By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Are you confused about which historical anniversary to celebrate or that you have celebrated? Is it for New Braunfels? Is it for Texas? Is it for the United States? Did we celebrate one year, 25 years, 50 years, 75 years, 100 years (centennial), 150 years (sesquicentennial) or 200 years? We have celebrated so many historical events that it’s starting to really get confusing. And now plans are underway to celebrate the 175th year of New Braunfels’ founding.
The founding fathers (and mothers) celebrated the first American Fourth of July in 1846, a little over a year after arriving in New Braunfels. Then they celebrated the New Braunfels 25th etc., etc., etc. In the early 1990s, about 50 New Braunfelsers even traveled to Braunfels, Germany, to help our sister city celebrate its 750th birthday. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to that big bash. We were treated to a happy time. The Germans love “Texas Charlie” as they called Prince Carl. The long parade featured every era you can imagine. The entry that stuck out in my mind was the era of the Black Plague. Why? They had carts filled with bandaged plague victims and it was gruesome. I suppose we had a similar situation here (cholera, not plague), but as far as I know, this era has never been a parade entry.
The Texas Centennial of the Declaration of Independence From Mexico
Now clear your mind of all confusing past celebrations and concentrate on one celebration – the 1936 Texas Centennial of the Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Texas will recognize on March 2nd, the date of Texas independence and becoming a Republic. Although the Centennial was officially celebrated statewide in 1936, the celebration began in 1935 and continued in 1937 and 1938 in New Braunfels.
The state did this 100-year celebration in a big way. The Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress contributed $3,000,000 toward the project. Dallas was chosen as the center of the celebration. Every county in Texas received a granite marker with the date of the county’s establishment and the source of its name. Our county marker is on US 81 in front of Canyon Middle School.
Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Galveston put on large pageants. The Ft. Worth pageant called “The Winning of the West,” was by far the most visited, even more than the Dallas Exposition dedicated to the Centennial. In addition, museums like the Panhandle Museum at Canyon, the Texas Museum in Austin, the Big Bend Museum in Alpine, the Corpus Christi Centennial Museum, the West Texas Museum at Lubbock, the Alamo Museum and the Gonzales Museum, were established.
The celebration in Dallas occupying 50 buildings, was advertised as the first world’s fair held in the southwest. Throughout the state there were programs of significant historic events, battle scenes and pioneer re-enactments being performed a century after Texas won its freedom from Mexican rule and established the Republic of Texas. In 1846, Texas became the 28th state of the United States. Texas is the only state that existed as an independent republic and one that was recognized by foreign countries.
Six Flags Over Texas is more than an amusement park. The six flags on Texas soil were France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States and finally, the United States.
Centennial Celebration in New Braunfels
New Braunfels historical markers for the Centennial, besides the county granite marker, include the Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on SH 46 in front of HEB, that commemorates the Franciscan Mission from 1757, that was established to bring religion to the local Native Tribes. Another marker is dedicated to John Torrey for the establishment of mills on the Comal River. It is at the foot of Mill Street where the tube chute is located. Two markers are dedicated to Ferdinand Lindheimer. One is at his home on Comal Avenue and the other is at his gravesite in the Comal Cemetery. He is recognized as the Father of Texas Botany. One of the exhibits at the Centennial in Dallas was of the 500 plus wildflowers in Texas. Another marker is located at the home of George Wilkins Kendall, located on Waco Springs Loop Road near SH 46. He was a well-respected journalist, founder of the New Orleans Picayune, correspondent on the Santa Fe Expedition and Mexican war correspondent. Located on Landa Park Drive is a pink granite New Braunfels marker dedicated to the city’s founding. It has a bronze relief of the Sophienburg log cabin and tells the story of Prince Carl. It was erected by the State of Texas with federal funds to commemorate one hundred years of Texas Independence. By far the most well-known monument in Landa Park is dedicated to the German pioneers of Texas. The New Braunfels Herald announced: “New Braunfels has been selected as the site of the proposed monument (to Germans) for which the State Centennial Committee has appropriated the sum of $2,999. The rest of the funds were through contributions locally and collections had been reported in other parts of the state by the San Antonio committee of the Federation of German-American Societies, which is sponsoring the movement.” Refer to Sophienburg.com, May 15, 2007, for further information.
Besides markers, what else was being planned? The newspaper was full of activities to put New Braunfels “on the map.” The opening of Landa Park was a highlight of the time and the Cole Circus with Clyde Beatty. Beatty was known as the world’s most daring animal trainer. There were 20 big and little elephants, including Jumbo the 2nd, the only African elephant in a circus in the country.
The Katy Railroads offered weekend bargain fares like $5.16 for a round trip to the Centennial Exposition in Dallas, and $4.93 to the Frontier Centennial in Ft. Worth, and for an extra 89¢ you could be picked up at the train station and transported by street car to the grounds of the exposition. What a deal! School children were given the advantage of the state-wide rate reduction on all railroads as well as special rates for the Centennial. The November Herald announced that 56 school children attended the Centennial and have returned from a two-day trip to Dallas.
Speaking of railroads, that very year the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s train rolled through New Braunfels on the MKT tracks on June 12, 1936. Nearly a third of Texas’ population saw and heard the president on his Texas Centennial tour. He visited Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Ft. Worth. The train “passed through” New Braunfels in the middle of the night, but no stop. Supposedly, many people were standing by the tracks to see the president, but they were disappointed. All I can say is that FDR did not know how important New Braunfels was.
The NBHS Class of 1936 was known as the Centennial Class. There is a photo of this class in the Sophienburg.com column of August 21, 2007. I interpreted it as a costume party but now I know they were cowboys and pioneers. There were 54 seniors taught by 15 teachers that year and it was the largest class ever to graduate from NBHS up to that time. There were so many of them, that the graduation was held in the Seele Parish House because it had a stage that would accommodate all the graduates. In keeping with the Centennial Celebration, the class contacted several prominent Texans at the time to participate in the graduation.
On March 2nd, take time to reflect on how important the Republic of Texas was in attracting the German settlers to Texas that led to the establishment of our great city. It would lead to other important dates and milestones that we celebrate today.