Rededication of German pioneers marker at Canyon Lake

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

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

IN THIS AREA, NOW COVERED BY CANYON LAKE, GERMAN EMIGRANTS WERE THE FIRST SETTLERS. A SOCIETY OF NOBLES (MAINZER ADELSVEREIN) SPONSORED THE EMIGRATION OF 7,380 GERMANS TO TEXAS FROM 1844 to 1847. THEY FOUNDED NEW BRAUNFELS IN 1845. MOVING WEST, THEY ESTABLISHED FREDERICKSBURG IN 1846. THEIR COMANCHE INDIAN TREATY OPENED 3,800,000 ACRES BETWEEN THE LLANO AND COLORADO RIVERS TO PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT. FARMERS AND ARTISANS, SCHOLARS AND SCIENTISTS, THEY TRIUMPHED OVER EPIDEMIC AND PRIVATION TO HELP BUILD TEXAS AND THE WEST.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Rest in Peace” seems quite appropriate.

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

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

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

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Settlement of New Braunfels prompted by Republic of Texas Constitution

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The banner year in the history of Texas was 1836, the year that the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico, drew up its first constitution and declared itself independent. This constitution with its generous land policy would be the driving force leading to the German immigration movement. What happened at that convention determined that estimated 7,000 Germans would emigrate to Texas. Many settled in Comal County.

Republic of Texas Declaration of Independence

The Texas Declaration of Independence stated that Mexico, under the presidency of Santa Anna, had violated the liberties that had been guaranteed Mexican citizens according to the Mexican Constitution of 1821. It stated that Texicans (Mexicans in the Texas part of Mexico) had been deprived of freedom of religion, right to trial by jury, the right to bear arms, and the provision of public education for its children.

Spanish explorers had made claim to most of the land called Texas since the 1500s. Texas was the northern area of Mexico called Coahuila that had been controlled by Spain until they were defeated by Mexico in 1821.

Texas was not the “pick of the crop” by either Mexicans or Americans. The Comanche of the plains and in the hill country were a big problem for the settlers. Few people ventured into the area, much less settled there. When the Texicans complained to Mexican authorities about their problems, they were met with force on the part of the Santa Anna, president of Mexico. With a large army, determined to drive the Texicans out, Santa Anna’s entry into Texas would lead to the Battle of the Alamo, of Goliad, and then eventually to the Battle of San Jacinto.

These battles resulted from the formation of the Declaration of Independence. The convention to make that decision took place at Washington-on the-Brazos. This small town had enough housing for the delegates and other towns did not.

Fifty-nine delegates met and adopted a constitution unanimously on March 2, 1836. Can you guess how many of these delegates were Texans? Now count: Twelve from Virginia, 10 from North Carolina, nine from Tennessee, six from Kentucky, four from Georgia, three from South Carolina, three from Pennsylvania, three from Mexico (two of which were native Texans, Jose Antonio Navarro and Jose Francisco Ruiz), two from New York, one from Massachusetts, one from Mississippi, one from New Jersey, one from England, one from Ireland, one from Scotland and one from Canada.

After the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, Texas was a free Republic and remained independent from 1836 to 1845.The constitution went into effect immediately and its generous land policy eventually became the reason for the German emigration.

Adelsverein

Now the Adelsverein in Germany enters the picture. A group of German counts and princes met at Biebrich on the Rhine to establish a colony in Texas. Wanting to relieve overpopulation and establish overseas markets to help Germany pay for the Napoleonic War was the main reason for this organization. Besides, the Texas Republic had awarded land to immigrant agents in the form of colonization contracts.

The “Society for the Protection of German Immigrants” was organized and Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels was sent to Texas to purchase land for the colonists.

