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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Jacobs Creek teacherage still standing

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

There was a time when teachers in the rural areas were furnished a house called a teacherage. These dwellings were either attached to the school or nearby. One such teacherage can be seen while driving along the Guadalupe River Road. The school and teacherage were located at the confluence of the Guadalupe River and Jacobs Creek between the third and fourth crossing.

A teacherage was offered to attract a teacher for the rural school. It provided a place to live, raise a family, raise animal stock, and a garden. The Jacobs Creek teacherage, one of the first built in Comal County, was built using a combination of log cabin style combined with fachwerk using handmade brick and cut limestone infill. These were prevalent building materials in early New Braunfels and especially the rural areas. Mountain cedar beams were used as well as wooden shingles for the roof. There are two rooms, the parlor with loft and the back room that was used for sleeping and storage. Can you imagine living with your whole family in a home this size?

The Friedrich family was responsible for beginning the Jacobs Creek School. Oskar Friedrich was one of those Germans who came to the United States in the 1800s. He landed in New York and there married Augusta Rudolph. They came to Texas and bought land to ranch near Sattler. The ranch was eventually 1,695 acres and it was called “Friedrichstahl” which means Friederichs Valley. In 1867, the Friedrichs donated land for the Jacobs Creek School and teacherage next to Jacobs Creek. Friedrich allowed his fellow rancher neighbors along River Road, access to cross the property to attend school. This gesture led the way for other ranchers to do the same and allow access all the way to Hueco Springs near the first crossing and also passage to Sattler from New Braunfels. Friedrich is often credited with the beginning of the Guadalupe River Road.

One of Oskar’s and Auguste’s daughters, Agnes, married Carl Pantermuehl and they built the teacherage that is still standing. Carl became a teacher at the school. He was born in 1838 in Germany to Joachim and Katherine Markwardt Pantermuehl. His mother died in Germany and the rest of the family came to Texas and settled on Rebecca Creek. They were a founding family of the Rebecca Creek area. Sons, Joachim Jr., Friedrich, Wilhelm, Carl and Christian Pantrmuehl all bought property near Sattler and were prominent Sattler citizens. Carl and Agnes had three children, Alfred, Julius and Louisa, all born and raised in the teacherage.

Pantermuehl descendant, Valeska Pantermuehl, recalled in a Reflections program at the Sophienburg, that it took all day to go to New Braunfels and back on River Road. She grew up in the teacherage and she recalled opening and closing 12 to 14 ranch gates along the trip.

Laurie E. Jasinski in her book, Hill Country Backroads, Showing the Way in Comal County, wrote that, “Sometimes getting an eyeful of reward took work like traversing many farms and ranches and encountering cattle guards and gates along the way.” Of course, it was courteous to close the gate behind you, which meant lots of getting in and out of the car. If you were lucky, there were bumper gates that were large swinging gates rotating on a pendulum that you tapped with the front bumper to swing open. The River Road was at times a narrow, rocky trail and the river had to be crossed several times. Extra tires, tree removal equipment and lots of time was required so that you could experience the beautiful river and scenic vistas.

Joe Sanders was Laurie Jasinski’s grandfather. Joe and others belonging to the American Legion, were responsible back in the 1930s, for putting up road signs in Comal County and also compiling the American Legion Scenic Road Map of Comal County, Texas. This Centennial (of the Republic of Texas) map was printed in 1936 and has some amazing little details concerning River Road. One bit of information noted is the portion of the road labeled “Shoreline proposed flood-control lake” and noted with “dots.”

The idea of a reservoir along the Guadalupe River was even talked about back in the 1930s. The flooding of the most of the time beautiful and calm Guadalupe River had always been a problem downstream. Incidentally, you can get a frame-able copy of the 1936 centennial map at Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg.

A problem with having a reservoir along the Guadalupe River Road was discovered when it was found that all of the sheer riverside walls and cliffs contained caverns. The extensive cavern systems would not allow the area to hold water. The alternative was to build the Canyon Dam and Reservoir where it is now. On the north side of the dam, there are cavernous bluffs that had to be plugged prior to the filling of the lake.

The area at the confluence of Jacobs Creek and the Guadalupe River would have been under water if it had not been for the caverns discovered. But, the plans for the lake were changed and the Jacobs Creek School ruins (mostly rubble) and the intact Jacobs Creek School teacherage survived.

