Willke brothers make significant contribution

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The history of every area reveals that there are many individuals who live lives that help their community without fanfare. They don’t have schools or streets named after them, but they make an impact, nevertheless. People and places come and go, and their significance often is only recorded in books, buildings, photographs and gravestones, but their stories endure. Two of these individuals were brothers, Hermann and Louis (or Ludwig) Willke. They were leaders on the coast, founders of New Braunfels, founders of Fredericksburg, and important to Spring Branch, Kendall County and the State of Texas.

Louis and Hermann Willke probably came to Texas for the same reasons that most other immigrants did. The bottom line was a search for freedom in a land that offered great opportunity. They were born in Collberg on the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany. Louis was born in 1818 and Hermann was born in 1822. Both had been trained as officers in the Prussian Military. Louis was called Lieutenant Willke I and Hermann was called Lieutenant Willke II. They must have had a good education, for both spoke several languages.

Hermann arrived on the coast at Galveston and traveled from there to Carlshaven. He traveled as a single man on the ship Ferdinand. It was one of the first three ships to arrive with the Adelsverein in Texas. He transferred by schooner to the Adelsverein’s meeting place at Carlshaven to wait to begin the trek inland.

Louis and his wife, child and mother-in-law must have met Hermann at the coast. There is some evidence that Louis and family arrived in Texas “by land” on October 1, 1843. He worked at the Adelsverein’s Nassau Farm in Fayette County, but by 1844, he was at Matagorda Bay. Both brothers were at the coast together and they made a favorable impression on Prince Carl. At the first meeting of the Colonial Council, the prince announced that he was appointing Hermann Willke as an assistant to Nicholas Zink with the plotting out of the community of New Braunfels. Hermann was a surveyor and well qualified for the job. This skill would aid him in the future. He was also put in charge of supplies in the warehouse at Carlshaven. The supplies had to be protected so that a fair distribution would be made with the immigrants.

Louis too was given a responsible position at Carlshaven by the prince. He was put in charge of the powder magazine (guns and ammunition). With his military background he was selected to be commander of the station of Carlshaven.

You ask, “Where is Carlshaven?” In 1846, the area on Matagorda Bay was known as Indian Point and near this area was Carlshaven, named partly for Prince Carl. In 1849, the site was named Indianola. The area was the second main port in Texas and most immigrants to Texas from Europe and America came through this port city. It grew rapidly with a population of 5,000 until the hurricane of 1875. Up until that time, it had hotels, large homes, businesses and a steamship line terminal. The city rebuilt after the 1875 hurricane only to be nearly wiped off of the coast by another hurricane in 1886. If you visit the area today, it is much different than the bustling port city of the 1800s. Hermann Willke is also credited with making an accurate map of Indianola.

After the trek inland, the immigrants arrived at the Guadalupe crossing on March 21, 1845. At that time Hermann Willke was 22 years old and Louis Willke was 26 years old with a wife and children. Hermann drew lot 128 on Comal Avenue between Coll and Garden Streets. Hermann also bought lot 161, paying only $14 for the whole lot. Louis was granted lot 135 next to his brother’s where he built a house for his family.

When John Meusebach decided to move some of the immigrants to the Fredericksburg area, he asked Hermann to plot the trail. With the help of Louis, Hermann followed the El Camino Real from New Braunfels toward San Antonio, over the Cibolo and then followed an old Indian trail, the Pinto Trail, to what would become Fredericksburg. On the arrival at the site of Fredericksburg, Hermann laid out the lots of that future city.

Meusebach wanted to claim the Fisher-Miller grant that the immigrants had been originally promised and never received. He asked Hermann go with him because, as he said, “he was one of five educated men to accompany him to sign a treaty with the Comanche.” The Fisher-Miller grant could not be inhabited until this treaty was signed. Hermann surveyed the San Saba and stayed there for eight years at a salary of $100 a year paid by the Adelsverein. He made a map of the route from New Braunfels to Fredericksburg including the land grant. The map is in the Texas Archives in Austin. When the Adelsverein ran out of money, Hermann lost his salary. He was offered a job by the Texas General Land Office at a salary of $1,000 a year.

Now to Louis Willke and family. Louis built a fachwerk house on his town lot in New Braunfels (on Comal Avenue) for his family. By 1849, the family moved and was living on 40 acres, six miles outside of town. They had left town, as many did, to escape the epidemics. The 1850 census lists Louis as a farmer and a wagoner. This was a lucrative business that transferred goods from the coast to the inland settlements. Then in 1858, Louis moved his family to the Hill Country. He was a farmer and worked part-time in the Porter Store in Spring Branch. He is responsible for applying for the post office under the name of Spring Branch and by doing so, put the name of Spring Branch on the map. He became the first postmaster of Spring Branch from 1858 until 1860. The family then moved to Kendall County. Louis and wife, Elizabeth had seven children all born in Texas with the first being born in 1843 at Port Lavaca.

