By Myra Lee Adams Goff —
Prince Carl in the diary of his sojourn to Texas writes about sleeping on the ground, using a pistol case as a pillow. Even before the emigrants arrived, he feared an Indian attack. He recalled a patriotic drinking song called “Deutschland Hoch.” Rewriting his own words to this song, he envisioned the German emigrants heroically defeating the Indians. This never happened.
When the emigrants arrived in New Braunfels they were led to an area on the Comal Creek bluff (location of Sts. Peter and Paul Church). Here the Prince had a trench dug facing the prairie and cannon and gabions were set up to protect the emigrants from Indian attack. Twenty-two young men were chosen to guard and help secure the area.
Hermann Seele believed that the Indians were never a serious threat, but more of a nuisance. Soon the Indians were mingling freely within the settlement. This from Seele: “I saw the Prince light a cigar for one of the Indian women. He did this as graciously as if he were presenting a rose to a princess.”
Who were these Indian tribes in the New Braunfels area? They were the Tonkawa, the Lipan, the Waco, and occasionally the Karankawa, Kickapoo, Coahuiltican, and Comanche. By far the most prevalent in the area was the Tonkawa.
The Tonkawa was a nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers. Evidence of their presence can be traced back 11,000 years. They possessed great athletic prowess, walking great distances, running with great speed, and enduring hunger for long periods of time. Their shelter was of small conical framework poles covered with branches, brush, and hairless horsehides. Their food consisted of deer and all the wildlife still in our area, but they seemed to prefer decayed meat. A story that took place at the Weisenhaus (orphanage) was one in which the Ervendbergs prepared a meal for the Indians, which they devoured. Immediately afterwards they went down to a field where they devoured a semi-decomposed carcass of a horse.
The Tonkawas decorated their bodies with tattoos and paintings. At the museum we have small “paint pots” consisting of rocks with indentations in which paints made of red cinnabar and yellow sandstone and mixed with animal fat were concocted.
Tonkawas practiced “ritual cannibalism”, which means that they engaged in eating the bodies of their enemies in order to get strength from their flesh. Hermann Seele encountered one such cannibalistic orgy on his trek to New Braunfels where they had fried and boiled flesh of one of the Tonkowa enemies — a Waco warrior.
The only tragic Indian incident relating to the settlers occurred when two of Prince Carl’s soldiers were returning from a scouting trip to Austin and were attacked, killed and scalped.
In later years when changes were made to the surface of the land (roads, utilities), artifacts began emerging. Albert Nowotny, a local amateur archeologist, in 1929 made several artifact collections and removed eight aboriginal burials unearthed when sewers and power lines were installed. Nowotny owned a restaurant (Teen Connection building) called The House That Jack Built and his collection was on display there. The Sophienburg has quite a few collections of flint tips and arrowheads, including Oscar Haas’s, in the museum.
Several archeological surveys have been made in the Comal Springs area including Landa Park and the area west of Fredericksburg Road. Beginning at the base of the Balcones Escarpment, traveling south on Fredericksburg Road, then west on Landa Street, and then north on Parkview, this 50-acre tract was originally owned by George Klappenbach whose home still stands at the edge of the escarpment (now owned by Tim and Lizabeth Barker).
The beautiful springs and the accessibility of water made the Comal Springs area a natural for Indian gatherings and so do we today gather at the same spot. Wonder what artifacts will be found there eons from now!
This story originally appeared in the Herald-Zeitung on April 29, 2008.
Sources: Sophienburg Museum & Archives; Around the Sophienburg by Myra Lee Goff.