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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Naegelin’s Bakery still baking

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Let’s talk bread – white bread, rye bread, pumpernickel and even a variety of different yeast breads that are sweet. All these goodies come out of the oldest continuous bakery in town, Naegelin’s Bakery.

Zuschlag

In early, early, early New Braunfels, the bread that was purchased was a real treat and the bakery was one of the first businesses in New Braunfels. Just like the love of beer, the Germans brought their love of bread with them. Prince Carl knew this, so he appointed an official baker for the Adelsverein immigrants. That baker was named Heinrich Zuschlag who had been a professional baker in Germany. Forty-four year-old Zuschlag and his fourteen year-old son, Conrad, emigrated to Texas and signed on with the Adelsverein to be bakers. They sailed on the brig Ferdinand, accompanied the first settlers from the coast inland and then drew town lot #115 out of a hat.

This lot #115 is located on the corner of Seguin St. and Mill St. It is the location of the old NB City Hall before it moved to Castell St. After it was the City Hall, the Sophienburg Archives had their collections there. Hermann Seele, when he first set foot on Seguin St., along with Dr.Wm.Remer, remarked, “We caught sight of a stoutly built man whose sleeves were rolled up above the elbows.” Seele went on to say that the man was kneading dough with his muscular arms while his son, a 15 year-old armed with a long shovel, kept the large fire burning by stirring the coals. It was Zuschlag’s bakery. Later Seele says that he bought bread at Dr. Koester’s bakery, operated by Zuschlag.

Dr. Ferdinand Roemer, another early walker of Seguin St. in 1846, noticed the Koester building had three shingles hanging out front. They read: Dr. Koester, Apothecary and Bakery. Roemer was curious about the combination of professions, but apparently Koester was the distributor of the bread by Zuschlag who actually baked it at the other end of Seguin St.

In 1850 Zuschlag is listed as a baker and so is his son. This home/ bakery was purchased by John and Henry Goldenbagen in 1865. The Naegelin story starts here.

Naegelin

Edward Naegelin, Sr. was brought to Texas by his parents from Hirschen, Alsace in 1846 when he was two years old. The family is not listed in the Comal County Census for 1850 or 1860. We know that at age 19, he fought in the Civil War and records show that after the war, he and a friend started a bakery in San Antonio. The partnership was unsuccessful and dissolved. Naegelin then came to New Braunfels in 1868. He rented the building from Goldenbagen who had purchased the building from Zuschlag. Naegelin said, “I came to New Braunfels with a sack of flour and a dollar”.

He must have made that flour and that dollar go a long way. In the 1868 Herald Zeitung there is an advertisement about this bakery located in the Goldenbagen house, which Naegelin rented.

In 1870 he moved his bakery to the site of the present Naegelin Bakery. At first he rented the building and then he bought the building in 1874 and the business has been at this site ever since. Naegelin was assisted by his wife, Francisca Seekatz Naegelin.

According to Sophienburg records, bread was delivered locally by a horse-drawn wagon. Regular deliveries were left on the porch of the customer. The driver would ring a bell notifying the customer of their arrival. The Sophienburg Museum has a display of some of the early Naegelin tools of the trade. The large cypress mixing bowl was hand-hewn by Naegelin. Many of the original utensils, were mostly made by Henne Hardware for the Naegelins, and the first display case, plus other small bakery pans are on display at the museum.

When Edward “Edo” Naegelin died in 1923, the business was taken over by his son, Edward, Jr. and his wife, Laura Kessler. They remodeled the building in 1935 and their son, Clinton, became the manager, and later owner. Edward, Jr. and Laura Naegelin continued to live upstairs over the bakery.

Laura Naegelin was well-known in New Braunfels. She was known for her frankness, especially to customers who were not from “her home town.” She was partial to her local customers. Most locals today can tell you “words of wisdom” from the mouth of Laura Naegelin. In 1963 the New Braunfels Herald requested a photo of Laura for a story they were doing on the bakery. She refused, saying that she hadn’t had a picture taken in 50 years, and she wasn’t about to start now. In spite of her “words of wisdom,” the product was so good that the business flourished. Clinton sold the bakery in 1980 to the Granzin family who still own it.

The Klein House

Right next to the Naegelin’s Bakery sits a small, old cottage that is one of the oldest buildings in New Braunfels. It’s known as the Klein House.

