The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996

Johann von Racknitz: German Empresario and
Soldier of Fortune in Texas and Mexico,
183 2-848
LouIs E. BRISTER*
ALMOST A DECADE BEFORE THE Mainzer Adelsverein UNDERTOOK TO SET-
tle thousands of German emigrants on the Texas frontier, another
German noble, Johann von Racknitz, had personally escorted a number
of German families to Texas to establish a colony on the Colorado River
near Bastrop. Racknitz's struggle, spanning almost a decade, to settle
hundreds of his countrymen first on the Colorado and then on the Nue-
ces River has received but scant notice in accounts of German settle-
ment in Texas. The record of his long and often frustrating career as an
empresario in Texas has been poorly researched and the enterprise it-
self almost universally discredited and maligned. The earliest account,
by Moritz Tiling in his History of the German Element in Texas from
z82o-z85o ..., acknowledges that Racknitz made two attempts to settle
German emigrant families in Texas, but Tiling's account is otherwise
rife with error and rumor.' A more objective account of Racknitz's at-
tempts to settle Germans in Texas was written by R. L. Biesele in The His-
tory of the German Settlements in Texas z83z-z86z, but his research on
Racknitz was grounded almost exclusively in typewritten transcripts of
Mexican colonization records.2 Biesele had consulted neither the
archival records currently on deposit in Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart nor
Racknitz's own publications about his colonization projects. The most
* Louis E. Brister is a professor of German at Southwest Texas State University. The research
for this article was conducted in Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart, Germany, while the author was on
university developmental leave in the autumn of 1990.
'Montz Tiling, Hzstory of the German Element in Texas from 182o-z85o . . .(Houston: Moritz
Tiling, 1913), 2o-21. It is particularly frustrating that Tiling cites no sources for his grossly inac-
curate account.
2 Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas 83 -86I (1930; reprint,
Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1964), 28-31. The Mexican colonization records utilized by
Biesele and identified by him as the "West Transcripts," are to be found in the Archivo de la Sec-
retaria de Fomento, Colonizaci6n y Terrenos Baldfos, Legajo I, No. 1, vol. 307, pp. 57-82 (Cen-
ter for American History, University of Texas, Austin; cited hereafter as CAH).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/. Accessed September 21, 2014.