Go downtown to celebrate the 4th of July

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Come celebrate our Declaration of Independence once again with the Sophienburg’s July 4th celebration and parade. The parade will begin at 9:15 so be at the Plaza early. I have invited a ghost from the past to be there. John Torrey will surely be at his old stomping grounds in spirit.

Who was John Torrey? I wrote an article about John Torrey Feb. 23, 2010. A little more detail of the John Torrey story takes us back to why and how he became such a prominent person in the settlement of New Braunfels.

There were seven Torrey brothers from Connecticut. Two stayed in Connecticut, two were killed in Texas and three, John, David, and Thomas, formed the Torrey Brothers Trading House in Houston in 1836. This trading company became a very important strategy of Sam Houston’s peace policy with the Indians. With a significant fur trade, there were several branch stores in Texas that brought the Indians and the settlers together.

The Torrey brothers in 1844 furnished Prince Carl with ammunition, swords, and arms for the soldiers that Prince Carl had organized to protect the newly arrived emigrants. John Torrey was with Prince Carl as he inspected the New Braunfels property right before the settlers crossed the Guadalupe. Later when John Meusebach became the second commissioner-general after Prince Carl left, David Torrey drew up a contract to help transport those emigrants who needed transportation from Indianola.

This connection with the Adelsverein is what brought the Torreys to New Braunfels in 1846. Here John conducted a trading business on the corner of San Antonio and Hill Sts. where he ground corn into cornmeal for the settlers for 10 cents a bushel. Then Torrey moved closer to where we are celebrating July 4th. While you’re standing around the Plaza, take a look over at the UPS building on the corner of San Antonio St. and Seguin Ave. This location is the first recorded deed of John Torrey in May 1847 when he built a store on that corner. He leased this property from Penelope Hunter of San Antonio for $30 a year. The property encompassed the corner lot all the way to the present Black Whale. This property had first been granted to Nicholas Reidel by the German Emigration Co. One of the lease agreements with Mrs. Hunter was that it was not to be used as a saloon or boarding house without her permission. That agreement didn’t last long because in a few years that very building became the saloon of Ferdinand Simon.

Now from the Plaza, you’re just a hop, skip and jump to the San Antonio St. Bridge. Before you go on to the bridge, look to the right where the Dittlinger office building is located (ADM). This was approximately where the John Torrey homestead was located.

A little bridge background: There had to be a bridge from the settlement of New Braunfels and Comaltown. The earliest bridge, known as the Pecan Bridge and described by Hermann Seele, pinpoints the location of a pecan foot bridge on an island at the juncture of the Comal River and Comal Creek. Two pecan trees, one on each bank of the Comal, had been felled onto the island. Pedestrians crossed back and forth between NB and Comaltown holding on to handrails. This bridge was at the foot of Bridge St.

The first wagon bridge built across the Comal by the city was in 1856. This bridge made of timber was located diagonally from the foot of Mill St. to the north edge of San Antonio St. After ten years another bridge was built there in 1866 only to be partially destroyed by a flood in 1869. This bridge was repaired and then completely torn away by another flood in 1870. The city built an iron wagon bridge in the same location as these two bridges, but once again a flood in 1872 washed it away.

Merchant C.C. Floege built a low water crossing in 1872 that lasted until 1894 when it was replaced by the high water structure built from scrap metal from the Chicago World’s Fair. Then in 1923 the concrete bridge now in use was built.

Now that you’re on the concrete bridge, you can look down to where the John Torrey mill used to be. In 1848 Torrey entered into a lease agreement with Hermann Speiss trustee of the German Emigration Co. to build a mill. The lease was for 1 4/5 acres for $75 a year for a parcel of land in New Braunfels at the juncture of Comal Creek (River) and the Comal Springs, the place being at the “falls”. Oscar Haas tells us that the falls was the only one on the Comal River and it is there that Torrey built a dam to use the water power for his mill. Torrey entered into an agreement with Willis E. Park to build a saw and grist mill. He later added facilities for the manufacture of wheat flour and a shop for making doors, sashes and blinds. It was destroyed by fire in 1861. Immediately Torrey put up a three story stone building. In 1863 he was joined by the Runge brothers of Indianola and they were granted a charter by the State of Texas to import cotton cloth weaving machinery, duty free. Six years later in 1869 a tornado destroyed the top floor and all the machinery. He had a roof placed over the second story and then in 1872 a cloudburst caused a flood tearing the foundation and destroying the recently rebuilt dam.

Today part of the foundation can still be seen at the Clemens Dam at the foot of Mill Street. It has been said that fire, wind, and water plotted against John Torrey’s efforts on the Comal River. Torrey, defeated, moved to land which he had bought in North Texas. After all of this explanation, I could have told you that it was where the Tube Chute is, right?

