Karbach family responsible for Methodism in New Braunfels

August 24th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Methodism is a Protestant religion whose roots can be traced way back to a preacher named John Wesley in England. John Wesley and his brother Charles, while at Oxford University in 1739, began a movement devoted to helping the underprivileged. Fellow students called them “Methodists” for the methods they used to carry out their evangelistic religion. Evangelism is the process of preaching to spread the word of Christianity.

Wesley did not have in mind to start a new religion. Both brothers were ordained ministers of the Church of England but because of their evangelistic methods, they were barred from speaking in most public places. They then resorted to preaching in homes or anywhere they could find an audience.

Another leader of Methodism was George Whitefield, also a minister of the Church of England. Eventually there was a parting of ways between the Wesley brothers and Whitefield over the subject of predestination. Whitefield was an advocate of predestination and the Wesley brothers were not.

In time, several branches of Methodism developed with these in particular: Methodist Protestant Church, Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church South. In its long history, by 1930 these three branches united and then merged with another group called the Evangelistic United Brethren. This union eventually led to the formation of the United Methodist Church.

Locally, a man named David Karbach, and a circuit riding Methodist preacher, John Wesley DeVilbiss, are given credit for starting Methodism in New Braunfels. David Karbach had heard the glowing reports about Texas given to newspapers by Prince Carl after he visited Texas in 1844. Due to bad conditions in Germany, Karbach believed his family would have a better life in Texas. So in December of 1845, Karbach with his second wife and their children, set sail on the ship Johann Dethardt and landed in Indianola. With all their worldly goods they had boarded the ship just before Christmas and arrived in Texas in March, 1846.

In New Braunfels, each settler was given one lot in town and a ten acre plot to grow vegetables and feed. It is believed that this 10 acre plot was in the vicinity of the later Locke Nursery near the Comal Springs. A need for expansion led Karbach to buy ranch land on the Hancock Road (present FM 306), about five miles from town. They kept the house in New Braunfels so that the children could go to school and they would join him on weekends. Three of the Karbach children, Fritz, John, and Emilie (later Klingemann) bought land in the area that became known as the Karbach Settlement. With time, this settlement encompassed over 2,400 acres.

While he was still in Germany, David Karbach had affiliated with the Lutheran Church, as many other Protestants did at that time. After arriving in Texas, the family began attending meetings held by the circuit riding Methodist minister, John Wesley DeVilbiss. Due to the lack of ministers in early Texas, circuit riding ministers were those who became ministers on horseback, traveling from one town to another. The New Braunfels Methodists were in a circuit that included Castroville, Cibolo Settlement, Solms, the area above Landa Park hill called Geberge and finally, Schumannsville. DeVilbiss divided his time between these four settlements.

Initially the first Methodist Church held their services in New Braunfels at the home of J. Hirschleben located in the Comaltown area.

By 1858 the group had built a small wooden church on the corner of now Union and Common Streets. Abram Gentry and Conrad Seabaugh, owners and developers of Braunfels Subdivision in Comaltown conveyed two lots to the trustees of the German Methodist Society of New Braunfels.

David Karbach and his family, particularly his son Fritz, became very active in this little church. Sunday School was held frequently in homes in the Karbach Settlement and at the church. Fritz in particular was instrumental in starting the Sunday School. Family tradition has a delightful story about Fritz and his marriage to Emilie Erck. It seems that when Fritz returned from the Civil War, he and Emilie were married in the Comaltown Church. The army band of occupation heard there was to be a wedding and they came and played the Wedding March. Fritz was the superintendent of the Sunday School for 25 years.

By 1890, the Comaltown Church was no longer used and the Karbach Settlement became the center of church activities. A new pastor, Rev. Merkel and his wife, then opened a Sunday School in the unused church and it was very successful, so the church building was once again used. This building served the Methodists for over fifty years until 1913.

Then in 1928, the old first church building was dismantled. Currently a SAC-N-PAC is located on the site with only an oak tree remaining, reminding people of the past.

In 1913 the Karbach Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South was built at its present site on San Antonio St. The Karbach name was included, indicating that family’s involvement in this church. In 1940 another name change took place to Karbach Memorial First Methodist Church. The last renovation took place in 1952 and the church took its present name: First United Methodist Church.

Sixty pastors have served the Methodist church, 45 of which were circuit-riding ministers. The present minister is Rev. Jason Adams. As one of the oldest mainline churches in New Braunfels, it has been a congregation of Christian service to others, no doubt fulfilling the vision of John Wesley. Records show needs being met in the community, all the while tending to the needs of their own members. The church responded to times of tragedy in the community and was very active during the Great Depression and the two World Wars.

Aware of their historical role in New Braunfels history, the church has preserved its records from the start. Although they were written in German, they are being translated.

The first Methodist Church located on the corner of Union and Common Sts. in Comaltown. It was used more than 50 years. Job well done, John Wesley!

Depression years affected everyone

August 10th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The fall and failure of the Stock Market in 1929 was the beginning of an era in American history called the Great Depression. The statistics of this period are staggering. Almost half of the people in the United States had no jobs, homes or food.

Leading up to this period after WWI was a time of tremendous social change and all the turmoil that accompanies change. It was the 1920s. Women were demanding voting rights and ethnic groups were demanding equal rights.

Then the banks failed, the Stock Market fell and those who had saved or borrowed money, lost everything. Big cities seemed to be hit the hardest for that was where the factories were.

By 1931, the Great Depression was in full swing. Texas governor Ross Sterling declared a “Smile Day” in November of that year supporting the American Legion’s effort to alleviate the suffering that first winter. As if smiling could solve all the problems!

Records show that locally there were approximately 400 people affected known to be unemployed and in desperate condition. Jobs were mainly for men so there were many more people affected.

An organization calling itself the Associated Charities Group was organized to help those in need. This organization included a group of organizations that could easily be applied to today’s world, for these civic-minded groups have always been active: American Legion and Auxiliary, Concordia Singing Society, First Protestant Church and Sunday School, Jacob Schmidt Store, Women’s Civic Improvement Club, Comal County, Christian Science Church, Masonic Lodge A.F.A.M., St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Business and Professional Women’s Club, NB Fire Department, A.J. Rabe, Child Welfare Club, Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Eastern Star, First Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Retail Merchants Association, and Lions Club. During that first year, 45 families were regularly helped.

