By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Immigrant Julius Voelcker arrived in New Braunfels in 1845 and at age 25 became one of the First Founders of the city. Before arriving, he had studied pharmacology and medicine at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. His profession in the 1850 census was listed as “farmer”. A majority of immigrants listed their profession in this way. They came for land and this was a way to survive. Ultimately Voelcker chose to be a pharmacist and opened his pharmacy next to his home on the north side of the plaza.
Julius Voelcker’s chosen field would spur on a family tradition, as six members would follow this profession in the next generations. He married Louise Karbach in 1857 who had emigrated to Texas with her family from Mecklinberg, Germany. Four sons and one daughter were born to this couple: Frank, Rudolf, Bruno, Emil and daughter, Emma. Emma’s life would bring the family much joy but also grief.
During the Civil War Julius Voelcker joined a company of State Troops, 31st Brigade as a 1st Lieutenant. Norma Colley, granddaughter of Voelcker, in a paper written in 1990 told stories that her grandmother, Louise Voelcker, told of the family’s experiences during the war when Julius was away serving in the war. Her grandmother and the children moved to a hill over the Guadalupe River. Frank, the oldest son, was bitten by a water moccasin on the banks of the Guadalupe. His life was saved by his mother. Bruno fell from a cliff but survived. After the war when Julius returned, the family moved back to their home in town.
On July 22, 1874, a terrible tragedy befell the Voelcker family when 12 year-old Emma Voelcker was murdered in the Voelcker home by Wilhelm Faust of Seguin. Faust’s estranged wife, Helene, was spending the night at the Voelcker home as she had done before and she was sleeping in the same bed as Emma. During the night, Mrs. Faust moved to the floor and the assailant entered the home and attempted to kill his wife with an ax, thinking she was in the bed. In the dark he hit Emma instead, killing her. Mrs. Faust was blinded by a near-fatal blow. Faust escaped but was caught in November. It wasn’t until October of 1875 that he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Locally the populace was enraged by the sentence so he was moved to a jail in San Antonio. He was moved back to the Comal County Jail but a lynch mob attempted to assassinate him. He was then moved into the Comal County Courthouse. (Old courthouse where Chase Bank is located) On July 28, 1876, some unknown person shot Faust through the window of his cell and killed him.
Julius Voelcker was elected mayor in 1875 but died six weeks before his term expired in 1877. Louise lived 41 more years. When the New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Dept. conducted its “Soul Searching” program in November, the Voelcker gravesite was one of the sites featured in the Comal Cemetery.
Bruno Voelcker followed in his father Julius’ footsteps. His drugstore was located on the corner of San Antonio St. and Castell Ave. (Red Stag). Bruno’s two sons, Edwin and Julius were both pharmacists.
Julius’ youngest son, Emil, married Caroline Zuehl and they lived on the Karbach ranch for many years. Emil was also a pharmacist. Their children were Louise , Herbert, and Norma. In 1891 Emil purchased six lots in the Braunfels subdivision between Union and Washington Sts. in Comaltown. A small house was already on the corner of Union and South Sts. and added on to over the years. This house still belongs to descendants of the Voelcker family.
Louise Voelcker married Robert Wagenfuehr and both were very civic minded and active in New Braunfels. Their children were Esther May,(mother of Betty Kyle), Milton, and Harvey. The Voelcker pharmacy tradition continued in the family with Harvey Wagenfuehr becoming a pharmacist and eventually owning Peerless Pharmacy on San Antonio St.
Tracing the history of the Voelcker family is in many ways typical of other family histories of immigrants who made New Braunfels their home in the 1800s. But in many ways this family’s history is unique.