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New businesses develop during Reconstruction

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Before we say goodbye to the Civil War, let’s look at what the period immediately after the war known as Reconstruction, brought to Comal County. When the war was over in 1865, many did not return home, putting a terrible hardship on the families. Many survivors sustained lifelong injuries. For all, life was different than it had been before the war.

Comal County had been divided on the question of secession from the Union and although the vote was overwhelmingly for joining the Confederacy, it wasn’t without conflict. Shortages of necessities of life made life difficult. Confederate money, issued during the war, was now worthless.

Jacob Lindheimer, editor of the Zeitung, kept the paper going during and after the war even though the lack of paper forced him to use wallpaper and tissue paper. When citizens who didn’t agree with his opinions dumped his printing press into the Comal, he just fished it out and kept on printing. Then there was the matter of newspaper subscribers wanting to pay their subscriptions in Confederate money. Once Lindheimer and his sons, who were unable to buy food with this money, went out and slaughtered a beef and then advertised that he would be glad to pay the owner of the animal in Confederate money. The beef owner refused to take this money for the beef. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, so they say.

Comal County issued its own money but it wasn’t honored either. The merchants came up with their own medium of exchange. It was called “due bills”, sort of like “charging”. Some larger companies like Runge & Sons of Indianola issued their own due bills.

All the industry that had developed in Comal County before the war was destroyed, not from combat, but from lack of raw materials. Some entrepreneurial types began driving cattle or hauling freight from the coast. NB was a feeder station for trail drives on the Chisholm Trail from San Antonio to Kansas. Ranching was quickly replacing the cotton industry. Industries like Landa Flour Mills prospered. Skilled German artisans like saddlemakers, blacksmiths and wheelwrights were in demand.

The New Braunfels Woolen Manufacturing Co. was organized in 1867 in a building formerly used for a brandy distillery located at Garden and Comal streets. It was converted into a woolen mill and later furnished yards of gray woolen cloth to A&M College for uniforms. The building became a steam laundry after the turn of the century and was razed in 1952. The present St. John’s Episcopal Church built in 1967 contains a wooden cross made from timbers of the old mill.

A new type of business association began with the formation of mutual insurance associations and cooperative gins. Neighbor had to help neighbor as they had done in the early days. Individuals owned the associations. If the breadwinner died during the war, the organization promised to pay a benefit to the survivors. Germania Farmers Association at Anhalt was one of those mutual companies organized for protection, and to promote agriculture. (See Sophienburg.com, Around the Archives, May 13, 2008.) Ranchers and farmers pooled their money and built their own gins. Most were non-profit but shared the proceeds according to the use they made of the facilities.

The insurance business in the United States was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin. He came up with the idea in 1752 in Philadelphia to cover houses lost by fire. Houses were mostly made of wood and were very close together. Seven years later Franklin organized the first life insurance company. Religious authorities were outraged at putting a monetary value on human life but assented when they realized that it also protected widows and orphans. The whole insurance business expanded as the need evolved.

The Sons of Hermann was another mutual insurance company. In 1840 a handful of German men in New York City formed a brotherhood whose mission was to provide aid to each other, the sick, widows and orphans. The brotherhood was founded to combat the prejudice of the “Know-Nothing-Party”, an organization promoting prejudice against foreigners in the US. The European immigrants, particularly Germans, were recipients of prejudice. The Germans formed the Sons of Hermann insurance company in response to this prejudice. Hermann was a German folk hero who was a symbol of manhood.

Reconstruction was over with the entrance of the railroads in the 1880s. By the turn of the century, the Landa family had opened up picnic grounds at Landa Park. A new industry had begun based on the cultural assets of the community. Tourism was here to stay.

One of the oldest photos of Landa Park in 1912 after Harry Landa opened his park to the public.

One of the oldest photos of Landa Park in 1912 after Harry Landa opened his park to the public.