By Myra Lee Adams Goff
When New Braunfels was settled by German immigrants in 1845, the land across the Comal and between that river and the Guadalupe river was not part of NB, but a settlement called Comaltown. The land was granted to Juan de Veramendi by the State of Coahuila and Texas by Jose Antonio Navarro, Commissioner. Eventually it was inherited by Veramendi’s daughter, Maria Antonio Veramendi Garza, and husband, Rafael Garza. Garza laid out lots in the area in 1846 and gave a double sized plaza (where McKenna Hospital is) as a park for people who bought lots and larger tracts for farming.
As more and more immigrants arrived, more land was needed so Comaltown, Neighborsville, and Hortontown across the Guadalupe were settled. Hermann Seele writes in his diary that the first log cabin the he saw in Comaltown was in May of 1845.
Soon a thriving community evolved and a few early homes remain. Possibly the oldest (1852) belongs to Sophienburg director Linda Dietert and husband Mike on Garza. The Johann Georg Moeller home on Austin Street (later the Bavarian Village) was completed in 1857. The Voelcker home on Union belonging to Betty Kyle dates back to 1869. An 1881 hand-drawn map of New Braunfels points out some other homes; Heinrich Koehler on Torrey, Friedrich Rose on Austin Street, another home on Houston St., another on Garza, the Karbach house on Common Street, the building housing the former Morales Funeral Home and the Sunday House next to it on Common, a home on Houston Street and others. Let me know if you know of any other homes built before 1900.
Also seen on that 1881 map are buildings like Matzdorf Halle (Echo and then Eagles), and the Comal Union School, a private school operating for 30 years and eventually becoming a ward school. Rev. Schuchard of the German Protestant Church downtown was the part-time pastor of a Comaltown congregation and a teacher of the Comal Union School.(1858-1875) The first Methodist church was on Union Street.
Comaltown boasted grocery stores, a saloon or two, dance halls, rock companies, a bowling alley and others. With the Texas census of 1850, the city of New Braunfels was reported to have 1,298 citizens and Comaltown, 286.
An area in Comaltown was subdivided in 1868 and called Braunfels. Encompassing 28 blocks with 12 lots each and an alley in the center of each block, the land was laid out around a central park that later housed Lamar School. The boundaries are Union Street, North Street, East Street, and South Street.
All of this talk about the Comaltown area leads me to think about the upcoming Comal County Fair. Two years ago I agreed to write a history of this celebration for the Comal County Fair Association. After exhausting the information that the CCFA had, I once again went to the Sophienburg for information. There I did research over 113 yearsfrom their files and local newspapers on microfilm. The outcome is It’s Fair Time and it is now for sale at the fairgrounds and the Sophienburg. Check it out.
Begun in 1892 as a moneymaker for the Krankenhouse (hospital), the Fair first bought its property on the Guadalupe River (24 acres) and then in 1923 bought three blocks in the Braunfels subdivision.Remember one of the boundaries of the subdivision was East Street? Well, it now runs through the middle of the fairgrounds. When you drive onto the fairgrounds from Common Street, on the right are the original 24 acres and on the left are the three blocks out of Braunfels Subdivision.
Next week is the Comal County Fair. From where would I like to watch the big parade? If wishes were horses, I would ride down to Main Plaza, get into a time machine and go to the third floor attic of the Landa Mansion, formerly located on Main Plaza where the Comal County Commissioner’s Court is. This gorgeous example of Victorian architecture was demolished in 1962. I’m swept back to a time in 1945 when it was the home of classmate Ellie Luckett. A bunch of us went to the movies at the Brauntex and then walked to Ellie’s house.
The house was really something. Built shortly before 1900, it had some special features that most of us had never seen; a marble bathtub on a pedestal, dumb waiters, and a communication system of pipes in the walls. You just talked into the pipes and the sound carried to different floors. No electric bills. Come to think of it, I was on the roof of my house as a child and talked down a vent pipe. My mother claimed that she heard me up the kitchen sink.
The real fun in the Landa house came when we went up to the attic. There we found a box of monocles (those little eyepieces for one eye), WWI newspapers and old clothes left behind by the Landa family. Then right in the middle of the front wall was a small round window through which you could look straight down San Antonio Street. Now that would be a true bird’s eye view of the parade!