80th anniversary of Landa Park, a real celebration

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The book, “Landa Park, Its Springs and Its People” by Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and Arlene Krueger Seales, is now available to pre-order. The New Braunfels Parks & Recreation Department and the Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park, a non-profit organization, honor the 80th anniversary of the acquisition of Landa Park by presenting this 438 page book, including two companion volumes, “Native American Artifacts, Comal Springs” and “The Comal Springs, Landa Park.”

The book begins with the history of the area millions of years ago up to the present. In other words, everything you ever wanted to know about Landa Park. Artwork and thousands of color and historic photographs paint a picture of what the park was and is now.

It’s difficult to do justice to a book like this in a review, so I chose the last small section of the book that recalls personal recollections of the park by individuals and what meant the most to them. Over 75 people were asked those questions. If you have lived here awhile, you will relate to their recollections. If you’re not from here, you will be surprised at a lot of what you read.

In all of the stories, some subjects emerged over and over. I am assuming that these subjects were the most important to the individuals. It’s a little bit like being asked, “In one word, what did Landa Park mean to you?” Names are in the book, but only a few in this column.

Over and over, the spring-fed swimming pool came up as the most memorable spot. I recall that this pool was a byproduct of Meriwether’s damming up the lake and digging the channel. The area of the swimming pool was part of the old channel. Harry Landa later created the pool as part of his tourist business. It has been a meeting place for friends and the slanted grassy place next to the old bath house was always covered with sun bathers on towels. Participants recollected that once you learned how to swim, your parents would let you loose in the pool.

One name that will be mentioned here because it was repeated so often was lifeguard Tommy Ortiz. He meant more to swimming youth than even he can imagine. He taught hundreds of children to dive with his own diving ability. His encouraging personality inspired many young swimmers. Imagine this: Ortiz would allow children to climb on his back and he would then proceed to jump off the high diving board.

During the summer, swimming was a daily experience for city kids. The pool took the place of air conditioning that they didn’t have and with so much time in the pool, it became inevitable that children made up their own games. This was true in the spring-fed pool because it had two rafts and the game, “King of the Raft” with the winner being the last one remaining on top of the raft was invented. I remember this as a pretty tough game. The other game was “Rag Tag” where the winner was hiding under the raft so as to not be caught.

In later years, the name Bud Dallmann surfaced. Organizing the first Aquatic Club in the spring-fed pool, the club eventually moved mainly over to the Olympic Pool. He was a great inspiration to swimmers of all ages for many years.

Bucky Warwick Smith was remembered for her teaching of synchronized swimming and organizing the Miss Texas Pageant. This was a big event in New Braunfels and her synchronized swimmers put on a spectacular show in the spring-fed pool.

Water played an important part in collective Landa Park memories. Most remember swimming, wading, boating, fishing and even the drying up of the springs and Landa Lake in the 1954 drought.

Another word mentioned in the collection of memories was “dancing” and of course, dance floors. The wooden covered dance hall that was located between the Founder’s Oak Tree and the concrete dance slab was the foundation of many memories. Dancing stories, particularly during World War II told of entertaining soldiers stationed at San Antonio bases.

Several local bands were mentioned that played on the dance slab, particularly those that played for the public dances around the big oak tree. Some types of dances mentioned at the wooden dance hall were the Hokey Pokey, Mexican Hat Dance and Herr Schmidt. Who remembers the local band, “The Trackers” of the 60s entertaining the younger crowd?

By far the most single dance event mentioned was the Kindermaskenball. After the parade downtown, participants would stop at Bock Motor Company where, over the years, thousands of Coca Colas were given by Ben Bock to the thirsty paraders. Then they would walk on to Landa Park. Many remember the wooden dance hall being the location of dancing during the day and the dance slab being the location at night. The families would picnic and sometimes go home during the day. At night they would come back for the ever popular Grand March.

All sorts of celebrations were mentioned like July 4, birthday parties, and several New Braunfels anniversaries, especially the 1946 Centennial Celebration. Some remembered the 1926 Venetian Carnival on Landa Lake that they had heard of from their grandmothers.

New Braunfels has always been a sports-following town and so it was natural that many had in their memory bank the New Braunfels Tigers, a semi-pro team whose field was located where the Olympic Pool is now. Names like Dizzy Dean who was in the military at Ft. Sam Houston, pitched and became the most valuable player for 1934 in the pros. Also, spring training for the Minneapolis Millers took place in Landa Park.

