The Sophienburg Memorial Association is proud to bestow the Sophienburg History Award, established in 2013, honoring Myra Lee Adams Goff for her dedication to the community and her steadfast love of history. The award recognizes a student who demonstrates a love and passion for New Braunfels history. The 2022 recipient chosen by the Sophienburg Memorial Association to receive the award is Joshua Wesloh. He is a senior at Smithson Valley High School and will be attending the University of Texas in the fall. The following is the essay about a historically significant event or person in Comal County submitted as a requirement of the scholarship application.
John O. Meusebach
By Joshua Wesloh
This is one of my favorite historical figures that I have learned about in my life, and he lived just a few miles away from me. Versatility, resolute and multifaceted are not fabricated adjectives or false praise; this man was truly all of those things. It is a shame that I only have a thousand words to talk about who I believe should be called the “Father of New Braunfels”. That person is John O. Meusebach, also known by his shorter name, Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach. Friends of the Brothers Grimm, polyglot, lawyer, Bürgermeister, Commissioner-General, delegate for Native American treaties, founder of Texas settlements, this list of Meusebach’s achievements is getting too long. I need another sentence. Meusebach was a state senator, special state commissioner, botanist, mercantile business owner, justice of the peace, winemaker, postmaster, and outspoken opponent of slavery all in his lifetime.
Meusebach was born on May 26, 1814, in Dillenburg, Duchy of Nassau, a long way from the change he was to cause in Texas. Meusebach was born to scholar, Karl Hartwig Gregor von Meusebach and pianist Ernestine von Meusebach née von Witzleben. Karl, his father, was great friends with the notable folk storytellers the Brothers Grimm, who “sent compilations of their immortal fairy tales to the Meusebachs when the children were young”(King 12). When it came time for Meusebach to begin his perpetually long list of jobs, he enrolled in the University of Bonn in 1832 where he studied law. While at University, John became a polyglot, as he learned to read in five languages and speak English fluently. During this time, Meusbach noted the hypocrisy that America was founded on the ideas of liberty while continuing to allow slavery to exist. Meusebach continued working for cities in Germany, eventually becoming the Bürgermeister, or chief executive, of the city of Anklam in 1841.
I know, that got very repetitive, but it is now 1845 and Meusebach is finally in Texas. He signed his contract with the Adelsverien on February 24, 1845. Meusebach paid his $2,000 membership fee, which, calculated for inflation, is about the cost of a single piece of wood nowadays. Technically, it is still The Republic of Texas for a few more months. What matters, however, is that Meusebach is there, and from the looks of it, he is there to fix some problems. I do not mean problems like low Wi-Fi signal or low battery like we must deal with today, but problems of the 1840s. Just to name a few: “Lack of cash, the arrival of too many immigrants in too short a time, the shortage of the necessary vehicles for transporting them to the interior of Texas, the outbreak of war with Mexico, an unexpectedly severe winter, and disease” (Smith and Tetzlaff). However, as they say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Even though I am sure that saying did not exist in 1845, Meusebach was definitely tough. He solved the financial problems of New Braunfels that Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels caused and provided food, shelter, and protection for the incoming colonists. Also founding the settlements of Fredericksburg, Castell and Leiningen during this time, he really was the Tom Hanks of 1840s Texas. In 1847, Meusebach signed the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty, a treaty in which Meusebach met with, you guessed it, the Comanche tribe. This treaty, apart from being that type of treaty that really makes it easier to learn history (looking at you, 67 Treaties of Paris), was one of the most important works of the Germans in Texas. After signing the treaty, Meusebach, whose name I really should have mastered the spelling of by now, resigned from being Commissioner-General. In 1851, he was elected to be a Texas State senator, where he represented Comal County and fought for a public school system. Meusebach eventually became a special state commissioner because, apparently, this guy did not know how to say “no.” He learned five languages and not one of them taught him the word “retirement.” After settling land disputes for a few years, Meusebach moved to Fredericksburg. He then moved back to New Braunfels, before settling in Loyal Valley, north of Fredericksburg. When he moved to Fredericksburg, Meusebach finally settled down and retired. No, I am just joking, of course, Meusebach kept working. He ran a stage stop where, in 1875, he was shot in the leg by vigilantes during the Mason County Hoo Doo War over cattle rustlers. That roller coaster of a sentence might just be the most Texas Wild West sentence ever written. Meusebach obviously survived the gunshot wound and became a justice of the peace in Loyal Valley as a result. This is where the life of John O. Muesebach finally slows down. In his last years, he tended to his vineyard and rose garden before dying in Loyal Valley on May 27, 1897.