Early communication

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Have you ever watched animals communicate with each other? No words, just bark, growl and whine. They get their point across. If they didn’t, they would have invented words. That’s what humans did. Some still bark, growl, and whine, but these sounds are usually accompanied by words.

Early human communication consisted of a system called “tell-a-woman”. Now, don’t get mad at me, ladies, because there was also “tell-a-man” and by the number of saloons in early New Braunfels, I’m guessing that men won out. This ancient form of communication was around long before the telegraph, telephone and tell-a-SKYPE, where you see the person anywhere in the world.

Depending on where you lived and who you associated with, different languages developed. Time went on and there was a need to communicate with people far away.

Someone (or two) developed a system of communicating from hill to hill. Smoke signals. It was too far to yell or growl from one place to another. The English developed the semaphore, a signaling device using flags or lights. On top of the hill was built a contraption with shutters where men could flash signals from one tower to another tower. A message could be relayed as far as 85 miles. This system was obsolete by the middle of the 19th century with the invention of the telegraph. Several systems were invented before the invention of the telegraph.

Samuel F.B. Morse is given most of the credit for inventing the telegraph. This may not be entirely true but Morse did prove that signals could be transmitted by wire. Several inventions led up to the invention of the electric telegraph all over the world. The Morse Code, a series of dots and dashes, was used. Western Union built its first transcontinental line in 1861 following the railroad tracks.

Morse received funds from Congress to install a line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. His idea was to bury wires. This idea failed so he had the idea to hang wires from trees and this also failed. Finally he had the idea to hang the wires from poles. In 1844 Morse stationed himself in the Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol in Washington D.C. He sent the famous message “What hath God wrought” to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore. Vail got the message.

By 1846 a new business, the Associated Press, took full advantage of the telegraph to send messages to newspaper offices. What a boom for rapid communication! The national election results of 1848 were sent via wire to newspapers for the first time.

Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address was transmitted over telegraph wires to all “loyal states”. Obviously Confederates didn’t get the speech. Lincoln was supposedly fascinated by the technology of the telegraph and would spend hours, even overnight, in the War Department building, keeping track of what was going on during the Civil War. Messages were easily sent to newspapers across the United States but it seemed impossible to send a message by wire to Europe.

An American businessman named Cyrus Field organized a new company called the New York Newfoundland and London Telegraph Co. Field began laying 2,500 miles of cable from Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. After several failed attempts of the use of the wire, Queen Victoria in England successfully sent a letter of congratulations to newly elected president, James Buchanan, on the advent of his election.

By the end of the 19th century, most of the world was connected by the telegraph.

What was happening in New Braunfels as far as communication? When the emigrants first came to the Republic of Texas, the fastest and slowest form of communication was by mail. It took about three months for letters to arrive from Germany on a ship and then had to be transported overland.

Letters and penny postcards were delivered to stations by stagecoach. The stagecoach stopped at the Schmitz Hotel located on Main Plaza. Throughout the Civil War (ending in 1865), news about the war reached New Braunfels by stagecoach. Then there was the Pony Express. In 1880 the International and Great Northern Railroad came to New Braunfels and mail was sent by rail.

At a special meeting of the NB City Council on May 12, 1865, the mayor gave permission to the Western Union to fix the places for posts with the agent in such a manner that the free passage and use of the streets of the city would not be obstructed. The operator that worked the telegraph had to learn Morse Code. When the message arrived over the wire, it was written down and then hand-delivered to the person it was meant for. In1871 the telegraph office moved from the Schmitz Hotel to August Schmitz’s home on 267 Mill St. It is confusing, but unknown, the relationship of August to Schmitz Hotel owner Jacob Schmitz. In 1876 Charles Schmitz took his father’s place as telegraph operator at the Mill St. home. In 1879 the telegraph office was moved back to the hotel and then moved to the train depot in 1887.

Eventually the telegraph and telephone offices merged. City Council passed an ordinance Dec. 10,1895, granting Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph permission to erect and maintain on the streets, alleys and public ways, poles, fixtures and wires necessary to supply NB citizens with communication by telephone.

