By Myra Lee Adams Goff
A designated post office can reveal a great deal about an area and about who lived there. In Comal County the Spring Branch Post Office was at one time headed by Gottlieb Elbel and he had the forethought to keep a journal from 1867, when he became postmaster to 1872. From the journal, we learn who lived in the area, what they were interested in by what publications they subscribed to, and many more tiny insignificant things mentioned.
It’s hard to keep a journal. You don’t believe that? How many of you started a diary? How many continued one?
When the emigrants from Germany came to Texas with the Adelsverein, many moved on to the hill country surrounding New Braunfels. Routes into the hill country were along the waterways and creeks towards Western Comal County. Many land owners purchased their land from holders of Spanish or Mexican land grants, or from land speculators.
These small settlements were relatively self-sufficient with their own sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, stores, schools, church and cemetery. They also developed a post office along postal routes which connected with New Braunfels, San Antonio, Blanco, Boerne, and the rest of the hill country.
One of those settlements was 23 miles NW of NB on the Spring Branch Creek and was consequently called Spring Branch. “The Branch”, as it is sometimes referred to, was known to have clear, cold water year round and land around the creek became the home of the Knibbe, Elbel, Porter, Horne, Fuhrmann, Imhoff, Beierle, Acker, Kriegner, Willke, Monken, Becker, Bergmann, Moos, Neugebauer, Knebel, Bartels, Esser, Specht, Bender, Busch, Kretzel, Stahl, Gass, Jonas, Rust, Schaeferkoeter and Wunderlich families. Many of those names are still familiar in the area. Brenda Anderson Lindemann did extensive research on families in the area in her book, “Spring Branch & Western Comal County Texas”. A revision of this book will be on the market shortly.
In 1858, the first Spring Branch post office was established with Louis Willke as post master. The next postmaster was Dr. Charles Porter in 1860, and his untimely death in 1861, closed the Post Office. As a result of Texas seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy, all US government post offices were closed. The Comal Ranch, a Confederate post, about a mile from Spring Branch was designated as the post office and remained the area’s post office until after the Civil War in 1865.
After the war, a post office was opened in New Braunfels and Spring Branch residents had to rely on notices in the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung that mail had arrived in their name and that they were to pick it up at the post office in NB. Two years later in 1867, Gottlieb Elbel became the postmaster in Spring Branch out, of his house.
Elbel had arrived in Texas from Germany in 1849. He met and married Christine Zeh who was a waitress aboard the ship, “Gallant Flora” on which both were traveling. Arriving in NB, the couple was married by Rev. Louis Ervendberg of the German Protestant Church. After a short stay in NB, the couple moved to Spring Branch. They built a two room house where they raised seven children. Mrs. Elbel died giving birth to the 8th child. Gottleib then married the widow Auguste Wehe and together they had four more children.
Now the Journal. Gottleib Elbel kept a post journal from the time he became postmaster until 1872 when he ended his term. In the two-room house with all the family, he also ran the post office.
The first mail arrived on August 27, 1867 between New Braunfels and Fredericksburg by way of Spring Branch. Young 22-year-old Adolph Jonas delivered the mail on horseback and continued to do that for eleven more years. A coachline was established from Austin to Blanco to Fredericksburg and San Saba, however, Jonas delivered the mail six more years from NB to Blanco.
Here is a sample of what is in the Journal. Col. Charles Power, the 1862 postmaster at Comal Ranch during the Civil War, subscribed to the following publications: “Weekly Picayune” out of New Orleans, “Texas State Gazette” from Austin, “New York Tribune” from New York, “San Antonio Weekly Herald”, “The World” out of New York, and “The Two Republics” out of Mexico City. What do these publications tell you about Col. Power? I didn’t see a Sears and Robuck catalog or “Good Housekeeping”. Col. Power sent a letter to Dublin, Great Britain and had to pay 50 cents to send it.
In 1868, Heinrich von Rittberg paid 15 cents postage on a letter received from West Prussia. He sent a letter to Bruchsac Baden via Hamburg, for 10 cents purchase.
After all those children plus the postal business, Gottleib and Augusta built a larger home nearby in 1871. Both buildings are still standing. The property was sold to Robert and Betty McCallum in 1949 and then eventually to the present owner, Harlan Henryson, in 1998. The property of almost three acres has the original 1852 homestead constructed of cedar logs, adobe brick, stone, and cypress, in addition to the 1871 home. The tract also contains the original family cemetery where Gottleib Elbel and family are buried.
Henryson is in the process of applying for a Texas Historical Marker. The people in the Spring Branch area are very proud of their history and just like the Esser’s Crossing Comal County Historical marker, will no doubt celebrate this recognition.