Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 41
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CENTRAL TEXAS HISTORY 41
cholera, typhoid and yellow fever. Finances of the new
settlement were in dreadful disarray. And the Germans
had trouble adapting to farming in arid Texas. They
considered drought abnormal, and they were slow to
change from crop-oriented agriculture to livestock
Prince Carl, though a nobleman in the German
court, was a miserable failure as a businessman and
frontiersman in Texas. Leaving the finances of the new
settlement in a shambles, Prince Carl returned to Ger-
many without waiting for his replacement. Baron
Ottfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach arrived in 1845.
He, too, was a nobleman, but his training was broad and
well-suited to managing the fledgling settlement.
Meusebach's background included mining engi-
neering, forestry, political science, finance, jurispru-
dence, state economy and civil service. He read five
languages and spoke English fluently. Dropping his ti-
tle upon arrival in Texas, he became plain John O.
Meusebach soon had the affairs of New Braunfels in
hand. He then founded Fredericksburg about 80 miles
to the northwest for the next wave of German immi-
grants, who arrived on May 8, 1846. Determined to use
the Fisher-Miller lands, Meusebach negotiated a treaty
with the Comanches the following March. It was one of
the few treaties in Texas history that were honored by
both sides. Several small communities were established
in the Fisher-Miller territory, but none was as success-
ful as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.
By 1850, Texans of German birth or parentage out-
numbered Mexican-Americans. Ten years later, Ger-
mans were in the majority in three counties in the
Austin-San Antonio area and were a substantial minori-
ty of six others. Immigration from Germany continued
through the century and left a band of German commu-
nities from the Gulf Coast into the Hill Country west of
San Antonio, with concentrations in Gillespie, Comal,
Kendall, Austin and Washington counties.
While some immigrants came to Texas for economic
and political reasons, others came for religious free-
dom. In 1854, a group of 588 Wends migrated to Texas
from Germany to escape government interference with
their faith. Led by John Kilian, they settled in what is
today Lee County. About six miles south of present-day
Giddings on the Smithville-Houston Oxcart Road, these
Slavic descendants of the Serbs established the town of
Serbin. Other pockets of Wends settled in the present-
day Central Texas counties of Fayette, Williamson, Cor-
yell and Bell.
Immigrant groups from Czechoslovakia began
arriving in Texas in the 1850s, fleeing government re-
pression after an unsuccessful revolution in 1848. Czech
families established the town of Hostyn in Fayette
County about seven miles southwest of La Grange in
1850, making it one of the first Czech settlements in
Texas. Some of the early Czech migrants also settled in
what was originally the predominantly German town of
Many Poles immigrated to Texas because of the
influence of a Polish Franciscan priest, Leopold Moczy-
gemba. He came to Texas in 1851 to serve the Germans
in New Braunfels. His glowing letters to friends in Po-
land urged them to join him in Texas. The first Polish
village in Central Texas was St. Hedwig, established
near San Antonio in 1857. First named Martinez, it was
renamed for the patron saint of Silesia. There was also
a well-defined Polish neighborhood in San Antonio,
which comprised 200 families by 1860.
The Houston and Texas Central Railroad started
laying track westward out of Houston toward Central
Texas in 1856. But its slow expansion halted completely
during the Civil War.
Before railroads came to Central Texas, freight
moved by ox- or mule-drawn wagons over routes that
were little more than trails. Heavy wagons often
bogged down when roads were muddy. Passengers
moved on horseback or stagecoach, and families used
wagons. Stage lines charged 10 cents a mile, but the
price could double in bad weather. Most towns had a
wagon yard - usually next to a hotel - which was a
large enclosure with sheds for sheltering the teams.
Wealthier travelers slept in the hotel; others bedded
down in their wagons.
