By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The banner year in the history of Texas was 1836, the year that the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico, drew up its first constitution and declared itself independent. This constitution with its generous land policy would be the driving force leading to the German immigration movement. What happened at that convention determined that estimated 7,000 Germans would emigrate to Texas. Many settled in Comal County.
Republic of Texas Declaration of Independence
The Texas Declaration of Independence stated that Mexico, under the presidency of Santa Anna, had violated the liberties that had been guaranteed Mexican citizens according to the Mexican Constitution of 1821. It stated that Texicans (Mexicans in the Texas part of Mexico) had been deprived of freedom of religion, right to trial by jury, the right to bear arms, and the provision of public education for its children.
Spanish explorers had made claim to most of the land called Texas since the 1500s. Texas was the northern area of Mexico called Coahuila that had been controlled by Spain until they were defeated by Mexico in 1821.
Texas was not the “pick of the crop” by either Mexicans or Americans. The Comanche of the plains and in the hill country were a big problem for the settlers. Few people ventured into the area, much less settled there. When the Texicans complained to Mexican authorities about their problems, they were met with force on the part of the Santa Anna, president of Mexico. With a large army, determined to drive the Texicans out, Santa Anna’s entry into Texas would lead to the Battle of the Alamo, of Goliad, and then eventually to the Battle of San Jacinto.
These battles resulted from the formation of the Declaration of Independence. The convention to make that decision took place at Washington-on the-Brazos. This small town had enough housing for the delegates and other towns did not.
Fifty-nine delegates met and adopted a constitution unanimously on March 2, 1836. Can you guess how many of these delegates were Texans? Now count: Twelve from Virginia, 10 from North Carolina, nine from Tennessee, six from Kentucky, four from Georgia, three from South Carolina, three from Pennsylvania, three from Mexico (two of which were native Texans, Jose Antonio Navarro and Jose Francisco Ruiz), two from New York, one from Massachusetts, one from Mississippi, one from New Jersey, one from England, one from Ireland, one from Scotland and one from Canada.
After the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, Texas was a free Republic and remained independent from 1836 to 1845.The constitution went into effect immediately and its generous land policy eventually became the reason for the German emigration.
Now the Adelsverein in Germany enters the picture. A group of German counts and princes met at Biebrich on the Rhine to establish a colony in Texas. Wanting to relieve overpopulation and establish overseas markets to help Germany pay for the Napoleonic War was the main reason for this organization. Besides, the Texas Republic had awarded land to immigrant agents in the form of colonization contracts.
The “Society for the Protection of German Immigrants” was organized and Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels was sent to Texas to purchase land for the colonists.
New Braunfels was never intended to be the final destination of the colony. The original destination of the emigration project was the Bourgeois/Ducos grant on the Medina River. Bourgeois’ contract with the Republic of Texas was not renewed. Then Solms considered another tract of land. Two men, Fischer and Miller, acquired large plots of land on the San Saba and Llano Rivers. The Prince decided that because it was so far away from the coast, he would have to have a waystation. Just six days before the emigrants crossed the Guadalupe the Prince purchased the Comal Tract from the Veramendi heirs as a waystation.
The original immigrant contract with the Adelsverein stated that each head of family would receive 320 acres and single men would receive 160 acres. Only after they crossed the Guadalupe into New Braunfels were they told that they would receive one-half acre lot and one 10-acre plot. They were not happy campers. A few went on their own to claim land on the San Saba, but not many. New Braunfels became the home for most of them.
Veramendi’s Comal Tract
When Texas was still under Spanish control in 1807, a land speculator named Baron de Bastrop purchased four leagues of land on the Guadalupe which included the Comal Springs (later called the Comal Tract). When the Mexican flag flew over Texas, the vice-governor of Texas and Coahuila in 1825, Juan de Veramendi, petitioned the Mexican government for 11 leagues of land which also included the Comal Tract. When Veramendi died, his daughter Maria Veramendi and husband Rafael Garza, inherited the tract of land and sold it to Prince Carl for $1,111.
In Comal County there were three Mexican Land Grants from 1831 before the Republic, two for Veramendi and one for Antonio Maria Esnaurizer. There were eventually many different types of grants available in the Republic of Texas and State of Texas for citizenship, military service, colonization and public improvement, such as schools and railroads. Looking at the Land Grant Map of Comal County, one can find such grantees as Samuel Millett who fought at San Jacinto, Gordon Jennings (heirs), David Crockett (heirs) and Toribio Lasoya (heirs), who died at the Alamo.
Texas became a state of the United States in 1845 and between 1845 and 1898 Texans were issued preemption grants for 160 to 320 acres with the stipulation that the grantee must live on and improve the land for three years. This happened to hundreds of Comal County land owners. These grants were acquired by many German settlers in Comal County.
Without the formation of the Republic of Texas and the Declaration of Independence, the future of Comal County would have been quite different. On March 2nd, drive around our Main Plaza and salute the many Texas flags put up by the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.