Hermann Spiess follows Meusebach as commissioner general

April 20th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic Kindermaskenball Parade This Coming Saturday

April 6th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Eleven years ago Rosemarie Gregory and I wrote a book called “Kindermaskenball, Past and Present”. It’s about an event here in New Braunfels that goes back to the early days of the settlement. At the beginning of the book we made this statement: “Kindermaskenball is about tradition and make-believe. Children particularly flourish in this world of make-believe and adults create the tradition by recreating what they themselves enjoyed in childhood.” Isn’t that what tradition is?

Next weekend on Saturday, April 12, and Sunday, April 13, Heritage Society’s annual Folkfest will be held on their grounds on Churchill Drive. The Kindermaskenball parade downtown NB will be part of this celebration on Saturday.

The Kindermaskenball is believed to be a celebration of spring, as in Germany it dates back to the Teutonic custom of the coming of this season. Another theory claims it was a pre-Lenten observance in Germany called Fasching. According to German teacher, Benno Engel, Fasching began on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the month lasting until Ash Wednesday. Parades and masked dances prevailed.

The event used to be called Kindermaskenball. Yes, Kinder is “children”, Masken is “masks”, and Ball is “dance”. For several years the term Kindermasken has applied. That’s possible because there is no dance connected to it now. Hermann Seele is given credit for starting Kindermaskenball in 1846 but some written accounts say 1856. Which is a type 0? The Neu Braunfelser Zeitung says that children assembled at the New Braunfels Academy (on Mill St.) dressed in costumes, led by their leaders (probably teachers), and a brass band. They frolicked through the streets, engaged in plays and sang at the Saengerhalle. At a time, when the norm was for children to be seen and not heard, this must have been quite a show.

Nevertheless, after parading through the streets they moved out to Seele’s Saengerhalle. Hermann Seele in 1855 had built a large hall next to his home on the Guadalupe River. There is no building standing now but if you drive to the foot of Seele Street, you can pick out the location. Another street in that area is Saenger. That makes sense because the first state-wide Saengerfest (Festival of Singers) was held at Seele’s Hall. All his life he was active on the music scene. Oscar Haas stated that the Kindermaskenball parade ended up at the hall for 20 or more years.

The next location for Kindermaskenball was the Lenzen Halle located where the Courthouse Annex stands on Seguin Ave. This hall burned in 1895 and after that the children paraded to Matzdorf Halle (formerly Rheinlaender Halle, and later named Echo Hall and now Eagle’s Hall.)

In 1901 the Seekatz Opera House opened on San Antonio St. In reference to this location, a 1917 news article tells of “merry dancing and romping by children until 10 o’clock when the hall was turned over to grownups to “render homage to Terpsichore”. I love that statement. Not only did I not know who Terpsichore was, but I didn’t know how to pronounce it. It’s pronounced “terp-sick-o ree” just in case you want to use it in your every-day conversation. Terpsichore was the Greek muse of dancing.

It is believed that the custom of the Grand March began about this time. The Grand March is hard to describe in words and certainly didn’t begin in New Braunfels, but during the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s it was a big part of the dance.

Elaborate costumes became popular in the early 1900s and by the 1920s, Landa Park was a favorite destination after the parade. Serious costume making began by mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and seamstresses. Thousands watched the parade according to the newspaper. Ballerinas, dancers, Indians, soldiers, cowboys and clowns marched down the street. The 1920s brought in the innovation of lipstick and eye makeup. Little girls and big girls were allowed this luxury during the Kindermaskentall but it was a “no-no” on ordinary days.

Eventually the parade culminated about where the old City Hall is on Seguin Ave. and then families got together in Landa Park. In Landa Park, there was a wooden hall that was located between the Pioneer Statue and the Outdoor Dance Slab. Children through Jr. High age would play and dance “Put Your Little Foot”, “Herr Schmidt” and “The Bunny Hop” inside the wooden pavilion that has been torn down.

In the evening, the crowd would move over to the open-air dance slab. Christmas tree lights adorned the big tree in the center of the floor. On this tree-house pavilion the orchestra sat and played. Dancing on the slab would take place until 9 o’clock when an announcement was made that the Grand March would begin. Two by two, children followed the leaders by grade level. “Under the Double Eagle” was the favorite march. The custom was for boys to ask girls to be their Grand March partner, usually at school.

The NBISD sponsored the event for years, then the Beta Sigma Phi sorority and finally it became a part of Folkfest in 1992.

In the past, costumes were very elaborate. There were some women in town that were very handy with needle, thread, ribbon, sequins and net. Photos reflect these costumes. The Sophienburg has a large collection of some of these costumes on mannequins inside the museum. Joline Erben, Marie Jarisch and Antoinette Malmstead designed costumes that are still in the collections.

Gone are the days when thousands participated. I have my own theory. In the 1920s, 30s and 40s all the elementary schools had an end of school event. These were programs in April and parents were asked to furnish costumes. Then World War II came along, and everything was scarce, especially for such frivolous things. Programs turned to “non-costumed” events.

Folkfest, which is all about tradition, is keeping the tradition alive. Tina Lindeman, chairman, asks all participants to line up at 10 a.m. at the Central Fire Station in downtown New Braunfels and then, along with parents, make their way to Folkfest after the parade.