John Torrey, like William Meriwether and Harry Landa, were true industrialists. They knew what water power could do. Torrey bought a great deal of land in Comaltown. He hired J.J. Groos to plot out the Braunfels Subdivision. He gave the land on which the Comal Cemetery is located to the City of New Braunfels. Torrey Street is named after him because of the amount of land that he owned. Also Torrey Park is named after him. The mill site was honored by the State of Texas during the Centennial of Texas Independence in 1936 with an historical marker at the location of the mill.

To walk or ride in the parade, an application is required and a patriotic theme is essential. Whatever you do, come join us!

From the Plaza looking down Seguin Ave. The arrow points to the Ferdinand Simon Saloon, originally built by John Torrey, and now the site of the UPS Store. Across the street is Knocke & Eiband General Merchandise Store, later Eiband & Fischer. Circa 1900.

From the Plaza looking down Seguin Ave. The arrow points to the Ferdinand Simon Saloon, originally built by John Torrey, and now the site of the UPS Store. Across the street is Knocke & Eiband General Merchandise Store, later Eiband & Fischer. Circa 1900.

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Downtown renovations important

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Ron Snider has been awarded the Dr. Frederick Frueholz Comal County Historical Commission Award for his work in the restoration and preservation of downtown New Braunfels buildings. In the 1960s a trend of tearing down old buildings, remodeling them into modern buildings or using the property for parking lots caused the loss of many beautiful homes and business buildings downtown. This trend seemed to be growing but when civic minded people became aware of the trend, conservation groups began to pop up to save what was still left of the irreplaceable buildings.

Often it takes people from the outside to really see the value of what you have. Ron Snider was one of those people. Snider and his family moved to New Braunfels in1982 when he began a business called GYM-N-I, building wooden playground equipment. It was a good, safe and welcome business in New Braunfels. For years parents had been aware of the danger of certain metal playground equipment, especially on the school playground. One by one, these iron swings, slides and merry-go-rounds had been removed.

Snider grew up inner city but both his grandfathers lived on farms so he liked small towns. He had German roots and he chose New Braunfels to live in. With a background of ten years as a salesman for Lane Furniture, traveling to small towns made him aware of what was happening to downtowns especially the business districts. Beginning with the first purchase in 1996 by Snider and Darrell Sollberger under the name of S&S Properties and then with Dr. Frank Hampel as S&H Properties, he renovated eight buildings in the downtown area, built from early 1900s to the latest in the 1940s.

Seekatz Opera House

The first building to be renovated at 265 W. San Antonio St. was the Seekatz Opera House built in 1901. It was a big success as an events center, badly needed by the town. This building was severely damaged by a fire in 1941. By that time it had become the Cole Movie Theater. After that it became a clothing store but it never became what it was in its prime. After seven years of renovation, the Seekatz Opera House has once again become an important events center in downtown.

The Seekatz Opera House had a long history in downtown. In the late 1800s Louis and Otto Seekatz saw a need for a building with a stage and auditorium style seating, mostly for the traveling shows that came through town and local events such as New Year’s Eve Dances, July 4 Celebrations, Firemen’s Dances and Kindermaskenball.

Richter Buildings 1910 and 1920

In 1998 S&S purchased the two R.B. Richter buildings. These buildings had some renovations done by Ernie Lambert and Luke Speckman and the upstairs apartment had already been renovated when the purchase was made. The complicated history of these two buildings was given to me by researcher David Hartmann who knows more about the Richters than they do. Richter set up his first pharmacy at 143 W. San Antonio St. (next to the Phoenix) in 1901 and then ten years later in 1910 moved across the street to 142 W. San Antonio St. where there had been a one-story saloon. A. Moeller began construction of the building housing the pharmacy and a second floor that became the residence of R.B. and Emilie Weilbacher Richter.

Now the second Richter 1920 building. Next door at 168 W. San Antonio St. was a fachwerk house and in 1915 Richter bought the property and tore the house down. On this lot an L shaped brick wall was constructed with a large wooden floor. The back wall was plastered white and chairs were set up for an open-air theater showing silent movies. During the day, the floor was used as a roller skating rink. In 1920 the building was enclosed and a second story was added and rented out to doctors and attorneys. Downstairs was Oscar Haas Mercantile, Richters Grocery, B.F. Goodrich and Tom Oliver’s clothing store.

Palace Theater

The next purchase in partnership with Dr. Frank Hampel was a series of three connected buildings that few here can still remember. Located in the 100 block of N. Castell Ave., one of the three buildings was originally the Palace Theater, a movie theater whose grand opening was Dec. 23, 1924. Records show that it was built by A.C. Moeller (my grandfather) and Herman Moeller, his brother. The theater didn’t last long and closed in 1932, possibly because of the Depression. At that time it became the home of Ma’s Café. This café was a favorite of locals run by Ma Bloedorn and her son, Schimmel. It finally closed in 1982 after 50 years. Now these buildings are the upscale Myrons Prime Steakhouse and the Blue Artichoke.

