By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The name Johann Jacob Rahm is not a very familiar one in New Braunfels – nothing is named after him, no street or school like after Solms, Seele, or Lindheimer. But Rahm is perhaps the one person who actually was the most influential in the selection of this site to become New Braunfels.
Here’s the story: Rahm was in Texas about 10 years before the first settlers arrived here in 1844. Hailing from Schaffhausen in Switzerland, little is known of his background. After arriving in Texas we know he was a private in Captain Thomas J. Morgan’s Company G of the Republic of Texas Army in 1836. Everett Fey’s book, “New Braunfels, The First Founders” has Rahm serving in the Santa Fe Expedition of 1841 organized by Republic of Texas President Lamar to open trade with Mexico. Rahm was captured and marched to Mexico. Later, returning to Texas, Rahm enlisted in Col. Jack Coffee Hays’ Texas Rangers on June 1, 1843.
According to Fey, while he was on a surveying expedition with Hays, Rahm was captured by Indians on the Comal River. He thereby became familiar with the area that the Indians called “Los Fontanas” or “the springs”.
Supposedly Rahm helped out the abandoned colonists of Henry Castro. He fed them with his own resources, provided for the sick, and helped them in other ways. As a result of this help, he attracted the attention of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels who persuaded the Adelsverein to present Rahm and his superior Col. Hays with rifles as tokens of their admiration.
In March, 1845, Prince Carl came to San Antonio hoping to find a way-station for the settlers before they arrived at their final destination which originally was to be the San Saba and Llano Rivers. Prince Carl met up with Rahm once again in San Antonio and
Rahm told him of the beautiful spot between two rivers, the Comal and Guadalupe. With his respect for Rahm, Prince Carl entered into a contract to buy the 1,265 acre Comal Tract from the Juan Veramendi heirs, sight unseen. This he did on March 15, 1845, just six days before the settlers crossed the Guadalupe into the land that would become New Braunfels.
Johann Rahm then joined the prince and three days before the first settlers crossed the Guadalupe, Prince Carl, Rahm, and 25 men made an inspection of the area. They camped on the Comal at the foot of Bridge St. and during the night a light dusting of snow covered the tents. The prince thought this was a good omen.
From Prince Carl’s report: “March 19: I went with Rahm, Wrede, Lüntzel, and Zink into the woods; with hunting knives and axes we cut a four mile trail to the springs. The next day I went on a long ride with Coll, Lindheimer, and five men”. On March 21, the first 15 wagons crossed the Guadalupe.
Prince Carl presented Rahm with 4 ½ acres generally between San Antonio St. and Coll St. Here Rahm set up a butchery and became the official butcher of the German Emigration Company.
All was well until October of that same year, 1845. John Meusebach in his report to the Adelsverein states that Rahm died as a result of two pistol shots by settler Maertz. Meusebach reports that Rahm in a state of drunkenness was very argumentative and he whipped out his pistol and shot twice in the air, missing Meartz, but Maertz felt threatened, and in self-defense, shot Rahm who “lay dead on the floor”.
Prince Carl called Rahm “savior of the unfortunate”. Oscar Haas called him “the forgotten man”. I’m at a loss for words as to what to call him.