Some bemoan the tearing down of old buildings like the bath house built by the WPA. The old meri-go-round and the spinning top in the spring-fed pool became too dangerous to keep. Many remember nature at its finest: the snowstorm, trees, and the glass-bottom boat on the lake. This column is a small smattering of the information that is in just one section of the 438 pages.

Many people were involved compiling this book, but all in all, the main writers and coordinators were Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and Arlene Krueger Seales. This is a collection of history and photographs well worth the price. Pre-ordering at a discount may be done now by calling 830-625-3186 between 2-5pm or using www.friendsforlandapark.org . When a book is ordered and paid for now, it will be ready to be picked up on Monday, May 2 at the Landa Haus at 360 Aquatic Circle in Landa Park between 2-7pm.

That same day books may be purchased at full price. Check the Friends for Landa Park web-site for more information.

1950s photo of Tommy Ortiz at the spring-fed pool.

1950s photo of Tommy Ortiz at the spring-fed pool.

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Sophienburg named for Princess Sophia

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

As far as New Braunfels history is concerned, the most important historic place is and always has been the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. This organization is now working on historic designations for the site of the Sophienburg Hill.

Here’s a thumbnail history of the place: In 1842 a group of German counts and princes met at Biebrich on the Rhine and formed the Adelsverein, or the Society for the Protection of German Immigration in Texas and later known as the German Emigration Company. Their purpose was to relieve over-population in Germany and establish a market for German goods. Besides, the newly established Republic of Texas was very generous in awarding land to immigrant agents.

A member of the Adelsverein, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, was chosen as commissioner-general to go to Texas to buy land. He was born in 1812 near Braunfels in Hanover, Germany. He was definitely an aristocrat trained in the military. After several failed attempts at purchasing suitable land, he bought the Comal Tract from the Juan Veramendi heirs, sight unseen for $1,111. By this time, the emigration movement back in Germany was well on its way and the first emigrants from Germany had arrived on the Texas coast.

On March 21, 1845, Prince Carl and the first group of immigrants to Texas crossed the Guadalupe River. He helped the settlers set up their temporary location on the cliffs overlooking the Dry Comal Creek where the Sts. Peter and Paul Church property is now located.

Needing a separate area for a fort and headquarters of the Adelsverein, he chose a plot of land on a slightly elevated hill south of the township. “South” in the 1840s referred to the area that we now describe as the land on the south side of Academy Street. This plot of land was known as the Vereinsberg. In German, Verein means “organization” and “berg” means “hill”. Nicholas Zink, an engineer, was chosen by Prince Carl to plat the land of the town and set up land for the headquarters of the Adelsverein.

Prince Carl named the proposed building that was to be on this property “Sophienburg.” Notice the spelling. Since “berg” in Vereinsberg means hill and “burg” means castle, a confusion was born about the property being berg or burg. Obviously the prince had a dream of a castle for his intended back in Germany, Princess Sophia of Salm-Salm.

Prince Carl wanted to build a burg on a berg. She rejected the berg and the burg because she never came to Texas. Enough already!

On the Vereinsberg, the Prince resided in a hut of woven branches until a double block house could be built by the Smith brothers of Seguin.

Dr. Ferdinand Roemer described these first buildings this way: “All the houses of the Verein officers lay on a hill which arose to a height of eighty feet in the immediate rear of the city. The most prominent house was a one-story wooden building about fifty feet long, whose shingle-covered roof supported the pillars projecting on both sides, thus forming a gallery. It contained three rooms, a large middle room or hall and a small room on each side.” He further stated that the middle room was the assembly hall and dining room and furnished as a pleasant resort.

Two large folding doors opened to the north and south, allowing a gentle wind to circulate freely through the building. The view from the north side looked out over the scattered houses in the town and the forested hills in the background. The view from the south was uninhabited prairieland. This first building was located on the property where the present Sophienburg Museum is located.

In back of this main building was another house containing a kitchen and the dwellings of several petty officers of the Verein. Close by was another log house for the men who had charge of the Verein’s mules and horses. There was a pen made of strong posts for the animals. Across the pen another log house served as a magazine and warehouse.

Magazine Street as we know it, was named after the Verein’s magazine which housed the ammunition.

Immediately behind the buildings was a gentle open pasture which served as a common pasture for horses and cattle of the residents of New Braunfels.

