By Myra Lee Adams Goff
“Stars and Stripes Forever”. Thirty seven stars, that is, for in 1876 when the United States commemorated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, NB celebrated a glorious old-fashioned 4th of July. There is an article in the Sophienburg archives translated from German by historian Oscar Haas from the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung describing that centennial celebration. Here’s howNB celebrated in the “old days”:
Citizens went all out to show their patriotism. (German Texans have been doing that ever since, which was a little difficult during the two world wars with Germany). Houses and businesses were decorated for the two day celebration with flags and wreaths of cedar and mountain laurel. The NB Academy (Mill St.) displayed a giant slate over its door on which was written in German: “Public schools cultivate loyal citizens”.
There were four triumphal arches downtown close to the plaza and a giant picture of George Washington displayed at the Zeitung printing shop.
The spot chosen for the festive events was in Comaltown where Eagles Hall is now. A dance platform had been constructed as well as tables and chairs shaded by the beautiful graceful oak trees.
On the eve of the celebration, a cannon on Sophienburg hill was fired 13 times in commemoration of the 13 original colonies. At the break of day on the 4th, people were awakened by the rapid firing of the cannon, followed by trumpets heralding the beginning of the festivities (No sleeping in on that 4th).
Soon thereafter, the Hortontown Germania singing society on saddled horses, and the Clear Springs band on a decorated wagon entered the town and were escorted up Seguin Ave. and San Antonio St. by the New Braunfels Band.
And now began a history parade of unprecedented magnitude. Headed by parade marshal F.B. Hoffmann, the pageant played itself out. In Spanish costume came Columbus (Valentin Pfeuffer) and his faithful Fernando (Bruno Voelcker). Then came George Washington (Johann Merz), followed next by a company of National Militia and finally prisoners of war in red uniforms representing English soldiers. At their side marched the boy drummer, one arm bandaged and a bullet riddled drum slung over his back.
Next, came the Liberty Bell float drawn by four beautiful white horses. There sat John Hancock, surrounded by John Adams, Robert Livingston, Robert Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin who presented the Declaration of Independence.
Then came floats of early NB pioneer years; Indians crouched in bushes spying on Prince Carl and next to him guards von Coll and von Wrede. Under a tree sat a pioneer mother and her family. Four Adelsverein soldiers hired by the Prince to protect the immigrants were played by sons of four men who were actually the original soldiers.
Miss Anna Rennert, as the Goddess of Liberty, was seated on a pedestal with 37 young ladies seated at her feet clad in white with blue sashes representing each US state.
The next two sections in the parade were from various organizations in town, followed by business floats, two of which were particularly interesting. The NB Woolen Factory had a loom powered from a wheel on the wagon demonstrating weaving and the Zeitung had a printing press with editor Anselm Eiband printing out “Song of 1776” to be distributed later.
Halting at the Plaza for photographs, the procession crossed the low water bridge and up the hill to Comaltown. After an opening speech by Hermann Seele, the festivities began and in the evening George Washington led the Grand March. Dancing on both days didn’t end until sunup. What stamina they had!
Don’t miss out on the Sophienburg’s July 4th celebration this year. No cannon firing, no dancing all night, but lots of old-fashioned patrioticfun, promises Sophienburg board president Teresa Johnson and her sister Debbie.