Not surprising, both brothers became officers in the Civil War. Capt. Hermann Willke served on the Texas coast in Galveston and Lt. Louis Willke was an officer in Julius Bose’s campaign in Arkansas. After the Civil War, Hermann left the Hill Country and settled in Galveston where he went into the surveying business. He lived there until he died.

Louis is listed in the Kendall County history as a surveyor. The family had moved to Kendall County and settled there on 160 acres. The 1880 Kendall County census lists him as a merchant and farmer. He died on the ranch and he and his wife are buried in a Willke family cemetery located on the Willard Dierks property.

In all of the references found on the Willke brothers (Fey’s New Braunfels, The First Founders and Anderson-Lindemann’s Bridging Spring Branch and Western Comal County, Texas), all of the descriptions of their work and character were complimentary.

Leo Scherer describes the house on Comal Street as actually four separate structures. It was a common practice to add on to a home as more space was needed by a family. Visible from the road, is the Victorian-style home built after 1881. Attached to the back of this home are structures built in the mid-to-late 1800s. The oldest fachwerk home originally built by Louis Willke when he arrived in New Braunfels, was attached to these structures but no longer stands.

Three structures can be seen on the map extracted from the “1881 Birdseye View of New Braunfels” by Koch. The fachwerk original home is the one on the left beside the two later structures. The Victorian home was not yet built.

Three structures can be seen on the map extracted from the “1881 Birdseye View of New Braunfels” by Koch. The fachwerk original home is the one on the left beside the two later structures. The Victorian home was not yet built.

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One of the first milestones in our history

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Are you confused about which historical anniversary to celebrate or that you have celebrated? Is it for New Braunfels? Is it for Texas? Is it for the United States? Did we celebrate one year, 25 years, 50 years, 75 years, 100 years (centennial), 150 years (sesquicentennial) or 200 years? We have celebrated so many historical events that it’s starting to really get confusing. And now plans are underway to celebrate the 175th year of New Braunfels’ founding.

The founding fathers (and mothers) celebrated the first American Fourth of July in 1846, a little over a year after arriving in New Braunfels. Then they celebrated the New Braunfels 25th etc., etc., etc. In the early 1990s, about 50 New Braunfelsers even traveled to Braunfels, Germany, to help our sister city celebrate its 750th birthday. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to that big bash. We were treated to a happy time. The Germans love “Texas Charlie” as they called Prince Carl. The long parade featured every era you can imagine. The entry that stuck out in my mind was the era of the Black Plague. Why? They had carts filled with bandaged plague victims and it was gruesome. I suppose we had a similar situation here (cholera, not plague), but as far as I know, this era has never been a parade entry.

The Texas Centennial of the Declaration of Independence From Mexico

Now clear your mind of all confusing past celebrations and concentrate on one celebration – the 1936 Texas Centennial of the Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Texas will recognize on March 2nd, the date of Texas independence and becoming a Republic. Although the Centennial was officially celebrated statewide in 1936, the celebration began in 1935 and continued in 1937 and 1938 in New Braunfels.

The state did this 100-year celebration in a big way. The Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress contributed $3,000,000 toward the project. Dallas was chosen as the center of the celebration. Every county in Texas received a granite marker with the date of the county’s establishment and the source of its name. Our county marker is on US 81 in front of Canyon Middle School.

Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Galveston put on large pageants. The Ft. Worth pageant called “The Winning of the West,” was by far the most visited, even more than the Dallas Exposition dedicated to the Centennial. In addition, museums like the Panhandle Museum at Canyon, the Texas Museum in Austin, the Big Bend Museum in Alpine, the Corpus Christi Centennial Museum, the West Texas Museum at Lubbock, the Alamo Museum and the Gonzales Museum, were established.

The celebration in Dallas occupying 50 buildings, was advertised as the first world’s fair held in the southwest. Throughout the state there were programs of significant historic events, battle scenes and pioneer re-enactments being performed a century after Texas won its freedom from Mexican rule and established the Republic of Texas. In 1846, Texas became the 28th state of the United States. Texas is the only state that existed as an independent republic and one that was recognized by foreign countries.

Six Flags Over Texas is more than an amusement park. The six flags on Texas soil were France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States and finally, the United States.

