By Keva Hoffmann Boardman, Sophienburg Curator
Occasionally, I need to look through the Sophienburg’s newspaper collection. The papers, on microfilm, date from 1852 to present day; it is an amazing resource. Often, an unrelated search sends me “down a bunny trail” (of course, I follow!). As I was researching pigeons a couple columns back, I came across Dr. Grube. His name was familiar to me because there are several artifacts in the Museum collections associated with him: a wood box overlaid with sliced deer horn, an engraved watch fob, a meerschaum cigar holder, and some cut-glass steins. So I began to wonder, who was this guy?
A name search in the news index revealed over 80 mentions for Dr. Otto R. Grube in the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung, from 1876-1902. The advertisements, small articles, and one sentence reports in Locales (Local news), gave me a sense of what the everyday life of this local physician was like. This good doctor was a busy, busy man.
The paper announced in November 1876, that Dr. Grube had taken over Dr. Lehde’s medical practice. The practice remained in Dr. Lehde’s home, but Otto made many house calls. During 1877, Dr. Grube rode his horse 10 miles south of New Braunfels to Santa Clara to cure the Helmke child of nervous fever, moved his office to the Voges home on Castell Street, and joined Dr. Claessan in performing an autopsy. The theft of Otto’s horse from in front of the Guadalupe Hotel (Schmitz) during a failed robbery attempt definitely made news in July. Later that fall, he joined the Turnverein (Athletic Club) and the Saengerverein (Singing Society). He was fitting into the New Braunfels “scene” quite nicely.
The Zeitung printed a thank you to Grube in February 1878 for his “special attention and services rendered” during Mrs. Roessing’s illness. That spring, advertisements reminded townsfolk that he was giving smallpox vaccinations during the lunch hour each day at Voelcker’s Drugstore. He is involved in the November murder investigation at the Breustedt Farm, 6 miles from downtown; called in to examine a woman’s body found in the well, he determined that her head had been beaten in with the “weapon” found near her. The murderer turned out to be the woman’s husband, a Polish man, who worked on the farm. (Talk about a bunny trail!) Grube removed Dr. Claessan’s finger in December — it had become infected during an earlier operation.
In 1879, Dr. Grube assisted several San Antonio physicians in a hernia operation; this was considered “major surgery”. Later that year, his neighbor’s dog was poisoned, he was appointed to the examiners board to hire English-speaking teachers, and he amputated Mrs. Seele’s foot after it was badly broken in a wagon accident.
He treated Mrs. Eiband’s lung disease until her death and got politically involved in 1880. He went to Galveston and Dallas as a delegate to the Democratic Convention. He also took ownership of a beautiful, hand-crafted coach made by “blacksmith Galle and wagon maker Mueller, with lacquer-work done by Streuer”. He and his friends survived a “mule and ambulance” accident on the way to a Saengerverein event and that summer he worked on the fair planning committee.
Advertisements in 1881, announced that Dr. Grube was a “family doctor.” He helped reestablish the local masonic lodge. That summer he and Mr. Voelcker began a soda water business. He treated Mr. Glenewinkle’s arm after a thrashing machine mishap and he served as coroner for the intentional morphine overdose of Lee Wilson at Ludwig’s boarding house.
1882 was a difficult year for Dr. Grube. First, he served as pallbearer for his good friend, Dr. Claessen. Next, he treated the wound of M. Starcke’s 12-year-old son after he was accidentally shot by his 14-year-old brother. In November, he travelled all the way to Laredo to treat Judge Pfeuffer’s son, George. (That’s one heck of a house call!). Then in 1883, Grube’s 12-year-old brother-in-law, John Dyer, was shot by Alfred Rheinlaender.
Personal tragedy struck again in March 1885, when Grube’s wife died suddenly at age 30; he buried her with her family in New Orleans. That summer, he treated Mrs. Waldschmidt after a terrible accident. While she was milking a cow, it tried to butt away her dog. She was knocked down instead and suffered a serious “wound” because she was pregnant. At the same time, Dr. Grube cared for the son of Mr. Hildebrand who had shot himself in the head with a shotgun. After the last few months it was not surprising to read in the newspaper that Grube gave his practice to Dr. Underhill and moved to New Orleans in November. The Zeitung reported that “the town would truly miss him.”
And then, in May 1895, Dr. Grube returned to New Braunfels. He set up his practice in Voelcker’s Drugstore and specialized in the diseases of women and children.
In 1896, Grube was reported to have tried a telephone connection between New Braunfels and Blanco. New Braunfels had been connected to San Antonio since January. He continued to give smallpox vaccinations and once again was elected to be a delegate to the Democratic Convention.
He bought shares in the Comal County Fair Association in 1899 and became the president of the Schuetzenverein (Shooting Club). Most importantly, Otto Grube married Emmy Weber in a December ceremony. He was 50; Emmy was 28.
1902 saw a rise in smallpox cases. Dr. Grube, the Comal County Health Officer, reported on the victims: Tausch’s daughter, 2 Catholic nuns, Kern’s son, 1 member of the Lueder family, 2 of Albrecht’s daughters, and 3 Mexican workers on the Kuehler Farm.
Dr. Otto R. Grube died July 8, 1902, of kidney failure, and was buried in Comal Cemetery. His second wife, Emmy, lived until November 23, 1956.
Now I wonder how much of my life — or yours — is recorded in the newspaper.
- Neu Braunfelser Zeitung microfilm collection
- First Protestant Church records
- US Census reports
- The Portal to Texas History https://texashistory.unt.edu