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First settlers crossed the Guadalupe River on Good Friday

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

One of my favorite historical places to go is the middle of the Faust Street Bridge and look upstream to where the first settlers crossed the Guadalupe on their way into NB. I have walked Nacogdoches St. on the east side of Seguin Ave. towards the river, crossed over a barrier at the end of the road, and gone down to the river. By so doing, I have walked on the Old King’s Highway, or Camino Real. Blazed in 1691 as a direct route from Monclova, Mexico to the Spanish missions in East Texas, this crossing was shallow, even when it was at flood stage. Since this coming Sunday is Easter, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about that first Good Friday in the area in 1845. A little background:

One of the provisions of the contract that the settlers had with the Adelsverein was that schools and churches would be established immediately. Prince Carl was a devout Roman Catholic and was aware that the immigrants were both Catholic and Protestant. He had requested from the Right Rev. Father Alexander of the Redemptionists of Baltimore that a priest be sent to the settlement, but this wouldn’t happen until 1846.The Prince did sign on Rev. Louis Cachand Ervendburg who would tend to the religious needs of both Protestants and Catholics that first year.

After leaving Germany six months earlier, the immigrants finally crossed the Guadalupe on Good Friday, March 21, 1845. The first two womento cross were Mrs. George Ullrich who rode with her wagonmaster husband, and Mrs. Frederick George Holekamp who rode on horseback. The story was that Prince Carl plunged across the crossing on a white horse. Mrs. Holekamp followed him, to the amazement of the other settlers.(If this story is true, she must have been a “spirited” lady and I wonder if Frederick was taken aback by his bride of oneyear).

They pitched their tents where Sts. Peter and Paul Church is located now, prepared the evening meal, and prepared to spend the nights on the steep bank above Comal Creek. A three-sided stockade was built and a cannon was fired morning and night to ward off Indians. Prince Carl assigned a militia of twenty single men to protect the group. Poet Fritz Goldbeck was in that first group of settlers and recorded his memories of these soldiers:

“For added protection, there were two bastions with loaded cannon, and Prince Solm’s armed company, in boots reaching above the knee, dark grey uniforms smart and pleasing to the eye, broad brimmed plumed hats suited perfectly the bebloused riders, with shining spurs and swords dangling at the sides”.

Rev. Ervendberg conducted the first church service a short distance away under the towering elms at the foot of what would later be called Sophienburg Hill. In the late afternoon, a rustic table was set up, covered by a white cloth which was embroidered with a simple black cross. Ervendberg’s wife, Louisa, gathered colorful wild flowers which she placed on the makeshift altar. A wagon seat was taken from its accustomed spot and placed near the altar to be used as a bench for the dignitaries of the Adelsverein. A Good Friday service was held here, and no doubt, an Easter service as well. (See the drawing)

The first group of settlers had arrived. The area was to be a way-station only, as the settlers thought that they would be going to the Llano River area, but that’s a long story for another time. A month later the prince set up his headquarters in a hut on Sophienburg Hill. Having no German flag, he hoisted an Austrian flag at the site and at the same time a group of immigrants downtown hoisted a Republic of Texas flag. The message was clear.

Good Friday, 1845. Drawing by Patricia Arnold.from Journey in Faith. Artwork

Good Friday, 1845. Drawing by Patricia Arnold.from Journey in Faith. Artwork