Posts Tagged ‘Victor Bracht’

Emigrants unprepared for conditions in ships

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

In your imagination, go back to 1845. The German immigrants will be crossing the Guadalupe River into what would become the settlement of New Braunfels. The date is March 21st and in 1845, it was Good Friday. As we know, Good Friday is not often on that date, but New Braunfels celebrates Founder’s Day on March 21, 1845. When you go into the Sophienburg Museum, the first display you see is dedicated to the brigs that brought the immigrants from Germany.

Since it is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, picture in your mind what the following famous ships looked like and you can get a mental picture of a brig: How about the “Sea Hawk” from the movie “Pirate of the Mediterranean”? Do you remember the “Jolly Roger”, a pirate ship of “Capt. Hook”? And then the “Covenant” from the story “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

A brig is a small sailing ship with two masts. A brigantine is the same kind of ship but has a different arrangement of sails. Even now, every ship has a brig which is a prison cell where prisoners are kept until the ship reaches shore. By the 19th century, most ships were made of pine and were standard cargo ships. (They are also called barks, barkentines, clippers, named according to size and shape, number of masts, and how the sail was rigged.)

Then there were schooners which were fast, small ships used often from Galveston to Indianola. Do you remember the “We’re Here” schooner made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s “Captain’s Courageous”?

The German immigrants had the idea, as promoted by writers and especially the Adelsverein, that the two month trip, was to take them to a new exciting country where all their problems would be left behind. The romance of traveling was exciting and since most of the immigrants came from the interior of Germany, few had even seen the ocean nor a sailing vessel. They had already traveled many miles to get to Bremen or Antwerp to get on the brig to travel thousands of miles to their new Heimat (homeland). They must have had a rather “child-like” anticipation of something new and adventurous. On the other hand, it must have been a bittersweet experience, leaving your home to which you would never return and saying goodbye to friends and relatives.

Around 60 ships were leased by the Adelsverein and eventually made over 100 trips. The time taken to get from Germany to Galveston was roughly around 58 to 146 days depending on the weather, especially wind. Most of the vessels were cargo ships, well built and heavy, but slow. Group transport at the time made it profitable to convert cargo ships into emigrant ships.

The ships were divided into three sections: The bottom or the “hold” carried water, provisions, and the baggage of the immigrants. The middle section, steerage, had a hallway through the middle from one end to the other, and contained cubicles 8 x 8 stacked one on another. These cubicles were arranged with upper and lower berths with ladders to get up and down. They contained the large trunks of the family and had only a rough sailcloth straw mattress.

In a few of the ships, the steerage had portholes, but in most, the only light and air that reached these cabins was from the stairway leading to the upper deck. No running water, no buckets for “conveniences”, no lamps except whale oil lanterns, no washing facilities for body or clothes. Slop jars served as toilets, the contents of which had to be carried to the upper deck each morning and dumped into the sea. An average of 150 persons were in steerage.

The upper deck was separated from steerage by a hatch. During stormy days, the hatch had to be kept closed. Imagine the seasickness, heat, and close quarters. Many died and were buried at sea. The number has not been determined.

The first emigrants traveled to Bremen, sailed north on the Weser River to Bracke. Here they embarked on the brigs tied to the docks. Then they sailed to Bremerhaven, and out into the North Sea. The rough English Channel brought on seasickness. Eventually the drinking water took on a bad taste and smell. The food consisted of salted beef, pork, peas, beans, barley, rice, potatoes, sauerkraut, and cabbage. There was much rejoicing when they finally reached Galveston and then Indianola.

As difficult as the trip was, “All for Texas and Texas forever” says it all. Victor Bracht, 1848.

A painting of the brig, Herschel. This ship’s first trip left Bremen on Sept. 23, 1844. The next trip left August 14, 1845. Artist unknown.

A copy of a certificate for the Hans Heinrich Wallhöfer family of six, stating that they could leave Brennen on Sept. 15, 1845 and arrive in Galveston.

