musical he wrote over 100 years ago. It was 1906 to be exact. The song is second in popularity only to the National Anthem, particularly with children.

The stars and stripes flag is an icon of our democracy and the message is important to all who believe in freedom and bravery. On Tuesday, July 4th , there will be plenty of flags waving on the Plaza because the Sophienburg Museum and Archives is once again holding a July 4th Celebration on that day. A large crowd is expected, so get to the Plaza to find a place to watch the parade that starts at 9:15 am. You will also be entertained by the Community Band and a fly-over is expected.

Now, please allow me to repeat a July 4th article that first appeared in the Herald-Zeitung in 1907.

Patriotic celebration part of NB lore

“Stars and Stripes Forever.” Thirty-seven stars, that is, for in 1876 when the United States commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, New Braunfels celebrated a glorious old-fashioned 4th of July. There is an article in the Sophienburg archives translated from German by historian Oscar Haas from the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung describing that centennial celebration. Here’s how New Braunfels celebrated in the “old days:”

Citizens went all out to show their patriotism. (German Texans have been doing that ever since, which was a little difficult during the two world wars with Germany). Houses and businesses were decorated for the two-day celebration with flags and wreaths of cedar and mountain laurel. The New Braunfels Academy (Mill Street) displayed a giant slate over its door on which was written in German: “Public schools cultivate loyal citizens.”

There were four triumphal arches downtown close to the plaza and a giant picture of George Washington displayed at the Zeitung printing shop.

The spot chosen for the festive events was in Comaltown where Eagles Hall is now located. A dance platform had been constructed as well as tables and chairs shaded by the beautiful graceful oak trees.

On the eve of the celebration, a cannon on Sophienburg Hill was fired 13 times in commemoration of the 13 original colonies. At the break of day on the 4th, people were awakened by the rapid firing of the cannon, followed by trumpets heralding the beginning of the festivities (no sleeping in on that 4th).

Soon thereafter, the Hortontown Germania Singing Society on saddled horses, and the Clear Springs Band on a decorated wagon, entered the town and were escorted up Seguin Avenue and San Antonio Street by the New Braunfels Band.

And now began a history parade of unprecedented magnitude. Headed by parade marshal F.B. Hoffmann, the pageant played itself out. In Spanish costume came Columbus (Valentin Pfeuffer) and his faithful Fernando (Bruno Voelcker). Then came George Washington (Johann Merz), followed next by a company of National Militia and finally prisoners of war in red uniforms representing English soldiers. At their side marched the boy drummer, one arm bandaged and a bullet riddled drum slung over his back.

Next, came the Liberty Bell float drawn by four beautiful white horses. There sat John Hancock, surrounded by John Adams, Robert Livingston, Robert Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin who presented the Declaration of Independence.

Then came floats of early New Braunfels pioneer years; Indians crouched in bushes spying on Prince Carl and next to him guards von Coll and von Wrede. Under a tree sat a pioneer mother and her family. Four Adelsverein soldiers hired by the Prince to protect the immigrants were played by sons of four men who were actually the original soldiers.

Miss Anna Rennert, as the Goddess of Liberty, was seated on a pedestal with 37 young ladies seated at her feet clad in white with blue sashes representing each US state.

The next two sections in the parade were from various organizations in town, followed by business floats, two of which were particularly interesting. The New Braunfels Woolen Factory had a loom powered from a wheel on the wagon demonstrating weaving and the Zeitung had a printing press with editor Anselm Eiband printing out “Song of 1776” to be distributed later.

Halting at the Plaza for photographs, the procession crossed the low water bridge and up the hill to Comaltown. After an opening speech by Hermann Seele, the festivities began and in the evening George Washington led the Grand March. Dancing on both days didn’t end until sunup. What stamina they had!

Stay tuned

On Sunday, July 2nd at 9 am, Tara Kohlenberg, Linda Dietert and Joanna Lewis will speak on the Sophienburg’s Reflection Program about the July 4th Celebration. They will fill you in on history and give you personal stories of what they remember about that date here in New Braunfels.

Liberty and the 13 Colonies July 4th Celebration in 1906 at Teutonia Hall. Top row from left: Hilda Baus, Ellie Rompel and Emma Meyer. Middle row from left: Hulda Reeh, Elvira Rohde, Hilda Dietert, Elfrieda Tausch, Sophie Luersen, Meta Reeh, Stella Soechting and Olga Kraft. Seated from left: Else Simon, Erna Hoeke and Else Rose.