According to Oscar Haas, the statutes of the German Emigration Company called for the immediate establishment of churches and schools upon the founding of New Braunfels. Schools and education were important to the immigrants and as early as August of 1845, Hermann Seele began teaching under the elm trees at the foot of Sophienburg Hill. In 1853, New Braunfels established a city school and in 1854, the Comal County Commissioners Court divided Comal County into eight districts with the corporate limits of New Braunfels being district one. In 1857, the Comal County Commissioners Court apportioned state funds to the several schools functioning. It was not until 1908 that funds from taxation would be used for equipment in school buildings. By this time, the rural schools in Comal County were already established as settlements spread out from New Braunfels.

Rural schools organized boards of trustees and the first trustees for the Jacobs Creek School included Gottfried Rohde, Carl Baetge, W. Schlather, Adolph Otto, Oskar Friedrich, J. Pantermuehl, Alton Kanz, John Marschall, F. Pantermuehl and F. Krause. The school was incorporated in October of 1867. Carl Pantermuehl was the third teacher and the builder of the Jacobs Creek teacherage in 1870.

The Jacobs Creek School later was incorporated into the Mountain Valley School District and ceased to be a school but the teacherage became a home for several generations of Pantermuehls and others to follow.

In 1978, Robert and Bess Story fell in love with and purchased the small cabin and restored it. They also added their own living quarters while preserving the charm of the structure. It is likely that the 150-year-old teacherage would not be standing today if it had not been restored by them. Members of the Comal County Historical Commission along with Pantermuehl family descendants, helped Bess research the property and write the story of the home and its contribution to the history of Comal County. The cabin is located at 12794 River Road and can be seen while passing by on a scenic journey.

The Jacobs Creek teacherage.

The Jacobs Creek teacherage.

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Dollhouses on display at the Sophienburg

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Sophienburg Museum celebrates the Christmas season by presenting an exhibit of dollhouses, old toys and dolls, all reminiscent of our Christmas Past. Dollhouses appeared on the scene all over the world hundreds of years ago. In their beginning, they were not toys; they were much too expensive to allow children to play with. Dollhouses were actually works of art, just like paintings, sculptures and any other art form.

They were at one time, present in royal palaces and homes of rich aristocrats. Precisely constructed details obviously called for high prices that only the rich could afford. Very old examples of dollhouses can be now found in museums and antique stores. Now when you think about it, it’s probably because the dollhouses weren’t toys, that they survived.

Few toys survive the agony of childhood. My Shirley Temple doll never looked the same after I cut off all her curls. Of course, she never made the display cases.

Nuremberg, Germany and Paris, France, were best known for dollhouse production. Often, they were gifts of the groom to his bride. Now get this, these gifts were to replicate the home from which she came. It was supposed to keep her from being homesick. Don’t laugh. That may work, because children and adults alike, when playing with a dollhouse, imagine that they are there. Children put little people in the house and they become the characters that they create.

According to collectors, the most famous of all dollhouses is now in Windsor Palace. It is the Queen Mary’s House given to the queen by her subjects for helping them during a war. Carpets, furniture and wall paper are exact copies of items used during the reign of Queen Mary. Some unusual items in the house are a collection of 300 miniature books by famous authors and a gramophone that plays, “God Save the Queen.” The cellar is stocked with are real bottles of wine and the kitchen and bath have hot and cold running water. Famous houses like these are often on display in museums.

I have to admit that the Sophienburg is not exactly Windsor Palace, but let’s get to what we have to show in the Museum. After entering the foyer, there is the Bill and Nan Dillen house given by this very generous couple in New Braunfels, years ago. They are both deceased, but their generous gifts to New Braunfels live on. This very large house was used as a display for their antique doll furniture. Each room in the three-story house represents a different style of furnishings. The first floor shows furnishings of the 1870s, using furniture of wood with original blue silk upholstery. The klismos-style chairs are based on an antique Greek model popular with early German furniture makers. Also, present in the library is furniture made of cast iron used for both miniature and real furniture in Germany.

The second floor, features more functional furniture from about 1919, emphasizing usefulness and craftsmanship. The third-floor attic has recycled furniture, from around

1935. People would often make dollhouse furniture from discarded items found around the house. Cigar boxes, tin cans and clothespins were repurposed into useful “arts and crafty” items. This house is a magnificent beginning for the rest of the display.

