By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Do you know anyone in New Braunfels that is descended from aristocracy? Not the “let’s pretend” kind, but the real thing. In 1975 Roland Baetge compiled a history and family tree of the Baetge family and in his own words “put the living flesh on the skeleton of cold facts and dates” beginning with Carl and Pauline Baetge.
Roland Baetge was the g-grandson of Carl and Pauline Baetge, and Fred Baetge is Roland’s son. Fred, who recently moved back to his hometown New Braunfels estimated that there are over 350 descendants of the original couple. I looked over the list and recognized about 25 names of people that I knew, including my longtime friend, Martha Jo Baetge (Goertz). If you are a descendant of the Carl Baetges, you have a unique heritage.
Johann Friedrich Carl Baetge was born in Uelzen, Germany. He was very bright, mastering seven languages. At a fairly young age, his mother died and there was a disagreement with his father’s decision to marry a second time. According to Roland Baetge, the tradition in Germany was that the youngest son would inherit the father’s entire estate. Carl Baetge was the youngest by the first marriage, but when the father remarried, there would be a real possibility that there would be other sons, as indeed there were. Carl eventually severed relations with his family altogether.
When Carl was 27, he began studying to become a civil engineer and was certified. He then went to work for a privately owned engineering company specializing in railroad building. In 1840 he was in Russia as chief civil engineer of the construction of a 420 mile railroad line between St. Petersburg and Moscow for the Russian government. Czar Nicholas I was eager to have this railroad line because it would connect the summer and winter palaces of the royal family. The line was completed in 1846.
The Czar awarded Baetge an honorary title for his railroad construction. Because of this title, he was able to wed a lady-in-waiting of the court, Pauline Spiess. As a member of the aristocracy, she was educated in music, dressed in silk, and waited on by servants. The couple was married in St. Petersburg in 1846 when he was 41 and she was 19.
Over the years, Baetge was influenced by writers such as Viktor Bracht who advocated freedom, political rebirth and social reform. Carl, Pauline, and family decided to leave Russia and come to Texas. The family arrived in Indianola in 1850, made their way to Comal County, and purchased 640 acres about 19 miles north of New Braunfels in an area of the Guadalupe River called the Demi-John Bend. Incidentally, the name “Demi-John” refers to a glass bottle with a long neck, a little like the shape of the Guadalupe River in that area.
Baetge first built a small log cabin called a block house and in 1852 built a two- story European style home. Most of the material for this house was hauled by ox-drawn wagons from Indianola.
Can you imagine this genteel lady out in the wilderness of Texas? Can you imagine her cooking over an iron pot in the yard (dressed in silk)? The family didn’t stay in the Demi-John area long and sold it in 1857. From there they moved to the Sattler area. After Carl died, 26 yearslater, Pauline moved to NB where she lived out her life.
After many years and several owners later, the house at Demi-John Bend was eventually donated to the Conservation Society and reconstructed on their property. Baron Schlameus spearheaded the dismantling and reconstruction.
Families that have someone researching their genealogy are indeed fortunate. Come look at our collection of family books at the Sophienburg. Roland Baetge, who died in 1999, is a good example of the importance of family research.