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The year of the courthouse and the Spanish-American War

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The year 1898 was the year of the Comal County Courthouse and the year of the Spanish-American War. In 1998 Dr. Robert Govier translated the “Neu Braunfelser Zeitung” from German into English for the Sophienburg . The Govier and Adams families were old family friends. Before Bob died, he gave me a personal copy of many of his writings.

The war and the courthouse were the two most covered events of that year. Some of the trivia in the paper will give you an idea of how things stacked up here in 1898. The Zeitung was written in German, the editor was Eugene Kaiser and the once-a-week paper subscription was $2.50 a year and $3.00 if sent to Germany.

The original CC Courthouse was located on the corner of the plaza where the Chase Bank stands. Plans were presented by six architects from Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. The plans of architect J. Riely Gordon were chosen. Judge Ad. Giesecke voted against the plan, as did Commissioner Schulze, Jr. Commissioners Marbach, Startz, and Adams voted for Gordon’s plan. Contractors chosen were Fischer and Lambie. Fischer was a New Braunfels native.

In May, the cornerstone was laid. Bands played, and flag-waving school children marched from school to the plaza. City and County officials marched in step. The cornerstone was suspended over the southern corner of the completed ground floor. Historical items were placed in a metal box and with three ceremonial hammer strokes, the stone was consecrated by pouring corn, wine and oil on it from a silver chalice. (Incidentally, Schulze refused to have his name on the cornerstone)

After the ceremony the crowd made its way to Gottlieb Oberkampf’s garden where children were served lemonade and adults were served beer.

The other big headliner was the Spanish-American war between Spain and the United States. The US intervened in the Cuba Libra war against Spain for independence. Conflicts between Spain and its possession, Cuba, had been going on for years and American sentiment towards the Spanish atrocities had reached a high point by 1898.

Pres. McKinley sent the USS Maine to Havana to protect American citizens. The Maine suffered a massive explosion in Havana Harbor. The cause was unknown but with the death of 266 sailors, American opinion demanded retaliation against Spain. War was declared by the US on Spain in April of 1898.

After four months of conflict, the war was over. The US gained almost all of Spain’s colonies – Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Cuba formed its own government and gained independence in 1902. During this war, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders trained in San Antonio.

The paper was not without its trivia about this war. The Naval Dept. was acquiring 10,000 carrier pigeons. In Key West, a special building for three weeks of training was built. The birds would be trained until they were capable of covering points near Havana to Key West.

Local news reflects the social aspect of the town. In that year, all babies that were born were listed throughout the paper but in a different way than today. “The mayor Carl Jahn and his wife had a baby girl.” The father’s name was listed in that way, not giving any credit to the mother.

There was an abundance of entertainment, particularly in the form of masked balls-Thorn Hill, Orth’s Pasture, Vogel’s Valley, and Children’s Masked Ball. The shooting club was active and the Men’s Singing Clubs celebrated with the “clinking of glasses”. A famous diver named Felton, would perform at the garden by diving from the roof of the high building into a basin of water 3½ feet deep. For sports lovers, one can travel on the International train between NB and Austin for $1.25 round trip to attend the “Base Ball” game.

New downtown: Sylvester Simon built a two story handsome pub right next to the new courthouse. Hmm. Also downtown, a sidewalk was built in front of the Gruene building on San Antonio St. (Calahans) A night watchman was hired to ” get around by bicycle”. (Horses were the main means of transportation) The city purchased a water wagon to sprinkle the streets. I’m sure that was a big thing since the streets were not paved.

Here it is, 114 years later. We still have a lively downtown, war, pubs, entertainment but hallelujah we don’t have a water wagon!

The city's water wagon when the streets were not paved.

The city's water wagon when the streets were not paved.