Prince Carl left to go back home to Germany on May 15, 1845. Before he left, he celebrated a lavish dedication for the Sophienburg. He supposedly laid a cornerstone, which, incidentally has never been found. He drew a furrow in the earth where he felt the headquarters building should be built. It never was. During the ceremony, salutes were fired from the four cannons and in the absence of a German flag, the flag of Austria was raised. Meanwhile, down on the Plaza, settlers assembled and raised the Republic of Texas flag. They then organized two companies for the purpose of protecting the settlers against Indian raids. Was this an indication that the settlers were really rejecting the aristocracy? The Austrian flag flew where the aristocrats were partying on the hill and the Republic of Texas flag was flown by the settlers on the plaza.

Prince Carl was only in New Braunfels during this trip from March 21 to May15, 1845, a little over two months. Did he want to get back to Princess Sophia or get away from the financial woes that were building in the colony? The Verein had heavy expenditures which resulted from advancing money to a great number of immigrants in New Braunfels, the transport from the coast, and salaries for the officers and officials.

John O. Meusebach was chosen to take the place of Prince Carl and when he arrived, the Prince had already left. When Meusebach looked for a castle (burg) he found instead a double log cabin on a hill (berg). You see, even Meusebach was confused about the berg or burg.

Meusebach discovered that the Verein had a $19,000 debt. He inherited a great financial problem and the settlers were not happy with the situation. An insurrection in New Braunfels took place where a mob armed with clubs and pistols came up the Vereinsberg to Meusebach’s headquarters and demanded him to fulfill the promises made to the colonists. Resolutions were made but financial problems continued.

The Adelsverein eventually declared bankruptcy and various lands were liquidated including the Hill property.

Over the years the property known as the Hill underwent many owners, many mortgages and litigations. Eventually the property belonged to Johanna Runge of Travis County who sold it to the Sophienburg Memorial Association in 1926. S.V. Pfeuffer, president of the association, bought the property from Mrs. Runge for $5,000. And what happened to the main building? Christian Klinger, an original settler, lived there selling small goods and telling stories until the building collapsed in 1886 as a result of the storm that destroyed Indianola.

These excerpts are from Fritz Goldbeck’s poem, “The Sophienburg” was translated by Ingrid M. Ingle:

The prince was not a business man
He wanted the best for his people
That was unusual
The upper class is not always like that

For that he was not forgotten
Even so he rests long since in his grave.
His monument can still be seen
Here in the prairie country.

Painting of Princess Sophia from the Sophienburg Museum and Archive collection.

Painting of Princess Sophia from the Sophienburg Museum and Archive collection.

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City-owned water works to provide affordable, clean water

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Comal Springs Conservation Center will begin its five phase project this summer. The 16-acre site was once Klingemann Springs and was the first water work property owned by the City of New Braunfels.

One of the necessities of human survival is availability of water and this need played an essential part in the choosing of the site of New Braunfels for a settlement. Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, commissioner general for the Adelsverein project, became aware that Las Fontanas or The Fountains (Comal Springs) were the biggest of the principal springs along the Balcones Escarpment. These springs had a daily flow of 196 million gallons.

Early settlers carried buckets of water from the springs of Comal Creek and the Comal River for their use. Hermann Seele tells of drawing water out of the river at the foot of San Antonio St. Another source of fresh water from a large spring was at the end of a path leading from Seguin Ave. to the Comal River. The path called “water alley” was located next to the Lindheimer home. The alley was included in the original plans set out for the city. This was one of the springs used primarily until the settlers dug their own wells for water.

With Julius Rennert as mayor of New Braunfels in 1857, the city council first began to investigate the possibility of acquiring a city-owned water works. Aldermen at the time were Julius Eggeling, Jacob Rose, Andreas Eikel, Dr. Wm. Remer, Ferdinand Dietz, Wm. Ludwig, Jacob Langkopf, and Christian Krause. By the way, Jacob Rose was my great-grandfather. A committee was appointed including six citizens to begin the investigation.

When the city council convened on Oct. 18, 1857, a preliminary report was given, but action was tabled. Oscar Haas speculated that this tabling was possibly due to a severe drought which had occurred in 1856 causing crop failures and high prices for food supplies.

