By Myra Lee Adams Goff
If we could have been in New Braunfels 164 years ago about this time of year (Dec. 31, 1846), we would have witnessed a group of about 130 early settlers on their way to a potential hanging.
These new arrivals from Germany were disgruntled about the way things had turned out for them in their new country. And their target was none other than the second Commissioner General for the Adelsverein, John O. Meusebach.
Earlier in the day, the group led by Rudolph Iwonski posted a proclamation in the stores and other public places asking citizens of New Braunfels to not endure the tyranny of Meusebach any longer. They claimed that they wanted to be free of Meusebach’s slavery because it made them look pitiful to the Americans and to the rest of the Germans.
Finally, they ended the notice with, “We will end the old year with dismissing and driving away this person. He wants to ruin and not protect the Immigrants. Together we call: the Society will stand, but curse the extortioner Meusebach.” Dec. 31, 1846. Signed, Several fellow citizens. (Source: Solms-Archives, Vol. 41; Rose Emich, translator)
Behind this disgruntlement was the fact that the emigrants had been promised 300 acres on the Fischer-Miller grant and instead had received a town lot and 10 acres.
Many had deposited money in Germany to be reimbursed in Texas. By the time Meusebach took over, the money was gone and times were really tough in New Braunfels. Besides, it was the time of the epidemics on the coast that moved inland.
Writer Alvin Sörgel states that he observed people gathering in the market place that morning and then making their way to Sophienburg Hill where Meusebach was having breakfast with H.F. Fischer.
He was the one from whom the Adelsverein purchased land in the Llano area. The group, by this time with women and children following, upon arriving at the Sophienburg building called for Mr. Fischer to come out, which he did. After consulting with certain individuals, he went inside to talk to Meusebach.
After a while, the relatively peaceful crowd rushed into Meusebach’s quarters. Suddenly the room was filled with people and Iwonski incited the crowd with infuriating words and they in turn screamed and hollered. Sörgel states that when Iwonski saw that the people agreed with him, he demanded that they bring Meusebach out and hang him!
The mob pounded on the door of the room that Meusebach was in. A person who had been negotiating with Meusebach came out of the room and told the crowd that negotiations were going well. The crowd calmed down, but not Iwonski. He still screamed and hollered that Meusebach must be removed, but with no success.
The people finally dispersed after much discussion, but not without taking all of Meusebach’s cigars with them. Rudolph Biesele states in “The History of the German Settlement in Texas” that the crowd did not molest Meusebach because he faced his opponents in his courageous and fearless manner. He told the crowd that he had already turned in his resignation.
That same afternoon, a group of Americans living in New Braunfels came to Meusebach telling him how sorry they were about the incident and that he had their support.
On Jan. 1, a resolution was formed by the City and written by Chief Justice Dooley stating:
- The mob was illegal and an insult to free institutions and a slander to the views of the community.
- The citizens had a right to peacefully assemble and discuss matters of grievance but when selfish men seek to accomplish their own ends they are dangerous to the community.
- That we express regret that Mr. Meusebach should have his personal and legal rights invaded and shall have ample protection.
In the end, Meusebach worked diligently to solve the problems of the colonies of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.
He lived up to his family motto, TENAX PROPOSITI, meaning “perseverance in purpose.”