By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Dr. Ferdinand Roemer in his book “Roemer’s Texas,” when he arrived in the village of New Braunfels in 1846, wrote that a speculative American had laid out a new city in between the fork of the Comal and the Guadalupe within view of the city of New Braunfels and it was called Comaltown. This American citizen was Daniel Murchison, a land agent for Maria Antonia Veramendi and her husband Rafael Garza. Maria Veramendi Garza was the daughter of Juan Veramendi, governor of Texas under the Mexican regime who had received this land grant.
When Prince Carl laid out the city of New Braunfels on the west bank of the Comal, the Garzas laid out their inheritance on the east side of the Comal. Although Comaltown was separated from New Braunfels by water, it was soon annexed to the city of NB.
There has been very little history written about this thriving community so David Hartmann and I have begun a research project about Comaltown. We are collecting information on people, businesses, schools, churches, recreational activities and much more. David and I have a lot in common, including sharing a common ancestor here in Comaltown, Johann Georg Moeller (1844). We both grew up in this area and attended Lamar School. But when David went to Lamar, I was teaching there. David was in my music class at Lamar and so was Angie Morales, the daughter of Charlie and Francisca Morales who owned Morales Funeral Home on Common St. The funeral home was the first business that we researched in our new project.
The Morales Funeral Home, which was located at 171 Common St., was a thriving business until it was closed. Angie Morales (Kieny) was its last director and mortician. Her parents were Charlie and Francisca Sanchez Morales. Charlie was born in 1897 in Gruene and Francisca in Laredo in 1903. Together the couple had seven children. Angie, who was born in 1945, was the youngest. The other children are Carlota, Alfonso, Virginia, Francis, Martha, and Henry.
In 1921, Charlie Morales bought the property on which the Morales Funeral Home would be located. On the property was a small Sunday House and next to that was a two-story structure which, over the years, had served as a saloon downstairs and a small hotel with rooms for rent upstairs. There was a full basement for making wine and beer. Attached to this two-story building was another one-story addition probably used as a residence for the innkeeper. The buildings were constructed in the true German fachwerk style of clay bricks and cross timber. The clay used was plentiful in the Comaltown area, as many buildings were made of this easy-to-get material.
There is no information on the early owners, however, on the 1881 bird’s-eye view map of New Braunfels, the buildings can clearly be seen. They probably date back to the mid-1800s. They were at one time considered the oldest surviving buildings in Comaltown.
When Charlie Morales purchased the property, he removed the second story of the two- story building, probably due to the fragility of the clay. Other buildings in the area were converted to one-story due to the same situation. The basement became a cellar for can goods and vegetables. The Morales family lived in the remodeled structure and the other side became a funeral home in 1922. All of the Morales children were born at home.
Before buying the funeral home property, Charlie had worked for local contractors along with Rich Moeller. David Hartmann speculates that they worked for the Moeller Brothers Contracting firm consisting of Adolph and Alvin C. Moeller. All lived in the Comaltown area and Rich Moeller was a relative of the brothers.
Charlie Morales had several brothers who owned funeral homes in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston and so the mortician occupation was not new to him. Over the years over 30 family members were involved in the funeral business.
Angie grew up helping her dad and learning from him. She graduated from New Braunfels High School in 1965 and received her mortician’s license from the Commonwealth College of Science in Houston, doing an apprenticeship at Earthman’s Funeral Homes in Houston. Then in 1969 Angie returned to her hometown, New Braunfels, to help her father who retired, but remained active in the business. She became the first female funeral director and mortician in New Braunfels. She remembers some interesting times and she remembers hard times. Many families, due to lack of money, paid Charlie by bringing eggs, chickens, and even a goat. Some could not pay but received the funeral service anyway. Charlie Morales died in 1975.
To Angie, being a full time mortician and raising a family was no easy job. She remembers driving the hearse that the family named “Nellie Belle” hauling around young children that she helped raise.
Angie Morales maintained the funeral director position until 2006 when she closed the funeral home and turned the property over to her son. The buildings were subsequently torn down to make room for condominiums.
Most of the funeral records have been retained by Angie. Her former classmate at NBHS, Estella Delgado Farias, asked to make copies of the funeral home records. Estella was the person who did the research on the West End Hall and Baseball Parks. Angie agreed and Estella said that most of the 7,000 people in the records were buried in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Panteon Hidalgo Cemeteries. She also related that most of the funerals were conducted by the Morales Funeral Home. Estella and her husband, Robert Farias, are now working on the information which they are entering into a database. They are also searching for missing information and eventually will make all of this information available to the public at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.
David and I are off to a running start. Well, maybe not exactly running, but we’re getting there. If you have information and pictures of Comaltown, we would love to use them.