By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Hermann Seele in his book Die Cypress summarizes the German immigration story to New Braunfels and the surrounding areas and how it relates to the history of the state of Texas. The detailed account by Seele was translated into English by the late historian Oscar Haas and published over several weeks in the New Braunfels Herald in the mid-1960s. I will add another step to this chronicle by summarizing Seele’s account of the area using other sources as well.
The first immigrants arrived in Texas thousands of years ago probably from Asia across the Bering Strait and then eventually to Texas and beyond, all the way to Mexico. By the early 1800s, these nomadic Indian tribes had mostly settled in specific areas of Texas. The primary ones around the local area were Lipan Apaches, Tonkawas and Karankawas.
During this period, Texas and Mexico were ruled by Spain (1690-1821). Spanish Conquistadores claimed the land for Spain as a result of their exploration. (Cabeza de Vaca, Coronado, Moscoso). France also made an attempt to claim Texas. Mexico overthrew the Spanish government in 1821 and ruled the area of Texas and Mexico until 1836 when Texas overthrew the Mexican government and became a Republic. Texas eventually became a state of the United States in 1845.
Before the mass German immigration projects of the mid-1800s, a scattered few Germans and other Europeans had emigrated on their own into Texas. One of those immigrants was a Dutchman named Philip Hendrik Nering Bӧgel, alias Baron de Bastrop. Coming to Texas, the charismatic Bastrop gained much influence with Spanish officials and was able to secure large land grants and in 1807, secured a grant for four leagues of land situated on the Guadalupe containing the Comal Springs. This grant became part of the Veramendi tract under Mexican rule and became New Braunfels. The grant eventually involved the legal litigation between Bastrop’s heirs and the citizens of New Braunfels. See sophienburg.com, Feb 5, 2008.
When the Spanish government was overthrown by Mexico, immigration laws became more liberal than under Spanish rule. Each Mexican state could pass their own colonization laws as did the combined states of Coahuila and Texas.
One of these colonization grants was the Esnaurizar Eleven League Grant named for Mexican General Antonio Esnaurizar. The Esnaurizar grant began at the northwest edge of Seguin, followed along the San Marcos-Austin road almost to San Marcos, then followed the New Braunfels-Austin road to the Guadalupe River where the old Nacogdoches Road crossing for the New Braunfels settlers was in 1845, and then followed down the Guadalupe River to below McQueeney. In 1832, Gov. Juan de Veramendi and his son-in-law, James Bowie, were appointed to take possession of this land and execute colonization contracts. Veramendi and Bowie were unsuccessful at inducing settlers to come to Texas and it wasn’t until Prince Carl’s mass immigration project that the Esnaurizar area was rendered safe for immigration.
In 1848, three years after New Braunfels’ founding, the German immigrant and surveyor, Charles W. Pressler, subdivided the Esnaurizar land into 220 farms for Jacob de Cordova, who was the sales agent. Cordova built his home on the league not far from Seguin. The name Jacob de Cordova appears on the titles of many properties all over the area from Cordova Creek near Canyon Lake to the small settlement of Cordova near Seguin. Pioneers laid the foundations for prosperous settlements in the 11 leagues. Today a portion of the Esnaurizer grant would become the Northeast part of New Braunfels.
Other areas followed the New Braunfels settlement such as Hortontown, Neighborsville, Mission Hill, Buffalo Springs, Sattler, Fischer, Spring Branch, Solms, Honey Creek, to name a few.
Until the formation of the Republic of Texas and then the German colonization, the area was not stable enough for permanent settlements. It’s interesting to think about what would have happened if Texas had not become a republic and then a state of the United States.