New Braunfels (pronounced - nu brownfells) is a city in Comal and Guadalupe counties in the U.S. state of Texas that is a principal city of the San Antonio - New Braunfels metropolitan area. Braunfels means "brown rock" in German; the city is named for Braunfels, in Germany. The city's population was 36,494 as of the 2000 census and estimated at 51,804 in 2007. It is the seat of Comal County.
New Braunfels has a sizeable German Texan community. During the 19th century, its name was often spelled Neu-Braunfels, even by English speakers. The town holds a German-style festival, Wurstfest ("sausage festival"), every November to celebrate the city's German heritage. The newspaper Herald Zeitung was originally two newspapers: The Herald (published in English) and The Zeitung (published in German) until 1967.
New Braunfels draws a fair amount of tourists from across the state, particularly because of the cold-spring rivers that run through the city. Many generations of families still return during the summer to tube down the Guadalupe River and Comal River. New Braunfels is the site of a water park, Schlitterbahn Water Park Resort. The Comal River is one of the shortest in the world at just 3.2 miles (5.2 km) long, before emptying into the Guadalupe River. The headwaters of the Comal are located in present day Landa Park, where hundreds of artesian springs flow from the Edwards Aquifer. The upper reaches are surrounded by a park and private residences, while the lower portions are open for recreation.
New Braunfels was established in 1845 by the German Prince, Carl of Solms-Braunfels, Commissioner General of the "Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas", also known as the "Noblemen's Society" (in German: Mainzer Adelsverein). Prince Carl named the city for Braunfels, his hometown in Germany.
The Adelsverein organized hundreds of people in Germany to settle in Texas. Immigrants from Germany began arriving at Galveston in July, 1844. Most then traveled by ship to Indianola in December, 1844 and began the overland journey to the Fisher-Miller land grants purchased by Prince Carl. At the urging of Col. Jack Hays, who realized the settlers would not have time to build homes and plant crops further inland before winter, and as the German settlers were traveling inland along the Guadalupe River, they stopped near the Comal Springs. Prince Carl bought two leagues of land from the Rafael Garza and Maria Antonio Veramendi Garza for $1,111.00.
The land, known as "Las Fontanas", was located northeast of San Antonio on the Camino Real and had strong freshwater springs. It was also approximately halfway between Indianola and the lower portions of the Fisher-Miller land grant. The first settlers forded the Guadalupe River on Good Friday, March 21, 1845, near the present day Faust Street bridge. As the Spring of 1845 progressed, the settlers built "Zinkenburg", a fort, divided land, and began building homes and planting crops. Prince Solms would also lay the cornerstone for the Sophienburg, a permanent fort, and center for the immigrant association. Soon after founding the city, Prince Carl returned to Germany, leaving John O. Meusebach to manage the settlement.
In December 1845, Texas became a state in the United States of America, eliminating any ambitions the German aristocracy may have had to establish a German principality within the politically and militarily weak Republic of Texas, and undermining the United States.
A second wave of German immigrants began arriving in 1846, even as the sponsoring Adelsverein teetered on bankruptcy. As hundreds of German immigrants continued arriving at the Texas coast in 1846, three disasters hit the German immigrants. The Mexican-Americal War broke out between the United States and Mexico, and oxcart teamsters who were contracted to carry the Germans and their belongings inland were diverted to the war effort along the south Texas coast. Additionally, heavy rains flooded creeks and rivers, rendering passage inland difficult. Finally, cholera broke out among the immigrants, and several hundred people died in the outbreak.
Meusebach stabilized the community's finances and encouraged the settlers to establish additional neighboring communities. The largest of these secondary settlements was Fredericksburg, 80 miles to the northwest of New Braunfels.
New Braunfels thrived, and by 1850, it was the fourth largest city in Texas, with 1,723 people, following only Galveston, San Antonio, and Houston in population. In 1852, the Zeitung newspaper was established, edited by German Texan botanist Ferdinand Lindheimer. The newspaper continues to publish under its current name, the Herald-Zeitung.
New Braunfels is located at (29.701724, -98.123559). This is 30 miles (48 km) northeast of San Antonio and 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Austin.
The city is situated along theBalcones Fault, where the Texas Hill Country meets rolling prairie land. Along the fault in the city, a string of artesian springs known as Comal Springs give rise to the Comal River, which is known as one of the shortest rivers in the world, as it winds three miles through the city before meeting the Guadalupe River.
Gruene, Texas or the Gruene Historical District, is located within the city limits of New Braunfels. It was founded by the sons of settlers Ernst and Antoinette Gruene. Gruene Texas had a bank, a post office, a school, a general store, a lumberyard, a gristmill, a dance hall, and a cotton gin. Access to two railways was used for shipping cotton bales. Its most famous attribute was the dance hall, a family activity in those days. Due to the failure of the cotton crop from Boll Weevils, and the failure of the banks after 1929, commercial activity slowed to a crawl. This village is now a Nationally Registered Historic District where you can dine in the ruins of the original Gristmill or enjoy live music at Gruene Hall, claimed to be the oldest dance hall in Texas. Past musicians that have been here include George Straight, Willie Nelson, Pat Green and many other famous people. The community may also be researched through the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.
The Texas State Historical Association on all of the information on the history of New Braunfels, Texas and Comal County.