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Adelsverein purchases Nassau Plantation

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

In the northern corner of Fayette County near Round Top, Texas, lies an area of beautiful, peaceful, rolling hills. The serenity of the landscape hides its rather sordid past of greed, slavery, even a charge of murder. This piece of property, 4,428 acres, in the early 1840s was Nassau Plantation, a slave plantation. It was owned by the Adelsverein, the same organization that began the German colonization project that eventually ended up in the settlement of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, and other smaller communities.

Very little has been written about Nassau Plantation (or Nassau Farm) until author Dr. James C. Kearney came out with his book “Nassau Plantation; The Evolution of a Texas German Slave Plantation.” Most of the information that I used came from Dr. Kearney’s book, Roemer’s “Texas” and Prince Carl’s translated reports to the Adelsverein.

In 1842 twenty German noblemen met at the castle of Duke Adolph of Nassau and formed the Adelsverein. Count Christian Leiningen proposed the emigrant plan that would come out of that meeting. The newly formed Adelsverein sent Count Joseph of Boos-Waldeck and Count Victor Leiningen to the Republic of Texas to purchase land for the settlement of immigrants. They purchased an undeveloped league of land in northeast Fayette County for seventy-five cents an acre. Giving up on the idea of using this land for the settlement for emigrants, they decided the land would be better used for growing crops for the emigration project. Dr. Kearney believes that the primary goal of the Adelsverein was to reap financial awards and to gain prestige for their organization.

The two men proceeded to New Orleans and Houston to purchase supplies and slaves. Nassau Farm was to become a slave plantation. Boos-Waldeck supervised the cultivation of cotton, sugarcane, potatoes, corn, and tobacco. An oak-covered hill was chosen for the construction of the manor house called the Herrenhaus. Ferdinand von Roemer, in his book about Texas in 1845 described the house as comfortable with two stories and porches on both sides, stone fireplaces, shuttered windows and eventually real glass in four downstairs windows.

Boos-Waldeck became convinced that the plantation was not a good idea and he expressed this to the Adelsverein. They did not listen. He consequently resigned from the society and went back to Germany, sick and disheartened. Before he left, he put Charles Fordtran in charge.

Prince Carl arrived on the scene about this time and found the whole Nassau Plantation unsuitable. The plantation was dilapidated, but what shocked the prince most was the reality of slavery. The Adelsverein was also divided on the slavery issue from the start and received much criticism in Germany for supporting the plantation idea. Prince Carl in his 6th report to the Adelsverein in December, 1844 said, “From the bottom of my heart, I can only say that this slave mess is an unworthy affair for the Verein. It is truly a stain on human society”.

Prince Carl dismissed Charles Fordtran before he left for Germany in May 1845 and replaced him with Fredrick von Wrede Jr., a former German army officer. Von Wrede attempted to reorganize Nassau but on a trip to New Braunfels from Austin he was killed by hostile Indians in 1846. The plantation was now without a leader. John Meusebach became the second colonial director of the Adelsverein, and after a conflict with the colonists, he spent the first months of 1846 at the plantation avoiding settlers and creditors.

After much turmoil at Nassau Plantation, the Adelsverein finally sold the property in 1850, but there’s a long history of events that took place before and after that time. Look at www.sophienburg.com July 28, 2009 for the story of a shootout that took place there.

Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg has the largest collection of New Braunfels history books for sale. Dr. Kearney’s book is there. You will definitely learn a lot about the key players in the saga of Nassau Plantation.

Painting of Herrenhaus at Nassau Plantation by artist Patricia S. Arnold. Insert pictures from left to right: Duke Adolph of Nassau, Count Christian of Leiningen, Count Victor of Leiningen, and Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels.