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 Sophienburg.com 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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Entertainment different in the 1940s

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Doing research on the Sophienburg Hill property brings back memories of my 7th and 8th grade at New Braunfels High School. How does the museum fit together with the 7th and 8th grades, you ask? Here’s the story:

My introduction to the first two years in NBHS, the 7th and 8th grades, were totally filled with activities where boys and girls interacted with one another. This may sound strange to you, but at Lamar Elementary (for me up to 6th grade), the boys were in the back playground and the girls in the front. An occasional wave was about as close as we got. I’m talking about the era of Shirley Temple and the Our Gang comedy boys. So going to the big NBHS was quite a culture shock.

But boys and girls were eager to meet each other, even 7th graders. The PTA tried to address this need by providing places where students could get together. The first of these places was above the Jacob Mendlovitz Dept. Store downtown on San Antonio St. (now the Antique Mall on the corner of San Antonio St. and Castell Ave. The upstairs was open to students on week-ends and chaperoned by PTA members, mostly mothers). The wooden floor made wonderful dancing to the Nickelodeon. Occasionally someone would entertain with a skit or a song.

Needless to say, the location wasn’t too popular with the downtown merchants and when someone crawled out on the window awning over the sidewalk, it was time to look for another place.

On Butcher St. the school district had a big building that was converted into an entertainment center called the “Unicorn Stables.” Open to all NBHS students, there was dancing and even skating party nights. It even hosted formal dances.

But all this planned activity was not enough for the Shirley Temple/Our Gang 7th grade crowd. We had enough of all that planned activity. We already had the Mariners and the Sea Scouts who often interacted with each other on Lake Dunlap. Mariners were the top echelon Girl Scouts and the Sea Scouts were the top echelon Boy Scouts. As fate would have it, the Mariner adult leader and the Sea Scout adult leader both had family camps on Lake Dunlap. It was only natural that the two groups would meet at the same time at the lake. The boys took delight in showing off their boating skills by dumping the girls out of the boat into the water. Blue jeans and saddle oxford shoes weighed a ton.

Before Caller I.D., one of our favorite activities was to telephone the opposite sex and hang up when they answered. One of my friend’s father, a businessman, had a second telephone in the bathroom. What fun we had, calling the boys and then flushing the commode. Today’s youth cannot do that without being arrested. I think it’s called harassment. On Saturdays we called Krause Café and in our broken German would ask, “Hast do Schmier Kase heute?” Translation: Do you have cream cheese today? Then we would hang up and start the giggling routine. Why, you ask?

The picture show was a favorite hang-out. The theatre had to hire a person to walk up and down the aisles with a flashlight and one never knew when you would be spotlighted. Saturday was double feature day and so it was possible to spend the whole afternoon and evening in the movies. You never sat in the same seat for very long. It was kind of like “fruit basket turnover” or “popcorn bag turnover.” Getting popcorn thrown at you was a sign to turn around. If there was an empty seat, you moved to it.

The girls did lots of spending the night at each other’s houses. I don’t think the boys did that. It was years before I could spend the night at anyone’s house. I would get so homesick that I would have to be taken home. There’s nothing like a guest with dry heaves. I finally made it through the night my senior year. A friend had a big slumber party at their big house downtown for all girls at NBHS. I made it all night by sitting up fully clothed in the bathtub.

Almost all of my classmates had their driver’s license by age 14. There was almost no traffic so that made a big difference. Six 14-year-old girls (me included) drove out to a vacant ranch house out of town owned by the parents of one of the girls. We were going to spend the weekend in this house totally unchaperoned. We got to the ranch house in the afternoon full of confidence and independence.

When it started to get dark, we decided we would drive back to town to go to the movies. I have always wondered about that decision. We left the porch light on because we knew it would be dark when we got back. Sure enough, it was almost ten o’clock when we drove back to the ranch.

Coming over the hill leading to the house we were quite alarmed as we saw that the porch light was out. Pitch dark. We told ourselves all kinds of stories as to why that light was out and why it was so dark in the country.