In the 1850s, scheduled stagecoaches transported
passengers and mail from Austin to the Gulf Coast;
from San Antonio to the Gulf Coast and to Eagle Pass;
and from Waco to Nacogdoches. By 1857, a semimonthly
mail and passenger service was operating between San
Antonio and San Diego, Calif., a trip taking 30 days and
The major roads at this time were primarily old mil-
itary roads first blazed by the Spanish or by Texans dur-
ing the days of the republic. Preston Road was laid out
in 1841, following an old Indian trail, just after Fort
Preston was built on the Red River in present Grayson
County. It connected Fort Preston to Austin by way of
Dallas and Waco. The Old San Antonio Road from San
Antonio to Nacogdoches through Bastrop and Crockett
was still used, as was the road from Indianola to San
Antonio, a principal route for cargo to and from Gulf
The frontier settlements were still being raided by
Indians, so the U.S. Army built a line of forts for pro-
tection. Westward expansion was so fast, however, that
these were active for only two or three years. Among
these short-lived posts was Fort Croghan, established
on Hamilton Creek about three miles south of present-
day Burnet on March 13, 1849. It was first called Camp
Croghan in honor of Col. George Croghan. It was moved
to a site three and a half miles farther north in October.
The post was occupied by the 2nd Dragoons in 1852, but
was abandoned except for a token guard the following
Fort Gates was built on the north bank of the Leon
River above Coryell Creek, about five miles east of
present Gatesville, on Oct. 26, 1849. Named for Brevet
Mai. Collinson Reed Gates, a veteran of the war with
Mexico, Fort Gates was abandoned in March 1852.
A third Central Texas fort was established on March
27, 1849, on the east bank of the Brazos River at the old
Waco Indian village near the newly founded town of
Waco Village. Fort Graham was named for William M.
Graham, a veteran of the battle of Molino del Rey in
1847. The troops were withdrawn in 1853.
The first sale of lots in Waco Village, named for the
area's earlier Indian inhabitants, took place on March
1, 1849, just before Fort Graham was established. Town
lots sold for $5, with farming lots selling for $2 to $3 an
acre. McLennan County, created Jan. 22, 1850, and
organized the following August, was named for an early
settler in the area, Scotsman Neil McLennan, and Waco
Village was chosen the county seat in 1850. When offici-
ally incorporated in 1856, the town's name was changed
On March 4, 1850, an election was held to determine
the permanent seat of the state government. Austin
won over a number of contenders, including Palestine,
Washington, Huntsville and Tehuacana (spelled "Ty-
wackanah" on some county election returns).
Austin during the early 1850s experienced a building
boom, with many new business buildings being con-
structed of bricks from the brickworks at the mouth of
Shoal Creek. Log structures were being replaced by
buildings of dressed lumber and native stone.
The first brick capitol was built in March 1852. The
Governor's Mansion was built in 1855-1856 near the capi-
tol, and was first occupied by Gov. Elisha M. Pease,
who selected the site and the Greek-Revival style.
Abner Cook, pioneer architect and contractor, who de-
signed and built many fine homes and buildings
throughout Austin, supervised the construction. The six
massive Ionic columns across the front were carved
from Bastrop pine. Austin-made bricks were used.
In 1856, the 6th Legislature provided $40,000 for a
new land office on the southeast corner of the capitol
grounds, and the deed records were moved into the
building the following year. Since land was the state's
greatest resource, security of land records was of high-
est priority. Designed in Romanesque Revival style by
Conrad C. Stremme, a German immigrant, the struc-
ture was two-and-a-half stories of stuccoed stone and
One of the earliest artesian well experiments in the
state began on the capitol grounds in April 1857. Using a
cable tool rig, drillers worked slowly. They reached a
depth of 1,160 feet in early 1862, when the cable broke
and the drilling tools were irretrievably lost in the bot-
tom of the well. The Civil War forced abandonment of
the effort. But the drillers had struck mineral water at
the 323-foot level, and a small stream of water eventual-
ly reached the surface. The watering hole became a
popular retreat. When the current capitol was built in
1882-1888, it covered the old well, but the flow was con-
ducted to a small stone grotto outside the building by a
special pipe. It was finally covered over and sealed in
San Antonio in the 1850s began to grow again. The
CENTRAL TEXAS HISTORY
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/45/: accessed April 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.