Martin Luther important to the Protestant Reformation


Happy Easter today while you celebrate the Resurrection and the coming of Spring. It’s a particularly exciting time for members of St. Paul Lutheran Church of New Braunfels. They have chosen to build a new church on their historic property. While traveling down San Antonio Street towards the plaza, I noticed a building program going on at St. Paul Lutheran Church. There was a wonderful old stone building, still part of the campus and they were building around it, still preserving it.

Lutherans In Texas

Lutherans have been in Texas for a long time. On November 8, 1851, the first Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas was organized by the St. Chrischone Missionaries. They were interested in establishing mission churches in the Guadalupe Valley of Texas. At the second convention of the Synod in May, 1852, Pastor Braschler and Pastor Kleiss were present. Pastor Kleiss had been in the Neighborsville-Hortontown area as pastor for a newly formed group of Lutherans for two years and now Pastor Braschler was going to become the minister. Pastor Braschler served as both teacher and pastor of the Lutheran group. On August 13, 1854, a formal congregation organized under the name of the Evangelical Lutheran Saint Martin Congregation. It embraced both Neighborsville and Hortontown. The St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church is known as the oldest Lutheran Church in Texas.

Incidentally, Pastor Braschler’s home is still standing and located at 249 Kowald Lane. It has a Texas Historical Marker and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. The land was sold to Pastor Braschler by Jacob de Cordova. De Cordova, along with church parishioners helped Braschler build the home.

Rev. Milton Frueh compiled the history of St. Martin Church and he writes that the 1850 beginning of St. Martin is associated with founder, Pastor Theobald G. Kleiss from Germany. In 1851, the Neighborsville-Hortontown congregation erected a church building and the services were conducted in German. In 1852, Pastor Braschler became the minister followed by Rev. Albert Kypfer, who served from 1857 to 1880. Kypfer was the last full-time pastor. In 1870 a school was built next to the church. It was the Church Hill School that is still standing on Church Hill Drive across from Conservation Plaza. It is owned and maintained by the New Braunfels Conservation Society. It also has a Texas Historical Marker and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. Near 1900, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas congregations ceased to provide a resident pastor for the church. Many members left and joined other German-speaking congregations like Friedens and First Protestant Church.

For safekeeping, the church records were given to First Protestant Church and in 1968, the St. Martin Church building was moved from Church Hill Drive, a short distance away to sit in a prominent location on Loop 337 within the Hortontown Cemetery. St. Paul Lutheran Church owns and maintains the beautifully restored church. It is currently used for historical tours, weddings, church services and family gatherings.

St. Paul Lutheran

Twenty years passed with no Lutheran church, and in 1920 the Mission Board of the Texas District of the former Iowa Synod had been considering establishing a mission church in New Braunfels. In 1925, Rev. Henry H. Schliesser began conducting services twice a month in a building on Seguin Avenue (Mergele building). The organization of a congregation seemed favorable, so in 1926, the Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul Congregation was organized. A small chapel was built in 1927.

In 1939, under Pastor Heineke, the building of a new church (currently the chapel that is still standing) was started and dedicated in 1940. A new sanctuary was dedicated in 1962, a full-time day school was organized in 1983 and an education complex dedicated.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was behind the whole Lutheran movement. Who was Martin Luther and what influence did he have on the world? Martin Luther was born in 1483 and was a German professor of theology, a composer, a priest and monk, and was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. He disputed the Catholic Church view that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased by paying money. He believed and taught that salvation and eternal life were not earned by deeds but a gift from God through believers in Jesus Christ. Those who identified with his beliefs and teachings were called Lutherans. The Reformation was aimed at the Late Medieval corruption of the Catholic Church that resulted in the Protestant movement. The word Reformation means to reform.

Luther also translated the Bible into German, using a dialect that would reach most of the German people. Each state in Germany, at the time, had developed a different dialect of the language and in many cases, they could not even understand each other. By Luther translating the Bible, the German language became standardized. The language used in the translation became a part of the German heritage and the creation of a German identity. His goal was to make the Bible accessible to everyday Germans that could be used in church, at school and at home. He translated the New Testament from Greek in 1522 and the Old Testament from Hebrew in 1534. Although not the first translations to German, they were the most popular. This translation was one of the most important aspects of the Reformation.

Luther’s hymns influenced singing in Protestant Churches. Of course, his most famous hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” sung to this day in many Protestant Churches. Luther’s Bible stirred a mighty storm in the church giving power to the clerically dominated public.

