First-hand account of the Indianola hurricane

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

New Braunfels loves to celebrate anniversaries, but this date, Friday August 20 in 1886, we can commemorate but not celebrate. It was on this day one hundred thirty years ago (as of yesterday) that a hurricane hit the Gulf Coast. It was so strong that it destroyed the town of Indianola. Traveling with inland winds of 70 miles an hour, it wrecked everything in its path as far as San Antonio. New Braunfels was not spared.

A letter written by Sen. George Pfeuffer to his wife, Susan Gravis Pfeuffer, who had remained in Austin was recently discovered by John Rightmire at an estate sale. The letter was written in New Braunfels by Pfeuffer immediately after the storm hit the town. A letter like this one is a primary source and to have someone at the location at the time of the event provides primary proof. A good example of primary sources are the letters written home to relatives in Germany giving accounts of what was going on and what things looked like back here in Texas. Rightmire’s “find” provides us with a description of what effect the hurricane had on New Braunfels.

George Pfeuffer was a prominent person in New Braunfels and Texas, having established a merchandise store here, and a lumber yard in NB and two other towns. He was politically active. He was a county judge and president of the board of directors of Texas A&M College. He led the fight to obtain state funds for schools as a senator from 1882 to 1884. When he died, the Granite Association of Texas put up a giant obelisk in his memory in the Comal Cemetery. It is made of pink granite, the same as the capitol. He was responsible for the use of the pink granite.

This is information from his letter: At 3:30 in the afternoon on this day, George Pfeuffer took to the streets around Main Plaza. He wrote to his wife that half of the tin covering of their home was gone and that the frame of the new floor addition was also gone. This house was on the corner of San Antonio St. and Comal Ave. facing Comal Ave. where the law office of Brazle and Pfeuffer is now located. (The older home was torn down in 1910 and the bricks used to build the home in the same location but facing San Antonio St. Somers Valentine Pfeuffer, son of George, built this house.)

Next to the Pfeuffer home was the Carl Floege Store on the corner now owned by the New Braunfels Utilities and it was also badly damaged. This building had been the location of the first district court in 1846.

Pfeuffer walked to where his lumber yard was located. That is where the present City Hall is on Castell Ave. The lumber sheds were knocked down as well as the nearby freight depot. Bob Pfeuffer, g-grandson of the senator says that this depot was close to the railroad track behind the lumber yard. Besides the personal loss at the lumber yard, he noticed that most of the roofs in town were gone.

He walked to the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and discovered that the steeple of the roof was sticking in the roof, but wrong-side up. Nearly every tree in town had fared badly. He walked by Heinrich Ludwig’s Hotel behind the Phoenix Saloon and saw that it lost its tin roof and bricks from chimneys were scattered everywhere. Pfeuffer described the damage scene at Voelcker’s on Castell Ave. like this: “The entire front looks like the result of a mule’s heels on the dash board of a light wagon.” It could have been the Voelcker Drug Store (Red Stag) or the Voelcker home also on Castell Ave.

Down Seguin Ave. Forke’s Store was gone as was Seele’s tin roof on the new building and the cotton gin roof was gone. The Forke Store building was given to Conservation Plaza much later. He mentions other buildings that were damaged, Bench’s Hall, Podewils, and Rennerts. The building that we know the most about is the already dilapidated building on Sophienburg Hill, once the headquarters of Prince Carl. It finally bit the dust as a result of this hurricane.

Pfeuffer wrote to his wife that he would not be in Austin anytime soon as he had to tend to the damage caused by the storm on the house, the lumber yard, and the store building, although it withstood the “puff,” it needs to be “recommenced.” The letterhead on which the letter was written gives an idea of what the Pfeuffer Store was all about. It was located on the corner of San Antonio St. and Castell Ave. where the Antique Mall is now located. He and his son, S.V. Pfeuffer, dealt in general merchandise, dry goods, groceries, crockery, tobacco, cigars and hardware. Also farm implements, wagons, carriages and they were buyers of cotton, grain and country produce.

