By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Education for all was one of the promises by the Adelsverein to the German immigrants who came to Texas 165 years ago. Just five months after the first immigrants arrived, this promise began.
Rev. Louis Ervendberg who was engaged by Prince Carl to tend to the religious needs of the settlers, found in Hermann Seele a willing and able teacher for that first class in August of 1845. Fifteen children were taught under a magnificent forest of elm trees at the foot of Sophienburg Hill. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught in both German and English.
Seele heard a joyous “Guten Morgen”early, early in the morning because by eight o’clock the children were already at recess tumbling on the grass and playing hide and seek. Dismissal was at 10 o’clock in the morning. Sounds good? Don’t think for one minute that these children went home to play the rest of the day; they went home to work.
When the German Protestant Church moved into its log church in 1846, the nondenominational school was conducted there. Rev. Ervendberg and Seele were the teachers and it operated until 1853.
The Catholic congregation received a plot of land from the Adelsverein where the original campsite, Zinkenburg, had been. Schooling was sporadic and when their black walnut church was built in 1849, the earlier log chapel of 1847 became the school building for Catholic children. Father Gottfried Menzel functioned as teacher around 1850 and in1871 the Sisters of Divine Providence became teachers.
The City School of New Braunfels was established in 1853 with two teachers. Funds to run the school were through free-will donations and monthly tuition fees of 50 cents for older children and 25 cents for younger ones. They met in rented rooms. That same year the Texas Legislature ordered counties to create public school districts. Comal County was divided into eight districts and the NB area became District #1. Many small rural schools sprang up and by 1898 there were 24 school districts in the county with 31 schools.
An appointed committee petitioned the state legislature asking for a special law to give NB authority to assess and collect school taxes for public school purposes. This idea was unheard of in Texas at the time, but to Germans, who had been educated in state schools and universities in Germany, the idea of taxation as a means to provide instructional facilities for their children was not unique.
On January 29, 1858, the Texas Legislature granted NB an exclusive law to tax for public schools. It was approved unanimously by voters. (By 1875, the Legislature passed a statewide school tax bill patterned after the earlier NB tax.)
In 1858 the school district built an all-level school house for its Academy, as it came to be called, on the corner of Academy and Mill Sts. A two room rock building with 20 inch thick walls was built and added on to as necessary. Over the years the Academy survived hard financial times of the Civil War and Reconstruction as no state funds were forthcoming.
By 1910 the board faced over-crowded conditions and even rented a store building on the corner of San Antonio and Academy streets (Red Rooster) from Albert Penshorn for $20 a month. The school district separated from the city in 1913 and became the New Braunfels Independent School District. A new all-level brick building would be built eight feet behind the old Academy building. This building has survived change from all-level school, to high school, to junior high school and finally as the administration building. Good example of recycling!
District #1 of the New Braunfels schools went from Colonial school, to Parochial school, to Town School, to District School, to the New Braunfels Academy, to New Braunfels School, and finally to New Braunfels Independent School District. (Oscar Haas)