By Myra Lee Adams Goff
An unforgettable event happened here in New Braunfels in 1905. Of course you would have to be at least 104 years old to have been there. I heard it from my parents who heard it from their parents. I’m talking about the day the President of the United States came to town. Never mind that he never got off the train and that he stayed but a few minutes.
It was an unforgettable event that day on April 6, 1905, when President Theodore Roosevelt made a stop here on his train trip from Austin to San Antonio.
When State Senator Joseph Faust found out that Roosevelt was coming to San Antonio for a reunion of his former Rough Riders, he issued an invitation to the president to stop here to hear a song in his honor sung by 1,000 children. Who could turn down such an invitation?
Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt in 1898 had trained his Rough Riders for the Spanish – American War in San Antonio and had probably visited Landa Park. From that time on in later wars, so many other soldiers visited the park while stationed in San Antonio.
After training in San Antonio, the Rough Riders were sent to Florida to be taken to Cuba. Historian Oscar Haas quotes James Adams from his book “The March of Democracy”: “The most noted minor engagement was at San Juan Hill where Roosevelt under Col. Leonard Wood led the Rough Riders on foot (their horses were still in Florida) against the enemy.”
In March of 1905, news of the proposed visit started appearing in the “Neu Braunfelser Zeitung” and appeared consistently for the next month. It was translated by Haas in 1969.
The president accepted Faust’s invitation and said that he had always been interested in New Braunfels because of its unique history.
The song that would be performed by the children was written by Prof. F.A. Baumann of the NB Academy. It would be sung to the tune of “My Country ’tis of Thee”. All children of the Academy, students at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School, and students in all the surrounding area schools were invited to join in the performance.
It was a big thing! The townspeople met at the Courthouse to make plans for the visit. It was resolved that Melitta Faust, daughter of Senator and Mrs. Joseph Faust, was to present the President with flowers and a copy of the song.
A group of young ladies would be in Rough Rider costumes (see picture). Those costumes were to be sewed and the girls were to pick up materials at Pfeuffer/Hellmann & Co. (now the Antique Mall on the corner of San Antonio and Castell Sts.)
All went as planned and the day the train rolled through San Marcos, a horseback rider rode up and down the streets of NB blowing bugle signals heralding the arrival of the president. As the train stopped at the I &GN RR depot, Waldschmidt’s Firemen’s Band, standing where the Brauntex Theater is now, played “The Star Spangled Banner” The president was waving from the platform of the rear car.
The children under the direction of Mr. Heilbig sang the song especially composed for him. Then the Rough Rider girls sang a jolly song and the president was immensely pleased. The shrill whistle of the steam-locomotive blew and the band played “Dixie” as the train left New Braunfels.
“Neu Braunfelser Zeitung” editor, G.F. Oheim devoted one page to his frustration about plans that made no space for him. Oheim claimed as a reporter, he represented thousands of readers who were not privileged to have front seats. He said that allowing reporters privilege view was a time-sanctioned custom when they perform their duty.
Nevertheless, according to Editor Oheim, it was an occasion never to be forgotten in his lifetime!