Clothing drives were instigated by the Associated Christian Charities of America. Well known humorist Will Rogers performed in San Antonio and the proceeds were shared locally.

The local Lions Club was particularly busy. They distributed 1,400 pounds of beans that they had raised on their own experimental farm at the Comal County Fair Grounds. In addition, the club pledged a minimum of six full grown and fattened hogs a month. These hogs would be slaughtered and ready to be delivered to needy families.

Individuals and businesses had their own ways of helping out. For example, Kneuper Bros. Music Store next to the old Post Office did not repossess merchandise but allowed customers to pay what and when they could, sometimes as little as 25 cents a week. The brothers had added appliances to their merchandise so it was very important that customers could retain stoves, ice boxes and washers.

By the way, the Kneuper Bros. Store was the first business in town to have a television set in the early ‘50s. At night people would sit in front of the store window and watch the test pattern and a 5 minute film over and over.

Back to the 1930s. In my dad’s family there was a Depression story. Louis Adams, my grandfather, owned a butcher shop. During this terrible financial time, people would come in to buy meat without money. My grandfather told them that he would just write it on a slip of paper and they could pay when they could. I think he was able to do this because his source of meat was from his brother Bill Adams and the Adams Ranch. The Adams family helped a lot of people that way.

In 1931 Louis Adams died suddenly. My dad, who was left with the care of his mother plus his own family, was left penniless. Before Louis Adams died he had bought a three bedroom house on Comal St. which my grandmother then turned into a boarding house, mostly for her nieces. Their country school did not have a complete high school education, so they had to come to New Braunfels to finish school. The parents of these nieces brought ample produce from the farm to feed everyone at the house. Like my grandmother used to say, “You do what you have to do”. During this terrible time, President Herbert Hoover kept a message of resourcefulness as a way to solve problems. I think my family did that, but it wasn’t that easy for everyone.

One group of people that were affected were the farmers. Those who relied on crops and livestock were dealt another blow, the Dust Bowl and the boll weevil. The Dust Bowl was preceded by a long-lasting drought. Pictures of areas affected by this dust are hard to comprehend with clouds of dust moving across the land, pulling up plants by the roots leaving nothing but scorched earth.

Many of these farmers who had lost everything attempted to move towards the cities where they thought they had an opportunity to work and feed their families. When they got to the cities, there was no work and no transportation to return home. They survived on bread and soup lines supplied by various organizations, mainly the Red Cross. At the first opportunity they hopped on open train cars and moved from one place to another. These Hobos set up camps along the tracks, built fires to keep warm or cook whatever they were handed out in the cities.

Every big city had make-shift communities right outside of the city limits. They were called Hoovervilles because most Americans blamed the whole Great Depression on Pres. Herbert Hoover.

Here in New Braunfels, much of what we knew about the Depression came from newspapers and movies. Subtle little hints of the times can be found if you look hard enough at photographs of NB children at school during the 30s. No “store bought” clothes but dresses made of material from flour sacks. NB was fortunate to have the textile mill and Dittlinger Roller Mills. My generation even today sometimes suffer from what we call “Depression thinking”. We spent a long time appreciating handmade clothing articles. There’s a long way in between Homemade and Handmade.

Boys were lucky if they had cut-off pants from an older brother. None of the boys wore shoes and the girls went barefooted in the summer. I always wondered why, when we were constantly stepping on glass, sticker beds and rusty nails. We could have solved that problem by wearing shoes.

At the end of the 1930s the Great Depression was over, but taking its place in history was a period of much more magnitude when the US entered WWII.

Louis Adams Butcher Shop

Louis Adams Butcher Shop

Phoenix Saloon applies for historical designation

July 27th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Another downtown building, the Phoenix Saloon owners Ross and Debbie Fortune, are applying for a Texas Historical Marker. The Phoenix Saloon history really does live up to the story of the Phoenix, a legendary bird that builds its own funeral pyre, throws itself into the fire, lays an egg in the ashes and hatches a new Phoenix bird. This legend has been used often as a metaphor for rebirth or resurrection. The metaphor fits the local Phoenix Saloon.

The property at the corner of east Castell and west San Antonio Sts., according to the late Roberta Mueller, was owned by Valentine Sippel, her great grandfather. Valentine married Anna Ossman and they had three children: Kaytrina, who was crippled, Henry, who was killed in the Civil War, and finally son John, who lived to be 50 years old by his own choice, when he committed suicide.

John Sippel married into the successful Gruene family by marrying Johanna Gruene. After six children, the marriage ended in a bitter divorce, according to family members. Sippel had built the Phoenix Saloon in 1871 and moved into the second floor. Christian Hohmann and Henry Meier operated a bar and billiard room on the first floor of the two-story building. H.R. Schumacker operated a brewery in the basement from 1872 to 1875, selling a keg of beer for $2.25 and a glass for 5 cents, the going rate at the time.

About 40 different persons are associated with the proprietorship, bartending of the saloon, and sometimes restaurant, too many names to put in this column. The building was also called by several names until 1895 when it was finally called the Phoenix Saloon and Restaurant.

Trouble

An unfortunate incident occurred in 1885 when proprietor Walter Krause fought with a customer named James Alexander. Testimonies of two men in the saloon that day (Harry Mergele and Emil Schertz), stated that Alexander asked Krause how much he owed and Krause told him a quarter. Alexander said that he would pay him after pay day. Krause took exception to this and called him ugly names. Alexander left the building to go to Naegelin’s Bakery (apparently he worked there) and returned with one dollar, put it on the bar and retaliated with more ugly names. Krause jumped him from behind the bar and they exchanged blows. Alexander then left the bar as Krause was bleeding near the eye. Twelve days later Krause died as a result of the wounds.