Nothing was done about the water issue and in 1861 the Civil War began. Everything came to a standstill during the war, as the emphasis was on war issues. After the war more time could be spent on other problems. In 1880 with the advent of the railroad, people began moving back into town. Some who had moved away during the war, returned. An enterprising spirit entered the picture.

In 1885, the San Marcos Water Works Company made a proposition to the city council to construct a water works and this proposal spurred a renewed interest in looking into a city-owned water works. With Hermann Seele as chairman, the water works committee recommended that a pump be placed on the bank of the Comal River at the site of the New Braunfels Woolen Manufacturing Co. “This pump would be set going by the steam engine of the factory.” The water would be pumped out of the Comal River into a reservoir with a capacity of 700,000 gallons of water. The Woolen Manuf. Co. requested that for every 20,000 of water, the price paid be $1.50. Seven councilmen accepted this proposition and two voted against it. This vote was not acted on and eventually repealed.

Shortly thereafter the owners of the Torrey Manufacturing and Power Co. owned by William Clemens, Julius Runge and Leon Blum offered a new proposal to build the city water works. This proposal was accepted and a contract signed for 25 years. Mayor Giesecke accepted the proposal in the name of the city of New Braunfels.

The city then entered into contract with Gustav Gerlich to supervise the pumping of water and to lay pipes onto private properties. His contract was for six months and he was to be responsible for any faulty work after the construction was finished. A report of the council meeting states that the water works had been in operation with 51 consumer connections since August of 1888.

I asked Roger Biggers with NBU what the pipes were made out of at the very beginning. He said they were most likely made from cypress wood and he had seen one of the old wooden pipes while excavating downtown.

Volunteer fire-fighting companies began organizing due to the availability of water. They practiced regularly and insurance rates were reduced.

At a meeting of the city council on Nov. 5, 1906, based on an inspection of the Comal Head Springs on the Klingemann property, mayor C. A. Jahn told the council that filth had washed into the springs from nearby cattle feed pens and clogged up the springs. However, upon cleaning the area, the springs on the Klingemann place would furnish more water and be the best drinking water. He recommended that the city buy the springs and adjacent property. A committee was appointed to study the feasibility and reported that they did not recommend purchasing it.

Thus, the council decided to bring the issue to a city vote. On Dec. 18,1906, 116 voted to purchase the property and 112 against.

On Feb. 1st, 1907, Fritz Klingemann for $2,500 conveyed to the city of NB, a portion of the Klingemann homestead at the headwaters of the Comal River in Comaltown at the corner of what is now Klingemann and Lakeview.

By 1912 the springs were in full operation and two years later the Herald reported that the new water works system provided the purest water right from the springs and brought it into everybody’s kitchen. The spring water does much to eliminate disease.

In the early 1930s at the onset of the Great Depression, the textile industry was in decline. To provide employment, the city sought to clear out the underbrush and place a wall around the springs to control flow and prevent groundwater contamination. The city obtained assistance through to the Texas Rehabilitation and Relief Commission established under the Federal Emergency Relief Act.

In 1934 two concrete pools were also constructed on the property as part of a fish rearing pond lease. The ponds are gone but some of the 1930s structures are still present on the property as well as rock walls lining the original spring flow area.

By the end of 1936, the spring had also been capped and two drilled wells were in operation on the property. A third well was drilled in December, 1944.

The New Braunfels Utilities began in 1942 as an electric company. In 1959, the company took over the sewer and water systems and in 1960s NBU moved their operations to the water works site.

Although our water supply is no longer taken directly from the headwater springs, some of our water is still taken from the wells on the property. The New Braunfels Utilities still maintains the property and they have a great project to preserve the property and springs.

The Comal Springs Conservation Center project is being sponsored by the NBU aided by the New Braunfels Area Community Foundation. The five-phase project will take approximately five years to complete. From the project brochure: “In keeping with a longstanding commitment to the environment and to the community NBU plans to restore and develop this site into a multi-use facility which enhances the community’s relationship with nature. The development will be a teaching tool which honors the cultural and environmental history of the site and area while encouraging future stewardship of the environment, water and community.” This will include the restoration of the Comal Springs headwaters and transform the 16+ acres of asphalt into native landscape. There will be public facilities and use of historic structures to reconnect the community to its natural water and ecology.

New Braunfels and Comal County are very conservation conscious and this is another example of conservation and restoration.

Fritz and Emilie Karbach Klingemann

Fritz and Emilie Karbach Klingemann

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The good old days?