New Braunfels was never intended to be the final destination of the colony. The original destination of the emigration project was the Bourgeois/Ducos grant on the Medina River. Bourgeois’ contract with the Republic of Texas was not renewed. Then Solms considered another tract of land. Two men, Fischer and Miller, acquired large plots of land on the San Saba and Llano Rivers. The Prince decided that because it was so far away from the coast, he would have to have a waystation. Just six days before the emigrants crossed the Guadalupe the Prince purchased the Comal Tract from the Veramendi heirs as a waystation.

The original immigrant contract with the Adelsverein stated that each head of family would receive 320 acres and single men would receive 160 acres. Only after they crossed the Guadalupe into New Braunfels were they told that they would receive one-half acre lot and one 10-acre plot. They were not happy campers. A few went on their own to claim land on the San Saba, but not many. New Braunfels became the home for most of them.

Veramendi’s Comal Tract

When Texas was still under Spanish control in 1807, a land speculator named Baron de Bastrop purchased four leagues of land on the Guadalupe which included the Comal Springs (later called the Comal Tract). When the Mexican flag flew over Texas, the vice-governor of Texas and Coahuila in 1825, Juan de Veramendi, petitioned the Mexican government for 11 leagues of land which also included the Comal Tract. When Veramendi died, his daughter Maria Veramendi and husband Rafael Garza, inherited the tract of land and sold it to Prince Carl for $1,111.

In Comal County there were three Mexican Land Grants from 1831 before the Republic, two for Veramendi and one for Antonio Maria Esnaurizer. There were eventually many different types of grants available in the Republic of Texas and State of Texas for citizenship, military service, colonization and public improvement, such as schools and railroads. Looking at the Land Grant Map of Comal County, one can find such grantees as Samuel Millett who fought at San Jacinto, Gordon Jennings (heirs), David Crockett (heirs) and Toribio Lasoya (heirs), who died at the Alamo.

Texas became a state of the United States in 1845 and between 1845 and 1898 Texans were issued preemption grants for 160 to 320 acres with the stipulation that the grantee must live on and improve the land for three years. This happened to hundreds of Comal County land owners. These grants were acquired by many German settlers in Comal County.

Without the formation of the Republic of Texas and the Declaration of Independence, the future of Comal County would have been quite different. On March 2nd, drive around our Main Plaza and salute the many Texas flags put up by the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

The original 1831 map of the Veramendi/Comal Tract and the sale of the Veramendi property to Prince Carl can be viewed at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. Keva Boardman, Sophienburg Program Coordinator holds the map.

The original 1831 map of the Veramendi/Comal Tract and the sale of the Veramendi property to Prince Carl can be viewed at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. Keva Boardman, Sophienburg Program Coordinator holds the map.

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Prince Solms Inn still boosting tourism

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Besides the Plaza Hotel on the Main Plaza, another grand hotel was built around the turn of the century, the Comal Hotel (now Prince Solms Inn). What was the reason for more large hotels in the little town of New Braunfels? Hotels are built to fill a need. The coming of the railroad bringing visitors to the quaint little town, with its Landa Park, was actually the big boost to tourism. At one time Emilie and Theodore Eggeling ran the Plaza Hotel on the Main Plaza and decided that a second large hotel was needed. Let’s go back to the roots of the family that made this second hotel possible.

Joseph Klein

Immigrant Joseph Klein built a little German house in New Braunfels in 1852. That house still stands but not where it was built. It started its 115-year-old life on the property where the Prince Solms Inn is now located on the corner of San Antonio and Market Sts.

Joseph Klein, a single 26-year-old bachelor from Germany first lived with his parents, Stephan and Margaretha Klein who had built their small house next to the Naegelin Bakery on Seguin St. in 1845. This house is also still standing.

Stephan Klein helped his son Joseph construct his corner lot house on San Antonio St. Joseph married widow Johanna Freitag and they moved into the new house.

William and Friedricke Kuse

Records show that Joseph sold his house in 1859 to William Kuse who became a naturalized a citizen the next year. His family consisted of his wife Friedricke, his ten-year-old son Carl, a daughter Emilie, aged six and a son Friedrich, one year old. All the children were born in Prussia except Friedrich. Daughter Emilie would have a big impact on New Braunfels.