The house at 267 E. Mill St. still stands today at the same address where August Schmitz once operated the early telegraph office. The land on which this house sits was originally conveyed to Francis Gilbeau by the German Emigration Company in 1847. The third owner was August Schmitz, the telegraph operator. Until recently the property belonged to the Fuhrmann-Ludwig family and last year the property was bought by Danny and Anna Lisa Tamez. The building actually has two complete rental units. The fachwerk walls are still standing, as are the original floors. The story is that the bricks that line the walls were put together with mud and water from the Comal River a block away. They also bought the Ludwig house directly behind the E. Mill St. property facing E. Bridge St. which they have also restored.

The early home housing the telegraph office and the Ludwig house on Bridge St. downtown have been restored for vacationers to be able to enjoy a little bit of the past in the present. Danny and Anna Lisa Tamez also own the Gruene Estate on Rock Street. This 15-acre B&B was built in 1857 and is the original homestead of Ernst and Antoinette Gruene.

Since change is inevitable, what changes will take place in communication in the future? Will we be communicating only mentally as science fiction suggests?

Restored house on E. Mill Street was the site of an early telegraph office.

Restored house on E. Mill Street was the site of an early telegraph office.

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Sophienburg history scholarship awarded

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The recipient of the second annual Sophienburg Museum and Archives history writing scholarship has been chosen and her entry follows. The scholarship was set up last year by an anonymous donor and named the Myra Lee Adams Goff History Scholarship.

The rules for winning the $500 scholarship are simple but being chosen is not. Basically, a high school senior from one of the high schools in Comal County is asked to write a 500 to 1,000 word essay about an event or person who has made a significant difference in New Braunfels or Comal County history. Last year’s recipient, Brendan Cooper, wrote an essay on Comal County’s involvement in the Civil War.

This year’s recipient, Katie Pfeuffer, wrote about her ancestor, George Pfeuffer. Several good essays were written about persons in New Braunfels, but Katie wrote about the difference George Pfeuffer made, not only locally, but also in the state of Texas. He served as a state senator and as president of Texas A&M College.

Here is Katie’s essay:

George Pfeuffer was not only influential in the shaping of Comal County but also in the shaping of the state of Texas. George was born in Bavaria in 1830. He was the oldest son of Georg and Barbra Pfeuffer who came to Texas in 1845, and moved to New Braunfels in 1861. He died of a stroke in Austin in 1886. In his years in Texas he was a successful businessman, County Judge, served on the Board of Directors for Texas A&M, and was a state Senator in the Nineteenth legislature when he passed away.

While living in New Braunfels, he ran several successful sawmills and lumberyards across the state under the firm George Pfeuffer and Brother. He became interested in politics and in 1877, was appointed as the replacement County Judge in Comal County. As County Judge he was also the superintendent of the public schools.

In 1880 George Pfeuffer was appointed by Governor O.M. Roberts to the Board of Directors of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College. While on the Board he was given the task of making the mess hall operation profitable. He was able to turn the operation around in a year. The money earned was used to build the first building on the A&M campus specifically designed for student housing. Pfeuffer Hall was built in 1887 and was razed in 1954. George was also a state senator while on the Board of Directors. He served as President of the Board of Directors and was very energetic in promoting the school and its successes.

He fought for state funding for education. While serving in the Eighteenth Legislature as Chairman of the Committee of Education, he introduced a bill that called for the Texas AMC to be entitled to a portion of the state school funds as the University in Austin was. He was also a member of a group of Representatives who lobbied for the Capitol building to be built out of Texas red granite instead of white Georgia marble. Being a businessman, he and his group promoted that the granite was beautiful and native, and as it was native it would be cheaper to build a railway line to Burnet than to import the marble from Georgia.

George died in Austin of apoplexy in 1886. The then Governor of Texas, John Ireland, accompanied George’s body on the train back to New Braunfels where the senator was laid to rest. Because of his influence on the Texas Capitol being constructed out of granite, a granite obelisk was erected at his grave a number of years later. He was fifty-seven years old when he passed.

George Pfeuffer and the Pfeuffer family influence did not end in the 1880s. George’s son, S.V. Pfeuffer, was the first President of the Sophienburg Museum and was a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Since George, there have been five generations of students who have gone to Texas A&M and are his direct descendants.