We entered the house through the kitchen door and built a fire in the fireplace. We turned on the radio and on came the Mary Roberts Reinhart Mystery Theater. That program was known for the scariest of all mysteries, like all of Edgar Allen Poe’s mysteries. Even the theme song was scary. I think it was from Swan Lake. That program made your heart beat faster but for some reason we were drawn to listen to it, as they say, “like a moth to a flame.”

Suddenly there was an unfamiliar sound coming from the basement under the house. It sounded like bottles breaking. Absolutely stiff with fear, one of the girls went over to the door in the floor leading to the cellar. She screamed and claimed that someone was trying to push the door open. All six, like stampeding cattle ran to the kitchen looking for shelter. Some sat under the table, some in a closet and I remember standing up in the shower. There we froze until the sun peeped across the horizon and we packed up and left. But one more thing: outside we checked the half-open window leading to the cellar and discovered foot prints in the mud. We were in the car and out of there and no, did not go back.

We never solved that mystery but I’m sure that if there was someone there, they were more afraid than we were. Now come on, you guys that were in the cellar, fess up.
Back to why the Sophienburg Hill stories reminded me of my 7th and 8th grades. It was because my 7th grade friends had get-togethers of boys and girls most Saturday nights. One particular party was held at the old Ernst Gruene mansion where the Sophienburg Museum now sits. It’s been torn down but not because of this story. At the party, there was lots of dancing and record playing, popcorn and cheese dip, Orange Crush and Dr. Pepper with peanuts. But one activity was a little iffy. This is why I haven’t mentioned any names of participants in this whole column.

Our favorite game was “Spin the Bottle.” Sitting in a circle, someone would spin the bottle and when it stopped, the person it pointed to had to kiss them. This was a very popular game.

Suddenly there was commotion on the front porch. Two senior boys were spying on our little fun game. Pandemonium broke out. The worst of it is that they wanted to start a newspaper for NBHS. Guess what! They printed their own little paper and on the front page was the story of our private party. It was handed out to 7th-12th graders. It was so embarrassing and that was the end of our Saturday night parties.

Almost every time I enter the Sophienburg Museum I think of that 7th grade year and I go there often.

The Ernst Gruene mansion that was located where the Sophienburg Museum and Archive building now stands.

The Ernst Gruene mansion that was located where the Sophienburg Museum and Archive building now stands.

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The year 1846 was a dark year for the German immigrants

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The year was 1846, a year after Hermann Seele arrived in Texas. It was the time of year that we, in Texas, understand – July and August. The heat continued to increase and thunder storms made the Guadalupe River rise. A ferry boat at the confluence of the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers had washed away. It was again repaired.

Horrifying scene

Seele crossed the river to the place where the immigrants had been held up from crossing over the flooding Guadalupe. A most horrible scene was observed. Some chests and boxes of the immigrants had been brought over with great effort. Baggage and household goods were laying everywhere waiting with the immigrants to cross the swollen water. Wash was laid out on bushes to dry.

An old farmer lying on a feather bed had a raging fever. Not far away the corpse of a woman was wrapped in a bedspread. Small children were sitting around weeping for their dear, dead mother. The father in vain, tried to understand a discussion with the American wagon owner. What was he telling him to do? He couldn’t understand English.

Walking by the gruesome area, Seele noticed a man leaning against a tree with his hat fallen over off of his head. He wanted to warn him about the danger of sun. Seele went up to the man, shook him, and raised his head “which had sunk to his chest when his wide-opened eyes became fixed on me, motionless and unseeing. The man was dead.” He was buried there on the banks of the Guadalupe.

He passed a tent with nine people lying begging for water. No one would bring them any. Seele brought them water from the river in pails. A long-ago song sung by his mother passed through his mind:

Beyond the island and rocks
We have vanished for eternity.
I feel as though I must weep
Must weep like a child.

From The Cypress by Hermann Seele

Many immigrants camped across the Guadalupe River from Seele’s farm. Many were buried there and years later when the railroad came to New Braunfels, workers discovered the bones of the 29 humans recorded by Ervendberg. The workers scraped them up and reburied them. Today trains roll over the site.

