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This next Tuesday, March 21, is New Braunfels Founder’s Day

(Published in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung on March 19, 2017)

Today, March 19, 2017, marks 172 years since Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels woke up to a snow storm in Texas. He was camping at the Guadalupe River getting ready to look over the land that he had just purchased for the Adelsverein emigration project. The date was Wednesday, March 19, 1845. In two days, the first immigrants would cross the Guadalupe into what would become New Braunfels on Good Friday, March 21, 1845. From that time on, that date would be designated as Founder’s Day for New Braunfels.

Prince Carl wrote eleven reports back to the Adelsverein telling them what he had accomplished for the organization that had chosen him to head the project. These eleven reports written in German have been translated by various historians and scholars. The reports have been published in both German and English. The information from these reports has been used by researchers for many years. But, as often is the case, other documents surface that are more personal in nature and sometimes contradictory to the original documents available.

The diary

Historian, Theodore Gish, came across the personal diary of Prince Carl while researching in Rheinland-Platz, Germany. The diary was one of two documents discovered and was called “Diary of a Trip to America in 1844-45.” W.M. Von Maszewski, the past-president of the German–Texas Heritage Society, agreed to translate the diary. The diary consists of 88 pages and begins with Prince Carl’s departure from Rheingrafenstein, his family castle. The date was May 14, 1844. The last entry was upon his return to Europe on June 20, 1845. The diary contains biographical data not found in the Adelsverein reports and contains humanizing comments about his own nature.

In the diary, the prince reveals much about his own personality and how he sees his role as “fearless military leader, mounting a defense against Indians.” This attack never came about. Prince Carl through Gish’s book, reveals himself as an aristocrat who exercised his skill in the arts. Even with the serious responsibility of the emigration project, he took time out to read the classical German authors such as Goethe and Schiller.

Diaries have a way of opening up what the writer really feels about people and places; in this case, much of it is uncomplimentary. Solms praises von Coll but not the rest of the first council that he appointed, particularly Zink. They were Dr. Theodore Koester, Nicholas Zink, von Coll and Rev. Louis Ervendberg. The prince makes some very serious charges against Zink. Also, the prince revealed his anti-American views and why he was against Texas becoming a state of the United States.

Historic background of the diary

Here is the background of the point in time the diary was written:

Prince Carl arrived in Texas on July 1, 1844, and traveled to collect information about Texas. On March 6, he rode on horseback to San Antonio with Friedrich Wrede and Gustav Hoffmann. In San Antonio, Johann Rahm, a member of Texas Ranger Jack Coffee Hays’ Company, told the prince about the Comal Tract and Las Fontanas. On the 15, Prince Carl purchased this tract from heirs of the Veramendi family. On March 18, the prince went to inspect the tract. He was accompanied by 25 men. The group set up tents at the Guadalupe and that night there was a snow storm. They woke up to the snow on their tents. This was March 19, 1845.

Two days later, the first group of German immigrants crossed the Guadalupe at the Camino Real crossing (Nacogdoches Street). A settlement was established called the Zinkenburg located where the Sts, Peter & Paul Catholic Church now stands. In February, Prince Carl had organized a militia to protect the settlers from Indian attack. These men were capable of bearing arms. The total number of men was 208, 36 with rifles, 39 with shotguns and 33 unarmed. On March 21, 1845, the immigrants crossed the Guadalupe.

Excerpts from the diary

February 26, 1845: Arrived at Carlshaven after being lost. Ate oysters and fish.

February 27, 1845: Bad roads to Victoria. Supper with Zink and Wedemeyer. Played the piano.

February 28, 1845: Rode to camp. Joyful welcome with cannon fire. Played the piano. Rain and storm.

March 2, 1845 Birthday of my mother. Departed on the way at 10:00 o’clock. Nice beautiful hilly trail. Met Romer, von Coll, Lűntzel, Hoffmann and Assel on the trail. Supper and grog.

March 3, 1845: Storm and rain. Zink arrives. Lengthy discussion.

March 4, 1845: Colonial Council meeting. Champagne in the evening.

March 6, 1845: A discussion with Dr. Kὂster. He was suspended. Cloudt is becoming uncouth. Baur is less than nothing, very malicious. Too late to ride.

March 7, 1845: Inspection of company. I praised Heidtmeyer because of training them. They need additional training on foot and field.

March 8, 1845: Departed for Gonzales. Supper at Kings. Slept on porch, saddle for pillow. American tobacco, chewing and spitting.

March 9, 1845: Cold norther at the San Jeronimo. 4.5 miles to Don Antonio Navarro’s. Interesting man. He describes the march to Santa Fe. Mr. Veramendi introduces me. Lodging with many fleas and a hard bed of feathers on wood.

March 10, 1845: Waited for Veramendi. He did not come. High ground view of San Antonio. Lodged at Rahm’s favorite old hotel.

March 11, 1845: Looked at the Alamo. Visited Veramendi and Garza.

March 12, 1845: Had discussion with Veramendi and de Vine. Companions were Wrede, Anton, two orderlies from Lindheimer’s company and from the militia of Hoffmann and Lűntzel. Mexicans no longer made brash demands.

March 13, 1845: Completed business with Mexicans. Rode to San Pedro Springs and the Powder House.

March 14, 1845: Completion of the document with Maria Veramendi-Garza, beautiful woman. Rode with Lűntzel and Lindheimer to Mission La Conception.

March 15, 1845: Signed the document.

March 16, 1845: Breakfast along Cibolo. Wrede and Hoffmann arrived in the evening.

March 17, 1845: Zink and Coll arrived with 13 men. Camped at a spring not far from the Guadalupe. Bitterly cold.

March 18, 1845: Arrived on the Comal tract. Put up tents, ate late then went to bed.

March 19, 1845: We awoke to a snowstorm. I rode out to outline the horse exercise area. Afterward I went with Rahm, Wrede, Lűntzel, Zink into the woods, with hunting knives and axes we cut a trail to the spring. 4 miles. Stopped where we came to a meadow. Bitterly cold. Snow on the tents in the morning.

March 20, 1845: With Coll, Lindheimer and five men I went on a long ride through the country. On horseback, we climbed up to an outcropping through cedars to the top of a plateau.

March 21, 1845: Beginning of spring and Good Friday. Crossing of the first 15 wagons, but what toil and what difficulty it was. Finally, they are here. Change of the camp to higher ground.

Diary continues

Prince Carl’s diary continues through the time he left New Braunfels on May 14 and then left Texas in June for Germany. The book containing this information and much more can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg. It is called Voyage to North America 1844-45.

Sophienburg Executive Director Tara Kohlenberg displays Prince Carl’s portable chair, writing desk, family seal and ink-blot sand container from the museum collections.

Sophienburg Executive Director Tara Kohlenberg displays Prince Carl’s portable chair, writing desk, family seal and ink-blot sand container from the museum collections.