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The one-room schoolhouse

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Shortly after the immigrants arrived in New Braunfels in 1845, small communities sprang up in the outer reaches of Comal County. Settlers were interested in good farmland which was available in the area. One of these small communities was called Ufnau, located in the western area of Comal County off of present Hwy 46. The community began in 1858.

By 1872, the settlement found a need for a school for their children. Several families purchased a four acre plot from Ludewig Moeglin for $1.00. That sort of thing was possible in those days. Those that negotiated with Moeglin were Henry Wehe, Charles Georg, Louis Beuche, Phillip Wagner, Christian Hanz, William Haas, Frank Ahrens, and Fredrick Foerster.

A small rock one room school building was built of coursed limestone. A fireplace with chimney heated the room. Shortly after this room was built, a cedar log room with caliche chinking was added to the west side. The attic above was floored and probably used for storage. Kerosene lamps were used for light. Nearby a log teacherage was built for the school’s first teacher, Phillip Stroeck. Outside a storm cellar was built east of the schoolhouse. A large bell called the students to school in the morning.

Fast forward to 1931 when a well-known New Braunfels educator, Werner Rahe, taught at Ufnau. In 1936 he transferred to New Braunfels Schools and eventually became principal of Lone Star School. Interestingly, Rahe’s father, William Rahe, took his son’s place at Ufnau after his son left. William taught there until 1940, at which time his brother, Ernest Rahe, began teaching there. Many Rahes lived in the teacherage.

As with many other one room schoolhouses, Ufnau along with other small schools was consolidated into the Bulverde Rural High School District in 1945 and was no longer used after that year.

The property was sold to Mrs. Reuben Bagby in 1952 and she sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Buddy Wolfe in 1966. They were devoted to the restoration of both buildings. Also salvaged at that time was a back gate through which children rode their horses to school and the large bell which still stands in the shade of an old oak tree.

Time once again took its toll on the property and in 2003 the present owners became Wallace and Margaret Brumley. A massive restoration project began. The bell, the gate leading to the school and the double doors were intact. Inside the school, a 1910 wood stove was converted to electric and in the teacherage a 1932 cast iron General Electric refrigerator was restored. In the school house, the Brumleys began collecting furnishings typical of the old one room school house. An old teacher’s desk and old student’s desks fill the room along with a collection of old books, one dating back to the 1700s.

One question remains: Where did the name Ufnau come from? One thing that is known is that Ufnau (Ufenau) is an island in the middle of Lake Zurich in Switzerland. It is also known that many of the original inhabitants of the Texas Ufnau were of German-Swiss origin. Did they decide to name the area after a well-known landmark in Switzerland? Did they decide like so many immigrant groups to name the area after the area in which they lived? Remember the Prince Carl named New Braunfels after Braunfels, Germany.

Here’s what we know about Ufnau Island in the middle of Lake Zurich: By the second century A.D. a Roman temple was built on the island. Then by the eighth century the first Christian church was built. Two centuries later, a Swiss duchess named Reginlinde, suffering from leprosy, retired to the island. Isolation was a common practice for lepers.

In 965 A.D. Emperor Otto the Great gave the island to the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln. It was Otto’s wife who was the grandchild of Reginlinde. Reginlinde had built a larger sacred building (St. Martin’s) next to the original abbey. Reginlinde died there on the island of Ufnau and is buried on the grounds of the abbey. Her son, Monk Adalrich, was named the parish priest. By 970 A.D. there were two churches on the island, the church of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Chapel St. Martins.

As time went by, other churches sprang up on the shores of Lake Zurich and the parish of Ufnau lost its importance. Historically, every year a pilgrimage of people on barges go to the island. The island has become a popular tourist destination.

The concept of the one-room schoolhouse worked for the time it existed. All students and all subjects were taught by one teacher. My 1938 through 1950 school experience was totally different. In elementary school, there was one room and one teacher for each grade and in high school, there was a specialized teacher for each subject in different rooms. We don’t even know what the school of tomorrow will bring. Technology has entered the classroom. Changes are inevitable.

The Brumley’s property is not open to the public but they have hosted groups from Switzerland and groups of individuals that have a connection to the old school. They are to be complimented on their historic restoration and teaching us all about the days of the little one-room schoolhouse.

Circa 1900 Ufnau School.