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Christmas in the “Neu Heimatland”

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Hermann Seele arrived in Galveston on Dec. 13, 1843. He had come alone to make his home in Texas. On Christmas Eve, he walked the streets of Galveston totally alone and his thoughts were of home in Germany. He remembered how the children stepped up to the glittering Christmas tree and thought, “I wish I could be with them for only an hour, I am so alone here…” Then he saw a Christmas tree through the shutters of a home and the happy children and the faces of the little children heightened his loneliness.

The next Christmas (1844), Seele had been in the coastal area for another year. Nostalgic thoughts of Christmas led him to write in his diary:”Memories, sweeten for me lonely as I am in a foreign country, the hours with the balsam of a wonderful past”. (Source: “The Diary of Hermann Seele”)

A month before Seele was spending his second Christmas in the coastal area in 1844, the first Adelsverein brig, the Johann Dethardt sailed into Galveston harbor. They had finally arrived at the Republic of Texas. By Dec. 1, three one-mast schooners picked up these first emigrants in Galveston to take them to Pt. Lavaca. Two of the three vessels made it easily through Pasa Caballo into Matagorda Bay and then landed on the shore at Pt. Lavaca. There they camped under the open skies for the night. From there they moved to the first camp among the live oaks.

The third schooner had been caught in a storm and driven back into the Gulf of Mexico. The craft had sprung a leak. For days the storm carried the small craft towards Mexico. Finally the winds shifted from the south, moving the schooner back to the Texas coast and into a shallow bay, but during the night a norther tossed the boat so violently that the chain was broken and the boat was once again carried southward. After winds calmed, the vessel finally made its way into the bay. The other earlier arrivals were on the shore greeting them with relief.

Prince Carl greeted the first emigrants and it was at the encampment two miles west of Port Lavaca that the first German emigrants of the Adelsverein held their first church service in the Republic of Texas. The day was Dec. 23, 1844 and the service was conducted by Rev. Louis Cachand Ervendberg who had been hired by Prince Carl to tend to the religious needs of the emigrants.

The prince was aware that Christmastime would be a particularly difficult time for the emigrants, so he cut a small oak tree and decorated it with candles and provided small gifts for the children. There were no fir trees on the coast for the traditional “Tannenbaum”.

On Christmas Eve, the passengers from the second Adelsverein ship, the Herschel, had arrived safely at Carlshafen. On Christmas day, Rev. Ervendberg held the first Communion Service for the new arrivals. The prince presented them with a silver chalice, a communion flagen (pitcher) and a communion paten (wafer plate) to the pastor for use of the first church. Those items are on display at the First Protestant Church. The chalice would forever be a link between the new land and the old, as a duplicate would reside in the ancestral home in Braunfels Germany. (Info Source: “Journey in Faith”; Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and Myra Lee Adams Goff”)

The first emigrants arrived in New Braunfels on March, 1845, and Hermann Seele joined the Adelsverein’s second group six weeks late in May of 1845. The next Christmas in 1845 was the first Christmas spent in New Braunfels, their “Neu Heimatland” (new homeland).

Fröliche Weihnachten from the Sophienburg!

The first settlers celebrate with a church service on the Texas coast, 1844. Patricia S. Arnold, Illustrator

The first settlers celebrate with a church service on the Texas coast, 1844. Patricia S. Arnold, Illustrator