ANHALT HALLE AND THE GERMANIA FARMER VEREIN II. OVERVIEW:
Anhalt Halle (German for hall) is located at 2390 Anhalt Road, Spring Branch, Texas, 78070 (PHOTO #1). Anhalt began in the 1850s as a small, predominantly German, farming and ranching settlement in Western Comal County. These small settlements developed to provide the necessities of survival in the unsettled Hill Country. They evolved over time depending on the needs and economy of the area. The Germania Farmer Verein (Club) was organized in 1875, in Anhalt to deal with the cattle rustling of the 1860s and to provide for widows and children when necessary. Anhalt Halle was built in 1879 as the Verein meeting place and a social gathering place. Annual festivals were held such as the Maifest and Oktoberfest. The German culture of language, food, music, dancing, agriculture, and family were preserved. Over nearly 140 years, Anhalt Halle has grown in size, as has the membership of the Germania Farmer Verein. Entertainment at the Halle has also grown and can be enjoyed by visitors seeking a peek at an old way of life and a rich history of the German settlers of Comal County.
A. THE ORIGIN OF ANHALT, THE COMMUNITY:
To know more about the area and people of Anhalt, one must first look at the history of Comal County and the immigrants that settled the area. Most of Comal County was largely unoccupied in 1845 when the Germans arrived. Most of the Native American tribes no longer remained in the area. These tribes had been the Tonkawa, Waco, Lipan Apache, Coahuiltecan, Karankawa, and Comanche. There were occasional Comanche raids in the 1860s with the last raid in the early 1870s. Comal County was created by the Texas legislature on March 24, 1846. It was formed from the Eighth Precinct of Bexar County and the first of the 128 counties carved out of Bexar County. The 1850 census lists 1723 persons occupying Comal County with 425 persons living on farms. The 1860 census lists 4,030 persons occupying the county with 480 farmers, only 23 being non-German. The economy relied primarily on farming and ranching. The area of Anhalt is typical of the Texas Hill Country with hilly, rocky terrain covered in live oak, mesquite, and native shrubs. The county has fertile soils and abundant water supply for farming. The Anhalt area is suitable for ranching with farming possible only in the valleys where the topsoil is deeper. Most crops in the Anhalt area were grown for personal consumption. Cash agricultural products were sheep, cattle, and horses. The settlers did not bring cattle with them from Germany. In addition to the wild stock available, there were cattle ranches in Gonzales and Seguin where stock was possibly obtained.
They were probably Shorthorn, Red Poll, Durham, and Spanish Longhorn. Oscar Haas, in the History of New Braunfels and Comal County, Texas 1844-1946, noted that the bovine animals introduced by the Spaniards increased at a prolific rate as told in stories about large herds of Texas wild cattle. Ferdinand Roemer in Roemer’s Texas 1845-1847, described that enormous herds of wild cattle, or cattle that had grown wild, ranged on the Sabinas Creek and the upper Guadalupe River. These animals, by their appearance, seem to be descendants of Spanish cattle. Mustangs, too, were the escaped descendants of Arabian stock brought to America by the Spanish, having multiplied rapidly in an area that was natural horse country. Horses were used for riding, pulling wagons and farm equipment. Mules had stamina and endurance and were often raised and used by freighters.
The first permanent settlement was New Braunfels, which became the county seat of Comal County in 1846 when the county was formed. New Braunfels had been settled a year earlier by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels as commissioner of the Adelsverein. During the Republic of Texas period, 1836-1846, European emigration would be encouraged, as settlers would purchase land from the public domain to pay government debts. Emigrants moved out from New Braunfels into the county to begin to settle farmland that resulted in the development of small rural communities. In western Comal County these settlements included Honey Creek, Vogel’s Valley, Smithson Valley, Anhalt, Ufnau, Spring Branch, Bulverde and Schiller (Bergheim), to name a few. The small settlements often included a post office, store, church, school, cotton gin, sawmill, and dance hall. They had nearby cemeteries because of the need to bury the deceased in a timely fashion, as it was often too far to transport the body to New Braunfels. These small communities functioned as social, educational, economic, and religious centers. They were often stopping places for travelers before they continued on their journeys.
