By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Recently Brenda Anderson-Lindemann released her new book, “Bridging Spring Branch and Comal County, Texas.” What an interesting collection of true family stories of the people living in that area back to the early 1850s. Some of the subjects that she covers are rural schools and how the Comal Independent School District started. She has many stories of the early days, who’s in what cemetery, ranchland histories, obituaries, Canyon Dam, the Guadalupe, and history of floods in the area. The cover and title of the book are clever and appropriate. It is a picture of the U.S. Highway 281 Guadalupe River Bridge taken by Michael Krause.
This past week when we had so much rain, I knew immediately where to find information about floods, droughts and rainfall in Comal County. The book has so much information in it that it is impossible to give an adequate book review. I began reading the 474 page book and I was overwhelmed by a choice I had to make as to what to write about. Then almost at the end, I found my choice.
Pastor August Engel
Towards the back of the book my attention led me to Pastor August Engel. I had mentioned him before when I wrote about what was at the bottom of Canyon Lake, but Brenda had much more information.
My interest in Pastor Engel is because of my neighbor, Olive Marcel Georg Hofheinz. When she was a teenager and I was in Lamar Elementary, she lived in the house that my great-grandparents lived in and sold to her parents, Hollis and Hedwig (Artie) Georg. To this day, she reminds me that while I was visiting her mother, which apparently I did often, I cut up her brand new pajamas. Young girls are fascinated with and admire teenage girls. She had a small radio and she pasted her friends’ names out of alphabet soup on the outside. You never forget the teenagers who were kind to you when you were young.
Olive (Marci) and Will Hofheinz lived most of their married life in Dickinson and when Marci’s parents died, the Hofheinzs moved into the house next to ours. Our friendship continued. During the summer when my teaching career was on vacation, Marci and I would walk to the Comal Cemetery. Through our conversation, I became acquainted with the residents of this cemetery. She told me stories of the people and really got me interested in who was related to whom, a skill that I have perfected to this day.
Marci wrote what she remembered about her great-grandfather, August Engel. I immediately knew that his life would be interesting, remembering Marci’s ability to tell a story. I chose Engel’s story to write about based on what she told Brenda in an interview. I knew it would be informative because Marci’s family, the Engels and the Georgs, are from old families in the Spring Branch area and buried in the Cranes Mill Cemetery.
August Engel was born March 16th, 1818, in Wurthemberg, Prussia. He was schooled at the Evangelischam Akademy Bad Bol Stuttgart. He was ordained a Methodist Episcopal minister. His parents owned a woolen factory in Germany. At that time, factories in England were able to make products out of wool at a lesser cost than the Engels could in Germany. Consequently, the parents decided to send their two sons, August and Wilhelm, to England to investigate the English woolen industry. Apparently their conclusion was that they would not be able to compete with the English companies.
The two brothers took off traveling around Europe and while they were traveling, they heard about the emigration movement to the United States. They decided they wanted to emigrate. August was married at the time, but his wife refused to leave Germany, so August and Wilhelm left alone. They arrived in America and Wilhelm stayed in Pennsylvania and became a newspaperman. Ironically, years later August’s son August W. became a journalist and eventually owned the “Arkansas Democrat” newspaper in 1926. His nephew, Marcus Georg (Marci’s brother) worked with his uncle and eventually owned the newspaper. He sold the newspaper and bought a TV station.
Back to the brothers August and Wilhelm. August was the one who emigrated to Texas. Coming to Cranes Mill in the mid-1800s, he opened a store and after the Civil War he became a postmaster in that store from 1873 to 1904. He also began his profession as a Methodist preacher. He found that most of the Protestants in the Hill Country were German Lutherans. He was granted permission to change to the Lutheran faith and become a circuit riding preacher in a tri-county territory of Cranes Mill, Rebecca Creek, and Twin Sisters in the Guadalupe Valley. Marriage records show that he also served people of Bulverde, Smithsons Valley, Spring Branch and Kendalia.
August Engel married Katherine Ernst. Remember that August was married in Germany? Because August had been away from his wife for nine years, he was granted a divorce. Katherine was a midwife, nurse, and she prepared bodies for funerals. She charged $3 to help deliver a baby and then would stay as long as ten days helping with what needed to be done around the house so that the mother could recuperate. Pastor Engel would drive Katherine in a buggy to the home where she was needed and then come back to pick her up.
Together the couple took care of burials. Katherine would bathe and dress the body and place two silver dollars over the eyelids. Within 24 hours the body had to be buried, as there was no embalming fluid at that time. Pastor Engel performed the burial service, usually on private land of the deceased. The coins were removed before burial. Hundreds of burials were conducted and Pastor Engel kept records of all births, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
The photo is an example of the kind of baptismal certificates issued in the early days. It is in German script and translated it says:
Birth and Baptism
The two parents are August Jonas and Sophia Yablsey Jonas
14th December 1873
A boy in Blanco County, State of Texas, United States of North America
Baptized in 1875 by Pastor Engel
Pastor Engel named him Benjamin Adolph (this is the first time the child is named in the document)
Godparents are Adolph Jonas, Heinrich Braemer, Miss Matilda Rochau
Signed August Engel in Twin Sisters Blanco Texas
August Engel died in 1904. Several years before his death, many records were lost as a result of an Indian confrontation where his satchel was stolen (a brutal story that you can read in Brenda’s book). Mrs. Engel lived on in the house after he died and years later during a very cold winter, she used many of the remaining records to burn in the wood burning stove. She had run out of firewood and probably didn’t know the value of records like that.
To purchase Brenda Anderson-Lindemann’s book, you may contact her at 830-228-5245 or purchase it at Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.