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.

Posted in Around the Sophienburg, Sophienblog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Peace on earth, good will to men

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.

Posted in Around the Sophienburg, Sophienblog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jacobs Creek teacherage still standing

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.

Posted in Around the Sophienburg, Sophienblog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dollhouses on display at the Sophienburg

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

Posted in Around the Sophienburg, Sophienblog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on We owe a lot of what we know to Oscar Haas

Volunteers important in New Braunfels heritage

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

What’s going on at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives? By far the most important news is the Sophienburg Board choosing Tara Kohlenburg as its Executive Director. Tara grew up here in New Braunfels. When asked why she accepted the position of Sophienburg Executive Director, here is what she wrote to me:

Home by Tara Kohlenburg

Home. The place where one resides or is naturally located. I consider home to be that special place where the sounds and sights and smells come together, stirring images of good times and safe places. The Sophienburg feels like home.

The streets of this neighborhood, Academy, Coll, Magazine and Jahn, bring back fond memories. When I was little, we lived on Academy and then on Magazine just down the street from the Museum. My Oma lived in a gingerbread house on Jahn just above the ice plant. In the summer my sister and I stayed with her while my mother worked. We would use the wash house as our very own “play house,” that is until I got into the bluing, the kind used to brighten your wash. Needless to say, I wore the discovery of the beautiful blue liquid on my hands for a week, try as I did to try to wash it off. Oma wasn’t one to spank, but the German under her breath let me know just how much trouble I was in.

Each week of the summer, my sister and I were allowed to walk the two blocks to the Emmie Seele Faust Library to trade in our books for new adventures. We, and probably many other kids, would walk the rock retaining wall of the Museum to the rock stairs, cross over, and continue past the grape vine to the library. Even now, when the bell above the front door announces an arrival to the refurbished library building, I can still visualize the shelves of books and me making a bee line to the children’s section for my next pick.

Falling pecans; the smell of burning leaves; thick slices of homemade bread smeared with mustang grape jam; buttermilk cookies; and the twelve o’clock whistle signaling my Opa (a fireman) would be home for lunch in 5 minutes. These are just some of the memories of my childhood, the kind that come out of nowhere when you open a box of photos. Home.

I love being back at The Sophienburg Museum & Archives where we are the “Guardians of History, Keepers of the Treasures, and Stewards of the Stories.” The stories of how and why New Braunfels is so darn inviting to people… It’s in our history. Our people. Our Families. Our culture. Our rituals. Home.

Come be “At Home” in the museum with us. Volunteer your time and talents. It certainly doesn’t feel like work. Dorothy had it right. “There’s no place like HOME.”

Thanks Tara for sharing these vivid memories. It’s obvious that Tara is a strong advocate of volunteerism. She picked the right job because volunteers are absolutely necessary for a not-for-profit organization like the Sophienburg.

So, what else is going on at the hill? A big group of volunteers are busy organizing the Sophienburg’s number one fund raising event, Weihnachtsmarkt that will happen towards the middle of November (Nov. 18th through 20th). There are several hundred volunteers involved in planning and running this big Christmas Market at the Convention Center.

Another big important money-maker is the Sophie’s Shop booth at Wurstfest. Run by Nancy Classen, the booth is entirely manned (womanned) by volunteers. When you buy the beautiful German Christmas ornaments or the wooden figurines, you will be helping your museum preserve the history of the town and county.

Wurstfest begins two weeks before Weihnachtsmarkt (Nov. 4th) and lasts for 10 days. Alton Rahe, in his book Wurstfest. The First Fifty Years, wrote the interesting story of who, what, where, when, why and how Wurstfest started and has continued for over 50 years. Darvin Dietert compiled all of the marvelous photos. Talk about a volunteer driven event that achieved world-wide acclaim.

Local veterinarian E. A. Grist is given credit for having the idea of a celebration about sausage and the sausage makers. Dr. Grist had also been the local meat inspector since 1955. Members of the original steering committee including Grist, Kermit Krause, Charlie Schwamkrug, Harley Schulz, Alphonse Oberkampf, Joe Chapman and Tom Purdum, felt that the local sausage makers should be honored for what they do. Boy, did they hit that nail on the head. Herb Skoog with his expertise on advertising became their spokesperson deluxe.

That was in 1961. There were 19 sausage makers. In Alton’s book the list was compiled and 16 commercial sausage-makers identified. They were Erhardt Artzt of Artzt Meat Market, William “Butcher” Brodt of Brodt’s Slaughter House, Fritz Soechting of Fritz’s Meat Market, Goswin Kraft of Kraft Slaughter House, Kermit Krause of Krause’s Café, Reno Kriewald of Kriewald Meat, Gilbert Neuse and Norman Hanz of Neuse’s Grocery, Joe Chapman of New Braunfels Smokehouse, Norbert Haecker of Norbert’s Market & Grocery, Frank Rahe of Rahe Packing Co., Charlie Schwamkrug of Schwamkrug’s Garden, Arthur Soechting of Soechting Country Market, Alois Hildebrandt of Textile Café, Ben Warnecke of Warnecke Catering, and George Preiss of Weyel’s IGA Foodliner. This is a list of known commercial sausage makers but by no means does it represent all those individuals who made sausage in Comal County at home.