Homes were originally fashioned out of rough-hewn cedar logs with masonry or clay as infill that was available in the area to include limestone quarried from nearby creeks. The settlers had to live off the land using the resources available. The language spoken was mainly German and many of the customs were brought from Germany. The Germans were happy to obtain the acreage for ranches and farms, some 160 acres and some several thousand acres, as there was overcrowding in Germany. The settlers established themselves in Texas, their hard work paid off, and their efforts were later rewarded with time for singing, folk dancing, playing music and visiting.
In Western Comal County, beginning twenty miles west of New Braunfels between the Guadalupe River and the Cibolo Creek, was the area that in 1859 was known as the Krause Settlement, founded by Conrad Krause and sons Georg, Louis and Werner. The Krause Settlement consisted of the Krause General Store, Krause residence and the Krause dancehall. This general store was half-way between New Braunfels and Boerne. In 1879, a Post Office was established in the Krause store and the name of the small settlement changed to Anhalt. Louis Krause served as the first postmaster. The Post Office continued until 1907. Heinrich Wehe, also an acting Anhalt postmaster, had a freighting station on his property nearby. Freighters transported goods to towns from the coast to as far inland as Fredericksburg. Harvey Schaefer described Anhalt in his book Germania Farmer Verein as "…lying on each side of State Highway 46 mostly to the west of the Bulverde/Spring Branch Road. The area has no political boundaries but geographically contains the headwater drainage area of the Indian Creek, a tributary of Cibolo Creek, the area spilling over the Guadalupe-Cibolo divide to the north and to the east, a short distance into the upper Lewis Creek watershed which is just west of Devil’s Hill." Anhalt means "The stopping place." It was also named after the Wehe’s family native home place in Germany of Anhalt, Dessau. Settlers in the Anhalt (including Ufnau) area had the last names of Krause, Wehe, Wagner, Gotthard, Ahren, Haas, Beck, Stahl, Scheel, Koch, Georg, Bueche, Foerster, Kabelmacher, Doeppenschmidt, Schaefer, Theis, Fromme, Laubach, Moos, Schlather and Hanz.
B. THE GERMANIA FARMER VEREIN:
Anhalt became the gathering place for the area’s German pioneers to discuss farming, ranching, and how to protect livestock from cattle rustlers and even Indian raids of livestock. After the Civil War, cattle rustlers roamed the countryside stealing livestock. Most of the livestock roamed in unfenced open ranges. There was no fencing in the Anhalt area, as wire was scarce and stock ran loose. Periodic roundups occurred for the purpose of branding and sale. The need to protect from cattle rustling eventually led to the formation of the Germania Farmer Verein (German Farmer Club) in 1875. This also led to the formation of the Germania Farmer Verein Association Hall, which was built on land leased and then purchased from George Krause. This hall on Anhalt Hall Road is on the north side of what is now Hwy 46 and across the highway from the original Krause Settlement (PHOTOS # 2 & 3).
A group of ranchers met on October 4, 1875, at the Louis Krause Store with thirty-five settlers present to organize the Stock Raising Club. It was resolved to hold regular meetings on the first Sunday of each month. Each meeting was at a different member’s home. On February 6, 1876, the Stock Raising Club reorganized and renamed the club to "Germania Farmer Verein." Carl Koch was elected president (PHOTO #4) with Christian Hoffheinz, vice-president; Fredrich Hoffheinz, secretary; Heinrich Wehe, corresponding secretary; and Caspar H. Sueltenfuss, treasurer. The constitution was adopted on February 7, 1876, the day after it was written. There were 44 chartered members. Bylaws were established with the goals of protecting livestock from Indian raids, coyotes and cattle rustlers, and providing education regarding farming and ranching. To prevent cattle rustling, a club brand was developed for all members. It was the letter "G" and was to be placed on the left shoulder along with the member’s own private brand. Valentin Fuhrmann, the Association’s blacksmith, designed the brand (PHOTO #5). Cattle rustling was rampant in the county and through the efforts of the Verein, the threat was eliminated. If a cattle rustler noticed the "G" brand of the Verein, that particular animal was left alone to avoid action against them by the Verein. Verein members were to counter brand an animal being sold with his own brand and that of the Verein ("G") as proof that the animal was sold and not stolen. Because of their membership in the Verein and use of the Verein brand along with their personal brand, their cattle could be identified and returned if they wandered miles from the ranch. In July of 1876, the Verein decided to register their brand in Comal, Kendall, Bexar, Blanco, and Gillespie Counties. In August 1876, it was noted, according to Schaefer, that "If any member of the Verein notifies a suspected rustler of the activities of the Verein, this member should immediately be expelled from the Verein." No known member of the Verein was ever expelled for divulging information to a rustler. Fencing became widespread in the 1900s and fence posts could be cut from the cedar breaks in the area. "Gaps" in the fences were installed allowing travelers to pass through the property. These were riding trails only wide enough for a horse and rider to pass through neighboring pastures.