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

How easy we ladies have life today compared to the old days in the 1850s. “You’ve come a long way, baby” is the understatement of our time.

A woman’s role in society has changed dramatically due to not only modern technology but changes that occurred in society such as the equal rights to all humans, including women’s right to vote. Since World War II, a large percentage of women work outside the home. One hundred sixty years ago, women worked at home starting early in the morning until late at night.

Women in the old days were primarily in charge of the living quarters, food, clothing, and children. The typical woman would start her work day very early working all day to accomplish all that was necessary for survival. The one room log house she lived in with her family was cold in winter and hot in summer, but it was better than the tent the settlers lived in on the coast and while traveling to New Braunfels. Floors were added later to keep bugs from invading the house. Furniture legs were placed in dishes of water or kerosene, like a small moat. Bedbugs were kept out or in, using the same method on the legs of the bed.

As the family expanded, so did the house. A second room was added separated by a dogtrot, a covered, breezeway between the two rooms. Originally cooking was done outside but the two-room house allowed cooking to be indoors. The children typically slept in a loft above the dogtrot. The handmade furniture was made of oak, cypress, cedar or pine. Cedar was the choice wood because it repelled bugs. Trunks held the meager supplies that each immigrant was allowed to bring from Germany.

Electricity didn’t appear on the scene until the beginning of the 20th century. Wood-burning stoves were not only used for cooking but also for heating. Most early houses had no window panes but had openings that were covered with animal hide. With no electricity, homemade candles and oil lamps took the place of lights but the “early to bed” philosophy made light unnecessary.

There is a reason that settlements sprang up around water sources. New Braunfels had two large rivers, the Guadalupe and the Comal. Drinking water was plentiful as a necessity for human survival. A very early water source in New Braunfels was the Comal River from which water was hauled by individuals in wooden buckets. At one time there was a path from Seguin Ave. crossing over to Comal Ave. and down the hill to the river. Piped water was a long time coming.

Clothes were washed outside in large iron pots heated on coals. Homemade soap was made by mixing ash and lard and then slicing it into chunks. The clothes cleaning process took up a lot of a woman’s time. People had very few clothes and tending to animals and the garden was dirty business.

At the Sophienburg Museum, there are many examples of clothing, some even brought over from Germany in the 1840s. Clothing was made of linen woven from flax. Cotton was available for making thread and yarn with a spinning wheel. Notice the picture of the thread or yarn measuring machine called the weasel. When the desired length was obtained, the machine made a popping noise, hence the children’s rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Sewing was a skill most women learned in Germany.

Growing and preparing food was the job of women. Gardens were mostly tended by women, using the very popular modern concept of growing food called “organic.” How? There were no chemicals and animals supplied the fertilizer.

Raising corn was a matter of life or death. Cornbread was made every day and took the place of the black bread that the Germans were used to. Nut trees, mulberry trees, blackberries and grapes were abundant. The Adelsverein provided coffee, salt, vinegar, and sugar.

Letters were sent home from Texas requesting that immigrants bring plows, axes, scythes, rakes, sewing needles and seeds of all kinds.

Most immigrants had small amounts of cattle. A small pen that was attached to the house held the milk cows and their calves. The calves were left in the pens and the cows were released to graze out on the open land since there was no fencing. At night the cows would come back to their calves and so it wasn’t necessary to round them up. Milk, butter and cheese of all kinds were made from cow’s milk. Another important food came from chickens mainly because of eggs but also meat. They scratched around the yard eating bugs not realizing that they were performing a service.

Spoilage of food was a big problem in the Texas weather. Meat had to be smoked or packed in lard for preservation. Crockery was important for this purpose but oak barrels were cheaper and larger than pottery. The barrels were constructed from large tree trunks and the crocks made from local clays.

Dr. Ferdinand Roemer told the story of the Shawnee Indians that would bring bear meat and bear oil for sale to New Braunfels. Supposedly bear meat was very tasty and contained a lot of fat right under the skin. The Indians brought the bear oil in skins and this oil was preferred in place of lard or other oil. Roemer said that when the Indians came to sell their bear oil they would each bring about 60 gallons. Bear oil needed no refrigeration.

Isn’t it interesting that the latest concept of food production is called “farm to table?”

Child bearing and care were primarily a woman’s job. In old New Braunfels, a sign of a woman’s worth had to do with how many children she had. There was another side effect of multiple children and that was that they helped men in the fields and women in the home.