Theodore and Emily Eggeling

William Kuse was a shoemaker and had set up his shop in the house that he bought from Klein. About 40 years later the house was moved to the north of the same lot and resituated about 100 feet from its original location. Then it faced Market St. The reason for this move was an economic one instigated by Emilie Kuse now married to Theodore Eggeling. They had a general store across the street from her parent’s house on the corner of San Antonio and Market Sts. (Look at the photo) Theodore and Emilie Kuse Eggeling were successful business people. Together they ran the very successful Plaza Hotel around Main Plaza. Particularly Emilie was considered a successful business woman in New Braunfels.

Around the turn of the century New Braunfels began to attract thousands of visitors who often spent the night in local hotels. Emilie was familiar with what was happening in town and decided that another large hotel was needed. Her parents had been living in the little house on the corner of San Antonio and Market Sts. all this time. Her father had retired from the shoemaking business and she convinced her parents to allow her to move the house to the back of the large lot. Emilie and Theodore would construct a large hotel on this spot.

The Comal Hotel

The Comal Hotel, sometimes called the Eggeling Hotel, built over a period of two years from 1898 to 1900 was another masterpiece by builder Christian Herry. Built in Texas Victorian style, the two story brick building has maintained its original exterior walls to this day. The bricks were made in McQueeney where a certain clay was located. The walls are 18” thick, the window sills of white limestone with cypress wood boards are 20” wide. The building consists of a full basement, two floors and an attic.

Rooms had no closets but were provided with private basins, pitchers and chamber pots. In the back yard was a privy. At the front of the building on the second floor was a luggage hoist, a pulley used to raise and lower trunks to the upstairs porch. There was a large dining room/parlor that became a favorite of townspeople.

Upon completion of the hotel, the Eggeling family, consisting of four children, moved into the hotel. As these children grew older, they became a part of the operation of the hotel. Son Adolph drove a dray (stout cart or truck) to haul luggage from the train to the hotel. Two carriages were driven by family members. With time, family members were involved in running the hotel.

The Comal Hotel (now the Prince Solms Inn) is situated on a half-acre lot. The Eggeling family utilized the lot for their business. They would serve food from the garden and kept pigs, cows, and chickens. They had a feed store. Stories tell of guests wanting fresh milk, and Emilie would go out to the cow lot, milk the cow, and bring it to the guest.

For a brief time in 1919, a hospital was set up in the hotel by Ida Heulitte, R.N. complete with operating rooms, emergency ward, and private rooms. All doctors were welcome to use the facilities.

Bill and Nan Dillen

After the death of both Eggelings with Emilie in 1930, family members helped run the hotel until the property was sold to Bill and Nan Dillen They bought the hotel, the Klein house, and the feed store. The Dillens refurbished the hotel and brought the structure up to modern standards with electricity, heating, and plumbing. Bill and Nan Dillen were responsible for saving many historic buildings in New Braunfels.

Dillen was the one who named the hotel, “The Prince Solms Inn.” The Dillens added historic features from other structures. Cypress shutters inside were joined by wooden pegs and purchased from the original courthouse in Marlin, Tx. The doors leading to the basement were obtained from the Sam Bennett mansion in San Antonio. When the Dillens added a patio next to the outside basement entrance, stones from the old original Comal County Prison that was torn down were used. This prison building was located behind Chase Bank building and the words, “Comal County Prison” can be seen carved in the entry of the basement. For the cover of the patio, old cypress and cedar timbers were obtained from the first woolen mill-steam laundry on Comal St. Also from that site are two large doors that are used as entrances from the patio to the storage area.

The Dillens sold the property, but the sale was unsuccessful and the Dillens reclaimed the property in 1977. They sold it that same year to Betty Mitchell and Marg Crumbaker. Much of the information for this story came from research of these two ladies.

