By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce sponsors an amazing brochure titled “New Braunfels, Texas Culture & Heritage (Kultur und Erbe).” The brochure invites you to take a peek inside with the words “Open to see trails & explorations involving New Braunfels, Texas.” Just inside the front cover, one can find out that there were many expeditions that went through New Braunfels in the 1600s and 1700s; many old transportation trails including the Old Indianola Trail, San Antonio Stage Line, El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail (also known as the King’s Highway), International & Great Northern Railroad, and the Meridian Highway; some military and postal routes; and some cattle trails and Indian Nation trails including the Shawnee, Chisholm and the Western. Obviously, all of these trails led to an abundance of trade and social interaction and we have been right in the middle of all of it. Of course, new trails (roads and highways) are being made every day.
What is a trail? Mostly it is a means of getting from one place to another. Even the smallest ant makes trails that the whole colony travels. I still remember the trails of the red ants that were more prevalent when I was a a child. They left the nest and one by one followed a path that led them to water or food. As kids, we even had a song that we sang as we watched this process: “The ants go marching one by one, hoorah, hoorah.” Out in the wilderness you can observe paths made by animals.
If we use this simple definition of a trail, then the trip from Germany to Galveston was a trail. Some old trails from the coast to New Braunfels are significant enough to be marked. Some have national and state significance as well. The trail from Indianola to New Braunfels is marked by granite markers. It marked the trek by the German immigrants first led by Prince Karl and the Adelsverein. They traveled from the coast on the east side of the Guadalupe River and then crossed into New Braunfels. Five sites along the route are marked. They include in order, Indianola, Victoria, Gonzales, Seguin and New Braunfels. The markers begin at the foot of the LeSalle statue at Indianola and end in a flower bed on the Castell Avenue side of the New Braunfels Civic Center. This trail memorializes the thousands of German immigrants that braved the elements to reach this destination.
El Camino Real
When the settlers reached the Guadalupe River on March 21, 1845, the settlers crossed the river at the El Camino Real or Old King’s Highway, an old established trail. The crossing site can be viewed from the Faust Street Bridge. El Camino Real de los Tejas (now a National Historic Trail) became part of the National Trails System in 2004. It is a corridor that encompasses 2,580 miles of trail from the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass and Laredo to Natchitoches, Louisiana. The period of historical significance dates from 1680 to1845. When Spanish explorers began to travel into Texas and western Louisiana in the 1680s, they followed already existing networks of American Indian trails.
Representatives of the Spanish Crown used these paths to reach areas where they subsequently established missions and presidios. In Comal County and New Braunfels there is a corridor of trail routes extending from the Old Bastrop Road and Hunter Road to the Comal Springs, along Nacogdoches Road to Hwy 482 and then crosses the Cibolo along the Old Nacogdoches Road. The Comal Springs were discovered in 1691 by Spanish Explorers. Many American Indian tribes were found living there at the time. In 1918, The Daughters of the American Revolution marked the El Camino Real with markers every five miles. There are five in Comal County and their locations can be found by reading this Sophienburg column from November 1, 2010.
The Chisholm Trail
The Chisholm Trail was not the longest cattle trail but probably became the most famous due to movies and the many versions of: “Come along boys and listen to my tale, I’ll tell you of my troubles on the Old Chisholm Trail. Come a ti yi yippee, come a ti yi, yea.” The longhorns moved slowly giving the cowhands plenty of time to make up different versions of this song. Supposedly over 1000 versions have been found. From the Chisholm Trail brochure sponsored by The Texas Historical Commission: “In the decades following the Civil War, more than six million cattle were herded out of Texas in one of the greatest migrations of animals ever known. The 19th century cattle drives laid the foundation for Texas’ wildly successful cattle industry and helped elevate the state out of post-Civil War despair and poverty. Today, our search for an American identity consistently leads us back to the vision of the rugged and independent men and women of the cattle drive era.” The Chisholm Trail came through New Braunfels roughly following IH 35. The Chisholm Trail era ended in the 1880s and a new marker for this trail has been placed at the corner of Seguin Avenue and Nacogdoches Road. Soon, a second marker will be placed at the Comal County Courthouse.
Back on July 12, 2015, I wrote an article on the Meridian Highway in Texas (see Sophienburg.com) The following is an excerpt from that article describing the highway:
“When the Texas Highway Department was created in 1917, the Meridian Highway in Texas was called State Highway 2 which meant it was the second most important highway in Texas. The highway in Texas is approximately 900 miles. With the adoption of the interstate highway numbering system, this highway became US81 for the most part and much of the segments now follow IH 35, one of the nation’s busiest interstate highways. The highway links Canada to Mexico and also continues as the Pan-American Highway that stretches from Alaska to Argentina.” The Texas Historical Commission has completed a project to identify significant businesses along the Meridian Highway route. In New Braunfels, the following were identified: a gas station at 4731 Old Hwy 81; the Faust Street Bridge; the el Camino Real marker at Seguin and Nacogdoches; a gas station (now Palacio Tire Shop) at 711 S. Seguin Avenue; a gas station (part of Bluebonnet Motors) at 619 S. Seguin Avenue; Becker Motor Company (now Bluebonnet Motors) at 541 S. Seguin Avenue; a café and bus station (now Celebrations) at 275 S. Seguin Avenue; the Faust Hotel at 240 S. Seguin Avenue; the Prince Solms Inn at 295 E. San Antonio Street; Leissner Gas Station (now UPS) at 301 Main Plaza; the Schmitz Hotel at 471 Main Plaza; the Gerlich Auto Dealership at 386 W. San Antonio Street and an auto dealership and repair shop (now Landmark Properties and other businesses) at 472 and 474 W. San Antonio Street. For more information on the Meridian Highway, visit www.thc.texas.gov/meridian.
Trails in New Braunfels
Once you explore all of the trails leading to New Braunfels, you can download the New Braunfels mobile app found at http://walkingtourinnewbraunfels.com to embark on your self-guided walking tour of NB, driving tour of NB, walking tour of Gruene, or the NB murals tour. If you desire a professional guide for a unique walking tour, you can contact Jan Kingsbury at Spass Walking Tours of NB. Other tour guides can be found on the Chamber website also. What would the first founders of New Braunfels say if they could see what has become of the wilderness they explored. “Gee, it would have been easier if I had had the app on my phone.”