At the Heritage Village with the Museum of Handmade Furniture there is an authentic kitchen from the 1800s. This free-standing rock kitchen was originally on the Breustedt house property. Most of the contents of this kitchen were donated to the museum by David Hartman. An icebox dates around the 1880s after the first railroad came to town and ice was available by rail. This kitchen and its contents can be viewed when the Heritage Society holds its annual Folkfest on April 9&10. Many of the old methods of survival and living are demonstrated at the festival like sausage making, open hearth cooking, sauerkraut making, quilt making, hand washing of clothes and many other exhibits.

Social changes involving women were a result of technological changes. Of one thing we can be certain: Technological advancements now will have a direct effect on the role of women in society in the future just as in the past. “How’re you going to keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?” This song was written about men in WWI but I think the idea is appropriate for women as well.

David Hartman and Kathy Nichols, Executive Director of Heritage Village, home of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture show a sock darning gadget and the yarn measuring weasel.

David Hartman and Kathy Nichols, Executive Director of Heritage Village, home of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture show a sock darning gadget and the yarn measuring weasel.

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Bill George, Renaissance Man

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

In my travels in Comal County researching history, I have met some interesting individuals that tell great stories. One of them was Wilbur Bill “Big Willie” George, age 91, 92 in April. Herb Skoog, who interviewed George a few years back for the Sophienburg Reflections Program, called him a Renaissance Man. A Renaissance Man can be described as an outstandingly versatile, well-rounded person. I think you’ll see why Bill George, entrepreneur, fits this description.

Bill was born to Haydn and Elsa Nowotny George in New Braunfels in a house on Union Street. The home belonged to his aunt and uncle, Hedwig “Artie” and Hollis George. Remember that up until the 1940s almost all babies were born at home. Bill’s parents Haydn and Elsa lived near Fischer on Potter’s Creek so they came to town for Bill to be born. Aunt Artie was a nurse who assisted in home births.

Bill and his younger brother, Otis, grew up on family property near Fischer. It was on Potters Creek and was at one time 750 acres. Seventy acres of that property is now under Canyon Lake. Bill’s father was a WWI veteran and after the war, farmed and ranched the land. They raised cattle and goats for mohair which they sold in New Braunfels at the Co-op. New Braunfels had a large mohair processing facility near the Co-op.

Bill attended grade school through the seventh grade at Sorrell Creek School and Rebecca Creek School which were small country schools in the area of their home. For eighth and part of ninth grade, he rode his horse to Fischer Store School until the school burned down. It was a wooden school and during the fire, Bill remembered that he and a friend moved the large piano out of the burning building. The students then went to school in the old Otto Fischer home until the new rock school could be built. That school is still standing and serves as the Fischer Store School Community Center.

During his ninth grade a twist in his education took place. Since the country school went only through the ninth grade, students had to transfer to a large school if they wanted to graduate from High School. Because of the location of the George property, Bill could choose between New Braunfels and San Marcos.

The San Marcos football coach, Milton Jowers, had heard about Bill and his athletic ability and he convinced him to come play football at San Marcos High School. Bill attributes much of his athletic ability to hay hauling. Bill managed to be awarded All District designation. Many of you remember Milton Jowers who went on to become an outstanding coach at Southwest Texas University.

After Bill graduated from high school in 1942, he joined the navy. As a “naval fly boy” he was on active duty until 1946 and then was in the reserves. He started flying solo on the Cub Cadet, flew many types of planes and eventually served as an instructor. He spent five years in the military. A love of flying prompted him to continue to fly with the Weekend Warriors after the war.

After his military duty, his 1st job was doing road work for Comal County and eventually the state. He started at 23¢ an hour. Bill had several jobs and then finally in San Marcos, Bill opened Spudnuts Donut Shop. It was a franchise and featured donuts made from potato flour using an old folk recipe originating in Germany. One day a man came into Spudnuts and offered Bill cash for the business. He took it and then opened “Big Willies” Drive-in. This famous hot spot was across the street from San Marcos High School and became a favorite of students in San Marcos.

Bill had an interest in plants and bought a business called the Garden Center in San Marcos and was lucky enough to land a big contract with Lady Bird Johnson’s beautification program. One of the results of this business still lives on. He planted trees along Highway 35 in Hays County and many can still be seen today.

