By Myra Lee Adams Goff
It’s the Silver Anniversary of Weihnachtsmarkt. Can you believe it? For 25 years the Sophienburg has been putting on this event. Weihnachtsmarkt means “Christmas Market”. Patterned after the Christmas Markets in Germany, the purpose is to allow tradesmen to offer customers goods and gifts for Christmas gift-giving. Of course, our purpose is also to help keep the doors open to the Museum and Archives. The event will be at the Civic Center from Friday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 24.
There are some unexpected connections between Weihnachtsmarkt and the Civic Center. Stretch your imagination and see if you can guess the first connection.
In 1844 when the first group of immigrants on the ship Johann Dethardt arrived in Galveston, there was a young man aboard named Karl Matern. He was typical of the single first emigrants looking for a new life. Early in March, Prince Carl went to San Antonio looking for land to buy and bought the Veramendi Tract (Comal Tract) from the Juan Veramendi heirs. Karl Matern accompanied Prince Carl on this trip. As a first founder of New Braunfels, Matern received Lot #63 from the Adelsverein, on which he built a log cabin without using nails. He had been trained in forestry in Germany.
A year later Matern attended a picnic in Austin County where he met his future wife, Ulrike Fuchs. After they married in 1853, the couple moved to land on the Colorado River in Burnet County where her family had settled. Matern was gone from New Braunfels and so was his little log cabin.
Now you have connection #1. Lot #63 is where the Civic Center now stands and I’m sure lots of nails were used in construction. In front of it is the statue of Prince Carl. This is where Weihnachtsmarkt will be held.
About the time the Matern left New Braunfels, a child, Alonzo Garwood, was born in Bastrop, Texas. He was destined to have a successful medical practice in New Braunfels. Dr. Garwood built a grand home on the corner of Seguin and Garden Sts. sometime in the mid-1920s. The lot number was #63. He married Irene Pfeuffer, the daughter of Senator Georg Johann Pfeuffer and Suzanah Gravis and two children were born to the couple – Lucille in 1885 and George in 1889.
After Irene’s death, Garwood married Bertha Harpstrite. When Dr. Garwood died in 1932, his widow lived in the house until her death.
After several owners, the property was purchased in 1969 by the City of New Braunfels, including most of the block, that included lot # 63.
Chamber of Commerce
Fast forward to an ad in the l00th Anniversary of the Neu Braunfelser Herald-Zeitung in 1952. This ad stated that the Chamber of Commerce began in 1920 when the town was a “neat little town” of 3,590 to almost 15,000 in 1952 (today’s population is at least six times that amount). In its infancy, NB had ideal living conditions, was favored by nature, and was strategically located in the heart of Texas. Originally called the Merchants Association, the Chamber of Commerce organization became the Board of City Development and eventually the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce.
Now go way back in time. As long as commerce existed, traders grouped themselves together for protection and then eventually to set up rules of governing the conduct of trade. As a world-wide organization, the Chamber goes back to the end of the 17th century in Marsaille, France when the city council formed an association of traders.
In the British Isles, it was in Glasgow, Edinburg, Manchester, and London in 1881. In Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm saw the advantages of such organizations for promoting trade. Its success spread over Germany.
The oldest Chamber of Commerce in America was formed in New York in 1768 and was chartered by King George of England and by 1870 there were 40 U.S. Chambers. Each was an association of tradesmen for promotion of the sale of goods. When businesses realized that their success depended on a healthy community, the Chamber of Commerce became a true community organization. That’s true of the New Braunfels Chamber. To attract new industries and to involve the community in governmental affairs on a local, state and federal level became major goals for Chamber programs.
Our Civic Center opened its doors in 1971. Most of the building is smack-dab in the middle of lot #63.
Now let’s get back to Weihnachtsmarkt. Eighty years ago the Sophienburg Museum and Archives was organized for the purpose of preserving the unique history of New Braunfels and Comal County. Weihnachtsmarkt began in 1989 as a primary fund raiser.
The Civic Center was the location of the event. During the expansion of the Civic Center, Weihnachtsmarkt was held as a one year event in the Wursthalle. Although the atmosphere was charming using huge murals of Germany, the event returned to the new Civic Center in 2008. More geared to this type of event, Weihnachtsmarkt has been there ever since.
The sounds and smells of Weihnachtsmarkt will put you in the mood for the holidays. Sophie’s Kaffee Shop gives you an opportunity to eat and rest in between shopping. There is so much variety in the shopping and if you want to experience old world Christmas charm, come to Weihnachtsmarkt.
Letter to Prince Carl:
Dear Prince Carl,
Perhaps you can be with us in spirit at Weihnachtsmarkt. We think you would like what we have done at Sophie’s Castle on the hill. We will use the money we make at Weinhachtsmarkt to keep alive the history of the community you helped found.
The Sophienburg Museum and Archives