The printing press

A German, Johannes Gutenberg, invented the printing press around 1440. The invention and spread of the printing press was one of the most influential aspects of the time. It ushered in the modern age. By 1500, the printing press was in operation throughout most of Western Europe. The result was the permanent alteration of society. The circulation of ideas through the printed word, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened current government and religious authorities. No longer were the elite only able to have access to education, the middle class emerged as educated. Other technologies contributed to the success of the printing press. About that time eyeglasses were in common use for those with vision problems. Gutenberg was able to take existing technologies to make his printing press operate successfully. The manufacture of paper had also improved and Gutenberg developed an oil-based ink suitable for high-quality printing.

Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible could not have been done at a better time. The printing press allowed for mass production of the texts that were available for all.

Once again, Happy Easter, St. Paul Lutheran, and congratulations on your new endeavor.

Early photo of the St. Paul Lutheran Chapel.

Early photo of the St. Paul Lutheran Chapel.


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United States enters World War I on April 6th one hundred years ago

(Published in the Herald-Zeitung on April 2, 2017)

As far as Americans were concerned, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary throne on June 28, 1914, was of little concern. Europe, after all, was far away, and the United States had a policy of isolation. Besides, Texas had its own problems. That very year, Texas elected James “Pa” Ferguson as their governor. He was reelected in 1916, but in 1917, he was impeached for not appropriating the entire budget for the University of Texas in 1916. Ferguson’s wife, “Ma” Ferguson, was elected governor in 1925-27, and then again in 1933-1935. Also, that same year, there were those pesky problems that Americans had to deal with – women’s right to vote and prohibition. In 1920, the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote.


Then there was Prohibition. New Braunfels voted 100% against Prohibition. Beer drinking was one of those cultural things that the immigrants originally brought with them to America. New Braunfels voted 100% against Prohibition.

In 1918, the state of Texas as a whole, voted for Prohibition. This set up a barrier between those of German descent and the Americans. It was a general feeling that women’s right to vote had something to do with the passage of Prohibition. A German celebrating, was associated with the drinking of beer. Also, the abundance of wild mustang grapes made wine-making easy. One brewery never stopped making beer, but made a beer called Busto or “near beer.” It had a small legal alcohol content.

Prejudice against Germans

Newspapers in America generally were against Germany and German-Americans and in favor of the Allies (France and Great Britain). Extreme prejudice against German-Americans took place throughout the war. Large German language newspapers in Texas tried their best to stem the tide, but the hatred for Germany was too strong. Children in particular were affected by the prejudice. In German communities like New Braunfels, school had been taught in German and suddenly even speaking German was against the law. Churches went through the same language turmoil.

Those of German descent had to choose between the German culture or the American patriotism. According to Matthew D. Tippens, who wrote Turning Germans Into Texans, any ethnic group that had a hyphen between the two descriptions was called hyphenated Americans. As long as there was a hyphen, there was a difference between the two cultures, like German-American, or German Americans. The hyphenated word showed that the first was the predominant. Only when the hyphen was dropped, could they be called German Americans and of course eventually just Americans. Do you remember the story that I told about asking my mother why she didn’t teach me German and her reply was “Because you are an American?”

The war

Eventually it became obvious that war was inevitable. World War I had initially started in 1914 in Europe. Originally, only a few nations were involved. Great Britain, France and Russia were at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Within a very short time nearly every country in Europe joined one side or the other. It became a world war. The United States didn’t enter the war until April 6, 1917. Congress declared war and the United States joined Great Britain and France in their fight against Germany.

The war became more personal in New Braunfels since the German descendant’s country (the U.S.) declared war against their ancestral home. Culturally, the war took its toll on the German American culture. In two generations, almost no one was speaking German in places like New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. When the U.S. entered the war with Germany, the use of the German language as the primary language was destroyed and wasn’t even retained as a secondary language. Parents taught their children English exclusively. Many years passed before any pride in the German culture was restored. In New Braunfels, years after World War II, eventually the pride of the German culture returned and then the Wurstfest put the German culture on the map again.

Loyalty Parade

New Braunfels showed its loyalty to the Americans by holding a Loyalty Parade on May 21, 1917. This parade included every group – Confederates, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, city leaders and veterans, fraternal organizations, a brass band and a full regiment of Federal soldiers in parade dress added to the festivities. Also in the parade was Gen. George Pershing, former fighter of Pancho Villa. He became the organizer of the Expeditionary Forces. He commanded an Army group that did their maneuvers on the Landa Ranch on the plateau above Landa Park.

Also Col. Jake Wolters was introduced as a prominent Texan of German descent. The children sang “America” and “Star Spangled Banner.” Gus Reininger read a resolution of loyalty that was to be sent to President Woodrow Wilson.

