Notes and Documents
Germans in the Alamo City in the 1850's
B 1850 SAN ANTONIO WAS NO LONGER A SLEEPY MEXICAN VILLAGE,
but an embryonic metropolis. A population of 3,488, made it sec-
ond only to Galveston among the cities of the state, and within a dec-
ade it overtook the island city and, with 8,235 inhabitants, become
the leading city of Texas. Germans made up a large proportion of the
new settlement which caused this growth. Some, seeing greater oppor-
tunities in the larger city, resettled from Fredericksburg, New Braun-
fels, Castroville, and other smaller communities. Others, driven from
Europe by the abortive revolution of 1848, made their way inland
from the ports of Galveston and Indianola.
Though they were only one of the many national groups to settle
in San Antonio during this period, the Germans, who by the middle
of the decade constituted about one-third of the city's population,
made a more obvious impact upon the quality of life there in the
1850's than most of the others. Early San Antonio still had far to go
before it would be a comfortable, cultured, and modern city in which
to make a home, and the Germans, never a group to let pass an op-
portunity for improvement, whether it be to themselves or to their
surroundings, provided a major impetus in setting the adolescent city
on its feet.'
The few German citizens and institutions discussed here represent
no more than a scanty selection, directed at illustrating some of the
diverse aspects of German culture as it shaped and was shaped by San
Antonio. Many of the most important German citizens are hardly men-
tioned: Dr. Ferdinand Herff, for example, city physician in 1855 and
*Kent Keeth is associate archivist-librarian at the Barker Texas History Center, Univer-
sity of Texas, Austin.
'U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States: 185o (Washington, D.C., 1853),
504; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States: 186o. Population (Washing-
ton, D.C., 1864), 487. Terry G. Jordon, German Seed in Texas Soil: Immigrant Farmers
in Nineteenth-Century Texas (Austin, 1966), 54-
2Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey through Texas: Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern
Frontier (New York, 1857), 428 n.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/. Accessed April 18, 2015.