Four-year-olds Judy Nuhn (later Morton) and Bob Krueger as Martha and George Washington.

Four-year-olds Judy Nuhn (later Morton) and Bob Krueger as Martha and George Washington.

Roemer’s insight in Texas, 1846

March 23rd, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Much has been written about the Indians of Texas, especially the Comanches. No one has given us more information than Dr. Ferdinand Roemer. In the field of research, Dr. Roemer becomes a primary source in which a person is actually present at the event being researched. All other sources are secondary in nature. Dr. Roemer gave us a first-hand account of the Comanches in his book “Texas 1845-1847”, published two years after his sojourn in Texas.

Roemer’s first person account was made possible by Prince Carl who contacted the Berlin Academy of Sciences and requested, on behalf of the Adelsverein, a survey of the geology of Texas. The Berlin Academy responded by sending 27- year- old Ferdinand Roemer on the recommendation of famous scientist, Alexander von Humboldt.

After arriving in Texas in 1845, Roemer made the acquaintance of other scientists in the area such as Ferdinand Lindheimer, Nicholas Zink, Louis Ervendberg, and John Meusebach who took Prince Carl’s place as Colonial Director. All of these men played a major part in the early days of New Braunfels.

It was on the sojourn with Meusebach in 1846, that Roemer made his personal observations of the Comanches. Meusebach was attempting to open up the land on the Llano and San Saba Rivers to emigrants by making a peace treaty with the Comanche chiefs. Roemer was at this important accomplishment by Meusebach and had the opportunity to observe the Comanches first hand.

Meusebach traveled to Fredericksburg, followed by Roemer who had been slightly delayed. Roemer stayed in Fredericksburg a few days before he left with the agent of Indian affairs for the U.S. Government, Major Neighbours. Neighbours was told to warn Meusebach to abandon his plan to meet with the Comanches, but Meusebach had already left Fredricksburg.

Roemer and Neighbours eventually caught up with the Meusebach group on the outskirts of the San Saba valley. They set up a camp and soon after entering the San Saba valley, a group of Comanche warriors visited them and inquired as to their purpose. After mutual greetings were exchanged, a royal reception was accorded the Meusebach group with 80 to 100 Indians, dressed in their festive war attire.

On the other side of the river, Roemer visited the camp village of the Comanches. The tents arranged in an irregular fashion with several hundred horses nearby, were made of 14- foot high poles crossing at the top with an opening to let the smoke out. These poles were covered with buffalo hides and a small door made of bearskin. The nomadic Comanches never settled down in one place because hunting buffalo was their main activity. These tents could be taken down quickly, placed on the poles, and then pulled by horses. Many early roads were made by the dragging of these poles.

Comancheria, as the hunting ground was called, was located generally between the upper course of the Red River and the Rio Grande. These most powerful of Indians at one time, numbered 10,000. The “lords of the prairie”, as they called themselves, used horses brought by the Spaniards for their buffalo hunts and warfare .They mastered the art of hanging on one side of the horse, using it as a shield as they used their bow and arrow and long spear. Keeping control of this large area of Comancheria was their main occupation in order to keep other Indian tribes and whites from infringing on their territory.

Roemer had an opportunity to view the habits of the Comanches. Their clothing was much like that of other Indian tribes – leggings, moccasins, breech clout (curtain), and a buffalo robe. (By the time of Roemer’s visit, many presents of cotton shirts and woolen blankets had been given by the U.S.) The wives were slaves to their chief and their main function was to take care of the children and sew decorations on the costumes for the men. The men wore their hair in a long braid on the back of the head, but the women’s hair was cropped. The Comanches scorned the use of alcohol and believed that the use of it would someday be the inevitable extinction of the “Red Race of North America”.

In his book, Roemer recalls a famous Comanche story from 1840. The small village of Linville was on Lavaca Bay. The inhabitants were few and when they heard that the Indians were coming their way, they abandoned their homes and stores. The Indians seized everything they could get on their pack horses and retreated towards the hills. The news spread and a number of armed settlers pursued them to retake the plunder. As the makeshift army found the Indians, they were wearing the stolen silks, top hats, and umbrellas making quite a comical sight. The Indians were finally overtaken close to San Marcos. Many were killed on both sides and the cotton and silk goods were scattered over the prairie. This became known as the Battle of Plum Creek. Local author, Janet Kaderli, wrote a book about the Battle of Plum Creek in her children’s story, “Patchwork Trail”. This battle was the last large battle of the Comanches in South Texas.

Legend claims that the Comanches were direct descendants of the subjects of Montezuma in Mexico and migrated north when Cortez destroyed the Mexican Empire. Supposedly when they came to the Rio Grande, they looked across the river to the other side and called out “Tehas!”. In the Comanche language, this word means “happy hunting ground, the home of departed spirits”. Thus Texas was their new home. This is one of many legends about the origin of the word.

After Meusebach made the treaty with several Comanche chiefs, he is given credit for opening up this area to settlement. Roemer was sent to give a report of the geology of Texas. He did this, plus a description of the animal and plant life. Most of all, he provides us insight with the Comanches.

The Comanche warrior. Patricia S. Arnold, artist.