The town gave generously to the Red Cross. Initially, that local organization began helping German soldiers but switched to helping American soldiers during World War I. A huge amount of Liberty Bonds were sold locally.


After five years of war, church bells rang out the end of the war at 7:00 o’clock on the morning of November 11, 1918 and it became known as Armistice Day. A spectacular celebration took place as steam whistles screeched and church and fire bells tolled. A popping cannon entertained thousands gathered at the Plaza. People gave speeches, gave sermons and sang songs. An impromptu parade was organized that lasted until 2:00 in the morning. Then, a group of non-Comal Countyans joined the parade and hung a likeness of the German Kaiser in effigy. One account says that these men drove recklessly around the plaza and hung the effigy and ultimately shot at it. The message was clear: the discrimination against German Americans was not over. As for the crowd, they were happy for the victory but were offended by the denigration toward Germans.

Comal County had done its share to win the war. Over 500 men had been enlisted in the expeditionary forces. Statistics show that 31 men from Comal County had died but some died from the worldwide flu epidemic. The grotto at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church commemorates the victims of the flu. The War That Ended All Wars was repeated in 1941 with America’s entrance into World War II.

World War I commemoration begins on the Main Plaza April 6th

On Thursday, April 6th, the Centennial Commemoration will begin on the Main Plaza with a program at 10:30am at the World War I doughboy statue. The United States flags will be flying everywhere downtown and a fitting tribute year to World War I will begin.

New Braunfels held a rousing ceremony for the World War I inductees on Main Plaza before they boarded the train for San Antonio and their initial training at Camp Travis. G.F. Oheim, publisher for the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung, at left with his notes in hand, was the orator for the occasion. Sophienburg photo collection.

New Braunfels held a rousing ceremony for the World War I inductees on Main Plaza before they boarded the train for San Antonio and their initial training at Camp Travis. G.F. Oheim, publisher for the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung, at left with his notes in hand, was the orator for the occasion. Sophienburg photo collection.

Gen. Pershing’s camp on the Landa Ranch on a plateau located above where Landa Park is located.

Gen. Pershing’s camp on the Landa Ranch on a plateau located above where Landa Park is located.

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This next Tuesday, March 21, is New Braunfels Founder’s Day

(Published in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung on March 19, 2017)

Today, March 19, 2017, marks 172 years since Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels woke up to a snow storm in Texas. He was camping at the Guadalupe River getting ready to look over the land that he had just purchased for the Adelsverein emigration project. The date was Wednesday, March 19, 1845. In two days, the first immigrants would cross the Guadalupe into what would become New Braunfels on Good Friday, March 21, 1845. From that time on, that date would be designated as Founder’s Day for New Braunfels.

Prince Carl wrote eleven reports back to the Adelsverein telling them what he had accomplished for the organization that had chosen him to head the project. These eleven reports written in German have been translated by various historians and scholars. The reports have been published in both German and English. The information from these reports has been used by researchers for many years. But, as often is the case, other documents surface that are more personal in nature and sometimes contradictory to the original documents available.

The diary

Historian, Theodore Gish, came across the personal diary of Prince Carl while researching in Rheinland-Platz, Germany. The diary was one of two documents discovered and was called “Diary of a Trip to America in 1844-45.” W.M. Von Maszewski, the past-president of the German–Texas Heritage Society, agreed to translate the diary. The diary consists of 88 pages and begins with Prince Carl’s departure from Rheingrafenstein, his family castle. The date was May 14, 1844. The last entry was upon his return to Europe on June 20, 1845. The diary contains biographical data not found in the Adelsverein reports and contains humanizing comments about his own nature.

In the diary, the prince reveals much about his own personality and how he sees his role as “fearless military leader, mounting a defense against Indians.” This attack never came about. Prince Carl through Gish’s book, reveals himself as an aristocrat who exercised his skill in the arts. Even with the serious responsibility of the emigration project, he took time out to read the classical German authors such as Goethe and Schiller.

Diaries have a way of opening up what the writer really feels about people and places; in this case, much of it is uncomplimentary. Solms praises von Coll but not the rest of the first council that he appointed, particularly Zink. They were Dr. Theodore Koester, Nicholas Zink, von Coll and Rev. Louis Ervendberg. The prince makes some very serious charges against Zink. Also, the prince revealed his anti-American views and why he was against Texas becoming a state of the United States.

