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Germans had dark plan for Texas

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03-02-24
14:37

Scholar says Texas Germans had dark plan

NEW BRAUNFELS German settlers were preparing to break away from the fledgling Republic of Texas when events conspired to scuttle their plans, says a nobleman and historian who found evidence for his theory in recently discovered documents. Prince Johannes von Sachsen-Altenburg and his wife, Princess Nana, look at historic photos. They were presented by Helgard Suhr-Hollis (right) on Saturday. Billy Calzada/Express-News

When the plan to form a German colony in South Texas fell apart, it led to a generation-long retrenchment in German imperialism, said Prince Johannes von Sachsen-Altenburg, Duke of Saxony.

A historian, author and television producer, he spoke to a crowd of more than 200 at the Brauntex Theatre on Friday night.

During a breakfast in his honor Saturday, Sachsen-Altenburg visited with descendants of original New Braunfels settlers Baron von Meusebach, Count von Coreth, Count von Coll and Ferdinand Lindheimer.

"As the Germans arrived in Texas, they were organized into companies," Sachsen-Altenburg said. "They knew the plan. It was clearly communicated what was the purpose of the organization, what was expected of them and to shut up about it."

Sachsen-Altenburg, a descendant of the German nobles who financed the Texas settlements, found documents in Russia, England and East Germany he says prove his theory.

Sachsen-Altenburg said there is a misunderstanding about who emigrated from Germany. The conventional wisdom is that it was the economically disadvantaged who fled poverty and religious persecution.

But the first 26 people listed on the roster for the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, the investment company that underwrote the early immigration effort, are within one or two degrees of relationship to Queen Victoria of England, who was from a German family, or her husband, Albert.

"They had aristocratic, illustrious backgrounds," Sachsen-Altenburg said. "And if they were fleeing persecution, poverty and mismanagement, then why come over here and found towns and villages and name them after these people?"

Contingents of Hessian soldiers, caches of guns and cannons made the trip to Texas to prepare for the revolt, he said.

Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, who served as general commissioner of the society, is often seen as a romantic who quickly became disenchanted with life on the frontier and returned to Germany. But he was not a "bumbling, aristocratic idiot," Sachsen-Altenburg said.

Solms-Braunfels never intended to stay, documents show, and he successfully carried out his mission to set up a defensible line of settlements that would form the border of the new German colony.

The Germans purposely stayed away from Anglo settlements, including Victoria, Seguin and Gonzales, because they were considered border strongholds of the enemy, he said.

"The idea was to create an internal uprising in Texas, south of this (line of settlements) to create a colony for Germany," Sachsen-Altenburg said.

He said he believes the plan was discovered by U.S. officials after a courier left a package of maps and detailed plans at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston. The discovery hastened the annexation of Texas by the United States, he said.

"Now the Germans were facing the United States," he said. "Germany cut off money to the colony. Why throw good money after bad? The plan was sunk. The grandiose plan had evaporated."

It was not until the 1870s that Germany renewed its colonial ambitions and established colonies in Cameroon, Togo, Southwest Africa and other countries.

Sachsen-Altenburg said he appreciated the interest shown by local residents, some of whom brought old documents and diaries for him to examine Saturday.

"The crowd was very responsive, they really worked with me," he said. "Afterwards, I had a lot of positive response."

"I thought it was wonderful," said David Hartmann, president of the New Braunfels Historic Museum Association and a member of one of New Braunfels' founding families. "Many people were surprised by his information regarding the formation of a German state here.

"We grew up hearing those stories, but before now it was never documented," he said. "He has found what was assumed to be fiction to be fact."

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