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Mueller family history tapestry

PHOTO CAPTION: The Hannes Mueller Store, now the site of Moody Bank on Main Plaza. Johannes Mueller; highly esteemed pioneer and community member, immigrated in 1845 with Verein.

By Tara V. Kohlenberg —

Have you ever tugged at a loose thread only to find that the thread was not really loose, resulting in an irritating unraveling of sorts? I recently pulled at said “loose thread,” but the odd “thread” that I pulled exposed a beautiful tapestry with a surprising outcome. Last month, I wrote about the beautiful cut limestone house in Comaltown built by Johann Georg Moeller (spelled with an OE) that was finished in 1866. The home was purchased in 1881 by Johannes Mueller (spelled with a UE). When I checked it out to make sure that it wasn’t just a mix up of vowels, I found a whole lot more.

Who was Johannes Mueller spelled with a “UE”? Johann or Johannes, the German form of John, was a common name. There are a ton of Johns in the world, and so it was with Johannes. This particular Johannes Mueller was born November 22, 1823, in Welsch-Neudorf, Nassau (Germany). He, along with who may have been his maternal uncle and family (Stendebach), set sail for a new life in September 1845 aboard the Ship Auguste Meline. At the ripe old age of 22, he arrived in Galveston on December 9, 1845, and made his way to New Braunfels, in what were the waning days of the Republic of Texas.

About that same time, a young woman by the name of Maria Magdelena Rheinlander arrived in Galveston on the Barque B. Bohen, December 22, 1845, with a man destined to become her husband. She wed Gottlieb Heldberg in New Braunfels in May of 1846, but her “happily-ever-after” was short-lived. Gottlieb was killed by Indians in August 1847 when Magdelena was pregnant with their daughter, Anna. Johannes and Magdelena met in 1847 and married in December 1848.

Johannes appeared to be an ambitious soul. In his first years in Texas, Johannes engaged in the freight hauling business. Freight by wagon was the only way to get goods into and out of New Braunfels for a number of years since the railroads did not arrive until 1880. Johannes was in business with Mr. John Halm until 1869 before dissolving the partnership. Besides the freight business, Johannes had opened a store, which was known as the Hannes Mueller Store selling dry goods, groceries, shoes, boots, and cutlery to name a few things.

The store, located on the corner of Main Plaza and San Antonio Street, was a two-story structure which later became the Streuer Brothers. When I was young, it was the site of the United Gas Company (now Entex) and eventually a bank building (Guaranty State Bank, Mbank and Moody Bank). Like many store owners in 19th-century New Braunfels, the Hannes Mueller family lived on the second floor above the Hannes Mueller Store (and there were a lot of people in that family).

Hannes really had his fingers in a bit of everything. While still involved with the freight company, he also served as both town Marshall and County Treasurer from September 1863 to July of 1865. In his later years, he was elected city Alderman (precursor to our city council members) from April 1881 to October 1883.

He somehow earned the nickname “MuellerHannes”. Literally translated it would be “MuellerJohnny”. MuellerHannes was said to be a very humorous man. His friends told many anecdotes about him. One of his friends was Anselm Eiband, editor and publisher of the New-Braunfelser Zeitung. He printed his anecdotes about MuellerHannes in the newspaper. Nice friends.

Johannes had developed quite the business acumen and accrued quite a bit of land in their lifetimes. In 1881, they bought the beautiful rock home in Comaltown and six adjacent lots. In 1882, their son, Henry, joined the family business. They also sold two acres of land west of town to the trustees of Three Mile School. It later became Lone Star School in 1901.

Johannes and Magdelena shared 62 anniversaries (62!) together. He died in 1908 at the age of 85 and she, the following year at 82. Their lives and the lives of their thirteen children, 59 grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren played out in the newspapers: births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, deaths, funerals. It was the long listing of their family members at each gathering that caught my eye. I know those names. I know those people. In the story about the Moeller House, I told how the youngest Mueller daughter, Emma, married a grandson of Georg Moeller. What I did not tell you was that Johannes and Magdelena’s third child, daughter Marie, born 1853, who married Theodor Meckel, is my great, great grandmother. Little did I know I was writing my own family history when I first started the Moeller House story. Pulling the thread that leads to another branch of your family tree is pretty cool. And very addicting.

The Sophienburg Archives is an absolute gold mine for finding things like this. Even if you use Ancestry.com, there are things found in the Red Family Surname Books and the hanging files that most people don’t know about. And if you are working on a family history, I would strongly recommend giving a copy to the Archives, both for safe-keeping and as a resource for others. Digital records/photos may be great, but paper documents are priceless.

Sources: Sophienburg Archives: Red Family Surname Books; Rural Schools and Teachers of Comal County, Texas, 1854-1956; Alton J. Rahe.