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Story of German Adelsverein told in new fictional trilogy

Meet the Author

The “Adelsverein” trilogy can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg.

Author Celia Hayes will be the guest speaker at the Scholarship Brunch of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter, on Saturday, March 12. Brunch and book review are $20. Reservations may be made by calling Roberta Schmidt at (830) 626-2225 before Feb. 28.

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Author Celia Hayes has written a historical novel called “Adelsverein”. It’s actually a trilogy (three books, one story). Novels are not my favorite form of literature, but this one is different. This is not a “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses” type of book, and as in all good fiction, one can learn much about human nature.

Members of the Steinmetz family are the central family throughout the books. Hayes has an understanding of the values of the old German settlers. The father, Christian Steinmetz, decides in Germany that he wants to go to Texas. He is a freethinker and doesn’t agree with the restrictions of the church or the aristocracy. The family is educated and talented. Although Mrs. Steinmetz has reservations about leaving her home, she is more swayed by the wishes of her husband.

The author takes us to the port at Bremen and the family’s departure in November of 1845. The description of the conditions inside the ship and what they endured are gripping:

“We can’t live like this, not for two months, or even two days”, says Mrs. Steinmetz. But the conditions just got worse and were described as “a long purgatory of darkness and misery.”

Soon the inevitable seasickness: “A great sheet of seawater cascaded down the companion way to the lower decks, mixing with the stink of vomit and the contents of the upset privy buckets washing back and forth across the floor”.

Oh my gosh! Have you ever been seasick? What choice does one have on a ship? No relief from the misery. They couldn’t go back. Should they jump over and drown or remain in misery?

After two months, Hayes takes us to another tragic period when so many were abandoned on the coast. John Meusebach becomes the central historic figure of the Adelsverein at this point. When the family finally arrives in New Braunfels, they decide to go on to Fredericksburg and it is in this area that the rest of the story takes place.

But before we go on, we are introduced to the first leader of the Adelsverein, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. The author takes us to San Antonio where Prince Carl meets Ranger Jack Hays, who pops in and out of the story throughout the trilogy. The Prince meets Hans (Johann) Rahm and tells him of his plan for colonization. Rahm describes the prince “as sleek and brushed as a pedigree horse on race day, arrogance setting in every line of his countenance.” Rahm tells the prince about a beautiful place where the springs come out of the land. Prince Carl brags that the Germans can make it better.

The fictional character Carl Becker, who later marries into the Steinmetz family, tells the prince why he shouldn’t go to the Llano and he left out no nauseating detail about the Indian problem. Becker calls the prince “a fool with money and powerful friends which makes him about the most dangerous kind there is.”

Book two tells us about frontier life in the Hill Country during the Civil War. The fear of “brother against brother” comes true within the family. There are detailed descriptions of persecution by Confederates of those who refused to take the loyalty oath especially in the Hill Country.

Book three takes the reader to a period after the Civil War.

Based on true stories of atrocities on settlers by Indians, factual episodes of scalping and kidnapping of women and children are all too frightening and gruesome.

Sophienburg Executive Director Linda Dietert and author Celia Hayes examine relics from the emigrant ships in the museum.