Thursday, December 23, 2010

German Monarchists in Texas

The German presence in Texas has always been considerable and Teutonic Texans have left their mark on the state in a number of ways. The town of Fredericksburg in the beautiful hill country (hometown of the great Admiral Chester Nimitz) was named after the famous Prussian warrior king Frederick the Great. The town of New Braunfels, north of San Antonio, was named for Prince Karl von Solms-Braunfels who led the first German colonists to the Republic of Texas as a member of the Adelsverein which envisioned building a "New Germany" in the vast unsettled lands of the new country (and who you will be reading more about later). The above card shows just how strongly the ties remained between German and Austrian Texans and their ancestral homelands. This was published during World War I (prior to U.S. entry of course) showing symbols that would pull at the bonds of loyalty German-speaking Texans would feel toward their old and new homes alike with portraits of German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiser Franz Josef I of Austria above a picture of "the Shrine of Texas Liberty" the Alamo.

The banner on the left side of the card reads, "The Hearts open, the pockets wide, Do not forget that you're still German," and on the right side, "That for you and for your pride, The Austrian and German troops are fighting for". An appeal for Teutonic Texans to support the Red Cross of Germany and Austria during the war. At the bottom is information on a German-Texan Fair that was held in San Antonio in October of 1916 "For the war suffering Germans, Austrians and their Allies". This shows the extent of sympathy for the Central Powers as well as the Allies prior to U.S. entry into the war, after which time any sentiments remotely sympathetic to the Germans or simply un-supportive of the war was ruthlessly suppressed by the dictatorial Wilson administration. It was also after that time that Texas lost at least some of the more obvious signs of her German flavor. For example, today's King William district in San Antonio, famous for its liberal artists, stately Victorian homes and authoritarian zoning laws, was originally named the Kaiser Wilhelm district but, after the U.S. entered World War I, like many other names of German origin, it was changed to the more politically correct "King William".


  1. And the accordion, so instrumental in Tex-Mex music, was a gift from the Germans.

  2. Indeed, no Tejano band would be complete without one.

  3. Actually, German was pretty much the common language in Gillespie County until shortly after WWI: newspapers, churches, schools -- all in German. There was a traveler who came through Fredericksburg in about the 1880s and complained afterward that in all the town he could only find one person who spoke English, and that was the sheriff and he spoke it very badly!
    Good that you will have more on this - it's a fascinating story!

    Celia Hayes,
    The Adelsverein Trilogy

  4. I did not know the accordion was German. You learn something new everyday. It is true that you would not expect German influences in Texas of all places.

    1. A couple of years ago Flaco Jimenez, accordian player for the Texas Tornados told me that when young his took would take him along to visit dance places in New Braunfels and San Marcos to listen to German polka music. Santiago Jimenez Sr. is considered to be one of the fathers of Texas conjunto music. Doug Sahm, formerleader of the Texas Tornados, traces his German roots to the same area. His great, grandfather(?)was a band leader of a German "oompa" orchestra. I find it ironic that Flaco Jimenez many years later would join Sahm in a Texas/conjunto/rock and roll/ conglomeration known as the Texas Tornados. Doug Sahm, Flaco, and Augie Meyers are considered the originators of Tex/Mex music.

  5. Mdme Hayes,
    I was aware of that and I find it rather depressing that such is no longer the case. A few years ago I spent several months in the Kerrville-Fredericksburg area and I was constantly trying to find someone who spoke German; only ever found a couple. Similarly in Castroville Alsatian was once the dominant language but, alas, no longer. I like areas having their own distinct flavor and I detest how everyone these days increasingly looks, acts and sounds just alike. Painfully dull.

  6. Alas, good sir, those residents of the Hill Country conversant in German, or the Alsatian flavor thereof are mostly elderly. I met an gentleman at one of my book signings who was about 75 or so, and only knew a little German, but his brother, eight years older spoke it well. In about 1920 his parents made a firm decision to only speak English at home. All things German not v. popular at that time. During WWII I have been told it was actually illegal to speak German in public.

  7. shhhh don't tell anyone but some of the "Austrian" royalists weren't necessarily "Germans" shhhh don't tell anyone about us Croats who were here on Austrian passports .....

  8. I couldn't very well list every ethnic group of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but I would certainly not forget the courageous Croats. I have always been a fan of Croatia -a tenacious bunch of people.


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