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The saga of the Six Shooter Ranch

Photo: Detail of a photo of Sippel's St. John Bottling Works and Anheuser-Busch Distributing, c. 1886. Boy in center is Henry Sippel who was killed in Houston. Boy next on the right is Dick Ernest Sippel and the man with the full dark beard is John Sippel.

Photo: Detail of a photo of Sippel’s St. John Bottling Works and Anheuser-Busch Distributing, c. 1886. Boy in center is Henry Sippel who was killed in Houston. Boy next on the right is Dick Ernest Sippel and the man with the full dark beard is John Sippel.

By Keva Hoffman Boardman —

The Six Shooter Ranch. The name evokes something rather wonderful in an old-Western-movie kind of way. However, dear reader, the history around the Six Shooter Ranch is anything but romantic. There are tales from different time periods which give us clues to its story and with some sniffing around, I think I have got the gist.

I first found a paragraph in the Marjorie Cook files. She was a feature writer/editor for the NB Herald.

Six Shooter Ranch was owned by Coreths and got its name from a man named John Sippel (who married a daughter of Ernst Gruene, Sr. Sippel lived in the house there and used to get drunk, lie on his bed and shoot flies with his six-shooter. The ceiling was full of holes as a result. The house stood on top of the hill adjoining the Eden Home. This was levelled for crushed rock by Landa on a lease from Coreth. Just before the house was torn down, it served as a bordello.

Is your interest peaked? Are there facts to back up any of this tale?

A transcript of an interview with Coreth Family descendants fills in some details of the location.

At one time they [Coreths] owned property from Mission Hill all the way over to the Eden Home. My uncle Rochette Coreth referred to it as the Six Shooter Ranch. There was a quarry there on the edge. That was in 1913, when Landa wanted to establish a rock quarry on the Coreth property and [paperwork] refers to it as the Six Shooter Ranch.

I looked into the land area a little closer and it seems that it was first owned by Ernst Gruene. His daughter Johanna and husband John Sippel lived on the property when they got married in 1873. In 1887, Sippel opened a rock quarry on the hill to get rock and gravel for the construction of the Guadalupe River Bridge (Faust St. Bridge). Sippel later recovered an 8-pound mammoth tooth at the site. The Coreth’s then acquired the land and they leased it to Landa to quarry gravel.

Olinska Sippel Posey, one of the daughters of John and Johanna Sippel, shared a very personal insight on her family. John built a home on the corner of Academy and Coll in 1881, and that’s where she lived so she didn’t live on the Six Shooter Ranch. She did remember that her father was a little bit crazy and dangerous. Olinska remembered that father John took her to visit her Gruene grandparents who lived on Rock Street one day. They crossed the San Antonio Street bridge, went through Comaltown and at the railroad tracks there on Rock Street, John told her to get out and walk the rest of the way. As she walked, he shot his gun several times over her head to hurry her along.

Olinska’s mother Johanna had a mental breakdown in 1893. Olinska said her mother felt she had to file for divorce in 1894. After her husband shot himself in the head on the second floor of his Phoenix saloon in 1900, Johanna Gruene Sippel lived until 1942.

Doesn’t this recollection just break your heart? Here is a bit more of the Sippels’ story.

John was the son of Valentin Sippel, one of NB’s first founders. John was quite the entrepreneur. He and father Valentin built the first Phoenix Saloon — same location, different building — in 1873. Off and on he lived on the 2nd floor of “Sippel Hall” and rented out the first-floor saloon. He also added an alligator pond and a bowling alley. In 1885 he became the local distributor for Anheuser-Busch. John set up a soda and mineral water bottling works, St. John’s Bottling, in 1886. In 1887, he opened the quarry at the Six Shooter Ranch. He added an ice factory to his line of businesses and became the distributor for Lone Star Beer in 1890.

I think his world started falling apart in 1892. His 18-year-old, first-born son Henry was shot and died while at business college in Dallas. The Sippels’ had already lost a two-year-old daughter in 1883. Henry’s death caused Johanna to have a mental breakdown and require several months of hospitalization. John was having a hard time financially as well. The bottling works went bankrupt after a bad freeze and it and the ice factory were put up for sale. Johanna filed for divorce and six years later, most likely depressed and drinking, John shot himself.

Perhaps this is the origen of the “drunk and shooting the flies on the ceiling” story; so much trauma and heartache for this man and his family to handle.

My last reference to Six-Shooter Ranch is later in time. Hanno Welsch Sr. recorded an oral history at the Sophienburg and told an interesting story. His family lived on a farm out on River Road and Rock Street. Remember that the ranch house of the Six Shooter Ranch was located about where the Eden Home and Dean Word’s pit is now.

There was a fella by the name of Clapp, of Clapp Shoe Company. He was living up there. He was a playboy. I imagine they gave him lots of money to get him away from their business. He hooped it up! He had some nice black horses and a buggy; well-groomed. He’d go to town and meet these girls. He’d get a pretty girl from off the train and have big parties there. And he liked six shooters, pistols and stuff like that. He was shooting at the fella that was working in the field on Rock Street, and, of course, once in awhile this fella would shoot back too you know. I don’t know but I think they were both drunk. They couldn’t hit a target.

Finally. I think I understand the bordello reference in Marjorie Cook’s notes. Mr. Welsch also talks about the “pretty ladies” which came in on the train. Behind the depot was a one-story house about 30 feet long with a porch along the sidewalk of Mill Street. The mostly dark and shuttered house was “verboten to us youngsters” but Welsch and his friends would slip over to the windows and listen to the “sweet talk”. Hanno describes how the ladies would come in by train, pulling up their skirts above the ankle as they stepped down onto the ground. There were always a lot of cowboys ready to help and then escort the ladies to the “entertainment house”. I think the Clapp gentleman at the Six Shooter Ranch would bring “these girls” to the ranch house to party.

So it looks like I’ve figured out quite a bit of the story. But Mr. Welsch gave me one more tantalizing tidbit connected to Six Shooter Ranch. One day Hanno’s father was plowing in the field down on the corner of Rock Street and he plowed up an old pistol.

It was a very peculiar pistol. It was originally a rim fire and it had been converted into a center pin fire pistol. It had beautiful engraving on it and a nice wooden handle. It must have come from the Six Shooter Ranch somehow.

Sources: Sophienburg Museum: Neu Braunfelser Zeitung; New Braunfels Herald; Marjorie Cook Collection; Myra Lea Adams Goff Collection; Hanno Welsch Sr. “Reflections” oral history.