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The Friedrich brothers (Part 1)

By Keva Hoffmann Boardman —

I should have known that receiving a scanned copy of a pencil sketch of “The Meusebach-Comanche Treaty” would send me down yet another historical “bunny trail.” The sketch was signed in block letters — “FRIEDRICH 1847” — and depicts hundreds of Commanche, horses, Meusebach, U.S. Indian agent Maj. Neighbors and others.

Family lore says it was created by Wilhelm Friedrich as he accompanied Meusebach at this historic event. The facts are that the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty was signed in May 1847 and Wilhelm Friedrich arrived in Galveston in July 1847. Hmmmm…

Ferdinand Roemer was an eyewitness to the treaty and describes it in vivid detail (Roemer’s Texas 1845-1847); he is enamored with the ways and lifestyle of the Comanche. It is entirely possible that Wilhelm Friedrich read or knew of this description for many details match up. Friedrich was friends with some of the Freethinkers that had begun the short-lived commune of Bettina in Llano County (September 1847 to Spring 1848) and who later moved to the Boerne area. The sketch was found among papers in Boerne belonging to the rather famous San Antonio surgeon, Ferdinand L. Herff, one of Bettina’s founders.

In uncovering this information, I stumbled upon some other Friedrichs who played a role in our history — Otto Friedrich and his brother Eduard. The Friedrich brothers, born in Laxe, Altenberg, met up with our beloved Ferdinand Lindheimer at the home of Dr. George Engelmann in Illinois in 1834. The three young men heard stories about Texas that pulled at their adventurous spirits. Otto had studied Rechtswissenschaft (Jurisprudence) and Naturwissenschaft (Natural Science) and had come to America to study Insektenwelt (Entomology). You can see now why the brothers got along with Lindheimer.

I’ll let you read A Life Among the Texas Flora by Minetta Altgelt Goyne for the details, but in a nutshell:

Lindheimer and the Freidrich brothers make their way to NOLA; catch a slow-going schooner with an uneducated captain to Veracruz; meet up with more German expats; get into trouble because of their moustaches, and get involved in a coffee plantation, a corn milling business and a distillery. Along the way, Lindheimer collects plants and seashells and Otto collects butterflies and bugs. Eventually all three make their way to Texas — and then to New Braunfels — although not together.

Brother Otto first goes back to Germany to find a wife (the wedding never happened) and comes to Texas in the 1850s. He turns up in the Comal County 1860 Census, 60 years of age. The Neu Braunfelser Zeitung mentions in 1857, that he lived in the hill country on the Guadalupe River near Gruene. Otto was well-known as a naturalist, living alone and collecting his insects. He was “well-off” but lived frugally; his small log cabin furnished with only a hand-crafted bed frame with straw mattress, a plain table and a pair of rawhide-seated chairs. In the 1870s, his alma mater, the University of Leipzig, set out a prize for the best research and latest discoveries in entomology. At 70+ years, Otto shipped the university a complete collection of Texas entomology together with all scientific classification and won the prize. He died in New Braunfels on October 11, 1880.

I haven’t found brother Eduard yet, however I did see a note that said “the Friedrich brothers apparently first settled in Guadalupe County and came to Comal County probably in the early 1850s.” Perhaps Eduard remained in the Seguin area; that’s another trail for another time.

Interestingly, another brother, Oscar, also shows up in the Comal County 1860 Census, 48 years of age with wife and three children. An 1855 newspaper article says he knows how to treat snakebite. Oscar lived up at Jacob’s Creek in a beautiful two-story stone house. He was a farmer and involved with the cotton ginning up in that area. He gave some of his river land for the Jacob’s Creek school (later known as Mountain Valley). Besides being a farmer, it turns out that Oscar was also an artist.

Oscar had a son, named Otto (because that’s the crazy kind of things families do) who was three in 1860. Little Otto becomes known as a very, very good hunter. His father Oscar immortalized his prowess in many works of art in pencil and oil. One of the works is in the Sophienburg’s collections. Had I found a clue to the “Muesebach Treaty” sketch?

On comparison, it is very evident that two different artists rendered the sketches. The mystery continues, but the search has led to another interesting story. Stay tuned for the next column, where we’ll continue the saga of the Friedrich boys.

Sources:

  • Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung, Comal County Census, 1860, 1870, 1880, Oscar Haas collection, Frederick Oheim collection
  • Roemer’s Texas 1845-1847, Ferdinand Roemer
  • A Life Among the Texas Flora, Minetta Altgelt Goyne
  • A New Land Beckoned, Chester William and Ethel Hander Geue
  • Wanderers Between Two Worlds, Douglas Hale
The Comal County Census of 1860 listing Otto Friedrich as a “Naturalist”

The Comal County Census of 1860 listing Otto Friedrich as a “Naturalist”