Centennial Celebration in New Braunfels

New Braunfels historical markers for the Centennial, besides the county granite marker, include the Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on SH 46 in front of HEB, that commemorates the Franciscan Mission from 1757, that was established to bring religion to the local Native Tribes. Another marker is dedicated to John Torrey for the establishment of mills on the Comal River. It is at the foot of Mill Street where the tube chute is located. Two markers are dedicated to Ferdinand Lindheimer. One is at his home on Comal Avenue and the other is at his gravesite in the Comal Cemetery. He is recognized as the Father of Texas Botany. One of the exhibits at the Centennial in Dallas was of the 500 plus wildflowers in Texas. Another marker is located at the home of George Wilkins Kendall, located on Waco Springs Loop Road near SH 46. He was a well-respected journalist, founder of the New Orleans Picayune, correspondent on the Santa Fe Expedition and Mexican war correspondent. Located on Landa Park Drive is a pink granite New Braunfels marker dedicated to the city’s founding. It has a bronze relief of the Sophienburg log cabin and tells the story of Prince Carl. It was erected by the State of Texas with federal funds to commemorate one hundred years of Texas Independence. By far the most well-known monument in Landa Park is dedicated to the German pioneers of Texas. The New Braunfels Herald announced: “New Braunfels has been selected as the site of the proposed monument (to Germans) for which the State Centennial Committee has appropriated the sum of $2,999. The rest of the funds were through contributions locally and collections had been reported in other parts of the state by the San Antonio committee of the Federation of German-American Societies, which is sponsoring the movement.” Refer to Sophienburg.com, May 15, 2007, for further information.

Besides markers, what else was being planned? The newspaper was full of activities to put New Braunfels “on the map.” The opening of Landa Park was a highlight of the time and the Cole Circus with Clyde Beatty. Beatty was known as the world’s most daring animal trainer. There were 20 big and little elephants, including Jumbo the 2nd, the only African elephant in a circus in the country.

The Katy Railroads offered weekend bargain fares like $5.16 for a round trip to the Centennial Exposition in Dallas, and $4.93 to the Frontier Centennial in Ft. Worth, and for an extra 89¢ you could be picked up at the train station and transported by street car to the grounds of the exposition. What a deal! School children were given the advantage of the state-wide rate reduction on all railroads as well as special rates for the Centennial. The November Herald announced that 56 school children attended the Centennial and have returned from a two-day trip to Dallas.

Speaking of railroads, that very year the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s train rolled through New Braunfels on the MKT tracks on June 12, 1936. Nearly a third of Texas’ population saw and heard the president on his Texas Centennial tour. He visited Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Ft. Worth. The train “passed through” New Braunfels in the middle of the night, but no stop. Supposedly, many people were standing by the tracks to see the president, but they were disappointed. All I can say is that FDR did not know how important New Braunfels was.

The NBHS Class of 1936 was known as the Centennial Class. There is a photo of this class in the Sophienburg.com column of August 21, 2007. I interpreted it as a costume party but now I know they were cowboys and pioneers. There were 54 seniors taught by 15 teachers that year and it was the largest class ever to graduate from NBHS up to that time. There were so many of them, that the graduation was held in the Seele Parish House because it had a stage that would accommodate all the graduates. In keeping with the Centennial Celebration, the class contacted several prominent Texans at the time to participate in the graduation.

On March 2nd, take time to reflect on how important the Republic of Texas was in attracting the German settlers to Texas that led to the establishment of our great city. It would lead to other important dates and milestones that we celebrate today.

The home of Ferdinand Lindheimer owned by the Conservation Society along with the Centennial granite marker from 1836. Lindheimer was a significant figure in the Republic of Texas and of course, New Braunfels.

The home of Ferdinand Lindheimer owned by the Conservation Society along with the Centennial granite marker from 1836. Lindheimer was a significant figure in the Republic of Texas and of course, New Braunfels.

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Many trails converge in New Braunfels

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce sponsors an amazing brochure titled “New Braunfels, Texas Culture & Heritage (Kultur und Erbe).” The brochure invites you to take a peek inside with the words “Open to see trails & explorations involving New Braunfels, Texas.” Just inside the front cover, one can find out that there were many expeditions that went through New Braunfels in the 1600s and 1700s; many old transportation trails including the Old Indianola Trail, San Antonio Stage Line, El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail (also known as the King’s Highway), International & Great Northern Railroad, and the Meridian Highway; some military and postal routes; and some cattle trails and Indian Nation trails including the Shawnee, Chisholm and the Western. Obviously, all of these trails led to an abundance of trade and social interaction and we have been right in the middle of all of it. Of course, new trails (roads and highways) are being made every day.

What is a trail? Mostly it is a means of getting from one place to another. Even the smallest ant makes trails that the whole colony travels. I still remember the trails of the red ants that were more prevalent when I was a a child. They left the nest and one by one followed a path that led them to water or food. As kids, we even had a song that we sang as we watched this process: “The ants go marching one by one, hoorah, hoorah.” Out in the wilderness you can observe paths made by animals.