The Comanche warrior. Patricia S. Arnold, artist.

Post office has evolved in 100 years

March 9th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

An extremely important building in downtown New Braunfels has been saved and renovated by Pat and Becky Wiggins. It is the old Post Office building on the corner of Castell and Mill. It now serves a new purpose, being McAdoo’s Restaurant. The owners are applying for a subject marker with the Texas Historical Commission. This subject marker commemorates the postal system in New Braunfels.

In his 8th report to the Adelsverein, Prince Carl said that some postal arrangements had to be made between Galveston and the new settlement of NB “since the Texas Post is dependent on the weather and more or less on the amount of whiskey the mail driver had consumed and could, therefore, be very uncertain.”

Perhaps Prince Carl’s statement had something to do with the location of the very first post office. Count Arnold-Henkel von Donnersmark came to NB with Prince Carl and built a hotel/saloon on a lot across the street from the present McAdoo’s Restaurant. Donnersmark made quite a lot of money by buying barrels of whiskey in San Antonio and selling it to emigrants. Von Donnersmark’s building served as the first post office in the new settlement with C. W. Thomae acting as the first postmaster. In 1851 Adolph Benner became the next postmaster, and when he died, his wife became the first post- mistress (There was only one other woman serving as postmistress in NB - Charlsie Witham in 1927). Mrs. Louise Benner served until after the Civil War, at which time she was replaced by Christian Holtz. During Reconstruction, all public servants that had served in the Confederacy were replaced.

After that, the post office was in various places -the bus station, the courthouse, Seele’s residence, and Pfeuffer’s store. In 1915, Pres. Woodrow Wilson signed a law appropriating $50,000 to build a post office in New Braunfels. The Secretary of Treasury at that time in charge of post offices was, surprise, William G. McAdoo, hence the later McAdoo’s Restaurant.

The lot for the new building was purchased from Adolph Henne who also owned the lot across the street where the Donnersmark building had been. The San Antonio firm of Weston & Kroeger bid of $40,949 was accepted and the work was to be completed in 15 months. Supervisor for the whole construction job was Murray M. Davis.
The post office in downtown served the community of NB from 1915 to 1985 at which time, needing more space, it moved to Seguin St. where it remains. The old building was eventually sold to Pat and Becky Wiggins who took on the gigantic task of restoration.

After months the restaurant opened for business. All furnishings inside the building had been removed. Every bit of metal, including inside doors and wood was restored, repurposed or put in storage. The long leaf pine floors were preserved as was the Marble Falls pink and grey granite. Some of the grey granite from the restrooms was used as the bar countertop. Outside the back door was the loading area which is now the porch. In one corner of this porch, you can see a hot water heater. It’s not any old hot water heater; it was used to burn trash to heat water for the showers. I know, you’re thinking they burned garbage. No, there wasn’t much of anything in the post office except paper.

To the right of the lobby on the first floor was where money was handled - savings bonds, money orders, etc. This is now the bar. Behind the lobby in the back half of the building was the workroom and also female employee restroom. To the left of the lobby was the postmaster’s office with private bathroom.

To me, the most interesting section of the post office was the basement. It was not accessible to the public when it was a post office. It was as large as the building upstairs. There was a Civil Service room where people could apply for federal jobs and take care of anything that had to do with the federal government. The basement housed a giant boiler with its coal fuel room.

There was a room that was called the swing room. Working shifts, sometimes 12 hours, with no air conditioning, the letter carriers often rested in the swing room. There was a shower for them to bathe in the men’s restroom nearby.

Now we come to a really intriguing practice in those days. The postmaster’s office on the first floor had a closet that was always locked. On the other side of this door was a ladder that led to the passageway called a lookout on the building plan, but mostly called the “catwalk” by those who knew about it. This catwalk was a passageway above the entire building, over all floors and even over the restrooms and extended into the basement. The catwalk was not lighted in order to keep a person from being seen as they looked down through louvered “peep holes”. The employees were being watched because a great deal of money was handled in the post office.

Once a month, unannounced, the postmaster, with the only key to the catwalk, was told to take the firemen and custodial staff to clean. The postmaster and his staff were also spied on by the representatives of the Federal Postal System. These men arrived during the night, entering from the basement into the catwalk and did their observing undetected, leaving again during the night. If you look up at the ceiling in the main restaurant, you can see double rails on which the catwalk hung. The Wiggins’ removed the catwalk. Thank you!

By 1984 the old post office had run out of room. The building was sold and a new post office was built on Seguin Ave. When you are at McAdoo’s, look around and you can appreciate the amount of work that went into this project. The historical marker will commemorate 100 years of this building in 2015.

Dedication of the New Braunfels Post Office at 196 N. Castell St. in 1916.

Dedication of the New Braunfels Post Office at 196 N. Castell St. in 1916.

Karbach House reopening soon

February 23rd, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

A house at 457 W. San Antonio St. will open shortly as a Bed and Breakfast. The house is referred to by old-time New Braunfelsers as the Karbach House. But it didn’t start out as the Karbach House. The house was built for George and Hulda Eiband in 1906.

Family tradition says that the house had an interesting background. Hulda was the sister of Emmie Seele Faust, both of whom were daughters of Hermann Seele. The sisters supposedly had a friendly competition going between them. Townspeople in those days were aware of this competition because talk flies in a small town.