It was during this time in 1962 that Bill and friend Frank Brown wondered if they could make a trip from San Marcos to Corpus Christi in a boat. Frank was head of the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce and they decided the trip would be a big publicity stunt to promote San Marcos and the San Marcos River. They tried out all kinds of boats and came up with a semi v-hull aluminum boat for the trip. Bill’s father said the boat would never float, but they patched up the holes and attached a sail. They launched their boat on the San Marcos River with a final destination of Corpus Christi Bay. They brought only a few food items with them: salt, pepper, cornmeal, coffee, and lard. Bill brought a 410 shotgun, a spinning rod and a frying pan. They depended on their hunting and fishing skills for food along the way. They ate a lot of fish and shot squirrels and deer. They took along a little tent with a bottom to keep out the snakes. A twisting and turning river turning back on itself like a demi-john made it very narrow in places where they had to carry the boat.

The course of the river was laden with danger. Trees hung in the water, dams had to be crossed, and swamps had to be conquered. They met with alligator gar, water moccasins, fire ants and mosquitoes along the way. They traveled down the San Marcos River that converged with the Guadalupe River around Luling. then proceeded down the Guadalupe River until they reached the San Antonio Bay. From there, they traveled to Corpus Christi Bay. The 330-mile trip took 20 days and they arrived in Corpus during the Buccaneer Days. Upon arriving, Miss Buccaneer gave Bill a kiss although he throught he probably was very smelly. Each of the men lost 40 pounds on the trip.

Frank and Bill enjoyed the trip so much that they had the idea of creating a boating competition called the Texas Water Safari. They took the idea to the San Marcos City Council for support and they got the approval from the council. In 1963 the first competition was held. The competition is now in its 53rd year.

Rules had to be set up. Boats could only be propelled by human muscles. Competitors could receive only medical supplies along the way. They would put a little twist to the trip, making it a competition and the Texas Water Safari was born. Only two competitors reached Corpus Christy that first year but the Texas Water Safari was here to stay. The endpoint is now Seadrift and there are 12 check-points staffed with officials. It is held the 2nd Saturday in June and is now 262 miles long.

Bill returned to Canyon Lake where he still lives on a portion of the family ranch overlooking the lake. Bill had invested in road building equipment and was part of many projects around Canyon Dam, including an airfield.

Bill George involved himself in the political life of the Lake. He became their commissioner for four years.

In 1983 Bill George was instrumental in starting River Gardens, an intermediate care facility for the mentally challenged. The facility has 160 beds and is located on the Guadalupe River at 750 Rusk Ave. He is still very much involved in the support of this facility.

This year, Big Willie George looks back on his 92 years. He lives by his beloved Potters Creek at Canyon Lake. He is indeed a Renaissance Man, an outstandingly versatile well-rounded person.

Bill "Big Willie" George and Frank Brown in the SMS Aquarena.

Bill “Big Willie” George and Frank Brown in the SMS Aquarena.

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Emil Kriewitz plays role in Comanche-German treaty

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

You, no doubt, have heard of Baron John O. Meusebach’s treaty with the Comanche Indians to promote peace between the Comanches and the German settlers. There was one person, Baron Emil Kriewitz, who played an important part in the success of this treaty. Here is his story:

Kriewitz was a German aristocrat immigrant who left Germany in 1845. He had become aware of the economic conditions in Germany and the political unrest prompted him to join the Adelsverein. Kriewitz saw no future for himself in Germany.

The Adelsverein, organized in 1842 for all the right reasons to settle Texas, possessed inadequate knowledge of survival in Texas. Prince Carl, one of the Adelsverein members, was the one chosen to buy land in Texas. The Prince has been described as a visionary but a poor business man, a dangerous combination. Upon arrival in Texas the Prince discovered that the Adelsverein had already been swindled by one speculator. The Prince decided to purchase a large piece of land in the Fisher-Miller Land Grant composed of all land north of the Llano River to the Colorado River. Not only did he discover that this land was far inland from the coast where the immigrants would land, but it was also right in the middle of the Penetaka Comanche hunting grounds. Disturbed by these facts, Prince Carl purchased the Comal Tract land instead from Juan Veramendi. Before the Prince left Texas three months later, the settlement was named New Braunfels. While in Germany, Prince Carl began his sales pitch to come to Texas by making speeches about the beauty of the land. Probably Kriewitz heard the speaches and was sold. He joined the Adelsverein to go to the Republic of Texas.