Indianola Trail

If we use this simple definition of a trail, then the trip from Germany to Galveston was a trail. Some old trails from the coast to New Braunfels are significant enough to be marked. Some have national and state significance as well. The trail from Indianola to New Braunfels is marked by granite markers. It marked the trek by the German immigrants first led by Prince Karl and the Adelsverein. They traveled from the coast on the east side of the Guadalupe River and then crossed into New Braunfels. Five sites along the route are marked. They include in order, Indianola, Victoria, Gonzales, Seguin and New Braunfels. The markers begin at the foot of the LeSalle statue at Indianola and end in a flower bed on the Castell Avenue side of the New Braunfels Civic Center. This trail memorializes the thousands of German immigrants that braved the elements to reach this destination.

El Camino Real

When the settlers reached the Guadalupe River on March 21, 1845, the settlers crossed the river at the El Camino Real or Old King’s Highway, an old established trail. The crossing site can be viewed from the Faust Street Bridge. El Camino Real de los Tejas (now a National Historic Trail) became part of the National Trails System in 2004. It is a corridor that encompasses 2,580 miles of trail from the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass and Laredo to Natchitoches, Louisiana. The period of historical significance dates from 1680 to1845. When Spanish explorers began to travel into Texas and western Louisiana in the 1680s, they followed already existing networks of American Indian trails.

Representatives of the Spanish Crown used these paths to reach areas where they subsequently established missions and presidios. In Comal County and New Braunfels there is a corridor of trail routes extending from the Old Bastrop Road and Hunter Road to the Comal Springs, along Nacogdoches Road to Hwy 482 and then crosses the Cibolo along the Old Nacogdoches Road. The Comal Springs were discovered in 1691 by Spanish Explorers. Many American Indian tribes were found living there at the time. In 1918, The Daughters of the American Revolution marked the El Camino Real with markers every five miles. There are five in Comal County and their locations can be found by reading this Sophienburg column from November 1, 2010.

The Chisholm Trail

The Chisholm Trail was not the longest cattle trail but probably became the most famous due to movies and the many versions of: “Come along boys and listen to my tale, I’ll tell you of my troubles on the Old Chisholm Trail. Come a ti yi yippee, come a ti yi, yea.” The longhorns moved slowly giving the cowhands plenty of time to make up different versions of this song. Supposedly over 1000 versions have been found. From the Chisholm Trail brochure sponsored by The Texas Historical Commission: “In the decades following the Civil War, more than six million cattle were herded out of Texas in one of the greatest migrations of animals ever known. The 19th century cattle drives laid the foundation for Texas’ wildly successful cattle industry and helped elevate the state out of post-Civil War despair and poverty. Today, our search for an American identity consistently leads us back to the vision of the rugged and independent men and women of the cattle drive era.” The Chisholm Trail came through New Braunfels roughly following IH 35. The Chisholm Trail era ended in the 1880s and a new marker for this trail has been placed at the corner of Seguin Avenue and Nacogdoches Road. Soon, a second marker will be placed at the Comal County Courthouse.

Meridian Highway

Back on July 12, 2015, I wrote an article on the Meridian Highway in Texas (see Sophienburg.com) The following is an excerpt from that article describing the highway:

“When the Texas Highway Department was created in 1917, the Meridian Highway in Texas was called State Highway 2 which meant it was the second most important highway in Texas. The highway in Texas is approximately 900 miles. With the adoption of the interstate highway numbering system, this highway became US81 for the most part and much of the segments now follow IH 35, one of the nation’s busiest interstate highways. The highway links Canada to Mexico and also continues as the Pan-American Highway that stretches from Alaska to Argentina.” The Texas Historical Commission has completed a project to identify significant businesses along the Meridian Highway route. In New Braunfels, the following were identified: a gas station at 4731 Old Hwy 81; the Faust Street Bridge; the el Camino Real marker at Seguin and Nacogdoches; a gas station (now Palacio Tire Shop) at 711 S. Seguin Avenue; a gas station (part of Bluebonnet Motors) at 619 S. Seguin Avenue; Becker Motor Company (now Bluebonnet Motors) at 541 S. Seguin Avenue; a café and bus station (now Celebrations) at 275 S. Seguin Avenue; the Faust Hotel at 240 S. Seguin Avenue; the Prince Solms Inn at 295 E. San Antonio Street; Leissner Gas Station (now UPS) at 301 Main Plaza; the Schmitz Hotel at 471 Main Plaza; the Gerlich Auto Dealership at 386 W. San Antonio Street and an auto dealership and repair shop (now Landmark Properties and other businesses) at 472 and 474 W. San Antonio Street. For more information on the Meridian Highway, visit www.thc.texas.gov/meridian.