Dr. Grist presented the idea of a sausage celebration to the New Braunfels City Commission and it was immediately approved. The City of New Braunfels, the New Braunfels Board of City Development and the Chamber of Commerce agreed to sponsor it. A unique band was organized to visit surrounding towns to get the word out. With advertisement on television, clubs, newspapers and advertising guru Herb Skoog, the word about a sausage week got around. When Tom Purdum wrote a Chamber release that hit the associated press wire service it was used throughout the country and even in some foreign countries.

The first Sausage Week was from December 11th through the 16th of December. The first five days were to be full of activities in Landa Park. The big sausage festival day on the 16th, although planned for Landa Park, had to be moved to the National Guard Armory due to bad weather. No beer could be sold at the government owned Armory, so beer was given away.

Music became a part of the celebration from the beginning and still is. The Amtliche Stadt Wurst Kapelle (Official City Sausage Band made up of Jo Faust, Alphonse Oberkampf, Gilbert Zipp, Johnny Schnabel, Hilar Voges and Harry Schmidt, played and the local German singing clubs of Harmonie, Echo, Frohsinn and Maennerchor performed under the direction of Otto Seidel. Five orchestras also performed: Al Schnabel Orchestra, Rainbow Orchestra, Cloverleaf Orchestra, Cookie and his Hi-Fi’s and Rusty Ruppel’s Rebels.

This first sausage celebration drew an estimated crowd of 2,000 (although it was big at the time, it’s a pittance of today’s crowd.)

We’ve come a long way in this article from the Sophienburg Museum and Archives to Weihnachtsmarkt at the Convention Center, and then looked at the first year of Wurstfest that was to include polka-ing at Landa Park but resulted in marching to the National Guard Armory to honor sausage. All these places and activities have something in common. Yes, “Spass Muss Sein” (fun must be) in New Braunfels. We love our town and that’s why we volunteer and tell the world about it.

1961 Sophienburg collection photo of Dr. Ed Grist posing in the Schwamkrug’s Garden sausage display.

1961 Sophienburg collection photo of Dr. Ed Grist posing in the Schwamkrug’s Garden sausage display.

Posted in Around the Sophienburg, Sophienblog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Volunteers important in New Braunfels heritage

Lindheimer, Father of Texas Botany

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

How many times have you said or thought, “I wish I could remember what my grandmother told me about that.” If you have letters or a diary from your family, you are one of the fortunate ones. Our history of New Braunfels is almost totally based on the writings of Prince Carl, Hermann Seele, Ferdinand Roemer, Ferdinand Lindheimer and all those who told us our history because they were here. From them we learned what the town looked like, what people were doing, what they ate, how they felt, and what they thought. Even from the Spanish period in Texas we are told about routes along the Camino Real through the Comal Springs and about the missions established along the routes and how the explorers lived.

We live in what is called the communication age but you have to wonder how much of our “communication” today will be left for future generations to discover where we were and who we were. Remember that when you hit “delete” on your computer or cell text. Wonder if there is some kind of “cyber diary” out there that will be tapped in the future or will it all just be transported into outer space?

In 2013, I wrote an article about the life of Ferdinand Lindheimer, however, recently I read again A Life Among the Texas Flora by Minetta Altgelt Goyne, and decided to write more about this exceptional man. The book is a compilation of letters from Lindheimer to botanist George Engelmann.

Dr. Goyne, a descendant from some old New Braunfels families (Altgelt and Coreth), was teaching at the University of Texas at Arlington and could translate the old German script. She also knew a lot about New Braunfels history, Lindheimer and the history of Germany, all contributing to her insightful analysis published alongside the letters. The original letters are housed at the Missouri Botanical Garden at St. Louis. In 1979, the president of the New Braunfels Conservation Society approached Dr. Goyne to translate the letters. Copies of the letters had been acquired from Carlos Lindheimer, great-grandnephew of Lindheimer and native of Argentina.

Lindheimer came to New Braunfels in 1845 with Prince Carl at the age of 43. He did not travel to Texas on the ships with the first contingency of immigrants. He was already here in Texas. He was born and raised near Frankfurt, came to the United States in 1834, entering at New York. He traveled to Belleville, Illinois to the Hilgard Farm where he joined friends that had already emigrated from Germany. One of the friends was George Engelmann. Engelmann had studied medicine in Germany and had a practice in St. Louis but continued his plant studies. Engelmann and Lindheimer had studied botany together in Germany.

