By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The recipient of the second annual Sophienburg Museum and Archives history writing scholarship has been chosen and her entry follows. The scholarship was set up last year by an anonymous donor and named the Myra Lee Adams Goff History Scholarship.
The rules for winning the $500 scholarship are simple but being chosen is not. Basically, a high school senior from one of the high schools in Comal County is asked to write a 500 to 1,000 word essay about an event or person who has made a significant difference in New Braunfels or Comal County history. Last year’s recipient, Brendan Cooper, wrote an essay on Comal County’s involvement in the Civil War.
This year’s recipient, Katie Pfeuffer, wrote about her ancestor, George Pfeuffer. Several good essays were written about persons in New Braunfels, but Katie wrote about the difference George Pfeuffer made, not only locally, but also in the state of Texas. He served as a state senator and as president of Texas A&M College.
Here is Katie’s essay:
George Pfeuffer was not only influential in the shaping of Comal County but also in the shaping of the state of Texas. George was born in Bavaria in 1830. He was the oldest son of Georg and Barbra Pfeuffer who came to Texas in 1845, and moved to New Braunfels in 1861. He died of a stroke in Austin in 1886. In his years in Texas he was a successful businessman, County Judge, served on the Board of Directors for Texas A&M, and was a state Senator in the Nineteenth legislature when he passed away.
While living in New Braunfels, he ran several successful sawmills and lumberyards across the state under the firm George Pfeuffer and Brother. He became interested in politics and in 1877, was appointed as the replacement County Judge in Comal County. As County Judge he was also the superintendent of the public schools.
In 1880 George Pfeuffer was appointed by Governor O.M. Roberts to the Board of Directors of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College. While on the Board he was given the task of making the mess hall operation profitable. He was able to turn the operation around in a year. The money earned was used to build the first building on the A&M campus specifically designed for student housing. Pfeuffer Hall was built in 1887 and was razed in 1954. George was also a state senator while on the Board of Directors. He served as President of the Board of Directors and was very energetic in promoting the school and its successes.
He fought for state funding for education. While serving in the Eighteenth Legislature as Chairman of the Committee of Education, he introduced a bill that called for the Texas AMC to be entitled to a portion of the state school funds as the University in Austin was. He was also a member of a group of Representatives who lobbied for the Capitol building to be built out of Texas red granite instead of white Georgia marble. Being a businessman, he and his group promoted that the granite was beautiful and native, and as it was native it would be cheaper to build a railway line to Burnet than to import the marble from Georgia.
George died in Austin of apoplexy in 1886. The then Governor of Texas, John Ireland, accompanied George’s body on the train back to New Braunfels where the senator was laid to rest. Because of his influence on the Texas Capitol being constructed out of granite, a granite obelisk was erected at his grave a number of years later. He was fifty-seven years old when he passed.
George Pfeuffer and the Pfeuffer family influence did not end in the 1880s. George’s son, S.V. Pfeuffer, was the first President of the Sophienburg Museum and was a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Since George, there have been five generations of students who have gone to Texas A&M and are his direct descendants.
There have been Pfeuffer sons who have been lawyers, a state district judge in Comal County, and a postmaster. To those who know where to look, Pfeuffer family influences can be traced through Comal County and state history.
Most people don’t know why there is a red granite obelisk at a gated area of the Comal Cemetery, or that there is a plaque in an ivy bed in front of the Academic Building on the Texas A&M campus that marks where Pfeuffer Hall stood. The speaker of the quote above the entrance to the Sophienburg Museum and the bearded men in “Lure of the Springs” mural in Landa Park aren’t significant to most people, but to me they are all special. They are permanent ties to my name. The granite obelisk, the plaque on the Texas A&M campus, glass above the door to the museum, and the mural on the recreation center will always say Pfeuffer, and will always provide ways to learn about the way my family shaped the world in which I live.
Pfeuffer legacy at the Sophienburg
Obviously Katie is proud of her heritage, as she should be. As a volunteer at the Sophienburg, I decided to look for the Pfeuffer connection. I did find a very important one. Before I tell you the connection, let me give a short background of the founding of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. The idea of a museum originated after the H. Dittlinger family received a portrait of Prince Carl with the request that it be placed in the city’s museum. Guess what, we had no museum in 1926. Mrs. Dittlinger volunteered to keep the portrait until the city could come up with some money. Then Mrs. Johanna Runge of Austin, owner of the Sophienburg hill, agreed to cut the price of the property and a committee was formed to organize the Sophienburg Memorial Association.
In seven months, Mr. S.V. Pfeuffer (son of George Pfeuffer) became the association’s first president. He handed over a check for $5,025 to Mrs. Runge. The Great Depression of 1929 hindered the construction of a museum until mid-1933 when the building was completed. The museum filled up quickly. This first building was the rock building on the corner of Academy and Coll Sts. now used as collection storage. Incidentally, four generations later David Pfeuffer became the Sophienburg president.
Mr. S.V. Pfeuffer made this statement: “Let us dedicate this memorial to the memory of the pioneers of the past who made our beautiful city possible; to the living of the present, that they may enjoy it, and to the generations of the future as a reminder of a noble heritage.”
The Sophienburg Archives and History Museum has as its slogan: “Our legacy is our future.”