By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Several months ago, sitting at the back of the Archives, I saw what appeared to be a wolf and a child at the front door. The sun was behind them so I got up to investigate. In the front foyer were two almost life-size plaster figures, one of Little Red Riding Hood and one of the Wolf. They have a sad story attached to them, for in 1908, fourteen year old Stella Faust became sick and died. She was the only surviving child of John and Emmie Seele Faust. Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf were placed on the landing between the first and second stories of their home (361 W. San Antonio St.) as a remembrance of Stella, and later given by the family to the Sophienburg.
Emmie Seele Faust, benefactor of the museum, library, and hospital was the daughter of Hermann and Mathilde Blum Seele. Of all the names in NB, the name Seele is the most familiar and recently their descendants gathered at the Sophienburg to honor the memory of their ancestors with an afternoon tea. When they married, Hermann was 35 and Mathilde was 17.They had five children, Emmie (Faust), Heinrich (Harry),Hulda (Eiband), Hermann (Fritz), Jr., and Ernst.
An extremely gifted person, Hermann Seele had it all. He wrote prose, plays, poetry, and was a musician. He organized a drama club, and had a long history of service to the community as district clerk, Justice of the Peace, postmaster, mayor, and state legislator. He served as a major in the Confederate Army and mayor at the same time. He organized the Volunteer Fire Department and helped Lindheimer establish the first newspaper. As a lawyer, he successfully defended the citizens of NB in a suit to take away their land.
Born in Germany, twenty year old Seele arrived in Texas in 1843 (His twin brother stayed behind in Germany). He did not come with the Adelsverein but joined them in Galveston and arrived with the second group in May, 1845. Through his writing, we have an insight into the settlers’ trip inland from the coast. He tells of floods and mud on the Guadalupe, stinging plants and biting creatures and he witnessed a cannibalistic orgy of Tonkawa Indians feasting on a Waco warrior.
Rev. Ervendberg of the German Protestant Church hired Hermann Seele to teach the first school under the elm trees at the foot of Sophienburg hill. On Aug ll, 1845, fifteen children were taught the basics. In November Seele wrote in his diary that school had to be suspended due to the cold that reached 7 degrees. Cold continued for 21 more weeks while strong rains made things even more miserable. The school eventually moved inside the nearby German Protestant Church in March of 1846. Seele Elementary School is named after the first teacher.
For 56 years Hermann Seele was the secretary at the German Protestant Church (presently the First Protestant Church), stepping in as its pastor when necessary. The Seele Parish Hall is named after him.
The first Saengerfest (singing celebration ) was at his farm next to his home on the Guadalupe in the area of Seele and Saenger Sts. In 1853 on stomped hardened clay with a tarpaulin for a roof and oil lamps for lighting, guests came from across Texas to celebrate.
A short time later in 1855, he built the first amusement hall in NB on his property. He is given credit for bringing the first Kindermaskenball (children’s masked dance) from Germany in 1856 and it was here at Seele’s hall that the dance was held.
The Sophienburg has an invaluable collection of objects given by the family over the years and it was good that they came.
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.” – Longfellow