Liberty and the 13 Colonies July 4th Celebration in 1906 at Teutonia Hall. Top row from left: Hilda Baus, Ellie Rompel and Emma Meyer. Middle row from left: Hulda Reeh, Elvira Rohde, Hilda Dietert, Elfrieda Tausch, Sophie Luersen, Meta Reeh, Stella Soechting and Olga Kraft. Seated from left: Else Simon, Erna Hoeke and Else Rose.

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Original Seekatz Opera House built for traveling shows, local entertainment

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

This article originally appeared in the Herald- Zeitung on January 23, 2007.

Marie Jarisch and Gaston Parsons have an obvious pride when they talk about their grandfather and the Seekatz Opera House. The current Seekatz Opera House owned by Ron Snider is on the exact site of the original building, which burned down in 1941. Brothers Louis and Otto Seekatz, Louis being the grandfather of Jarisch and Parsons, saw a need in the late 1800’s for a large building downtown to accommodate traveling shows and local entertainment. The brothers were butchers by trade and decided to build their building on the Seekatz homestead next to the butcher shop downtown. They chose local builder Chris Herry and architect James Wahrenberger to come up with the plans. I have seen the architect’s specifications and they read like the instructions for building King Solomon’s Temple. Example: the brick was to be good hard well-burned selected Laredo brick. It’s hard to believe that a building so solidly built could burn like it did.

The two-story building had a wooden floor with removable seating for dancing. The large, beautifully appointed stage was the focal point of the main floor, complete with backdrops, velvet curtains, and dressing rooms.

On entering the front doors there was a bar on one side and barber shop on the other. This bar was quite successful until the advent of Prohibition, at which time it converted to the Staats brother’s Candy Kitchen.

On the second floor were balconies on both sides for viewing the stage and happenings on the floor below. Upstairs were also private clubrooms. The basement housed a kitchen and tables and chairs.

Living up to expectations, the Seekatz Opera House not only became the scene of traveling vaudeville shows but just about every large event in town. There were New Years Eve dances, Firemen’s Balls, Kindermaskenball, Fourth of July celebrations, orchestra concerts, high school graduations and many dances.

Marie Jarisch remembers seeing the famous fan dancer Sally Rand on the stage. Dancing with only two large ostrich feathers to cover her, Rand had introduced this dance at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Supposedly she was good at creating the illusion of nudity while dancing “tastefully” to the music of Chopin. Hmmmm.

Gradually vaudeville and traveling shows became less popular as silent films made their debut. Jack Kaufmann, Sr. leased space to show movies as the stage productions decreased, and his son, Jack, Jr., who lived upstairs at the Opera House along with his parents and sister, Mary Virginia Brinkley, remembers some of those early stage shows. There was the freckle-faced singer and later movie star Arthur Godfrey and he recalls animal shows with live animals, especially monkeys.

Kaufmann said a Mr. Toepperwein did trick shots with a 22 rifle. He said Toepperwein stood in the balcony and fired at a screen over the heads of the audience. Can you imagine that today?

Then there was the 7 day bicycle rider whose bicycle was on a stand outside the theater. He actually rode 7 days and 7 nights.

Eventually movies overcame all the other entertainment. Kaufmann remembers the first silent movie,“The Great Train Robbery”, and the first “talkie” was Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer”. It was half silent and half talking. He said that his dad tried to keep up the show tradition by bringing in live animals when he showed the Frank Buck “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” movies. Otto Locke would bring in the animals and once he brought a giant boa constrictor.

In the 30’s G.A. Cole bought the movie business and the Seekatz Opera House became exclusively the Cole Theater. That’s what it was on January 21, 1941 when it succumbed to fire. “Stella Dallas” was showing at the Cole and outside the billboard advertised the upcoming “Misbehaving Husbands.” They never had a chance to misbehave at the Cole.

In the 1960s Gaston Parsons located the 300 plus pound marble cornerstone, which he still has. You can now view a display concerning the Opera House at the Sophienburg, including one of the 45 star flags flown in front of the building, plus the contents of the prematurely opened (due to the fire) time capsule. Shimmy on up the hill and see it.