Historic background of the diary

Here is the background of the point in time the diary was written:

Prince Carl arrived in Texas on July 1, 1844, and traveled to collect information about Texas. On March 6, he rode on horseback to San Antonio with Friedrich Wrede and Gustav Hoffmann. In San Antonio, Johann Rahm, a member of Texas Ranger Jack Coffee Hays’ Company, told the prince about the Comal Tract and Las Fontanas. On the 15, Prince Carl purchased this tract from heirs of the Veramendi family. On March 18, the prince went to inspect the tract. He was accompanied by 25 men. The group set up tents at the Guadalupe and that night there was a snow storm. They woke up to the snow on their tents. This was March 19, 1845.

Two days later, the first group of German immigrants crossed the Guadalupe at the Camino Real crossing (Nacogdoches Street). A settlement was established called the Zinkenburg located where the Sts, Peter & Paul Catholic Church now stands. In February, Prince Carl had organized a militia to protect the settlers from Indian attack. These men were capable of bearing arms. The total number of men was 208, 36 with rifles, 39 with shotguns and 33 unarmed. On March 21, 1845, the immigrants crossed the Guadalupe.

Excerpts from the diary

February 26, 1845: Arrived at Carlshaven after being lost. Ate oysters and fish.

February 27, 1845: Bad roads to Victoria. Supper with Zink and Wedemeyer. Played the piano.

February 28, 1845: Rode to camp. Joyful welcome with cannon fire. Played the piano. Rain and storm.

March 2, 1845 Birthday of my mother. Departed on the way at 10:00 o’clock. Nice beautiful hilly trail. Met Romer, von Coll, Lűntzel, Hoffmann and Assel on the trail. Supper and grog.

March 3, 1845: Storm and rain. Zink arrives. Lengthy discussion.

March 4, 1845: Colonial Council meeting. Champagne in the evening.

March 6, 1845: A discussion with Dr. Kὂster. He was suspended. Cloudt is becoming uncouth. Baur is less than nothing, very malicious. Too late to ride.

March 7, 1845: Inspection of company. I praised Heidtmeyer because of training them. They need additional training on foot and field.

March 8, 1845: Departed for Gonzales. Supper at Kings. Slept on porch, saddle for pillow. American tobacco, chewing and spitting.

March 9, 1845: Cold norther at the San Jeronimo. 4.5 miles to Don Antonio Navarro’s. Interesting man. He describes the march to Santa Fe. Mr. Veramendi introduces me. Lodging with many fleas and a hard bed of feathers on wood.

March 10, 1845: Waited for Veramendi. He did not come. High ground view of San Antonio. Lodged at Rahm’s favorite old hotel.

March 11, 1845: Looked at the Alamo. Visited Veramendi and Garza.

March 12, 1845: Had discussion with Veramendi and de Vine. Companions were Wrede, Anton, two orderlies from Lindheimer’s company and from the militia of Hoffmann and Lűntzel. Mexicans no longer made brash demands.

March 13, 1845: Completed business with Mexicans. Rode to San Pedro Springs and the Powder House.

March 14, 1845: Completion of the document with Maria Veramendi-Garza, beautiful woman. Rode with Lűntzel and Lindheimer to Mission La Conception.

March 15, 1845: Signed the document.

March 16, 1845: Breakfast along Cibolo. Wrede and Hoffmann arrived in the evening.

March 17, 1845: Zink and Coll arrived with 13 men. Camped at a spring not far from the Guadalupe. Bitterly cold.

March 18, 1845: Arrived on the Comal tract. Put up tents, ate late then went to bed.

March 19, 1845: We awoke to a snowstorm. I rode out to outline the horse exercise area. Afterward I went with Rahm, Wrede, Lűntzel, Zink into the woods, with hunting knives and axes we cut a trail to the spring. 4 miles. Stopped where we came to a meadow. Bitterly cold. Snow on the tents in the morning.

March 20, 1845: With Coll, Lindheimer and five men I went on a long ride through the country. On horseback, we climbed up to an outcropping through cedars to the top of a plateau.

March 21, 1845: Beginning of spring and Good Friday. Crossing of the first 15 wagons, but what toil and what difficulty it was. Finally, they are here. Change of the camp to higher ground.

Diary continues

Prince Carl’s diary continues through the time he left New Braunfels on May 14 and then left Texas in June for Germany. The book containing this information and much more can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg. It is called Voyage to North America 1844-45.

Sophienburg Executive Director Tara Kohlenberg displays Prince Carl’s portable chair, writing desk, family seal and ink-blot sand container from the museum collections.

Sophienburg Executive Director Tara Kohlenberg displays Prince Carl’s portable chair, writing desk, family seal and ink-blot sand container from the museum collections.

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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, 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 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 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

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 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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