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Dr. Wilhelm Remer, early medical doctor with the Adelsverein

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Have you heard of Dr. Wilhelm Remer? He was an early medical doctor with the Adelsverein for the protection of German immigrants in Texas and he was a friend of Hermann Seele. Here is the story of how they met and their lifetime friendship.

First a little reminder of Seele’s arrival in Texas. Twenty one year old Hermann Seele came to Texas in 1843. He didn’t originally join with the Adelsverein, but after two years in the coastal area, he joined the second group of immigrants who eventually arrived in New Braunfels in May of 1845, two months after the very first group crossed the Guadalupe. While at Indian Point a group of Texan teamsters from Victoria arrived to accompany this second group and take freight belonging to the Adelsverein to the new settlement, fifteen miles north of Seguin.

In April 1845 when the group left Indian Point, the whole coastal area was flooded as a result of too much rain, leaving behind mud in the trails. Even on the first day they traveled only 12 miles. It took four weeks to get as far as Seguin. Mud is very hard on oxen pulling wagons full of goods. To give the oxen rest, they were unyoked and turned out to pasture. A roof type tent of sailcloth was set up to prepare a fire to cook cornbread, bacon, and coffee.

In the evening while sitting around the fire, a tall, strongly built young man with brown hair and beard approached the men around the fire and in German asked, “Guten Abend, meine Herren. Kann ich bei Ihnen bleiben?” (Hello, gentlemen, can I join you?) Although Seele and the others were surprised by the stranger’s arrival, they were very pleased to hear him speak in their native German. The wagoners were American and spoke no German.

The men welcomed this stranger and thus began a lifetime friendship between Hermann Seele and Dr. Wilhelm Remer. From this point on, Seele and Remer were together on their trek inland.

Dr. Remer said that he had arrived in Texas from Breslau, Germany and first practiced medicine in Memphis. From there he went to New Orleans and in April headed back to Texas intending to join the colony. Immediately Remer and Seele began talking about the colonization project and the Adelsverein.

After a terrific thunderstorm, from the north, the group moved on and soon Seele and Remer were witnesses to a barbaric orgy in which a group of Tonkawa Indians had fried and boiled a Waco warrior. Ritual cannibalism was part of their way of life. The Tonkawa squaws felt that if they ate the flesh of the warrior that they admired, that they would pass his good qualities on to their children. For the whole story, see the Sophienburg.com Archives column for August 29, 2008.

As they made their way to the Guadalupe, they were detained because it was impossible to cross the flooding river. All the freight and personal belongings were unloaded. In the distance across the river they could see shimmering white tents of the settlers. On a hill that would later become known to them as the Sophienburg, a black and yellow flag of Germany had been placed there by Prince Carl. At the same time, some of the early settlers had strung up a flag of the Republic of Texas on the area where the Plaza would be. There has been much speculation about the significance of this action.

Waiting on the north side of the Guadalupe until the water had receded, Seele and Remer were finally carried across the river in a canoe hewn from the trunk of a cypress tree by the Smith brothers of Seguin who were cutting cypress shingles. They crossed approximately where the Faust Street Bridge would later be constructed.

They walked into the beginnings of the town and visited with some Germans that they had known in the old country. Remer remained in town and Seele went to pick up meat from the Society’s butcher, H. Burkhart.

According to historian and author Everett Fey, surprisingly Dr. Remer did not receive a town lot. According to others who were First Founders, he should have received a lot since he was a First Founder. Records show that he was listed as an Adelsverein doctor but was not on their payroll. This has caused much speculation especially since he presented a petition to the Colonial Council asking to be treated more fairly. The Council took no action on his request.

During the arrival of thousands of new immigrants in 1845 and 1846, Remer was sent by the Adelsverein to the coastal area to care of the sick immigrants. Dr. Remer eventually set up his medical practice in New Braunfels and married Franciska Kuehn in 1850.

In 1855 a gruesome crime took place in New Braunfels. One of the original founders of NB, Christoph Moeschen, was murdered during the night by his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. Dr. Remer was the doctor called upon to examine the victim and pronounce him dead. According to Hermann Seele, the doctor asked the coroner, “What am I supposed to do now?” to which the coroner replied, “You are to state if the man is dead”. He pronounced that the man was indeed dead and the coroner called for an autopsy right there. After the autopsy, Remer said, “The old man has been murdered. Put the people under arrest.” Seele felt that Remer’s remarks were strange. In the end, mother, daughter, and son-in-law were arrested, tried, and sentenced to nine years in prison. The mother died in prison, the daughter paroled in 1860 and the son-in-law paroled in 1862. For the whole story see Sophienburg.com, Feb 7, 2012.

Not much more is known about Dr. Remer except that he died in 1870. Seele in his writings shows a great deal of respect for the medical profession. Although we don’t have much personal information about Dr. Remer, we can conclude that Seele and he continued a friendship that began in their early days in Texas and lasted throughout their lives.

Dr. Wilhelm Remer confronts a group- of immigrants on their way to New Braunfels.

Dr. Wilhelm Remer confronts a group- of immigrants on their way to New Braunfels. On the right is Hermann Seele. Artist: Patricia S. Arnold.