Guests and honorees fill Seekatz Opera House for New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung’s 2015 Unsung Heroes ceremony. File photo by LAURA McKENZIE | Herald-Zeitung

Guests and honorees fill Seekatz Opera House for New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung’s 2015 Unsung Heroes ceremony. File photo by LAURA McKENZIE | Herald-Zeitung

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Sophienburg scholarship awarded

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Andrew White, a New Braunfels High School senior, is the recipient of the Myra Lee Adams Goff Sophienburg History Scholarship. In order to be awarded the $1,000 scholarship, high school seniors from all over Comal County are invited to write an essay about an historical person or event in Comal County. Andrew wrote the history of Schlitterbahn. It follows at the end of this column. Part of his essay is about his life expectations. Andrew will enter the University of Texas at Austin next fall to study journalism. I think you will see that this young man has something important to say:

Personal life – Andrew White

I come from a long line of proud, courageous and honorable men and women. I think back only two generations to my great-grandfather, who flew every bomber under the sun during the dark days of WWII. He served our country’s Air Force for over 30 years during some of the most dangerous and harrowing times our great nation has ever faced. Step forward a generation and you find my two grandfathers. One was a pastor who once smuggled supplies to build a church across the Mexican border, while the other stood bravely alongside death himself on the Korean DMZ. And finally, my parents. My father was a winner of the Red Cross Hero of the Year Award, a Captain for Austin EMS, and a dedicated public servant for over two decades now. My mother is a Forensic Interviewer for sexually abused children, who saves the lives of hundreds of children each year, despite seeing humanity’s worst side day after day for nearly a decade straight. Each and every one of these people have partaken in a fight bigger than themselves, using their skills and talents to impact a countless number of lives. So, naturally, I’ve lived my entire life hoping to have but half of an impact as those who raised me did. However, I am not a soldier. I am decidedly not equipped to interview abused children like my mother, nor am I seemingly unaffected by even the goriest scenes like my father. Instead, my passion and talents stem from a different source entirely: words.

From the moment I learned to talk, I have been obsessed with words. Talking, writing, singing, I loved all of it. I devoured books in mere hours, and spent more time during recess with my nose in-between the pages of a novel than I would like to admit. But as I grew older, I was drawn specially to writing. There was something archaic and anciently beautiful about the act of putting a pen to paper and making even our wildest fantasies real and tangible. And after all, who is more impactful than the writer? From Shakespeare to Locke, Thomas Jefferson to Hemingway, writers are unique because they can impact millions of people from millions of places, all at the exact same time, by simply using their words. And that, I think, is my goal in life. To earn my degree, be it in Journalism or Creative Writing, and then use it to write. To put my thoughts into words, and allow others to put my words into action. To talk about social issues, and give a voice to those that need to be heard. To spread my values and ideas and beliefs, and impact the people who read them, just like my father and Shakespeare, my mother and Hemingway. To impact people, and to make a difference.

Sometimes, I think of myself as a paradox. Because, at this moment, I am the manifest of everyone that came before me. Everything the generations prior to me worked and fought for are represented in me and my freedoms. It’s my duty and my future to carry out the legacy of courage and honor and change that they implemented in me. And yet, though I am the manifest of the past, I am but a stepping stone for the future, and those who will come after me. I hope that one day my little brother, and maybe even my own kids one day, will look up to me and say that I was an agent of change. That I was someone who made a difference through his words and his action, and impacted the people he cared about most. In the end, how much money we make or what accomplishments we earned are irrelevant. What matters is the legacy we leave behind, the impressions we leave on the people we held most dear. And that legacy, that impression I want to leave, drives me. It is my end goal; my white whale, and I will fight for it until my final days.

History of Schlitterbahn by Andrew White

Nearly 40 years ago, an event occurred that would shape the future of our great city, as well as shift the entire landscape of the Texas Hill Country. An innovative, daring and renowned destination opened its gates for the first time on August 2nd, 1979 when Bobby and Billye Henry opened a local resort and turned it into the greatest waterpark monopoly known to man: Schlitterbahn.

Our growing town has long predicated itself on one of the most driving factors of economy: Tourism. Year after year, thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world visit New Braunfels, Texas. Whether it be to see the massive waterpark, visit the historic Comal River, or just to get a taste of what German Culture is like, tourists are what make our little town the second fastest growing county in the entire country. And what bigger draw than Schlitterbahn itself? Widely known as the greatest waterpark in the world (as their advertisements demonstrably declare), the allure of a fresh cold dip into the water is a welcome reprieve from the crushing Texas heat. And while it is impossible to truly gauge, I would wager that an incredibly large percentage of people who have moved here did so in part because of the proximity to the park. In fact, my very own parents moved here from Lubbock because my father wanted to work as the head first aid officer at Schlitterbahn in 2002. And I know my family’s story is anything but unique in that regard.