Trails in New Braunfels

Once you explore all of the trails leading to New Braunfels, you can download the New Braunfels mobile app found at http://walkingtourinnewbraunfels.com to embark on your self-guided walking tour of NB, driving tour of NB, walking tour of Gruene, or the NB murals tour. If you desire a professional guide for a unique walking tour, you can contact Jan Kingsbury at Spass Walking Tours of NB. Other tour guides can be found on the Chamber website also. What would the first founders of New Braunfels say if they could see what has become of the wilderness they explored. “Gee, it would have been easier if I had had the app on my phone.”

The building of the U.S. 81 bridge over the Guadalupe River in 1934. Up to that time, the Faust Street Bridge served as the main river crossing.

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The history behind the Marglin name

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Recently, the Ludwig Leather Company on Seguin Avenue was purchased by Terri Moore Cocanougher, originally from New Braunfels. The new name of the company is Ludwig and Marglin. Why Marglin? Marglin is the French name for Mergele and First Founder Peter Mergele is Terri’s ancestor. Steve Moore, her father is the ggg-grandson of Peter Mergele (Pierre Marglin). The Marglin family hailed from the French area of Alsace. Terri and her parents, Steve and Marlene Moore, are very interested in the Mergele family history.

Terri graduated from New Braunfels High School, got a degree from A&M University and is dealing with what she has always been interested in, horses and ranching. She spent 20 of the past years living in Decatur, Texas, raising children and working at the Cocanougher Feed Stores. The building next to the leather company that now houses Water to Wine, was originally the Mergele Building where Terri’s ancestor had a butcher shop. Directly behind the Mergele Building is a restored brick home at 166 Comal Avenue that was built by the Mergele family on their original lot. Even though Terri did not buy the actual Mergele building, being next door is meaningful. When Terri bought the Ludwig Leather and changed it to Ludwig and Marglin, she also bought a Victorian home directly behind Ludwig’s at 184 Comal Avenue. She is in the process of restoring this home.

Before we talk any more about Peter Mergele, here’s a little background:

The first Adelsverein immigrant ships from Germany to Texas were the Johann Dethardt, the Herschel, the Ferdinand and the Apollo, and we know these immigrants as First Founders of New Braunfels.

Would it surprise you to find out that many ships arrived before the above? Four of them were the Jean Key de Teau, the Heinrich, the Ocean and the Weser. Although these ships carried immigrants, they were not initially sponsored by the Adelsverein. The Jean Key de Teau, the Heinrich and the Ocean were bound for a land grant given to Henri Castro whose purpose was to establish a settlement west of San Antonio near the Medina River. When established, the settlement would be called Castroville. The immigrants were from Alsace and they were French, Swiss and German. The fourth ship, the Weser, arrived under the colonization contract of the San Saba Company of Henry Fisher and Berchard Miller.

The Jean Key de Teau was the ship on which Peter Mergele arrived. This ship departed from Antwerp in Belgium. In Everett Fey’s book, The First Founders Volume I, he prints a letter from Edward Mergele, a descendant of Peter Mergele, one of the Castro immigrants. He tells of stormy weather causing the captain to tell the immigrants that the seasickness that they were feeling would quickly pass and sure enough, as soon as the brig passed by Puerto Rico and Dominique in the West Indies, the seas became calm. After arriving in Galveston, the water was too shallow to allow the passengers to disembark. Eager to get ashore, 30 of the immigrants boarded the small pinnace and started rowing towards the shore. The pinnace began leaking and the immigrants on the over-crowded little boat began bailing out water with their hats and shoes. Since the water was only four feet deep, the new Texans waded proudly ashore.

Family tradition fills in information about the Mergele family. Alsace, their home, became part of France in 1789, after being a part of the Swiss Confederation. It was taken by Germany in 1871, and remained with Germany until 1918. The World War I Armistice settlement gave Alsace back to France. During World War II, Germany again took over this area. Back in the 1800s, after much strife in the area, Peter Mergele probably read posters that Count Castro was distributing in the area. He was looking for 7,000 immigrants to sign up to go to Texas. By 1843, many had signed up.

The fifteen original immigrants of the Jean Key de Teau were Blasius Albrecht, Jacob Ernst, Peter Mergele with four family members, and Joseph Schertz with seven family members. Peter Mergele was born in Habsheim, Haut/Rine, France, in 1810. He married Barbe Schertz and they emigrated from Germany in 1843. After arriving in Galveston, they made their way with other immigrants to San Antonio and there they camped on the Alamo Mission grounds for over a year. They had heard rumors of other settlers having trouble with the Natives near the Medina and the Texas Rangers could not guarantee safe passage to the grant. Many became ill and some died. Castro was not sympathetic to their plight and the settlers realized that Castro would not live up to his promises. They decided to travel back to the coast to Indianola and then back to Germany. During this period of time, they met Prince Carl and he convinced the Mergeles and others to join the Adelsverein.