There have been Pfeuffer sons who have been lawyers, a state district judge in Comal County, and a postmaster. To those who know where to look, Pfeuffer family influences can be traced through Comal County and state history.

Most people don’t know why there is a red granite obelisk at a gated area of the Comal Cemetery, or that there is a plaque in an ivy bed in front of the Academic Building on the Texas A&M campus that marks where Pfeuffer Hall stood. The speaker of the quote above the entrance to the Sophienburg Museum and the bearded men in “Lure of the Springs” mural in Landa Park aren’t significant to most people, but to me they are all special. They are permanent ties to my name. The granite obelisk, the plaque on the Texas A&M campus, glass above the door to the museum, and the mural on the recreation center will always say Pfeuffer, and will always provide ways to learn about the way my family shaped the world in which I live.
—Katie Pfeuffer

Pfeuffer legacy at the Sophienburg

Obviously Katie is proud of her heritage, as she should be. As a volunteer at the Sophienburg, I decided to look for the Pfeuffer connection. I did find a very important one. Before I tell you the connection, let me give a short background of the founding of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. The idea of a museum originated after the H. Dittlinger family received a portrait of Prince Carl with the request that it be placed in the city’s museum. Guess what, we had no museum in 1926. Mrs. Dittlinger volunteered to keep the portrait until the city could come up with some money. Then Mrs. Johanna Runge of Austin, owner of the Sophienburg hill, agreed to cut the price of the property and a committee was formed to organize the Sophienburg Memorial Association.

In seven months, Mr. S.V. Pfeuffer (son of George Pfeuffer) became the association’s first president. He handed over a check for $5,025 to Mrs. Runge. The Great Depression of 1929 hindered the construction of a museum until mid-1933 when the building was completed. The museum filled up quickly. This first building was the rock building on the corner of Academy and Coll Sts. now used as collection storage. Incidentally, four generations later David Pfeuffer became the Sophienburg president.

Mr. S.V. Pfeuffer made this statement: “Let us dedicate this memorial to the memory of the pioneers of the past who made our beautiful city possible; to the living of the present, that they may enjoy it, and to the generations of the future as a reminder of a noble heritage.”

The Sophienburg Archives and History Museum has as its slogan: “Our legacy is our future.”

Erika Pfeuffer, daughter of David and Tammy Pfeuffer, and Katie Pfeuffer, daughter of Michael and Carlyn Pfeuffer, pose by a plaque honoring George Pfeuffer on the Texas A&M campus.

Erika Pfeuffer, daughter of David and Tammy Pfeuffer, and Katie Pfeuffer, daughter of Michael and Carlyn Pfeuffer, pose by a plaque honoring George Pfeuffer on the Texas A&M campus.

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First Baptist Church dedicates Bill and Gwen Arnold Ministry Center

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Next Sunday the First Baptist Church will reach another milestone with the dedication of a Christian Life Center named the Bill and Gwen Arnold Ministry Center.

The first attempt to establish a Baptist Church in New Braunfels was in 1905 when the San Marcos Baptist Association purchased a lot on Seguin St. and built a small chapel for the fledgling group. The New Braunfels church was a mission; however, there wasn’t enough people, money or interest to keep the little church alive.

From 1905 to 1907 two pastors came and went and as a second attempt to interest an audience, a revival was held in a tent on the mission grounds. While the minister, Albert Ahrens was speaking, he was bombarded with eggs thrown from outside the tent directly at him. Nevertheless, the small group of about 12 Baptists gained eight new members through this tent revival.

Ahrens resigned followed by another preacher who resigned. Then the District Clerk of Comal County, C.W. Rice, a lay minister, became the pastor. Rice had six daughters and two sons, so that increased the number of members. Some of you may remember Rice’s children, especially teacher Esther Rice and Judge Clarence Rice. The Rice home on 191 N. Union St. in later years was used often as a church meeting place.

When the San Marcos Baptist Association ceased to provide money for the New Braunfels mission in 1912, and sold the lot on Seguin St., there was no place to meet, so the small mission folded. For ten years there was no organized Baptist church in town.