Present owner is Al Buttross who has owned the Inn since 2007. New Braunfels is so fortunate to have some of these original structures and thankful for the people that made that possible.

The Eggeling family in 1901 in front of their general store located across the street from the Prince Solms Inn. From left to right: (Mother) Emilie Kuse Eggeling, Children Hilda, Adolph, Ida, Thea, and (Father) Theodore Eggeling.

The Eggeling family in 1901 in front of their general store located across the street from the Prince Solms Inn. From left to right: (Mother) Emilie Kuse Eggeling, Children Hilda, Adolph, Ida, Thea, and (Father) Theodore Eggeling.

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Honey Creek area becomes Honey Creek State Natural Area

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Hermann Seele gave us a good description of the Texas Hill Country. I’m paraphrasing what he said and you can observe as you drive between Austin and San Antonio on Highway 35. In the distance, take notice of a low, dark green line of cedar-covered hills. This line indicates the location of the Edwards Escarpment. Along this line, the earth split long ago and the coastal plain on which you are traveling fell away several hundred feet. This falling exposed a limestone strata. Subterranean waters gushed forth to the surface by pressure and found themselves exposed to the surface. Barton Springs, San Marcos Springs, San Antonio Springs (Brackenridge Park) and Comal Springs are examples. The springs fed streams causing an abundance of water below the fault.

Now go above the fault and you see the beautiful hill country where so many small communities were established soon after New Braunfels was settled. In the hill country, surface water is scarce and wells are essential. Most of the land is used for ranching and small farms. The Guadalupe River and small creeks were important sources of water in the hill country. The settlements outside of the city limits of New Braunfels were created where water was available. One of the areas about 25 miles Northwest of New Braunfels was settled in 1850 and called Honey Creek.

Back in the early 1840s, a man named Andrew Bechtold heard stories from friends and relatives in Germany that Texas was indeed the “promised land” found along the Guadalupe River. With that thought in mind, Bechtold, along with his wife Christina and their five sons, made the 32 day trip across the seas, arriving on the coast just about when the cholera epidemic broke out. Many immigrants died and the tragedy for Christina was that her husband and four of her five children perished.

Christina who was 27 years old at the time and her one surviving son, Michael, had no choice but to make the difficult trip inland by ox wagon. These immigrants were looking for unclaimed land. Christina was Roman Catholic so she joined others of that same faith.

Among those immigrants was a single man named George Friedrich Kunz and it was on this trip that Mrs. Bechtold met and married Mr. Kunz. Together they came to an area of unclaimed land outside New Braunfels belonging to the State of Texas where a stream emptied into the Guadalupe River. They chose a spot where a small spring bubbled from under a rock. They applied for a homestead and within two years the 160 acres would be theirs.

The land was mostly caliche and so they constructed a shelter until they could construct a cedar log house. Buildings of cedar were very strong. Cedar logs were an important resource. Do you know why chests were made of cedar? Bugs don’t like it. While the couple was busy building their house, her son Michael was sent to the creek to get drinking water. On the banks he came upon a large number of swarming bees hanging from a tree forming a large clump. Michael ran back to the parents to tell them of his find and they decided to return to the place and look for honey that they knew must be there because of the bees. The name of the place became Honey Creek.

Of course, there are more than one story of the origin of the name Honey Creek. Another version is that early settlers found swarms of bees along the Guadalupe River. The creek bank would become a source of honey, a welcome addition to the meager diet of the settlers. Some even connect the name with the unusual honeycomb rock found in abundance in the area.

George Kunz was a resourceful man. He chopped cedar for his house. The cedar that he didn’t use for construction, he burned. He noticed that the burned cedar produced a coal that lasted for several hours. These coals could be used for heating an iron for ironing clothes. You may wonder why anyone would bother to iron clothes used in the outdoors. If you wash the stiff material that work clothes were made of, hang them out to dry, they are extremely stiff. Ironing the garment makes it more comfortable. This charcoal was George’s first cash crop and he hauled charcoal to sell in surrounding towns such as San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Boerne.