C. AGRICULTURE, CELEBRATION FESTIVALS AND BENEVOLENCE:
With the eventual elimination of the threat of cattle rustling, the Verein could spend time on improving livestock and crops as well as planning social festivals. Seeds were ordered and distributed from the Department of Agriculture. Crop reports and livestock reports were given as well as formulas against insects and diseases. The Germania Farmer Verein also planned a Spring Festival on the 3rd Sunday in May. This was after the spring planting was complete. In addition, they planned a Fall Festival the 3rd Sunday in October after the Fall harvest was complete. Fairs were held during the festivals where members could exhibit livestock, field, and garden products. The first fair was in 1886, however, the fairs ended in 1893 when the Comal County Fair was organized. The Spring and Fall Festivals continued and are held to this day. Traditional German music was played during the festivals and home cooking enjoyed (PHOTO #6). The first Maifest (May fest) was held for Verein members only in May 1880.
For the Maifest, six kegs Boerne beer, six kegs St. Louis beer and 12 gallons of wine were purchased. Harvey Schaefer writes, "Back in the early days going to the Fests was quite an undertaking. There were long distances to travel through the pastures; there being practically no improved roads in this region. The families had to prepare for the event, such as bedding for the children since many of the families stayed overnight because it was too far to travel in the dark. Feed had to be brought along for the horses and they had to be unhitched and tethered out. According to Carmen Rittimann, it took her family two or three hours to travel from Wesson (17 miles) to Anhalt. A mile or so from the hall, Grandmother Bartels made all the children change into their festive starched clothes and then continue their journey to Anhalt Hall. The people arrived in horsedrawn hacks, buggies, wagons or on horseback from all over the countryside. After the dancing stopped at midnight, a meal was served that had been packed from home. The families bedded down on the Anhalt grounds either on their wagons or under them. At daylight, they made the trip home again. This is a far cry from modern times when all you have to do is start the car, drive on good roads, and leave when you want to. At the south end of the old hall was an area known as the Kinder Stube, a place where the young children were bedded down (PHOTO #7). At the other end where the ladies rest room is now, was the hat check room because hats were not allowed on the dance floor." Over the years, there have been many festivals, fairs and social gatherings conducted on the grounds from the Maifest, Kinderspiele (childplay), Burgerball, Octoberfest, Masquerade Dance, Wolf Club Dance, Comal County Saengerfest (singing fest), Twin Sisters Gemischter Choir (mixed choir) Fest, Spring Branch Gemütlichkeit Gesangverein (good times singing club) Fest, Fat Stock Show, Bulverde Community Center Celebration, Familienfest (family fest), Bar-B-Q cook-offs, Girl Scout outings, golden wedding anniversaries, weddings, skat tournaments, family reunions, and public school group outings. The hall could be rented out to members and non-members for private gatherings.
In 1936, there was a Centennial Fest where H.V. Allred, Governor of Texas, was the guest of honor and speaker. There was a procession that included a car with the Vorstand (officials), car with the five oldest members, car with the guest speakers, the Old German Band, Indians, pioneers, and a float with the queen and duchesses. The parade began at the Wehe home and concluded at the hall. Trumpets heralded the entrance of the Queen. The program included an Indian War Dance, several German songs, German dancing, speaking, and ended with singing The Eyes of Texas (PHOTOS #8 & #9). Funds generated from the Centennial Fest would be placed in a fund being raised by the Texas German Pioneer Memorial Association to erect an auditorium in Landa Park in New Braunfels.
