Germans successful negotiating with Indians
By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The Verein zum Schütze Deutsche Einwanderer in Texas (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas), or Adelsverein, formed a stock company in Germany to purchase land in Texas to settle German immigrants. They chose Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels to lead this project.
When the prince arrived in Texas, he learned that the Adelsverein had already purchased a 3,000,000 acre tract from Henry Fischer and Burchard Miller. After consulting with Ranger Jack Hays in San Antonio, Solms learned that this tract of land was 200 miles inland and the Comanche presence was a problem. Solms knew he needed a way-station so he purchased the Comal Tract from the Veramendi family. Even in this area, there was much evidence of Indians, but mostly Tonkowa. Prince Carl’s plan was to protect the emigrants and develop cordial relations with the Indian tribes.
The Republic of Texas felt that a ten-man special company of rangers was sufficient to protect its citizens and no special provision was made for the German emigrants as they made their way from the coast to the interior. Prince Carl recognized this potential problem. In his first report to the Adelsverein in Germany, he asked that weapons be sent so that “I shall be able to make an impression on the Indians”. He asked the society members to send arms that were no longer serviceable in Europe to be sent to Texas. He reported that every man in Texas must be mounted with a rifle of medium length, a sword, leather accoutrements, cartridges and powder. He himself had donated two cannons and a howitzer.
In his second report, he told the Society that the Comanche who were numerous and brave, inhabited the region and that the lack of soldiers was a problem.
In November and December 1844, the first emigrants arrived at Indianola. In January 1845, when the colonists were to make their move inland, Prince Carl organized a military company of 20 men. The rest of the men (108) were organized into a reserve company and militia body. The military force was not to be used for aggression, but for protection against the Indians exclusively for the settlers. Most historians agree that the firing of a cannon at sunset for the purpose of striking fear into the Indians had the effect of keeping the Indians at a safe distance, whether it was needed or not.
The last time that Indians were mentioned by Prince Carl was in his 10th report after he had chosen the land to be purchased in NB. In this report he describes the Indians in the area. When civilization moved in, the noise of the ax moved the Indians away.
As another protection, a stockade or palisade was built on the edge of a forty-foot bluff on the south bank of Comal Creek where the present Sts. Peter and Paul Church complex is located. The stockade was called the Zinkenburg after Nicolaus Zink, the Adelsverein’s surveyor.
Also on a hill about 30 feet above the flat land on which NB was built, a large blockhouse called the Sophienburg was built for the protection of citizens. Records show that the cornerstone of the Sophienburg was laid on Apr. 28, 1845, but this cornerstone has never been located. Every evening and morning before daybreak, the mounted patrol was sent out. Sentinels stood guard around the Zinkenburg.
While Prince Carl was commissioner general, he claimed that not a single person entrusted to his care was killed by Indians, nor a horse stolen. (Other written records tell a different story about the theft of horses)
Five months after Prince Carl left in May, 1845, two Germans, Capt. Friedrich von Wrede and Lt. Oscar von Claren were killed and scalped as they returned to NB from Austin at Live Oak Springs. A third party, Wessel, escaped and two days later he led a detachment of Rangers to the scene of the scalping, but no Indians could be found. This incident lead to the decision by Gov. J. Pinckney Henderson to send Rangers to protect the emigrants leaving NB to found Fredericksburg in April of 1846. John Meusebach took Prince Carl’s place as commissioner general and led the group to Fredericksburg. He subsequently in 1847 made a treaty with the Indians and the danger ceased. Now the Llano area could be inhabited.
Did this treaty end the attack by Indians? No, but these incidents in the predominately German communities was small in comparison to the rest of Texas. Cordial relations existed between the Indians and the counties of Comal, Gillespie, Kendall, Mason and Llano. Prince Carl and John Meusebach were responsible for these good relations.