As for Indianola, the town itself was created as a direct result of the German emigrants who were brought to the Republic of Texas by the Adelsverein. It was their port of entry after landing in Galveston beginning in 1844. The death of Indianola occurred as a result of its near sea level location on Matagorda Bay. There were two hurricanes, one in 1875 and the big one eleven years later in 1886. In 1886, as a result of a severe drought in Texas, an unusual wind became the subject of discussion and a hurricane had passed south of Key West and into the Gulf of Mexico. The quickly moving hurricane inundated the town with the exception of two buildings, one being the Court House. The once important port city was ultimately destroyed.

Indianola was the home of many beautiful, large homes built by prominent citizens. After the hurricane of 1886, some of these homes were moved to be reconstructed because they were in salvageable condition. Two were moved to Cuero. The Emil Reiffert home was dismantled, numbered and re-assembled. Also in Cuero is the Sheppard home that is now the De Witt County Historical Museum. Three buildings were moved to Victoria, the William Frobese home is now the rectory of Grace Episcopal Church. The home of Henry Huck was dismantled, transported by rail and reassembled. Finally, the D.H. Regan residence was also moved by rail.

Familiarity with storms was not new to the George Pfeuffer family. George Pfeuffer’s father, Johann Georg Pfeuffer, had been a successful tanner in Germany in the 1830s. For some unknown reason in 1845, he sold his businesses and signed on with the German Emigration Co. to leave for Texas. The parents and six children were among the second group to come to Texas. They arrived in Galveston in November 1845. From there they took a schooner to Indianola.

A near tragedy occurred when the schooner was overloaded and sank in the bay outside of Indianola. The family was saved but they lost all of their possessions. They were stuck on the coast along with hundreds of other immigrants waiting for transportation inland. They did not reach New Braunfels until 1848.

Only 26 days after his letter was written, George Pfeuffer died on September 15, 1886. His letter now joins other letters written by early citizens that help us understand our past.

The Newer Pfeuffer home facing San Antonio St. and the early home that faced Comal Ave.

The Newer Pfeuffer home facing San Antonio St. and the early home that faced Comal Ave.

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Margarethe Schertz, pioneer woman

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Margarethe Schertz was only 12 years old when she came to Texas with her parents in 1844. If she were alive today, she could tell us a story and a half about Texas, Comal County, and especially New Braunfels. It’s a unique story of an apparently strong woman.

Just like the Germans that left their homeland for a better life in Texas, another group from Riedisheim, the Alsatian Providence of France, emigrated. Both groups were looking for opportunities in Texas after facing economic problems. Conditions were even worse in Alsacian France, and allegiance to the monarchy was foremost to any idea of freedom.

A book called Schertz compiled by the Schertz Historical Preservation Committee stated that the Industrial Revolution brought wealth to the French upper class but extreme poverty to farmers. Between 1842 and 1869 thousands left the area and came to Texas. Opening new markets was one of the goals that the immigrants hoped would happen as a result of colonization.

When Texas became a republic in 1836, money and people to settle were scarce. Gen. James Hamilton, land commissioner for the republic, appointed Henri Castro to handle land sales. Castro, a successful French businessman managed a land grant sale. Castro’s ethical business reputation was in question in Texas and France. He recruited all over France but was not successful. Eventually, he signed up the number of colonists to make the trip to Texas from Alsace and Germany. In 1843, the 129 Castro recruits left Antwerp, Belgium on their way to Texas.

Margarethe Schertz, with her father Joseph Schertz and his wife Anna Marie, plus six of her unmarried siblings boarded the ship to Texas. The Schertz family left four of their children in France, to join them later. Margarethe was the youngest child brought along. After a very difficult trip across the seas to Galveston, they were expecting to be met by Henri Castro. He was a no show and they realized they were on their own. They headed for the area of Castro’s land grant west of San Antonio. Many abandoned the group or settled near San Antonio but by spring of 1844, most were living in poverty at the San Antonio mission grounds. Seven members of the group died, including the mother and two children of the Schertz family. They remained camped at the old Alamo site for nearly a year.

Giving up hope of being rescued by Castro, the family decided to return to France. On the way back to the coast, they fatefully ran into Prince Carl, leader of the German Adelsverein group. He had just left San Antonio after purchasing the Comal Tract and he was on his way to the coast to be with the first group of immigrants. The prince was sympathetic to the Castro group and invited two of the families to join him. One of the families was that of Joseph Schertz.