Celebrations were held for each milestone from the 25th Anniversary up to the 125th Anniversary (PHOTO #10 & #11). The Verein celebrated the 125th Anniversary on October 14th& 15th, 2000, with a Saturday night dance featuring Geronimo Trevino (PHOTO #12). Sunday’s activities included the Cloverleaf Orchestra and the Seven Dutchman. On Sunday, the traditional family style meal would be served of German pot roast, German potato salad, sauerkraut, and all of the trimmings. Harvey Schaefer presented the proposal to the Verein to share the costs and profits of his book on Anhalt History and the Germania Farmer Verein in celebration of the 125th Anniversary.
The July 1910 statutes of the Germania Farmer Verein noted that the purpose of the organization is "…betterment of agriculture and support of the bereaved families of deceased members." The benevolent program was instituted in November of 1878 with the first payment being in November 1888 for $177. Upon the death of a member, Verein members were required to pay the widow a benefit. This was based on a fee paid out by each member (PHOTO #13). In May of 1890, the widow of Heinrich Theis was paid $168 in benevolent benefits as there were 56 members at the time.
The 1910 statutes noted that every member shall pay 10 cents in monthly dues, and only persons residing in Comal, Kendall, Bexar, or Blanco Counties can become members. Members are males only and must be personally introduced by a current member before being voted into membership. There are active and passive members. Active member’s heirs receive financial compensation after their death. Passive members are those who were more than 50 years old when they joined, or their health was not satisfactory enough to accept them as active members. Active members must have blameless character, good mental and physical health, older than 21 and younger than 50 (when joining). If an active member dies, all other members pay an assessment of not more than $3.10 per person. The heirs of the deceased will be paid as many times $3 as there are active members, however, not more than $500. The additional 10 cents will be split between the treasurer and the secretary.28 In 1950, members from outside of bordering Counties of Comal were accepted as members if not restricted by the Charter. In 1965, there were 200 members and it was decided to revise the constitution. As of 2013, there are 224 active members, 47 passive members, and 37 members that have been members for 50 years or over. Over the years, there have been almost 2,000 members. Membership requirements have changed little as new members file an application and obtain three member references. Hand or verbal vote is normal. For those older than 49 years, they apply for "passive" membership. This just means there is no benevolent benefit to their membership nor are they charged for the benevolent donations. They do have all other rights. Membership dues are paid annually and each member pays $2 for each death.
In addition to member benefits, the Verein has donated over the years to the Red Cross during WWII, Infantile Paralysis Fund, March of Dimes, New Braunfels Hospital, Gonzales Warm Springs Foundation, New Braunfels Community Fund, Comal County Community Fund, Bexar-Bulverde V.F.D. and the Spring Branch V.F.D. to name a few. In 2013, profits are spent on building and grounds maintenance and improvements, benevolent requirements and scholarships for high school seniors.32
D. ANHALT HALL:
The large Anhalt Halle, originally called Farmers Hall, believed to be the largest dancehall in Texas and one of the oldest, was built in several stages (PHOTO #14). Schaefer writes that in February 1879, "Verein bought land from George Krause for Verein headquarters and received the deed in 1880" (PHOTO #15) 33 First, in February 1879, a 26’x34’ meeting hall was constructed. Franz Erben built this portion of the hall for $344 (PHOTO #16). In 1887, the hall was increased in size by 60 feet for $666. This larger meeting hall joined the first structure (PHOTO #17). An outhouse was erected in the vicinity of the hall in 1889 (PHOTO #18). In 1891, the hall was enlarged by 20’ south and 6’ west for $751.80. In 1900, the hall was enlarged for the 25th Anniversary and the kitchen was enlarged to 16’x18’ and barroom enlarged to 24’ x 36’. Two toilets were added in addition to a new cook stove. All of this cost of $485.35. In 1908, the Dancehalle (the largest room) was constructed attached to the first and second sections. The contractor was Chris Herry of New Braunfels at a cost of $2512.37 (PHOTO #19). In 1924, the stage was built by Ernst Koch for $546. In 1941, the Verein bought a 45yard x 115 yard strip of land for additional parking.
