By Myra Lee Adams Goff
When I was in the ninth grade, I had a group of friends who were Mariner Girl Scouts. New Braunfels rivers were the perfect spot for this scouting program.
We had a friend who lived on the Guadalupe River and had a rowboat. We would take turns rowing the boat. Our rowing skills were improved when we realized that there were snakes hanging from the trees on the opposite bank. You can row fast if you are underneath these branches.
Invariably, our male friends who were Sea Scout Boy Scouts would show up, jump in the river, swim to the boat and turn it over, dumping us into the Guadalupe. This activity was repeated over and over. Once, floating in tubes, we were chased by an alligator gar. We were told that they were harmless, but we remembered stories of the olden days when there were real alligators in the rivers, particularly the Comal River.
Nearby was the spot where the Comal merges with the Guadalupe and continues on its journey to the Gulf of Mexico. We were well acquainted with the confluence of the two rivers. Before Canyon Dam was built, the Guadalupe was milky green and almost warm; the Comal was crystal clear and cold. You could definitely tell when you left the Guadalupe and entered the Comal.
Those memories came back when I started doing research on the ferry boat that once transported emigrants across the river at this very spot.
The first settlers in 1845 did not have a ferry when they crossed the Guadalupe at Nacogdoches Road, but soon the first ferry appeared. The German Emigration Co. granted three acres to Adolf von Wedemeyer to build and operate a ferry near the junction of the Guadalupe and Comal.
In 1847, this land and business was sold to Justus Kellner, who died soon thereafter. His widow married Carl Bardenwerper, and they took over the ferry until 1866, when they sold the property to Florenz Kreuz.
Dr. Ferdinand Roemer describes arriving at the site of the ferry in 1846 in the evening. A horn hanging from a tree signaled the ferry operator on the other side of the river to come pick him up. After waiting for quite a long time, someone finally called that the river was too flooded to cross and to wait until the next morning. Roemer camped outside in a rainy norther, and the next morning two young men arrived and guided the ferry across.
The junction of the two rivers has other interesting history.
In the 1700s, the Spaniards who owned Texas made treks through what was to become the state of Texas, using the El Camino Real trail. Martin de Alarcon, governor of the province of Texas in 1718, crossed the Rio Grande and headed towards what would become San Antonio. There he established the Villa de Bexar (SA) and founded the Mission San Antonio de Valero (Alamo).
The diary of Martin de Alarcon was translated by Dr. Fritz Leo Hoffmann, who was in my mother’s graduating class of New Braunfels High School in 1924. In 1935, Hoffmann was professor of languages at the University of Colorado. He said Alarcon fixed the royal standard (flag) of the King of Spain at the junction of the Guadalupe and Comal rivers and took possession of them. He and his men camped in this area.
Oscar Haas discovered a story dating back to the early 1860s stating that a large elephantine beast was discovered in the area of the junction buried way beneath the surface. An emigrant was prospecting for a well and came across a shoulder bone of a beast. He estimated it to be about 30 feet long and 20 feet high. Stories of remains of at least three Mastodons were found on the banks of the Comal River.
In 1968, Mrs. James Haile, owner of the junction property at that time, received a Texas Historical Marker as a historical site, certainly an important designation.