When the Schertz family joined the first group of German immigrants, they were led to the site of New Braunfels by Adelsverein Treasurer Jean Jacques von Coll. He becomes significant in the life of Margarethe Schertz later in the story.

The first founding families that arrived in New Braunfels prompted the drawing of lots. The Schertz family was part of this drawing and the family also bought land in Comal County and at the Cibolo Creek where the creeks separate the county of Bexar from the county of Guadalupe. The word Cibolo means buffalo. The area was a favorite hunting ground of Native American tribes. Eventually the settlement at the Cibolo was called Schertz after the older brother of Margarethe Schertz, Sebastian Schertz. Other family members stayed in NB and the hill country.

How does Jean Jacques von Coll fit into this puzzle? He was chosen to lead the immigrants on their inland trek because he had been trained as a lieutenant in the Duchy of Nassau military before he decided to immigrate to Texas. His military background would help protect the immigrants against Indians. He was singled out by Prince Carl for this leadership role and he was put in charge of the safety of the immigrants. When he crossed the Guadalupe with the founders of the colony, he was considered a founder and given lot #25 on the Main Plaza. Here he built one of only two saloons in the colony. Saloons were very lucrative business. One of the lots he purchased later was an acre lot (30.9 acres) running from San Antonio St. to present Coll St.

I’m guessing that von Coll didn’t pay too much attention to 12-year-old Margarethe Schertz on the trip up from the coast, but five years later he must have noticed her. In 1849, they were married in the German Protestant Church. Two girls were born to the couple, Kathinka and Elizabeth. In 1852, von Coll was elected mayor of NB when tragedy occurred. A disturbed settler came into the saloon complaining about the Adelsverein. In true military fashion, von Coll challenged the man to a dual. When von Coll turned his back to get his weapons, the man grabbed von Coll’s gun and shot him in the back. The settler was tried but not convicted. Margarethe was left with the two girls to raise alone.

A new chapter enters her life in the form of Carl Heinrich Guenther, known as Heinrich Guenther. He was a well-known, established citizen of New Braunfels. Guenther had received a higher education at the University of Halls in Germany. Records say that he came to Texas following some trouble with the church for playing secular music. Heinrich Guenther’s education afforded him the opportunity to teach at the New Braunfels Academy. His love of music prompted him to be one of the early directors of the local singing society, the Germania which was established in 1850. He was very active in the state Saengerbund.

Heinrich Guenther married the widow Margarethe Schertz von Coll. They had six children of their own for a total of eight with her two. The family lived in the house at 624 Coll St. which still stands across the street from Carl Schurz Elementary School.

Heinrich began a brewery at the foot of Bridge St. on the Comal River. Some of the remains are still there today. When he died in 1870, Margarethe took over running the brewery. It is believed that she was the only female brewer in Texas. Both Margarethe and Heinrich are buried in the old New Braunfels Cemetery. On his headstone is a Latin phrase meaning “He was fond of children and a cultivator of the Muses.” A Texas Historical Marker commemorates Carl Heinrich Guenther in the New Braunfels cemetery.

Margarethe Schertz von Coll Guenther was a survivor and a true pioneer woman.

Kathinka von Coll Clemens, daughter of Margarethe Schertz von Coll. Kathinka later married Sen. William Clemens of present Clemens Dam fame.

Kathinka von Coll Clemens, daughter of Margarethe Schertz von Coll. Kathinka later married Sen. William Clemens of present Clemens Dam fame.

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Entertainment different in the 1940s

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The year 1846 was a dark year for the German immigrants

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

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

Horrifying scene

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

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

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

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

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

From The Cypress by Hermann Seele

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

Immigrants planned to settle the San Saba

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

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

Unplanned destination became New Braunfels

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

Ervendberg records

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

New Braunfels Cemetery

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

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

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

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

The rest of the story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Mission Hill Park

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

How would you like to watch the New Braunfels July 4th fireworks from the highest point in New Braunfels? Maybe you could even see the fireworks in San Marcos, Seguin and Randolph Field from this spot. Well, you can’t do it this year, but maybe it will be possible in the future.