Beer garden and chili

One of the attractions of the Phoenix was its beer garden facing San Antonio St. Women were welcome out there, but not inside. Women never went inside a saloon. The beer garden was between the saloon and the old Comal County Courthouse facing San Antonio St. The garden was also accessible from Castell St. at the back of the building next to the Ludwig Hotel which was located in what is now the parking lot of Chase Bank. Sippel had built a small pool with a fountain in the garden containing gold fish, a large catfish, and even a baby alligator. It was a popular gathering place downtown. Bells hanging from the trees summoned waiters from inside.

Another big attraction was William Gebhardt’s cafe at the back of the saloon. Gebhardt developed a sort of stew using ground up ancho peppers that he called Tampico Dust. This extremely popular concoction caused Gebhardt in 1892 to move to San Antonio where his brother-in-law, Albert Kronkosky, Sr. helped him organize the Gebhardt Chili Powder Co. Gebhardt’s wife was Rosa Kronkosky, sister of Albert. Incidentally Albert Kronkosky, Jr. was a very successful businessman who eventually owned the San Antonio Drug Co. as well as being a major stockholder in Merck & Co. Thus the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation was founded.

Prohibition

In 1895 a fire caused damage to the saloon as well as Fritz Maier’s “German Advocate” newspaper on the second floor, but the Phoenix rose again. After the reopening of the saloon there were many proprietors and “when everything was going right, up popped the devil – PROHIBITION”. The advent of prohibition dealt a blow to the saloon world. In NB as early as 1887 the second floor of the Phoenix had become the headquarters of the Anti-Prohibition movement for Comal County. Prohibition was a national issue so each state was to vote either for or against. New Braunfels held rallies around the Plaza and when the vote came up, Comal County voted 100% against prohibition. ”Gambrinus”, the legendary inventor of beer, had many followers in Comal County. At that time there were four breweries in New Braunfels: Rennert Brewery, Dampmann Brewery, Guenther Brewery and New Braunfels Brewing Co. This last one managed to stay open by producing a “near beer” called Busto.

During WWI, prohibition had linked itself with patriotism. First saloons were closed to soldiers and then in a burst of wartime feeling in 1918 the state of Texas voted in favor of prohibition. Rumors of an illicit brewery have circulated in NB but there is no proof. In the basement of the Phoenix there is a hole in the wall that some have speculated was an underground tunnel, but it turns out that it was probably a storage place for coal for the heating system.

Prohibition went into effect January of 1920, but the Phoenix Saloon closed down from 1918 to 1922. Then came two financial blows to the country, especially the government – the Great Depression and the fall of the stock market. One solution to these problems for the government was to repeal Prohibition so that taxes could be collected from the sale of liquor. Prohibition was repealed by 1933.

Building expansion

In 1922 the building was bought by Albert Ludwig, who expanded the building and added a third floor for the Masonic Lodge #1109. Jacob Schmidt bought the building in 1927 and operated a clothing store for 60 years. Several other businesses followed from 1996.

The latest rise of the Phoenix occurred when the Fortunes bought the property and brought it back to its original purpose, a saloon that has music and even serves chili. The Phoenix has risen again and remains a historic site!

Phoenix Saloon (on the right) in 1905.

Controversial letters to Germany

July 13th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

A letter written on May 2, 1845, two months after the first settlers arrived in New Braunfels, gives us details of those first two months in NB. The letter was written by Lt. Oscar von Claren to his sister in Germany. The end of von Claren’s life overshadows the optimism conveyed by him, as you will see.

When Prince Carl left to go back to Germany, amid festivities and cannon fire at the site of the Sophienburg, he offered to take 69 letters back to Germany. Mail at that time took three months or longer. According to author Everett Fey, writer of “First Founders”, there are 14 letters preserved and transcribed “and it is uncertain whether the rest of the letters were delivered to families. There is a good possibility that these 14 letters were used as advertising by the Adelsverein to promote their immigration project.”

The preserved letters are mostly positive about the project, so what happened to the other letters that were perhaps not so positive? Were only the letters of satisfied customers published?

Letters alleging that the Adelsverein was irresponsible in caring for the immigrants were also published in the newspapers. The Adelsverein fought back with replies by one of their own, Count Carl of Castell. He demanded publication of letters giving the “voice of truth” or the positive view.

One of those 14 letters was Oscar von Claren’s sent to his sister, Augusta, and she, in turn sent it to the Adelsverein. It was, no doubt, of value to them.

Oscar von Claren from Hanover arrived on the ship Apollo and came inland with the first group of emigrants. As a young single man, von Claren was chosen by Prince Carl for the responsible position of being in charge of artillery in Prince Carl’s Militia. He organized them to protect the emigrants, both on the way and in the settlement.

In his letter to his sister, von Claren described his arrival in New Braunfels in April 1845 and then of the celebration that took place in early May when Prince Carl was getting ready to leave for Germany. He said that at the Sophienburg (fortress), festive speeches were made and the cannons fired.

At the time of year of his arrival, it was too late to put in a garden on the lot that had been given to him. He put in a cow pen out of logs where the calves stayed while the cows roamed freely. It was not necessary to feed them. In the evening, the cows would automatically roam back to their calves in the pen. Even people that had no houses had pens with cows. Anyone who had more than 25 cows had to pay a fee to the state of Texas. Von Claren was waiting to get chickens; “four hens for $1.00 and a rooster for a third of a dollar”. “He who has cattle, chickens and a livable house has everything” he told his sister. Milk, eggs and butter were the main diet.

Von Claren was aware of unfamiliar noises, like the cutting of trees, plowing and the building of huts. He arose at five in the morning, lit a fire, dressed, cooked tea, baked bread and ate breakfast. After 11 o’clock in the morning the heat was unbearable so everyone stopped working. At this time he cooked dinner and then at three o’clock went to work again. After working, the evening meal was prepared and took a long time because corn meal bread had to be baked every day. It tasted bad when it was not fresh. It got dark around seven o’clock. Twilight, like in Germany, was not known in Texas and it got much darker. Von Claren told his sister that what he needed more than anything was tools, carpenter tools and tools for gardening. Also he needed seeds, fruit seeds of all kinds, lentils, and grape vines. He wished he had brought more with him. An immigrant only paid for the transportation from Bremen and the Adelsverein provided everything else to the colony.