In my opinion, aside from Prince Solms himself setting foot here so many years ago, the opening of Schlitterbahn is the most pivotal moment in New Braunfels history. Without all the exposure and visitors the waterpark has brought, I doubt our town would have reached the lofty heights it has. The economy alone would be vastly different, as we would lose a primary source of income for the city. All the local restaurants and shops and attractions have, without a doubt, benefited from the tourism our city is known for, and much of that tourism can be solely attributed to the park. Overall, Schlitterbahn is responsible for over two million visitors across five states each year, and it all started in the humble town of New Braunfels.

But the effect Schlitterbahn has had on our town goes even deeper. As I mentioned earlier, we are now the second fastest growing county in the nation, a statistic which can be no doubt attributed in part to the waterpark. With the massive influx of residents, real estate has gone through the roof, and with each passing day, the city expands farther and farther, and every plot of land becomes more and more valuable. Some predictions say that within the next 20 years Austin, New Braunfels and San Antonio will merge along the I-35 corridor into a massive metropolis, a meteoric rise from a town that was a mere 50,000 strong just ten years ago. And it is all due in part to the attraction, tourism and exposure Schlitterbahn brings.

While this city of ours has an impressive and rich history, I would argue that no date is more important than August 2nd, 1979, when the gates of tourism were opened and the trajectory of New Braunfels was changed forever. The energy, revenue and exposure Schlitterbahn brings to the town makes it an invaluable and crucial part of our culture, and its impact cannot be overstated.

Andrew White and Myra Lee Adams Goff

Andrew White and Myra Lee Adams Goff

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Finally, after all these years, the book will be published

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

I was born in New Braunfels in 1932 on Camp Street in a home built by my grandfather. My parents were Marcus and Cola Moeller Adams. I am a fifth-generation New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas, and American citizen and proud of it.

It is 2006 and I have just been asked to write a column for the Herald-Zeitung newspaper and I am on my way to a meeting about the column.

I left my home on Camp Street where I was born, turned left on Union Avenue towards East San Antonio Street, reflecting on the changes since I grew up in New Braunfels. At this time of year (early spring), there are no river floaters and I recalled that my swimming was done almost entirely in the spring-fed pool at Landa Park and the rapids at Camp Warnecke. I don’t even remember swimming in the Comal and never in the Guadalupe. Hinman Island was a wilderness area.

Many of the homes on Union Avenue have been beautifully preserved and many are now businesses. This practice of conservation has become a satisfactory practice for homes that are now on commercial streets.

Turning right onto San Antonio Street, I drove over the old bridge towards the Plaza. I decided to drive around the Plaza, just to prove that I could do it. There used to be two-way traffic around the Plaza. All the locals knew the rules, but it sure was confusing for newcomers and visitors.

Driving through town on San Antonio Street, all the old buildings are there. I know those buildings because A.C. Moeller, my grandfather, built lots of them. His name is on the cornerstones as well as on the sidewalks. Of course, the beautiful Landa House on the Plaza is gone and on the corner of West San Antonio Street and Academy, one of the loveliest homes in town, the Holz home, gave way to changes that took place here in the late 1960s. That same era eliminated the Garwood home on Seguin Avenue and the bathhouse and other buildings in Landa Park. Those in town who see the value in historic buildings are fighting hard to save existing artifacts. Many people have witnessed the conversion to the “concrete and asphalt” jungle in other parts of the state.

Now I’m on Academy Avenue, one street within the first named historic district in New Braunfels, the Sophienburg Hill. The Sophienburg Museum and Archives is in this district and it’s where I research my facts for their column, “Around the Museum and Archives.”

Writing this column is as close as I can get to living the life of Brenda Starr, Reporter, of the comic strip of my younger days. Her character was the inspiration that began my long-time journalistic career.