Go into the Museum and there are two after the turn-of-century houses, the Stobaugh-Reeves house and the Roby-Hall House. The Stobaugh-Reeves House was constructed in the 1920s by the grandfather of Janet Reeves for her mother, Betty Zauel Stobaugh. Much of the furnishings were purchased in Germany. The old-fashioned stove is really a work of art. My grandmother had a stove that looked very much like this iron creation. On the dining room table, there are tiny pewter dishes. In the bedroom is the tiniest chamber pot that I have ever seen. We all know the function of the chamber pot. And aren’t we glad that they are a thing of the past.

Historical events did not allow for the production of dollhouses between World War I and World War II. After World War II, doll houses were increasingly mass produced, thereby making them less expensive and more available to the public. They became the toy of choice for little girls. I am very proud to share my 1934 dollhouse with the exhibit. It was built for me by my grandfather, A.C. Moeller. He was a builder of many buildings in downtown New Braunfels as well as houses all over town. I can recognize houses built by him because he built using the craftsmen style. My house is that style so I am well-acquainted with it.

My two-story doll house represents the 1930s era in many ways. Complete with hardwood floors and electric lights, the six-room dollhouse now contains more recently made furniture, as all of the original furnishing were made of wood and deteriorated. I couldn’t move the doll house outside because it was too big, but I could move the furniture. I would set up villages under the shrubs and now I store the furnishings only in my brain. The indoor bathroom is one of the most interesting with its claw-footed bathtub. The original tub was “built in” and so this claw-footed model goes back in time to the 1900s.

Most of the other houses in the museum are incorporated into the individual displays. We skip to the 1960s, when handmade went to factory-made. In the 1980s and 90s, tin and plastic became the material of choice and dollhouses now come in kits. Disney characters have moved into the houses.

Throughout the museum there are other collections. The indoor cabin in the museum is all decked out with old dolls, toys and a fine collection of antique children’s rocking chairs.

Once again, the Sophienburg will celebrate St. Nicolas Eve on Monday, December 5th. This will be your opportunity to visit the Museum at the same time and for the same price. The price is $5.00 a family. Due to space, there will be two shows only, one at 6:00 and one at 7:30 p.m. You need to call the museum at 830-629-1572 to make a reservation for your family visit. St. Nicholas will make a visit, teach some German, sing songs and then have treats afterwards. Only 35 children will be allowed for each of the two programs, so make your reservation soon. Hope to see you there.

Addison and Caitlynn Humphries, daughters of Chris and Allison Dietert Humphries, get an up-close view of some of the display dolls at the Sophienburg Museum exhibit.

Addison and Caitlynn Humphries, daughters of Chris and Allison Dietert Humphries, get an up-close view of some of the display dolls at the Sophienburg Museum exhibit.

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We owe a lot of what we know to Oscar Haas

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Almost 70 years ago (1947), local historian Oscar Haas was asked by the Texas State Historical Association to compile the origin and history of all name-places in Comal County. Haas’ histories and thousands of others are what make up the Handbook of Texas that can be accessed online. One of these places was the small settlement of Neighborsville across the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels. This settlement was founded by Jacob deCordova, who called himself “The Wanderer.” You will know why when you read his story his story.

Jacob Raphael de Cordova was born in Spanish Town on the island of Jamaica in 1808 to Raphael and Judith deCordova. His father was a coffee grower and exporter. During the Spanish Inquisition, many Jewish people were forced out of Spain if they did not convert to Catholicism. The Jewish deCordova family moved to Jamaica. Jacob’s mother died when he was born and he was reared in England by an aunt. In the 1820s, Jacob and his father moved to Philadelphia. Jacob was well educated and learned English, French, Spanish, German, Hebrew and several Indian dialects. He, no doubt, had a “gift of gab.” In Philadelphia, Jacob married Rebecca Sterling and they eventually had five children.

At age 25, he moved back to Jamaica and founded a newspaper, the Kingston Daily Gleaner. He and his wife left there after three years and traveled to New Orleans where he became a merchant, shipping goods to Texas during and following the Texas Revolution. His next “wandering” took him to Galveston, and then to Houston. Here he was elected a representative for Harris County to the Legislature of the State of Texas. After losing the election for his second term, he moved to Austin and then began traveling all over Texas acquiring land to sell. He had a land agency with his brother that surveyed and performed land transactions. It was one of the largest to operate in the Southwest. DeCordova was hired to lay out the town of Waco in 1848-1849. He was also an expert map maker and compiled a map of Texas in 1849 with cartographer Robert Creuzbaur. He was an avid writer of immigrant guides and travel books, and also published newspapers, the Texas Herald out of Houston and the Southwestern American out of Austin. He became well-known by giving lectures all over the United States and even Europe, to attract settlers.