Emmie Seele married John Faust in 1905 and they built the Victorian home in the 300 block of W. San Antonio St, complete with wooden columns and wooden wraparound porch. It was a showplace. When Hulda Seele married George Eiband, she wanted a bigger house but definitely not a Victorian. Hulda’s house would be bigger and would be built in the new style of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with high ceilings, brick columns, terrazzo porch, straight lines, lots of glass windows and 12 ft. ceilings. One thing is certain – both houses are substantial enough to remain standing. After Hulda Eiband’s death, George Eiband died in 1936, with no heirs, leaving the house to his brothers.

Soon after George’s death, the home was sold to Dr. Hylmar Karbach and wife Katherine Taylor Karbach in 1938. They bought the home from the Eiband estate.

The house now became a child-centered home. The Karbach children were 10-year-old Hylmar Jr., six-year-old Kathleen and four-year-old Jo. Carole was born two years after the family moved into the house.

Hylmar Karbach Sr. descended from pioneer families here in New Braunfels. His father and mother, Julius and Hedwig Karbach owned a general store in Maxwell, Texas. This is where Hylmar was born and after a move to Lockhart, he graduated from Lockhart High School. Acquaintances in Lockhart say that as a teenager Hylmar “pushed the limit”. Having a motorcycle he once rode his bike up the front steps of the Courthouse, drove through the building and out the back steps.

He was then off to the University of Texas and then the U.T. Medical School in Galveston. It was here that he met S.M.U graduate Katherine Taylor who was chief dietician at the Med. School. Hylmar did his internship in San Francisco and he sent for Katherine to join him and she did.

About 1925 the couple moved to New Braunfels and he went into medical partnership with Dr. A.J. Hinman. Their combined offices were above the Peerless Drug Store, where the present Dancing Pony store is now located.

And then came World War II. Hylmar joined the U.S. Navy as a Lt. Commander and later became a Commander. In the Pacific he was on the ship, USS Briscoe. Incidentally, the family named the family dog “Briscoe”. In 1946, he was anchored in Tokyo Bay when the peace treaty was signed. This was the highlight of his naval career.

All through the war, the family stayed in New Braunfels. After the war, Dr. Karbach resumed his practice in New Braunfels and he died in 1959.

No doubt, the house helped hold the family together during and after the war. Many memories were made in this house for the Karbach family. Daughter Kathleen Karbach Kinney remembers the fun times in the large house. The children’s bedrooms and a gigantic playroom were upstairs. She remembers how at Christmastime a tree would mysteriously appear upstairs and brother Hylmar would convince his sisters that he heard Santa Claus on the roof. A wide staircase led from the top story to the rest of the house below with its spacious living room, dining room and sunroom.

Another favorite memory was how Dr. Karbach, although he wasn’t a veterinarian, would treat wounded and sick animals that he found along the way. On two different occasions Kathleen raised a skunk in the large basement of the house. All went well until Kathleen and her friend Ellie Luckett took the skunk down the rapids at Camp Warnecke. It was just too much for the skunk.

Since Kathleen and I were in school together, all the way from Kindergarten to high school, I also have some memories of the house and the activities there take me back to a gigantic slumber party for what seemed to me, hundreds of girls. We never “slumbered”. We walked downtown in our “baby doll” pajamas (yes, that’s what they were called) to the Plaza where we sang and danced in the gazebo. We walked on the railroad track back to the Karbach house. We must have been 14 or 15 years old. “Those were the days, my friend; we thought they’d never end”. But they did.

Another memory was of a handful of seventh grade girls calling themselves the “Eight Date Baits”. The “eight” part fits but the “date baits” part was only wishful thinking. We decided that the boys in our class had no manners. We sent postcard invitations to the boys that we thought needed the most rehabilitation. We invited them to a party at the Karbach House where we intended to tie them up and read a book of manners to them. We decided to keep our intentions a secret, but like all secrets, the word got out and the boys didn’t show up. They had to grow up without our help.

The Karbach House, with its New Braunfels Historic Landmark Property designation, is welcoming new owners. The house will, no doubt, provide experiences for those who stay there. It’s that kind of house. The Bed and Breakfast should be open soon.

Lt. Commander Hylmar leaves for the United States Navy. L-R Katherine Karbach, Dr. Hylmar Karbach, Sr., Jo Karbach, and Kathleen Karbach. Kneeling in front is Carole Karbach. Perhaps taking the photo is Hylmar Karbach, Jr.

Lt. Commander Hylmar leaves for the United States Navy. L-R Katherine Karbach, Dr. Hylmar Karbach, Sr., Jo Karbach, and Kathleen Karbach. Kneeling in front is Carole Karbach. Perhaps taking the photo is Hylmar Karbach, Jr.

Sts. Peter and Paul church family relations go back generations

February 9th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Prince Carl, on behalf of the Adelsverein, was given the responsibility of establishing two churches in the new settlement of New Braunfels, one Protestant and one Catholic. They were to be established at the same time, but that didn’t happen. Prince Carl engaged Rev. Louis Ervendberg as the Protestant pastor on the coast even before the group moved inland, but could not find a Catholic priest. Meanwhile to satisfy the religious needs of the early settlers, the Protestants and Catholics met together under the leadership of Rev. Ervendberg.