In the fall of 1834, Lindheimer set out from Illinois to travel south. His destination was Texas but it was considered dangerous to travel south directly into Texas from the northern route. He decided to travel to Mexico and then enter Texas from the south. He took a steamboat from Illinois down the Mississippi and arrived in New Orleans. then took a schooner to Veracruz, Mexico. He traveled to a German colony not far from Veracruz that he considered one of the most beautiful areas on earth. The German colony grew and exported sugarcane, coffee and tobacco. Lindheimer stayed there for a period of time working and observing the plantation. At that point, he thought he wanted to be a farmer.

We know that he left Mexico and enlisted in the Army of Texas, arriving with his company at San Jacinto one day too late. He received an honorable discharge at Houston on December 5, 1837. Apparently his commanding officers allowed him to collect botanical specimens while his fellow soldiers were performing drills. In 1939, he purchased a ten-acre farm near Houston not far from White Oak Bayou.

The letters to Engelmann beginning in 1841, indicate that he was accumulating equipment for his first botanizing in Texas. In 1835, while in Mexico, Lindheimer wrote to Engelmann about his interest in plants. Now in Texas, he was going to be paid to collect plant specimens and ship them to Engelmann in St. Louis.

Engelmann later organized the St. Louis Academy of Science in 1856 and what is now called the Missouri Botanical Garden. The archives house Engelmann’s plant collections and papers which include the Lindheimer letters. Many of the plant specimens collected by Lindheimer were also be sent to the famous botanist Asa Gray and actually all over the world. The Texas plants had never been collected and catalogued so completely before this time.

In the early 1840s, Lindheimer collected plants in the Houston and Galveston area, making little use of his home and living in a tent. His equipment consisted of paper, plant pressing equipment, magnifying glasses and botany textbooks. Specimens were shipped to St. Louis in wooden crates. Engelmann and Gray paid Lindheimer eight dollars per 100 specimens.

In 1842, Lindheimer wrote to Engelmann from Houston concerning the “Texas Star” flower (Lindheimeria texensis), “Did you write my name among the stars with this little Asteroid? Did I serve botany in that way? Not by knowledge of it but rather by love of this sleeping, dreaming daughter of Flora.” He continues, “So, if I die childless, then I shall nevertheless leave a little immortal daughter, the Lindheimer texensis!”

In 1843 and 1844, we find Lindheimer collecting specimens in (Wild)Cat Springs, San Felipe, Brazoria, Liverpool, the Brazos basin, Industry and the Chocolate Bayou. Wildcat or Cat Springs was established in 1834 by Robert Justus and Rosalie Roeder Kleberg. The 1831 settlement of Industry where Lindheimer visited is considered the cradle of German settlements in Texas. There was a small influx of German emigrants during most of the Republic of Texas period until the last year, when the major immigration to Texas occurred with Prince Carl.

In January 1845, Lindheimer wrote to Engelmann from the Adelsverein’s camp at Aqua Dulce. Many of the German Texans that had settled in Texas prior to the arrival of Prince Carl, joined with the prince at the coast. Then on April 18, 1845, we find that Lindheimer is writing his letter from the new German settlement on the Comal Springs. Lindheimer writes of New Braunfels, “Flower upon flower, richer than the richest Persian carpet. Fragrances that sometimes remind one of violets, often of vanilla, flow around the wanderer.”

In New Braunfels, Lindheimer reserved a piece of land for his botanical garden of Texas plants, arboretum and agricultural experiments. Under the employ of the Adelsverein, he received this farm and a house. By Christmas, he was living in a cold, poor, open hut and spending so much time on survival that he is having difficulty collecting plants. This situation was remedied when he met Eleanor Reinarz. Lindheimer described her as upright, understanding, diligent, solid, refreshing, generous and chaste. She shared in his interests and helped with his plant collecting. He wrote that in a couple of weeks, his weatherproof house will be ready alleviating the problem of moldy specimens.

From this home-base, Lindheimer traveled to the surrounding areas of San Antonio, Seguin, Austin, San Saba and the Pedernales to collect plant specimens.

Gray and Engelmann issued Plantae Lindheimerianae, Part I in 1845 and Part II in 1850, with many publications to follow. In the early 1850s, Lindheimer’s interests became more local and he spent more time raising his family with wife, Eleanor. New Braunfels was in need of a newspaper and on November 12, 1852, the first issue of the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung was published with Lindheimer as editor. He continued botanizing to the end of his days. He died in 1879, and is buried in the Comal Cemetery. The first log home he built on Comal Avenue is no longer standing but his winterized home stands and is maintained amidst gardens by the New Braunfels Conservation Society.

Without a doubt, the letters establish why Lindheimer is considered the Father of Texas Botany.

Linda Sioux Henley, member of the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, poses next to a clay sculpture she is designing of Lindheimer discovering the Texas Star.

Linda Sioux Henley, member of the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, is designing a clay sculpture Lindheimer discovering the Texas Star.

Posted in Around the Sophienburg, Sophienblog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lindheimer, Father of Texas Botany