He told his sister that during the land trip in from the coast, many of his clothes and part of his weapons were damaged due to not having them packed in boxes encased in tin. He now sleeps on animal hides and covers with a woolen cover instead of the linens he is used to.

About 300 Tonkawa Indians visit the settlement daily. They are at peace with the Germans and come into town to trade. Von Claren traded animal skins, hides and leopard fur. He traded gun powder, colorful chinz and calico, red and white beads, but not yellow or green (curious), and all kinds of toys made of tin or German nickel silver. Turtles and snakes demand high prices and he intended to sell them.

Their clothing was very thick and long boots were indispensable, but very expensive. He praised the beauty of the area, pretty forests next to the Guadalupe River, hills and prairies covered with wild flowers. Wood like cypress and cedar trees emit a magnificent odor and remind him of pencils. The beautiful blooms of the cactus would be greatly admired in Germany. At night, the air is filled with lightning bugs.

(Here’s the catch:) One must become accustomed to the great heat and large unpleasant animals that inflict deadly wounds, and the numerous rattlesnakes, some ten feet long and probably 15 years old. There are also a large number of alligators, so bathing in rivers is dangerous. He shot a 14 foot alligator. Tarantulas, large spiders that “runs around with the snakes and scorpions” in the woods, have a disagreeable stinger. Finally there is a caterpillar that crawls over the skin.

In May of 1845, there are 400 people living in the settlement. He would like to have friends and family with him “with whom he could cultivate a companionable relationship”.

By the time his sister received his letter, von Claren had been brutally killed and scalped near Live Oak Springs. He and two companions were returning to NB from Austin and while camping, a band of natives attacked the three. Wessle got away and led the Rangers to the site of the massacre. Von Claren and von Wrede were buried there.

Count Carl of Castell as a young man.  As a member of the Adelsverein, he was responsible for promoting immigration.

Count Carl of Castell as a young man. As a member of the Adelsverein, he was responsible for promoting immigration.

Statues on plaza honor soldiers

June 29th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The first July 4 celebration in New Braunfels took place in 1845, just four months after the first emigrants crossed the Guadalupe into what would be the “Neu Heimat” (New home). A lot has happened historically since that first Independence celebration. For one thing, two statues were placed on the Main Plaza commemorating the men who fought in the Civil War and World War I. This is their story.

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 US 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 WWI, Doughboy became a popular name for all American troops. This changed by WWII when American service men were called G.I.s or Yanks. Doughboys are now mostly associated with WWI.

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 WWI. 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 US 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. George 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 NB, 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.

When you go to downtown to see the Sophienburg’s July 4th Parade, make your acquaintance with these two statues and remember the ones they honor.

The Sophienburg July 4th celebration begins with the lineup of parade participants at 8:30 at the Sts. Peter & Paul parking lot. The Community Band plays on the Plaza at 8:34. Then a Commemorative Air Force fly-over should take place at 9:10, followed by the parade and program on the Plaza. Call 830-629-1572 for parade entry reservations.

The 1940 American Legion District Convention held in New Braunfels. Participants stand in front of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy.”

The 1940 American Legion District Convention held in New Braunfels. Participants stand in front of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy.”

By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The first July 4 celebration in New Braunfels took place in 1845, just four months after the first emigrants crossed the Guadalupe into what would be the “Neu Heimat” (New home). A lot has happened historically since that first Independence celebration. For one thing, two statues were placed on the Main Plaza commemorating the men who fought in the Civil War and World War I. This is their story.
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 US 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 WWI, Doughboy became a popular name for all American troops. This changed by WWII when American service men were called G.I.s or Yanks. Doughboys are now mostly associated with WWI.
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 WWI. 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 US 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. George 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 NB, 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.
When you go to downtown to see the Sophienburg’s July 4th Parade, make your acquaintance with these two statues and remember the ones they honor.
The Sophienburg July 4th celebration begins with the lineup of parade participants at 8:30 at the Sts. Peter & Paul parking lot. The Community Band plays on the Plaza at 8:34. Then a Commemorative Air Force fly-over should take place at 9:10, followed by the parade and program on the Plaza. Call 830-629-1572 for parade entry reservations.

Statues on plaza honor soldiers

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The first July 4 celebration in New Braunfels took place in 1845, just four months after the first emigrants crossed the Guadalupe into what would be the “Neu Heimat” (New home). A lot has happened historically since that first Independence celebration. For one thing, two statues were placed on the Main Plaza commemorating the men who fought in the Civil War and World War I. This is their story.

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 US 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 WWI, Doughboy became a popular name for all American troops. This changed by WWII when American service men were called G.I.s or Yanks. Doughboys are now mostly associated with WWI.

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 WWI. 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 US 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. George 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 NB, 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.

When you go to downtown to see the Sophienburg’s July 4th Parade, make your acquaintance with these two statues and remember the ones they honor.

The Sophienburg July 4th celebration begins with the lineup of parade participants at 8:30 at the Sts. Peter & Paul parking lot. The Community Band plays on the Plaza at 8:34. Then a Commemorative Air Force fly-over should take place at 9:10, followed by the parade and program on the Plaza. Call 830-629-1572 for parade entry reservations.

Most roads were constructed by local citizens

June 15th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Before the Spaniards crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas, there were no roads, only trails made by Native Americans walking single file. The Spaniards were responsible for introducing cattle, burros, and horses into Texas. Can you imagine Texas without these animals? The Native Americans quickly saw the advantages to the horse and began following these individual trails dragging the 12 foot poles for wigwams and meat and skins on top. Thus, single trails became the early roads.

With the availability of wagons, transportation took a giant leap forward. By the mid- 1800s, primitive roads were fairly well established, mainly following tracks freshly made by wagons of emigrants along the Guadalupe River.

In 1845 Nicholas Zink was hired by the Adelsverein to survey the land purchased by Prince Carl that would become the settlement of New Braunfels. Prince Carl’s eleventh report back to the Adelsverein in Germany states that he had transferred half acre city lots and 10 acre farm plots to the immigrants in the settlement.