In 1922 the Baptist State Mission Board decided to reorganize the group even though there was no building. They arranged for Sunday School to be held in a small adobe building in the first block of S. Seguin Ave. and the Methodist Church allowed the Baptists to use their Church for services on Thursdays. Preaching was done by students from the San Marcos Academy. A missionary, J. Ernest Young, was sent to organize the group and he preached his first sermon on August 5, 1923. Once again the small group met in the home of Bro. Rice until they built a building.

After several pastors and several locations, Rev. H.A. Seymour convinced the group to purchase a lot on the northeast corner of Main and Union Sts. in Comaltown. This lot was on the northeast corner opposite the Rice home. In late 1927 a building was erected on this lot costing $2,500, built by my grandfather, A.C. Moeller. Until this building was complete, revivals were held “under canvas”. When complete, the building could house 100 people for a membership of 51 at that time.

Once again the pastor left at the end of the year. The women of the church came to the financial rescue by holding study groups and hosting the Association Annual Meeting at which they fed the delegates noon and evening meals “even though there was no running water or restrooms in the building”. These were tough times financially. The faithful friends of the German Baptist Association decided to appeal to the State Mission Board to help the New Braunfels Mission. The Board sent Bro. R. L. Wittner and for eight years he led the congregation through the Great Depression. In 1931 two Sunday School rooms were added by a church member at no cost and by 1933 membership had grown to 166.

Present lots purchased

In 1945 two lots were purchased at the corner of Cross and Guenther Sts. A rock church was built with a government surplus barracks building right behind it. Meanwhile the church building on Union St. was moved to W. San Antonio St. and eventually was used as the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The church continued to grow. Baptism by immersion is a central philosophy of the Baptist religion. Before 1948, all baptisms were in the Guadalupe River and some small children were baptized in a small fish pond. Most Baptist churches have indoor baptismal fonts.

Between the late 1940s and 1966, at least a dozen ministers were called. Then in May of 1966, Rev. Bill Arnold accepted a call to First Baptist in New Braunfels. He remained as minister until he retired in 1983.

Bill Arnold

Bill Arnold, a native of Corpus Christi, had been preaching since he was 19 years old at Jones Chapel outside Brownwood, Texas. Gwen Holleman and her parents attended a church in Brownwood and she was asked to sing a solo at a revival held at Jones Chapel. When Bill Arnold heard her sing, it was the proverbial “love at first sight”. They dated and married in 1950.

Soon after, he graduated from Howard Payne University and then on to the Southwestern Baptist Seminary. After completing this education in the seminary Bill spent three years in Mason for their first church, at which time two of their sons were born, Jim and David. The next church was at Ed Couch-Elsa for one year. After that he became the pastor in Aransas Pass from 1956 to 1966. Their youngest son, Billy, was born there. Arnold used to tell the story of his first funeral on the coast. Standing next to the coffin, the sand gave way and he slipped under the casket. What a beginning!

In 1966 Bill Arnold accepted a call to First Baptist Church in New Braunfels. It was here that he made a big impact not only on the congregation that he served, but on the whole town of New Braunfels. With his charismatic personality, he was a friend to all. It is estimated that he conducted the funerals of over 400 New Braunfelsers who were not members of his congregation. Bill Arnold was active in the Lions Club, Salvation Army, and served two terms on the New Braunfels City Council.

Perhaps what he was best known for was his association with a group of men who met at Krause’s Café every morning, rain or shine, at 7:00 a.m. There, Kermit Krause designated a tabled called a “Stammtisch”, meaning “a table reserved for regular customers”, for these men who were the “self- appointed problem solvers of every problem in New Braunfels”. That was their purpose. They enjoyed each other’s company and, no doubt, enjoyed the self-deprecating humor of Bill Arnold. Besides Krause and Arnold, others were S.D. David, Jack Ohlrich, George Goepf, Leonard Hitzfelder, John Doster, and Mitch Sacco. Incidentally, I don’t know how the Herald came up with the name Stammtisch for their calendar of events, but it sounds good.

Under the leadership of Bill and Gwen Arnold, much was accomplished at First Baptist Church in the area of missions, music, and buildings. That is why the new building is named the Bill and Gwen Arnold Ministry Center. Bill Arnold died in 2008 but Gwen Arnold will be there. Current pastor, Brad McLean, invites all to check it out at 3:00 p.m. Sunday.

