The Amusing History of New Braunfels, TX
The Earliest Days of New Braunfels
The history of New Braunfels, TX is a bit different and more amusing than your typical Texas town. It was one of the first areas of land populated by the Germans. An effort by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, arrangements were made by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels for hundreds of German immigrants to settle here. In the winter of 1844, Prince Carl had the first boats of immigrants arrive at the Texas coast to begin the journey inland for a place to settle.
The Society purchased land grants for the immigrants to live on and start a community, and one of these areas was located on a large parcel of land with freshwater springs that would provide water. Soon after, Prince Carl returned to Germany, and the number of settlers continued to grow. By summer, the population was between 300 and 400. John O. Meusebach, the town’s manager, applied for incorporation under the name of Prince Carl’s estate in Braunfels, Germany. Thus, the town was established.
A new batch of colonists arrived in 1846, and with their arrival came three difficult and trying disasters. First, the Mexican-American war was getting started, and the buggies used to transport immigrants from the coast to their new settlement were diverted to help the American war effort. Next, unexpected rains flooded the waterways and land. Lastly, a cholera outbreak hit, and hundreds of immigrants died from it. But, with the help of Muesebach stabilizing the community’s finances and emergency response, they were able to ride out the disasters and stay thriving.
Industry in New Braunfels, TX
As early industry began to develop, the town quickly became a manufacturing center, creating and supplying typical pioneer goods such as farm tools, leather goods, wagons, clothing, and furniture. Immigrants brought with them their skills, and they became known for their artisanal craftsmanship and business sense. They also served a wide market with their agricultural products.
Fast forward to the early 1900's, and the town had a population over 3,000. They had their own school district that the residents supported through self-imposed taxation. German culture still permeated the city. The town was linked by railways and telegraph systems to Austin and San Antonio. Electric streetlights were installed, and there was even one telephone line.
The Great Depression in TX
With its ample resources for growth during the 20th century, the population was steadily increasing. This all changed with the Great Depression, as the town was devastated by hits to both the textile industry and agriculture. Things began to turn around soon after World War II, as the population doubled, and the city government was reorganized to better suit its growing needs.
Tourism in New Braunfels
As the source of power shifted from water and steam to electrical power, the rivers and springs of the area were opened for public use. Much of this land became parks in order to promote tourism in the area. Highways were built and finished, which increased traffic to the area even more. In the ‘60's, a German festival called Wurstfest was started, which helped to further solidify the tourism industry.
Even after the initial post-war boom wore off, New Braunfels was still experiencing growth. Fueled by the industrial sectors and the steady flow of tourists (especially in the summer), the town was getting bigger and better every day.
Today New Braunfels, TX is still known as a popular place to visit for its water attractions and its proximity to San Antonio. The current population is over 75,000 and continues to climb.