On one of these excursions, George Kunz met Rev. John Kosspiel, a Catholic missionary priest stationed at a parish in Boerne. He was actually a circuit-riding priest covering several counties. Kunz invited the priest to spend the night and say mass in his home. Other catholic families invited were Kneupper, Acker, Lux, Moos, Scheel, and Kaiser.

From that initial meeting, Kunz’s house became the site of services, even weddings. In 1876 a small log chapel was built near the Kunz home. It burned in 1877 and was replaced by a second log chapel. A larger frame church was built in 1892 on the site of what is now St. Joseph’s Educational Building.

After years of struggle, St. Joseph’s of Honey Creek received its first resident priest, Rev. Virgillus Draessel. Parishioner Barbara Wehe states that Draessel was in poor health and spoke almost no English, which was all right with his parishioners. He supposedly made a promise to the Blessed Virgin Mary that if he was made well, he would build a chapel on the hill and then a church. Land for this big church was purchased from Hermann Scheel. Rev. Draessel started the construction in 1908 and soon there was conflict between the priest and the parishioners who were building the structure.

Discouraged, Draessel returned to Germany for a couple of years at which time no progress was made in the church construction. He returned from Germany and completed the St. Joseph’s building. Rev. Draessel died after serving the church 34 years and was buried inside the church beneath the floor near the altar.

The Honey Creek State Natural Area, across the highway from St. Joseph’s Church is now open by guided tours only. It had its beginning as the Jacob Doeppenschmidt Ranch. The Doeppenschmidts were members of St. Joseph’s Church. As members of the family added parcels of land, the area eventually became the Honey Creek Ranch. This well-preserved wildlife area has become the showcase of the Texas Hill Country.

1941 photo celebrating the 25th Anniversary of St. Joseph’s of Honey Creek Church.

1941 photo celebrating the 25th Anniversary of St. Joseph’s of Honey Creek Church.

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Tenacity leads to progress

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Recently in the “Smithsonian” magazine, consumer sensor expert, Kevin Ashton, talked about successful innovator skills. His observation was that they possessed tenacity. “The difference between successful innovators and everyone else is that innovators keep failing until they don’t.” He also said “For most of history, creation was seen as a consequence of common people doing ordinary work.” I believe New Braunfels is full of such individuals and that Richard Gerlich was one of them.

Richard Gerlich

Richard Gerlich was born in Prussia in 1852. He grew up in Germany and married Augusta Puppe in 1875. In 1878 they came to the United States. They did not come with the first wave of immigrants with the Adelsverein, but came separately, landing in New Orleans eager to make their way to Texas. He appears on the 1880 Comal County Census list as a 28 year-old, along with his 28 year-old wife, his 26 year-old sister, Alma and his children, Emil (4) and Gertrude(2).

Richard’s occupation is listed as a carpenter and wheelwright, which is a repairer of wheels. He became a naturalized citizen in 1882. By 1883 he had purchased a two-acre lot #168 from owner Heinrich Hoeke who had originally been granted the lot from the German Emigration Company. Gerlich immediately built his house at 505 W. San Antonio St. This wooden frame house remains intact with later additions to the rear. It is this house that is now a Bed and Breakfast owned by the Conservation Society. The standing seam tin roof and windows are original. Next to this house Gerlich built his shop where he would establish a business, now the site of Wagenfuehr’s Buckhorn Barber Shop Museum.

Meanwhile the family increased adding Linda, Walter and Augusta. The oldest child, Emil died. Richard’s sister Alma, who accompanied the family to New Braunfels, set up a millinery shop on San Antonio St. (possibly where the Miller & Miller parking lot now stands). Here she taught young girls hand sewing and machine sewing skills.