Gwen Holliman and Bill Arnold at their wedding in Brownwood. 1950

Gwen Holleman and Bill Arnold at their wedding in Brownwood. 1950

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Hofheinz house dates back to 1905

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Soon after moving to New Braunfels, Bill and Bonnie Leitch began “looking for a perfect place to live away from city life” in the city. For that matter, the house they found in 1971 is very close to downtown but has the feeling of being “outside the city”. The home was an old Victorian beauty in a neighborhood that had changed, located on a street whose name had even changed. The house itself was still preserved and the Leitches bought the house and made it their ambition to restore it.

The house was located on Grand Street. Never heard of it? That’s because Grand Street (only one block long) changed to Hill Ave. and I bet you know where that is. It parallels Academy running next to the railroad track and then goes up the hill for about a block. This property was located in the Jahn Addition. The whole area was originally owned by Johann Jahn, the furniture maker in 1846. The property was later given to Carl and Emma Jahn by their mother, Anna Jahn, upon the death of their father, Johann Jahn.

The lot on which the house is located is really a double lot and the original property was two double lots, extending from Grand St. (Now Hill) straight through to Academy.

When Carl Jahn inherited the four lots, he sold two of the lots to Heinrich Blumberg and two to Johann Wahl. In 1905 and 1906, both Blumberg and Wahl sold their four adjoining lots to Frederick Hofheinz.

Now we get to the builder of the house that the Leitches bought. Records show that Frederick Hofheinz was 11 years old when he emigrated from Germany to Texas with his parents, Johannes and Emilie Hofheinz from Nassau in Germany. In 1852 this family landed on the coast at Indianola. After a difficult nine-day trek inland, the family settled in Hortontown, a small settlement across the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels. Very shortly after arriving, Johannes died of cholera, which affected so many emigrants at the time.

Frederick, as the oldest child, took on the responsibility of taking care of his mother and his younger siblings. He went to work as a teamster, hauling freight from the coast into the interior from age 14 until he was 22 years old.

During that time Frederick had moved to Kendall County and joined Captain E. Jones’ volunteers organization to guard the frontier from Indian attacks. In 1864 he married Emilie Wilke of Kendall County and started farming and ranching. Emilie was born in Lavaca, moved to New Braunfels where she went to school, and later moved to Kendall County with her parents. This is where she met Frederick. The couple eventually had four sons- Adolph, Hugo, Bruno, and Max. They also had two daughters, Adele (Mrs. Otto Beseler) and Emma (Mrs. Hugo Liesmann).

Frederick Hofheinz was very active politically in Kendall County. For several years he was elected Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner. In 1903 he was elected state president of the Order of the Sons of Hermann. He finally turned over management of the ranch to his son and the couple moved to New Braunfels.

When the Hofheinzs moved to New Braunfels (1905), they bought the four lots from Blumberg and Wahl and began building their home in the middle of the lots with the front facing Grand St. and the back facing Academy Ave. The old carriage house is still standing behind the house.

Before he died in 1918, Hofheinz became one of the principal founders of the New Braunfels State Bank. Both he and Emilie are buried in the family plot in the Comal Cemetery. Their headstones include porcelain portraits of the couple.

Now the house began its own journey, reflecting the change that time brings. First the house was sold to Charles Knibbe in 1920 and when Knibbe died in 1927, his children inherited the property and house on Hill Ave. and the other property on Academy at the back of the house. These were the four lots originally bought by Hofheinz.

During WWII the house was divided into three apartments. During this time the neighborhood deteriorated. A lack of housing in New Braunfels and the increase of train traffic was probably the reason. If you ask anyone that lives close to train tracks if they are bothered by the trains, the standard answer is, “What train?”

Then Ella Bremmer, daughter of the Knibbes, sold the house to Bruno and Elizabeth Schoenfeld who moved into the house. Schoenfeld’s son, Herman, built a home for himself and his wife, Lila, on the Academy St. half of the lots. Bruno, who was a brick layer by trade, made many improvements. He planted the pecan trees that still embrace the property and cut a cellar under the front porch. The elder Schoenfelds lived there the rest of their lives. Bruno died in 1959 and then Elizabeth in1968. When both were gone, the house stood vacant for three years until it was purchased by Bill and Bonnie Leitch.