Bingo Café

The next purchase in 2004 by S&S was the former Hinman’s Bingo Café at 277 W. San Antonio St. Homer Hinman owned many cafés on San Antonio St. He actually began his business at the age of 14 when he drove a wagon to Landa Park and sold 5cent hamburgers from a grill that he had on a wagon. His first indoor café was next to Peerless Drug Store, a very small deli called “Hole in the Wall” from 1912-1915. From 1918 to 1923 he owned the Bingo Café where his wife and two children lived on the second floor. Then from 1923-1926 he purchased the “A” Café, so named so that it could be first in the telephone book. It was across the railroad track on San Antonio St. in front of the Huisache Restaurant. Then in 1926 he ran Homer’s Lunch Bar next to the Bingo Café and then finally from 1932 to 1936 he owned the Longhorn Café across from the Civic Center.

Herald-Zeitung, KGNB/KNBT

The former Herald-Zeitung and KGNB/KNBT building at 188 Castell Ave. was purchased in 2009. This renovation took four years, as there was the relocation of the Salvation Army office involved. Today it houses the restaurant called 188 South, the Blue Moose Pizza, the office of S&H Properties and the Farmer’s Market office.

Historically the Art Deco Style building was built for Claude Scruggs in 1945.This building style was covered up in an imitation German fachwerk style. The New Braunfels Herald newspaper was first published around 1892 and merged with the Zeitung-Chronicle in 1966.The paper was renamed the Herald-Zeitung in 1979.

The Farmer’s Market

The purchase of the Herald building and the ownership of the back of the Seekatz Opera House used for parking led to the very popular Farmer’s Market. Snider built stalls and the market has grown to 60 vendors, usually 30 in winter. Ron Snider through an early influence of both grandfathers who were farmers became interested in this type of business and a recent demand for fresh produce has made this market very popular.

Odyssey of the Mind

Here’s something about Snider that you may not know: He also knows how to build robots. Here’s the story:

In the late 1980s an educational program was entered into for 6th and 7th graders called the “Odyssey of the Mind”. OM is an international competition. Student teams are given a problem to solve by using divergent skills, and creativity for the purpose of promoting team efforts. Not only teachers are involved, but parents are a must. A group of seven boys from New Braunfels Middle School chose a problem having to construct an actual robot. Guess who volunteered to help this team. Yes, you have it – Ron Snider. For six months this team met with Snider and they constructed a life-sized robot. When the competition came along, the team won first place locally, then at the regional level and finally the state winner. The next step was the world competition. Teachers, parents, and seven boys flew to the University of Tennessee and won 13th place. This was the first and last time that any New Braunfels team competed in a world competition.

And now, as you could guess, Snider has a “work in progress’. He is renovating the very popular Krause’s Café. Congratulations, Ron, anyone who can put together a robot with 7th grade boys is destined to continue great things here in New Braunfels.

Odyssey of the Mind team members L-R, Chris Snider, Ryan Haupert, Clint Kingsbury, Jason Wyatt, Carlos De La Cerda, Trey Taylor and Kelly Garza.

Odyssey of the Mind team members L-R, Chris Snider, Ryan Haupert, Clint Kingsbury, Jason Wyatt, Carlos De La Cerda, Trey Taylor and Kelly Garza.

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Brenda Anderson-Lindemann’s new book a real treasure

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Recently Brenda Anderson-Lindemann released her new book, “Bridging Spring Branch and Comal County, Texas.” What an interesting collection of true family stories of the people living in that area back to the early 1850s. Some of the subjects that she covers are rural schools and how the Comal Independent School District started. She has many stories of the early days, who’s in what cemetery, ranchland histories, obituaries, Canyon Dam, the Guadalupe, and history of floods in the area. The cover and title of the book are clever and appropriate. It is a picture of the U.S. Highway 281 Guadalupe River Bridge taken by Michael Krause.

This past week when we had so much rain, I knew immediately where to find information about floods, droughts and rainfall in Comal County. The book has so much information in it that it is impossible to give an adequate book review. I began reading the 474 page book and I was overwhelmed by a choice I had to make as to what to write about. Then almost at the end, I found my choice.

Pastor August Engel

Towards the back of the book my attention led me to Pastor August Engel. I had mentioned him before when I wrote about what was at the bottom of Canyon Lake, but Brenda had much more information.

