By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Do you know where the Klappenbach House is located? From Landa St., turn onto Fredericksburg Rd. and go straight until you get to a hill, Klappenbach Hill. The house on the left is the Klappenbach property. The story of the Klappenbach family is indeed interesting.
The story begins in Sorenbohm, Germany, where in the 1820’s, Johann Heinrich Voelcker was called to be an evangelical Lutheran preacher. He was married to Caroline Wilhelmine Wirth and they had four children, Friedrich, Julius, Franciska, and Eugen Voelcker. In1834 their oldest son, Friedrich, died and then two years later Rev. Voelcker died, possibly of smallpox from parishioners he was tending. The young mother was left alone with three children. She moved to Anklam, a seaport town in far North Germany near the Baltic Sea. Here she eventually married Georg Jochim Jacob Friedrich A. Klappenbach.
Klappenbach, born in 1810 in Lenzen, had studied “Legal Science” at the University of Griefswald. While there he joined a radical reform protest movement, was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison. A year passed and his sentence was commuted. Friends who were in this movement said that Georg was nicknamed “Rebell” and the group was a democratic reform group that met at a pub to drink beer and make speeches. This movement eventually led to the later revolution of 1848 in Germany.
After his arrest, Georg moved to Anklam. He took several municipal jobs. Apparently the political situation was in chaos because the mayor’s position was perpetually vacant. Klappenbach ran for mayor and won, but that didn’t end the discord.
Now here’s a familiar name: John O. Meusebach (as he was later called in Texas) was called on to help sort out the reforms in Anklam and a bond grew between the two men. This friendship ultimately led to Klappenbach’s coming to Texas.
In Anklam Klappenbach married the widow Voelcker, and together they produced a child, Rosa, born in 1840 who died in 1842. Another child, Bruno, was born in 1845.
The Klappenbachs were familiar with the fact that Meusebach emigrated to Texas and Julius Voelcker, Caroline’s oldest living son, emigrated first. Meanwhile the Adelsverein contacted Georg offering him free passage and land in New Braunfels if he would come as an assistant to John Meusebach. He accepted the offer in 1846 and the family pulled up stakes and moved to Texas.
Although Klappenbach received the traditional half acre lot in town (on the corner of Seguin Ave. and Garden St.) he also claimed 50 more acres. This property was bounded by Landa St., which was then called County Road, up Fredericksburg Rd., adjacent to the Balcones Escarpment, and down Parkview Blvd.
On this property in 1846 the Klappenbachs buried Caroline’s child, Franciska Voelcker, 22 years of age. Dr. Ferdinand Roemer describes the funeral in this manner: “According to a North American custom in the rural districts, all people in the funeral procession were mounted (on horses) which appeared unusual ….” The burial was on the property of the stepfather, beside the springs of the Comal, in view of the river and shaded by forest trees.
Stepson Eugen Voelcker constructed the dog-trot style homestead for the Klappenbachs near the springs. He had been trained in carpentry and home building in Anklam. Three feet thick walls of native fieldstone rubble with mortar made of caliche and straw were then covered with stucco. The roof is supported by two unjointed cypress beams the length of the house. The floors are cedar.
Klappenbach farmed and ranched on this property. He used the “GK” brand. He didn’t give up his interest in politics, being elected mayor in 1851 and then on the school board of the NB Academy. He was elected chief justice of Comal County in 1861.
Carl and Augusta Buehler bought the property from Klappenbach in 1881. It was Buehler that terraced the property next to the hill below the house. Buehler was known for his horticulture and the soil was so rich, and the area so perfect for growing fruits and vegetables, that even today many plants spring forth on their own – herbs such as horehound and mustang grapevines.
The most unusual trees are the anaqua trees. They are an old variety that grow close to water (aqua is water). There are many in Landa Park. About this time of year these trees are covered with tiny fragrant flowers that soon turn into berries. Indians concocted a dried food call pemmican. The berries of the anaqua were mixed with dried venison and made into paste for easy carriage.
Buehler’s grandson, Edward Penshorn, took ownership of the farm and then Melvin and Juanita Johnson bought it in the 1930’s. Finally the present owners, Tim and Elisabet Barker, bought the remaining 3 1/2 acres in 1984. Barker is a Master Gardener who grows magnificent flowers on the five terraces. Two small historic buildings have been moved on to the property blending in with the historic dog-trot house still in existence.
Much of the information for this article column has been collected from the Sophienburg Archives. There is a collection of about 450 family books, one of which is “Fink, Voelcker, and Klappenbach Families” by Albert Henry Fink. These family books are a real plus for researchers!