830-629-1572 | Open Tue-Sat 10 a.m.-4 p.m., archives by appointment.

Backroad bingo

Caption: St. Joseph's Chapel built in 1905 on FM 482 in Comal, Texas.

Caption: St. Joseph's Chapel built in 1905 on FM 482 in Comal, Texas.

St. Joseph’s Chapel built in 1905 on FM 482 in Comal, Texas.

By Tara V. Kohlenberg —

After this past week’s historic Arctic storms Uri and Viola had us in winter lockdown, I jumped at the chance to go driving through the Comal countryside under the clear blue skies. It wasn’t just the sunshine and 70-degree temperatures that were so inviting. It was our history on display all across the county. Did you know that our beautiful Comal County is officially 175 years old this year? The Texas Legislature formed Comal County in 1846. Comal, Spanish for “flat dish”, perhaps so named due to the flat islands in the river near the springs or shallow river basin, lent its name to the newly formed county. Let’s take a look at what the early immigrants outside New Braunfels.

In our last article, I wrote about the historic Freiheit Store and Freiheit Bowling Club in the southeast corner of the county. Using that as our starting point, we can travel down I-35, basically along the edge of the Comal/Guadalupe line, to the southwest corner of the county. Hidden just off of I-35 on FM 482 is the community known early on by several names: “Eight-Miles” and “Seven Miles Creek” (as it as located seven or eight miles from New Braunfels) and Comal, Texas. The families that settled the community were first generation immigrants from Germany who arrived aboard the first group of ships carrying prospective immigrant settlers to Texas. By the 1870s, Comal citizens formed a church and built a one-room log schoolhouse on land donated by Ignatz Wenzel. By the 1900s, the community grew to include a general store, cotton gin, corn-shelling operation and community hall. A brick Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s Chapel, was built in 1905 that still stands today. Plus, any blossoming genealogist would want to know about the St. Joseph Cemetery (if you have family from out there). There are two historical markers detailing the stories of the Comal Settlement and St. Joseph’s Chapel, one of which is by the City of Schertz.

The next place I want to point out is way up on the northern part of Comal County, located 19 miles northwest of New Braunfels on present-day Farm to Market 311 near Highway 281. The area was called Esser’s Crossing. Community survival depended on being able to move harvested crops to market, as well as getting supplies. Crossing rivers with a loaded wagon was not an easy thing to do. Natural shallow rock crossings were sought out and way-stations sprang up along these routes. Hill country rivers were prone to flooding, so they needed to have something seldom affected by the high waters. After evaluating several nearby crossings, the bridge was built at Esser’s Crossing in 1904. The wrought iron, wooden wagon bridge construction was comprised of two main spans knows as Pratt truss spans, flanked by two smaller spans. The Whipple truss style bridge design was popular in the mid-to-late 19th century. The 1904 Esser’s Crossing bridge was the first/only high water crossing of the Guadalupe River between San Antonio, Spring Branch, Blanco/Fredericksburg. Under highwater conditions before the bridge was built, travelers would have to go out of their way to come into town to cross the Guadalupe. That is 30 miles difference one way on our current road system. I cannot imagine how long it would take, with a wagon on dusty, old, windy roads.

The bridge was only the second high water bridge built in Comal County (behind Faust Street), lasting until 1974 when it was removed and replaced. Near to the bridge, a post office popped up and was called Wesson, TX. You can read the markers there.

The last destination for today’s article is in the northeast corner of Comal County, where we find a treasure trove of history: Fischer, Texas. Not only do they have markers, the Fischer Historic District is listed in the national register of historic places. The Fischer Historical District consists of a store, hall, and period houses. The 1902 Fischer Store is located at 4040 FM 484 in Fischer. It is the third structure to serve as the mercantile establishment with that name originally started by Hermann Fischer Sr. in 1866. He and his brother, Otto, settled the northern part of Comal County in 1853 after previously farming in Geronimo, Texas. They both had their part in developing this area of Texas and building the community today called Fischer, Texas. The Fischer Agricultural Society was formed to promote agriculture and animal husbandry and to acquaint families in the area through social activities, like dances. In 1897, Otto Fischer gave a portion of his property to the Society to construct a hall for the Society meetings and activities, including dances. The store is now a museum, opened at limited times, but the marker is out front for all to read.

These are just a few of the notable historical treasures of our county. You can read more about the town of Comal, the Agricultural Society of Fischer and Esser’s Crossing and the rest of Comal County in Around the Sophienburg by Myra Lee Goff ; Bridging Spring Branch by Brenda Anderson-Lindemann or Hill Country Backroads by Laurie E. Jasinsky, all of which are available at Sophie’s Shop inside the Sophienburg Museum & Archives (online sales www.sophienburg.com). Or, you can create your own Comal Backroad Bingo by finding and checking off the historical markers listed on the Comal County Historical Commission website while driving, cycling or running the roadways of Comal County. Bingo!

Sources: Sophienburg Museum & Archives; Around the Sophienburg by Myra Lee Goff; Comal County Historical Commission.