Finding a Catholic priest was difficult. When the prince arrived in the United States in 1844, he visited the archdiocese of Boston and Baltimore, the only organization in America at that time, looking for a priest. When he arrived in Galveston he became acquainted with Catholic Bishop Odin, the Catholic Prelate of Texas, who told him that there were no priests available for the settlement .The two traveled extensively together and became good friends. According to Ferdinand Roemer, “Odin travels continually about the country, visiting the Catholics living scattered in the various parts of the country. Fearlessly and tirelessly he traverses the lonesome prairies on horseback”…

The eventual location of the Catholic Church on Castell and Bridge Sts. has deep historic roots in New Braunfels. From a translation of Prince Carl’s report to the Adelsverein on the 27th of March, 1845, he says this: “Thirty-one wagons have arrived, and I am expecting the last half of the immigrants within a few days. I had an encampment erected on a bluff overlooking Comal Creek. For its protection I think it urgent that three sides be enclosed by palisades, whereas the fourth side is amply protected against attack by the high steep bluff of Comal Creek.”

Nicholas Zink, an educated engineer and surveyor, was given the job of laying out the streets and lots of New Braunfels. He helped set up this first camp of the immigrants. It became known as the Zinkenburg. “Burg” in English means “castle, fortress, stronghold” just like in Sophienburg the “burg” means castle.

After the settlers moved out to their own lots, the Zinkenburg became the site of the first Catholic Church. In 1847, the congregation built a temporary hut of wood and it served for two years as the first church building. This little building was on the site of the present parking lot abutting Bridge Street. It became a Catholic school when a permanent church building was constructed.

After two years, in 1849, Bishop Odin arranged for the first permanent church building. He stated that it was his intention to build the church with his own funds and he asked the Adelsverein to give him the necessary ground for the erection of a building in the city. There were only two other Catholic churches in Texas at this time, Galveston and San Antonio.

This church known as the Walnut Church was closer to the back of the property above the Comal Creek. The building was built by Heinrich Meine and built of black walnut, a hard wood that was known to be prevalent on the Guadalupe River. The building was 35 feet by 25 feet. Newly arrived, Father Gottfried Wenzel, was assigned to New Braunfels. Church archivist Everett Fey states that the Walnut Church served the congregation from 1849 through the Civil War. At that time the church was called St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Now the congregation had outgrown the Walnut Church.

Once again, Bishop Odin, seeing a need for expansion, dedicated the cornerstone in 1871 for a new stone church. According to Fey, the stone used to build this church was purchased from the County from the newly torn down Jail.

Now here’s an interesting story. What happened to the Walnut Church? In order to allow services of Mass, Baptism, Confirmation, Weddings and Burials to continue uninterrupted, the stone church was built around and over the Walnut Church. There was room enough inside for the smaller church to be free standing.

When the stone church was complete in 1874, there was no longer need for the Walnut Church. A notice in the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung announced that wood from the Walnut Church would be auctioned off in the church parking lot. The church would literally be pulled out the front door one log at a time. At this point, the church changed its name to the present one, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

The space left by the removal of the Walnut Church greatly increased the size of the church and over the next three decades new altars and stained glass windows, now numbering 22, were added. In 1963 the size of the church was doubled. The final addition took place in 2000.

Many long-time members of Sts. Peter and Paul can claim family relationships going back generations. Everett Fey, who has worked on the church’s extensive archives for years, can stand where the Walnut Church once stood and think back to his g-g grandparents, Stephan and Margarethe Klein who worshipped there. A few steps further into the church, his grandfather, Theodore Wenzel, was the Sacristan in the first stone church. He moves up closer to the altar where his brother, Fredric Fey, was ordained a Deacon, and then finally to the most recent altar where his daughter, Janice, recently married.

A church rededication took place five years ago in 2009 on the site of where the Walnut Church once stood.

The Walnut Church built in 1849. The cedar fence was possibly part of the palisade from the original Zinkenburg, the first camp site in New Braunfels.

Famous trees in Comal County

January 26th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

In the Central Lowlands, the Hills, and Edwards Plateau, where Comal County is located, the average rainfall is 28 inches a year. Along with elevation and content of soil, these conditions determine the types of trees that grow in the area. New Braunfels was once called “The Oasis of Texas” and this oasis produced many famous trees.

On the east side of Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church stands a large live oak tree. Under this tree a concrete marker proclaims “Folklore says that here, in the dawn of Texas history, stood an Indian village on which one of the early missionaries lingered many days; that here a vision of the chief’s daughter freed the first German in Texas. Tradition says that under this tree Mass was offered by the Abbe Em Domenech in 1849”. This memorial was placed by the Texas Historic Landmark Association organized by Adina De Zavala, granddaughter of Lorenzo De Zavala and she was responsible for placing 38 historical markers around Texas. Everett Fey, of the Sts. Peter and Paul Archives Board, said that church officials don’t deny, but can’t prove the legend.