A news article in 1947 described Anhalt: "The buildings are shaped in the form of a horseshoe which leaves a grass floored patio between the two sides or legs of the shoe. The dance hall, dining hall and one bar form the base and one side of the shoe and a building, which houses another bar, forms the other leg. The buildings are very old, about a half century. In the dining hall there is still a gas lamp hanging from the ceiling, which has given light for numerous fests (this gas lamp was donated to the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio). The fests are arranged by the Germania Farmer Verein, now mutual insurance association, but which was formed back in 1875 when farmers and ranchers of the county banded together for mutual protection from cattle thieves." The new saloon was built for the 75th Anniversary of the Verein in 1951 and the old saloons were torn down (PHOTO #20). A well was also drilled for $2,231.94, ending the dependence on an underground rainwater cistern. The road from the hall to Hwy 46 was paved adding culverts and repairing cattle guards as well as a new kitchen dining room for $5,664.73. A 15’x15’ room was added onto the kitchen for food storage. The shed porch was added in 1994 (PHOTO #21). In 2012, a new kitchen was added on the premises (PHOTO #22).
Some interesting notes were recorded in Harvey Schaefer’s book, which include that in 1958, it was decided to translate the minutes that were written in German to English and the translation would follow the German minutes. The minutes were written exclusively in German prior to this date. Guy Anderson recollects that in the 1960s, he remembered going to the meetings and the only language spoken was German. In 1959, it was noted by a member that two women danced in the hall in shorts and it was a disgrace and should be forbidden. It was decided that shorts were not allowed or any other indecent dress (PHOTO #23). In 1973, there was a motion not to allow wearing of hats in the dance hall and then in 1984 there was a decision to allow hats to be worn in the dance hall.
E. ENTERTAINMENT AND PERFORMERS:
Over the years, there have been many notable performers. One of the first bands to play at Anhalt was the William Specht Spring Branch Band. Other bands over the past 50 to 60 years have included Herr Louis, Alex and the Old-timers, Seven Dutchmen Orchestra, New Braunfels Village Band, Edgar Friesenhahn Orchestra, Litt’l Fishermen Orchestra, Cloverleaf Orchestra, Hi-Toppers Orchestra, Al Schnabel Orchestra, Primers Orchestra, Donny Wavra Band, and the Arthur Hillert Orchestra. The Maifest and Octoberfest still begin in the early afternoon with a polka band and the grand march is still at 4 p.m. The Grand March is led by an experienced couple, who will weave the participants around the dance hall in different formations until all are exhausted. Hilmar and Lucille Scheel actually led the grand march for 40 years.
What once began as a stopping place in the mid-1800s is still a stopping place for many. Visitors can come to Anhalt and still experience the culture that was prevalent among the farmers and ranchers in a unique part of Texas settled mainly by German immigrants. To Verein members, Anhalt brings up visions of family and friends and taming the western part of Comal County that was wilderness. The community came together to stop cattle rustling, improve agriculture, take care of member families and provide a social life. Anhalt’s dance hall greater room trusses span across the dance floor and are a significant form of architecture. One must see the hall to appreciate and admire it. The well-seasoned, wooden dance floor is perhaps one of the largest in Texas and has been enjoyed over the past 133 years by thousands of visitors. To feel the floor with your partner while dancing and enjoying the music is a wonderful experience that can be enjoyed today just as memories were made by many local families in the past. The Germania Farmer Verein has preserved many of the characteristics of the rich German heritage that has been passed from one generation to the next from the German language, music, food, and Gemütlichkeit (good times and good feelings).
The compilers of this narrative would like to thank the family of Harvey Schaefer for allowing us to reproduce diagrams, photos, and information from his book, Germania Farmer Verein 1875-2000 Anhalt, Texas. Thank you also to Brenda Anderson-Lindemann for her help with the narrative and allowing us to use excerpts and photos from her book, Spring Branch and Western Comal County, Texas. Compilers: Karen Boyd, Sami Devillier, Myra Lee Goff and Alton Rahe.