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Recollections of early New Braunfels

CAPTION: Postcard depiction of Landa Park Springs.

CAPTION: Postcard depiction of Landa Park Springs.

By Tara V. Kohlenberg —

German immigrants crossed the Guadalupe River on March 21, 1845, setting foot in the next long-term waystation. When spring rolls through Central Texas, it is easy to see why the founding families sought to stay here, in New Braunfels, rather than move further along to the promised land of the Fischer-Miller Grant. The reports of Carl, Prince Solms, to the Verein zum Schutz deutscher Einwanderer in Texas (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas), written on March 27, 1845, describe the vast beauty and resources here that enticed them to stay… except for the bear.

Tenth Report to the Adelsverein by Prince Carl

I have the honor to report to the general directorate that after I had finished the business with Mr. Fisher, I undertook the inspection of the military company I had established. I was quite satisfied with their riding and shooting as well as their general behavior. I left them for San Antonio and arrived there on March 10. The next four days, March 11,12, 13 and 14, were taken up in dealing with Mr. Veramendi and Mr. Garza concerning the purchase of the land which I had mistakenly been told belonged to the deceased Senator Smith. I shall report more completely on my return, but I can assure your that it is a most advantageous purchase.

The contract was signed on the 15th. I rode back to Seguin on the 16th, where Mr. Zink and Mr. von Coll, accompanied by 13 men of the military company joined me on the 17th. Still on that day, I marched six miles upstream and bivouacked at a spring on the Guadalupe. A blustery north wind came up during the night and has blown steadily since then.

On the 18th, I crossed the Guadalupe at the ford where the important military road from Nacogdoches to San Antonio crosses the river. The river is enclosed between cliffs and flows in a turbulent stream over ledges and boulders. The land I have acquired for the association begins here. This area is also watered by the Comal Creek whose right bank adjoins rich prairie land that extends to the dominating range of hills overlooking the country. The left bank of the Comal is richly forested bottom land reaching to hills covered with cedars, oaks, and elms, which reach a considerable elevation, forming a ridge with occasional higher peaks, very similar to the Black Forest. This ridge runs from northwest to southeast. The Comal Springs bubble from seven separate springs at the foot of the cliff, immediately forming a stream of 20 steps width and then gaining in width as it tumbles like a forest brook of crystalline clear water of respectable depth as it meanders down to join the Comal Creek.

I tried to reach the springs from where their water joins the Comal Creek by following their water course but had to give up after I and four companions had spent several hours chopping our way through brush and heavy forest. We had driven our way an estimated five miles but had to turn back without succeeding. Next day, guided by two Americans who were hunting bear in the neighborhood, we reached springs with hardly any exertions.

Every day I explore this region to learn the terrain and on the 20th of March I forced my way on horseback through the heavy cedar thickets on the terraced cliffs. The view from the top of the high ridge is charming. A plateau stretches many miles back from this crest. I rode out on this plateau for three or four miles without reaching any drop off and hope to as soon as time permits, to make a long tour up there.

Everywhere upon this entire area are tracks of more or less imposing Indian camps. Drawn here by rich hunting and excellent water, these nomads who have pitched their tents for periods of various length. However, as soon as our culture approaches they stay away, for they cannot tolerate the sound of the woodsman’s axe in the forest. Should more of these natives find their way here, I am sure the clatter of mills and the ringing of the hammers on anvil along the banks of the forest stream will frighten them away, for the Comal Springs lend themselves most admirably to the operation of such industry because of their constant flow.

A chart of the area is attached to the enclosed contract but lacks any details of the highlands.

The fields have already been staked out and plows are turning the soil. I traced the location of our citadel yesterday atop the dominating heights: the town below will be laid out radiating from it. Thirty-one wagons have arrived and I am expecting the other half of the immigrants shortly. I plotted an encampment upon an elevation overlooking Comal Creek; it will be enclosed by palisades on three sides and I consider it most desirable to fortify it at once. The fourth side is safe because it is formed by the steep and very high bank of the Comal Creek.

I hope to be able to include the details of the layout of the town and its dedication in my next report and expect to include an accurate plat of the city.

The weather is cool and damp, indeed, we had the home-like look of snow. Health conditions among the emigrants are satisfactory.

Camp on Comal Creek, 27 March. 1845
General Commissioner Carl Prince Solms

Sources: The Oscar Haas Collection; Sophienburg Museum & Archives