On March 14, 1845, Prince Carl purchased 1,265 acres for $1,112, establishing the only city in Texas founded by German royalty. Seven days later, on Good Friday, he led the first settlers into New Braunfels, named for his ancestral German home.
“The beauty of the place was astounding. Masses of wild flowers covered the prairie and the powerful springs added to the magnificent beauty creating a crystal clear river which would serve the industry of the future,” wrote Hermann Seele in his diary then. The teacher, public official, writer and cultural leader was considered the Soul of New Braunfels. Within months, he began educating 15 suntanned, barefooted children under an elm tree.
In the first 30 days, Nicholaus Zink plotted the town, drawing up wide avenues and the grand central European plaza we enjoy today. “They knew it would be the center of trade and celebration,” said Judy Young. Lots were drawn for home sites and beyond, farms were laid out. The thrifty, industrious German settlers quickly set up shops and trades, adding new wealth to the area and doubling local crop yields.
In 1855, Frederick Olmsted listed master mechanics to include 20 carpenters and builders, seven wagon makers, eight blacksmiths, three shoemakers and tanners plus many more, who further employed workmen.
Large volumes of beef and pork supported sausage-making, a German art and an adopted Texas tradition. Winemaking thrived with a supply of wild Mustang grapes. The productive farmers, vintners and artisan fare gained a reputation for cordial hospitality and honorable trade. Gemütlichkeit was reborn in Texas. By the 1850s, New Braunfels was a bustling business center and the fourth largest city in Texas after Houston, San Antonio and Galveston.
Since its 25th anniversary in 1870, the city has celebrated each quarter-century in a grand way. The original occasion included a celebratory parade through streets and buildings decorated with mountain laurel and cedar. A German cannon was fired throughout the festivities. At the 50th anniversary in 1895, the event added more cannons blasts, fireworks, concerts and dancing with proceeds funding a fountain on the Main Plaza.
The routes across Texas originated as Indian trails, marked by ruts from dragging teepee poles. Spanish and French explorers came, yet few North Americans headed West after Anglo immigration opened up. Nearly 7,000 Germans settled in Texas, and New Braunfels blossomed as a cross roads and point of safe passage across the rivers.
In 1856, the first wagon bridge was built, and the whipple truss Faust Bridge—spanning 640 feet of the Guadalupe River—was erected in 1887. It is the only example of a multi-span bridge still surviving in its original site and a worthy testament to the goals of community then and now.
Planned events are numerous. Glitzy galas like the Edelweiss Ball, Maskenball, Burger Ball and more compete for fun with music and beer festivals. Costumed and flag-waving parades are on the calendar. Significant events include the Simultoast with Braunfels, Germany on January 4, Downtown Rotary Club’s Community Breakfast and Founders’ Day line-up in March. Those activities include the Trail Ride, to simulate the settlers original trek from the coast to New Braunfels, a parade to Landa Park, music, dancing and other activities.