The first street in New Braunfels as described by Hermann Seele was comprised of a wagon track road from the present Nacogdoches Street after crossing the Guadalupe to the highest point on Comal Creek, the area where the Sts. Peter and Paul Church is located. The distance is approximately a mile and a half long.

Historian Oscar Haas states that the earliest maps showing street names were found in the first book of Comal County deeds in 1848-49. Only two streets were named – Seguin Strasse and San Antonio Strasse. These names were used because they ran in the general direction of these two towns. Both towns were older than New Braunfels. After that Comal Strasse was named parallel to the river. Nacogdoches Road or Camino Real was on the earliest maps.

The early maps showed nameless streets at the time and referred to them merely as Strasse (street). Eventually the main streets were Mill Street, named after the Torrey Mill situated on the banks of the Comal. Next to and parallel to Mill St. was Bridge Street, leading down to the Comal Bridge. Another early street was called Zink Strasse, named after the surveyor Nicholas Zink. A street that is no longer there was called Yankee Strasse after the Connecticut Yankee, John Torrey. This street ran along the Torrey Mill site. A street from the Market Plaza to the Comal River was named Solms but later changed to South Market.

By 1847, the Comal County Commissioners Court appointed men to act as road masters and to construct necessary roads. Road construction was by citizens petitioning and doing the work. A road tax by the Texas Legislature was passed in 1852 to finance road construction. Each county could have their citizens vote on whether the road tax should be levied in their county, but the tax election failed in Comal County, so roads were paid for and constructed by community-minded men.

In 1854, mile posts were set on Comal County roads. There are two surviving, one in Landa Park along Fredericksburg Road and the other at the intersection of Post Road and Gruene Road. Post Road is short for Postal or perhaps Military Post.

Streets are traditionally named after people important to the area, like Meriwether or places like Seguin, or functions like Mill or Bridge. An exception to this pattern occurred across the Comal in an area called Comaltown. At the end of Bridge Street at the Comal River was a low-water crossing leading into Comaltown. River crossings were always at the shallowest part of the river. This crossing was shallow and narrow. A bridge was made by cutting two pecan trees on each side of the river, falling on an island in the middle of the water. This island disappeared after the construction of Clemens Dam. Maps show that this bridge led from NB to Comaltown.

Comalstadt, or Comaltown, was a separated settlement from the mainland of New Braunfels, however, separated only by the Comal River. Comaltown had been laid out by Daniel Murchison in 1846. It was a separate settlement until New Braunfels was incorporated by the legislative act of May 11, 1846 and then Comaltown was joined to New Braunfels. In 1850 forty-five citizens petitioned to become separate from the city and change the boundaries of the settlement. The petition was rejected so Comaltown remained a part of New Braunfels. I have three ancestors who signed that petition, Heinrich Koehler, Jacob Rose, and Johann Georg Moeller.

A person who had a big influence of the future of Comaltown was J.J. Groos who plotted out the first subdivision in Comaltown called Braunfels. Groos had been educated in Europe and emigrated in 1845. He was well qualified to do this surveying since he had set out the boundaries of Comal, Bexar and Kendall Counties. He was the County surveyor and made maps for the City of New Braunfels.

In 1862 he had been elected County Clerk, making him an automatic Confederate agent. After the Civil War, all elected County officials were ousted by the Provisional Government. In 1865 Groos found himself without a job so he moved to San Antonio. He was eventually elected commissioner of the General Land Office.

Braunfels subdivision lots were ready to sell in 1868. Is it deliberate or accidental that so many of the street names in Braunfels had some connection to the Civil War? There are 28 blocks in the subdivision with 12 lots in each. Main boundaries are North St., Union St., South St., and East St. Let your imagination grasp this: The North and South are joined together by Union. The word Common has many meanings but one that fits is “belonging equally to more than one”. Each block is divided by an alley. How’s that for separation? I heard years ago that at the end of Camp St., close to the Fairgrounds, there was an army camp ground during the Civil War. I can’t prove that. Then there’s Grant St. and Houston St. and Washington St. thrown in for good measure. Just outside the subdivision is the greatest of all – Liberty.

With shovels, mules and wagons, a group of citizens work on roads. Good Roads Day in Comal County, January 29, 1914.

Slumber Falls on the Guadalupe

June 1st, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

We know a lot about our Comal River but not so much about the Guadalupe. Did you know that the Guadalupe is 226 miles longer than the Comal? It’s a tumultuous and erratic river. The Comal, on a flooding rampage, affects New Braunfels; the Guadalupe, on a flooding rampage, affects 230 miles of property, trees, land, and people.

Here’s the really good side of the Guadalupe: it has provided hours and days of camping, boating, and summer camps. Where else but a summer camp would you have learned the words to “Doktor Eisenbart”?

I am Herr Doktor Eisanbart, Twil li wil li witt boom boom

I’ll cure your ills with healing art, Twil li wil li witt boom boom

Sing to ri ay, sing to ri ay,Twil li wil li witt boom boom boom boom!

Let’s take a trip down the Guadalupe River starting at its source in Kerr County and eventually giving up the ghost when it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. There it is a small stream in a big pond. The river in Kerr County is formed by two tributaries and the towns of Kerrville and Comfort were established nearby.

The story goes that the Guadalupe River, as far back as 1689, was called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe by Spanish explorer, Alonso De León. Other names were applied by later Spanish explorers. At one time the river’s major contributory, the Comal, was actually called Guadalupe and the Guadalupe was called the San Ybón. It’s impossible to know what the Indian tribes who inhabited the banks called it. The Tonkawa, Waco, Lipan Apaches, Karankawa, Coahuiltican and Comanche all left evidence of their presence up and down the banks.

Missions were established along the river’s tributaries. Several were located above Victoria, one near San Marcos Springs, and one near the Comal Springs.

After the mission era, Mexicans, Europeans and Americans moved into Texas and along the Guadalupe. Martin De Leon established Victoria in 1824 and in 1825 James Kerr established Gonzales. Ben Mc Cullough surveyed Walnut Springs in 1839. This name changed to Seguin. You will remember that most of those towns, except Victoria, were stopping points for the early settlers who were following the Guadalupe from Indianola on their way to New Braunfels, now the largest town along the Guadalupe.