Much time and love has gone into the restoration of this house, done mostly by the Leitches. A central tower and spindled friezework (gingerbread) accent a curved porch. Sitting on that front porch is an amazing experience. The window shutters were replaced. The 14- foot ceiling inside, with transoms to let the air circulate by the fans, above the longleaf pine floors, are original. Longleaf pine wood is now extinct and this house has longleaf pine decorative wood throughout. All the windows are the original glass, giving the appearance that only wavy glass windows can create. The ceiling is pressed tin with tiles in the hallway that were salvaged from the original Carl Schurz School.

Once a building like that is gone, it’s gone. A beautiful Queen Anne house has been saved from the chopping block by Bill and Bonnie Leitch. Viele Danke!

The Hofheinz House in the early 1900s. On the left is Frederick Hofheinz, Emilie Hofheinz, and their daughter, Emma Liesmann.

The Hofheinz House in the early 1900s. On the left is Frederick Hofheinz, Emilie Hofheinz, and their daughter, Emma Liesmann.

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Rededication of German pioneers marker at Canyon Lake

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Next Saturday, March 28th at 11:00 a.m. a rededication of an historical marker will take place at the Canyon Dam Overlook. All are invited to view this beautiful view of the lake and dam. This site which was originally honored in 1968 with a Texas Historical Commission marker was vandalized and the marker removed some time ago. It has been replaced. Words on the new marker read:


Sponsoring the marker are the German American Society of New Braunfels, Helgard Suhr-Hollis, John and Cindy Coers, the Canyon Lake Rotary Club, the Canyon Lake Noon Lions Club, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/GBRA, the Comal County Historical Commission and the Texas Historical Commission. Installation of the new marker was provided by Don and Jean Koepp, Bob Warnecke, and John and Karin Brooks with Danny Zunker of Brooks Stone Ranch. The marker is mounted on a 2,000 pound limestone rock from the area.

It is appropriate to honor the German Pioneers in Texas at this site. Canyon Lake, filled by the Guadalupe River, was the settling place of so many.

The idea of constructing this dam to minimize flooding and conserve water goes as far back as 1929 when the idea arose. After a survey in 1935, plans were authorized and construction began in 1958. In 1964, the gates were closed and the lake began to fill. The water reached its conservation level of 909 ft. (ideal) above sea level in 1968.The flow of the upper Guadalupe, plus rainfall, constantly allows the Corps of Engineers and the GBRA to control the lake level. This is done by monitoring the amount of water flowing from the Guadalupe into the lake every day and the lake level. If the amount of water is too great, the amount released below the dam is increased and sent down to the lower Guadalupe River.

The spillway crest is 943 ft. At the dam’s outlet, a maximum release of water is 5,000 cubic feet per second.

The building of Canyon Dam and Lake has saved many lives and millions of dollars which would have been lost as a result of flooding. Flooding on the Guadalupe affects towns all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. When you drive out River Road next to the Guadalupe River, look up and you can see how high flood levels reached probably thousands of years ago.

The year 2002 saw the lake overflow the spillway for the first time in the history of the lake. With a recorded elevation of 950.32 feet, water went over the spillway in a very short time. This overflowing of the spillway, created the Canyon Lake Gorge. It has become a “true Hill Country treasure” unearthing fossils, 110 million years old, crustaceous limestone formations, dinosaur footprints, springs, channels, and waterfalls. For a small price and a reservation for a tour, the three-hour walk is available at canyongorge.org.

With the first flood above the dam in 1978, the lake reached 930.60 ft. Another 20 feet and it would have been over the spillway. Another flood in 1987, the lake reached 942.67 feet and another in 1991 reached 937.77. In 1997 an elevation of 937.60 feet was attained. The 2002 level was the flood of record.

When the lake level is under the conservation level, the gates below the dam are adjusted, waiting for rain on the upper Guadalupe to flow into the lake. The lowest the lake has been was 892.70 in 2009. This, of course was the result of the drought.

