By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Recently I had an opportunity to practice my investigative reporting skills. I’m not adventurous enough to be a real investigative reporter but every once in a while something piques my curiosity and I’m off on an adventure. Reading a newspaper article by Oscar Haas that he wrote 45 years ago about Altgelt Pond got me started.
Never having heard of the pond before, I started looking and found very little. The story was very interesting but gave me sketchy clues about where this pond was located. Clue #1 was that it was four miles west of New Braunfels on the Dry Comal Creek. After several dry runs, my husband and I started over at the Plaza, went out Landa St., turned right before the overpass, turned left on Loop 337, heading toward the Dry Comal Creek area. Sure enough, large patches of trees on the right side of the loop led us to a little turn-in right after McCoys Lumber and Holiday Marine Boat Supplies. There was the River City Range and right there as you drive in on the left side of the short drive is Altgelt Pond. The pond has a chain-link fence around it but it is visible.
Johnny Rodriguez, a native of New Braunfels, owns the River City Range, a seven acre miniature golf course, two driving ranges, practice facility, batting cages, and sanded and lighted volleyball courts. There is a bar with several television sets, pool table, and ping pong table. Rodriguez bought the property five years ago.
Stories handed down by old-timers in the area tell of very big fish and that the pond was a favorite fishing spot. The pond has never dried up. Stories of the pond go back to the beginning of the settlement. Occasionally alligators were sighted in the Comal River and thought to be from the Dry Comal. Rodriguez said that even through the last drought in Comal County, the pool remained full. Other pools and tanks in the area dried up. It is estimated that the pool is at least 60 feet deep but was impossible to measure. Imagine the difficulty of measuring the depth of a spring-fed pool.
No one knows what name the pond had in the past. If it was named after the owners, it could have been Veramendi Pond, Prince Carl Pond, Meusebach Pond, Ernst Coreth Pond and finally Altgelt Pond. Probably the Native Americans had a name for it. According to Haas, there were several different names given to the pond, such as “Blue Hole” and “Bottomless Hole”. Early settlers called it “Der Teich”, meaning The Pond in German. This pond may be bottomless but it is not blue. It’s hard to imagine it as ever being described as blue. It’s green with algae and looks like it could be a great setting for one of the swamp movies. I imagine the snakes love it.
One of the first owners of the land on which the pond was located was John O. Meusebach, successor to Prince Carl as head of the Adelsverein in Texas. When Meusebach came to New Braunfels to take the place of Prince Carl, he came with a contract signed by Count Castell, president of the German Emigration Company. The contract stated that Meusebach would receive 500 acres of the company’s land of his choosing. In June, 1847, Meusebach chose a 280 acre plot where the pond was located.
Six months later he sold the tract to Count Ernst Coreth for $3,266 including a house, two cedar log cabins, farm implements, garden seeds, ploughed land, ditches and fences.
Meusebach married Miss Agnes Coreth, oldest daughter of Count Ernst and Countess Agnes Coreth on Sept. 26, 1852. For a brief time the Meusebachs lived at Hueco Springs and later founded Loyal Valley. Agnes Meusebach’s parents, Count and Countess Coreth, came with their six children to Texas in the fall of 1846 on the ship York, an emigrant sailing ship out of Antwerp. Five more children were born in Texas. The last child, Otilie, was born in 1858 and married Hermann Altgelt in 1879. The obituary of Mrs. Agnes Coreth states that the family after its arrival in Texas “went on to Fredericksburg, returned to NB and lived on a farm later known as the Altgelt Farm, which has the famous Altgelt Pond on it.” (Oscar Haas said that the pond was owned by E.R. Teinert in 1970.) It now belongs to Johnny Rodriguez.
Rochette Coreth, son of Franz Coreth and the grandson of Ernst and Agnes Coreth, told Oscar Haas a story about Altgelt Pond. He said that when his grandfather owned the land on which the pond was located, he used the pond for irrigation. There was a certain special kind of clay that he had hauled in by mule carts and placed the clay around the outside of the pond to build it up. He was able to use the flow of the pond for irrigation purposes. The water was then above the level of the surrounding fields and it was possible to use gravity flow to irrigate. The pond became the object of a riparian (water) rights suit. Haas said that a mill owner farther down the Comal Creek had been using the overflow of the pond to turn a waterwheel for his mill. When Coreth dammed it up, water no longer flowed to his mill. The mill owner, and Haas did not name the person, filed suit against Coreth and the suit eventually went to the Texas Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Coreth’s rights.
The whole area on which Altgelt Pond is located has its unusual features whether for agricultural purposes or industry. Some old prominent names connected with this land were Meusebach, Altgelt, Coreth, Ogden, Eikel and especially Dittlinger who was the founder of the settlement of Dittlinger in the early 1900s. He and I.A. Ogden began a rock-crushing business on a large scale that has grown to what it is today. Dittlinger created a settlement of houses,a school, a church, stores, and a dance hall for workers at “Las Calera”, or The Lime as it was called by the inhabitants.
The settlement of Dittlinger is no more, agriculture in the area is sparse, but Der Teich refuses to go away. Come to think of it, I might be able to start a new career in investigative journalism.