By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Out in the county on FM 482, the newly formed Schertz Historical Preservation Committee recently celebrated the St. Joseph Chapel as a historic site. The newly formed committee, led by Dean Weirtz, has become extremely active in the last year and the members, many of whom are descendants of 150-year farms, enthusiastically realize the historical value of the area.
Along with the committee were sponsors Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Parish of New Braunfels and John Paul II Catholic High School of Schertz. The special celebrant was Monsignor Albert Hubertus and co-celebrant was Rev. Anthony Pesek of Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
The chapel site was originally donated by Peter Ignaz Wenzel and wife in 1886 to found a school, which closed in 1941 and was demolished in 1959. The Chapel was built next to the school in 1905 — 106 years ago.
Inside the chapel, so well preserved, the Stations of the Cross are titled in German. There is no air-conditioning but it was amazingly cool inside, perhaps partly due to the serenity of the pastel colors. Occasionally, after being swept back to the past, the noise of passing cars and trucks invade the reality of the present. The elaborately wooden carved altar was crafted in 1905 by John Henry Sievers, great-grandfather of Everett Fey who is the historian of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in New Braunfels.
In the old days, this area of Schertz was called “Comal.” Located on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, this road was believed to have been a series of trails originally used to travel from Mexico across Texas. (See Sophienburg.com Nov. 1, 2010.)
Many of the original families in Comal were among the first families of New Braunfels in 1845. It wasn’t easy to be a farmer in town. Comal was one area chosen by some early emigrants. Some of these families were Schwab, Friesenhahn, Wenzel, Fey, Schaefer, Kneupper, and Hubertus, and most are still active farms owned by descendants of original owners. A group of descendants of pioneers has recently organized to preserve the area.
Comal remained a small agricultural village. Cotton was the major cash crop. A cotton gin and corn shelling plant, still standing, were used by the entire community. A grocery store at the “T” of FM 482 (King’s Highway) and the Old Nacogdoches Road was established in 1908 by Louis Kneupper and stayed in operation until 1973. The store was the center of social gatherings where many played cards and visited on weekends. A blacksmith shop adjoined the store. The Danville School (moved to Kuebler-Waldrip Bed and Breakfast) and the Schuetzenverein were in the area.
Both Catholic and Protestant families settled in Comal. For that matter, the Schaefer family was the one who Prince Carl commissioned to bring the two bells to the German Protestant Church from the coast. Six priests and 12 nuns came from Catholic families in Comal.
I was a city girl if that’s what you could call Comaltown. But, yes indeed, I was well acquainted with the community of Comal in the late 1940s. Here’s why: Before the formation of the Comal School District, students in Comal had their own little school and would come to New Braunfels High School to graduate. NBHS was so lucky. These boys from Comal helped put the NBHS Unicorns on a winning streak that started around the mid-1940s and under the coaching of Weldon Bynum, lasted quite a few years, at least as long as I was there.
I remember who they were: C.C. and Arthur Ford, Arlon Jonas, Harvey and Orville Heitkamp, Clarence Schmid, and Jimmy Schmid.
A nice drive out FM482 will take you out to the community of Comal and by St. Joseph’s Chapel. The Schertz Historical Commission and the descendants of Comal pioneers have embraced the philosophy of historic preservation and we at the Sophienburg congratulate them on their progress.
St. Joseph Chapel 1905. Also Wenzel School (Comal School), built in 1886, closed in 1941, and demolished in 1959.