Early immigrant Stephan Klein drew the lot in 1845 and built his home on this lot. The fachtwerk cross timber house is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. Klein heirs sold the house in 1858. Eventually after several owners, the house was sold by the last owner, Carl Floege to Edward Naegelin in 1877. The house was occupied by the Naegelin family and is now a Bed and Breakfast owned by the Granzins.

Stephan Klein came to Texas on the ship Hershel. He was present for the original drawing of lots. Klein was perhaps the oldest immigrant to receive a lot in the new colony. He was 59 years old, born in 1875 in Roxheim Bad-Kreuzhaen. He married Margaretha Hoffmann and was listed as a vine dresser (one who trims and cultivates grapevines) and carpenter in Germany.

Early documents gave a complete description of the physical qualities of the immigrants. According to his papers, he was 5’ 7” tall, of medium stature, blond hair with white streaks and blond eyelashes. He had a round face and chin and a blind left eye. (Source: Everett Fey, archivist for the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church)

Granzin

In 1980 the Naegelin family gave up ownership of the bakery to another family with a bakery background. Wilburn Granzin and his sons had been involved in the bakery business in San Antonio for over 20 years. The Granzin family is very proud of the long history here in New Braunfels and the bakery is known all over Texas. Many of the recipes that they use are original.

Inside the Naegelin’s Bakery in the 1920s. Notice the large cypress mixing bowl and other baking tools.

Inside the Naegelin’s Bakery in the 1920s. Notice the large cypress mixing bowl and other baking tools.

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The queen and princess of buildings around Main Plaza

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

If the Comal County Courthouse is the “queen” of buildings around the Main Plaza, then the Plaza Hotel is the “princess”. In this case, the princess is actually fifty years older than the queen. Just think about what these two buildings could tell us about our past in New Braunfels. Our Main Plaza is truly the hub of the town, a distinction that many towns don’t have.

Here’s what we know about the princess: In 1853 Adolph Nauendorf purchased a 55 foot frontage lot on the Main Plaza from J.J. von Coll. Von Coll operated a saloon next to this piece of property where Nauendorf would build a two-story building. In 1853 when the County was looking for property for a courthouse, Nauendorf offered to sell this property for $3,500, but the County turned down the offer. They instead purchased the property also on the Main Plaza where the Chase Bank now stands.

The building was purchased from Neuendorf in 1857 by Jacob Schmitz for $1,500. Jacob Schmitz was one of the immigrants that came to Texas on the ship “Ocean” in 1843 with several other immigrants that had signed up with Henri Castro to be part of the Castro colony. Castro was unable to fulfill his obligation to these immigrants and they were abandoned. Prince Carl encountered them in San Antonio where about 20 of them were stranded. These immigrants asked to join Prince Carl and the Adelsverein, Schmitz being one of them. They joined the Verein as laborers and some enlisted in the mounted company to guard against the Indians in their trip inland.

Schmitz is listed as a New Braunfels First Founder and was present when the drawing out of a hat of town lots took place in April of 1845. As an immigrant, he received Lot #61 located on Seguin Street between Coll and Garden Streets. In the Comal County census of 1850, he is listed as a 36-year-old hotel operator along with his 39-year-old wife, Catherine, and a two year old daughter, Pauline.

Schmitz built a hotel on his property on Seguin St. and called it the Guadalupe Hotel. A description of the interior of the Guadalupe Hotel that Schmitz owned on Seguin Street was provided by famous writer Frederick Olmstead who was a guest at the hotel. He described the hotel as reminding him of the inns in the Rhineland where all details were addressed. He described the main rooms as having pink walls with stenciled panels and scroll ornaments in crimson. There were framed lithographic prints on the side walls, and a sofa covered in pink calico with small vine patterns. The table was of dark oak with oak benches at the side. Chairs were chiseled oak. In one corner was a stove and in another, a mahogany cupboard with pitcher and glassware. Olmstead’s room was painted blue with roses over the outside of the large windows. There were books, a porcelain statuette, plants in pots, a brass study lamp and ample linens. Dinner consisted of soup, two meat courses, two vegetables, salad, compote of peaches, coffee with milk, wheat bread and beautiful sweet butter. Olmstead’s room was in a cottage in back where walls were blue and contained oak furniture. At that time there were no indoor bathrooms.