Old Forke Store ready for Wurstfest

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

A flurry of activity and preparation is engulfing organizations that involve themselves with Wurstfest activities. The ten- day celebration is from Nov. 2nd through the 11th. One organization, the Conservation Society, located on Churchill Drive, utilizes their grounds to hold a major fundraiser during Wurstfest. Carrying out the theme of early historic New Braunfels, they operate a German Kaffee Haus for lunch from 10:30a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from November the 7th through the 11th. The place is Forke Store.

This year’s lunch includes German potato soup, Koch Kase, Wurst, homemade desserts and features a sauerkraut cake. It actually does contain sauerkraut and the recipe comes from Mrs. Ben Faust who gave it to the Conservation Society. They, in turn, submitted it to the Sophienburg to be included in their book, “Guten Appetit”. I made this cake once and it’s delicious, but I no longer want to spend half a day baking it; I’ll get it at Conservation Plaza.

For those of you who are not familiar with Conservation Plaza, you should come and familiarize yourself with their grounds. Entrance is free and there is much to see. The Kaffee Haus is once again at Forke Store. New Braunfels has held many events in this building over the years. They estimate that the building is rented close to 200 times a year.

Forke Store was moved from the corner of Seguin Ave. and Jahn St. out to Conservation Plaza when the Becker family bought the property in the ‘60s. They gave the building to the Conservation Society. Arno Becker remembers a ten-foot wide trail from Seguin Ave. to the Comal River known as the “water lane”. It had been the property of the city and was used by early emigrants to walk down to the Comal to get water. This water lane ran across the property that Becker purchased and the city deeded the lane to the property owners. Somewhere under Bluebonnet Motors is that water lane. Sorry, you’ll have to turn on a faucet to get water.

The construction of Forke Store is interesting. The framework is of the “fachwerk” or half-timber style which means that the spaces are filled with bricks, stone or mud. When the emigrants arrived in 1845, they noticed that the building method that had been used in Germany would be well suited locally. The materials were all here – limestone for the foundation, cedar for beams, and sun-dried adobe bricks which could easily be made in Texas. Adobe would be poured into a wooden mold and even children could do this. A shingle roof was installed and siding was attached. The bricks were covered with mud plaster mixed with straw. Fine mud was smeared over and then painted.

The Forke building was moved in two parts and put back together with the original floor and ceiling. Doors and window sashes are also original. The store was a mercantile store and objects within the store reflect that. Old display counters are from Henne Hardware and the original handmade Forke walnut desk is displayed.

Originally the property belonged to Victor Bracht, author of “Texas in 1848”. He belonged to the nobility in Germany, was highly educated and trained for a mercantile career. In 1846 the German Emigration Company sent him to New Braunfels to look after the emigrants. He stayed a year, went back to Germany, and in 1848 returned to New Braunfels. That same year he married Sibilla Shaefer. One lot was given to him by the Adelsverein and he purchased another next to it for $35.00.The first store building and house next door was built in 1852. Bracht was a merchant at this location from 1846 to 1855 after which he moved to San Antonio. The first building described by Bracht was later used by Jacob Ludwig Forke as a “feather house” where feathers were sold by the pound.

From 1855 there were several owners and in 1865 Jacob and Caroline Forke bought the property from Joseph Landa. They ran the mercantile store and raised 10 children. In 1902, the property was left to their youngest son, Louis, who continued the business until he died in 1966. The Becker family purchased the property from the Forke estate and this is when Forke Store moved to Conservation Plaza. Becker Motor Company was sold to Bluebonnet Motors in 2002.

Thanks to the Becker family and the Conservation Society, Forke Store lives on.

Louis and Hedwig Forke sit outside the Forke Store when it was located on Jahn St.and Seguin Ave. The store is on the right and the time is possible in the late 1940s.

Louis and Hedwig Forke sit outside the Forke Store when it was located on Jahn St.and Seguin Ave. The store is on the right and the time is possibly in the late 1940s.