The completion of the large Canyon Lake and Dam interrupted the river’s flow. After forming a large lake, the river resumes its flow at the outlet of the dam. Before Canyon Dam floods were rampant but now somewhat controlled by the dam.

At this point a really beautiful part of the Guadalupe begins as it comes out of the outlet. It begins its journey to New Braunfels, passing the River Road, several crossings and tourist courts and camps. Let’s look in particular at one camp, Slumber Falls Camp.

Slumber Falls Camp developed along the Guadalupe in the early 1930s at just the right time due to the building of roads and the popularity of the automobile. The camp was a place to get away from the city and enjoy the beauty of the hill country river. In the open air cabins the sound of the water falls contributed to the enjoyment of outdoor camping.

The history of the ownership of the land on which Slumber Falls is located goes back to 1890 when Joseph Landa purchased a large parcel of the Veramendi Tract on the Guadalupe for cattle raising. There is evidence that locals already used this area for picnicking and swimming. Years later the property was owned by Harry Landa, Joseph Landa’s son. Harry sold 20 acres in this tract to Francis Schulz Lillie for $1,545. Francis Lillie, along with her husband Will and brother, Herman Schrader, developed the property into a tourist camp. Steps leading down to the river show their presence with etchings of their names in concrete steps .Retaining walls were built and together the three built 11 cabins, one at a time as they could afford them. The tourist camp was a popular spot, a place to get away from the city, enjoy the beauty of the hill country river valley and slumber in the open air cabins with the sound of waterfalls. Situated on top of a high bluff’s pinnacle on the camp property is a stunning view of the river below.

World War II had a devastating effect on the tourist industry in general, but after the war, interest resumed. In 1946 Will Lillie died and Francis sold the tourist court to her two nephews and a third party for$20,000.Then in 1954-56 a terrible drought virtually caused the Guadalupe to dry up and the tourist court was closed. The nephews decided to sell.

The Texas Synod of the United Church of Christ purchased the tract for $16,500. They held their first youth camp in the summer of 1958. Preservation of the open- air cabins, out of financial necessity, resulted in campers of today experiencing nature and camping like the 1930s. They can still slumber with the sound of waterfalls. Improvements have been made, but several of the screened-in cabins remain. Slumber Falls Camp and Recreation Center still has remnants of the tourist camp that reflect the early tourism trend, making it eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

At the base of the steps leading down to the water, the Guadalupe River rushes over rocks and past cypress lined banks to its final destination. On the way to the Gulf it picks up water from its largest tributary, the Comal. About two miles west of Gonzales, the San Marcos River flows into the Guadalupe and then the San Antonio River joins the river just north of Tivoli. Heading down to the coast and ahead of the estuary, the river forms a delta and splits in two sections referred to as the North and South Guadalupe. Each flows into the San Antonio Bay and then to its final destination, the Gulf of Mexico.

Sister and brother, Franziska Dittlinger (Liebscher) and Bruno Dittlinger at Slumber Falls c1905-1910.

Sophienburg scholarship winner chosen

May 18th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Sophienburg Museum and Archives and an anonymous donor established a yearly scholarship called the Myra Lee Adams Goff Sophienburg History Scholarship. It would be awarded to one senior from among our six high schools in Comal County. The way the scholarship was set up couldn’t have pleased me more. The winner would have to write a 500 word essay about a person or event, showing their knowledge and interest in the history of Comal County.

We were surprised that there were 108 entries. That’s a total of 54,000 words! Those who helped judge the entries were pleased about the amount of knowledge the students had accumulated. The students that put forth the effort to compete in this contest obviously put in many hours thinking about Comal County.

Brendan Cooper from Smithson Valley High School was chosen not only for his knowledge of the subject, but his choice of a very complicated period in history, the Civil War in Comal County. His entry was not a feature article from which one can learn facts; his entry was one that provokes thinking on the part of the reader. Brendan gave me permission to print his entry, so here it is:

Comal County

After a long history of establishment and a strongly agricultural base, Comal County remains intact and prosperous. While it may have changed over the years with the migration of peoples and the environmental circumstances around it, it has remained so that it stands today a conducive place to live. From the rolling hill country, to the wide expanses of land now used for development and in some cases the age old profession of ranching, the county provides a diverse and beautiful environment in which to come of age. The land holds us up to walk into our futures.

With all this being said, I find it odd how openly the county was documented embracing the efforts of the Civil War. The land and the institution we know today are hard to place with the obtuse bigotry that I associate with the Civil War. The Civil War was waged over the simple freedom of all men, who also happen to be the audience of the Constitution. The violence and the shrewdness of the war make it seem rather ridiculous in its intensity, since the common fact of equality is an understanding in today’s society. With the knowledge of this county accepting the ideology of the war with an unquestioning handshake perhaps tarnishes the positive outlook on what it provides to me today. Somehow, by establishing the fact that the county supported what I can see to be wrong makes me disagree with the fiber of the institution. Hindsight is often clearer than what is utilized on a daily basis however, and it seems wrong to generalize.

In such a case, both sides should be shown, neither being denied by the other. I will consider then that I could potentially suffer from some sort of bias. I think that in school students are taught the Civil War while wearing a lens. While learning about the war, the North is continually associated with the good and the South with the bad. Because the South lost, we automatically assume that they were in the wrong. In my view the South was wrong and the wrong was righted with the war, but some would disagree. I see that what the South believed in was wrong to an extent in one area: slavery. Often, though, we can forget that the war was mostly political as it consumed the ideas of isolationism of the states. Because of this, the South is vilified and labeled as vile, at least during this time period. The bias I am instilled with has me disagree with the positions of the county at the time, but I can see that here, the correct thing was done for the situation.

This event is important to me and to the county, since if you can’t agree with the place in which you live, who’s opinion is wrong? While it seems to serve to tarnish the county, it actually shows the stability of this county with the state, which promotes only good traits. While it appears vile for Comal to join the fight with open arms, sending troops into battle in this case, may seem discordant with the country, it shows obedience to the state. In the end, the entire South made the same mistake, and it wasn’t for the lack of a moral compass.