In 2011, I wrote an article for the Sophienburg column printed in this newspaper called
“So, what exactly is under Canyon Lake?” I think some of the information bears repeating:

Imagine the Canyon Lake area with no lake. What would it have been like? Ranchland, farmland, trees, cemeteries, the Guadalupe River and the site of two very small communities, Hancock and Cranes Mill. These two communities would eventually be under the lake.

Hancock was named after John Hancock, who in 1851, was granted land on the north bank of the Guadalupe River. Although a thriving little community, the population of Hancock had dwindled to 10 in 1940.

The community of Cranes Mill was the other community that is under water. James Crain established a cypress shingle mill along the Guadalupe River in 1850. Crain changed the spelling of his name to Crane in the Civil War. No one knows why, but it’s been Cranes Mill ever since.

Where there are communities, there are cemeteries. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1958 was responsible for the re-interment of approximately 89 bodies from 16 cemeteries along the Guadalupe that would be under water. These remains were moved to various other cemeteries like Comal Cemetery, Fischer Cemetery, Mt. Sharp Cemetery, Twin Sisters Cemetery, and some smaller family cemeteries. Each plot was researched and next of kin contacted in order to get permission as to where the remains would be moved. Many opted to not have the remains removed, which was their choice.

Two years ago John and Cindy Coers, who are members of the Comal County Historical Commission, decided to trace the re-interment of John’s great- great- grandparents, Heinrich and Karoline Startz Coers. What they found out was not only where the Coers lived, but where they were buried. Their bodies were re-interred to the Fischer Cemetery.

Heinrich Coers emigrated from Germany in 1846 and settled in the Guadalupe River Valley. He and his wife were buried on the Coers property along the Guadalupe River. John Coers was able to locate photographs of the original interment sites along with headstones for both Heinrich and Karoline. She died in 1864 and her tombstone was destroyed. The family decided to leave her stone, but move the body. The tombstone is now under the lake. Heinrich’s stone was in good condition and it was moved intact to the Fischer cemetery. A beautiful inscription on the tombstone in German, here translated in English, reads:

You have quietly carried your burden through the Pilgrim’s Valley. Christ was your life and dying your gain.

The Coers have partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and have scanned all of the re-interment documents. They will be soon available for research purposes at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.

“Rest in Peace” seems quite appropriate.

The photo was taken at the beginning of the Canyon Dam construction.  The dam would be located to the right of the gate control tower and the lake would cover the farmland to the left of the tower.

The photo was taken at the beginning of the Canyon Dam construction. The dam would be located to the right of the gate control tower and the lake would cover the farmland to the left of the tower.

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Doeppenschmidt Funeral Home from 1923 to the present in the same family

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

It’s the same business, in the same place, run by the same family for almost 92 years. That’s Doeppenschmidt Funeral Home, now involving the fourth generation. And it doesn’t look like they are going to run out of clients any time soon.

In the early 1900s, on the corner of Seguin Ave. and Mill St. where Doeppenschmidt’s is located, Balthesar Preiss operated a livery stable, feed store and transfer service. They met trains and rented carriages for shopping, balls, and weddings. By 1912, a new building housed Baetge & Stratemann livery, transfer, feed and stable. Also in the same building on the left-hand side was Ed. Baetge and Gus Stollewerk working for Balthesar Preiss & Co., undertakers. By 1916 the double business advertised Ed. Baetge and Mrs. Otto Stratemann running the B. Preiss & Co. livery and feed stable and Baetge and Curt Ruedrich as undertakers for B. Preiss & Co.

Oscar Doeppenschmidt bought out Baetge and bought the building from Otto Stratemann in 1923. Up until that time Doeppenschmidt had a “pressing parlor” (cleaning and pressing) on W. Castell St. located in a building in the parking lot across from the Convention Center. He also operated an auto service station at 400 W. Seguin Ave. which was the vicinity of the former Hollmig’s Drive Inn. There he advertised as an agent for Chandler and Hupmobile cars, oil and gas.