There is little information on the Castro immigrant ship, the Heinrich, as much of it has been lost. The main families that joined the Adelsverein from this ship were Gabriel Sacherer and five family members, Sylvester Simon and Nicolaus Zercher and wife. The third Castro ship, the Ocean, transported nine immigrants that joined the Adelsverein, Johann Lux and three family members, Carl Brockhuisen, George Humand, Jacob Kaderli and his brother Johann Kaderli, Germain Moritz and Jacob Schmitz. Like others, these settlers joined with Prince Carl and were granted lots in New Braunfels by the Adelsverein.

The Weser arrived in Galveston on July 8, 1844. My g-g-grandfather Johann Georg Moeller was in this group. They were part of the ill-fated San Saba Colonization Company. Weser immigrants that joined the Adelsverein included Thomas Schwab, Peter Reis, Johannes Schneider, Johannes Arnold, Andreas Eikel, Sebastian Moesgen with wife and daughter, Valentin Fey and Johann Schulmeier with wife and children. It was unknown where my ancestor Johann Georg Moeller was located after arriving in Texas but he arrived on his own in New Braunfels very early.

Some of the immigrants listed as First Founders were already in Texas before the March 21, 1845, Guadalupe River crossing. They joined the Adelsverein group with the encouragement of Prince Carl. This group included Louis Ervendberg, Ferdinand Lindheimer, Daniel Murchison, George Ullrich and Jean von Coll.

Peter Mergele and family crossed the Guadalupe with the Adelsverein in 1845, and received lot #43. He built his cedar log home on Comal Avenue in 1845. The family lived in this cedar log home for years. Eventually Peter’s grandson tore it down and built a brick home that still stands. There’s lots of history in that small area downtown.

Terri Moore Cocanougher has developed a wonderful vision for her company, Ludwig and Marglin. She employs several of the long-time Ludwig Leather employees including a silversmith and leatherworkers that make all kinds of purses, tack, chaps, belts and more. They repair saddles and other leather items. Terri has deep roots in New Braunfels and is glad to be home.

Peter Mergele

Peter Mergele

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New Braunfels Fire Department – years of service

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The New Braunfels Fire Department is celebrating its 130th year of service to the New Braunfels people.

In 1886, Hermann Seele was named the chairman of the Fire Committee of the City Council by Mayor Joseph Faust. The purpose of the committee was to form fire protection for the people of New Braunfels. Seele had been on the Waterworks Committee for the city and now with the waterworks accomplished, a fire department could be established.

Just two months later, the mayor announced in the newspaper that the city had taken steps to acquire hose reel and hook and ladder equipment for fighting fires. Then two days after this announcement, on June 6, 1886, Seele announced that the New Braunfels Volunteer Fire Department was formed.

At the first meeting set up by Seele and Faust to form the department, forty interested young men showed up. The decision was to form two hose and reel companies and one hook and ladder company. Two bells on towers would be mounted in the north and south ends of town with a hose shed underneath to house the hose and pump cart. Obviously, the bells would ring to alert the firemen to a fire. One of the hose reel carts and a bell tower was stationed where Lamar School is now. Another was on the south side of town and a third one was located downtown. The hook and ladder hose reel equipment and bell tower downtown was first located next to the first courthouse where Chase Bank is now. When the present courthouse was built in 1898, the bell tower and shed were moved to that location and then in 1918 when the first fire station was built on Hill Avenue, the bell tower was moved there. We know these locations from looking at old photographs and also viewing the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps that showed the firefighting equipment locations as well as where the water mains were located in the street.

The need for such a service was so great that a list of 46 names was suggested as candidates for membership of this volunteer fire department. Each company, of around 15 men, would be a part of three companies. The company was frequently named after the citizen who paid for the equipment, hence, the Moreau (Franz) Hook and Ladder company.

The chief of the department was William Schmidt with S.V. Pfeuffer named as secretary. Paying for the equipment was quite a challenge and after working hard on this detail, only $323 was collected. After a month, the department purchased two hose reel carts, two one-inch nozzles, one bell, and as much 2 ½-inch hose as they could afford. A dance was held to raise funds for the second bell. In my family, both the Moeller and the Adams families were active in the volunteer fire department.

In September of 1891, the Charles Floege Store and home on the Main Plaza caught fire. The building was a total loss because of the combustible material in the building, however, the firemen were able to save the adjoining structures. At the same time, the ringing of the bell called the fire fighters to a small fire across the Plaza at the Guadalupe Hotel (later Plaza) and then a third fire at the fire house next to the courthouse. These small fires were put out quickly. History tells us that the New Braunfels citizens became aware that additional equipment was needed. Gradually more hose companies were organized in the following years.

