Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Lost Colony of Texas

When people in Texas enjoy their barbeque and brisket, do they think to thank the Archduke of Nassau?

Southern American migration into Texas before and after the Civil War would have introduced barbeque as an excellent end use for all those longhorns in any case, but it got a real quality boost from some skilled German and Czech butchers who arrived in a colonization scheme known as the Adelsverein (the Nobility Society). Twenty-one German noblemen (the aforementioned Archduke, two regular dukes, nine princes, eight counts and a lone baron) met in Nassau's castle at Biebrich on the Rhine in 1842 and developed a plan to ease the pressure of surplus labor in the German states, while creating new markets and sources of raw materials, in line with 19th century mercantile colonial theory. The Republic of Texas was scouted; it had always been a destination for outlaws, filibusters and fortune seekers, after all, and its President, Sam Houston, could grant tracts of land to contractors who would colonize it. Old Sam only offered some frontier territory west of Austin filled with hostile natives, so the society purchased 4,428 acres of land in Fayette County at $.75 per. Twenty-five slaves were also bought.

The first immigrants, who'd paid $240 per head of household, arrived in mid-1844 at the port of Indian Point (now Indianola). They were short on shelter (there was no wood) and very short of medical care: 1,000 of the 1846 arrivals died of disease, exposure and starvation. By the end of the colony's official life in 1853 due to unpayable debt, 7,000 had made the journey, founding the settlement still known as New Braunfels and a second colony, Fredericksburg (both named after princes, of course -- naming rights have been around a while).

A signal accomplishment of Adelsverein beyond the excellent barbeque was a lasting -- because it was actually fair -- treaty with the Comanche. Indianola did not fare so well: two hurricanes, in 1875 and 1886, devastated it, the latter one collapsing the building pictured above, called Sophienburg, the former headquarters of the colony and in its last years just a store.

The flags (if they had any) of shadow states within the U.S. such as the Republic of Vermont, the State of Franklin, the Free State of Winston (Alabama), Scott County (Tennessee) and Adelsverein are furled and resting in the dusty closet of history. Little Scott County had the last chuckle: after seceding from Tennessee after it seceded from the Union, the plucky residents didn't officially rejoin the Volunteer State until 1986!

1 comment:

  1. You have got to get with Joel for several hours (days) (months) due to your love of history.