After Doeppenschmidt took over the business where it is now located, he hired A.C. Moeller in 1928 for the first remodeling of the building for $10,000, no small amount at that time. Now look at the photograph dated 1927 and you can see what Doeppeschmidt’s business included. The man on the far right is Oscar Doeppenschmidt in front of a hearse. Notice the curtains and urn in the window. Next to that is an ambulance. It looks like the hearse, but has a red cross on the window. Originally these vehicles could be changed from hearse to ambulance and vice-versa. The other vehicles in the lineup were used as taxis and buses. Bus service was provided daily between San Antonio and Austin. In the center of the building are two archways and inside is a waiting room. Drivers of the vehicles were Richard Moeller, Marvin Rheinlaender, and Alvin Winkler.

Notice also the two gas tanks with the Magnolia Oil Company display. The two story building was constructed with apartments upstairs. Possibly there was also a saloon, not at all unusual in New Braunfels.

Another remodeling took place in 1972. The business by this time was solely Doeppenschmidt Funeral Home. Doeppenschmidt’s advertisement in the Herald was “Everybody wants a neat funeral for a small fee, a blessing to the poor and a help to the rich.” The advertisement claimed, “No commercialism, a chapel for 200 people and has the appearance of a quiet corner of a cathedral.” And it claims that the embalming room is not the gloomy den Dickens pictured in one of his novels, but has white tiling and bears the resemblance of the operating room of a modern hospital.

Why is the building called a home? An advertisement in the newspaper shows that “home is a real concern to their patrons.” You enter the parlor, like in a house for an atmosphere of homelike comfort. Services held as if they were held in one’s own “home”. Wonderful floor covering was laid out by Johann Jahn. Otto Rabenaldt was the licensed embalmer, assisted by Alice Dickerhoff.

Some old-timers and some not so old remember some of the funeral practices here in New Braunfels. Before television and radio, a rather ominous looking notice was printed on a small 4×7 inch white card with black borders. These cards with the deceased name were distributed around town. The early, early ones were in German script. Homes were draped with the colors of mourning – black or shades of dark grey. Funeral wreaths were hung on the outside door and inside the house over pictures, doors and windows. Sometimes mirrors and portraits of the deceased were covered with light veils.

Thousands of years ago all over the world, there is evidence that black was the color of funerals. Fear of the departed, not respect for them, was the reason. Covering oneself with black garments protected the person from spirit possession by the deceased. Widows wore a veil and black clothing for a year to hide from her husband’s spirit. These color practices have been all but forgotten by the younger generation and a majority of the older generation say “thank goodness”.

Going against these customs of wearing black brought social ostracism to the widow. Remember how Scarlett O’Hara was ostracized in “Gone with the Wind” when she abandoned the black clothes for brighter ones? Customs influence many of our actions and sometimes we don’t even know why, but I would never wear a red dress to a funeral, but not because of fear of the spirit possession.

Since the spirit domain was darkness, candles were lit to keep the dark spirits away. This practice comes from ancient people’s use of funeral torches around the body. The word funeral comes from the Latin “fumus” meaning “torch”. Doeppenschmidt used to turn on a light outside when there was a body inside.

The term “funeral home” no doubt comes from the importance of the home for funerals long before funeral homes. When a person died, the family would lay the body somewhere in the home, usually the parlor. Relatives and friends were invited to view the body. Then a casket was chosen from the undertaker’s supply or one could be ordered. The first NB undertaker, Balthesar Preiss, made his caskets. Some caskets were closed and some were open with a glass covering. By the way, the word “casket” comes from the Greek “kophinos” meaning basket. You can guess why, can’t you? The body was restrained in a basket with a rock on top to keep the spirit from escaping. While burying six feet under was thought to be a good practice, the basket, and finally the coffin was even safer. After the six feet under practice, a large stone was put on top of the coffin to keep the soul inside, hence we have the word “tombstone”.

Four generations of the Doeppenschmidts have run the business started by O.A. Doeppenschmidt in 1923. After he died, his wife, Emmie, and their son Bennie and wife Ruth, ran the business. The last two generations are Carl and his daughter, Michele.

This 1927 photograph shows the different businesses that O.A. Doeppenschmidt started with. On the far right, he stands in front of a hearse. Next to the hearse is an ambulance. The other vehicles are taxis and buses.

This 1927 photograph shows the different businesses that O.A. Doeppenschmidt started with. On the far right, he stands in front of a hearse. Next to the hearse is an ambulance. The other vehicles are taxis and buses.

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