The New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of designing a new park which will be called Mission Hill Park. Off of Hwy. 46 right next to the HEB grocery store is a ten-acre piece of property obtained by the City for the development of a park. The name Mission Hill supposedly got its name from a Spanish Mission in the area from the mid-1700s. However, the description that is more accurate is “proposed site of the Mission Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.” The mission that was established was short-lived in temporary quarters and really nobody knows exactly where it was located. Missions were established next to water sources and this property is a long way from the rivers. Whatever its origin, the name Mission Hill stuck.

One of the plans is to include a tower on the promontory point of the property reminiscent of a similar tower dating back to the early 1900s. Many New Braunfelsers remember the home with the tower.

The property where the park will locate has an interesting history about who owned it and what it was used for.

Go back to 1847 when the State of Texas issued a grant of land on which the Mission Hill is located to Andres Sanchez who transferred it to Daniel Murchison in 1854. The property was 320 acres.

In 1856 Murchison deeded the 320-acre property to Ludwig Kessler and shortly thereafter to Friedrich Ludwig Hermann Conring. The Conrings were the stewards of the land for almost three decades. Conring and his wife, Georgine Meyer, arrived in 1854 from Germany.

Two of their sons fought in the Civil War. One son, Ernst, was a saltpeter maker which explains why the Mission Hill property contains a kiln similar to the one in Landa Park. During the Civil War the kiln produced gun powder used by the army. This family information was shared by Lorine Riedel (Calvin) who still lives in NB. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Hermann and Georgine Conring. The Conrings built a home on Mission Hill in the 1850s. Lorine’s grandmother, Clara Conring, told stories about her grandmother, Georgine, hiding in the home during the Civil War.

In 1883 the property was sold to Franz Coreth and from that time on, it was owned by the Franz Coreth family, his son Rochette, and his grandson Franz Ernst Coreth.

According to Kay Faust Specht, great-granddaughter of Franz and Minna Zesch Coreth, Franz’s father was Austrian Count Ernst Coreth. After emigrating from Germany, Ernst and his wife Agnes Erler Coreth purchased 280 acres from John O. Meusebach near Wald Road on the Comal Creek. They lived on the property the rest of their lives. Remember when I wrote the Altgelt Pond story? ( The house was very close to that pond.

Now back to Mission Hill. Franz Coreth ranched and farmed the land that he bought from Hermann Conring. He built an L-shaped house in the late 1800s but unfortunately it burned down to the ground. Family tradition states that there was a volunteer fire department in New Braunfels but its horse-drawn fire wagon was unable to pull the heavy water tank up Mission Hill. A second house was built on the same spot, very similar to the first one but with the addition of a porch and a tower.

One of the daughters of Franz and Minna Coreth was Lina Coreth Windwehen who shared information with her granddaughter, Kay Faust Specht. Lina grew up in that house and told her granddaughter many tales of living in the house on Mission Hill. She remembered a large screened-in porch. Of course, the tower with the “widow’s walk” was a favorite of all the children. So many events could be seen from that tower. Miles of the land below and early mapmakers came to survey NB from that tower. During WWI, in 1918, Gen. Pershing brought his troops to the ranch from Ft. Sam Houston where they practiced their maneuvers. He watched the troops on the plain below from Mission Hill.

Rochette Coreth was the son of Franz and Minna and he continued to ranch the land after his father died. When he married his first wife, Flora Bading, he built a second house on the hill next to the original house. It was actually the third Coreth house on the hill. Flora Bading died when their only child, Franz Ernst Coreth, was three years old.

The next segment of the Coreth story on Mission Hill began when Rochette married Melinda Staats. Relatives of Melinda’s that provided the following information were: Mitzi Nuhn Dreher, Judy Nuhn Morton, and A.D. Nuhn Jr. The A.D. and Irene Nuhn family lived in the tower house in the mid-1940s. The Nuhns remember seeing the Eiband and Fischer fire down on the Plaza in 1947. It was a huge fire. They also remember lightning striking the tower blowing out what was around the water faucets. When the lightening hit the chimney, the whole dining room filled with soot. The tower was the source of many adventures for the Nuhn children and their friends. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

Another source of information from a more modern observation was that of Joel Karl Erben, great-nephew of Melinda Coreth. His mother, Joline Staats Erben, was the sister of Melinda. As a young child he spent many hours at the Mission Hill homes and ranch. Joel recalls that with Hurricane Carla, considerable damage was done to the upper rails and shutters of the tower. That kept him from going to the top of the tower. It was possible to see things from that viewpoint that one could see nowhere else.

