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St. Nick gives children chance to be good

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Jolly Old St. Nicholas will be at the Sophienburg for a party in his honor next Tuesday, December 5th. Keva Boardman has planned a fun family time for only $5.00 a family. Beginning at 6:00 p.m. there will be goodies, entertainment by the Kinderchor, and lots to do and see.

This tradition was brought to NB by the German settlers way back in 1845. Not to be confused with Santa Claus, St. Nick is a little more judgmental. The child hangs up a stocking on Dec. 5 and during the night, St. Nick decides whether the child has been bad or good. He then fills the stocking with sweets and fruit if the child is on the right track but with a lump of coal (or a potato or a switch) if the child has been naughty. I never knew a child who was absolutely positive that they were going to get sweets. What does that tell you? There is a lesson of hope and forgiveness in the St. Nick tradition, for if the child is judged naughty, he/she has about two weeks to shape up before Santa comes down the chimney whether there is one or not (a chimney, that is). St. Nick will be a little more benevolent at the Sophienburg.

Come join us for a fun, educational evening and go through the museum too. The collection ladies are decorating for Christmas.

If you hang out at the Sophienburg enough, you get a pretty good picture of who’s looking for what and why. Lots of people come in looking for their roots, and others are interested in history.

Joy Alexander has been doing research on William H. Merriwether for the last two years in an effort to qualify a house that she owns for a historic marker. The small house is presently occupied by Ascot Travel. It’s located at the intersection of Landa Street and Landa Park Drive. Alexander found the information she needed on the house but discovered there was very little info on Merriwether. For example, why did he come to NB in the first place?

In 1847 Merriwether had purchased 480 acres of Comal Springs land from the Verimendi family and began his gristmill, saw mill, and cotton gin at the entrance to Landa Park, eventually selling this property to Joseph Landa in 1860. Needing water to power these mills, Merriwether had a millrace dug by slave labor (his slaves) from the area of the present Landa Park Lake past the LCRA building to the millpond over a falls and emptying into the Comal Creek.

The spillway at the end of the millrace. Above is the hydroelectric plant, which eventually was torn down. The original channel of the Comal River starts near Lakeview Boulevard, and from there the spring water forms a river that flows by Landa Estates Island.

My interest turned to another aspect of this Merriwether story. Where was the original channel of the Comal before the millrace was dug? It starts at the City Waterworks near Lakeview Blvd. From there, the spring water forms a river. It flows by Landa Estates Island. A little bit further it flows by another island on the left called Pecan Island on early maps, now part of the golf course. Moving on, the depth and volume of water increases after picking up water from the three large springs and many, many small ones in Landa Park. This increase in spring water now forms Landa Park Lake.

Before the millrace was dug in 1847 the old channel took a turn to the left through what is now the spring fed pool and it was about at that point that Merriwether began his millrace dig. Where the pool is the deepest, it drops down a fall, flowing towards the Golf Course Club House and then flows under the Elizabeth Street bridge. The small stream heads under the railroad trestle on its meandering way with Schlitterbahn on the left and the golf course on the right. The stream finally flows under the bridge at Hinman Island Drive and empties into what is now the main body of the Comal River. Eventually the Comal merges with the Guadalupe and continues its journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

A view of the spring-fed pool in 1935 after Landa Park was closed. It was not reopened to the public until 1938.

Can you imagine the volume and depth of water of that old channel before the millrace was dug? We may not know much about Merriwether, but he certainly left his mark.