by Paul Heidelberg
This is the first in a
series of remembrances by longtime Comal County resident Alton
J. Rahe that are
excerpted from his book,
HISTORY OF SATTLER AND MOUNTAIN VALLEY SCHOOL, COMAL COUNTY TEXAS, published in 1999.
Rahe, who worked first as a schoolteacher, and then later as a mathematical statistician for the U.S. Air Force, was born in Sattler and lived there until age 16, when he moved to New Braunfels.
His book is filled with interesting memories about Comal County during his youth, and historical information from earlier eras. He discusses the history and people of towns such as Sattler, Smithson Valley and New Braunfels.
He also provides insight into the lives of the original inhabitants of the area, Native Americans.
Some of Rahe’s remembrances concern the hardships suffered by early settlers of Comal County. An example concerns the Guenther family, early pioneer settlers in Sattler.
Jacob and Sophie Guenther and their four children sailed from Dierdorf, Germany, to Texas in 1845. En route to their new home, Sophie and her daughters Katherina and Anna passed away onboard ship.
In 1847 Jacob died from heat stroke in New Braunfels.
His orphaned daughter Marie was adopted by a family who traveled to California by wagon train.
Her eight-year-old brother Christian was placed in the Weisenfarm Orphan Farm, located by the Guadalupe River near the present site of Gruene.
In 1871 Christian married Theresa Schlater, and they settled on a farm in the Sattler community. Their six children, Ida, Emil, Ernst, Herman, Frank and Carl were some of the first settlers of the Sattler area.
“There were many hardships back in the pioneer days,” Rahe said. “Many people don’t realize how difficult the times were. I’ve heard stories about people in Germany putting their children aboard ships that were sailing to Texas. That’s how much they wanted their children to have a better life.”
THE SOURCE OF LIFE
The reality is that the region would have never been settled if the Guadalupe River and its contributories had not been there. As we all know, life is totally dependent on water, and good quality water is the first consideration when settling in any region. Of course, water was not only used for consumption, but also as a source of power.
It is of interest to note that the Guadalupe River was named by Alonzo De Leon on 14 April 1689, his fourth expedition to Texas. De Leon named the river in honor of the patron saint of the expedition, Nuestra Senora De Guadalupe. The river was named over 150 years before the founders of New Braunfels arrived.
Some of the creeks contributing to the Guadalupe River were: Turkey, Mountain, Bear, Tausch, Elm and Jacobs. Of course, the Buffalo Springs and Waco Springs also contributed to the Guadalupe River.
Long before Alonzo De Leon named the Guadalupe River, various tribes of Indians roamed the Texas area as evidenced by numerous arrowheads and other artifacts. Of course, the water supply was also vital to their survival.
Primarily the Lipan, Waco and Tonkawa tribes were found in this region. These tribes were generally peaceful and were usually satisfied when given food. They were wandering hunters and gatherers with no permanent villages. Since these tribes were peaceful, less organized, and smaller in number, they were often overlooked by early settlers. It was the larger and belligerent tribes whom the historians carried forward in history.
This is what Ruby Rust’s grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Eduard Kanz, and parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Rust, had to say about the Indians in the Sattler area.
At that time there were not many Indians anymore and most of them were civilized. They lived mostly in the Mountain Creek area. They went to people’s houses and begged for something to eat. The whites were always glad to give them something to eat so they would go away, or else they would stay around the place and steal something anyway. They lived mostly from eating fish, oysters, berries, deer, and turkeys. They stole many cattle and horses.
The following written evidence helps to further explain that Indians did live in the community at one time. In 1918, Joe and Albert Meckel found an Indian grave while excavating for a new road to the low water bridge on the west side of the Guadalupe River on the Ernst Pape land. Four skeletons were found about three feet under the surface.
They were somewhat disjointed but sufficiently preserved to show that the corpses were placed in sitting positions. As usual, the braves were buried with the necessary equipment for use in their “Happy hunting grounds” beyond. The article concluded as follows, “Commissioner August Schulze and Albert Nowotny went to the place Tuesday and brought to town some of the human relics. Others probably carried away parts of them.”
The Spanish influence was around for many years before the German settlers came; however, there is no evidence of any Spanish settlers in this area. Apparently ownership was important to them since many of the abstract titles were to Spanish surnames, such as: Erinerio Veles, J.A. Perez, Felipe Valverdo, Juan Jose Ximenes, Juan Jose Perales and Francisco Uron.
(For information about purchasing a signed copy of HISTORY OF SATTLER AND MOUNTAIN VALLEY SCHOOL, COMAL COUNTY TEXAS, contact Alton J. Rahe in New Braunfels at 625-4529.)