Joel remembers a story about a political cocktail party at Mission Hill. Rochette was on the board of directors of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association. The Coreths gave a party for the directors which, incidentally, included Gov. Dolph Briscoe and his wife, Janie. As formal as these affairs can be, the Coreths asked the guests to park at the bottom of the hill by the barns and hike up the hill. He has a vision of the women struggling up the hill wearing pumps (high heels).

Imagine this: Joel remembers cloudy days when the tower was above the clouds. Now that’s a picture. From the tower it was possible to see the smoke stacks of LCRA sticking up over the fog line. He says that weather fronts take on a different view from up high.

Rochette Coreth was a very popular figure in NB. He involved himself politically and for that he was honored to be the grand marshal for the New Braunfels Centennial parade. Riding his white horse, he had a saddle embellished with sterling silver. The suit he wore and the saddle are at the Sophienburg. A video shows Rochette galloping up the side of Mission Hill after the parade.

The last Coreth to own Mission Hill was Franz Ernst Coreth. In the 1990s both of the unoccupied houses burned down.

The Parks Department is still in the planning stage for the property that will be enjoyed by the whole community. I would think that the whole Coreth family will be proud that this significant property will be honored as a park.

Coreth tower home with family photo inset.  From the left, Minna Zesch Coreth, Lina Coreth (Windwehen), Rochette Coreth, Agnes Coreth (Altgelt) and Franz Coreth. Photos from the Kay Faust Specht collection.

Coreth tower home with family photo inset. From the left, Minna Zesch Coreth, Lina Coreth (Windwehen), Rochette Coreth, Agnes Coreth (Altgelt) and Franz Coreth. Photos from the Kay Faust Specht collection.

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“Tenax propositi” or “finish what you begin”

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach (later John O. Meusebach) and Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels represented two philosophies and cultures of Germany in the early 1800s. Prince Carl was a feudalistic, aristocratic, ultraconservative wanting no change in the politics of Germany. It was a collection of feudal kingdoms. Prince Carl was chosen as the commissioner general of the Adelsverein, a group of aristocrats who formed an organization for the purpose of sending immigrants to Texas. Meusebach was the second commissioner general. He was one of the young Germans that wanted the unification of the Germanic states. This would, of course, take away the rule by the individual aristocrats.

Prince Carl’s background was one of military schooling emphasizing the strict following of rules. His was raised as an aristocrat in a German state where the aristocracy made all the decisions for everyone.

John O. Meusebach, although from a family of aristocrats, his name after all was Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach, grew up in a household of intellectuals. Students, university professors, artists, musicians, scientists, and philosophers were frequent visitors. The Grimm brothers, Alexander Humbolt, the poet Hoffmann von Fallersleben. were all part of a group of friends of Meusebach’s father. They were a group that could basically be called free-thinkers. The group believed in individual freedom, freedom for all, separation of church and state, and freedom from oppression. They were against military conscription. Fallersleben’s poem about Texas, although he had never been there, tells it all:

The world with its joys
Is a spring gone dry.
Without freedom, the fountainhead
Of virtue and of light. (Translated from German)

Upon their departure to Texas, Fallersleben wrote “The Star of Texas” as follows:

Off to Texas
Where the star in the blue field
Proclaimed a new world

Prince Carl and the members of the Adelsverein advertised land in the Republic of Texas. The Adelsverein hoped to establish a market for German goods. They envisioned a colony in Texas to be another German state. The idea of individual freedom was not at the top of the list.

But it took a certain type of person to immigrate to Texas. They had to give up everything back home and strike out into unknown territory. Prince Carl played a large part in organizing the immigration. Once he got here though, his aristocratic philosophy did not work. The military uniform did not help the immigrants farm. Lucky for them, many were farmers back in Germany.