In New Braunfels High School in Hallie Martin’s journalism class, my dream of being Brenda Starr was inspired when the San Antonio Light contacted her to recommend a student to report New Braunfels news to be printed in that newspaper. My friend, Phyllis Reininger and I took on the challenge. My next journalistic experience came when I was a senior and had an invitation from Helen and Joe Baldus who wanted me to write a weekly column for their newly established Town and Country News. It was embarrassingly called “Myra-Go-Round” but it could have been the launching of a history column 50 years later.

I began my study of journalism at Texas Christian University, but after a year, found out that journalism was more than Brenda Starr had portrayed. I switched my major to education to be able to teach history, German and English. I met Glyn Goff at TCU and we got married in 1952. I wanted badly to move back to New Braunfels and so we did.

I began my teaching career of 31 years in 1953. I had three children, Karen in 1956, Patty in 1959 and Marc in 1962. After staying home for eight years, I returned to teaching.

After retiring in 1991, Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and I formed a writing partnership that resulted in the publication of three books about New Braunfels history, Kindermaskenball, Past and Present; New Braunfels, Comal County, A Pictorial History; and A Journey in Faith, the History of First Protestant Church. The last book that I wrote independently was about the Comal County Fair, It’s Fair Time.

All of the research for writing these books led me to become well acquainted with the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. In 2006, Linda Dietert, Executive Director of the Sophienburg, asked me if I would be interested in writing a column about New Braunfels and Comal County history for the Herald-Zeitung. Of course, I said yes. Linda, Doug Toney and I worked out the details for a column twice a month and I have been doing that ever since for 11 years.

My creed is what my mother told me, “Always write the truth,” and “Never write down what you wouldn’t want everyone in the world to read.”

After eleven years, people are still asking me how I come up with my subjects and the answer is simply “There is no end to history and those who make it are so interesting.” I hope you have enjoyed reading this column as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Can you just imagine how future generations will view us? Change will happen and the “good old days” are now. I love living in New Braunfels. “In Neu Braunfels ist das leben schön.”

On Tuesday, May 23rd from 2-4 pm, a special event will occur at the Sophienburg. This event is the release of the book, Around the Sophienburg and it contains all of the articles that I have written over the past 11 years. It also contains the photographs that appeared in the newspaper. My daughter, Patty, painted the artwork for the cover and illustrated 26 pictures that will be on display on the 23rd. Due to the generosity of some special Sophienburg donors, the cost of the publishing of the book was underwritten so all proceeds go to benefit the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. Many people over the years have cut the articles out of the newspaper and saved them in very large notebooks. The published book contains over 250 articles and photos and is almost 500 pages.

Front cover of the new book, Around the Sophienburg. Artwork by Patricia S. Arnold.

Front cover of the new book, Around the Sophienburg. Artwork by Patricia S. Arnold.

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Ullrich homes on Mill Street tell the story of early home construction

What do three houses on Mill Street have in common? The homes located at 502, 528 and 554 West Mill Street are part of New Braunfels’ Mill Street Historic District and they are homes built on the property owned at one time by George Ullrich in the 1850s through the 1860s.

George Ullrich bought the partitioned lots in 1850 from Jean Jacque von Coll. They were part of the larger acre lot #168, acquired by von Coll in 1847 from the German Emigration Company. Von Coll served as business manager for the Adelsverein. Ullrich was the Adelsverein wagon master.

George Ullrich was one of those First Founders who, along with his wife, Margarethe, were in Texas before the Adelsverein immigrants. Prince Carl met Ullrich in Frelsburg in the early 1840s. The prince asked him to lead the immigrants inland from the coast as head wagoner. He lead the 31 wagons across the Guadalupe River on Marcy 21, 1845.

Mill Street runs parallel to San Antonio Street all the way to the Comal River at Clemens Dam where the Torrey Mill was located, therefore Mill Street. It is one of the earliest named streets in New Braunfels. Many of the homes on Mill Street are the oldest surviving homes from the time of the city’s settlement. Several of the homes are log homes and many are fachwerk. A home’s core building materials were typically covered over with layers of plaster or wood for insulation and protection from the environmental elements and when restoration occurs, the construction is revealed. The log home and fachwerk home were the earliest building techniques used, with the use of cut limestone blocks to follow. The log home is made using walls of horizontally placed logs with chinking in the spaces between the logs and the fachwerk home is constructed using timber framing with some type of infill, usually brick, rubble or rock.