Until 1912, the fire department depended on hand-drawn hose reel and hook and latter carts. The volunteers were harnessed and provided foot-power to pull the equipment to the fires. Then Harry Landa offered a burned-out chassis of his Locomobile to the department. They converted it into a motorized truck that was used until 1925. Never heard of a Locomobile? Every car manufacturer produced one. It was a self-propelled automobile with some even utilizing steam power. The Landa Locomobile used was a converted touring car.

When the first fire engine was purchased in 1913, the newspaper ran an article with rules for all citizens to observe. First, they were warned that the fire truck should not be considered a toy. The public should know that the engine will travel less than the 25 miles per hour, the speed limit for other vehicles. When hearing the engine, citizens are to turn to the right and give the fire engine the middle of the road. This applies to people walking, on horseback, in wagons or automobiles. They are told not to follow the engine.

These rules, in 2016, still apply. Don’t you pull over when you hear the siren on the fire truck?

Later, after the telephone was in use, the public was informed that there were 63 fire districts and each person should know his district number. In case of fire in their district, pick up the telephone, answer to “number please” on the part of the telephone operator, and say the word “central.” Then give the fire district number. Then hold the receiver to your ear while the alarm is transmitted to the fire bell, and be connected with the fire station. I believe I would have to write down all these instructions.

Where did the water come from to put out the fires? Darren Brinkkoeter, New Braunfels Batallion Chief and historian, said that the three companies each had a hose cart. The carts were positioned in three areas of the city in sheds. The fire department relied on wooden water mains buried under the streets. Firemen would have to dig a hole in the street, then bore a hole into the wooden water main. The hole in the street would fill up with water and could be pumped through the hoses. Leather buckets were also used to get the water and after the fire, the hole was plugged up in the pipe and street. Think about this in relation to time. The bell rings, the firemen run to the equipment where they are hooked up, they run to where the fire is, they drill a hole in the wooden pipe under the street, they pump the water from the hole to put out the fire. By this time, the fire must be a roaring blaze. When the fire is out, the hole is plugged and the running begins again to take the equipment back to where it belongs. This was no easy task and the firemen were looked up to as super athletes. You can see why.

The fire museum that Brinkkoeter is in charge of, has an old fire extinguisher. “When the heating unit behind the glass bottle reached a certain temperature, the bottle, filled with carbon tetrachloride, would spew and put out the fire. The museum has a fantastic collection of old engines, including the 1923 American LaFrance pumper truck designed for the firefighters to ride on the outside of the truck. Four original engines are in the museum, including the 1925 REO Hose Wagon (REO stands for Reginald E. Olds), that was the first move from horse-drawn or man-drawn hose carts to motorized hose transport. The old trucks have been a part of every parade in the city.

Early on in 1886, a Volunteer Firemen’s Band was formed that also participated in parades. I can remember when the firemen would stop at the Plaza during the Comal County Fair parade and have competitions. They would shoot the water up in the air, giving everyone on the Plaza a welcome shower. This was, of course, long after wooden water pipes had to be drilled and when hydrants were installed.

Up until 1918, there was no actual fire station and the first station built now houses the museum. It is located at 131 Hill Avenue and almost 100-years-old.

There are six fire stations in New Braunfels and on September 1, 2016 due to its excellent record, the Insurance Service Office changed the city’s Class 2 rating to a Class 1 rating, the highest level to achieve. These levels control how much insurance premium we pay in our city. Thank you, New Braunfels Fire Department.

Early 1900 Hose Company #3. Sophienburg photo collection.

Early 1900 Hose Company #3. Sophienburg photo collection.


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Peace on earth, good will to men

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Imagine that you are on the Texas Coast where you have just arrived on one of the Adelsverein ships. You left Germany three months ago. You are far away from the Heimatland (homeland) for the first time ever and it is Christmas time. Your whole life you have loved the traditions that you grew up with – the music and the decorated tree that celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. On Hermann Seele’s arrival in Galveston, he wrote in this diary: “Memories, sweeten for me, lonely as I am in a foreign country, the hours with the balsam of a wonderful past.”

The year is 1844. The Republic of Texas is in the last stage of being an independent nation. Texas would soon become a state of the United States. The land was beautiful but rugged.

These immigrants would bring their culture and joyous traditions with them from Germany. The Adelsverein promised them land, supplies to help them get established and the provision of churches and schools. The immigrants brought with them the love of music, food and dance, strong family values, and the German traits of self-discipline and most of all, tenacity. These last two were important qualities because the whole venture was fraught with obstacles, but they persevered. In five years, New Braunfels was the fourth largest city in Texas.