Back to the two-story building on Main Plaza that was the one that Nauendorf sold to Schmitz in 1857 for $1,500. Schmitz also named this building the Guadalupe Hotel like his Seguin St. hotel. In 1873 he added a third floor and a balcony. The hotel was a popular stage stop until the arrival of the railroad in New Braunfels in 1880.The hotel, then called the Schmitz Hotel, provided a popular stop during the daylong ride from San Antonio to Austin.

The Schmitz Hotel register that is at the Sophienburg Museum shows a host of illustrious people of the South. The register was rescued from a trash fire in 1910 by the Roth family who had a jewelry store next door. In the register was the name of the former president of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston. Guests during the Civil War were the names of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, H.H. Sibley, Gen. B. Magruder and staff, Col. James Reiley, Col. Tom Green, Major R.J. Brownrigg and wife and Capt. H. Ragsdale.

Jacob Schmitz died in 1874 and was buried in the New Braunfels cemetery. Mrs. Schmitz conveyed the numerous properties owned by her husband to her daughter, Mrs. Paula Claessen. She leased the hotel to Emil Braun for $100 a month for the first two years and $124 a month thereafter. The lease agreement included Braun having a bar and billiard saloon in one of the rooms. It was changed to be the Plaza Hotel.

Both Mrs. Schmitz and her daughter were widows and so they returned to Germany. They sold the hotel in 1910 to Charles Koch. A local bank purchased the structure and converted the rooms into apartments, closing its use as a hotel.

In 1969 The New Braunfels Conservation Society purchased the hotel and began work restoring the building. Over the years, the hotel had been under many owners. Many alterations were made throughout its history. One owner removed the exterior columns and added wrought iron. These drastic changes were removed and the original facade was restored by the Conservation Society.

The project was not completed and in 1982 after four years of vacancy, W.A. Myers and Lee Lybrand bought the hotel with the hope of converting the building to gift shops, antiques, business offices and possible hotel suites. Much work needed to be done due to the vandalism that had taken place during the vacancy. Four years later, George Bokorney, representative and managing partner, purchased the hotel.

Then in 1995 a group of investors purchased the building for the purpose of restoration. The main investor was a woman from New York. An open house took place showing two reclaimed apartments and retail shops. The biggest structural change at this time was moving the staircase to the front entrance.

The Conservation Society was able to qualify the hotel site in a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. Also the City of New Braunfels gave the hotel a Historic Landmark distinction. Presently the multi-purpose hotel is a remodeled landmark available to lease for days, weeks, or months and the bottom floor contains small businesses. It’s now known as “The Schmitz”, honoring Jacob Schmitz, who first owned this beautiful building as a hotel.

Plaza Hotel in 1937 located on Main Plaza. Notice the cannon on the Plaza. It was donated to the war effort as scrap iron during WWII.

Plaza Hotel in 1937 located on Main Plaza. Notice the cannon on the Plaza. It was donated to the war effort as scrap iron during WWII.

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Background of Bracken Bowling

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

“Rip Van Winkle” is a short story written by Washington Irving. Rip lives in a village by the Catskill Mountains. He is an easygoing, henpecked husband. One day he wanders into the mountains to go hunting and he meets and drinks with Henry Hudson’s legendary sailing crew. They are bowling 9-Pin. Rip falls asleep and sleeps for 20 years. He wakes up to the sound of crashing 9-Pins. Everything has changed. Irving uses 9-Pin bowling as an example of change. Bowling was very popular in Europe, then Germany, and now small settlements in Central Texas, the Comal County community of Bracken being one of them.

Bracken goes back to 1850 when Kentuckian William Bracken came to Texas to buy land. He was successful at getting a patent for 11 labors of land (177.1 acres per labor) from Texas Governor Peter Bell. This land was located on the Cibolo Creek where the El Camino Real crosses the creek. Two years later Bracken died and his children inherited the land. Twenty years later, 1,114 acres were sold to George and Christopher Pfeuffer who, in turn, sold 300 acres of the property to William Davenport. Davenport sold 54.7 acres to the I&GN Railroad Company that built a railroad on 12 acres of his property. The railroad sold the rest of the land to John Barnes and Jacob Wetmore. These two developed their land into the town of Davenport consisting of seven blocks. They initially named their community Davenport, but the name was denied by the U.S. Post Office because another town in north Texas already had that name. Therefore, they named the town Bracken in honor of the man who first purchased this land.