The history of the place in which you live can mean the difference between respecting and devaluing it. The fact that Comal County engaged in a war of this type, while shocking, shows its clarity of mind and a solid belief in itself and its own values. It takes courage to rebuke authority, and our county possesses more than enough to make it worth admiration.

My postscript to Brendan’s essay

Locally, much has been written about Comal County’s involvement in the Civil War. The county vote was 239 for and 86 against seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy. Questions constantly arise; did joining the Confederacy mean that one was in favor of slavery? I don’t think so. Well why, then, did Comal County vote to secede from the Union? Ferdinand Lindheimer, editor of the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung at the time pushed for secession. He certainly didn’t approve of slavery, so why did he lead the way towards secession? Germans in general were against slavery.

Political issues always have hidden agendas. That’s on both sides. Lindheimer was in favor of seceding from the Union because he was a strong believer in states’ rights. This is a very important concept to Germans and to Texans. Since both the North and South were guilty of slavery, what’s the conflict? The Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to the slaves only in the Confederate states. Or was it a “money is the root of all evil” issue?

Brendan reminds us that this is an unresolved issue, not only here but all over the United States. Those who chose Brendan’s entry believed that regardless of what field he chooses to study, history and writing will be a part of his field. A beautiful plaque with his name engraved on it can be viewed at the Sophienburg.

Brendan Cooper accepts the Sophienburg History Scholarship from Myra Lee Adams Goff.

Brendan Cooper accepts the Sophienburg History Scholarship from Myra Lee Adams Goff.

From distillery to woolen mill to laundry

May 4th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Two sisters, Debbie Elliott and Lynn Norvell, have built homes on the property that has been in their family over 100 years. The property is on the corner of Garden and Comal Sts. on the Comal River, next to the Garden Street Bridge. They are very much interested in people knowing the history of this property, from distillery, to woolen mill, and finally to a laundry.

Distillery

In the early 1860s Dr. Theodore Koester purchased the property and began a brandy distillery. It didn’t last long and in 1867, a group of New Braunfels businessmen organized a stock company to purchase the distillery and begin a woolen mill. The distillery building was a large wooden two story building 40 by 90 feet. The price of the property was $9,000 and machinery purchased cost another $25,000. The former brewery became New Braunfels Woolen Manufacturing Company.

New Braunfels Woolen Manufacturing Company

Organizers of the company were Franz Moreau, Thomas Perryman, Otto Groos, and brothers Adolph and Julius Giesecke. The Giesecke brothers operated the mill. Julius Giesecke’s son was Dr. F.E. Giesecke who would later become a professor at A&M College and operate a summer school for his students. Some of you may remember that Camp Giesecke was on the property that now is “the Other Place”.

The woolen mill, with its prominent 80- foot smokestack, was in operation from 1867 to 1883 and received recognition throughout the state. For that matter, a diploma in 1870, names the mill the outstanding woolen mill in the Southern states. Their products included jeans, tweeds, and blankets. It took 600 to 700 pounds of wool per day for production and employed up to 40 people.

The Texas New Yorker magazine reported that the mill, run by a steam engine, furnished 1,233 yards of gray woolen cloth to Texas A&M College for uniforms. After seven years of operation, the shareholders transferred the property, and incidentally its indebtedness to Groos and the Giesecke brothers for $18,265. During the operation of the mill, a cedar covered tract of land was purchased near Huaco Springs. This 1,210 acre tract was covered with cedar, so vital for burning in the boilers of the factory, but the cost of cedar cutting was high. Products from the mill had gained a reputation for quality, but financial trouble occurred when woolen mills in the Eastern U.S. began copying the NB product. A blanket appeared on the market with the trademark and label of the local mill. This eastern product was inferior and it is thought that people confused the products. Soon the NB mill was in financial trouble.

In 1883 the mill closed and the machinery was broken up and sold as junk. The building just sat there until 1902 when Franz Popp and his wife Anna bought the property, building and all. They used the second floor to live in and put in a steam-operated laundry on the bottom floor.

Evolution of laundry

I’ve lived long enough to witness the evolution of washing clothes. Not that I actually saw anyone beat their clothes on rocks in the Comal, but I heard about it and know it was done. As a young child, I watched a neighbor build a fire under a very big pot, putting the laundry in the pot along with a big bar of homemade lye soap. All the while she stirred it. Oh, what fun! Then she emptied out the whole thing and started over with clean water for rinsing it. She didn’t even have to go to the Comal to get water, she just turned on the faucet. Then she dragged the clothes over to the clothesline and hung them up to dry. No wonder Monday was called “wash day” because it took all day! In the early days if you washed on Mondays you would know not to drink water out of the Comal on Tuesday.

Then came the electric washing machine. Out in the garage there were two connected tubs (You’ve probably seen them in antique stores). Between these two tubs was a rubber wringer. Clothes were put in one tub and would be washed just by turning on an electric switch. Then the washed clothes were fed into the wringer and into the clean water tub to which blueing was added. They were swished around and again put through the wringer. From here the clothes dropped into the basket and then lugged out to the clothesline. Monday was still wash day, a little easier but still an all-day process. Well, maybe only a half day.

Now every day is wash day. If you don’t believe it, just ask one who does it. The washing machine washes the clothes, spin-dries them, rinses them, then spins them almost dry and the dryer dries them. All you have to do is take them out of the dryer and put them away. Guess what! I complain about this last step. I can just imagine that the women of old didn’t “whistle while they worked” on Mondays.

New Braunfels Steam Laundry

Getting back to the Popps and their laundry purchased in the early 1900’s. Franz Popp emigrated from Prussia in 1886 and married Anna Mielke in Texas. Two of their children were Bruno and Emma. Emma married Carl Doeppenschmidt who was proprietor of the Phoenix Cafe.

