Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989 Page: 26
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FOCUSES ON GRUENE
By Mary Jane Nalley
A visit to Gruene seems to capture the
good times of a century past. Visitors
stroll about to shop at stores in historic
buildings, listen to music or two-step until
their boots hurt, see a potter at work turning
the perfect gift to take back home, taste
the wines of Texas, take a bite in one of
Gruene's historic restaurants, raft or tube
down the scenic Guadalupe, and end a
perfect day by staying overnight in the
Victorian Gruene Mansion Inn.
Gruene (pronounced "green") has a
unique place in Texas history and was
placed on the prestigious National Register
of Historic Places as an entire district in
1975. Located on the north bank of the
Guadalupe River near New Braunfels, it is
a fine example of a Texas ghost town that
was restored rather than demolished. Today
Gruene brings pleasure to visitors from
far and near, as well as providing a boost to
the local economy.
Gruene was founded as a cotton community
in 1872 by H. D. Gruene, the son of
German immigrants. H. D.'s father, Ernst,
was one of the German farmers attracted in
the 1840s to Texas as a Schlaraffenland, a
Utopian land of plenty. Upon his arrival in
Texas, Ernst refused the property he was
offered by Prince Karl of Solms-Braunfels,
the commissioner of the society for the
protection of German immigrants to
Texas, and settled instead on some land he
liked better just north of New Braunfels.
Ernst worked hard with his wife and two
sons, Ernst Jr. and Heinrich, also known as
Henry, to produce the crops needed to feed
and fatten their cattle. After leading an
unsuccessful cattle drive to Utah and
Kansas in 1870, Henry returned home in
In 1985 H.D. Gruene's landmark mercantile building became the Gruene Antique Company.
1872 and founded the town of Gruene,
then four miles northeast of New Braunfels.
He built a house for himself, his wife and
her parents. In 1878 Henry built a wooden
frame mercantile store on the road leading
from San Antonio to Austin, where tenants
of his farming community could buy
on credit and settle up after the crops came
in. This building was moved across the
street in the early 1900s on logs pulled by
mules to make way for the two-story brick
mercantile building that would house a
bank, post office and mercantile store.
Soon after building the frame mercantile,
Henry built a cotton gin for the processing
6f raw cotton raised by the surrounding
farmers. The mill got its power from a water
ramp leading up from the Guadalupe.
Henry also opened a lumber yard within his
mercantile store that made lumber available
to build houses in the area for several
generations. He built Gruene Hall, a social
gathering place that became the center of
the town's activity, where you could buy
whiskey for a dime a shot and come to allnight
dances on Saturday. It was the custom
to bring the whole family and bed the
children down on pallets along the side of
the hall so the Omas (German grandmothers)
could tend to them while their
parents danced. The hall was used for a
variety of civic activities, election polls,
family reunions, traveling salesmen's displays
of the latest styles of clothing, Missouri
mule shows, badger and dog fights,
and singing contests. Public scales were set
up on the west side of the saloon, and you
could always come by for the latest news
and farm crop and livestock prices.
,6 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1989
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989, periodical, Summer 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45431/m1/26/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.