By Keva Hoffmann Boardman –
Sometimes a little tidbit of information sets me off on a bunny trail. I took one of those trails recently after finding and reading a 1975 letter from Oscar Haas to Mrs. Gregorio Coronado here in New Braunfels. Haas was drawing her attention to the mention of a Mexican boy, Pablo Diaz, in the 1850 Comal County census. That piqued my interest, and I ran down the trail Haas laid out in his letter. It isn’t that I doubt Oscar at all, I just wanted to journey along with him in his research.
Haas told Mrs. Coronado that Pablo had been captured by Comanche who had made a raid over the Rio Grande into “Old Mexico” and carried him with them up to the San Saba River country. He suggested she look at Roemer’s Texas, to find Pablo mentioned. So, I went to Roemer’s and on pages 242-243, I found Roemer describing his travels with John O. Meusebach as he was finalizing the treaty between the German Emigration Company and the Comanche Nation in February 1847.
Roemer said that they met a young blond-haired, blue-eyed, 18-year-old Anglo-American man who dressed and acted as an Indian. Ten years earlier, the blond young man had been captured after his parents were murdered by Comanche near Austin. Roemer goes on to say that the young man “had a little Mexican boy about eight-years-old, who rode behind him on the horse and whom he treated as a slave…he looked half-starved and was shivering in the cold north wind because of his scanty dress. In answer to my question how he had come here, the “Indianized” Anglo-American answered quietly, ‘I caught him on the Rio Grande.’”
Wow. Pablo was with the Comanche when he was eight-years-old.
Next, Haas told Mrs. Coronado that at the treaty conference, Meusebach ransomed Pablo from the Comanche Chief. I did a little digging and found corroboration of this in the Julius Dresel diary in the Sophienburg’s archive collection. The entry in the diary describes a time Dresel was staying on Meusebach’s farm at Comanche Springs:
“The next morning a small Mexican boy, Pablo Diaz, whom Meusebach had ransomed from the Comanches at a peace settlement on the San Saba (north of Llano), showed me how a brown bear on a long chain, could eat an enormous pumpkin which he held in his for paws while balancing on his hind paws. “Wackerlos” (cowardly) and “Schlinge” (Noose), the dogs, barked noisily. — April 18, 1853”
Oscar Haas continued in his letter to tell Mrs. Coronado that Meusebach had taken Pablo to Sisterdale and left him with the Dresel Family. True. Pablo is listed with the names of those in Dresel’s house in the 1850 Comal County census. Sisterdale was in Comal County until 1862; it is now in Kendall County.
Dresel’s diary entry for April 27, 1853, also confirms that Pablo was left in Sisterdale. Dresel says he had taken Pablo “into his quardianship” from Meusebach and that Pablo was put in charge of the milking and butter and cheese making at his farm.
Haas next informed Mrs. Coronado that Julia Dresel taught Pablo to read and write both German and English. I can find no written documentation for this statement. I did find that on Find a Grave it states that on the 1860 Gillespie County census, there is a Pablo or Paulo Diaz living as a servant in the William Marschall household. The Marschall and Meusebach families were joined by marriage so there is a link. I looked up the 1860 Gillespie County census and found a “Paulo” from Mexico listed in the Marschall household. It could be our Pablo, but I am not sure.
When the War Between the States broke out it 1861, Texas voted to secede from the Union. However, many of the Germans of the Texas Hill Country did not identify with the Confederate cause and did not want to fight for it. Some of the men decided to head to Mexico to stay during the war or find a way to get back north and enlist in the Union Army. Oscar Haas told Mrs. Coronado that Pablo joined the 68 young men from around the Fredericksburg-Sisterdale-Comfort area because he “thought it to be a good opportunity to return to Mexico to try to find his relatives. He owned a pony then and a saddle and a rifle, same as all the others.”
Geez…I wish I could find proof of this statement but I can’t. Oscar must have had an oral source from the time.
I do know that the group of men, including Pablo Diaz, started out for Mexico at the beginning of August 1862. On the evening of August 9th, the group set up camp on the banks of the Nueces River. A group of Confederate soldiers had been tracking the Germans and fired on them sometime that night. Twenty-eight men from the German group slipped away during the battle. Nineteen others were dead by morning. Nine more wounded Germans were summarily executed. Another nine were pursued by the Confederate soldiers to the Rio Grande and killed as well. The thirty-seven Germans killed in what became known as “The Battle of the Nueces” or “The Nueces Massacre” included Pablo Diaz. His and the bones of thirty-five others were recovered in 1865 and buried in Comfort. Their names are listed on the Treue der Union Monument, a twenty-foot-tall limestone obelisk erected over their remains.
On Find a Grave, it is also stated, “Although Mexican, he [Pablo] was considered by all to be as “German” and “Unionist” as any of the others.” This is someone’s theory, but I can’t say I don’t think it might be true. After all, young eight-year-old Pablo seems to have been treated with kindness and maybe even with some affection by the Germans who ended up caring for him. I am sure he spoke German. And after around 14 years with them, he had heard their views on everything…including slavery…and most likely agreed with his adopted friends and guardians.
I am absolutely enthralled with this young man’s story. It is one of incredible courage, adaptability and thirst for freedom. RIP Pablo.
Sources: Roemer’s Texas, Dr. Ferdinand Roemer, 1995 edition; John O. Meusebach, Irene Marschall King, 1967; Sophienburg Museum & Archives: Oscar Haas Manuscript Collection, the Dresel Family Manuscript Collection and the Nueces Massacre file.