Sailing on the Franzeska, it took almost four months on the stormy seas to arrive in Galveston. From there he traveled on to Carlshaven where the Prince had purchased land for the arriving immigrants. Krietwitz found that he was not in the Republic of Texas, but the State of Texas because this land had been annexed to the United States in December of 1845. He also learned that Prince Carl had been replaced after three months by Baron John Meusebach.

Kriewitz was horrified by what he saw on the Texas coast. By February, 1846, hundreds of immigrants had been stranded on the muddy, sandy beach with no food or clean water. Some made dugouts with mud walls and cloth tops to shelter themselves from the winter storms. Disease was rampant and hundreds had already died.

Meusebach tried to help the situation by purchasing oxcarts and wagons. The annexation of Texas had infuriated Mexico and Mexico declared war on the United States. All wagons and supplies purchased by Meusebach to help the colonists were seized by the United States Army in their war against Mexico.

A group of desperate, young German immigrants formed a group to join the United States Army. Kriewitz was one of them. They were led by August Buchel and he made Kriewitz first sergeant of the group that was mustered in as the First Texas Rifle Volunteer Regiment.

During this time Meusebach was busy trying to move settlers to the Llano. In 1846 he led a group to establish Fredericksburg. Meusebach knew that no one was safe in that area of the hill country and he was determined to locate the Comanche chiefs and negotiate a treaty. Meusebach asked for a company of men to accompany him to the Llano grant and Kriewitz was selected to organize this company. He immediately returned to the coast to gather soldiers, many of whom were Mexican-U.S. War veterans.

They left the coast for New Braunfels in January 1847, but upon arriving, they found that the Meusebach group had already left for Fredericksburg and the Llano. Kriewitz’s company left for the Llano and encountered Meusebach’s group on their return from a successful treaty with the Comanches. Kriewitz’s group was told to stay at the site of the treaty and help guard the surveyors of the land. “Without the survey the contract with the government of Texas would have lapsed and the colonists would not have received their allotments of land.” (John O. Meusebach by Irene King) The treaty opened up 3,878,000 acres of land.

The treaty called for the Comanches and Germans to live in harmony and form an alliance against other tribes. The Germans would give the Comanches $3,000 in gifts. The head chief, Santana, requested that one of the Germans live with them. Many were interested in the position, but none came forward, as is often the case. Kriewitz said that for the security of the settlers, he would “risk his scalp.” He was assigned to Santana and the main tribe on the San Saba. Kriewitz was to be the guarantee of the peaceable intentions of the Germans. He went with them and adopted their dress and behavior.

In about six months, the tribe began to feel that they needed more gifts from the Germans. Santana and his tribe, including Kriewitz. came to New Braunfels and met with Meusebach and Herman Spiess who had recently taken Meusebach’s place as the Adelsverein representative. All went well but the Germans did not recognize Kriewetz. They stayed in New Braunfels for two more days. This was the only time that the Comanches came to New Braunfels.

On the way back from New Braunfels to Fredericksburg, Kriewitz asked to visit a friend in town. He stayed a little too long and when he came back to the campsite, the tribe was gone. Kriewitz never rejoined the party.

After this, still in the employment of the Adelsverein, Kriewitz was given many assignments. He built a road and led the first colonists into the Fisher-Mill Land Grant. This group was the one who founded the communal colony of Bettina. Then he led three more parties to establish Castell, Leiningen, and Schoenburg. He eventually returned to Castell, opened a store, was elected justice of the peace for Llano County, served as a judge and finally postmaster of Castell. He died in 1902 and was buried in the Llano County Cemetery.

A celebration in Fredericksburg called “Easter Fires” commemorates the Comanche- German treaty and the safe return of the colonists. While the treaty was going on, the Comanches transmitted messages by smoke. When the fires burned high, other tribes knew that all was going well. The story goes that the fires frightened the children in Fredericksburg. Mothers told their children that the Easter Rabbit placed eggs in kettles that were boiling over the fires on the hilltops and then colored them with flowers. On Easter morning the eggs were laid in nests. As so often happens, an actual historical event leads to a colorful tradition.

Artwork of Santana receiving gifts from Meusebach by Patricia G. Arnold.

Artwork of Santana receiving gifts from Meusebach by Patricia G. Arnold.

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