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Mission Hill Park

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

How would you like to watch the New Braunfels July 4th fireworks from the highest point in New Braunfels? Maybe you could even see the fireworks in San Marcos, Seguin and Randolph Field from this spot. Well, you can’t do it this year, but maybe it will be possible in the future.

The New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of designing a new park which will be called Mission Hill Park. Off of Hwy. 46 right next to the HEB grocery store is a ten-acre piece of property obtained by the City for the development of a park. The name Mission Hill supposedly got its name from a Spanish Mission in the area from the mid-1700s. However, the description that is more accurate is “proposed site of the Mission Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.” The mission that was established was short-lived in temporary quarters and really nobody knows exactly where it was located. Missions were established next to water sources and this property is a long way from the rivers. Whatever its origin, the name Mission Hill stuck.

One of the plans is to include a tower on the promontory point of the property reminiscent of a similar tower dating back to the early 1900s. Many New Braunfelsers remember the home with the tower.

The property where the park will locate has an interesting history about who owned it and what it was used for.

Go back to 1847 when the State of Texas issued a grant of land on which the Mission Hill is located to Andres Sanchez who transferred it to Daniel Murchison in 1854. The property was 320 acres.

In 1856 Murchison deeded the 320-acre property to Ludwig Kessler and shortly thereafter to Friedrich Ludwig Hermann Conring. The Conrings were the stewards of the land for almost three decades. Conring and his wife, Georgine Meyer, arrived in 1854 from Germany.

Two of their sons fought in the Civil War. One son, Ernst, was a saltpeter maker which explains why the Mission Hill property contains a kiln similar to the one in Landa Park. During the Civil War the kiln produced gun powder used by the army. This family information was shared by Lorine Riedel (Calvin) who still lives in NB. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Hermann and Georgine Conring. The Conrings built a home on Mission Hill in the 1850s. Lorine’s grandmother, Clara Conring, told stories about her grandmother, Georgine, hiding in the home during the Civil War.

In 1883 the property was sold to Franz Coreth and from that time on, it was owned by the Franz Coreth family, his son Rochette, and his grandson Franz Ernst Coreth.

According to Kay Faust Specht, great-granddaughter of Franz and Minna Zesch Coreth, Franz’s father was Austrian Count Ernst Coreth. After emigrating from Germany, Ernst and his wife Agnes Erler Coreth purchased 280 acres from John O. Meusebach near Wald Road on the Comal Creek. They lived on the property the rest of their lives. Remember when I wrote the Altgelt Pond story? (Sophienburg.com) The house was very close to that pond.

Now back to Mission Hill. Franz Coreth ranched and farmed the land that he bought from Hermann Conring. He built an L-shaped house in the late 1800s but unfortunately it burned down to the ground. Family tradition states that there was a volunteer fire department in New Braunfels but its horse-drawn fire wagon was unable to pull the heavy water tank up Mission Hill. A second house was built on the same spot, very similar to the first one but with the addition of a porch and a tower.

One of the daughters of Franz and Minna Coreth was Lina Coreth Windwehen who shared information with her granddaughter, Kay Faust Specht. Lina grew up in that house and told her granddaughter many tales of living in the house on Mission Hill. She remembered a large screened-in porch. Of course, the tower with the “widow’s walk” was a favorite of all the children. So many events could be seen from that tower. Miles of the land below and early mapmakers came to survey NB from that tower. During WWI, in 1918, Gen. Pershing brought his troops to the ranch from Ft. Sam Houston where they practiced their maneuvers. He watched the troops on the plain below from Mission Hill.

Rochette Coreth was the son of Franz and Minna and he continued to ranch the land after his father died. When he married his first wife, Flora Bading, he built a second house on the hill next to the original house. It was actually the third Coreth house on the hill. Flora Bading died when their only child, Franz Ernst Coreth, was three years old.

The next segment of the Coreth story on Mission Hill began when Rochette married Melinda Staats. Relatives of Melinda’s that provided the following information were: Mitzi Nuhn Dreher, Judy Nuhn Morton, and A.D. Nuhn Jr. The A.D. and Irene Nuhn family lived in the tower house in the mid-1940s. The Nuhns remember seeing the Eiband and Fischer fire down on the Plaza in 1947. It was a huge fire. They also remember lightning striking the tower blowing out what was around the water faucets. When the lightening hit the chimney, the whole dining room filled with soot. The tower was the source of many adventures for the Nuhn children and their friends. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

Another source of information from a more modern observation was that of Joel Karl Erben, great-nephew of Melinda Coreth. His mother, Joline Staats Erben, was the sister of Melinda. As a young child he spent many hours at the Mission Hill homes and ranch. Joel recalls that with Hurricane Carla, considerable damage was done to the upper rails and shutters of the tower. That kept him from going to the top of the tower. It was possible to see things from that viewpoint that one could see nowhere else.

Joel remembers a story about a political cocktail party at Mission Hill. Rochette was on the board of directors of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association. The Coreths gave a party for the directors which, incidentally, included Gov. Dolph Briscoe and his wife, Janie. As formal as these affairs can be, the Coreths asked the guests to park at the bottom of the hill by the barns and hike up the hill. He has a vision of the women struggling up the hill wearing pumps (high heels).

Imagine this: Joel remembers cloudy days when the tower was above the clouds. Now that’s a picture. From the tower it was possible to see the smoke stacks of LCRA sticking up over the fog line. He says that weather fronts take on a different view from up high.

Rochette Coreth was a very popular figure in NB. He involved himself politically and for that he was honored to be the grand marshal for the New Braunfels Centennial parade. Riding his white horse, he had a saddle embellished with sterling silver. The suit he wore and the saddle are at the Sophienburg. A video shows Rochette galloping up the side of Mission Hill after the parade.

The last Coreth to own Mission Hill was Franz Ernst Coreth. In the 1990s both of the unoccupied houses burned down.

The Parks Department is still in the planning stage for the property that will be enjoyed by the whole community. I would think that the whole Coreth family will be proud that this significant property will be honored as a park.

Coreth tower home with family photo inset.  From the left, Minna Zesch Coreth, Lina Coreth (Windwehen), Rochette Coreth, Agnes Coreth (Altgelt) and Franz Coreth. Photos from the Kay Faust Specht collection.

Coreth tower home with family photo inset. From the left, Minna Zesch Coreth, Lina Coreth (Windwehen), Rochette Coreth, Agnes Coreth (Altgelt) and Franz Coreth. Photos from the Kay Faust Specht collection.