My interest in Pastor Engel is because of my neighbor, Olive Marcel Georg Hofheinz. When she was a teenager and I was in Lamar Elementary, she lived in the house that my great-grandparents lived in and sold to her parents, Hollis and Hedwig (Artie) Georg. To this day, she reminds me that while I was visiting her mother, which apparently I did often, I cut up her brand new pajamas. Young girls are fascinated with and admire teenage girls. She had a small radio and she pasted her friends’ names out of alphabet soup on the outside. You never forget the teenagers who were kind to you when you were young.

Olive (Marci) and Will Hofheinz lived most of their married life in Dickinson and when Marci’s parents died, the Hofheinzs moved into the house next to ours. Our friendship continued. During the summer when my teaching career was on vacation, Marci and I would walk to the Comal Cemetery. Through our conversation, I became acquainted with the residents of this cemetery. She told me stories of the people and really got me interested in who was related to whom, a skill that I have perfected to this day.

Marci wrote what she remembered about her great-grandfather, August Engel. I immediately knew that his life would be interesting, remembering Marci’s ability to tell a story. I chose Engel’s story to write about based on what she told Brenda in an interview. I knew it would be informative because Marci’s family, the Engels and the Georgs, are from old families in the Spring Branch area and buried in the Cranes Mill Cemetery.

August Engel was born March 16th, 1818, in Wurthemberg, Prussia. He was schooled at the Evangelischam Akademy Bad Bol Stuttgart. He was ordained a Methodist Episcopal minister. His parents owned a woolen factory in Germany. At that time, factories in England were able to make products out of wool at a lesser cost than the Engels could in Germany. Consequently, the parents decided to send their two sons, August and Wilhelm, to England to investigate the English woolen industry. Apparently their conclusion was that they would not be able to compete with the English companies.

The two brothers took off traveling around Europe and while they were traveling, they heard about the emigration movement to the United States. They decided they wanted to emigrate. August was married at the time, but his wife refused to leave Germany, so August and Wilhelm left alone. They arrived in America and Wilhelm stayed in Pennsylvania and became a newspaperman. Ironically, years later August’s son August W. became a journalist and eventually owned the “Arkansas Democrat” newspaper in 1926. His nephew, Marcus Georg (Marci’s brother) worked with his uncle and eventually owned the newspaper. He sold the newspaper and bought a TV station.

Back to the brothers August and Wilhelm. August was the one who emigrated to Texas. Coming to Cranes Mill in the mid-1800s, he opened a store and after the Civil War he became a postmaster in that store from 1873 to 1904. He also began his profession as a Methodist preacher. He found that most of the Protestants in the Hill Country were German Lutherans. He was granted permission to change to the Lutheran faith and become a circuit riding preacher in a tri-county territory of Cranes Mill, Rebecca Creek, and Twin Sisters in the Guadalupe Valley. Marriage records show that he also served people of Bulverde, Smithsons Valley, Spring Branch and Kendalia.

August Engel married Katherine Ernst. Remember that August was married in Germany? Because August had been away from his wife for nine years, he was granted a divorce. Katherine was a midwife, nurse, and she prepared bodies for funerals. She charged $3 to help deliver a baby and then would stay as long as ten days helping with what needed to be done around the house so that the mother could recuperate. Pastor Engel would drive Katherine in a buggy to the home where she was needed and then come back to pick her up.

Together the couple took care of burials. Katherine would bathe and dress the body and place two silver dollars over the eyelids. Within 24 hours the body had to be buried, as there was no embalming fluid at that time. Pastor Engel performed the burial service, usually on private land of the deceased. The coins were removed before burial. Hundreds of burials were conducted and Pastor Engel kept records of all births, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

The photo is an example of the kind of baptismal certificates issued in the early days. It is in German script and translated it says:

Birth and Baptism
The two parents are August Jonas and Sophia Yablsey Jonas
14th December 1873
A boy in Blanco County, State of Texas, United States of North America
Baptized in 1875 by Pastor Engel
Pastor Engel named him Benjamin Adolph (this is the first time the child is named in the document)
Godparents are Adolph Jonas, Heinrich Braemer, Miss Matilda Rochau
Signed August Engel in Twin Sisters Blanco Texas

August Engel died in 1904. Several years before his death, many records were lost as a result of an Indian confrontation where his satchel was stolen (a brutal story that you can read in Brenda’s book). Mrs. Engel lived on in the house after he died and years later during a very cold winter, she used many of the remaining records to burn in the wood burning stove. She had run out of firewood and probably didn’t know the value of records like that.

To purchase Brenda Anderson-Lindemann’s book, you may contact her at 830-228-5245 or purchase it at Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.

This 1875 baptism certificate is one of many birth, marriage, baptism, and death certificates signed by Pastor Engel and housed in the collection of the Sophienburg Museum.

This 1875 baptism certificate is one of many birth, marriage, baptism, and death certificates signed by Pastor Engel and housed in the collection of the Sophienburg Museum.

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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.

Reorganization

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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