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City’s “soul searching” program helps understand history

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

They walked (some rode on golf carts) through the Comal Cemetery at the City’s Parks Department “Soul Searching” program. About 360 people met eight “souls” who were buried in the cemetery. The land for this cemetery originally belonged to John F. Torrey and was managed by trustees Ernest Gruene, J.J. Gross, J. Goldenbagen and John Torrey, who transferred the cemetery to the city in 1887.

To add a little mystery to the affair, participants met at Cypress Bend Park where those who could, were transported by hay wagon to the cemetery entrance.  This year’s emphasis was on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It is estimated that there are about 200 Civil War Veterans in Comal Cemetery.

Several members of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans were there in full regalia to help with the program, some portraying “souls” and some presenting the flags of the Confederacy and the Union.

In Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg there are two books about Comal County’s participation in that war: War Between the States-Participants from Comal County, Texas by Wilfred Schlather and War Between the States Comal County Texas in the Civil War compiled by Francis R. Horne.

After arriving at the cemetery’s entrance, the group walked carrying flashlights. The first “soul” searched was Peter Worff. He came to Texas from Germany with his parents and sister in 1845.  His mother died soon, leaving the father to care for his two children. They lived in the Schmitz Hotel because that’s where their father worked. His involvement in the Civil War was with Hoffman’s Co. B, 7 Reg. Texas Cavalry. He died in 1913.

The next “souls” were that of Oscar Nebergall, a 15 year old child, William Harvey (1840-1891) and Ida Arnold Nebergall (1848-1920).   This couple was convincingly portrayed as visiting the grave of their son nearby. The boy was killed in a wagon accident while coming down Fredericksburg Road. The Nebergalls were married in 1865 after William, a Union soldier, was stationed here after the Civil War.

Louise Mittendorf Benner (1820- 1913) was the next “soul” visited. She came to New Braunfels with her parents from Germany and married Adolph von Benner who had arrived with Prince Carl and was in charge of the Commissary for the Adelsverein. When Adolph died in 1857, Louise took his place as postmaster.   She was the first woman postmaster in NB and Comal County but was relieved of her duties after the Civil War because she served under the Confederacy.

This next “soul”, Hermann Jonas (1836-1912) is one that really struck a note of recognition with me. Hermann was born in Prussia. I knew his grandson, Gus Krause.  Gus and Ricky Fischer Krause lived in the stone house and ranched the almost 2,000 acre ranch. I first met the Krauses in the 1960s when my dad, Marcus Adams, was on a hunting lease at their ranch. My husband, Glyn, took his place on the lease in 1970. We were very fond of the Krauses.

I can picture this very historic house – a four-story, 24-inch-thick limestone and it is as it was when Hermann Jonas built it in 1865. The house was large and unusual for its time.  The Comanche Indians were still a threat in such a remote place. Family legend states that there was a lookout on the roof and the older boys took turns standing watch in times of danger.

The first floor of the house was the kitchen, second floor were bedrooms and the third floor was used as a dance room and community reunions. The top floor was storage and occasional sleeping place for children.

Incidently, three of the Jonas brothers served in the Union and three in the Confederacy.

Another “soul” visited was that of Wilhelm Seekatz (1825-1910). Seekatz played an important part in the Civil War because he started the Saltpetre Mfg. Co. in 1863.  Saltpetre was used in making gunpowder. His kiln is located off Fredericksburg Road in Landa Park.

Perhaps the most famous soldier in the Civil War was Gustav Hoffman (1817-1889). He had been the first mayor of New Braunfels. He was trained in the military in Prussia and he fit right into the Confederate leadership role. As a captain, Hoffman organized the Co. B of 7th Regiment Texas Cavalry and served from 1861 through 1865. He was promoted Major and Colonel. He died in San Antonio in 1889 but was buried in Comal Cemetery.

“A grave, wherever found, preaches a short and pithy sermon to the soul.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne). This annual respectful program does much to keep our historic “souls” alive.

Gustav Hoffman

Gustav Hoffman