Aside from his business of being a “Jack of all trades, master of ALL”, Richard busied himself with other activities. He gave swimming lessons in the Comal Creek to boys and girls. The importance of swimming skills in NB cannot be underrated. Coming from Germany, swimming was not a skill learned naturally by boys and girls as it is here. Old records of NB show that many people, especially children, drowned in the early days. New Braunfels was surrounded by water. Gerlich would separate swimming lessons for boys and girls. Family tradition says that Gerlich’s method of instruction was to tie a rope around the child’s waist, throw them in the water and pull the rope toward shore. This technique in my early days was called “sink or swim.” Whatever it’s called, it worked.

At the shop, Gerlich sold produce from the adjoining two-acre farm such as corn, all sorts of vegetables and cotton seed. He was also a wagon builder, but working with wood was his specialty. Historian Oscar Haas described a one-cylinder steam engine which powered his (Gerlich’s) jigsaw: “He had a jigsaw and did a lot of gingerbread (cutout wood for decoration) on your porch and gables… and he had to fire that engine with wood.

“He had a little mustache and smoked cigars…When he was firing the stove to produce steam, he’d forget about drawing on the cigar.” Haas said he switched to a gasoline engine and then later to electricity after 1892 when the Landa Power Company made electricity more available.

Gerlich had the ingenuity to make up patterns for the gingerbread trim and to meet the taste of the more modern world. When he pulled down his “Richard Gerlich Wheelwright” sign he replaced it with “Richard Gerlich Gunsmith”. He repaired clocks, sewing machine, bicycles, toys and just about anything that was broken. He died in 1930 and his wife died in 1933 and both are buried in the Comal Cemetery.

Walter Gerlich

Richard’s son Walter grew up in the house on San Antonio St. and worked with his father in the shop. He eventually opened his own bicycle repair and gun shop there. He was definitely mechanically inclined like his father. An opportunity arose that he could not resist; a representative of the Ford Motor Company offered him a dealership and he accepted. The offer had been made to Eiband & Fischer, but they declined because they did not want to get into the new automobile business. Gerlich did.

The Ford Company would send him the parts (probably by train) and he would assemble them into a Ford automobile. Needing more room to work in, Gerlich bought the property on which he would establish Gerlich Auto Company on the corner of Academy and San Antonio Sts. from Albert Penshorn who had a blacksmith shop there. Penshorn sold the shop to W.H. Gerlich for $24,000 in 1920. He built his building with a large basement and an elevator. Large boxes arrived with car parts and were delivered to the elevator and taken to the basement. After assembly, the finished product was put on the elevator and taken up to the show room for sale. Henne Hardware had a similar setup with elevator, only they put together wagons on the second floor and brought the finished product down. I believe it was not accidental that both these businesses were close to the railroad tracks. Large items arrived by train because there were no large delivery trucks.

Walter Gerlich had married Laura Bielstein and they had two children, Norman and Marguerite. The untimely death of Laura in 1914 left Walter with two young children.

The Gerlich home at that time was on Academy St. Six years later in 1920, Walter was married to Valeska Babel. Their daughter Madelyn was born in 1923. A new home on the corner of Seguin and Garden Sts. was built for them by my grandfather, A.C. Moeller. The ten room home was complete with basement and wine cellar. It is now the law office of Marion J. Borchers.

Walter died in October, 1933, and four months later daughter Wallie Henrietta was born, never having known her father. Valeska Gerlich became the sole owner of a thriving business. The final chapter of Gerlich Auto Company was sale of the property to Ben Krueger in 1944 and the building now belongs to Joe Keen who restored it and replaced the name Gerlich at the top.

I believe that the quality of tenacity in Richard Gerlich as he fixed the little toys, bicycles, and clocks, was passed on to his son. Walter Gerlich used this same tenacity to put together automobiles.

The 1920s photo with Jackson Automobiles displayed. This was the First Gerlich Automobile Dealership in front of the Richard Gerlich home and business.

The 1920s photo with Jackson Automobiles displayed. This was the First Gerlich Automobile Dealership in front of the Richard Gerlich home and business.

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