Now we get to the Bracken 9-Pin Bowling Club that celebrated 100 years of Kegeln (bowling) this year. It’s a 9-Pin bowling club which is different from a 10-Pin club. Pins for 9-Pin are set up manually, whereas pins for 10-Pin are set mechanically. Many of the small communities around New Braunfels have 9-Pin bowling alleys because the German immigrants brought the practice with them.

Most historians believe that the sport of bowling has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The act of knocking down pins or bottles, or anything that will stand up, with a round object, whether it be a rock or a ball, has been a sport enjoyed by all ages.

Bowling balls and pins have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. The Polynesians bowled on lanes 60 feet long, the same length as modern alleys. There is evidence that English kings bowled and also monks like Martin Luther.

The practice of throwing a ball to hit down 9-Pins instead of the traditional 10-Pins was brought to the U.S. by the Germans. In the 4th century, bowling was part of a religious ceremony. The belief was that if you could knock down all the pins you were thought to be of good character. Those who missed the pins had to do some kind of penance. I wonder what happened when people kept on failing to knock the pins down.

Most ancient Germans carried what was known as a “Kegel” or club used for protection as well as sport. The Kegel would represent a heathen and if it could be knocked down with a stone ball the bowler would be cleansed of his sins. I suppose you could say that the more a person bowled, the more sins they had. Teddy Roosevelt, being of German heritage, probably said “Trust everyone but always carry a big Kegel.” Just kidding.

The Germans, English, and Dutch all brought their own version of bowling to the colonies. This 9-pin sport was banned in Connecticut in 1841 because of the gambling and crime associated with it. Supposedly the people in Connecticut just added another pin making it 10-Pin bowling, circumventing the law and that solved that problem.

Curt Schmidt, author of the book, “Oma and Opa” tells of the importance of 9-Pin bowling to our early settlers. Bowling has survived as a popular sport here even today. He described 9-Pin Kegeln this way: “A team game with four to seven players. Pins are set up and then each team rolls two balls at the set-up. Then if the team member knocks all down with the first ball, the pins are set up again. And he rolls again. If a bowler leaves any pins standing except the King pin in the middle, it counts 12 points. If any pins are left standing, then the next bowler rolls it at them and so on until they are all down. The captain calls the member of the team who is likely to ‘clean up’ the alley. There are full house bowlers, left side and right side bowlers and clean up bowlers.”

In Comal County there are still many 9-Pin leagues. Bracken Bowling Club is one. Bernice Friesenhahn researched and compiled information on the bowling alley with Karly Friesenhahn formatting the information into a booklet for the celebration of their 100th year. Bracken Bowling Club was founded in 1914 by a group of men who enjoyed 9-Pin bowling. The club was built on the Bose brothers land. E.H. and Albert Bose and their wives gave the property of 1/3 acre. In 1977, a new eight lane facility was built on 1 ½ acres of land across from the old alley.

Rubin Moeller who was the secretary of the club for many years researched the minutes that were written in German. The original two lanes had a cost of five cents a game to bowl. Family member names of some of the founders were Bose, Bremer, Forshage, Friesenhahn, Gebhardt, Haag, Heitkamp, Hoffmann, Jonas, Marbach, Moeller, Reeh, Rosenburg and Wuest.

Women eventually became part of the bowling scene. Accordingly in almost all cases, the husband was a member of the club and his wife was allowed to bowl. If the husband died, his membership passed on to the wife and she continued to pay.

Washington Irving in “Rip Van Winkle” contends that change is inevitable, but sometimes it is slow. Bowling has been hanging around in Bracken for over 100 years with few changes.

1975 Bracken #1 Trophy Team in the old bowling alley.  L-R Olga Potchernick, Dotti Wilson, Clarine Syamken, Cherlyn Koehler, Jeanne Classen and Joyce Foster.

1975 Bracken #1 Trophy Team in the old bowling alley. L-R Olga Potchernick, Dotti Wilson, Clarine Syamken, Cherlyn Koehler, Jeanne Classen and Joyce Foster.

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Weihnachtsmarkt opens this Friday at the Civic Center

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

You have to admit that in South Texas it’s sometimes hard to get in the Christmas spirit. Where is the snow and the one-horse open sleigh, ho, ho, ho? The Sophienburg Museum and Archives tries its best to create the Christmas atmosphere in the Civic Center during its fund-raising Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).