Prince Carl hired Louis Ervendberg to establish a church in the new settlement of New Braunfels. Ervendberg met the first group of immigrants on the coast and conducted the first church service there on December 23, 1844. Prince Carl cut down a small oak tree for a Tannenbaum and decorated it with candles and candy for the children. This service on the coast is considered the first church service of the German Protestant Church. Prince Carl made this comment about the service: “The people, deeply touched, shed ardent tears of compassion and on Christmas, Holy Communion service would be conducted.”

German historian, Joachim Klenner, has done extensive research on Ervendberg and says this about the man:

He graduated August 26, 1833 from the University of Griefswald, taught school for four years, and then requested consent to immigrate to North America in1837. He gave as his reason for immigrating that a rich family from Hannover wanted him to come to North America to teach their children for five years. He was granted a permit with the stipulation that he could not come back to Prussia if he ever returned to Germany (no reason is given for that). He emigrated as Louis Ervendberg although his family name was Cachand. You have to wonder why he changed his last name.

Ervendberg settled in Illinois where there were others from Hannover, Germany. There was no pastor in the area so he organized a congregation. In 1838, he married Marie Luise Sophie Dorothea Műnch. They left Illinois in 1839 to come to Texas. After arrival in Galveston, they moved to the small settlement of Blumenthal in Colorado County. It was in Blumenthal that he was later approached by Prince Carl to handle the religious services for all the settlers, Protestant and Catholic. He accepted the invitation.

Ervendberg met with this first group of immigrants on the coast and accompanied them as they crossed the Guadalupe on March 21, 1845. This date is considered the founding date of New Braunfels as well as the German Protestant Church. He lost no time in organizing his German Protestant Church in New Braunfels. Prince Carl gave remembrance gifts to the congregation: a chalice, the twin of which is located in Germany, and two bells that are currently installed on the front lawn of the First Protestant Church.

In the settlement of New Braunfels, the first services were held outside at the foot of Sophienburg Hill until a log church could be built. Hermann Seele taught school in the same spot. Seele was chosen secretary of the church, a position that he held for 56 years.

Constant rain kept the Guadalupe River in a constant state of flooding that brought disease. The steady arrival of immigrants on the coast under these conditions played out a tragic drama of horrors. After Texas became a state, a war broke out between the United States and Mexico and the promised immigrant wagons were sold to the United States Army. There was no housing, no food, and no way to get from the coast to the settlement. In desperation, many immigrants tried to walk the 150 miles to New Braunfels. Hundreds died along the way and many arrived in the settlement sick, only to spread the sickness. A make-shift hospital was set up and Pastor Ervendberg recorded 348 deaths in one year. Sixty orphaned children were left and all but 19 were taken in by family or friends. The remaining 19 were taken in by the Ervendbergs. The Adelsverein gave Ervendberg land on the Guadalupe where he and Luise eventually set up what is believed to be the first orphanage in Texas.

For numerous reasons, Ervendberg’s career as pastor fell apart, as did his marriage to Luise. They decided to return to Illinois. She left with their three daughters, and he was to follow shortly with their two sons. Waiting for him in Illinois, Luise learned that her husband had intentionally met with one of the orphans and left for Mexico. She returned to Texas and he was gone. She never saw her sons again and she was granted a divorce in 1859.

Although the orphanage story is sad, the Ervendbergs provided a home where memories were made as well as old traditions kept and new ones formed for all who lived there. Many of the orphans and Ervendberg children grew up, married and had happy endings to their stories. Generations later, descendants of the orphans and the Ervendbergs gather at the old orphanage to celebrate the Ervendbergs and their ancestor’s survival in Comal County.

The German Protestant Church also survived and a stone church was built in 1875, with the tower added to the front of the building in 1889. This building still stands today.

In 1894, three new bells were installed in the tower (not the two small bells that you see now on the front lawn). Each bell has a significant name – Germania signifies the German heritage, Columbia signifies the immigrant loyalty to their new country and Concordia expresses the hope for harmony between the old and the new, not only generations, but ideas and traditions. The largest of the bells, Concordia, almost six feet in diameter and four feet high, has a deep mellow voice and forms the bass for the harmony of their blending. Columbia is forty-four inches in diameter and forty inches high. Germania is the smallest, three feet in diameter and thirty inches tall. Hers is the high tenor. These bells represent the struggles that the church and community have endured in its long history.

Henry Longfellow’s poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” tells it all:

(Verse 1)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

(Verse 4)

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.

(Verse 5)

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

At least eight generations have been born in this new land of Texas with new memories made and old traditions harmonized with new. I heard the bells on Christmas Day.

Representation of the first church service at the foot of Sophienburg Hill, printed with permission from First Protestant Church. Patricia S. Arnold, artist.

Representation of the first church service at the foot of Sophienburg Hill, printed with permission from First Protestant Church. Patricia S. Arnold, artist.

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