Founders Oak

Another and perhaps the most well-known tree in Comal County is Founders Oak in Landa Park. According to park officials, this large Texas Live Oak is believed to be approximately 308 years old, so it was already well over 100 years old when the settlers arrived. When Texas celebrated its Sesquicentennial in 1986, early settlers were honored with this living memorial and a sesquicentennial marker.

Trees in Landa Park

Founders Oak is one of 54 different species of trees in Landa Park thought to represent trees in Comal County. Much of the information gathered about the trees was from Bill and Delores Schumann, for which the area called the Arboretum, is named. In 1981 the Guada Coma Garden Club hired a botanist to identify the trees. Harry Landa, one of the early owners of the property, opened his private park in 1898 and all of Landa Park became a public park after the city purchased it in 1936.

In Landa Park there are six different types of oak trees. One of those species, a Lacey Oak with a circumference of 114 inches, has the distinction of being the largest oak tree of its kind in the nation. Three other trees in Comal County hold distinctions for size – a national champion Juniper Ash with a circumference of 139 inches, a national co-champion Mountain Laurel with a circumference of 58 inches and finally an Evergreen Sumac, a co-champion with 31 inches circumference.

One of my favorite trees in Landa Park and located throughout Comal County is the Anaqua tree. Several trunks cord together giving the appearance of a single trunk. The Anaqua grows well along streams and hillsides. White flowers in the spring lead to orange-yellow berries. In the Spanish Mission Era, priests used the berries to make communion wine. The flexible wood was used for wagon wheels. The Parks Department guide states that the early German settlers called the tree “Vogelbeerenbaum” meaning bird berry tree since many birds enjoy the berries.

The Seele Elm

Another famous tree in New Braunfels was the Seele Elm. Below Sophienburg Hill, Rev. Louis Ervendberg conducted the first church service for the immigrants in this large elm forest. It was also under one of these trees that Hermann Seele held the first school for the children of the immigrants in August of 1845. By November of that year, because of cold weather, the school was moved into the log German Protestant Church (later First Protestant Church).

One by one, the elms died until one remained. Seele recalled that he taught school in the elm forest, so this particular tree was the last left and not necessarily the tree that Seele taught under. The tree was finally removed in 1995 and part of the trunk was given to the Sophienburg. A plaque in the pavement marks the spot where the elm forest was located.

Personal Tree Stories

Just think about this. Very few trees become famous, but we all have personal stories about trees, whether climbing one, falling from one, making a tree house, swinging from one or just remembering one. Trees grew up with us. Often trees are planted to commemorate an event, an anniversary, a birthday, or the birth of a child.

Here is a story about a tree that I have personally known: In the middle of the driveway between the two houses where I grew up (and still live), was a large elm. It was also a part of an elm forest, as much of Comaltown was. As a young child, my neighbor was a boy my same age named Bobby Govier, about whom I have written before. We had a game that we invented. After chewing a big wad of bubble gum, we would stick it on the trunk of this tree and then decorate the wad with seeds and rocks to make faces, some happy, some sad. When the tree finally succumbed, it was still decorated with these faces.

What trees have you known?

This Sophienburg photograph shows a man attempting to measure Founders Oak. The caption at the bottom says, “Oldest inhabitant in Landa Park”.

The one-room schoolhouse

January 12th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Shortly after the immigrants arrived in New Braunfels in 1845, small communities sprang up in the outer reaches of Comal County. Settlers were interested in good farmland which was available in the area. One of these small communities was called Ufnau, located in the western area of Comal County off of present Hwy 46. The community began in 1858.

By 1872, the settlement found a need for a school for their children. Several families purchased a four acre plot from Ludewig Moeglin for $1.00. That sort of thing was possible in those days. Those that negotiated with Moeglin were Henry Wehe, Charles Georg, Louis Beuche, Phillip Wagner, Christian Hanz, William Haas, Frank Ahrens, and Fredrick Foerster.

A small rock one room school building was built of coursed limestone. A fireplace with chimney heated the room. Shortly after this room was built, a cedar log room with caliche chinking was added to the west side. The attic above was floored and probably used for storage. Kerosene lamps were used for light. Nearby a log teacherage was built for the school’s first teacher, Phillip Stroeck. Outside a storm cellar was built east of the schoolhouse. A large bell called the students to school in the morning.

Fast forward to 1931 when a well-known New Braunfels educator, Werner Rahe, taught at Ufnau. In 1936 he transferred to New Braunfels Schools and eventually became principal of Lone Star School. Interestingly, Rahe’s father, William Rahe, took his son’s place at Ufnau after his son left. William taught there until 1940, at which time his brother, Ernest Rahe, began teaching there. Many Rahes lived in the teacherage.

As with many other one room schoolhouses, Ufnau along with other small schools was consolidated into the Bulverde Rural High School District in 1945 and was no longer used after that year.

The property was sold to Mrs. Reuben Bagby in 1952 and she sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Buddy Wolfe in 1966. They were devoted to the restoration of both buildings. Also salvaged at that time was a back gate through which children rode their horses to school and the large bell which still stands in the shade of an old oak tree.

Time once again took its toll on the property and in 2003 the present owners became Wallace and Margaret Brumley. A massive restoration project began. The bell, the gate leading to the school and the double doors were intact. Inside the school, a 1910 wood stove was converted to electric and in the teacherage a 1932 cast iron General Electric refrigerator was restored. In the school house, the Brumleys began collecting furnishings typical of the old one room school house. An old teacher’s desk and old student’s desks fill the room along with a collection of old books, one dating back to the 1700s.