In the 1850s the family moved five miles outside of Seguin where he built a large house for his wife and children. He named it “Wanderer’s Retreat.” A retreat became necessary during the Civil War when he experienced financial issues. The land business slowed and he had overextended himself. He died in 1868 and was buried in Kimball on his land near the Brazos River.

There are many places in Texas named for or by deCordova. There is the De Cordova Bend on the Brazos (south of Fort Worth), the De Cordova Bend Dam (Lake Granbury), Cordova Road (Guadalupe County), Jacobs Creek (Comal County), Cordova Creek (Comal County), Jacobs Well (Hays County) and then there is Rebecca Creek (Comal County) named after deCordova’s wife, Rebecca, Wanderer’s Creek (north Texas running into the Red River), and Phineas Creek, named for his brother (Brazos tributary). He was known as the “Texas Champion Creek-Namer.”


By 1846, when the legislature formed Comal County, immigrants arriving looked for land. Besides New Braunfels and Comaltown, many settlements emerged in the county outside of New Braunfels. Because of the good farm land on the east side of the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels, settlements developed such as Hortontown (Horton’s League). On the same side of the Guadalupe River as Hortontown but to the south, Neighborsville was established.

In the early years, if you were traveling up from the coast to New Braunfels, you would travel on the east side of the Guadalupe River, crossing into New Braunfels at the Nacogdoches Road crossing or you would use the ferry a little farther up river at the confluence of the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers. Seguin Street (avenue now) was the main street in New Braunfels but you had to cross the Guadalupe first to get there.

Now let’s look at DeCordova’s connection to Neighborsville. In 1851, the land that became Neighborsville was surveyed and a map made by J. Groos for Jacob deCordova. The location was across the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels and deCordova was considered the founder. The land was actually laid out into acreage plots. There were five streets originally laid out that included Benner, Broadway (still there), Rusk (still there), Shaw (changed to Churchill) and Jacobs (changed to Wright). There was also a Seguin Street that changed to Horton Avenue but I drove over to the area and could not find it. The Nacogdoches Road or Camino Real ran right through the middle of the area and the Guadalupe River with the river crossing was one of the boundaries. DeCordova thought the settlement would be ideal right on the Guadalupe River near the Camino Real crossing. If you drive on Churchill Drive, you will see the El Camino Real de las Tejas National Historic Trail signs showing the road as an original route where the first immigrants crossed the river. (You can see the signs also on Nacogdoches Road.)

In order to imagine the area as deCordova saw it, you have to remove the old Mission Valley Mill Plant, the railroad, Loop 337, and the US 81 and IH 35 north to south highways.

The land was situated in the northwest end of the Esnaurizer Eleven Leagues grant and was bound on the north by the Horton League. Hortontown was the next-door-neighbor. In 1830, General Antonio Esnaurizer petitioned the Governor of Coahuila and Texas for a grant of land. He wanted to establish farming and ranching between the San Marcos River and the Guadalupe River. Someone had to take possession of the land to survey and administer the grant. First, Juan Martin de Veramendi was appointed, then James Bowie and finally Jacob deCordova. The Esnaurizer grant begins in Seguin, follows the San Marcos-Austin Road almost to San Marcos, then follows the Austin-New Braunfels Road to the Guadalupe River. It then goes to a mile below McQueeney and then back up around the Clements and Branch leagues to Seguin. DeCordova received land as payment for his services.

Guadalupe County once extended north-east of the Guadalupe River right up to the Nacogdoches Road crossing but in 1853, thirty-one settlers from Neighborsville and Hortontown petitioned the legislature to be a part of Comal County. If you are looking for records between 1845 and 1853 for this area, you might try the Guadalupe County Courthouse.

“For $1 and in consideration for advancement of Religion and Education,” Jacob deCordova conveyed two acres of land for the St. Martin’s Evengelical Lutheran Church and Churchill School. This beautiful quaint little church can be seen as you drive down Loop 337 and at one time was located next to the Churchill School that is part of the New Braunfels Conservation Society campus. The church was moved to its current location in the Hortontown Cemetery in 1968.

In 1935, after seventy years, the bodies of Jacob and Rebecca deCordova were moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, an honor afforded only to those who made an outstanding contribution to the state. Jacob deCordova was one of those citizens.

Jacob deCordova

Jacob deCordova

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