Every year for the last 25 years, the decorating committee would strive to decorate with something a little bit different and this year they hit the jackpot. Both of the halls will be decorated as usual, but look at the small ballroom stage! Donna and Cody Debner and Beverly and Clark Wigley came up with the idea for decorating the stage behind Sophie’s Café with something that they knew a great deal about. They would create a miniature Neuremburg Christkindlesmarkt.

The Debners and the Wigleys met in Germany in 1977 when both husbands were in the Air Force. The two couples traveled together in the early 2000s and Christmas markets were their favorite destination, particularly in Neuremburg. Christmas markets go way back in Germany and the Neuremburg Market started in 1628. All kinds of craftsmen brought their goods to the market to sell and over the years the market moved to various places. In 1933 it moved to the Main Market Square in the town.

During WWII there was no market held in Neuremburg. It was one of the most bombed- out areas in Germany, but after the war in 1948, the custom was revived and held in the destroyed Old Town among the ruins. Even today, each vendor creates a small area with a red and white striped awning over it. The red and white awnings are actually the colors of the flag of the city of Neuremburg.

The stage at the Civic Center will be adorned with large examples of German Folk Art called Schwibbögen. Perhaps you have seen these arches and didn’t know what they were. Here’s the explanation:

In the Erzgebirge Mountains (Ore Mountains), on the border with Czechoslovakia, is an area of silver and iron mines. A long-standing tradition of that area is construction of small arches to put in windows of the homes. These arches were made of iron and contained seven candles across the arch. The tradition of these objects in the windows was to welcome home the miners at Christmas. The light of the candles represented the only time that work stopped for the miners and so it was a happy time.

As the miners made their way through the snow, they were welcomed home by these candle-lit arches. During Christmas, large Schwibbögen are set up in churches and public buildings. They are decorated with many scenes such as the Nativity, family, hunters, houses and German scenery. For many years the Schwibbögen were hand carved of a very soft wood. Some of them are painted, but most are left to the natural beauty of the wood.

There will be two Schwibbögen five feet tall and nine feet wide on the stage with a traditional Christmas tree between the two. This tree will be decorated with candles (electric) and German straw ornaments. The Germans are not the only people who claim that they originated the Christmas tree, although Martin Luther is the person who has gotten the most credit. The story is that he looked at the night star-filled sky and decided to decorate his indoor tree with candles representing the stars. It seems that the only prerequisite for a Christmas tree is that it has to still be green in December. When the immigrants came to New Braunfels and were looking around for a green tree, preferably a fir tree, they found the cedar. What do we find now? An artificial tree, mostly green, but sometimes even pink. In the late 1800s Sears and Roebuck offered artificial Christmas trees sold by the number of limbs, 33 limbs for $.50 and 55 limbs for $1.00.

Are you familiar with the Weihnachtspyramiden (Christmas pyramid)? It is a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree made of finely carved wood with candles at the base that make the top spin. These were quite popular when trees were brought inside. They are beautiful works of art and most are very expensive.

The Schwibbögen on the stage will be left in their original wood and decorated with a wintry mountain scene in Germany. Quaint miniature houses will overlook a festively decorated Christmas market complete with red and white awnings. The arches were designed and drawn by Wilfred Schlather and constructed and decorated by the Wigleys and Debners. Schlather is a devoted volunteer at the Sophienburg besides writing a book about the Civil War in Comal County. It can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.

The tables in Sophie’s Café in front of the stage allows one to sit and rest, eat German food, and then get up and shop again. The lantern centerpieces decorated by Donna Debner can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.

Weihnachtsmarkt is organized by the staff at the Sophienburg with Linda Dietert as Executive Director. Hundreds of volunteers give of their time and hundreds contribute, but the Museum and Archives needs you to help their large mission of keeping history alive in New Braunfels.

Weihnachtsmarkt is the largest money-making event that the Sophienburg has. Other fundraisers are the Sophie’s Shop at Wurstfest and a brand new upcoming event on Februray 28, 2015. It is called “Braunfest” on the grounds of the Sophienburg. Watch for details of this new event.

Weihnachtsmark will open its doors at 10 a.m. this Friday and will run through Sunday. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside, you will immediately get that cold winter feeling.

Beverly Wigley, Donna Debner and Wilfred Schlather with one of the artistic creations that will decorate Weihnachtsmarkt.

Beverly Wigley, Donna Debner and Wilfred Schlather with one of the artistic creations that will decorate Weihnachtsmarkt.

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