One question remains: Where did the name Ufnau come from? One thing that is known is that Ufnau (Ufenau) is an island in the middle of Lake Zurich in Switzerland. It is also known that many of the original inhabitants of the Texas Ufnau were of German-Swiss origin. Did they decide to name the area after a well-known landmark in Switzerland? Did they decide like so many immigrant groups to name the area after the area in which they lived? Remember the Prince Carl named New Braunfels after Braunfels, Germany.

Here’s what we know about Ufnau Island in the middle of Lake Zurich: By the second century A.D. a Roman temple was built on the island. Then by the eighth century the first Christian church was built. Two centuries later, a Swiss duchess named Reginlinde, suffering from leprosy, retired to the island. Isolation was a common practice for lepers.

In 965 A.D. Emperor Otto the Great gave the island to the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln. It was Otto’s wife who was the grandchild of Reginlinde. Reginlinde had built a larger sacred building (St. Martin’s) next to the original abbey. Reginlinde died there on the island of Ufnau and is buried on the grounds of the abbey. Her son, Monk Adalrich, was named the parish priest. By 970 A.D. there were two churches on the island, the church of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Chapel St. Martins.

As time went by, other churches sprang up on the shores of Lake Zurich and the parish of Ufnau lost its importance. Historically, every year a pilgrimage of people on barges go to the island. The island has become a popular tourist destination.

The concept of the one-room schoolhouse worked for the time it existed. All students and all subjects were taught by one teacher. My 1938 through 1950 school experience was totally different. In elementary school, there was one room and one teacher for each grade and in high school, there was a specialized teacher for each subject in different rooms. We don’t even know what the school of tomorrow will bring. Technology has entered the classroom. Changes are inevitable.

The Brumley’s property is not open to the public but they have hosted groups from Switzerland and groups of individuals that have a connection to the old school. They are to be complimented on their historic restoration and teaching us all about the days of the little one-room schoolhouse.

Circa 1900 Ufnau School.

Children’s programs sometimes unpredictable

December 29th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

As the last article of the year 2013, I would like to tell you a story that is factually true but of little historic significance. I remember the programs put on by school children for their parents before Christmas vacation, in the Spring, and at the end-of-school. They had one thing in common – everyone was glad when they were over.

My first teaching job was here in New Braunfels at Lamar Elementary. Although I had a secondary degree, my first job was in elementary school. That’s because I could play the piano and in those early days it was very important for a school to have a teacher that could play the piano. Every grade had a music and an art class.

On Friday afternoons all the children filed into the auditorium where they learned patriotism through singing “Texas Our Texas” and the “Star Spangled Banner”. There were other historical songs like “Over There” from WWI and “Just Before the Battle Mother” from the Civil War. The idea was that history could be learned through music and I do think it works. What teacher could resist the teaching moment when a child would ask, “Why is it our Texas?”, or “What’s a Star Spangled Banner?”, or “Where is over there?”, or “What battle?”

Not having any training in what children were capable of singing, my expectations far outreached the limits of their capabilities. I still remember for example one Easter program when the little fourth graders sang “The Holy City”, a piece that only the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could perfect.

In the mid-1960s, I was teaching music at Carl Schurz Elementary. The Texas Education Agency decreed that sixth grade students were to be taught music, art, and performing arts every day. It was loosely called Fine Arts. Teachers were not supplied a curriculum; it was up to the teachers.

My fellow sixth grade teacher Georgia Brooks and I guided 60 sixth graders through Broadway classics, old songs from the 1920s that my mother taught me and a few that her mother taught her. We taught anti-war songs like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “Yesterday”, and “The Cruel War”.

I led the music portion of Fine Arts while Brooks held those 60 children in place. When we taught the art part of Fine Arts, Brooks directed with me helping with discipline. For Performing Arts we taught the students to dance. Brooks danced with them while I played piano. We danced “Put Your Little Foot”, “Ten Pretty Girls”, the polka, two step and waltz. They were ready for the Kindermaskenball.

Then the sixth grade was transferred to New Braunfels Middle School. The transition to a school where there were 7th and 8th graders was difficult. There was no bad influence on these younger children like many were afraid would happen; the older students would have nothing to do with the 6th graders.

Our Fine Arts program transferred with us to Middle School, only the music was in the boy’s gym with basketball going on at the same time. The art segment was in a double classroom shared by Brooks and me.

At Christmastime our principal asked our Fine Arts class to put on a program in the gym before the holidays. This was a most difficult audience but 6th graders were eager to perform. We put on our version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. The art part of the Fine Arts class made elaborate scenery – mountains, artificial snow and a little red wagon for a sled. It was a success. And so our stock went up with the 7th and 8th graders.

The next year our Fine Arts class was again asked to put on the pre-holiday program. What glory there is in success! This time we created our own version of “Toyland” and we worked like little elves.

The day arrived and once again the 7th and 8th graders poured into the gym. Everything was going as planned until the last number.