Emma’s life was full of sadness, but she was a strong woman. First her husband Carl died in 1926, then her mother Anna in 1934. A fire at the laundry was the ultimate cause of her mother’s death. Her father died in 1938. She operated the laundry alone during the Depression, was also a cook at the Phoenix and lived upstairs over the laundry with her two small children, Lawrence and Thelma. Eventually Emma married Adolph Krause.

Emma’s daughter Thelma, with her husband James Ethridge, lived in a house next to the laundry until Thelma died in 2002. She was the mother of Debbie and Lynn Ethridge, the two sisters who have built homes on the property.

In 1954 the old building was torn down, so they have decided to apply for a historical site marker designating the laundry history .The large bell salvaged from the top of the building will be included with the marker. Part of the smoke stack is still visible. It should be quite attractive as it marks the site of an old New Braunfels landmark.

New Braunfels Woolen Mills, 1880-90s showing the bell tower and the tall smokestack.

New Braunfels Woolen Mills, 1880-90s showing the bell tower and the tall smokestack.

Hermann Spiess follows Meusebach as commissioner general

April 20th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Hermann Spiess became the third Commissioner General of the Adelsverein, following Prince Carl and John Meusebach. Spiess had a more exciting life than the other two. Why don’t we know a lot about him? Why don’t we have a Spiess Street? For certain, he was on the Adelsverein’s slippery slope downward in Texas. There was only one more Commissioner General after him, L. Bene and then the whole Adelsverein folded.

Meusebach, as second Commissioner General, tried to resign several times to no avail. The Adelsverein wouldn’t let him. Finally, because of many failures of the original plan for Texas, the Adelsverein accepted Meusebach’s resignation and decided to give up on the whole Texas affair. But they still needed someone to close out their business affairs in Texas. Hermann Spiess was born in Offenbach-Hesse Darmstadt, Germany in 1818. The Adelsverein chose Spiess, who was familiar with Texas because he had traveled to Texas earlier in 1845 and ‘46 before returning back to Germany. It was at the time when he returned to Germany that he became acquainted with the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants (Adelsverein). In July of 1847 he traveled to Texas to become the third Commissioner General.

When Spiess arrived in New Braunfels, for the first 20 months, he lived in the boarding houses of Holekamp and Thomae. Soon in 1849 he bought land three miles above New Braunfels in the Waco Springs area on the west bank of the Guadalupe River. Here he set up a sawmill and cypress shingle mill near the area between Slumber Falls Camp and the first crossing. In 1852 he leased these mills to Elijah Hanis and Erwin Braune.

In 1849 Spiess, along with Rev. Louis Ervendberg and L. Bene, established the Western Texas Orphan Asylum near what is now Gruene. At this time his sister, Louise, was staying with him on an extended visit at Waco Springs.

Spiess’ wife Lena had quite an interesting background herself. She was captured by Comanches in Mexico. Dr. Ferdinand Herff supposedly removed a cataract from the eye of an Indian chief and he was given this six-year-old girl as a thank you gift. Spiess adopted the child to take care of her.

A story in the New Braunfels Herald on November 7, 1968, quotes Oscar Haas as finding a paper in the Spiess files noting that a group of settlers meeting with Comanches had two captive children, one being Lena. She was placed in the care of a housekeeper of the Coreth family. Quoting Lena, the article says she earned the love and sympathy of the women of the house. Spiess took Lena to live with him and his sister, Louise.

When Louise left to go back to Germany, Lena was taken to stay at the Ervendberg’s orphanage that was set up as a home for the orphaned children of the colony. The paper said Lena was happy there, improved her German and enjoyed the company of children her age. In 1852 she returned to Spiess’ home at Waco Springs where they married. Several accounts of this story had several different dates and ages for Lena. It’s not definite how old she was as different accounts give different dates.

This next story relating to Spiess upholds the statement “Truth is stranger than fiction”. Spiess was appointed Commissioner General and the brief period before he accepted this position, when there was no Commissioner General in New Braunfels, a man named Dr. Schubert took advantage of the situation and announced that he was now the Commissioner General. He had been appointed by Meusebach as the Colonial Director for Fredericksburg, but due to many complaints, was removed from that position by Meusebach. Schubert now made his way to Nassau Plantation in Fayette County, the farm that belonged to the Adelsverein. This property was purchased with the idea that it would be used to raise crops to sustain the emigrants in the colonies.

Schubert felt that he would become more powerful if he ruled from Nassau Plantation. He surrounded himself with men of questionable character and Spiess heard stories of wild parties and abuse of slaves going on at the farm. He decided to take back the farm that Schubert claimed he had leased. Spiess and several men attacked the occupants at night. They left New Braunfels and hid out on the outskirts of the farm. Schubert got wind of the coming attack and he and his men were prepared for a fight.

In the end, there was a shoot-out, two persons were killed, one on each side. On Spiess’ side, the one killed was the artist Caspar Rohrdorf and on the other was a friend of Dr. Schubert. Spiess and his crew had to leave without the success of taking back Nassau Plantation.

This was not the end of the story. Shortly thereafter, Spiess was accused of murder. He took flight and hid for months in the area of the upper Guadalupe. Finally when things calmed down in Fayette County, Spiess appeared in the court in LaGrange where he was tried and acquitted. Schubert’s true identity was revealed as Frederick Armand Strubberg and he was not a doctor, but a cigar maker instead. Some think that this revelation helped acquit Spiess. The Nassau plantation was eventually claimed by creditors and disposed of by court action. Schubert, or Strubberg, returned to Germany where he wrote novels about Texas and sold the artist Rohrbach’s paintings which he had confiscated.

Because of bad health, Hermann and Lena Spiess and seven children moved to Missouri and then to California. Spiess died in the 1880s and Lena about 1910.

New Braunfelser Margie Hitzfelder was born on the property that at one time belonged to Spiess and now belongs to Bob Pfeuffer. Her father, Hilmar Kraft, worked for Bob Gode who owned the property. Gode was Pfeuffer’s grandfather.

Nothing is left at Waco Springs indicating that Hermann Spiess had ever been there except cypress trees.

Hermann Spiess, third General Commissioner of the Adelsverein and wife, Lena.

Hermann Spiess, third General Commissioner of the Adelsverein and wife, Lena.