Immigrants planned to settle the San Saba

The real original destination of the Adelsverein German immigrants was the land around the San Saba and Llano Rivers. The Adelsverein had a contract with the Republic of Texas to settle up to 6,000 families and single men in this area. They should have known better, but they didn’t. They knew nothing about Texas.

When Prince Carl arrived in the summer of 1844 to make arrangements for the immigrants to travel from the coast to the land grant, this inland trek from the coast was the biggest challenge he had. He made a trip by horseback to the San Saba and decided that the settlers had to have a half-way destination to stop for supplies.

Unplanned destination became New Braunfels

And so, on March 15, 1845 in San Antonio, Prince Carl purchased the land situated on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. This land became the inadvertent final destination of the Adelsverein immigrants. Immediately Prince Carl had Lt. Nicholas Zink plot out a town-site. At the west end of this plotted land was a four-acre cemetery named the New Braunfels Cemetery.

Ervendberg records

When the first immigrants arrived, Rev. Louis Ervendberg recorded some 400 deaths, most of which were buried in the New Braunfels Cemetery in 1845 and 1846. An unnumbered amount of burials took place at the coast and on the side of the road of the trek up from the coast. There are no records to show the exact number or who died at the coast and on the way to New Braunfels. Rev. Ervendberg began his recordings by word of mouth from arriving settlers and it is estimated that 300 or so died at the coast and along the way. He recorded 21 deaths in 1845 and 373 in 1846.

New Braunfels Cemetery

This city cemetery was the first provided for immigrants and dedicated June 25, 1845. The first person buried there was Elise Catherine Reh Peter. Her husband, Gerlach Peter, died a month later. It is presumed that they were victims of a cholera epidemic that was just beginning at this time. Records show that many were buried in nameless graves on the southwest section of the cemetery. Over two hundred deaths recorded by Ervendberg were buried in the New Braunfels Cemetery.

The First Protestant Church is the custodian of those death records. The church has allowed the Sophienburg Archives to copy the records. The records show the name, date of death, age, birthplace, place of burial and cause of death of each of the 348 recorded deaths in 1845 and ’46. The causes of death are so varied that it is impossible to draw any conclusions. So many died of convulsions and something called mucus fever, bilious fever, dysentery, blood poisoning and yellow fever. Most of these sound like symptoms rather than the disease itself. Only two concrete diseases have been identified, cholera and spinal meningitis. Towards the heights of the epidemic with several deaths a day, there were no longer coffins available and many were just buried in a mass grave. The area is marked on the grounds of the cemetery.

Whole families of parents and children sometimes died all at once. All age brackets were victims from the very young to the very old. Several women died of childbirth.

By 1847, the numbers of recorded deaths dropped to 71. One may conclude that this particular epidemic was over.

The rest of the story

When John O. Meusebach accepted the responsibility of taking the place of Prince Carl as Executive Director of the Adelsverein, he was full of optimism. After all, the newspapers in Germany had painted a beautiful picture of Texas. But when Meusebach arrived in Texas, he quickly assessed the misery of the immigrants on the coast. He realized the financial disaster and there was no money to help the immigrants survive on the coast or even to help them get to New Braunfels. He was informed that 5,000 more people were on the way.

What was he to do? He appealed to the Adelsverein who sent a meager amount of money. He then explored the land promised the immigrants around the San Saba and Llano Rivers, the original destination.

In April 25, 1846, Meusebach guided 16 wagons and 180 settlers to colonize Fredericksburg. He then made a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians. This opened up the Texas frontier for settlement.

Meusebach remained a popular personality with the immigrants and in 1851 he was elected State Senator. Two years later, he was appointed commissioner for the German Emigration Co. to issue land certificates to the immigrants brought to Texas by the Adelsverein.

The rest of the story is good, thanks to John O. Meusebach.

Pencil drawing of Reverend Ervendberg and his wife Luisa who cared for the orphans left from the epidemic.

Pencil drawing of Reverend Ervendberg and his wife Luisa who cared for the orphans left from the epidemic.


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