Many Americans found Prince Carl comical with his mannerisms and his garb of the old military uniform, the hat with the rooster feathers and the sword hanging around his waist. Much has been written about how the prince had no admiration for the Americans and Texans. Mentally, put yourself in frontier Texas and imagine what Prince Carl would look like to you. He also had 20 soldiers dressed in the same manner.

Prince Carl stayed in Texas two months after the immigrants crossed the Guadalupe and right before he left NB, he raised an Austrian flag on the grounds of the Sophienburg Hill and shot off the cannon. Is that symbolic? At the same time, a group of immigrants went to the Main Plaza and raised the flag of the Republic of Texas. The “off with the old, on with the new” philosophy is pretty clear. Once the immigrants had a taste of their own destiny and freedom, there was no turning back.

When he arrived in Texas, Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach dropped his old name, changed it to John O. Meusebach, thereby declaring his transition to a new way of life.

Let’s look back at the events leading up to Meusebach’s arrival. Meusebach had been lead to believe that the immigration project was extremely successful and that the finances were in good shape. He was to meet with Prince Carl who would show him the financial status of the project. Unfortunately, the prince did not meet Meusebach when he arrived in Galveston. Instead, D.H. Klaerner, agent for the Verein in Galveston met Meusebach and told him of the dire financial straits, about drafts and overdrafts coming into his office.

Klaerner said that with the five Bremen ships arriving in July, November and December, 1844, only 200 out of the 439 immigrants had actually survived and reached New Braunfels.

Meusebach was then determined to take the same route from Galveston as the immigrants, and all along the way to the settlement of New Braunfels, he was presented with bills from people who found out he represented the Adelsverein.

When he got to New Braunfels, he went to present himself to the prince only to be told by J. Jean von Coll, treasurer of the Adelsverein, that the prince had left to go back to Germany. When asked for an explanation of the finances, von Coll told Meusebach that the prince did not require a record of promissory notes and that no accounting was necessary until all funds were used up. Von Coll said that one big expense was the prince’s food. He required fresh meat provided three times a day. The colonists wrote home about this extravagance because in Germany meat was scarce.

Meusebach decided to overtake the prince who was in Galveston on his way to Germany. When Meusebach got there, he was greeted enthusiastically by the prince because the creditors of the Verein had detained him because of debt. Meusebach on his own letter of credit, assumed the debt. He also supplied the prince with travel money. Prince Carl blamed von Coll for the financial woes. Meusebach wrote a letter to the Adelsverein telling about the financial situation and it was to be delivered by the prince to the Adelsverein. The letter was never delivered and Prince Carl never mentioned the financial situation to the Adelsverein upon returning to Germany.

Back at the colony, one of the first moves by Meusebach was to disassemble the military and change it to a work battalion. After this move, von Coll resigned.

After assessing the financial situation in New Braunfels, Meusebach requested funds from the Verein. He felt that his objective was still to strive towards colonization of the Fisher-Miller territory under the control of the Verein. He left for two months to scout the area and also to allow the financial situation to cool. Upon returning to New Braunfels, he found that the Verein had advanced a credit of $24,000, just enough to cover the debts. Meusebach also knew that there were over 4000 settlers already at the coast ready to move inland and there was no additional money.

Meusebach had Klaerner published an article in the Bremen newspaper concerning the dire circumstances of the colonization effort. The situation in Carlshafen had not been felt by the Verein and the article exposed the situation. Relief from the Verein came as an additional credit of $60,000. This unfortunately was received too late and in addition to severe weather, too many immigrants, war with Mexico, and epidemic diseases, tragedy was inevitable.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Meusebach story and note that the Meusebach family moto, Tenax Propositi or “Perseverance in Purpose” or as his mother would say, “finish what you begin,” was a personality trait inherent in John O. Meusebach.

Most of the information for this article was gathered from the book John O. Meusebach, German Colonizer in Texas written by his grand-daughter Irene Marschall King.

One last P.S.: Thank you, Prince Carl, for bringing your German culture to New Braunfels, and thank you, John O. Meusebach for helping us become Americans. The transition was often painful, but well worth it in the end.

John O. Meusebach and his tombstone at Cherry Spring near Fredericksburg.

John O. Meusebach and his tombstone at Cherry Spring near Fredericksburg.

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