By Myra Lee Adams Goff
It’s early spring in the year 1846 and I am imagining myself at the edge of the Guadalupe where the ferry would be bringing Dr. Ferdinand Roemer into the new town of New Braunfels. He had arrived in Texas the year before to study the resources, geology, and flora of Texas. He especially wanted to meet the well-known botanist,Dr. Ferdinand Lindheimer, who would be an excellent resource.
After Dr. Roemer disembarks, we head up the principal street (Seguin) toward the main plaza and on the right side observe a small house with three shingles hanging with the inscriptions “Apothecary”, “Dr. Koester”, and “Bakery”. Rather unusual combination. Roemer said he had seen “doctor and pharmacist” combinations in Europe, but a baker? After eating the bread produced at the bakery, we thought it was a lucrative combination (now Property Management Professionals).
Passing by a large frame building on the left, we recognize the German Protestant Church. The building had openings for windows, but no actual windows. Close by was the small home of the pastor, Pastor Louis Ervendberg.
Entering the main plaza area, we observed horses tied on the gallery of the chief saloon belonging to von Coll and von Wedemeyer. Roemerexplained to me that dispensing alcoholic drinks was a very lucrative business throughout Texas, especially to German immigrants. He said that the more popular drinks with the Americans were brandy or French cognac manufactured in this country. Both were diluted with water and served in the saloons of New Braunfels because the favorite German drink, beer, was scarce. A dance to the music of a violin was held at this tavern every Sunday (where the Plaza Hotel was).
A nearby building was the store of Ferguson and Hessler (corner of Castell and San Antonio streets). Roemer noted that the prices were three to four times the price than those charged for the same article in Germany.
Turning right on Castell there was a combined hotel, tavern and store (the corner of Castell and Mill streets) owned by a young German, Count Arnold Henkel von Donnersmark. He had been a good businessman from the start, buying a barrel of whiskey in San Antonio and dispensing it out of the barrel to the immigrants under a tent.
Now Dr. Roemer and I are walking down Comal Strasse and we see in the distance, half hidden among the elm and oak trees, a little hut made of logs on the banks of the Comal River. There stood a tall man at the entrance of this hut splitting wood. A thick black beard covered his face. He wore a blue jacket, open at the front, yellow trousers and the coarse shoes customarily worn by farmers in the vicinity. It was indeed Dr. Ferdinand Lindheimer, the famous botanist.
Born in 1801 in Frankfurt-on-the-Main to well-to-do parents, Lindheimer was university educated and had worked as a botany teacher at the Bunsen Institute which the German authorities suspected was training German revolutionaries. He escaped to the US in 1834, landed in New York, made his way down to Mexico and in 1835 joined Houston’s army one day after the Battle of San Jacinto in the Texas Revolution.
In 1844 Lindheimer was employed by Prince Carl on the coast to guide the first colonists from Indianola to the Veramendi tract. For this task, Prince Carl gave Lindheimer a sword and a large tract of land on the Comal River.
By 1851, Lindheimer had organized the plants of the area into a syem of about 20 species and plants, and one genus of Texas wildflowers.
After a visit with this fascinating man, Dr. Roemer was once again on his way and I came back to the year 2009 where I’m reading Roemer’s “Texas”.