By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Would New Braunfels history be different if in 1840 there had been communication technology like Face book, Twitter, Google, e-mail, and texting? Would the Adelsverein and the immigrants have had a better picture of the whole situation here in Texas and more importantly for us, would they have emigrated?
It’s called modern communication technology. Imagine how different history could have been with instant communication. In the 1800s, correspondence took at least three months to get here from Germany and another three months for a reply. It was impossible to solve problems in a timely manner.
Now take us back to the past but add modern communication. What if:
– Prince Carl gets over to Texas and instantly e-mails the Adelsverein to either call off the whole emigration project or send lots and lots of money.
-John Meusebach looks at his Blackberry and someone writes “They’re coming to string you up. Better get out of town”. He jumps on his horse and gets a ticket for texting while riding.
-The Zeitung staff googles the name of an immigrant and says “Hey, this guy isn’t who he says he is. He’s got a record in Germany”.
-Lindheimer hides his printing press because someone e-mails him that a group doesn’t like his stand on secession and they’re on their way to throw his printing press in the Comal.
Today one can instantly contact people all over the world and get mega amounts of information from the Internet. By the turn of the 20th century, telegrams and telephones were a big leap forward in the field of communication.
The best source of information regarding early New Braunfels history that the Sophienburg has is the Solms-Braunfels Archives collection. This huge collection consisting of 70 volumes shows what was going on here in NB. The slowdown is that the collection is in German and out of the 70 books, only five have been translated into English. It’s a tedious process.
Originally, there were 46 boxes of documents and they were bound into 70 books sometime in the 1960s by some Sophienburg patrons. The time frame is from 1840 to 1857. In these books are contracts, minutes, reports, instructions from the Adelsverein’s representatives in Texas, and letters from prospective emigrants. Eleven boxes contain correspondence of emigrants to members of the Adelsverein. Now, how interesting will that be? One thing is certain; these letters from the emigrants aren’t going to contain a smiley face picture.
Who collected these archives? It was the Adelsverein, the group of German noblemen who organized the Texas emigration project. The group organized in 1842, reconstituted into a stock company in 1844, declared provisional bankruptcy in 1847, but continued to function until 1891. Their archives were moved to Braunfels, Germany in 1893. In 1929-31 a photocopy was made for the Library of Congress and the archives were microfilmed for two archives in Germany. Eventually they were sold several times to collectors in the United States. Yale University now has the original papers in their collection.
Professor Rudolph Biesele at the University of Texas used the microfilmed copies in 1933 to transcribe (not translate) the originals which were written in “Fraktur” (old German script) to English Roman letters.
The Sophienburg has Biesele’s German copies and a group of volunteers consisting of Margot Hendricks, Rose Emich, Fred Huehner, Bob Pfennig, and Andreas and Wilma Lojewski are in the process of translating the papers. Dr. Robert Govier, before his death, was actively translating.
Communication systems are merely means of transferring information. Translating the archives is a slow, slow process. Timing is the difference between the old system and the new. The translating crew can’t begin to tell you how long it will take. Maybe years from now when these archives are translated, we can write a “shockumentary” about what really went on here in New Braunfels.