554 West Mill

The home at 554 W. Mill has a historical marker titled the Pioneer Home. The marker reads: “Sand brick home built 1855, by Geo. Ullrich, who had driven first wagon of German Emigration Co. settlers in 1845 across the Guadalupe River.” On July 7, 1962, this home belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Chester W. Geue, was awarded the Texas Historical Building Medallion, the first awarded in New Braunfels and Comal County. The Geues had purchased and restored the home because the Ullrichs were his ancestors. The home was originally built as two front rooms and kitchen. By 1865, a daughter of George and Margarethe Ullrich, Sophie, married William Froelich and they lived in the home adding rooms to accommodate a growing family. The Geues bought the home from Blanca Froelich Bading. In 1965, the home was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. The Comal County Historical Survey Committee is now known as the Comal County Historical Commission.

528 West Mill

The home at 528 W. Mill is owned by Marvin and Ann Giambernardi. This home was recently on the New Braunfels Conservation Society tour of homes and it was this tour that piqued my interest in the homes on Mill Street and about the people who so lovingly restore them, the Giambernardi’s being two of them.

Marvin and Ann met when he was helping her with electrical work involving the restoration of her home at 581 E. Camp Street. Ann had been an antique dealer here in New Braunfels for several years, having shops in downtown New Braunfels. She grew up in San Antonio but decided in 1990, to purchase the home on Camp St. so she would not have to drive back and forth from San Antonio to New Braunfels for her business. Her description of the home when she moved in is priceless. It had been in the same family from the time it was built and Ann bought it from the family. Ann lived in the home while restoring it. It had only cold running water. The previous owner heated her water outside in a tub. The electricity consisted of a bulb hanging on an electrical wire from the ceiling and there were no outlets. This did not deter Ann from living in the home while restoring it. Ann’s abilities in home restoration, expertise in the antique business, eye for color coordination along with her abilities as a seamstress, combined with her endless energy, contributed to success in the restoration arena. All she needed was an electrician, plumber and wood craftsman. This was when Marvin entered the scene.

Although Marvin was retired from the military as an aircraft inspector, he was also an electrician, plumber and wood craftsman. Marvin was living at Lake Dunlap at the time in a home he had restored that had belonged to his father. Marvin did some work for Ann on the Camp St. house and the rest is history. They married, eventually sold the Camp St. home, bought the 528 W. Mill home, restored it and now are working on another restoration. Home restoration is the perfect outlets for their creative talents and energy. They love the local history.

Back to 528 W. Mill Street. The home was thought to have been built in 1865 by George and Margarethe Ullrich. Around the same time, the 554 W. Mill Street home was given to their daughter and husband. The home is a beautifully crafted fachwerk home with handmade brick infill. The Giambernardis have exposed the fachwerk in several areas to show the construction. It was originally three large rooms with very high ceilings (about 14 feet), divided with one large room on the right and two smaller rooms on the left. One of the rooms on the left was the kitchen. There are two fire places, one on each side of the home. Additions were made throughout the years and provide ample room for Ann’s extensive collections of antiques. She began collecting as a teenager.

502 West Mill

Marvin and Ann recently purchased the small home next door at 502 W. Mill. The home had belonged to Elsie Roeper. Elsie was born in 1916 and lived in the home her whole life, caring for her grandparents who also lived there. Elsie’s mother was Alma, and Alma’s parents Julius and Julia Krueger Buske (Elsie’s grandparents) bought the home in 1890. The home was built on property owned by George Ullrich and was possibly built by him in the 1850s but may be much older. The home is a combination of log cabin and fachwerk with homemade brick infill construction.

The home originally was a small, single room log cabin with front and back porch. This single room is constructed of hand-hewn horizontally placed logs on all four sides that was revealed when Marvin and Ann removed the plaster. At some point, the back porch was closed in using fachwerk with handmade brick infill. A kitchen was built behind the home and at some time, the front home and kitchen were connected and also a bathroom added to the south side of the front structure. Marvin noted that termites where only present in the bathroom addition and nowhere else in the older parts of the home. Marvin and Ann are continuing their restoration and are in the process of researching more to find the exact construction date of the home. It is surely one of the oldest in New Braunfels and worthy of preservation.

Author, Myra Lee Adams Goff in front of the 502 W. Mill home with Ann and Marvin Giambernardi.  Karen Boyd photo collection.

Author, Myra Lee Adams Goff in front of the 502 W. Mill home with Ann and Marvin Giambernardi. Karen Boyd photo collection.

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