Picture this: Two rows of students lined up facing each other playing the part of the figures that come out of a German “cuckoo” clock. They look at each other and then go back in the clock. To make things a little more exciting, each child had an aluminum pie plate filled with shaving cream. They were SUPPOSED to act like they were going to throw it at each other. Instead of acting, one pie flew through the air and hit another child. Now twelve pies flew and soon the gym floor, covered with shaving cream, became a slip and slide for merrily sliding children.

Can you imagine the audience? They were wild with enthusiasm and wild with the appreciation of our talent! These people have a strange sense of humor. The assembly was called off, every one filed happily out of the gym and Brooks and I stood there stunned. One math teacher came back and helped us mop the entire gym floor.

The floor has never been so clean and this, our swan song, was the last time our Fine Arts class was asked to put on the Christmas program. Without saying a word, the look on the principal’s face said it all.

Goff and Brooks planning the programs of the 1960s.

Goff and Brooks planning the programs of the 1960s.

Lindheimer classified 38 new plants

December 15th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Seldom do individuals have clubs or anything named after them. A person becomes famous because of something outstanding that they have done for the advancement of society. All you historians out there and those that have a passing interest in history know the name Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer. This extremely interesting person has been the object of my curiosity for quite a while.

Lindheimer, known as the “Father of Texas Botany”, has 38 plants containing his name. Several organizations in New Braunfels have his name as their chapter names, and his picture is larger than life on a downtown mural. He is buried in the Comal Cemetery and his Texas Centennial headstone was given by the State of Texas. What did he actually do for the community? Let’s look first at his background:

Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer was born the 21st of May, 1801, in Frankfurt am Maine in Germany. He came from a wealthy family and was educated at the Prussian University at Bonn. At age 25 he left the university to teach at a boys’ school. At this school in 1832, a student riot occurred. At that time there was much dissatisfaction in the way German states were governed, especially among the young people. In this case, the government just closed down the school and the teachers were asked to leave the area. Lindheimer and other educated men decided to emigrate to the United States.

Eight men of high intellect and high education level migrated to a farm called Belleview Farm in Illinois. These men, including Lindheimer, soon tired of the life of idleness and headed south, bound for New Orleans with the idea of coming to Texas . He then boarded a ship and eventually landed on the Mexican coast at Vera Cruz where he started botanizing (collecting plants) in a big way. He stayed there for 18 months.

Lindheimer then involved himself in the Texas War of independence. He enlisted in April, 1836, and was discharged December 1837. His certificate of discharge describes him as a teacher, 5’8” tall, with dark hair and blue eyes. After this military stint, he bought a small farm outside of Houston, but in his own words, ‘was a failure at farming”. Farming and botanizing are two different things and he preferred botanizing.

In 1841 Lindheimer began his correspondence with well-known Illinois botanist Dr. George Englemann. This acquaintance became a lifetime of selling plants to Englemann, who as a professor and doctor, had the means to publish the information that Lindheimer sent to him. Lindheimer showed from the start that he had a keen ability to collect, describe in words and even illustrate plants. A letter to Englemann mentions a woman in Lindheimer’s life. She is not named. He calls a person named Ann his child. No evidence of a child has been found in records. There are no birth records. Could Ann be the woman?

Lindheimer met Prince Carl at Industry not far from Houston. He decided to join the Adelsverein. In that group was Rev. Louis Ervendberg and their friendship and interest in botany lasted their lifetimes.

The Adelsverein granted Lindheimer a large section of land for the services performed for that organization. Now he could botanize full time. The Lindheimer house that you see on Comal St. is on the site of the original log cabin. Maps show a large area around this area called the Botanical Garden. He married Eleanore Reinarz who according to writer Minetta Altgelt Goyne in her book “A Life among the Texas Flora”, was “sometimes difficult”. He was becoming a valuable member of the community “despite what seems to have been some eccentricities”.

In early fall of 1845 famed botanists Asa Gray and George Engelmann published results of Lindheimer’s 1843 and 1844 collections. There are 38 plants named after him and the one that we know best is “Lindheimeria texana” (or Lindheiumeria texensis), the Texas yellow star. It’s not difficult to see why this flower is so popular.

In 1850, Lindheimer became editor and eventually owner of Neu Braunfelser Zeitung. The first issue was on Nov. 12, 1852. The newspaper had difficult financial times the whole time he was editor. During the Civil War, he was influential in the secessionist movement. Although against slavery, he was an adamant “states righter” and did not want the federal government making decisions for the state. Comal County was the only predominantly German community that joined the Confederacy. The decision to secede from the union was a controversial one.

He retired from the newspaper in 1872. He is remembered for more than being the “Father of Texas Botany”. Always on the side of freedom, he was an advocate of education for all. He was on the committee pushing for the establishment of the NB Academy and for the Texas Legislature to levy taxes for the financial support of public schools.

When Ferdinand Lindheimer died in 1879, he was buried in the Comal Cemetery surrounded by family members and the flowers that he loved. Most of the information in this article came from Goyne’s book, “The Life among the Texas Flora” available in Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg. Goyne’s footnote explanations read almost like “the rest of the story”.

Self-portrait drawn by Ferdinand Lindheimer while in Germany.

Self-portrait drawn by Ferdinand Lindheimer while in Germany.